Sermon on Ephesians 5:8-14
Text: For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible — and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. 14 This is why it is said: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
Most of us are, to some extent, afraid of the dark. If it is not an outright fear, it is, at least, an uneasiness. We see this in children, who need a night light on, even while they are sleeping, lest they wake up. When we come home late at night and the house is dark, we are a bit uneasy until we find the light switch and turn the lights on. The main reason for this fear is a fear of the unknown. You can’t see what is there. Perhaps, there might even have been a burglary while you were gone, with the thief using the cover of darkness. For that reason many homes and businesses have lights to, hopefully, keep the burglars away. We appreciate the light and distrust the dark. Paul uses the picture of light and dark in our text to illustrate the Christian life. This morning, let us look at LIVING IN GOD’S LIGHT 1. Guided By His Light and 2. Reflecting His Light.
Paul begins this portion of God’s Word by saying, “You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.” (Verse 5) In what way were we once “darkness” and how did we become “light”? There is a clue in the fact that we are “light in the Lord.” Through the Lord, we have become light.
To further illustrate this point, we turn to verse 14, which appears to be the words of an ancient hymn: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Here the light source is clearly identified as Christ. He is the one who shines on us, who were, according to these verses “darkness,” “sleepers” and “dead.” All of these terms help us understand what life is like without Christ. We were darkness. When you are in complete and total darkness, you cannot see your surroundings. If there were any danger, you would not know it, until it was too late. The same is true of our lives before Christ. We were hopelessly lost in the darkness of our sins. We could not see that our groping around in the darkness was leading us closer and closer to danger, the danger of being separated from God’s love forever. We were in darkness and could not find our way out.
We were sleepers. In our natural sinful state we were unaware of what was going on. We lay there in our sinful slumber, ignorant of the fact that something was wrong. It also says that we were dead. We were as powerless to do anything about our condition as a dead person. Even though we were physically alive, we were spiritually dead.
Dead, that is, until Christ came into our lives and shined the gospel light into our hearts. He did so, first of all, by coming to this earth to live as our Substitute. He did what we could not do. He kept God’s law perfectly. Never once during his thirty-three years on this earth did he ever waver from fulfilling the will of his Father. Already at the age of twelve, we hear him saying, “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” This attitude carried throughout his life. Before he suffered and died on the cross, he prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” (Matthew 26:42) He lived in perfect obedience to God’s will for our sakes.
He also suffered and died for us. All of our sins went to the cross with Jesus. There he paid for every single one of them. All of our sins were washed away when Jesus’ blood ran on the cross. We know that God accepted Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins, because three days later, Jesus rose from the dead. The forgiveness of sins and salvation are ours. Yet, we would not have known about this, nor received any benefit from Jesus’ suffering and death, because we were walking around in the darkness, the darkness of unbelief.
However, as that hymn continued, “Christ will shine on you.” (Verse 14) Christ entered our hearts through Baptism and has caused this faith to be created that reaches out and accepts the gifts that are offered to us, those gifts which we can now see, because Christ has shined his light into our lives. Now, illumined by Jesus Christ, we are light. We have been guided by Jesus, who called himself “the Light of the world,” into his wondrous salvation. We are light.
Paul continues in verse 8, “Live as children of light.” It isn’t enough, in other words, to say you are light. God wants us to live as people of the light. What a wonderful motivation we have. We were lost in the dark and going to hell, until Jesus stepped into our lives and shined his loving light, showing the way to safety. How can we say “Thank you”? “Live as children of light.”
How can we reflect the light of Jesus in our lives? There are two ways — Live as light and expose the darkness. How do we live as children of light? We read in verses 9&10, “The fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth and find out what pleases the Lord.” We do what is pleasing to the Lord. How do we know what’s pleasing to the Lord? We find the answer in Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” We turn to God’s Word to find out what is pleasing to God. It becomes our guide for our lives.
For example, in the verses previous to our text, Paul wrote, “Among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place.” (Ephesians 5:3&4) There are some very clear guidelines for what is pleasing to God and what is not. We don’t have to wonder about those areas of life. We show our love for God by ridding ourselves from everything in our lives that are offensive to him. If you knew that something irritated someone you cared about, you would try to keep from doing it. That’s more than just common courtesy. That’s love. This is also true with our heavenly Father. Because he tells us so clearly in his Word what is offensive to him, we will, out of love for him, not do them. For that reason, we will be careful that the things we say are God-pleasing. For that reason, we will guard our thoughts. For that reason, we will dedicate our lives to doing that which is pleasing to God. By doing this, we reflect the love that Christ has shown to us. Let us live as children of light.
There is another way that we can reflect the love of Christ. We read in verse 11, “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” Again, we read in verse 13, “Everything exposed by the light becomes visible.” As children of light, we are to expose the deeds of darkness around us. This means that we are to stand up and point out sin. Although some might say, It’s an alternate lifestyle,’ or ‘It’s just a piece of paper,’ or ‘A woman has the right to do as she wishes to with her own body,’ we, as Christians, need to stand up and say that homosexuality is a sin; that living together without the benefit of marriage is a sin; that abortion is murder.
Let me tell you now that saying these things may not make you the most popular person around. People don’t like to be told that they are doing something wrong. For that reason, we might be tempted to clam up and not risk offending someone. However, that is not reflecting the light of God in our lives. That is trying to hide it. If we want to do what is pleasing to God, we will expose the sin in the world around us.
Yet, we don’t need to go so far to see sin. Every day we see sin in the ones closest to us. Even here, we are to expose sin for what it is. We don’t do this to put them down, or to get back at them for a perceived slight. We, also, don’t go in with guns blazing. We do this out of love for God and love for that person. Our entire hope in exposing sin is that they might be led to see their sins. We pray that they would confess their sins and come to God for forgiveness. It might be painful for that person for a while, but, in the long run, it will be better for them. What if we knew that a loved one was sick and would eventually die from that sickness? Suppose we also were aware of a procedure that would cure them, but would be painful for a while. Would we withhold that information, because it would cause them some pain? No! We would quickly tell them so that they would undergo that procedure and live. The same holds true when we see someone else sinning. We could turn our heads, afraid of causing them pain. If we did that, though, they might die eternally. Rather, let us expose the sin and assure them of Jesus’ forgiveness. In that way we would be reflecting God’s light, as we help lead one another to repentance, so that they, too, may live in God’s light.
We appreciate days that are sunny and bright. It has been shown time and again that many cloudy, dark days lead to depression. The same is true in a spiritual sense. When there is only darkness, there is depression, because there is no way out. However, when we have been brought into the Light of the world, Jesus Christ, there is true joy and peace. We thank our God for guiding us to his Light and we pray that we reflect that light every day. Jesus tells us “You are the light of the world.” (Matthew 5:14) May we live in and reflect that light. Amen.
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