Domain: Darkness: Delivered
April 02, 2017 | Randy Smith
Domain: Darkness: Delivered
Sunday, April 2, 2017
Pastor Randy Smith
If you've been following "March Madness," you know we are down to the final game tomorrow night. Who do you like?
Almost every year I print out six tournament brackets and our entire family makes our predictions. It's a friendly competition. I know a little about college basketball (and I stress the world "little"). The rest of my family knows absolutely nothing. Often they choose teams based on states they've visited or the colors of their jersey. Michigan and Michigan State often go deep into their predictions simply for sentimental reasons (that's where the Grandparents live!). This year my eight year old son has already been crowned the family champion. That should tell you something!
Yet if you do follow college basketball, you are no doubt aware of the legendary coach, Jim Valvano - North Carolina State, the improbable National Champions in 1983. You are also aware of how his life was tragically cut short.
Suffering from terminal spinal cancer at the age of 47, Coach Jim Valvano spoke with a reporter. He looked back on his life and told a story about himself as a 23-year-old coach of a small college team.
"Why is winning so important to you?" the players asked Valvano. "Because the final score defines you," he said, "You lose, you're a loser. You win, you're a winner." "No," the players insisted. "Participation is what matters. Trying your best, regardless of whether you win or lose - that's what defines you."
It took 24 more years of living. It took the coach bolting up from the mattress three or four times a night with his T-shirt soaked with sweat and his teeth rattling from the fever chill of chemotherapy and the terror of seeing himself die repeatedly in his dreams. It took all that for him to say it: "Those kids were right. It's effort, not result. It's trying. What a great human being I could have been if I'd had this awareness back then" (Adapted from: Gary Smith in Sports Illustrated, quoted in Reader's Digest).
In his own words, the man was a weaker human being because of how he defined his identity.
So much of our lives are shaped by our perceived identity. If you get that one right, things will pretty much fall into place. If you get that one wrong, you are bound to live in frustration, anxiety and despair. I didn't learn that from Jim Valvano. I learned that from God.
At the heart of the Christian life is the right theology that understands God as He has revealed Himself in the Bible and then understands our identity in light of who God is. Identity determines direction. It provides contentment. It aids decision making. It defines self-awareness.
For the Christian, our identity is in Christ. It is not the family I was born into or what the culture preaches or what circumstances dictate or even what I might think of myself. Our identity is eternally forgiven, able to rest in His sovereign love. Our identity is acceptance by the only One we really need acceptance from. Our identity is worth and usefulness. Our identity shapes our purpose and direction. Our identity rests in God's love. And our identity provides peace, joy and hope.
As we have been learning in Ephesians, there are clear expectations, commands that God has for all people, especially those who believe in Him. Yet the commands to obey are always couched in our Christian identity, not a checklist of do's" and "don'ts."
- 4:1 - We have a glorious and high calling in Christ. Therefore we are to walk in a manner worthy of it.
- 4:7 - We have been given grace to empower us toward obedience.
- 4:15 - We are to mature in Christlikeness.
- 4:17-19 - We have been given a new mind and new heart to live no longer like an unbeliever.
- 4:22-24 - We have had God take away the old corrupted self and give us a new self, created in His likeness.
- 4:25-32 - We have the model of Christ in the Gospel to follow.
- 5:1 - We have God as our spiritual Father and therefore it is only natural that we imitate Him as His children.
- 5:2 - We have Gods' love to us demonstrated through the suffering and sacrifice of Christ.
- 5:3 - We have been declared "saints," "holy ones" so it is only expected we will now live according to our new nature.
- 5:5-7 - God's wrath comes upon those who live in sin. So why would we want to follow their behavior that angers God?
- And 5:8-14 (our passage this morning), we were once darkness, but now we are in the light.
Therefore, our main point based on our identity as light, we should be found walking in the light.
Let's pick things up right there in verse 8. "For you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light."
