Monday, November 26, 2012

Children of Light

Part 27 of a series through the New Testament book of Ephesians

You can listen to this sermon here.



Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, 

“Awake, O sleeper, 
and rise from the dead, 
and Christ will shine on you” (5:7-14). 


Now You Are Light in the Lord 

Paul writes, “Therefore do not become partners with them [people who are “sexually immoral,” “impure,” and “covetous,” v. 6] for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord” (vv. 7-8a).

The Christian life is always a call to be who God says you are. 

“…Paul does not say merely that before their conversion Christians were in darkness and that now, since their conversion, they are in light, though that is true. He says something more profound. Before they were darkness, now they are light. He is pointing to a change in them, not merely to a change in their surroundings. Before they were not only in darkness; darkness was in them. And now not only are they in light they are light….” (James Montgomery Boice, Ephesians, p. 183).

Walk as Children of Light 

Since we are now “light in the Lord,” we should “walk as children of light” (v. 8b). “[God] has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son” (Col. 1:13). God “called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). How are we to live as children of light?

1. Children of light should live lives that please God. 

Paul says that “the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true.” (v. 9; cf. Rom. 6:21-22; Gal. 5:22-23; Phil. 1:11). “Goodness” is often used of showing benevolence to others (unlike “covetousness,” v. 3). We are to “try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord” (v. 10). “What is pleasing to the Lord” is a positive way of saying, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit” (4:30).

2. Children of light should not participate in the works of darkness. 

We are to “take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness” (v. 11). In verse 7, Paul says that we are not to become “partners” with those who do the works of darkness. “Paul is not telling Christians to avoid all contact with nonbelievers but to avoid joining them in their sin” (ESV Study Bible, p. 2270). (In 1 Corinthians 5:9-13, Paul says it’s unrepentant professing Christians, not unbelievers, whom we are to avoid.)

3. Children of light should expose the true nature of the works of darkness. 

Instead of taking part in the works of darkness, we are to “expose them” (v. 11b). The works of darkness are “unfruitful” (v. 11) and “shameful” (v. 12).


Leave the Light On

“Therefore it says, ‘Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you’” (v. 14b; cf. Isa. 60:1; Jonah 1:6). Jesus declared, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).

“Turn the light off!” This is what my Dad would say whenever I forgot to turn the light off in a room. As Christians, we need to leave our lights on.

The way we live may result in others escaping the darkness. 

Jesus said to his followers, “You are the light of the world…. Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:14, 16).

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

God's Holy People

Part 26 of a series through the New Testament book of Ephesians

You can listen to this sermon here.



But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience (5:3-6).


Dare to Be Different

Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is addressed to the “saints” in Ephesus (1:1). “Saints” (hagios) are “holy ones.” Christians have been made saints (because we are holy “in Christ”) and are to act like saints. We must avoid two extremes of holiness: (1) legalism (salvation by law keeping) and (2) antinomianism (salvation without the need for law keeping).

To be “holy” means to be different (in a good way). 

In Isaiah 6:3, the angels cried, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts.” God who is holy is different from other gods, and so people who are holy are to be different from other people. Believers are to reflect God’s character. “As he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:15-16; cf. Lev. 11:44).

The Great Commission says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19-20a). To “observe” Christ’s commands is to obey them. That’s holiness.

The gospel is not only the story of how God saves people from sin’s punishment, but also how he saves people from sin’s presence. “[God] chose us in [Christ] before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and blameless before him” (Eph. 1:4; cf. 1 Thess. 4:7). “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:25, 27; cf. Col. 1:22).


A Desire for More

How are Christians to be different? To the Ephesians, Paul writes, “But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you” (v. 3).

Christians are to be different by avoiding sexual immorality and covetousness. 

“Sexual immorality” (porneia) means “any sexual intercourse outside marriage.” “Impurity” (akatharsia) means “sexually deviant behavior.” Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:18, “Flee from sexual immorality” (cf. Gen. 39:12). People often say, “I’ll do what I want with my body.” But the Christian’s body belongs to God. “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Cor. 6:19-20). 

