Ephesians 5:1-20 – Darkness to Light 14/6/15
This is a scene from a pivotal movie in my childhood. It’s an image that’s stuck with me since then. I’ve got a prize here for anyone who can manage to name what movie it comes from. It’s from Return of the Jedi, the third and final installment of the original Star Wars movies. I love this image where the hero, Luke’s face perfectly divided between light and shadow, because it perfectly captures the struggle that he’s going through at this point in the film. Will he turn to the Dark Side or will he stick with the Light? It reflects in a way a decision that we all have to make in our lives. How will we live? Will we walk in light or darkness?
In the movie, this scene is all the more intense because there’s only one voice that Luke hears. It’s the voice of Darth Vader, calling him to the Dark, with all kinds of threats and promises. In our passage today, there’s only one voice that we hear. It’s the voice of Paul, who’s calling out, who’s almost shouting, ‘Live in Light!’
Paul’s knows that we’re surrounded by temptation to live in darkness. We’re bombarded in what we watch, what we listen to, what we read, in ads and billboards, even in the words of friends and family. The world around us is constantly trying to tell us what we should think, how we should act, about what’s important and what’s not. The world’s constantly calling us to live in darkness.
Paul doesn’t want us to be deceived but to know that the promises of the world are nothing but lies and empty words, verse 6. Living the way the world tells us to is foolishness, verse 16. What the world around us calls acceptable or even commendable is actually shameful, verse 12. It’s also fruitless, verse 11, it amounts to nothing in God’s eyes. What’s worse it actually incurs God’s wrath, verse 6 again. Don’t be fooled Paul says in verse 5, no fornicator, impure or greedy person has any place in the kingdom of Christ or God. There’s no place for those who do these things in the church and no place for them in heaven! I don’t think Paul’s saying if we’ve ever struggled with these things, we’re out. If that were the true, he’d just say, “Sorry. It’s too late, you had your chance.” What he’s doing is warning us that those who persist in living in these ways are showing in their lives that they aren’t actually in Christ. So instead of doing what the world tells us to do, which is to seek our own pleasure, Paul tells us to seek what is pleasing to the Lord. He says we should be living lives of holiness, bearing fruit that is good and right and true in God’s sight. We’re to live as children of light!
Notice, that Paul says it’s not that we walk in light or darkness, but that we are light. We once were darkness, but now we are light! At our Wednesday communion service we’ve been looking at the start of John’s gospel. John makes it very clear that Jesus is the true light of the world. But as we’ve seen in this series, we’re complete in Christ and completely in Christ. So Paul can say that we are light too! It’s just as Jesus said; 1”‘You are the light of the world… 16let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Matt. 5:14-16). Our lives are meant to be blazing lights to those around us, so that they can see Christ in us. We’re to bear fruit of light, so that those around us can see what is good and right and true.
And as we do this, as we shine as light, we’ll expose the darkness of the world around us. Paul’s not suggesting that we camp outside of people’s houses ready to expose their every misdeed! There’s no need for that. Light just needs to shine in the darkness to expose what’s been hidden there. And did you notice the deeper purpose that Paul has in mind? It’s so that those still living in darkness might be transformed themselves; 13but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, 14for everything that becomes visible is light.
Therefore it says,
Rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
As we live the way God wants us to the light of the gospel will shine into the lives of those around us. There’s lots of ways that we can shine as light in our world. This morning I want to focus on just three that Paul mentions in this passage. They’re three big ones, three things the world highly values, Sex, Drugs and Rock’n’Roll!
When it comes to sex, Paul warns that any kind of fornication is incompatible with the Christian life. The Greek word he uses in verse 3, is pornea, which is where we get our word pornography from. But in Paul’s day it had a broader meaning and referred to any kind of sexual activity outside of marriage. Paul’s writing to the church in Ephesus, the center of worship to the Greek god Diana. She was a ‘fertility goddess’ so sexual practices were part of her worship. For most people living in Ephesus sexual immorality was an act of ‘religious devotion!’ It’s not so different in our world today. People are constantly seeking sexual pleasure, sexual satisfaction, no matter where it comes from.
