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This powerful series will challenge you to understand your role in the body of Christ. Through the book of Ephesians, Pastor Philip will remind us of the joy and blessings God intends for believers to experience in the church as they live as a united family in Christ.
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Well, let’s take our Bibles and turn to Ephesians chapter five and verses eight to 14. Ephesians five, eight through 14, a message I’ve called Keep the light on. That’s the theme of this passage, keep the light on. You’re the light of the world. You’re children of the light, so walk in a manner worthy of your calling. Let’s stand in honor of God’s word and follow along. I’m reading from the New King James translation of holy scripture, “For you were once darkness and now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light. For the fruit of the spirit is in all goodness, righteousness and truth. Finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them for it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. Therefore, he says, ‘Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead and Christ will give you light.'”
So reads God’s word and you may be seated. If you read church history there was a group of missionaries known as the one-way missionaries. One of those men was A.W. Milne, a Scottish Presbyterian who decided that God had called him to a group of islands that would be named the New Hebrides. These islands were located in the South Pacific, these were islands void of the gospel. Dangerous. There was some cannibalism still very much alive in those communities, and A.W. Milne decided to go there from his native Scotland. He became a one-way missionary. These were men and women who decided to go to some of the darkest, toughest spots on God’s earth to bring the light of the gospel. They were known as one-way missionaries because there was a chance they would never come home.
In fact, to prove that when they left their native shores anywhere in the world to go to a certain place to bring the gospel and fulfill the great commission, they packed all their earthly belongings in a coffin. They took their own coffins with them, because they expected to be buried on the field. Isn’t that amazing? Challenging. A.W. Milne was one of those one-way missionaries, you can read about him. And when he came to one of these islands in the South Pacific, he left behind the legacy of gospel witness, and he was buried there. And his epitaph reads like this, “When he came there was no light, when he left there was no darkness.” Isn’t that beautiful? What a beautiful epitaph. I envy that epitaph. Don’t you? Don’t you want something close to that to be written about you and me. Wherever they went they spread the gospel, they shed the light of Jesus and his love.
Here’s a man who punched holes in the spiritual darkness of the South Pacific, where he flooded his life contacts with gospel light. Here’s a man who left Scotland for the New Hebrides so that he could bring God near, and the knowledge of Jesus close to those he met. Here was a man who burned brightly for God in the shadow lands of this world, a lamp lighter for gospel truth. And what he was, we must be. And as we look at Ephesians five, eight to 14 we’re going to see that. Because as Christians we are called to be light in a dark world. Jesus taught us that, didn’t he back in Matthew five in the Sermon on the Mount, where he said famously towards the end of some of his thoughts that indeed you and I are the salt of the earth and the light of the world.
“You are the salt of the earth, but if the salt loses its flavor how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out. You are the light of the world. A city sat on a hill that cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lamp stand that it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before man that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” The islanders of the South Pacific glorified the Father in heaven for a Scotsman called A.W. Milne who came. Because when he came there was no light, when he left there was no darkness. As disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ our every step needs to light a path to God, to bring hope, to offer peace, to promise life in Christ.
And let’s remind ourselves beyond what our physical eyes see. Let us remind ourselves from a spiritual perspective that people all around us, those nearest and dearest to us sit in sins dark night. And they’re fumbling their way through life, they’re without hope, they’re without God. And it’s our job and our joy as the church to illuminate Christ to them, and radiate God’s love to them. It’s urgent that we do that, isn’t it? I was thinking recently of a quote that I think I heard in a history class back in the United Kingdom. It was the words of the secretary of foreign affairs for the British government during the first World War, his name was Sir Edward Grey. And he famously said as he began to see Germany and Austria beat the war drums prior to the first World War, he said, “The lamps are going out all over Europe. The lamps are going out all over Europe.” And can’t you say that today philosophically, morally and spiritually aren’t the lamps going out? We’re watching darkness replace light. Some years ago R.C. Sproul said at a conference I was at that he visited Geneva.
And there was a wall that had been erected in memory of the Reformation, and the benefits that the Reformation had brought to Europe. And there was some of the reformers were etched on this wall, and these words were etched about what they did, and what the Reformation brought. And the words were these, “After the darkness, light.” That’s what the Reformation brought, it brought gospel light in the medieval darkness, in the reign of the Catholic Church. And reminded men that they’re saved by faith alone in Christ alone, by the grace of God alone, for the glory of God alone. But Sproul then turned that inscription on its head and he said, “If you look at Europe today, you might as well write after the light, darkness.” The western world is throwing off the Christian-Judeo worldview. It’s turning it’s back on the gospel that brought freedom, politically and spiritually, that brought economic progress. After the light, the darkness. Look out on our world, a Christian worldview is being replaced by a secular and nihilistic worldview.
