What does light help you do?
We’re now into our fifth session in the book of Ephesians. Today, we’ll look at Ephesians 4:17-5:20. It’s a long passage, full of instructions of how a believer is to live a different kind of lifestyle. In fact, a lifestyle that is as different as light from dark, night from day.
Anyone who has experienced cataracts knows what it’s like to have clouded vision. Have you had cataracts removed? You weren’t so aware of how your vision was deteriorating until you had surgery. Then, once the cataracts were removed, remember how clear everything looked?
I was born with cataracts in a day when doctors didn’t think cataracts could be safely removed from a baby’s eyes. Through eight childhood surgeries, doctors stirred up and broke the cataracts into pieces, believing the cataracts would dissolve on their own. The pieces didn’t; in fact, they remained in my eye, blocking my ability to see clearly. When I had surgery in 2015, the doctor removed the debris and widened my pupil, allowing light to connect with my optic nerve. More light gave me the ability to see more clearly.
How does light help you see more clearly?
I can tell you, as a visually impaired person, that the inability to see clearly makes you guess at a lot of things. Many times, the guesses are way off base. I tended to care only about what was right in front of me because that’s what I saw or that’s what I could touch. Having more light in my visual field allowed me to see more of the world as it truly was.
Look at Ephesians 4:17-19.
Paul’s analogy of living in the dark is so apt. Those who live in darkness:
- Have fuzzy thinking that doesn’t make any sense.
- Their understanding is darkened – they don’t see the world and life clearly.
- They’ve lost all sensitivity so they go for a whatever feels good mentality.
Not the Christ-follower.
Read Ephesians 4:20-24.
That former life is based on desires that deceive you, Paul says. How very true! The alcoholic thinks drinking is beneficial, not stopping to think of the long-term destruction. One-night flings that are gloriously satisfying in the moment of pleasure lead to a life of heartache and problems. The Christ-follower is to totally lay aside that former way of life that includes thought patterns and lifestyle behaviors.
The Six-Million Dollar Question – How?
Many people think a Christian lifestyle consists of a few basic rules based on externals:
- Don’t use cuss words.
- Don’t get involved in illicit sex
- Don’t lie, steal, or cheat.
Even there, some rationalize, isn’t God gracious? Doesn’t God want me to be happy? Won’t He understand if I slip in my speech? He wants me to have enough and I’m just helping Him out by taking what I have coming to me anyway.
Look carefully at Ephesians 4:25-32.
Paul lists a lot more to this Christian lifestyle than our choices about language and sex. He goes beyond the behaviors we should put off, describing how we should live, and then, in many cases, spells out why this is a good idea.
I don’t know about you, but I’m a lot more likely to buy into an idea if I understand the reason why behind it. Paul does exactly that.
- Don’t lie – speak truthfully. WHY? Belonging to the community of believers is like being part of a body and speaking without truth would be destructive to the entire body, including ourselves.
- Control your anger – nip it in the bud, don’t let it linger. WHY? The devil can slip in and do more damage when anger has caused our control to slip.
- Don’t steal – do useful work. Be a giver instead of a taker. Do the work so you can give generously to others.
- Avoid ALL unwholesome talk (see also 5:4). Replace it with talk that will build up the other person and replace it with thanksgiving to God. WHY? It’s so much more beneficial to everyone. (Can I hear an Amen?)
Look at 4:30. what does it mean to grieve the Holy Spirit?
Look at Ephesians 4:31-32. What else are we to get rid of? What are we to replace it with?
Read Ephesians 5:1-20
Paul sums up the previous verses with this statement in Ephesians 5:1,2:
“Be imitators of God . . . live a life of love, just as Christ loved us.”
That’s a tall order! The next section describes what imitation of God might look like.
- It’s a life devoid of immorality, impurity, and greed (v. 3,5)
- If anyone in the body of Christ suggests a work-around, that’s empty talk. Have nothing to do with them (v. 6,7). WHY? Back to Paul’s original thought – you are different now, as different as light and dark, night and day.
- Living in the light has a dual purpose. It helps you see clearly so you can bear the fruits of righteousness, goodness, and truth (5:9). The light you reflect also exposes the fruitless deeds of darkness of others (5:13).
How do you react to Paul’s directive to expose deeds of darkness?
Make It Real
Here’s where I am. I don’t have a problem with lying, illicit sex, or obscenity. I know uncontrolled anger is a stupid idea. But I still find this passage challenging.
- I’m too timid to speak truth when it needs to be spoken.
- I tend to cling to what I have instead of sharing generously with others.
- I need to monitor my speech, ensuring that everything I say has an attitude of thankfulness and encouragement to others.
- I may not show anger but how easy it is to stay silent and let resentment teeter on the edge of bitterness. I’m still growing a lot in learning to be kind and compassionate to those around me instead of allowing their foolish choices to annoy me.
What about you? How bright does your light shine in these areas?
It’s an ongoing struggle every day. We dare not sit back and coast, kidding ourselves that “we’re just human” and everyone makes mistakes.
Paul says in Ephesians 5:15,16:
“Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity because the days are evil.”
No coffee breaks on righteousness, goodness, and truth, friends! We don’t have much time to shine God’s light on a darkened world that is growing ever darker. Make the most of each moment. Let every contact see Jesus in you – by what you say and by how you live.