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Faith Bible Church, NY
November 10, 1996
Walking in the Light
Darkness. Utter darkness. That is what it is like in a deep cave where there is no source of light. How many of you have ever been in that situation, maybe on a tour of a cave somewhere when they turn off the lights. No matter how much you strain, you cannot see anything. It is black. There are no shades of gray. It is a darkness you can feel.
Now imagine a community of people who are born into such a situation and they live in those circumstances all their lives. Suddenly, someone from the outside world comes in and tries to describe light and the ability to see things. There is no comprehension. They are led by the hand to the entrance of that cave, to where there is light. At first, curious, they approach the light on the outside, but when they at last reach the outside world where the sun is shining brightly, it is too much. Their eyes hurt. It is an unknown world and to them, perhaps even a fearful one. A few stay and learn of this new world, but most quickly return to their cave and the darkness to which they are accustomed, the darkness in which they feel comfortable.
Such is an illustration of what Paul describes in Ephesians 5 regarding the difference between the true Christian and the non-Christian. As Paul began the chapter he called on believers to “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.” Salvation from sin in Jesus Christ brings about a radical change. That which was dead is made alive. We who were children of the devil are adopted into God’s family and now His children. True Christians want to be like their heavenly Father and so they walk in true love as demonstrated by Jesus Christ rather than what the world calls love – which is in reality is anything but love. The world is marked by immorality, impurity, greed, and language that is full of filthiness, silly talk and coarse jesting. Christians are marked by morality, holiness, generosity and care for others. The old adage that “if it walks like a duck, talks like a duck and flies like a duck, its’ a duck!” is true. If a person exhibits the characteristics of the world and not those of Christ, then they are not of Christ regardless of what they say (vs. 6) and we should not be deceived. We do not have to be cruel nor do we have to condemn. We speak the truth in love – “Brother, your life does not match your talk and that is a serious problem. Do you really know Jesus Christ, what He has done and what that is supposed to mean in your life?” Spell out the gospel and challenge them to examine themselves to see whether they be in the faith (2 Cor. 13:5).
Christians are to be like God, not like the world. In verse 7 Paul says, Therefore do not be partakers with them:
Do not be like them, do not do what they do, do not participate in what they do, do not share in what they do. We used to be like them, but now we are different. Verse 8 describes this change.
8 for you were formerly darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light. Notice that it does not say we were “in” or “of” darkness but that we “were formerly in darkness” with no qualifier. That was our nature – dead in trespasses and sin (2:1); our minds were darkened (4:1), our hearts were darkened (Rom 1:21), and our deeds were those of darkness (Rom. 13:12). Throughout the Scriptures darkness is used to describe that which is opposite of God, that which is evil and desires to conceal itself. In Ephesians 6:12 Paul describes demonic power as “world forces of this darkness.” In 2 Cor. 6:14 Paul contrasts righteousness describing it as light and lawlessness describing it as darkness. The prophet Isaiah (5:20) used darkness as a description for evil as does Proverbs 2:13. Jesus described the evil chief priests as having the “power of darkness.”
God and righteousness are often described as light with 1 John 1:5 stating, “that God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.” John 1:4 & 5 describes Jesus in these same terms saying that in Him was life and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, but the darkness did not comprehend it. The descriptions of God and His angels by the prophets and apostles generally include a bright light around Him and coming from Him – consider His manifestation to the children of Israel as the pillar of fire which gave them as light during the exodus from Egypt, Moses’ sight of His afterglow on Mt. Sinai, Isaiah’s and John’s visions of heaven, Daniel’s vision of the angels that spoke with Him, Peter, James & John seeing Jesus transfigured before them or the Apostle Paul’s encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus.
We were once darkness, by nature evil and enemies with God, but Jesus came to be a great light to those sitting in darkness (Mt. 4:16). Jesus came to transfer us from the domain of darkness to His kingdom (Col. 1:13). He called us out of darkness and into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9). Jesus came to open [our] eyes so that [we] may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, in order that [we] may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in [Jesus Christ] (Acts 26:18). He said Himself “I have come [as] light into the world, that everyone who believes in Me may not remain in darkness.”
The great tragedy is that most people prefer the darkness to the light. John 1:19,20 “And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil. 20 “For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. Like the analogy I gave earlier, people prefer the darkness of the cave they came out. The light scares them. They neither want to see or be seen. Like rats or cockroaches that scatter when the light is turned on, so do men when the light of God’s Word is brought to bear upon them. They run and hide.
