“Walk as Children of Light”
(Ephesians 5:8-14 – Lent 3 – March 15, 2020)
Ephesians 5:8-14 – For you were once darkness, but 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.”
Dear fellow Redeemed in Jesus Christ, who is the Light of the world,
To be in pitch-black darkness is not pleasant. The imagination runs wild when there are no visible points of reference, no telling who or what might be moving around you. The thought of a criminal lurking in the darkness when we come home at night can cause feelings of fear. We move carefully toward the light switch and flick it on; and at once we feel more comfortable.
One time as a teenager, a friend and I were hiking at night, in the hills amidst dry grass. I told my friend, “I think I’ll go back and get my flashlight from the car.” When we resumed walking and came to a point just ahead of where we had stopped, my flashlight exposed a rattlesnake coiled up in the middle of our path. Walking in the light brings comfort and safety.
Our text says: “Walk as children of light.” For life is a walk, and there is far more to life than making our way between physical points of reference in this world. We are walking a spiritual path. Just as we want to walk in the comfort and safety of light in the physical world, so also we want to walk in the comfort and safety of light in the spiritual world. What a great danger lurks for all who walk in the path of spiritual darkness – a much greater danger than unseen criminals or poisonous snakes! Therefore our text says: “Walk as Children of Light”: 1) For you were once darkness; 2) But now you are light in the Lord.
1) For you were once darkness
“For you were once darkness,” the apostle Paul says. What a description of our way of life before we knew God’s light of salvation in Christ! Paul has already described that darkness from which God rescued us, in Ephesians 2:1-3: “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience.”
What an ugly picture of sin – to be walking, in a spiritual sense, as dead people before God; stumbling along in the darkness of unbelief and rebellion against God. Talk about the dread of a poisonous snake lying in your darkened path! The unbelieving world walks under the venomous spell of the devil’s lies in the sin-darkened path of death. That is the same darkness in which we once were lost, as Paul goes on to say in Ephesians 2:3-5: “among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).”
So the apostle urges us, as those who have been now been saved by faith in Christ: “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.” As in Paul’s day, many people today worship the god of sex, indulging in shameful lifestyles that are not even always done in secret, but openly and proudly. Many worship the god of money and mammon, indulging in secret and shameful acts of greed and dishonest business practice, perhaps; but even more commonly just saying: “I don’t have time for God and His Word; I have a kingdom to make for myself in this world.” Many people are trying to fill the God-shaped void in their heart through idolatry – serving the things of this world, serving the lusts of the flesh. As the apostle Paul put it in Philippians 3:18-19: “For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame – who set their mind on earthly things.”
The irony is that many who are so lost in the “unfruitful works of darkness” think they have the light of wisdom. In each age, there are teachers who point people for spiritual guidance everywhere but to Jesus, in whom alone is salvation from sin and death. Jesus says of such false teachers: “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into the ditch?” (Luke 6:39). Many are walking blindly on a sin-darkened path, treading in unseen danger with the serpent. Bitten and deluded by Satan’s lies, impenitence, and unbelief, they have no idea that they will fall into the outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 25:30).
There are many others on that path, too, who have a sense that they are lost. How many feel weary and burdened under life’s troubles, seeing no light at the end of the tunnel. They do not know how to make sense of it all. Indulging lusts of the flesh has not satisfied them; even the best this world has to offer has not satisfied. They wonder, “Does all this just end in the cold, dark grave?” Life feels meaningless, but all they know is to move forward, like one groping about in pitch black darkness; “having no hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12).
Dear children of God in Christ, how could we ever want to return to such a path of spiritual darkness, false wisdom, hopelessness, and death? Why does Paul need to warn us here, saying: “Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness”?
It is because there is a real and present danger. We are not out of the woods yet. The dark form of the enemy hides were we not expect. Our enemy the devil seeks to lure us away from the straight and narrow path of God’s truth, and the light of salvation in Jesus Christ, away from seeking first His Kingdom and His righteousness. Our sinful nature is an enemy within that wants to ally itself with the darkness, lusts, and greed of a godless world. When we are tempted to turn into a sin-darkened path of the world, let us remember that it is not a path of freedom and new life, but of slavery to the devil and death.
