23/3/03 Lent 3 BCP Ephesians 5:1-14
The key to today's passage is verses 15-17.
15: See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, 16: Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. 17: Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.
Today's Epistle is about how we live as Christians. We are to be wise which involves knowing and following God's ways. God wants the best for us. Paul outlines what this involves. There are three signs of a fulfilled first-class life, and three fake ways in which people seek fulfilment, and get a second-class life. Paul contrasts one with the other, saying that Christians are called to imitate God in holiness and love. The first of our three ways is...
A life of love, instead of chasing sex. Verses 1-3.
2: And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.
We live in a world where people seek to substitute sex for love. Some people foolishly think this is a modern phenomena. Yet it is clear as we read Paul's letters that the early church lived in a culture where sex was pursued in a way that is contrary to God's perfect will. God invented sex as a thing to be enjoyed by a man and woman within a loving marriage. It is an expression of the giving and acceptance that exist between a loving, married couple.
True love involves giving up something for the good of another. Jesus gave up his life for our good. Yet the world has corrupted sex and turned it into something that is to be received. A quest for sex, in itself, will never bring true fulfilment.
On page two of the Sun newspaper was a story about research carried out by Italian sex expert Andrea Dotti. The research said that men who watch too many porn films are four times as likely to become impotent because they get bored by the images of sex that they see. On the opposite page was a picture of a semi-naked 19 year old woman !
6: Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.
Tamasin Day-Lewis, who produced a Channel 4 documentary on adultery said, 'I haven't yet been able to find a happy adulterer'.
A life of thanksgiving, instead of cynicism. Verses 4-7.
Peter Graystone, who works for Scripture Union, recalled a conversation that he had with a friend on a tube train when he was 16. He and his friend were bored and started whispering to one another about people, trying to guess fellow travellers' jobs did from their appearance. As the train drew into the station a middle-aged woman walked the length of the train and, as she passed them said, 'You are wrong. I actually teach deaf and dumb children to lip read.'
Our speech should build others up according to their needs, 4:29: Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. Paul is saying that a Christian who has opted for second best may engage in gossip, coarse talk, and negative cynicism about people. This does not mean that our conversation has to be humourless and weighed down with religious references. But our conversation should reflect thanksgiving to God for what he has done for us, and what he is doing in people's lives today. We should use our speech to speak truthfully, to thank God and to build others up.
A life of light, instead of darkness. Verses 8-14.
Darkness is associated with evil, being hidden, fear, cold, being lost. Some things that are done under the cover of darkness happen then because people are ashamed of what they are doing. Perhaps we need to ask ourselves, 'Is there any thing in my life that I would not want discovered ? ' If there is anything that we would be ashamed of others finding out then we need to repent of it. To ask God's forgiveness and resolve to change.
Light is linked to revealing, giving life and warmth, security, knowing where we are and where we are going. Jesus said, 'I am the light of the world.' Verse 8 tells us we are to be 'light in the Lord'. He is the source of our light. Our lives should be full of light, visible, without us fearing what people may see. Our lives should also shine into dark areas, exposing them.
11: And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. Each one of us should be like a lighthouse. Visible from a distance, shining out in a dark world. Our beams of light should reveal the rocks waiting to wreck someone's life. The deeds of darkness are fruitless, verse 11. They produce nothing of any worth. This contrasts with the fruit of the light.
8: For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: 9: (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;)
I might buy a plant from a nursery. The label on the plant could claim that it is a raspberry bush. Yet when it starts to grow the fruit is a bit greener than I expected because it is a gooseberry bush ! The real proof about what type of bush I have got is in the fruit that it produces, not the label that is on it.
Paul is saying this is true of the Christian life. It is no use us having the right label. Using the right language, knowing the creed off by heart, coming to church and professing to be a Christian unless we live lives that back these other things up by producing the right fruit.
Paul is quite clear that those who claim to be Christians but don't live it have no place with God. 5: For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.
This is not talking about people who make a mistake and then come back to God in penitence and faith, but those who habitually live an immoral life.
May our lives be full of love, thanksgiving, and light, using our lives wisely to show that we are children of God and bringing glory to our Heavenly father.