Being Children of the Light


If you read my post, “Soul Cutting” from yesterday, then you would probably understand that today has been very busy and (to be truthful) draining and difficult. I have no real ability to think deep thoughts. The good news is that as an author I have a repository of written material. This particular piece is very apropos to my current situation, and addresses the interest of a number of readers for more of my thoughts on the nature and work of discipleship.

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In my years as a bible teacher in Christian schools and as a youth pastor I can tell you that my experience was that as many as half the kids I worked with were from broken homes. It has been my experience that abuse and neglect are more common than any of us would like to think. I know of a high school dance that was cancelled less than an hour after it started because too many freshmen showed up drunk. I have had to counsel families whose children died from drug use.

The summer before I started here I was the speaker at a Christian youth camp that was attended by more than a hundred 10-12th graders. About 75% of them knew a friend who had committed suicide.

In light of this reality, I suspect that more than a few of you over the last month have been thinking, “What you are saying does not apply to me. My family is hurting, broken, struggling just to tread water.” I suspect many of you have been asking questions like “How can I live out a life of love when my family is hurting and broken?” “How do I love or respect my spouse when My marriage is on the rocks?” and “How do I honor and obey my parents when my parents aren’t believers?”

The reason I did not touch on those questions before is because I felt they deserved more than a passing point. They deserve more than that.

The question for today is: How do we live a life of love when we live in a place where there is so much darkness, brokenness, and pain? To answer that we are going to look at Ephesians 5:1-21 (NIV).

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person–such a man is an idolater–has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them.

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. 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, for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said:

“Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Whenever you see a “therefore,” like there is at the beginning of our text, it is important to look at what was talked about before. In Chapter 4, Paul urged the Ephesians to show their unity in Christ and to strive for maturity by living lives worthy of the calling they had received. To do so necessitated that they be completely humble and gentle; being patient, bearing with one another in love. [Making] every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace, (Ephesians 4:2-3, NIV).

Paul argued that there should be a clear difference between Christians and non-believers. He says in 4:17-19 (NIV), So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.

This was what Paul is referring back to in the opening verse of our text. Instead of being imitators of gentiles—who did not know Christ and lived by the sinful nature—they were to be imitators of Christ. If they lived like gentiles while claiming to be Christians they would be guilty of committing idolatry—worshipping sex or money instead of Christ.

If Christ truly lives in you, that is not who you are any more. As Paul says in Ephesians 5:8 (NIV) For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. When we give in to the temptations of sin, we are no longer being true to who we are—children of the light.

So Paul says, Live as children of the light. In verses 9-13 Paul tells the Ephesians what that looks like, how they would recognize it:

  1. They will recognize it by its fruit: goodness, righteousness and truth.
  2. It is recognized by intentionally asking what the Lord’s will is in any given situation.
  3. By having nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.

Verses 15-16 explain why this is important: because the days are evil. Because the days were evil the Ephesians needed to make every effort to wisely take advantage of every opportunity.

Verses 17-21 Paul directs them how to go about living wisely.

  1. Understand what the Lord’s will is.
  2. Don’t react by doing things that will pull you away from the Lord, like turning to drinking, but respond by being filled with the Holy Spirit.
  3. Speak in psalms and sing hymns and spiritual songs.
  4. Be thankful.
  5. And fifth, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

When we find ourselves living in dark places, we need to remember that Christ has called us to be a light in the dark. We are to be lights of God’s grace. So the answer to questions like “How can I live out a life of love when my family is hurting and broken?” “How do I love or respect my spouse when My marriage is on the rocks?” and “How do I honor and obey my parents when my parents aren’t believers?” is: be imitators of God as dearly loved children and live as children of the light. What I want to do this morning is ask three questions:

  1. What does it mean to be children of the light?
  2. What effect does it have?
  3. How do we nurture that light when our family is not able to?

What does it mean to be children of the light? It means that we are God’s children. Jesus said in John 8:12 (NLT) I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life. Jesus was the light of the world because He was God’s Son.

When God adopts you as a son or daughter, you too like Jesus become a child of the light. Jesus Himself said in Matthew 5:14 (NLT) You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. Peter reaffirms this in 1 Peter 2:9 (NIV) saying, you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

To get a full understanding of what it means to be children of the light it is helpful to see how “light” is used throughout Scripture.

God is often compared to light in the Bible. Psalm 27:1 (NIV) The LORD is my light and my salvation– whom shall I fear? Psalm 76:4 (NIV) You are resplendent with light, more majestic than mountains rich with game. Psalm 89:15 (NIV) Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O LORD. Matthew 17:2 (NIV) There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. 1 John 1:5 (NIV) This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.

Light is also a sign of God’s presence as in Exodus 13:21 (NIV), By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. This was also the meaning for the lamp in the tabernacle and the Temple that was lit day and night every day of the year (Leviticus 24:2).

Light is also given as a sign of His blessing as Exodus 10:23 (NIV), No one could see anyone else or leave his place for three days. Yet all the Israelites had light in the places where they lived.

Light is compared to truth and wisdom. Psalm 43:3 (NIV) says, Send forth your light and your truth, let them guide me; let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell. Psalm 119:105 (NIV) Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.

Light is synonymous with righteousness. Proverbs 13:9 (NIV) says, The light of the righteous shines brightly, but the lamp of the wicked is snuffed out.

Light is also likened to salvation. 2 Corinthians 4:6 (NIV) For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

So what does it mean to be children of the light? It means that we are proof of God’s presence and blessing because our lives are marked by His wisdom, righteousness and grace.

What effect does being children of the light have on those around us?