It is very interesting the way this verse puts it. It does not say, "You were in darkness." Rather it says, "You were formally darkness." Darkness in the Bible, when used in a spiritual metaphorical sense, refers to all that is apart from God. Darkness is Satan's domain as he is the "prince of darkness." Darkness is evil. When they came to arrest Jesus He said, "This hour and the power of darkness are yours" (Lk . 22:53). Darkness hates God because God is Light. Darkness is the eternal home for those without Christ (Mt. 8:12). Before Christ it is not just that we were influenced by darkness. Verse 8 declares we were darkness. Darkness was not just our surroundings. Darkness was our life, our essence, our identity.
Jesus said in John 3, "This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God" (Jn. 3:19-21).
All Christians have come to God. John 12:46, "I have come as light into the world, that everyone who believes in Me may not remain in darkness." All Christians are now in the light - righteousness, holiness and purity. Colossians 1:13, "For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son." 1 Peter 2:9, "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light."
As a Christian you are now in the light. Your Lord is the "Light of the world" (Jn. 8:12; 9:5). You are, verse 8, "Light in the Lord." Your identity now is light. Therefore verse 8, "Walk as children of the light." Let your behavior now conform to your new identity! That only makes sense, right?
So you ask, what does "walking in the light" look like? Good question! Verse 9 tells us. "For the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth."
Sometimes people get tied up on this verse because they try to compare it too rigidly to Galatians 5 which talks about the "fruit of the Spirit." There we learn the "fruit of the Spirit" consists of "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self -control" (Gal. 5:22-23). Here we learn the "fruit of the Light" consists of "goodness, righteousness and truth." Why is one "fruit" repeated - goodness and the others are all unique to their own list? Are there separate fruits for the Spirit and separate fruits for the Light?
Don't press the metaphors of the Bible too tightly. All Paul is saying in these passages is that when we abide in Christ there will be evidence. Whether you want to call it "walking in the Spirit" or "walking in the Light," it doesn't matter.
What does matter is understanding that evidence of walking with the Lord is truly seen in what God is producing in our lives. We call it fruit. Like a true apple tree will bear the fruit of apples, a true Christian will bear the fruit of Christ - in this case of goodness, righteousness and truth. The test of true salvation is not church membership, baptism or even a decision for Christ. The test of true salvation is spiritual fruit for Christ.
So how can you know you are "walking in the Light?" You will be committed to goodness (verse 9), good deeds toward others in thought and action. Obviously that is opposed to the fruit of darkness like malice (4:31). You will be devoted to righteousness (verse 9), holiness, acting like God, living like a saint. Obviously that is opposed to the fruit of darkness like sexual immorality (5:3-6). And you will be devoted to truth (verse 9), speaking the truth, loving Christ who is truth, being committed to His Word, the Bible which is truth. Obviously that is opposed to lying and deceit (4:22, 25). Goodness, righteousness and truth - these are the fruits of a true believer. These are sampling of the fruits of light.
You see,unbelievers are darkness. Believers are light. Identity! However, there are times that even we as believers walk in the darkness. Possibly we're deceived by the world that their way is better than God's way. Maybe the evil one is tempting us to disobey the Scripture. Often it's just the wickedness that still remains in in us also known as the flesh that pulls us away from the light.
Whatever the case, what we must understand is who we are in Christ, our identity. We are children of light and when we walk in the light there will be evident fruit. And when we walk in the darkness there will be evident fruit as well. Fruit will always be produced! Right now, which kind of fruit is being produced in you?
That's why, verse 11, we should "not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness." If we do not want those fruits manifested in us, why in the world would God's children want to join unbelievers and participate in the very stuff that identifies the children of the devil? It's contrary to our identity as light. The deeds, verse 11 says, are "unfruitful." Our calling from God is not to promote or enjoy dark deeds, but rather, verse 11, expose them. The point here is that our lifestyle brings light to darkness. Didn't Jesus call us the "light of the world" (Mt. 5:14)? Participate in darkness? That should be the furthest thing from our minds! After all, verse 12, "It is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret."
The principles of physical light are amazing. I'm going to share the physical properties, but I want your mind to think of it from a spiritual perspective.
- The nearer we are to the source, the brighter the Light appears.
- The brighter the light the more revealing it is.
- Light reflects more clearly from a clean surface.
- Light reveals uncleanness but cannot itself be made unclean.