Life is being devalued. Look at the abortion debate and the advocacy for euthanasia. Morals are being rethought, marriage is being redefined. Gender now is a question. Self is being deified. Men love themselves rather than God. Purpose is being lost. Suicide is on the rise because death is embraced as better than life, and we could go on. After the light, the darkness. But what are we to do? I’ll tell you what we’re to do. We’re to punch holes in the darkness. We’re to light a candle of gospel witness. And so let’s come and look at this passage that encourages us to do that. I think it’s so tempting in today’s world, and in the cultural deterioration that we’re witnessing to just curse the darkness.
I find myself tempted in doing that, but I think it was Eleanor Roosevelt who said, “Better to light a candle than curse the darkness.” So while there’s much to be discouraged about, much to be frightened about, we’re not going to spend our days cursing the darkness. We’re going to light some gospel candles. We’re going to let our life be a light for Jesus Christ, and bring hope where there is despair, and bring light where there is darkness. Where are we in the book of Ephesians? Well, we’re continuing to pick up what Paul encouraged them to do in Ephesians 4:1, he says, “You know what, I want you to walk worthy of the gospel. I want you to walk worthy of your calling. I want your steps to be in step with God’s will for the Christian.” And throughout these chapters he talks about walking in unity, walking in purity, walking in our new self in Jesus Christ.
He tells us in verse 17 to walk no longer as the rest of the Gentiles. He tells us in chapter five verse two to walk in love. And now he’s telling this in chapter five verse eight to walk in light. Remember he introduced this idea of putting off and putting on. When you and I come to Christ, it’s like putting off certain clothes and putting on certain clothes. There’s things we don’t do any longer, and there’s things now we begin to do for the first time. We put off falsehood and we put on truth. We put off bitterness, and we put on forgiveness. We put off laziness and stealing, and we put on hard work. Last week we saw we put off lust and put on love. And this week we’re looking to put off darkness and put on light. In fact, Paul encourages that elsewhere.
Listen to the language of Romans 13 and tell me if it doesn’t sound like the passage, we’re going to work our way through. Listen to what Paul says, “You know what, it’s time to wake up for our salvation is near than when we first believed. The night is far spent the day is at hand therefore let us cast off the works of darkness. Let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the day not in revelry, drunkenness, lewdness, lust, strife, envy. Put on the Lord Jesus and make no provision for the flesh to fulfill its lusts.” So that’s where we’re at. Maybe one other contextual point that’s worth noting. We’re starting in verse eight, but look at verse seven, “Therefore do not be partakers with them.” He’ll say something close to that again in verse 11, “Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.”
But either side of verse seven is motivation not to participate in the rebellion of the world, and the disobedience of the sons of disobedience. The motive number one is verse six, “Let no one deceive you with empty words for because of these things, the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.” You don’t want to participate in the darkness because the darkness is going to be judged, that’s the first motive, that’s a future motive. But he gives them a present motive. You don’t want to participate in the darkness. Why? Because you’re in the light in Jesus, and you’re a child of light, so walk as a child of light. So let’s start working through the text, and with several headings here. We’re just going to work verse by verse quickly, but I trust profitably. Look at verse eight, “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of the light.”
This is what I call the exchange, or the change. This is one of the simplest and yet starkest descriptions of what it means to become a Christian. Here’s a description of Christian conversion. You were once darkness, now you’re light. It’s that radical, it’s that stark. Paul’s picking up language he uses in chapter two, the once and the now. I hope that’s true of you. If this isn’t true of you, you’ve got a question whether you’re a Christian. Because a Christian is someone that once lived this way and was committed to these things marked by rebellion, darkness, covetousness, idolatry, sexual sin, where self is on the throne. But once that person comes to a faith in Jesus Christ they are now obedient disciples of Jesus marked by sexual purity, marked by a love for God, not idolatry. Self is being dethroned, and God is now the center of one’s existence.
Once, now, once, now. I know it for some of us it’s hard to know exactly when that happened, but there definitely still has to be a once, now. Maybe you can’t pinpoint the hour of the day, but you’ve got an assurance in your heart that things have changed because of your faith in Jesus Christ. If you go to Colossians, how does Paul describe conversion? That God has indeed transported us from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of his dear Son. I hope there’s a time in your life where you stepped out of the darkness and into the light. You got that in 1st Peter 2:9, “God has called us out of darkness and into the light of his Son, and we live for the praise of Jesus.”
The old hymn says it right, “I saw the light. I saw the light. No more in darkness, no more in night.” Hopefully, that’s true of you. Paul says that ought to be true of you, “For you were one’s darkness, but now you’re light in the Lord. Walk as children of the light.” I do want you to notice something it’s easy to miss this, Paul didn’t say they were once in the dark. Did you notice that? He didn’t say, “You were once in the dark. But you were once darkness.” The darkness resides in the human heart. We’re born into this world with the lights switched off, separated from God in our sin, in our disobedience.
