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Ephesians 5:3-14: The New Self Walks in Light Print E-mail
Sunday, 10 December 2017

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The solution to darkness is light. A couple of months back, Lucas invited me to go frog gigging with him in Matthews. Seemed like a great way to spend a Friday night, so I said, ‘Yes.’ I went and got my license at Walmart, put on the best frog gigging clothing I owned (which was not very good it turned out), and made my way south. We coated ourselves with bug spray, gathered the supplies, and drug our trusty john boat into ditch #3. It was around 8:00. In less than an hour, it started getting dark, but that was fine because we brought flashlights, three of them if I remember correctly. Unfortunately, none of them had very good batteries. You know what is worthless in a ditch in Matthews around midnight? A flashlight with no batteries! You know what gets real dark without a flashlight that has batteries? Ditch #3 in Matthews around midnight!! Thankfully, Lucas knew a buddy who brought us some new flashlights and we survived the trip. Flashlights have one main purpose: defeat darkness. If they can’t do that, they aren’t worth much.

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The imagery of light and darkness run throughout the New Testament. John calls Jesus the true light, which enlightens everyone (John 1:9). Jesus contrasts those who love the darkness (they do wicked things) with those who love the light in His conversation with Nicodemus (John 3:19-21). In the Sermon on the Mount, He calls His followers the light of the world  and instructs them to let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven (Matthew 5:14-16). In his epistle, John teaches that God is light, which means that we should not walk in darkness, but walk in light, as he is in the light (1 John 1:5-7). In our passage this morning, Paul also calls us to walk in the light. He has called us to put on the new self (4:24) and to walk in love (5:2). This morning he continues to teach us how we put on the new self by walking in the light. In contrast to the world around us, which dwells in darkness, Christians are to walk in light. Once again, he gives us some specific applications to go with the general command. Let’s consider the applications first.

The Specific Application (v. 3-7)

Avoid sexual immorality, impurity, and greed. Look at verse 3. If you look at the headlines from this past week, then you could pretty quickly find examples of each of these sins. This letter may have been written two thousand years ago but it still applies to today. Why? Because the human heart has not changed. We are still tempted with sexual immorality and impurity. The Bible teaches us that sex is a beautiful gift from God when done in obedience to His commands, namely within marriage. But the world wants ‘sexual freedom.’ And Christians are not free from such temptations. The temptation to cheat on our spouse is real. It may take various forms (friendship at work on online, pornography, etc.), but these are temptations that we face. Paul tells us to avoid them. Sex is God’s gift to us. We can either enjoy it by obeying His commands or ‘do our own thing’ and experience the shame and emptiness that comes with that approach. If you are struggling in any way with sexual temptation, then I plead with you to talk with another brother or sister about it. Confession and accountability is essential for killing these sins. Paul also mentions covetousness or greed in this list. He could still be referring to sexual sin here, but it probably applies more widely to material greed and other forms of greed as well. We are to avoid such sin by being satisfied in the Lord, which we will see in a moment. Sexual immorality and greed can and will enslave us. We must avoid them through Christ.

Avoid filthiness, foolish talk, and crude joking. Look at verse 4. Your speech reveals your heart. Jesus says: ‘For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks’ (Matthew 12:34), ‘But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person’ (Matthew 15:18). How you talk matters to the Lord. It communicates what is true about your heart. If your words are vulgar and filthy on a regular basis, then what does that say about your heart? Now I get it, most of you work in places surrounded by folks whose speech is far from pure. And it is hard to not be influenced by that. But just because it is hard does not mean that you should not put up a fight. One way that you can be set apart in such situations is by your speech. Instead of speaking in these ways, Paul says we should be thankful in our speech. Again, this goes back to our satisfaction with God. If we have new identities through faith in Him, if we are His sons and His daughters, then we have so much to be thankful for that our speech should be characterized by thankfulness. Fill your speech with thanksgiving and you will remove the filthiness.

