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How to Live Godly in an Ungodly Environment

By Matthew Black, Pastor

Text: Ephesians 5:11-14

Date: Sunday, January 11, 2009


Tabernacle Baptist Church

7020 Barrington Road

Hanover Park, Illinois 60133


Introduction: Open your Bibles to Ephesians 5:11-14.  Our message is entitled “How to Live Godly in an Ungodly Environment”.  We are called to shine as lights in this dark world—to be pure as Christ is pure—to be conformed to the image of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.  How can we do that?  How can we live godly in this present evil world?  Paul gives us the answer to that question in Ephesians 5.  Will you stand with me as we read God’s Word this morning? 

Ephesians 5:11-14, “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. 12  For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret. 13  But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light. 14  Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light”.

[Prayer for Guidance]

Agents of Transformation

In many ways these verses tell us how to change the world.  Basically there’s only one way to transform a neighbor, a nation, or a world: we as Christians are called to raise the spiritually dead!  We are called to change this world and this culture not by man’s laws, but by changing the hearts of people with the divine Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

If you turn on the TV or listen to the radio, you will not usually hear about man’s innate depravity.  They’ll call it an illness; they’ll blame it on your family.  Anything, but they will not call it what God calls it.  It’s darkness.  It’s sin.  Isaiah said, “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness” (Isaiah 5:20).  The world doesn’t want to talk about the darkness.  Most lost people believe man is ultimately good.  He may be weak, but he is not wicked.  All of us live in this environment of ungodliness.  We have a ministry to the blind and to the dead.  As Christians are called to be agents of transformation!  We are to be light in this dark world.

Attitude toward an Ungodly World

What should our attitude be toward an ungodly world?  This passage tells us that we’ve been transformed.  We used to be part of the darkness.  We used to participate.  Now we are light, and we are commanded to “walk as children of light”.   

Some become isolationists.  We cannot do that as Christians.  We are called to reach the world, not to cut ourselves off from it entirely.  We are to see to day that we are called to INFLUENCE the world and to transform it from the inside out!

In order to affect change in this world, we must first protect our life from evil.  How effective can a general be if he is cohorting with the enemy?  We cannot compromise in our Christian walk.  We must maintain holiness and discipline in our life if we are going to be effective.  GOD WILL NOT USE A DIRTY VESSEL.  Paul says, “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (verse 11).

I.          Safeguard your Christian Influence and Reputation!  Your testimony for Christ is so precious that God had to warn us in Scripture to protect it! Paul said, “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (verse 11).  If you are not aggressive in taking the offensive, then you are going to slide backward.  O, the power of our influence.  The normal word for fellowship is intensified form of the word.  It means deep, intimate fellowship.  “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:4). 

COMPROMISE WITH SIN is a COMPROMISE OF YOUR POWER IN CHRIST to affect the world!  Are you affecting the world, or is the world affecting you?


We are called to “walk as children of light” (verse 7) and to be “imitators of God” (verse 1).  We cannot maintain a godly influence if we walk in the darkness. 


At all times you are either influencing the world for Christ, or you are being influenced by the ungodly.  You have one life to live.  Make sure you are not being influenced by the world.

My Life shall touch a dozen lives

Before this day is done,

Leave countless marks of good or ill,

E’er sets the evening sun.

This, the wish I always wish,

The prayer I always pray;

Lord, may my life help other lives, it touches by the way.[1]


We are called to be SALT and LIGHT, not to add to the darkness. 

A.   Definition of the “unfruitful works of darkness” (verse 11).  What are the “works of darkness”? Anything that is not done for God’s glory is a work of darkness.  They are the actions of those who have a darkened mind.  Those without God’s saving grace in their hearts and God’s Spirit in the soul have a darkened mind that is “the proper working-place of sin.  Hence the effects of it are called the ‘works of darkness’".[2]   


Clarification:  The works of a lost person may look fine, but they are complete idolatry, for every heart that is not subject to Jesus Christ as Lord is an idol worshipper.  Calvin said once that the unredeemed mind is an idol making factory.  He said, “The mind begets an idol; the hand gives it birth”.[3]  Of course a work of darkness is fornication, murder, lying, stealing, and taking God’s name in vain.  But consider that a work of darkness is anything not done for the glory of God.  A work of darkness can be a Mormon singing a Christian hymn.  It can be the plowing of a field by an unredeemed person (Proverbs 21:4).  It can even look like real faith, but deep down in the heart, it is idolatry. 