You were once darkness. The darkness was inside. The darkness wasn’t circumstantial. The darkness in your life isn’t brought about because of something missing in the political realm, or in the economic realm, or in the educational realm. You’re dark. It’s not that you can fix that, fix the environment and man will be fixed. Man’s the problem, not the environment. That’s biblical theology. That’s gospel truth. Man does bad things because man is bad, apart from God and the grace of the gospel our hearts are black and our minds are dark.
Didn’t we see that back in chapter four as Paul describes the typical person who’s not in Christ, they’re marked by a futility of thought, their understanding is darkened. They’re alienated from the life of God and they’re blind in their perspective. But once that person encounters the light of the gospel comes face to face with the truth of Jesus Christ as God’s Son, virgin born, sinless, dying on a cross for our sin, rising from the dead to bring hope to a hopeless world, then light dawns, it’s language again. You’re out of Christ in Christ, you’re darkness, you’re light, there’s no in-between.
The Bible doesn’t paint a rosy picture about you or me my friend. You weren’t born innocent or clean. You were born under the dominion of darkness, and you got to change sides. You got to come out of the darkness, and be transported into the kingdom of light. And that’s what happened to them who first believed in the gospel according to Ephesians 1:12 to 14, “And now those who were once darkness are light in the Lord.” That’s where they got the light in the Lord, not in themselves, in the Lord. “And so walk as children of the light.”
The transformation is produced by an encounter with Jesus Christ. How does Jesus Christ describe himself or is described? What about John eight verse 12, “I am the light of the world.” That’s what Jesus said. You look in light my friend. You’re trying to understand yourself my friend. You’re trying to make sense of the senseless my friend. You’re trying to understand why and wherefore concerning this world, Jesus is the light. “I’m the light of the world. He who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but in the light of life.”
It’s Jesus that made the difference in their life. He’ll make the difference in yours. There’s no light in us. There’s no light in the world. You’re not going to find salvation on the campus of a university. You’re not going to find salvation or joy in some part of a city. You’re not going to find it in your job. There’s no light in us and there’s no light in the world. Salvation doesn’t come from looking in. Everybody’s looking in today aren’t they? Trying to discover themselves, they’re on a journey inward. Bible says, “Stop it, because that’s just darkness.” You don’t have the apparatus. Your heart isn’t to be trusted. You’ll never find light there. You’ll never find salvation there. The Lord is our light, the Lord is our salvation Psalm 27.
Now don’t look in, don’t look out. The world can’t give you it. Look up to a God who sent his Son into the world to be light. Life is discovered and our true identity is found in the light of another. You’ll never know yourself and your true self and true life if you don’t find it in the light of Jesus Christ, you won’t find it in yourself. You won’t find it in natural light. I love the story of the philosopher David Hume, who wrote an essay on the sufficiency of the light of nature for man’s spiritual need. And a noted pastor of that day F.W. Robertson published a sermon opposing that and arguing against that, pointing out that the light of nature is insufficient, and it must be supplemented by the light of revelation from God. One evening the two came together to debate the matter. At the end when Hume rose to leave, Robertson took a lantern to show him the way.
Hume protested, “Don’t worry my friend, I always find the light of nature sufficient.” And then he tumbled out the door onto the street. And F.W. Robertson stood over him with the lantern and said, “Do you need a little light from above?” Oh, my friend, we need light from above. The God who created us knows us best, has the best ideas and wishes and dreams for us. We need light from above. God is the end not man.
And his revelation in his Bible, and in his Son is that light from above, and you need to see yourself in another’s light. And so I trust that if you haven’t trusted Jesus today you’ll do it. You’ll see the light and come out of the darkness into the light of life, which is such a joy. Number two, what we call the expression. If someone is enjoying light in the Lord, if someone is a child of light, there’s going to be a certain fruit, a certain manifestation of light out of their life.
That’s what we’ve got here. Walk as children of light, and here’s what that walk will look like. Here’s what that walk will produce. Here’s the fruit, goodness, righteousness and truth. See a life that’s in vital union with Jesus, the light of the world will produce, emit, radiate, shed and spread gospel light. And it will take on several forms goodness, righteousness and truth. Light in a believer’s life has an ethical outcome.
See, as you and I come into vital union with Jesus, as we spend time with him, as we develop our relationship with him, if he’s the light of the world, that light will rub off on us, and our lives will radiate his light. Look, this fur Irish skin of mine, you can’t put me three or four hours in nice California sunshine and I don’t start to burn. I come home to June like Moses off the mountain, my face is shining.