  1. It identifies us as God’s children. Matthew 5:14-16 (NIV) You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. John 3:21 (NIV) But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.
  2. It helps people see that they need that light. Ephesians 5:13-14 (NIV) But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: “Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
  3. It motivates us to love one another. 1 John 2:9-11 (NIV) Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him.

Living as children of the light identifies us as belonging to God and living in His power. When we are living as children of the light, God uses our life to wake people up to their need of a savior. And when we live as children of the light we share God’s love with the people around us.

Sometimes, for reasons we don’t understand, or for seasons that we think go on way too long, God puts His children in dark places. It isn’t because we did something wrong, or because we are on God’s bad list. It’s because God wants us to be His light in that dark place. He wants us to incarnate His grace where there is none.

That brings us to the third question: How do we nurture that light when our family is not able to?

This reality highlights the wisdom of God in giving us a spiritual family. Specifically it highlights the importance of having spiritual mothers and fathers. When home is not a place where we can be nurtured and grown and taught and encouraged as God’s sons and daughters, we need to be living in relationship as sons and daughters to godly men and women who can provide the spiritual parenting we need.

This is the kind of relationship Mandi and I have with Shelby. Now Shelby would be the first to tell you that we have not replaced her parents. She still loves her mom and dad very much. And, so do Mandi and I. But Shelby looks at us as her spiritual parents. She looks to us for spiritual guidance, how to understand Scripture, how to live it out at school, at work, in her relationships. Shelby is not in a unique situation. All of us need spiritual moms and dads. In the best of all possible worlds our natural parents and our spiritual parents would be one and the same. But we all need to be in relationships as sons and daughters to people who we can call spiritual parents.

We need to focus on our light, not the darkness in others. Does that seem counter-intuitive to you? Yet if you look back at our text and even at 4:17-32 where Paul is also talking about how we are to nurture our light, this is clearly the case. In the 36 verses between 4:17 and 5:21 there are 22 directions that are aimed at “you,” the believer.

You control your anger,

stop stealing,

stop using foul language,

encourage others with your talk,

do not grieve the Holy Spirit by how you live,

forgive as God forgave you,

imitate God,

live a life of love,

be sexually pure,

don’t be immoral,

don’t be greedy,

live as children of the light,

be careful how you live,

be wise,

take advantage of every opportunity,

understand what the Lord’s will is,

don’t get drunk,

be filled with the Spirit,

speak Scripture,

sing songs,

be thankful,

and submit to one another out of reverence to Christ.

If we are honest with ourselves, if we were to give ourselves to doing these 22 things, we would have precious little time to concern ourselves with “fixing” other people. I have a feeling that was God’s intention! And that leads right to my last point,

Through our grace God will bring to light what is not good in others. There is in our text one verse that talks about dealing with sin in others, Ephesians 5:11 (NIV) Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. In what way are we to “expose them?” Let me suggest, that calling people out for their sin should be one of the last things we do instead of the first. The reason for this is that when we put ourselves in the position of referee, we can easily go from having a motivation to love and encourage God’s light in them to a motivation of showing them how dark they are compared to ourselves. That is a place you do not want to go.

One of the stories that Charlie Jones, liked to tell was about a time when he was having a difficult time with his wife Gloria. He was mad. She didn’t listen to him. She was always nagging him. It was at the point where he didn’t love her any more.

One night, after a long day of sales and travel as he was walking to the bedroom he heard her praying. She was not asking God to change Charlie, she was asking God to help her be a better wife. Then it hit him, or rather God hit him. She wasn’t the problem he was. He was the problem. Charlie broke down and wept. And after an 8 year drought, his love for Gloria came back. Let God do the convicting. You focus on the loving.

Let God use the light that shines out from you to do the convicting and exposing. It is so much more effective.

Let me suggest that the first idea that pops into our minds about how to expose them is often the wrong one—calling them out. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when this is clearly the thing we are to do, and Scripture tells us there are times when it is absolutely necessary too. Jesus wasn’t sinning when He rebuked Peter saying “Get behind me Satan!” Paul did the right thing when he publically called Peter to task for snubbing Gentile Christians in favor of Jewish ones. And Jesus clearly says in Luke 17:3 (NIV), If your brother sins, rebuke him.

So let’s sum up:

What does it mean to be children of the light? It means that we are proof of God’s presence and blessing because our lives are marked by His wisdom, righteousness and grace.

Living as children of the light identifies us as belonging to God and living in His power. When we are living as children of the light, God uses our life to wake people up to their need of a savior. And when we live as children of the light we share God’s love with the people around us.

We nurture that light when our family is not able to by connecting to godly men and women in our church family who can be spiritual parents to us, by focusing on keeping our light bright and clear instead of focusing on the darkness in others, and by letting God use the light that shines out from us to bring to light the need for Jesus’ love and forgiveness in those around us.

 

 

7 thoughts on “Being Children of the Light

  1. This so awesome. Well said.

    Often what people in struggles need the most, more than our intervention, more than our fixing things,is for someone to simply be the Light. Just stand in the Lord, where someone can see you. That has helped me more than anything else, just being able to look over and see someone standing in the Lord. That’s what I call it anyway, standing, like a lamp post. Anyone can be a lamp post for someone. Light is contagious,like a cold,but much more fun.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Light is contagious like a cold… That was epic! Thanks for the encouragement IB. I like what they each in Stephen Ministry, a ministry that equips lay people to give Christian care: God does the healing and curing, our part is to provide the care. So simple, and so freeing. As you said, anyone can stand and shine.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve mentioned you in my post today as a nominee for the Mysterious Blogger award. Don’t know whether or not you wish to participate. Ignore or accept as you wish. However, I do enjoy my contact with you and am happy to be a follower. Have a nice day and check out the post if you wish.

    Liked by 1 person

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