Paul says we shouldn’t just avoid such behavior, but that we shouldn’t even talk about such things. That’s what he means when he says that ‘obscene, silly or vulgar talk’ is entirely out of place in the church. It’s not just that these things aren’t decent, it’s that they point to such a low view of sex and relationships. They’re degrading, questioning the image of God that is in men and women. So we shouldn’t talk this way and we should object when those around us do. Instead our language is to be that of thanksgiving and praise.
If we do this, we might be accused of being old fashioned or of being anti-sex. But the reality is as Christians we’re to have a higher view of sex than anyone else. We’re to value it so highly that we don’t joke about it, that we don’t devalue it with our words or actions. In our own lives, in the way we speak about it to others, we’re to shine as a light showing the world around us that sex is a good gift of God that should be shared and celebrated the way he intended, between a husband and a wife. Because we value relationships and sex so highly, later this year I’m hoping we’ll be able to run the Marriage Course.
If we’re to be light in our approach to sex and our relationships with one another, we’re also to be light in how we treat our own bodies. In verse 18 Paul says, ‘18Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit.’ I think if he was writing today there’d be a few more things that Paul says we’re to avoid!
I’ve never been drunk, so I don’t know what it feels like. But I’ve seen enough friends get drunk, to wonder why any one would ever want to. Any buzz that might come is not enough to outweigh the loss of control or the loss of inhibitions. Being drunk, or high, dehumanizes us. It makes us less than human, little better than animals.
If we’re to be light in our world, we shouldn’t just stand up and say that alcohol or ‘ice’ is evil, but should show the world how to really have a good time. Paul says we should be filled with the Spirit. As we’ve already seen in Ephesians as Christians God’s Spirit dwells within us and empowers us. The Spirit is what joins us together in Christ. It makes us whole, it makes us fully human.
Being filled with the Spirit will lead to out outpouring of praise to God! With that Paul ventures into one of the most controversial areas in the church – music! (Here’s the Rock’n’Roll!). Paul doesn’t seem to realize that there’s no subject that causes more controversy in the church than the music! Should we have organ or drums, can we have both? Are our songs to fast, to slow, to new, to old, to loud, to soft, to edgy, to repetitive, to traditional.
But the light of Christ that’s within us is meant to overflow even into our singing;
19as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, 20giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
So regardless of whether we sing spiritual songs, hymns or Psalms, we sing them to edify each other. We sing to remind ourselves of the truths of the gospel. Our songs should remind us of what God has done for us. As we sing we’re reminding one another of our hope in the future and of what our lives should look like. Because of this focus, we’re not just singing for ourselves. We’re singing to, and for, each other. So we need to think of others here. We can’t just insist that the music has to always be what we want to sing, that we should only sing hymns with the organ, or that the music would be better if we never had the organ! We need to think of what will edify or encourage others. This is where I take my hat off to Jan, who does such a great job, such a tricky job trying to select music each week that will appeal to as many people as possible.
While we sing to each other, we also sing to God, giving him thanks and praise for everything. In that sense we sing for an audience of one. God is pleased with our singing, even if we sing off key, out of tune, out of time. I’m sure we’ve all had experiences sitting next to someone who sings like that. I’d say if you haven’t, you should sit next to me next week, but thankfully only a few people are subjected to that! But it doesn’t matter what the noise sounds like. Why? Because it depends on the condition of our hearts. We’re to make a joyous melody in our hearts, as in all things we give thanks to God.
Brothers and sisters, we are the light of the world. Let’s allow that light to shine brightly in our lives. Let’s light up those around us. Let’s expose their deeds as we seek to shine brightly for Jesus, so that they may be quickened, that they might be made light themselves.