Because you know what, that light has reflected itself on me and I’m shining. Outsourcing to some degree that light. Barnhouse says this, “When Christ came into the world, he was like the shining sun. And when the sun sets, the moon comes up. The moon is a picture of us. We shine not because of our own light. Like the moon, we shine a reflected light. Our light does not originate with us.”
I love that analogy. See, Jesus is the son and the church is the moon, in union with him in closeness to him we reflect his light. The moon doesn’t have any light, it reflects the sun’s light. And that’s what Paul says our lives ought to reflect Jesus the shining sun, the light of the world. Let’s just look at these three things quickly, and see if you and I are manifesting this and developing this in our lives. Goodness, righteousness, truth. Goodness is just God’s kindness toward man, his desire to help and do good to those within his creation. It’s what we would call good works. In fact, back in Ephesians 2:10, that’s exactly what God wants to see in our lives, “For we are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works.”
Hopefully the branches of your life is laden with the fruit of good works, that’s everything and anything. Loving your neighbor, helping the disadvantaged, caring for the widow and the orphan, serving the public through public office, raising your family to the glory of God, working hard at work, relieving the poor, helping the persecuted church. And maybe one of the best if not the best good work is sharing the gospel with those who are not yet saved. It’s all good works. May that be true of you and me. Righteousness, well, it speaks of doing the right thing according to God’s moral law and holy character. Christians do he right thing. I think it was Bob Jones who said, “Do right even if the sun falls from the sky.” Just do right. Do right by God. Do right by your conscience. Do right by those you should care for. It speaks of faithfulness simply meeting your obligations, living up to your responsibilities. Anybody got responsibilities here this morning?
Well, I tell you what, sir, if you’re married your wife is your responsibility. And if you’re your mother and you’ve got a child they’re your responsibility. And if you’ve got friends they’re your responsibility. If you live on a street and you have a zip code, that zip code in that neighborhood’s your responsibility. If you’re a member of this church and have identified with this expression of the body of Christ, you have responsibilities to attend, to give, to serve, that’s what righteousness is.
It’s a right regard for the rights of others. It’s the meeting of our responsibility towards others. How are you doing? Are you giving what is due? Are you obeying your parents? Are you serving the church? Are you loving your neighborhood? Are you sharing the gospel? Fulfilling the great commission? Truth. It’s interesting remember Paul describes a life alienated from the life of God as being marked by deceitful lusts. You see that in verse 22 of chapter four.
He talked about falsehood in verse 25 of chapter four. So we live in a world marked by deceitful, lust, lies and falsehood. So into that darkness we bring light and that light is truth, that’s reality that accords to the word of God. And so it’s your job and my job as Christians to speak truth. That’s going to cost us a little bit more I think as the days go by.
But we need to be committed to truth. We love our neighborhood, and we love our country, and we love the Lord, and we love his church, we are truth-tellers. In fact, you see that, don’t you chapter four verse 15, “Speak the truth in love.” That’s what we must do. Look at verse 25, “Therefore putting away lying, let each one of us speak truth to his neighbor.” What is that truth? Well, it’s gospel truth. Look at verse 20 of chapter four, “But you have not so learned Christ. If indeed you have heard him and have been taught by him as the truth is in Jesus.” We’re all about telling the truth.
But that’s gospel truth, we’re relayers of gospel truth. Here’s another thing about those three things just before we leave it. Goodness, righteousness, truth. Back in chapter five verse one, we were told to imitate God. Greek word mimic. Be a mimic of the Almighty. We’re given an example of what that might look like, then be a person who loves people, even your enemies because that’s how God loved us. But I say this when you are good and you are righteous and you’re speaking truth, you’re imitating God because all those things are true about God.
He’s good, isn’t he? He’s righteous, isn’t he? He’s truth, isn’t he? So as you and I bask in his presence like the moon in the presence of the son that is set we reflect his character and likeness. I like the story of the little girl who was coming home from church and she says, “Mommy, I don’t know if I fully understood the pastor today and the preacher today.” And the mom said, “Well, tell me what’s bothering you, and I’ll see if I can help.” Well, she says, “Well, mommy, why don’t I ask you a question? The preacher said God is bigger than we are, is that true?” And the mother said, “Yes it is. God is much, much bigger than we are. ‘Well, mommy, the preacher also said God lives in us when we put our faith in him, is that true?'”
And the mother said, “That’s true. When you and I open our hearts to God and open the door of our lives to God, he comes in and dwells and lives with us.” “Well,” said the little girl, “If God is bigger than us and he lives in us, then wouldn’t you think he would show through?” That’s logical, isn’t it? I like it. I trust that’s true of me and you. Hope God’s showing through because he’s big, he’s glorious and his Son indwells us. Go back to Ephesians 2:20 to 21, the church is a habitation, a place where God dwells. And if he dwells and he’s light, the light will start to come out through our hands, and our eyes, and our tongues, and our lives. Number three, what do we call the examination?