B.   We are called to Separation from the “unfruitful works of darkness”.  It is not that we are isolationists.   Christ said in his highpriestly prayer, in John 17:15, “I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.”  We are as Jesus to be a friend of sinners, but we will have nothing different to offer them if we dirty ourselves with the world’s sin.

1.      Scriptural Support.  We see this principle throughout the Bible.


a. Psalm 1:1, “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.” The way of sinners is referring to the lifestyle of sin.  As Christians we have left the life of sin.  We have “put off the old man with his deeds” (Colossians 3:9).  We are to be influencing the world, not the other way around!

b. We need to have a radical attitude when it comes to wickedness.  Romans 13:12, “The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.”  The Greek verb translated "cast off" was a term that spoke of being ejected or expelled forcefully.  It can also be translated to divorce, to lay down weapons, or to throw away.[4]  The idea is to get rid of something with no intention of returning to it.  Forsake it!


c. 2 Corinthians 6:14-16, “What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? 15  And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? 16  And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols?”

2.      How do we separate from the unfruitful works of darkness?

a. Be extremely careful in what you allow to influence you.  We live in a day when Christians are tempted to park their brains at the door of their TV or internet.  Don’t play with fire.  You will get burned.  Jesus put it in a very hyperbolic way in Mark 9:43, “if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched”.  If your eye offends you, you should do the same thing.  Listen, no one enters eternal life maimed.  His point was not that you should amputate a limb.  You need to cut off ungodly living from your life.  Do whatever it takes!


b. Expect it to be hard.  It’s not fun to live this way.  We are at war with sin! 

·         Paul said, in 2 Timothy 2:3-4, “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. 4  No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier”. 

·         He said again in 2 Timothy 3:12, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution”. 

·         Jesus said, “ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you” (John 15:19).  You will be tempted daily in this.  You have to make a decision to stand for Christ against sin no matter what.  You must not risk losing your testimony.  You must be willing to lose everything for Christ.  You may lose friends.  I’ve heard of people losing their job because their boss was trying to pay them under the table and avoid paying taxes. 

Application:  You are going to be tempted to give in to sinful influences in your life.  Don’t do it.  When Christ was tempted by Satan, Satan offered him the kingdoms of the world—the fame, the praise of men, the power.  Jesus response to this temptation was from Deuteronomy.  He said, “Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve” (Matthew 4:9).  Don’t get your heart off of worshipping Christ.  No one’s friendship is worth compromising your love for Christ! 

Transition:  Influence is a powerful thing.  Don’t be influenced by the world; rather, you should be exposing ungodliness and influencing lost people for Christ!  Keep yourself clean so that you can be a pure vessel in God’s hand.

Reveal, manifest the sinfulness of sin by a godly life.

II.       Shine the Light of Christ and expose the darkeness of Ungodly Influences.  We are called to influence the world for Christ.  We are to expose the sins of the world.  We are to show that sin is sinful.  Paul says, “Reprove, or expose the unfruitful works of darkness”.  The word “reprove” means to expose, to convict, or to shed light that turns a person to God.[5]  We are to shine the light of God’s person and holiness onto people.  We are to bring people to the awareness of God’s authority and claim on their life.  Each of us will stand before Him.  So we are to “expose the unfruitful works of darkness”.  How?


Illustration: How do we have influence on a godless world?  Why, it is so simple a child can understand it—they sing about it.

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.

Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!


Hide it under a bushel, no!  I’m gonna let it shine.

Hide it under a bushel, no!  I’m gonna let it shine.

Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!

We need to “Reprove, or expose the unfruitful works of darkness”!  Our holy lives burn with Christ to such a degree that people begin to see God—they begin to consider His claims on their life.  So from where does this light that exposes the unfruitful works of darkness shine?   

