LIGHT, 02-08-2000 version
Light In The World
- some animal behaviours are like some Christian behaviours. For example, a turtle is quick to hide from the world. Whenever it senses any threat, it retreats into its shell. It prefers to live in its own little world. Some Christians are like that. They know that the world is an evil hostile place and it is just easier to hide from it so they live in a Christian world and when they have to go out into the world, they go back to their little world as quickly as they can.
Butterflies flutter around having a great time, enjoying the world they live in, totally unaware that they are in great danger. They don’t even try to avoid dangers and when birds come along they easily find them and swallow them up. Some Christians are like that. They live in the world and like to enjoy the things of the world, unaware that Satan is out there trying to trap them. They are easy prey for his tricks and they are often swallowed up in his evil designs.
I have often watched some of the beautiful song birds which are all around. They are in the world, singing away, enjoying life, but if they are threatened, they are aware of the danger and fly away. If you ever watch them, you will notice that they are always looking around, aware of the potential danger, yet singing a pretty song for us or showing off their beautiful plumage.
If you were to describe your Christian life in terms of one of these animals, which one would you be? Which one does God want us to be?
I believe that God would want us to be like a bird. He has not left us in this world to hide from it and he does not want us to get caught up in the world. Let us look at Ephesians 5:1-20 to see what God has to say about how we should live in this world.
I. Imitators of God 1-7
The first instruction for helping us live in this world is that we must be imitators of God. This mirror is the symbol to help us remember that we are to reflect God to the world.
One day when our oldest son was small, he was sitting in his high chair and all of a sudden, he threw his spoon. We were concerned, because his aim was not very good and we were wondering what had prompted him to do that. My wife pointed out that he did it because he saw me doing it. I had the habit of sitting back and tossing my spoon onto the table after I was done eating. That was the point at which I realized in a specific way that children imitate their parents. It is natural then, that we should imitate our parent - God.
The reason we should imitate God is because we are dearly loved children. We are children of God and not only children, but dearly loved children of God. It should be the most natural thing for us to desire to imitate our father.
God is love and we have seen his love demonstrated in the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. This act of love was a self giving, self sacrificing act. It was motivated by concern for a people in need. It was enacted even on those who were enemies of God and expressed for them in order to meet their deepest need.
We are to imitate this love. That means that we are to be known in the world as those who love. We know that the Bible calls us to love each other, to love all people and indeed to love our enemies. We must be always active and outgoing to those who need that love.
We must also imitate God in his holiness. God is awesome in holiness. When Isaiah had a vision of God in Isaiah 6, he saw the holiness of God. It was such a powerful experience that this prophet who was a man of God was struck with a sense of his own sinfulness. When we recognize the holiness of God, how can we imitate Him? And yet, this is what we are called to do.
The text says that there must not be even a hint of immorality among us. There is to be no impurity. There is to be no coloured language or dirty jokes. In all these matters we are to imitate the holiness of God.
This is important because of who we are. We are God's holy people. How can there be immorality among us? It is important because those who follow such practices, if they do not know the Lord, are cut off from salvation and are under the wrath of God. That is not where we are nor where we want to be.
We are God's people living in this world. If people look into our life, what will they see? Will they see a reflection of the filth and hatred of the world, or will they see a reflection of the love and holiness of God. We are called to be mirrors of God.
II. Children of Light 5:8-14
As we relate to people in the world in love and holiness, there is no doubt that we will come into some very uncomfortable situations. We will see all kinds of sin. How do you feel when people of the world tell dirty jokes or are constantly using bad language? What do you think about kids who are partying and drinking. All around us we see people sinning. How do we respond?
The text is very specific and practical in our response. We are called to "Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible.
A. Avoid The Fruitless Deeds Of Darkness
This is a very helpful teaching. We are to have nothing to do with the evil of the world. It is shameful even to mention these things. That means that as much as possible, we avoid situations in which we are exposed to evil. We do not rent movies which expose evil in an unnecessary way. We do not watch TV shows which "mention what the disobedient do in secret."
B. Expose Them By Shining As Lights
Instead, we are called to expose the evil deeds of darkness.
If we are not to mention them, how can we expose them? What does it mean to expose these things? Does it mean that we should go around like John the Baptist did and condemn those who are living in a wrong relationship? Does it mean that we should stop everyone who swears and let them know that they are doing wrong? Does it mean that we should infiltrate a biker gang and then tell the police all that is going on?
That is not the method which the text says we should use to expose the fruitless deeds of darkness.
The picture which shows us what we should do to expose them is the picture of the lamp. We will not expose darkness by shouting at it. We will expose darkness by shining as lights. The only way to dispel physical darkness is to put on a light.