As verse 8 of our text says, “we were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light.” John 1:21 adds. “But he who practices the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” Again we find that true Christians are a complete contrast to non-Christians because their nature has been changed. Those who love the darkness shun the light, while those that love the light shun the darkness.
True Christians now are light in the Lord and are to walk as children of light. What does this mean in a practical sense? Verse 9 gives us three practical ramifications: for the fruit of the light [consists] in all goodness and righteousness and truth. Walking in the light means walking in goodness, righteousness and truth.
Goodness here (αγαθωσυνη) is also listed in Gal. 5:22 as one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. It indicates the quality of moral excellence. It is one of the means by which we bring glory to our Lord (2 Thess. 1:11,12; Mt. 5:16), by letting our light so shine before men that they may see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven. It is a character trait that results in positive action toward others.
Righteousness (δικαιοσυνη) is the fruit of being a child of the light, it is an extension of the righteousness that is given to us in Christ at salvation. We are justified by God’s grace (Tit. 3:7) and clothed with His righteousness (Phil. 3:9). But righteousness is not just a theoretical position before God, it is the practical outworking of being a new creature in Christ. We are righteous before God through Christ, be we are also slaves of righteousness in the present in seeking to daily live for God (Rom. 6:18,19), and this affects our relationships with other humans. We do what is right before God in our dealings with other people and this brings glory to God. We treat others as we would have them treat us (Matt. 7:12).
Our lives are marked by the other characteristics Paul has already mentioned in Chapter 4 & 5 – we walk worthy of our calling, we find our place of service in the church and give it our all so that the whole body will be strengthened. We walk as a “new man” and lay aside our old ways of living in sensuality, impurity, and greed. We speak the truth and do not lie. We deal with our anger properly. We do not steal, but rather seek to give. We are careful about what we say and how we say it so that we might encourage others in having faith in Christ and offering His grace to all. We imitate Christ by loving others they way He loved us. All this is practical righteousness is the fruit of being a child of the light and being made righteous by God through Christ.
A third fruit is truth (αληθεια). Goodness reflect our relationship with others, righteousness our relationship with God and truth our relationship with ourselves. It indicates our moral integrity. As already pointed out that which is evil is associated with darkness. It wants to remain hidden, while that which is good and righteous wants to be exposed. We were darkness and consequently lying, deceiving and hypocritical in an effort to make others think we were something we were not. As children of light we are honest, upright, reliable and trustworthy – not because we are trying to impress others, but because it fits our new nature.
As most of you know my undergraduate degree is in Agricultural Biology and I like to garden and grow things, but even with my training I can sometimes have trouble distinguishing fruit trees from one another in the middle of winter. But come summer when the trees have fruit on them, it is easy for anyone to tell a peach from an apple from a pear from a plum. Jesus told us in Matthew 7 that we would know who are true and who are false followers of His by their fruits. The fruits of the children of light are goodness, righteousness and truth.
In verse 10 gives an overall characteristic of those who are children of light, they are “trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.” The fruit on a tree does not have to be well developed to figure out what it is, but it needs to be there. In the same manner, if the fruit does not continue to grow so as to reach maturity, then the tree is worthless and is cut down and cast aside (John 15). True children of God strive to do what is pleasing to Him, and that takes some time and effort to learn.
My children love me and for the most part obey me, but often they fail because they just do not know what to do. They are not in rebellion, but in ignorance. My wife and I take the time to teach them what and why we want them do certain things and then have them practice it that way until they can do it.
God does the same thing with us. He does not leave us in ignorance, but has given us the Bible so that we will know what is His will. He has given us the Holy Spirit to prompt us on and He sets us in the various circumstances of life so that we can practice our lessons and learn to do what is pleasing to Him. That was why James says we are to rejoice at the various trials that come into our lives because they are the means by which we learn our lessons and grow into maturity.
The person who is a child of God desires to learn those lessons and do what is pleasing to the Lord. A person who does not know Him does not want to learn the lessons because their interest is pleasing themselves, not the Lord.
The natural difference between the Christian and non-Christian is seen here again. Paul extends the practical aspects of this in verse 11 and 12.