A.   You bring conviction to the world around you by your life.  “Exposing the unfruitful works of darkness” means that you bring light to a very dark world.  This has all kinds of practical aspects.  Where ever sinners live, you are to reflect the light of Christ.

Consider the words of Jesus who said:  “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. 15  Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. 16  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16).  We are called to expose darkness by living a godly life.  Is your profession of Christ so real that Christ penetrates all your thoughts?  Do you shine His light at work, at the grocery store, in your private life, in your private conversations? 

Application: Have you ever walked into a dirty conversation and because of your life for Christ, it suddenly became clean?  If you are living for Christ, your life will be an unspoken rebuke to many around you.  You may not even be aware of it.  If that is the case, you know your light is shining.

You see clearly now that if you want to see others transformed, you have to be changed and changing yourself!  As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3:18, when we gaze at the glory of the Lord (through His Word, or by thinking on Him) that has a powerful influence on us, and we “are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”

Application: Paul tells us that light exposes all around it in verse 13Verse 13, “But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light.”  What’s Paul’s point?  God has given you light—do something with it!  First of all understand what the light is.  When you turn the light on—what happens?  Things you cannot see become obvious.  The light is simply a reflection of the holy God of the universe.  When God is reflected in your life, sin becomes exceedingly sinful.

1.      Examples

a. Think of Isaiah.  When the light shined on Him, what did he say?  “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts” (Isaiah 6:5).  So Isaiah took a commission from God to preach to a multitude of people who didn’t want to hear.  But God said—be faithful, because I’m going to save a remnant (Isaiah 6:13).

b. Think of Jacob.  He lived a sinful life running from God, but God met up with him and changed his life.  Jacob awaked after seeing a vision of Christ, the way to heaven at Bethel and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not. 17  And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven (Genesis 28:16-17).  And then, he vowed his life to God.  Jacob who took life so casually before is never the same!  He’s awakened with dread and fear of God in His heart. 

c. Think of Saul of Tarsus.  He was on the road to Damascus eager to destroy Christianity.  There he heard the voice of the risen Christ.  “As [Saul of Tarsus] journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven”.  It was there he saw Christ’s glory and fled from his sinful life.  As a result, Saul did something with that light.  He preached the Gospel throughout the entire ancient world.

Paul is actually going to exposit how to reflect Christ’s light in the rest of this chapter and chapter 6. 

2.      Applications

a. We need to let the light of Christ shine in our Worship life.  He says in verses 18-19, “be filled with the Spirit; 19  Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord”.  Have you ever been to a boring worship service?  I can tell you if you have, then it wasn’t a worship service.  Real worship is never boring!  Worship means your whole heart is invigorated and satisfied with Christ. 

But worship does not stay in our church meeting place.  That means the church becomes a place not just of learning, but of serving together and living for Christ.   You are the church, it is your identity.  Serve your Head!  You may wonder why I say you should let your light shine among the church of God. 

Application:  It amazes me how often we let our light dim in our service to Christ’s church.  We can get to work on time, but we can’t get to church on time.  If you are going to get docked pay you can get to work on time.  Listen, you cannot serve God and mammon.  Let God be the judge.  If your boss asks you to do a job, you do it, but when you are asked to teach Sunday School or some other realm of service, you have an excuse.  We can say YES to a thousand people and things—but that often means we give God the leftovers.  When you say YES to one thing, you are saying NO to something else.  Commit yourself to Christ’s service.  Let your light shine among the church. 

b. We need to let the light of Christ shine in our Wedded life.  That means your family life becomes a temple of devotion to the Lord, and dad and mom shepherd the children.  Ephesians 5:33, “let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband”.  Are you letting your light shine to those nearest to you?  It is amazing how easy it is to take our loved ones for granted.  At times it is easier to be more loving to a complete stranger than those who know us best.  Let your light shine to those closest to you.  If you are married, love your spouse.  Wives honor and reverence your husband.  Husbands, love your wife as Christ loved the church.  Cherish her.  Talk with her.  Serve her.  A man works from sun to sun, a woman’s work is NEVER done.  Help her!

Hero or Zero?