Look at verse 10, finding out what is acceptable to God. Okay, the exchange, the expression, the examination. He’s called them to display a godly character, and he goes on to say and keep doing that. The word find out is a word that means to test, to examine, to scrutinize it. In fact, it’s a word that means to test, to approve. Think about products whether we’re talking cosmetics, household appliances, or motor cars. They’re tested. And when they’re tested and approved, this is a good product, it’s healthy, it’s a good price. This is a car that’s dependable and economic. They want to tell you that because, “Hey, we have tested it and we have approved it. And do you know what, you should buy it. And that’s our word.”
And Paul is saying, “Look, in life you’re going to encounter so many things and so many paths and so many opportunities and people will tell you to do this and do that.” And he said, “You know what, the discerning Christian who’s a child of light will want to walk in the light. Which means that they will find out what they’re about to do, what they’re about to give, what they’re about to commit to, is that something God would approve?” They’re going to test it, “Yeah, I think God would want me to do that.” Or, “You know what, he wouldn’t want me to do that. His word forbids that.” Do you know what it was said of the Lord Jesus in John 8:29, “He always did those things that pleased the Father.”
And the best way that you and I can find out what is acceptable in the Lord is to study his word. Write down Psalm 119:105, write down Psalm 119:130. Let me quote them to you. You know the first one. “The word of God is a lamp onto our feet and a light onto our path.” That’s good. See, we want walk as children of the light. If you want to know that, stay to the biblical path because it’s light. It’s a lamp to your feet. It’s a light to your path.
And in Psalm 119:130 says, “The entrance of your word gives light.” You want to walk as a child of light, you got to let the word of God in. You got to have your Bible open. You got to be reading it. You got to be sitting under the preaching of it. You got to be in the company of godly people talking about it. In Bible studies and small groups. Because it’s the only thing you can trust, not your feelings, they’ll fluctuate. You can’t trust the world and its philosophies because the world is full of lies and deceit. You can’t even trust fellow Christians completely or infallibly because sometimes they can be inconsistent. And your conscience while a helpful guide is not an infallible guide because sometimes it’s wrongly informed.
No, what you need to do is just get to the light of the word and let it guide you concerning who you should marry, how you should behave sexually, how you should spend your money, what are the things that please God. “See then that you walk circumspectly not as fools, but as wise redeeming the time because the day as are evil. Therefore do not be unwise but understand what the will of God is and do it.” How do you understand the will of God? Well, it’s all there in 66 books in the Bible, which are inspired by God.
God breathed, owned of the Holy Spirit, given to equip us unto every good work. Be a Bibleist, know your Bible. And in fact, our passage tells us what I’ve just argued because we’re told again, “You know what, we’re not to live as we once lived. You haven’t learned that in Jesus Christ, he’s called you to take up your cross and live a different way.” And we read in verse 21 that, “You’ve heard from him and you’ve been taught by him as the truth is in Jesus.” I trust that you and I are living a life that pleases him. Why don’t you just even get a concordance in the next day or two, and just look up the word please and see the verses that talks about what pleases God.
I did that one day, “The spiritually minded please God,” Romans eight. “The fear of God pleases God,” Psalm 147. Following Jesus pleases God, Matthew 17. “Being generous towards God and his people,” Hebrews 13 pleases him and we could go on. It’s amazing when I was studying the things that pop into my mind. And as I was reading that thinking about that, the lyrics of a little poem come back into my mind real old, this is going to really date me. “Jesus wants me for a sunbeam to shine for him each day. In every way try to please him at home, at school, at play.” Remember learning that as a little boy. And it spoke to me, home and play, playing soccer out with my friends. Home with mom and dad, out at school. I got to live a life that pleases him.
Why isn’t that right? He’s the one that’s given me life, and his son died to give me eternal life. Os Guinness is a wonderful sherpa in terms of where the culture is going. A while ago I was reading a book about him, and from him called Impossible People. I learned more about his upbringing in China. He was British but he spent his early years in China and loves that country, and grew up in China that had been ravaged by two centuries of European and American adventuring. Then the second world war, a brutal civil war. His mom and dad decided at one point to send him to a boarding school in Shanghai. It’s the first time he’d be away from his mom and dad was rather unnerving for a little boy. But his father took him aside one day and gave him the talk about manning up, and this is what needed to be done. And he wanted his son to step up to that and show himself strong.