It is by shining as lights with our righteous lifestyle that we will expose the deeds of darkness. Therefore, we must not avoid the people of the world, rather we are to live among them avoiding their deeds but showing the better way which God has.
C. How To Shine
This is a difficult challenge for we must do it by being genuine and not holier than thou. If they sense that we think that we are better than they, we will not win them, but turn them off. Jesus found his way into the hearts of many. If there ever was a person who lived a holy life in the world imitating God and exposing the evil of the world he did. They did not accuse him of being "holier than thou" even though he was very much holier than them.
Even if we live gentle, loving, holy lives in the midst of people who do not follow God, we will be opposed. Even though Jesus did everything right, he was still persecuted and has told us that we will be persecuted as well. When the light is turned on in the middle of the night, we squeeze our eyes shut and question why it had to be put on. Our eyes are used to the darkness and we do not want to see the light. The same is true in a moral sense. When some people see the light in us, their eyes are so used to the darkness that they do not want to see the light and they accuse the light of being too bright. That does not mean we quit shining, but we seek God for strength to shine in love.
We ought not to avoid the dark world, neither ought we to practice the unfruitful deeds of darkness. We are to shine as lights in the midst of the darkness by living according to what is right and true. A life of goodness, righteousness and truth exposes the darkness by contrast, without even mentioning the evil of the darkness.
III. Making The Most Of The Time 5:15,16
How many of you know what time it is? Well, your stomachs are telling you that it is almost lunch time. Knowing what time it is important, but knowing what the times are is even more important. We live in evil times. Even though Christ has conquered Satan and sin, the final battle has not yet been completed. We live in the evil days in which Christ is trying to wrest his own from the clutches of Satan. We need to recognize these times.
This calendar is a picture to remind us of the times.
Knowing what the times are allows us then to respond in the right way. The text says, "Be very careful, then, how you live--not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity."
We can't be careless about how we live. Since we are aware that we live in evil days we know that we can't just wing it through life. It will be a struggle and Satan will always be there trying to tempt us.
Furthermore, knowing the times means that we need to be wise about how we live. Proverbs tells us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. James invites us to ask God for wisdom when we do not have it. Living in an evil world requires a good grasp of the wisdom of God.
We are also called to make the most of the time we have. That means, we should not waste our time with pursuits of this world which have no future. We are here to bring people into a knowledge of Jesus and to bring them to maturity in Christ. "The Christian does not forsake evil works of darkness to lapse into idleness, but works hard to use all of his time for God's glory." Making the most of the time means that we are busy with those things which accomplish God's purposes.
If life is a beach party, then we can be pretty casual about it, but if the days are evil, then we are called to wisdom and to using our time well for God. Living in this world means knowing what the times are.
IV. Resources For Changed Living 5:17-21
This is a high calling, a difficult task. We are to be a mirror, imitating God; we are to be a lamp, shining for Him and we are to be aware of the times and redeeming the time. Where is the power to live, the power to shine and the wisdom to know?
A. Understand the Will of the Lord 17
In living as Christians in this world, we have help from knowing the will of God. God has revealed his will in his Word and by study of his Word, we can learn to know what the will of the Lord is.
Also, through prayer, we can apply his will more specifically to our situation. As a church, we are asking the question, "what does God want us to be and do?" We need to pray that God will reveal that to us.
We will also understand the will of the Lord through discussion with other believers.
As we are obedient to what we know we ought to do, we will learn more. If you do not know that 2 + 2 = 4, you cannot go on to learn that 532 + 422 = 954. God will not teach us more about obedience if we have not learned the first lessons. So in this way, we must learn what pleases the Lord.
B. Filled With The Spirit 18
I was with a friend once who had taken some drugs. We were at the lake and he had a great revelation about our surroundings. He claimed to have realized through the drugs how beautiful everything was. I could see that without the drugs. We will not find the will of the Lord through getting drunk rather, we will find the will of the Lord and we will have power to live as light in this dark world through being filled with the Holy Spirit. Being filled with the Spirit is not a one time experience, rather it is a constant openness to God in our lives. We need to allow God's Spirit to fill us.
C. Speak To One Another
As we struggle with the matter of influencing the world without being influenced, we need to recognize that we cannot stand alone. We need one another, therefore, it is imperative that we get together with other believers and encourage each other with God's word. The text calls us to do so through singing songs. This passage instructs us on the value of learning God's word and truth through songs. But it also teaches us the important responsibility we have of encouraging one another.
When we were up north, some of the people talked about being camp Christians. When they were at camp, they were faithful and happy to follow the Lord, but when they were back at home, they compromised and did not follow the Lord. Does that happen to you? I want to challenge you to be a mirror, imitating God, a lamp shining for him all the time. I want to encourage you to do so with God’s strength and as you encourage one another.