Darkness and Light

Christ Covenant Church
Rev. Marq Toombs
31 March 2019
Lent

“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times,
if one only remembers to turn on the light.

– Albus Dumbledore

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Series — Re:Lent – A Time to Give Up

[sketch notes & talking points]

Sermon Text — Ephesians 5:7-14

We reaching the end of our mini-series called Re:Lent — A Time to Give Up.

The goal of the series is to help us give up our sins for the Lord and give up ourselves to the Lord.

God the Father chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world. Why? For what purpose? “That we should be holy and blameless before him.”

We are learning how to live as God’s chosen people and become holy and blameless before the face of God.

Scripture says that we must be holy, for God is holy; for without holiness no one will see the Lord. In a nutshell, this series is all about sanctification, the pursuit and the practice of holiness.

Do not become partners with [the sons of disobedience]. At one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

Some of our favorite stories employ the motif of darkness and light.

The Star Wars series makes much of the two sides of the Force — dark and light. In the LOTR Galadriel gives Frodo the Light of Eärendil in a small crystal bottle of water from her fountain. She prays it will be a light for him in dark places, when all other lights go out. One of my favorite proverbs comes from a great wizard in the Harry Potter story. Albus Dumbledore said, “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”

The darkness and light motif is found in various religions and philosophies throughout the world.

Since all truth is God’s truth, we can see a kind of common grace at work even in those places. They might be on to something, sorta pointed in the right direction, but they haven’t quite sorted out all the details.

The situation in Ephesus was no different. Everyone seemed to know about darkness and light, good and evil, but not everyone understood which was which.

With the help of the Holy Spirit, St Paul gets up close and personal and talks about darkness and light in specific and concrete terms.

“At one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.”

Darkness – Eph. 2:1-3

At one time you were you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

That is what darkness looks like and feels like. That is what life outside of Christ looks like and feels like.

That was then;
This is now. 

Light – Eph. 2:4, 5, 8-10

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

That is what light looks like and feels like. That is what life in Christ looks like and feels like.

Walk as children of light in the works that God our Father prepared for us before he adopted us into his family. 

In this series, we have already learned about many of the good works our Father has prepared for us. The good works are his family rules. You can go back and read Ephesians 4 and 5 to see them again.

The point is that we are called to a new in Christ lifestyle. We must walk and talk in a way that marks the antithesis between God’s church family and the rest of the world.

Positively, we are called to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which we have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace. (4:1-2).

Negatively, we are called to no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. (Eph. 4:17-18)

We are called to unblur the blurred lines.

Back in the 80’s Walk This Way – Aerosmith and RUN DMC / fusion of Rock & Roll and Hip Hop. We are called to walk this new way — not in a Jewish way, nor a Gentile way, but in this new in Christ way — as children of light. Why? “for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true.”

This echoes something we heard in the first message of this series. The good, the right, and the true are not abstract principles but concrete virtues.

The good, the right, and the true are virtues of Jesus Christ embodied in Jesus Christ and his Church.

Now, to tie all this together, what we are being called to do is walk in the Spirit, with the Spirit, according to the Spirit, and to bear the fruit of the Spirit. That’s what it means to walk as children of light. 

The Holy Spirit is the light that shines “in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Cor. 4:6)

He is the light that scatters darkness.

To walk as children of light — as sons and daughters of the Father, and brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ — means we walk as a people who have been illuminated by the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of God.

The eyes of your hearts have been enlightened by the Holy Spirit, so that you may know the hope to which God has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe. (Eph. 1:17-19)

That’s what it means to walk as children of light. 

Now, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we may discern what is pleasing to the Lord.

Notice that the ESV goes all Luke Skywalker on us and adds the phrase “try to” — but Paul goes full on Master Yoda here:

No. Try not. Do. Or do not.
There is no try.

We must discern what is pleasing to the Lord. That simply means use your critical thinking skills to find out (Thielman) what is pleasing to the Lord and do those things.

This does not mean you get to use your imagination and decide whatever you think pleases the Lord. It means you get to use God’s revelation and do what he says pleases him.

The Spirit and word of God tell us what pleases the Lord.

Here are a few things that please him: faith in Christ, doing justice, loving kindness, walking humbly with your God. 

How we do that requires us to use discretion and discernment according to the doctrines of our holy faith.

We will get into this next week. For now, know that this is a matter of applying wisdom by thinking through, feeling out, weighing in these issues of life.

In context, this is how children of light do what is pleases to the Lord:

Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light.

As I understand this text, there is a missional and ecclesial application. I will focus on the ecclesial application today. (See Acts 26:17-18 for a missional application.)

Expose means to uncover or bring out into the open. This means not keeping secrets or hiding things from the Lord.

Unlike the English word, the Greek word also conveys the reason why we must expose the unfruitful works of darkness.

It is not to shame ourselves or anyone else. Rather, it is to convict the sin and correct the son or daughter who sins.

Exposing the unfruitful works of darkness is like acknowledging a problem, so that you can work towards a solution. It’s like discovering the cause of a disease and then prescribing a remedy for it.

But we cannot do this on our own. We need help to do it the right way.

So, the Holy Spirit, who has sealed us and secured us for redemption(!), searches our hearts as light shines in darkness.

Like the psalmist who prayed in Psalm 139, we confess that we cannot escape from the presence of the Spirit or hide from him.

If we say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
    and the light about me be night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
    the night is bright as the day,
    for darkness is as light with you.”

And like the psalmist, we want the Spirit to expose our sin, so that he can expell our sin. So we pray:

Search me, O God, and know my heart!
    Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting!

The Spirit is the light that shines in darkness. He helps us sort through the clutter, get rid of trash, and clean up the room of our heart.

The Spirit helps us see that some things need to be put back in order; some things need to be thrown away; some things need to carried off to the dump.

We all have old habits and old hobbies that we have smuggled in from our old way of life, that we have picked up from the sons of disobedience, that we have borrowed from the children of wrath.

It might be a false way of thinking about life, the universe, or the gospel. It might be a deep-seated anger and rage. It might be hatred. It might be laziness. It might be lust. It might be foul language. It might be crude joking.

In other words, as the Spirit shines his light into our darkness, he convicts us of sin and corrects us; he changes us body and soul, and conforms us to the image of Jesus Christ.

As children of light, we are called to co-operate with the Holy Spirit in the grace of sanctification. This is how we become holy and blameless before the face of our Father.

As Sinclair Ferguson puts it in his book, Devoted to God :

Being led by the Spirit will deliver you from a lifestyle in which you find yourself constantly coming under the condemnation of the law…We learn to put out of our lives everything that is not in keeping with the family lifestyle…We avoid anything that would bring shame on the family name. Our Father’s smile has come to mean everything to us; his frown would be our greatest loss…This is what stimulates obedience and holiness. (p.107)

The Spirit helps us give up our sins for the Lord and give up ourselves to the Lord.

Now, the Lord knows that we are dust. We are often weak and weary. We fight rest, yet often fall asleep.

Even now some of us are asleep in the light. Like the disciples in the garden, the Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.

Therefore, the Spirit comes and calls us back to life and light: 

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