And then he gave him two little stones, one for each pocket. And he’d written some things on the stones and he says, “I want you to put a stone in each pocket. And you want to think about mom and dad, you can put your hands in your pockets and rub the stones. And then once in a while pull them out, and look at what they say because that’s what I want you to do.” Do you know on one stone his father had written, “Found faithful.” On the other stone he had written, “Please him.” It’s good. “Hey son, I want you to be found faithful even in Shanghai away from us, and whatever you do please him.” Paul is encouraging us to that end. We’ve got another thought here the exposure, this is verses 11 and 12, “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it’s shameful even to speak of these things which are done by them in secret.”
This is a playoff verse seven, “Don’t be partakers with the sons of disobedience.” The Christian is to have no truck with the works of darkness. And Paul has described those back in chapter four in the early part of chapter five, it talks about the futility of their mind. The darkened understanding by which they behave, the blindness of their hearts, the uncleanness and greediness that marks the culture around you. He talks about fornication in verse three of chapter five. Covetousness, none of that befits the saints of God. Filthiness, coarse joking, idolatry. So he’s picking that up and he says, “Look, this is what the world does. This is the fruit of darkness, but you’re now a child of light. You have a different attitude towards darkness. Have no fellowship.” That word means partnership, to partner with, and that’s helpful with the unfruitful works of darkness. See, light and dark are incompatible.
The Christian is to steer clear of any contaminating contact with the world. We can’t stay clear of the world, all right, we’re in it until Jesus takes us out of it. But Jesus said, “While you’re in it, I don’t want you to be of it. I don’t want it’s philosophies, it’s entertainment, it’s godlessness, it’s lewdness. I don’t want it shaping you. I want the gospel to shape you, and the Spirit of God to transform you. So don’t have contaminating contact with the world.” That would be 1st Thessalonians 5:5, “Abstain from evil, hold on to what is good.” What about 2nd Corinthians 6:14, “What fellowship has light with darkness? What they love we don’t love because they don’t love God, they love darkness rather than light.
And so while we’re among them and with them, we’re going to love them. We’re going to be good neighbors. We’re going to be people that help our fellow man. But when they start practicing darkness, that’s when we duck out. That’s when we keep a distance. That’s when we separate whether mentally or physically. See separation is not no contact with the world. Separation is contact with the world without contamination, contact without contamination. And we’re not to participate or promote the sin that they practice.
I think that’s what the word fellowship means. Don’t participate in the practice or promotion of sin. And that would be 1st Corinthians 5:9 to 10, where Paul says, “Don’t be in the company of the sexually immoral person.” And they go and you would go, “Hold on a minute. I just hear about their exploits every time I go into work, they talk about it, their lewd conversation. How do I disengage with that, and hold down a job, and live in a street? Paul, what do you mean?”
He says, “No, I don’t mean with unbelievers. I’m talking about if someone in the church is involved in fornication, sex before marriage, adultery, sex outside of marriage. If they give themselves towards homosexuality, don’t have fellowship with them. Don’t treat them like you’d normally treat them. They’ve got to be repentant of their behavior, and you’ve got to send that message to them. They’re back in when they leave the world. But no, you can’t leave the world, the unbeliever is like this all the time.”
So see, he’s not talking about separating from people who sin, because we’d have to get out of the world. Beam me up, Scotty. That’s impossible. But what he’s talking about his participation. We’re going to need discernment to know when those lines are being crossed, because Jesus ate with sinners, kept company with publicans. We’ve got to do that. We’ve got to have friendships in a qualified manner with the world. But not friendship in the sense that we endorse, promote or remain silent about their practice of sin or their promotion of it. I think an example of this just recently happened in our family too. Two of my girls were given tickets by a kind friend at the church for a Lakers game, and they never went online and checked about that night, and so they just knew when the night was, and what game it was. And they headed off to enjoy a very enjoyable night, that any one of us can have at the Staples Center, whatever it’s called now. On a normal night at a Lakers game you’re going to bump up against someone who’s maybe drank a little bit too much.
Or you’re going to hear some profanity along the way, and I’m not belittling that, but it’s run-of-the-mill stuff when you’re with unbelievers, but not that night. When the girls got there they were horrified to realize it was a night celebrating LGBTQ. And the cheerleaders were all dressed up with their rainbow outfits, and everything about the stadium was decked in rainbow colors. Before long, the girls were watching girls kiss each other around about them, and at some point they said, “No, we can’t be part of this. This is now participating in promoting evil.” And they called us to tell us they were coming home early. Good for them. That’s the kind of stuff we’re going to have to think through and deal with. I think Paul would advocate that wouldn’t he, “Have no fellowship.” Don’t participate in the promotion and practice of evil. You’re a child of light, but rather expose them. Oh, what does that mean? Stick your finger in their face every time you go to work, and give them a dressing down about their immorality, and their lack of conformity to God’s law.
