Children of Light

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Ephesians 4:24-5:2   

I’ve got to say, I just love this passage from Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus. In it, he provides us some great insights that seem, on the surface, at least, to be pretty straight forward…pretty common sense… But when we begin to look at this passage in the larger context of what it means to be a part of the body of Christ, and when we understand that it was written to members of a brand new church, and a brand new religious movement… It helps us to recognize that in some ways, each of us are guilty of these in our own lives. But more importantly than that, I love that Paul doesn’t just provide the condemnations… the “do nots” if you will. Instead, he pairs them with either what we should be striving for instead, or at least with a validation for how these actions can effect our lives and the life of the church in a negative way. He gives us a practical way to apply the changes that he is telling us we need to make in our lives. And in heeding these warnings from Paul, and in making these changes in our lives, we allow ourselves, mind, body, and spirit, to be more in tune with God… more in line with the character of Christ… And because of that, we become capable of being children of the light…those who have been chosen by God to spread the light of his love to the world around us.

The people in the church at Ephesus were very near and dear to Paul’s heart. He was writing this to a congregation that was very meaningful to him. He wrote the letter, probably around 60AD while he was imprisoned in Rome, to the church that he had founded himself just 7 years earlier. Paul had spent at least 3 years in Ephesus preaching and teaching, so he had a good idea of what the spiritual needs were for the people in that congregation. SO when he wrote this letter, it wasn’t from a position of anger or condemnation. It was from a place of love. Paul deeply cared for the people at Ephesus. And he wanted to do everything in his power, even while imprisoned, to give them guidance, and to help them live as righteous of a life as they could. But the thing that struck me the most as I prepared for this sermon, was how relevant each of these statements still are to us…. Here in Fort Davis…. Almost 2,000 years later.

Let’s look at Paul’s first statement in the passage, found in verse 25. He says “Stop telling lies… Let us tell our neighbors he truth.” Now in no way am I calling any one of you a liar, please understand that. From getting to know each of you over the last 4 weeks, I can say with confidence that this is one of the most upfront, truthful, and honest groups of people that I have ever been around. When there is a problem, you aren’t afraid to confront it. When there is a disagreement, you don’t shy away from talking it out and finding some middle ground. However, we as human beings, have to recognize and accept, that as fallen and imperfect creatures, it is in our very nature to lie SOME TIMES. Even when we don’t mean to… even though some of the lies are less nefarious than others, the fact remains that at some point, all of us lie. Maybe you’ve been invited out to dinner, and you just don’t feel like going. So instead of saying “no, I don’t feel like going”, you make up an excuse… “I just have so much to do around the house… My kid has a program at school I have to go to”. Ever been there? I know I have. I have such a hard time saying the word no, regardless of the situation, that sometimes I just think it’s easier to tell a little white lie instead of being honest that I don’t want to do something. It’s a lot easier to deflect the question, and to cast blame on other circumstances rather than risking hurting someone’s feelings by telling them no. But telling one little white lie often leads to telling another, and then another, and then another. And let me ask you this: have any of you ever been caught in a white lie before? When I was living in New Mexico, we were at coaching school in Albuquerque. A group of coaches asked me to go to lunch with them, and I just really didn’t want to. The truth is, I wanted to go and check out the Albuquerque Isotopes baseball stadium. But instead of being honest with them, I said “No, I’m not feeling very good. I think I’m just going to go back to my hotel room and rest.” Just a little white lie. No one hurt, right? Until about an hour later when I was leaving the Isotopes park, and who should I see walking my way but that same group of coaches. All I had to do was be honest. In all likelihood, they would have just said ok, and we would have all went on our way. But how much worse did I make the situation by not only lying, but getting caught in that lie? The truth is, not only did I show those coaches that I didn’t want to spend time with them… But I also completely lost any credibility I had with them. All over a stupid lie! My mom used to tell me when I was a kid that she hated lying. She would tell me “lying is double trouble”. And the older I have gotten, I have come to understand more and more why she felt that way. Because when someone lies to us, they lose our trust. And trust is something that is hard to get back. So when we look at a church family, lying to one another does even more damage. Because if we can’t trust our church family… if we can’t put our faith in what the members of the body of Christ tell us… that can damage the cohesion of our entire congregation-. That’s why Paul says in verse 25 “Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body”. As the body of Christ, we are to be unified. We are to strengthen one another, and hold each other accountable to the high calling of being the Children of light that Jesus called us to be when he died for us on the cross. But let’s look at this a different way. As Christians, we know that we are held to a higher standard. Morally, ethically, in our business ventures, everything. SO we have to be aware of the damage that we can do to the Christian faith when non-believers see us being untruthful. There is nothing that turns a non-believer away from the love of Christ faster than the belief that Christians are hypocrites. So because we are part of the same body, the body of Christ, let us all maintain a policy of truth and honesty… Not just with one another, but in ALL things.