Let me also speak to every parent.  What kind of light are you shining in the home?  Are you a hero or are you a zero in your child’s life?  Who has your child’s heart?  Who do your children admire?  Today it seems that children get their ideas of how to dress, how to talk, and how to think from any one but Mom and Dad.  Are you someone that your children can look at and say, “I want to be just like you”?

c. We need to let the light of Christ shine in our Work life.  That means your job is not just a job, but a lamp stand for the light of Christ.   Paul speaks to slaves in Ephesians 6:5-7, but we can apply it to our work life. He says that we are to go to our place of employment “with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; 6  Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; 7  With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men”

Application:  What opinion does your boss have of you?  He ought to say, “That man, that woman—they are always on time. They never gossip.  They work with great productivity.   They must think I’m God!”[6]

Transition: Without a holy life you will not have an effect on the world!  Not only must you guard your life, but you must guard your tongue. 

B.   You bring conviction to the world around you by your wordsVerse 12, Paul presents the place ground of compromise with our testimony.  It is with our tongue.  Paul says: “For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret.”  We ought never tolerate evil in any way. Paul says here, we ought not even come close to it.  Don’t even speak about it.

As Christians, we need discretion with our tongue. The average person speaks about 25,000 words per day.  We are also on average exposed to that many words per day.[7] 

1.      We need to understand the power of the tongue in James 3:1-12.  Turn there if you would.  He starts in verse 2 and summarizes the power of the tongue, “For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body”. 

Our words are important.  We already read that we will be justified or condemned by our words in the Day of Judgment. 

The tongue is tiny but can cause great damage or do great good.  James uses three illustrations of tiny, but powerful instruments to show us that though the tongue is small, yet it has unimaginable power.

a. First, there is the bit.  The greatest of horses is turned by a tiny bit in the horse’s mouth.  Verse 3, “Behold, we put bits in the horses’ mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body”.  Your tongue can change the direction of your life or someone else’s life!  Be careful with it.  It can establish or ruin your testimony. 

b. Then there is the tiny rudder.  The greatest of ships is turned by a very small rudderVerse 4, “Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth”.  A man who can govern his tongue is truly governing his heart.

c. Finally, like a tiny spark, the tongue can do both a great amount of damage and do long term damage.  A little fire can burn down half of California.  Our tongue can say things, but it can never unsay things.  We can receive forgiveness, but we can never undo what we said.  Verses 5-6, “the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! 6  And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell”. 

The conclusion from these illustrations is that though the tongue is small, it can do a great amount of damage.  It’s like a chainsaw.  It can do great good and great harm. 

The tongue is like a chain saw, it is a powerful weapon that can be used for great good or for great harm.  What do your words say about your heart and your life?  “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh” (Matthew 12:34).   

Scriptural support. Matthew 12:36, “I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.” You need to be able to have the conviction to walk away from a conversation.  Don’t even speak of those things done in secret.  Don’t come near it.

2.      How do you control the tongue?  “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh” (Matthew 12:34). 

a. The only way to control your tongue is to guard your heart. We ought to say with the Psalmist, “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).  Paul says we should expose the evil of this world and then he speaks directly of where it is so easy to fail: our words! 

b. If you want your words to honor God, then you must saturate your heart in God’s Word.  Really the cornerstone of our message today is progressive sanctification.  We are to be consuming the Word and conversing with God.  Through diligent study of the Word we can be changed into the image of Christ; we can be ready to give an answer to everyone that asketh of the hope that is within us.

Be careful of being consistent!  The Word says we should not even talk about the fruitless works of darkness.  Yet “…by watching certain television programs or movies in our homes we teach our children to tolerate the very things we shouldn't even talk about.”[8]

So why do we SAFEGUARD AND SHINE OUR LIGHT?  Why are we so careful about our testimony?  It is so that when we do speak, our words will have impact. 

Illustration:  (LANTERN GLASS) Someone gave me an illustration two weeks ago that expresses it well.

As a lantern glass must be clean from soot so as to provide the brightest light, so must our lives be cleansed from sin to provide a clear glass to reflect the light of the Lord![9]

How true that is!  We must SAFEGUARD our influence and SHINE the light of our influence by living a holy life.  Why?  All so that we can have power when we SUMMON those who are in darkness to come unto the light!