I don’t think it means that. There’s certainly a time to call out sin, John the Baptist did it. But no, I think here it’s exposed their works of darkness with your works of light. This word means to bring to light, to set forth, to ignore evil is to encourage it, to remain silent about it is to promote it, to fail to confront it is to side with it. I like the New English Translation it says, “Show them up by who you are and by what you do.” That’s good. See, we’re in the world but not off it, they practice darkness, they love darkness rather than light. And it’s our job as children of light to show them up, that our life is countercultural. We’re not conformed to this world, but we’re renewed in our mind, and we’re living out the will of God, where our lives expose the darkness of their lives. In fact, look at verse 12, “For it is shameful even speak of these things which they do in secret.” I think you can connect that to verse 11 is basically this.
We’re not to speak of their shameful deeds, but to shame them out of their shameful deeds through the purity of our conduct, the integrity of our actions, the honesty of our words, and the fidelity of our relationships. Let’s expose that. Let’s show them what true love is, what marriage is meant to be, what child rearing looks like, what a hard day’s work is all about. Loving your friends is all about. Caring for your neighbor is all about. Let’s show them up for what they are. In fact, listen to these words about Jesus ministry, and I think it’s true by default of us when we are like him. We read that, “The light has come into the world and man loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. And everyone practicing evil hates the light, and does not come to the light lest his deeds should be exposed.” A little footnote here off the topic a little bit, don’t be surprised that your friends don’t want to come to church.
Because if they know what church is about, they don’t want to come and hear a sermon about, “You need to change the way you’re living my friend. You need to come to Jesus. You need to repent.” They love darkness. They don’t want to come to the light. So let’s not be too perturbed that our unsaved friends, even family don’t want to come to church. And by the way, let’s not change church to make it more attractive for them to come because that means then it’s not church. Church is meant to expose sin, and expose darkness through exposition of the word. And so Jesus, it says here, “You know what, they don’t come lest their deeds should be exposed, but he who does the truth comes to the light, and has deeds are made clearly seen, and that they’ve been done by God.” I love this phrase. I forget where I stole it from. You know what, every preacher begs and borrows and steals. Nobody’s original. “The Christian’s life is intended to be a compensating goodness in a world of darkness.” I want to be that don’t you, given the hour in we’re in America.
God help us to be a compensating goodness, that’s not odd to the darkness by our disobedience. May our Christian life rebuke the unfruitful deeds of the lawless. Let me tell you a story and move to the last point or the last couple of points quickly, which will be quick. But I want to read this, it’s better if I read it word for word. I could paraphrase it, but I think the words will get to you. President Woodrow Wilson once had an encounter that he never forgot. I’ll let him tell it. “I remember once when I was in a very common place. I was in a barber shop lying in a chair, and I was presently aware that a personality had entered the room. A man had come quickly in upon the same errand as myself, to have his hair cut. He sat in the chair next to me. Every word the man uttered though it was not in the least didactic, showed a personal and vital interest in the man who was cutting his hair.
Before I got through with what I was doing, I became aware that I had attended an evangelistic service because Mr. D.L. Moody was in the seat next to me.” For you who don’t know D.L. Moody, he was like the Billy Graham of a century or so ago. “I purposely lingered in the room after he had left and noted the singular effect that his visit had on the barbers in the shop. They talked in undertones. They did not know his name. They did not know who had been there, but they knew that something had elevated their thought. I felt that I left that place as I should have left a place of worship.” Isn’t that beautiful? President Wilson is telling us that when D.L. Moody walked into that barbershop of all places, it became church. The light of the gospel diffused that environment. Man’s thoughts were elevated to think about things eternal. May not be true, you’re in the barbershop, the coffee shop, the machine shop, may that be true. The expectation, I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this.
Verse 13 is a little bit hard to translate. But all things that are exposed are manifest by the light for whatever makes manifest is light. Philip’s paraphrase I think catches the gist. Light is capable of showing up everything for what it really is. It is possible for the light to turn the thing it shines upon into light itself. So that’s true. On the one hand the gospel shines the light on a life, and exposes it makes a person uncomfortable. You know what you’re darkness and you need Jesus, and your sin has offended God, and he has every right to judge you. You need to repent. You need to leave that. You need to swap sides, leave the darkness and come to light. The light is Jesus Christ. He’s come into the world to shed light on what God wants to do about a world that is rebelled against him. And amazingly, wonderfully, he has sent his Son to die in our place to bear our sin.
And the sin that offends him he has punished in Jesus, so that he might love you. You can come to him and he’ll embrace you by his grace and his mercy. See, the light not only exposes the thing and makes it manifest. The light if it shines long enough will turn the thing in the light itself, and that’s what happens. The light of the gospel transforms people. For many years I sat under the light of the gospel my friend. Son of a baptist deacon, years upon years and it exposed me. I wished I didn’t have to go to church on a Sunday morning. My father didn’t give me a chance. “Come if you like, come if you don’t like, but you’re coming.” And I had messed around all week. I’d sinned all week. And I’m sitting under light on a Sunday, but this preacher’s telling me how rotten I am. And I know I’m rotten, but you don’t need to make me feel rotten.