And do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. To put it simple, Christians are not to be involved in the evil deeds that are done by non-Christians. Paul comments on this more thoroughly in 2 Cor. 6:14 saying, Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness ? 15 Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? 16 Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I will dwell in them and walk among them; And I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 17 “Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,” says the Lord. “And do not touch what is unclean; And I will welcome you. 18 “And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” Says the Lord Almighty. 7:1 Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
Christians are to pursue holiness, not evil, and we must be careful about our associations with those who are still bound in the darkness. We have to be sure that we are separate enough so that we are not pulled in as participants in their evil nor that we bring shame on the name of Christ because of our affiliation with those that do evil. Paul is not calling for absolute separation from the world as some groups have don. We are reminded in 1 Cor. 5:9 that: I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; 10 I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters; for then you would have to go out of the world.
The lines of separation are not always easy to define, but we can make those choices as we pursue learning what is pleasing to the Lord instead of ourselves, striving for holiness and rely on the Holy Spirit. The separation is not made based on what other people think, but on what makes you a participant to their evil, and much of the evil that is done is so disgraceful that it should not even be talked about, much less participated in.
Some issues of separation are easy. Should a Christian be work for or promote in any way any of the following: An abortion clinic? The Mafia? Illegal drugs? Prostitution? Pornography? Those are all easy because the things involved in them are disgraceful to even describe. I went to lots of revival meetings and such growing up, and frankly, the way some of the people gave their testimonies you would get a sense they were reveling in telling about how bad they were before they became Christians, often giving titillating details to pique interest in their story. The cause of Christ is never advanced by glorifying sin! We should be wise unto that which is good and simple concerning evil (Rom. 16:19).
While we should be diligent to make every effort to refrain from any participation any evil there is a sense in which such separation occurs naturally. Why? Because vs. 13 states, “But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light.” (Better translated in the NIV – “for it is light that makes everything visible”). When you live righteously those who are evil do not want you around.
A guy I worked with in California told me what happened not long after he came to Christ. It had been his habit to meet his friends at a bar after work and drink with them. Then he became a Christian and decided he should stop drinking, but he still wanted to see his friends. He would go to the bar and order a 7up or coke and watch his friends get tipsy. It only took a couple of weeks and his former friends did not want him around. They were uncomfortable with someone sober watching them get drunk. How long can a true Christian walking with the Lord work in a business that has unethical practices? Typically not very long because they would expose those practices, which would result in either the business practices changing or being fired. How long does it take for a Christian to be isolated from people who are bent on evil? Again, not long. because people do not want their sin exposed, and your very presence exposes it. Ever had the Does an office joke being passed around skip you? Don’t feel bad, be glad! It means they recognize you are different and they do not want their sin exposed.
While we should never be obnoxious, vs. 11 states our exposure of evil should not just be passive. Our righteous presence exposes and deters evil, but it’s also active. We should never be obnoxious, but neither should we be afraid to state the truth. Sin is sin, and righteousness exposes it, and we who are children of the light should not be participants in it. Instead we are to uncover it and lay it bare. This extends to our involvement in our nation’s political process.
Rom. 13:4 states that God’s purpose for government is to be “an avenger who brings wrath upon the one who practices evil.” Our nation has again elected a host of people who advocate great moral evils – murder/ abortion, fornication, homosexuality, stealing, debauchery, lying, disobedience to parents, etc. (1 Cor. 6 / Rom. 1), things that are an abomination against God. Let’s not be afraid of stating the what the Bible makes clear – “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” – Prov. 14:34.
We must call our fellow Americans to repentance and to be humble before the Lord. We need to pray for our elected officials – whether we like them or not. There will be a day they will stand before the Lord and give an account of the stewardship entrusted to them and that will not be a pleasant scene unless they have come to salvation in Jesus Christ. Don’t be afraid to speak up and expose the darkness, call people to repentance and to receive forgiveness in Christ.
Paul concludes in vs 14. For this reason it says, “Awake, sleeper, And arise from the dead, And Christ will shine on you.” This is adapted from Isaiah 29:19 & 60:1 – The dead will “arise, wake and sing,” and “Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee.”
The statement here is the gospel in a nutshell. “Awake, sleeper” is God’s call to those lost in the darkness to sin to take notice of their plight. The Holy Spirit brings conviction of sin. “Arise from the dead” is the call of the Holy Spirit to regeneration. Those dead in trespasses and sin are made alive in Jesus Christ. Christ shining on you is His continued work in conforming you to His image. We are “learning to please the Lord” in all that we do, with goodness, righteousness and truth marking our path.
We were darkness, but God radically changed us. We are now light in Jesus Christ. Let that light shine to all those around – proclaim God’s grace in word, deed and attitude to all – that those seeking the light may find it and be changed too, and that those committed to darkness might run away.
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