2) But now you are light in the Lord
But here, Paul reminds us what God, in His infinite love and mercy, has done to save us from that path. “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.”
When Jesus Christ, the Son of God, took on our human flesh, John 1:9 describes Him as: “the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.” When our Savior looked upon this world full of sinners, “He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). He saw us wandering like sheep gone astray, each to his own way (Isaiah 53:6). The Good Shepherd could not just stand by and watch us go headlong to destruction. He came to set us free from Satan’s kingdom, to save us from that sin-darkened path leading to the endless darkness of hell.
Though Jesus Himself knew no darkness of sin, He took all our sin as His own burden. He went to the cross in our place, as if He were the one guilty of having given Himself over to “unfruitful works of darkness.” Jesus took all the darkness of our sin and death upon Himself. Instead of us, He heard the horrible judgment that says: “Cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 25:30). On the cross, He suffered hell’s darkness in our place, crying out: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46).
Now, God in His infinite mercy does not judge us according to our sins. He looks upon us according to His forgiveness and love in Jesus. For the sake of Jesus’ sacrifice, God shines the light of His grace on us. He looks at us and sees Jesus’ perfect life of holiness shining in us, in place of our sin. As we believe in the name of His Son, God calls us His “children of light.”
Dear believers in Christ: “You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.” Think of the great change Jesus worked in the blind man in our Gospel lesson. He had been blind from birth. There must have been many times when he felt fear and uncertainty, unable to see what was going on around him. Think of the great relief he must have felt, when Jesus healed him and he could see for the first time (John 9:7)! Now also, Jesus has given sight for the blind in you and me! Just as turning on a light switch brings illumination to the eyes, Jesus has spoken and the light of His Gospel has brought spiritual illumination to our hearts and eyes of faith.
Now Paul encourages us: “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.” As children of light, we want to use our Spirit-given sight to be led by God’s Word of truth. We say with Psalm 119:105: “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”
In this way, we “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.” As we walk through this sin-darkened world, let us take along the flashlight of God’s Word, to keep us safe from wandering into paths where the serpent lies. In time of temptation, alternate paths may look attractive, but as it says: “all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light.” God’s Word exposes our path for our safety. It shows us those paths for the evil that they are; it shows us where they lead. If we begin to follow blind leaders and unholy paths, God lovingly calls us back to His truth.
But best of all, in His Word God continues to comfort us with His forgiveness and love in Christ. He will continue to make our path straight as we focus on His Word and promises in Christ; until He brings us through the gates into the eternal comfort and safety of heaven’s light.
Now Jesus wants all to come into the light of His salvation, through repentance and faith. We hear the invitation in our text: “Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” To this end, Jesus calls us to shine the light of His truth for others, that they also may see their way. He says to us: “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14).
These days, many people live in fear of the coronavirus, as it spreads through our land and the world. In a way, it may feel like walking in the dark. We are blind to the path of this virus; we cannot see where it will strike next. There is no known cure; and a certain percentage of the population is especially susceptible to its deadly effects. Certainly, we pray for comfort and healing on those infected. We pray for an end to this disease.
But there is a far greater pestilence surrounding us. Millions and millions of people around the world are walking in spiritual darkness, living in fear of death. The venom of Satan and sin has struck all; and therefore all die (Romans 5:12). Humanly speaking, there is no cure.
Yet, now as children of the light, we know there is a cure. God has provided that cure in the forgiveness of sin, which His Son has won for every sinner on the cross. God has given the gift of eternal life through faith in His Son. Today, Jesus opens His arms to all and says: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live” (John 11:25).
As children of light, we can shine the light of God’s Word in the darkness – that Word which not only exposes sin and its devastating consequences; but most importantly, that Word which reveals God’s healing gift of forgiveness and eternal life in Jesus Christ. Above all, we pray for this comfort and healing upon people all around the world.
“Now you are light in the Lord.” Let us declare the praises of Him who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9)! Let us shine the light of His Gospel, that the blind may see! And by God’s grace, many more will join us one day in our Savior’s heavenly glory, where: “There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever” (Revelation 22:5).
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. Amen.