III.     Summon the Dead to come under a new light and influence.  It is to raise spiritually dead people to resurrection life! 

Look at verse 14, “Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and, and Christ shall give thee light”. Paul is calling for those who are not children of light, to come into the light and be saved. 

These words are adapted from Isaiah 60:1, “Arise, shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.”  Paul gives the prophetic meaning of this verse in Ephesians 5:14.  Many believe this was a hymn of the early church about the resurrection of Christ—a paraphrase of Isaiah 60:1. 

What is the summons or the call to? 

1.      For the sleeper to awake.  “Awake thou that sleepest, and, and Christ shall give thee light” (verse 14).  Man is dead in sin.  Man is unaware of his lost condition.  Someone must awaken him!  Paul said “How shall they hear without a preacher?”  God said to Isaiah, “Who will go for us?”  Man must receive the quickening ray of life from God’s Word and Spirit.  That comes from you!! Charles Wesley got it right in his hymn And Can it Be when he wrote:

Long my imprisoned sprit lay,
fast bound in sin and nature's night;
thine eye diffused a quickening ray;
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
my chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed thee.


2.      Awake from the dead in repentant faith.  “Awake thou that sleepest, and, and Christ shall give thee light” (verse 14).  Our goal is for the sinner to be aware of his sin by the light of Christ exposing exactly who he is.  We want him to cry out with Isaiah, “Woe is me, for I am undone, I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell amidst a people of unclean lips”. 

3.      The promise of light.  “Awake thou that sleepest, and Christ shall give thee light” (verse 14).  God promises to take the nature of darkness out of man and give light and understanding and forgiveness to those formerly dead in sins.  God has provided a remedy for every sinful person.  Christ will transform and awaken sinners! 

He’s given you light!  Now you need to shine and call the dead to life. 

Jesus said in John 5:25, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live”. You’ve got to get out there and raise the dead!  “…How shall they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:14).

Football players will not get much done by looking at the gold trim on their uniforms!  It’s a game to win.  It’s a race to run! 

Illustration (CHRISTIAN LIFE IS NOT A FASHION SHOW): I loved playing football in junior high and high school. I was a defensive end, and I was always trying to get through the line to sack the quarterback. The purpose of all of our training was not simply to show off our nice uniforms. It was to win the game! When we were down, we wanted to stop the other team and get the ball on our side of the line! A football game is not a fashion show. Neither is the Christian life a fashion show. We are hear to declare victory for Jesus Christ. We are here to shine His light!

Don’t get your eye off the goal: glorify Christ in everything. Please the Father. Live a life that will be an instrument of grace to draw people out of this world.  And you will be a fruit bearing Christian. What is the result shining your light in this way? A transformed world.

Remember that when Paul wrote his New Testament letters, he was writing to a culture that had almost ZERO influence of the Gospel. What he was after was not political change. I don’t think he cared whether Caligula or Nero were on board with the program.

Get out there and do something! 

·         You must first safeguard your own testimony.  No fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness! 

·         Then shine your light for Jesus and expose the works of darkness.

·         It is then you can be a vessel for God.  Summon the dead to life!


[1]Tan, Paul Lee: Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations : A Treasury of Illustrations, Anecdotes, Facts and Quotations for Pastors, Teachers and Christian Workers. Garland TX : Bible Communications, 1996, c1979

[2] John Owen.  Overcoming Sin and Temptation (Crossway Books: Wheaton, 2005), 340.

[3] John Calvin.  Institutes of the Christian Religion (Westminster John Knox Press: Louisville, 2001), 108.

[4]Timothy Friberg; Barbara Friberg; Neva F Miller. Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament, Baker's Greek New Testament Library 4 (Baker Books: Grand Rapids, 2000), 71.

[5]Ibid., 142.

[6] Adrian Rogers. How to Be Filled with the Holy Spirit (B&H Publishing Group: Nashville, 2005), 193.

[7] Alan F. Collins.  Theories of Memory (Psychology Press: New York, 1993), 309.

[8] John MacArthur.  Living in the Light, Bible Study of Ephesians 5.  Available online at

[9] An illustration from Dawn Larsen, which she had written down in her Bible, 01-11-2009.

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