- Light means nothing to the blind; they can neither see it nor appreciate it.
- A person walking with his face away from the light walks in his own shadow, hence in darkness.
- A person walking toward the light walks in the light.
- Light cannot dwell with darkness nor darkness with the light
So do you see what's going on here? This section in Ephesians is calling us to imitate God (5:1). It's calling us to obey His commands because we love Him (5:2). It's calling us to walk in the light (5:8). The question is, do you really want to do that?
Well, if you are not a person who has given his or her live over to Christ you won't want to, moreover, you can't. You need to trust the work of Jesus on the cross in dying for your sins. You need to believe on Him and be saved. You need God to transfer your identity from darkness to light. It would be amazing to think that possibly some of you walked into this church in spiritual darkness and could be walking out in spiritual light!
Perhaps you are saved, but you find yourself right now living in the darkness. Those deeds of the darkness are being produced in your life. We've covered many of them already in recent sermons: Cheating, lying, anger, sexual immorality, greed, stealing, bitterness, unforgiveness, unkindness, slander, selfishness. The question is, "why?" Are you enjoying them? Are they working for you? Are they making you more attractive? Don't you realize what Ephesians says through the material we covered in the past eight days? They are unfruitful (5:11). They bring about God's wrath (5:6). They are contrary to your new identity (5:8). They are contrary to Christ (5:2). If you are abiding in the Light of the World, the fruit of light will be produced in you. Is it?
You see, there are many so-called Christians that really have any interest in Christianity only because they don't want to spend eternity in hell. Yet when it comes to following God, their interest is in almost everything that opposes him. It's like the couple that asks how intimate can we be without falling into sin?
The true believer obeys because he or she loves the Light. It is not running as close as we can to darkness without sinning. It's running as close as we can to God. The true believer is in an ongoing pursuit, out of love for Christ that forever seeks to be pleasing in His sight. That's what Paul meant in verse 10 that our life's quest is (what a life verse!), "Trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord." That is true Christian living; forever walking more in the light as He is the Light!
Yet there is another reason why we must walk in the light, and by God's grace, produce deeds of the light. And that's because we are not built to "enjoy" the deeds of darkness, but rather, verse 11, expose them. To participate in darkness is to promote darkness. To ignore it is to encourage it. Sin is dangerous, it's deadly. Love that does not expose sin is not biblical love. Sometimes we use words, but our primary way to expose darkness is to live in the light.
How can we ever expect to have a pure church that honors Christ if we are lax in regards to living holy lives? And how can we expect unbelievers to run from the darkness and embrace Christ if we fail to show them the light?
That why we read in verse 13. "But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light." After God's holy light shined on you, God's desire is that it will shine on others through you and that they might be exposed in their darkness and turn to God's holy light and be saved as well.
Verse 14, "For this reason it says, ÔAwake, sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.'"
Jesus came to set the captives in darkness free. Has His light shined upon you to awaken you from your darkness and hell-bound destination? Have you arisen through repentance from your spiritual darkness? If so, do you love the Light of the world? Are you walking in the light and experiencing the fruit of the light being made evident in you? Is Christ's light shining radiantly through you?
The captain of the ship looked into the dark night and saw faint lights in the distance. Immediately he told his signalman to send a message: "Alter your course 10 degrees south." Promptly a return message was received: "Alter your course 10 degrees north."
The captain was angered; his command had been ignored. So he sent a second message: "Alter your course 10 degrees south-I am the captain!" Soon another message was received: Alter your course 10 degrees north-I am seaman third class Jones."
Immediately the captain sent a third message, knowing the fear it would evoke: "Alter your course 10 degrees south-I am a battleship." Then the reply came "Alter your course 10 degrees north-I am a lighthouse."
In the midst of our dark and foggy times all sorts of voices are shouting orders into the night telling us what to do, how to adjust our lives. Out of the darkness, one voice signals something quite opposite to the rest. The voice happens to be the Light of the World and we ignore it at our peril because we are "light in the Lord." So may we "walk as children of the light." That is our identity. That is who we are in Christ, a beacon of light, like Christ, that shines in the darkness.