And it went on for years. But eventually that light that exposed my darkness, that light made me light and transformed me as I came to faith in Jesus Christ. You know this from your first days in a science school when light enters a place, life begins. Plant life begins. Life begins. Light is life. And when the light of the gospel shines in a heart, it transforms it and life begins. My friend, I hope you trust that light today. Can I say to you, if you’re sitting under the gospel you’re enjoying the luxury of light. I took that little phrase from Anne Haseltine Judson, the wife of Adoniram Judson, who left America to go to Burma. And when she left these shores she talked about the luxury of light. What a hell awaits our fellow Americans who have enjoyed the luxury of the light of the gospel, and yet they will not repent. In fact, they’re increasingly mocking it. My friend, you’re in the luxury of light this morning. Embrace it. Trust the Lord Jesus.
Let the light bring life. Jesus says in Matthew 11:22 that hell is a darker place for those who walk into it from the light, that’s one of the scariest texts in the New Testament. The darkest parts of hell are reserved for those who had the gospel most and rejected it. There are degrees of punishment in hell. Jesus said in Matthew 1125 concerning cities that heard his word, saw his miracles and still rejected him. It will be better for those from Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for you. What a luxury. I enjoyed that luxury and by God’s grace that light changed me. You’re enjoying that luxury. May the light of the gospel change you. Don’t keep walking into the darkness, and light into outer darkness. From the luxury of the light. The exhortation we’ll finish quickly is verse 14.
We’re not completely sure this is quotation marks. “Therefore he says, ‘Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead and Christ will give you light.'” There are some references to light in Isaiah that may well be the background to Paul’s use of this language. If you go to Isaiah 9:2, Isaiah 29:19 or Isaiah 52:1. But also some argue that this may be an excerpt from an early Christian hymn. You’ve got excerpts from Christian hymns in Philippians two, Colossians one and 1st Timothy three. In fact, some arguing there’s some merit to this, this may be an excerpt from a hymn for Christians who are about to be baptized. Who have come out of darkness into the light. Come out of dead and sin to alive in Christ. And as they’re baptized and the church sings, “Awake, you sleep, arise from the dead and Christ will give you light.” But the challenge is to make sure that we’re awake to the light of the gospel, and we’re living our lives in the light of it. We’re called to walk in the light, awake, make sure you’re doing that. Rise up and shine.
Those who are called to walk in the light can’t hit the dimmer switch, and turn it down to a comfortable twilight where you can take a spiritual snooze once in a while. Light awakens, doesn’t it? As soon as the sun comes up, I’m pretty much up. I can’t sleep in the light. I need to buy one of those darkened blinds and cut it out. Because once the light’s up, I’m up. Light awakens, and the light of Jesus awakens a man or a woman to live for his glory. We went to Romans 13, didn’t we? “The night is far spent the day as at hand, awake, put on the Lord Jesus. Put off the works of darkness.” As we close, I want to say to the church let’s rise up and shine. More people sit in hopeless darkness than ever before. The hour is late. The days are evil. The morning that will break eternal, bright and fair is near. A world that sits in darkness cannot afford a slumbering church. The church today needs awakening.
We need to light a few candles as well, let’s curse the darkness. In fact light a few candles more than curse the darkness. I’ll finish with this. A little boy who fell out of his bed with a bump alerted his mother to that fact. She heard the thump and she came running into his room, and she wanted to see that the child was all right. And the little boy told his mom he was good. And then he said this, “I guess I had fallen asleep too close to where I got in.” I hope that’s not true of you, that once you get into Christ you fell asleep. You didn’t understand the full implications of the gospel. God not only saved you from the penalty of sin, but he wants to save you from the power of sin, from its dominion so that you might be a light for him in a dark world. Father, we just thank you for this passage. It rings like an alarm bell. It awakens us to our duty and delight as Christians in this world.
We were once darkness, but now we are light in the Lord. Walk as children of the light. Lord, it’s so tempting to just spend our days cursing the darkness, criticizing the culture. But you’ve sat us here to expose the darkness, to shame the shameless by lives that are marked by a compensating good. So help us indeed to embrace this passage. May it light a fire. May we increase the light of our witness. Help us to meditate upon those one-way missionaries who put all their stuff in a coffin, and took the light to the darkest places. And when they got there, there was no light and when they left there was no darkness. Help us to shine me in my small corner and you and yours. Make us a sunbeam for Jesus. We pray in Christ’s name, amen.