Ephesians Study, Part 37: Light and Darkness

Review:

Last week we argued the case that when Paul says that

...he is talking about the person who practices sin, lives a life of sin, intentionally. He's not talking about the Christian who stumbles, who sins but tries not to.  Paul tells us that he sinned, he tried not to, but his sin nature won sometimes.  Then Paul warned us not to buy the world's sell job that sin is OK.  He says, "don't be deceived".  He told us not to participate with the sin crowd.  Then he started into his discussion of light and darkness, which we will continue today.

Today's Lesson: Light and Darkness

Let's start with Ephesians 5: 8-9 to give us the base for jumping into new territory in verse 10.

I defined goodness, as Paul uses the term, as moral excellence -- righteousness as integrity in all dealings with God and man, and I defined truth as honesty, equity, reality, "When the word and the deed are one".

And now to new material:

What I think Paul is suggesting here is that you and I should be putting every thought and action to this test.  What does God think about this?  Is this pleasing to God?   I am continually embarrassed by doing things that are acceptable in my mind and then, if I ask the question, WWJD, what would Jesus do, I fall far short.  It isn't that what I do, was doing, or going to do, was that horrible.  Hopefully it wasn't on my black sin list, or even on the gray list.  Yet when you put it in the perspective of what would Jesus do, it turns gray or black.  Many times it is obviously not what Jesus would want me to do.

If you think about it, that is a very valid test.  What does God think about this?   What would Jesus do?   What would Jesus have me do?   This includes our conversation, our standard of living.  I don't think there's anything bad or non-biblical about a good standard of living, but a good question would be, "is that what God wants me to do?"  Clothes, books, furniture, businesses, investments, friendships, vacations, automobiles, sports.  It is not a question of denying ourselves things, it's a matter of including God in our decisions.  Take him along, let him participate, let him in on it as well.  Let Jesus be a participant in your pleasures, not just your problems.  This is quite an interesting idea.  One that I'm sure challenges you just as it challenges me.

In Romans 6:21 there is a similar admonition: There are many things in our past, which we gave up because they lead us to death, physical and spiritual.  As you look back at those things it is easier to ask, what did that really benefit me?   It is interesting to look back and see how hard you worked at " having fun" and how much better off you were from those long tired nights and difficult mornings.  And what do you have to show for it?

Paul is dealing with the deeds of darkness.  In John 3:19, Jesus says that man loves darkness instead of light.

And the verb love here is agapeo.  That means they deeply, internally desire darkness.  We usually think of the word agape as meaning divine love.  But the verb form of the word really means to be totally given over.  God's love for you is agapeo.  God is totally given over to you.  God loves you in a way that is unconditional.  But the point here is that man is totally given over to darkness, they agapeo darkness.

Light exposes what is wrong.  There are lots of examples of that.  For instance, can an artist paint a picture in the dark? The light exposes what is good and bad, right or wrong.

Paul continues: starting again with verse 11:

Notice that Paul tells us that in addition to not participating, we are to expose them, bring them to light.  It is not enough to just ignore them.

I have tried to understand what deeds that Paul may have had in mind when he used the term "Unfruitful Deeds of darkness".  Since he just finished talking a lot about immorality, impurity and greed, I assume he was still thinking about those sin nature human tendencies.  Clearly those are not in the best interest of the Church; they are not fruitful.

But Paul started this discussion of being darkness and now being light by saying:

As non-Christians, we were darkness.  The sin nature was our guide.  Our old habits and beliefs and practices were of the world.  But as Christians we have new guiding principles, a new leader.  We are to behave differently.   So when Paul says, ...it seems to me that he is not only talking about blatant sin, immorality, impurity and greed, he may be including all of our old habits, which do not further our Christian walk and the Church.   These might be unfounded doctrinal beliefs that we were raised with or had adopted prior to accepting Jesus.  These might be religious rituals that we adopted prior to becoming light, as Paul puts it.

Just to get specific, I would offer that celebrating pagan holidays might fall into that category.  Clearly that comes from our pre-light life.  It seems like it is not really that big a deal and it is more politically correct to just join in with the world, and not be the exception.  But what is the Christian fruit (opposite of unfruitful deeds of darkness) that results from celebrating Halloween or Commercial Christmas?

Another specific for many of you, raised as traditional Catholics, is the worship and prayer to Mary.  From the old life, it feels good, family may insist on it, but it is a remnant from the pre-Christian life.  As a Christian you have to know that it is an unfruitful deed.

And Paul says that it is not enough to not participate, but we are to expose it.  I don't think that means that we have to buy a billboard on the freeway or walk around with a picket sign that says, don't worship Mary.  But I think it means that you need to make it clear and obvious that you worship Jesus, not Mary.  Paul says that being silent on the matter is not enough, if you are to walk in a manner worthy of your calling as a Christian.

The sins that man invented are so bad that even to describe them, in some contexts, defiles the mind of those who listen.   It is interesting that you and I "become what we eat".  To a certain extent our bodies take on certain characteristics determined by what we eat.  It is a wonder that I do not have dark brown skin from all the chocolate that I eat.  However my waistline is starting to look like the shape of some of those chocolates.  Several years ago, to lose some weight, I started eating tremendous amounts of vegetables.  At one point I got hooked on carrots and I was eating bowls of carrots every day.  Then someone pointed out to me that I had an orange tint to my skin, like a carrot.  I decided I might be overdoing the carrots.

The same thing is true all of what we see, what we read, what we enjoy.  Those make up our diet, our mental diet.  And it greatly influences who we become.

This is one of the reasons that in 1 Peter 3:1 we find that believing wives have a high likelihood to win unbelieving husbands.  Why?   Because they show the light. Peter says that if you become the light, they may be attracted.  Righteousness becomes visible.

Paul continues:

You might think that that is a quote from someplace else in the Scripture, but it is not.  It is actually a paraphrase by Paul of Isaiah 60:1. There are also similar statements in Romans Chapter 13 and 1 Thessalonians Chapter 5.  In the English it is a little bit hard to understand what Paul is trying to say.  But it appears that what he's saying is wake up, pay attention, seize this opportunity.  It's a little bit like the Latin phrase "Carpae dium" which literally means seize the day.  It appears that Paul is saying, make the most of the opportunity for Jesus.  Don't be asleep, don't drift off, don't slack off, don't waste your time.  Paul says awake from the dead.  Remember in our earlier study in Ephesians we talked about Lazarus who was raised from the dead but was still bound by his grave clothes.  I think Paul is saying, take the grave clothes off, make a difference.

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Next time (February 9):

...we will look at five sayings that should be operative in a Christian.  We will pick up with verse 14 of Chapter 5, as Paul continues to tell us how to walk in a manner worthy of our calling as Christians.