“Covetousness” (pleonexia) means “a greedy desire to have more.” Someone once asked John D. Rockefeller, then one of the richest men alive, “How much money is enough?” He replied, “Just a little bit more.” Jesus said, “Be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15; cf. vv. 16-21). Heb. 13:5

We live in a culture flooded with sexual immorality and covetousness—so much so that those who avoid these sins are often considered weird.


Motivation for Holiness

Paul could have simply written, “Avoid sexual immorality and covetousness because the seventh commandment says, ‘You shall not commit adultery’ (Ex. 20:14), and the tenth commandment says, ‘You shall not covet’ (Ex. 20:17). But he provided reasons for why the Ephesians should avoid these sins.

Why should we avoid sexual immorality and covetousness?

1. Sexual immorality and covetousness are not fitting for saints. 

It is “proper among saints” (v. 3) that these sins be eliminated. They are “out of place” (v. 4) in the lives of saints.

2. Sexual immorality and covetousness reveal ungratefulness. 

“Instead let there be thanksgiving” (v. 4). “Keep your life free from the love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave our nor forsake you’” (Heb. 13:5; cf. 1 Tim. 6:8).

3. Sexual immorality and covetousness equal idolatry. 

A covetous person is an “idolater” (v. 5).

4. Sexual immorality and covetousness do not characterize people of the kingdom. 

“You may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous…has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God” (v. 5; cf. Gal. 5:19-21; 1 Cor. 6:9-10). “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs” (1 Tim. 6:10). “Strive…for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14).

5. Sexual immorality and covetousness provoke the wrath of God. 

“Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience” (v. 6).

Monday, November 5, 2012

Imitators of God

Part 25 of a series through the New Testament book of Ephesians

You can listen to this sermon here.



"Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God" (5:1-2).


Loving Like God 

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us” (vv. 1-2a). Paul gives the Ephesians two exhortations: (1) “be imitators of God” and (2) “walk in love.” Of course, it’s impossible to imitate God in everything. “Walk in love” explains how we are to imitate God.

To be an imitator of God is to live a life of love.

Once again, Paul uses the word “walk.” Our walk is our lifestyle. We are to walk in unity (4:1-16), in holiness (4:17-32), and in love (5:1-2). The word “therefore” points back to the first three chapters of Ephesians and also to 4:32 where Paul says that we are to be gracious to others as God has been gracious to us.

Both God the Father and God the Son have modeled love for us. First, we have received love “as beloved children.” We have been adopted into God’s family (1:5). He has made us his “beloved” children. The Greek word for “beloved” (agapetos) was often used to describe an only child. For example, Jesus is called the “beloved” Son of God (Matt. 3:17; 12:18; 17:5; Mark 1:11; 9:7; Luke 3:22; 9:35). God has millions of sons and daughters, but he is able to extend his love to each of his children as if he or she was his only child.

Second, we are to give love “as Christ loved us.” To understand how we are to love others, we must comprehend the love of Christ, which he demonstrated by dying for us on the cross.


Sacrificial Love 

Christ “gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (v. 2b). His death was voluntary. He declared, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11; cf. vv. 15, 17).

Christ’s sacrifice of himself is the ultimate demonstration of love. 

Paul presents three truths about the sacrifice of Christ. First, Christ's sacrifice was costly to him. He “gave himself up.” The prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane reveals how much he agonized about dying on the cross.

Second, Christ’s sacrifice was beneficial to us. He died “for us.” He once said, “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45; cf. 1 Tim. 2:6; Titus 2:14). “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph. 5:25). Christ “loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20; cf. 1:4). “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). Think of how undeserving we were of his death for us!

Third, Christ’s sacrifice was pleasing to God. His death was “a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” A “fragrant offering” is one that is pleasing to God (“pleasing aroma,” Gen. 8:21; Ex. 29:18; Lev. 4:31). The death of Christ was pleasing to God because it brought us salvation. Our sacrificial love is pleasing to God and beneficial to others. When Paul received a gift from the Philippians (possibly money), he described it as “a fragrant offering, as sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God” (Phil. 4:18).

Sacrificial love is to characterize our relationships with one another. 

Jesus said to the disciples, “Love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:12-13). The apostle John wrote, “By this we shall know, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him. Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:16-18).

Christ’s love cost him his life. Should our love be without cost?