The next statement Paul makes is found in verse 26. “Don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Notice, Paul never says don’t be angry. Because sometimes anger is necessary. There is that righteous indignation that you feel when someone is being wronged or being taken advantage of… And that type of anger can be beneficial to us if we harness it in the proper ways. But Paul says don’t let your anger control you. We probably all know that person who is angry all the time. The person who, no matter what, is mad about something. I’ve worked with people like that. It’s amazing how many teachers fall into the category of letting their anger control them… Or how many coaches are constantly mad regardless of how good practice went, or how many games their team wins. I’m sure you can think of a person in your own life who fits that mold. What Paul is telling us here is, make sure that YOU are not that person. Make sure that you aren’t allowing yourself to become overwhelmed with your anger. And he tells us why that is so important in verses 26 and 27. If you let your anger control you, if you let the sun go down on your anger, then you are giving the devil a foothold in your life. By allowing yourself to be overwhelmed with anger, you are opening the door for the devil to work evil in your life, and to begin to convince you that “Those things that make you angry wouldn’t be happening if God really loved you”. You begin to lose your focus on the joy of the Lord and on all of the blessings that God provides to us daily. And instead, you give Satan the power to make you bitter, and spiteful, and full of rage…. There’s a guy that I’ve known for over 10 years. We met through some mutual friends our senior year of high school, and instantly we became friends. He was such a joyful person. Always happy, always smiling. He had this ability to see the best in people. He was a great guy, and fun to be around. Not long after high school, he married his high school sweetheart. Around the time he got married, we moved to New Mexico, so I fell out of touch with him for a few years. Upon visiting Lubbock a few years later, I ran into him at a restaurant, and immediately I could tell that something was different about him. He didn’t smile when I saw him. He didn’t act excited to see me after several years. And after talking to him for a few minutes, he revealed to me that, not long after his wedding, he had caught his wife cheating on him. He was so angry as he told me about it. It was like he was spitting venom with every word he said. You could see the anger and the hatred in his eyes. I later found out that he had lost a very well paying job, and had isolated himself from all of his friends and family. You see, he let his anger control him. And because he allowed that anger he felt to take control of him, he gave the devil power over his life. And the devil used that power to completely wreck every aspect of what was once a happy and productive life. It’s ok to be angry. But process it, and let it go. Because if you don’t, you are inviting the devil to take hold of your heart, and to wreak havoc on your life from the inside out.

Paul’s next statement, to me seems to be the most obvious. If you are a thief… quit stealing! What a novel concept! Don’t take what isn’t yours. From a young age, most of us are taught that stealing is wrong. But more so than the call to not steal, I think the alternative Paul gives is even better. He says Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need. Most people who steal from others do so because they have a need that they feel they cannot meet in any other way. Maybe they’re hungry, so they steal food to feed themselves or their families. Maybe they lack clothes, so they steal money from someone, or steal clothes from a store so that they can provide it to their loved ones. Those people who steal, they know better than most how meaningful it can be to receive a handout in your time of need. And that’s what Paul calls us to. Instead of taking from someone else, find a way to put your hands to work, and to use them for good. And because you know personally what it feels like to be in need to the point that you feel like stealing is your only option, give! Use the fruits of your labor to give to those in need. Use the products of your work to provide for those who cannot do it for themselves. That to me is one of the truest marks of Christian living.

Paul next tells us not to use foul or abusive language. Because words can hurt. We can say all day that sticks and stones break bones but words will never hurt us. But you know as well as I do that words can tear us up inside. You can look at the effects of bullying in our schools today as proof of that. Gone are the days when bullying meant being shoved into a locker or given a swirly. Now the most prolific form of bullying is cyber bullying. Where children mock and demean others with their words through the internet and social media. You can see the devastation this causes when you look at the rapid growth of teen suicide, and school shootings. Almost to a number, over the last several years the children who have taken their own lives, or felt that they had to lash out in the form of violence against their schools have done so because of the effects of bullying. And because of their belief that no one cared, or that no one did anything to stop it. What if instead of breaking each other down, demoralizing and demeaning one other, we used words to build each other up? What if we made it our goal every day to compliment every person we talked to at least once? How much different, how much better, how much happier would our world be? That’s what Paul is calling us to. He says let everything you say be good and helpful so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.

The last of Paul’s statements I want to look at this morning are found in verses 31 an 32. He says “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” That sums up the entire meaning of this morning’s message. That is the key to living as Children of light. If you get rid of all bitterness and rage, you take away the devils grip on you, and you remove his ability to have power over your life.  If we treat each other with kindness, and forgiveness, and tenderheartedness instead of stealing form them nd using harsh words and slander against them, then we reflect the love and the forgiveness that Christ has shown us back into the world. There is no greater way to live as children of light.

 


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