Paul goes on to give us two important reasons to avoid these sins. The first is found in verse 5. Look at that with me. There is no inheritance in the Kingdom of God for those who practice sexual immorality and greed. Such a practice makes plain that you do not belong to Jesus. And if you do not belong to Him, then you have no inheritance in God’s Kingdom. What can you expect? Look at the second reason to avoid these sins in verses 6-7. Do not be fooled, the wrath of God is coming on all of those who do not believe in Jesus. We celebrate the birth of Jesus this season because it led to His perfect life and His sacrificial death and His victorious resurrection from the dead for us. Jesus died to save us from the wrath of God by bearing that wrath in our place. But if you continue to walk in sin, then you reveal that you have not truly repented and believed in Him and the wrath of God remains on you. So I plead with you today, turn from these sins, trust in Jesus, and be saved from the wrath to come. Do not be partners with those who make a practice of such sin. Rather, join with those who are committed to following Christ. Let’s be serious about avoiding such sin and helping one another avoid such sin by believing in Jesus.

The General Command (v. 8-14)

These specific applications can seem difficult to obey. If left to ourselves, we could never obey them. Yet, when we remember who we are in Christ, then we can walk in obedience to Him. In order to encourage us, Paul reminds us again what Jesus has done for us. Look at verses 8-10. What is our identity in Christ? We are light in the Lord. When we turn from our sins and believe in Jesus, we become reflections of Him in the world. We become light. That is who we are. And as such, we are called to walk as children of light. Paul again is connecting the indicative (who we are) to the imperative (how we are to live). Jesus died to set us free from the darkness. He died to make us light. So we should walk in that. We should be obedient to His commands to avoid sexual immorality and greed and vulgar speech. You are a new creature in Christ and your purpose is to shine out His goodness and glory through your conduct and speech. Don’t be a flashlight without batteries! Be the light of the world through faith in Jesus! In every situation, seek to discern what is pleasing to the Lord and then obey it. Although there are times when it can be hard to know what is pleasing to the Lord, the vast majority of the time it is not difficult to know what is right to do. Paul encourages us to walk in that. We must put on the new self each day and continually walk in the light.

Paul goes on to tell us to not only walk in the light but to also expose the darkness. Look at verses 11-14. We are not to take part in evil deeds, we are to expose them for what they are. Through our speech and our actions we are to call sin sin. Paul is not telling us to be judgmental and harsh, he is telling us again to speak the truth in love. And the truth about evil deeds is that they harmful to all involved. And as we expose the light to such darkness, our hope is that those lost in the darkness will come to the Light! I think Paul is at least implying evangelism with these words. As our good deeds shine before men, our prayer is that men will see them, be transformed by the gospel message that they communicate, and glorify God with us through belief in Jesus. Our friends and family members and neighbors who are caught in sexual sin and greed need the light of the gospel to be shone in their lives. We need to call to them: ‘Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’ These words represent an early Christian hymn or poem, which was adapted from terminology in Isaiah. Paul is using them here to encourage us in shining out the light of the gospel so that others can escape the darkness. We must walk in the light and expose the darkness so that others may come to faith in Christ.

As those who have been redeemed through faith in Jesus, we are called to walk in love and walk in light. We are to love our brothers and sisters in Christ and be set apart from the world through our obedience to Jesus. If you are here and have never trusted in Jesus as your Savior, then this begins with you getting a new identity through faith in Him. He died for your sins and rose again on the third day. Through faith in Him, you can be forgiven and have victory over the darkness. I pray that you will come to the Light today. For those in Christ, I challenge you will Paul to live as children of light. Put away the deeds of darkness and walk in obedience to Jesus. Find someone who can help you in your battle against sexual temptation and greed and vulgar speech. Challenge each other to be thankful and to find your satisfaction in Christ. We must remember that we are light in the Lord so that we can walk as children of light. Amen.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 02 January 2018 )

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