Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, March 30, 2014
Walk As Children of Light - March 30, 2014 - Fourth Sunday in Lent - Text: Ephesians 5:8-14
In the book of Genesis, before God began His work of creation, we are told that everything was darkness and chaos. When God began His work of creation He called the light out of the darkness. In the New Testament, in the Gospel of John this work of creation is described, again, as the light shining in the darkness, but John also uses this imagery to describe the Light of Christ shining on the darkness of sin. Today we talk about things being black and white. Today we talk about some things being in a grey area, meaning they are or may not be wrong or right. In our text for this morning the Apostle Paul continues to use this imagery of darkness and light. Darkness we understand to be wrong and sin and light we understand to be right and good.
Interestingly enough, have you ever noticed when most thievery and robbery, when most crimes occur, it is at night. Why at night? Because most people who break the law do not want to get caught and so they do their deeds when they are least likely to be seen, at night. The logic is that the darkness will cover our sins, yet we are reminded that the morning always comes and light shines on the scene and what was done in the dark is exposed for the sin that it is.
Turning to our text, Paul writes that we were darkness, in other words we were living in sin. We read verse eight, “8for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light” (v. 8). And here I go again, reminding us that we are conceived and born in sin. We simply cannot get away from the fact of our sin. It is our nature to sin, we simply cannot help but sin. We have talked some about free will in Bible class and we always need to be reminded that because we live on the sin side of the Fall into sin in the Garden of Eden, we really no longer have a freedom of the will. Our will is tainted by sin. Our will is only to sin.
And so we do sin and we sin boldly. We sin not only by what we do and not do, remember those are sins of omission and commission, but we also sin by our words, by what we say or do not say. We sin by hurting and harming others. We sin by not helping and defending others. We sin by our very thoughts. To sin is not simply to commit an act, but to sin, in God’s eyes is to think the thought. The progression of sin usually takes the course of thinking, speaking and then doing.
Now, please understand, I am not telling you this to make you think that you have a right to sin, after all we might surmise, if I am sinning by thinking it, I might as well do the deed. No, I am telling you this so that you might rejoice even more greatly in what Christ has done for you and in so rejoicing you might be more inclined to, with His help, work to resist temptation and sin.
Paul reminds us that we are sinners, but that our sins, that is the price for our sins has been paid. With this in mind He reminds us that we are now light that is we are now to, again, with God’s help, walk in the way our Lord would have us to walk. We read picking up at verses nine, “9(for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them” (v. 9-11).
What has God done for us? What has Jesus done for us? He has given us faith through the means of grace. He has given us faith through His Word. He has given us faith through Holy Baptism. He strengthens us in faith through His Word, through our remembering our Baptism, through the Lord’s Supper.
God has given us faith and He has given to us to know what is good and right and true. How do we know what is good and right and true? We know what is good and right and true through the same means He has given us faith, namely through His Word. It is the Word of God which tells us what is sin, what we should and should not do and it is the Word of God which tells us what is righteousness and what is good and right and true.
God has given us faith and He has given us to know what is good and right and true so that we might also be discerning. He gives us discernment. How does He give us discernment? He gives us discernment through the same Word that He uses to give us faith and knowledge of what is good and right and true. He gives us to discern right from wrong. He gives us to discern that there are absolutes.
Why does our Lord give to us faith and knowledge of what is good and right and true and discernment? So that He might also give to us to show our faith through our actions. Earlier in this letter Paul writes that we are saved by grace through faith and this is a gift of God so that no one can boast and in the next verse he says that this is done so that we might “do the good works which God has prepared beforehand that we should do them.” That He gives us to show our faith through our actions is not something we do in order to earn anything from our Lord, but is a response of faith, a culmination of what our Lord does for us, beginning with giving us faith.
A part of living lives of faith is that the Lord also gives to us to demonstrate our faith and through our demonstrating our faith we expose sin. As we refuse to be a part of the unfruitful works of darkness we expose them for what they are, sin. As they are exposed as sin, the goal is to bring those in sin to see their sin so they might repent, be given forgiveness and be brought into the Lord’s Kingdom as well.
Paul further warns us to have nothing to do with darkness, that is sin. We pick up at verse twelve, “12For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 13But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, ‘Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you’”(v. 12-14). What is Paul talking about? What are these shameful things that are done in secret. Paul says, do not even speak about things done in secret. Here I should remind you that in God’s eyes all sins are equal, there is no such thing as one sin being greater than another sin. So, Paul is telling us that any sin committed is a shameful sin and should not be spoken about. And here, remember what I said earlier about when dastardly deeds are done? They are done in the dark so as not to be seen, they are simply so bad that we do not even want to mention them. At the same time, God’s Word exposes these sins as His Word is publicly proclaimed. Proclaiming what is right always exposes what is wrong as sin.
Yet, the deeds done in darkness to hide them, when exposed by the Light, that is when they are exposed by Jesus, the Light of the world, the Word made flesh, then they are seen for what they are, sin. So we are back to the importance of the Word of God and the fact that the Bible is the Word of God, not merely contains the Word of God. Because the Bible is the Word of God it is authoritative, that is it is the final authority on what is right and wrong and it is efficacious, that is, it does what it says. Because the Bible is the Word of God it tells us what is right and wrong, it helps us discern what is right and wrong, and it helps us in our own fight against temptation and sin.
Notice that there is no synergism here, that is there is nothing of our working with God as if we might have some authority on our own or as if we might be able to gain faith and discernment on our own. No, there is no synergism, only grace. It is God who calls us to and gives us faith. It is God who is the One and only Authority and the One who gives discernment and He does this through His Word.
What Does This Mean? Again this week, as always and as it should be, we are reminded that we are wholly sinful. There is nothing we can do, nor is there anything we might desire to do to come to our Lord. Any desire to come to the Lord is against our conceived and born in nature. Yet it is our Lord who comes to us and calls us to faith. He calls us to faith through His Word. He gives us faith through His Word. He gives us faith through Holy Baptism. He strengthens and keeps us in faith through that same Word and Baptism and through His Holy Supper.
Not only does our Lord call us to faith, He also calls us to works of service. Here again I refer you back to Paul’s words which I talked about earlier, his words in chapter two of this letter, that is that we are saved to do the good works which God has prepared in advance for us to do. These good works are not done to earn anything, nor are they done to appease an angry God. These good works are done as a response of faith. They are done only as they are motivated by God, worked in and through us by God and done to His glory.
Now we hear Paul tell us that our Lord also calls us to discern what is good and right and true and as we have said, we discern these things through His Word. His Word is the foundation of our faith. His Word is authority. His Word is efficacious, that is His Word does what it says.
Notice again as always, it is our Lord who does it all. He gives faith. He strengthens and keeps us in faith. He gives to know what is good and right and true. He gives discerning hearts and minds. He gives to us to do the good works which He has for us to do. He gives a demonstration of what is sin through our actions exposing sin. He gives, He gives, He gives and we are given too.
How important are the means of grace? As we see once again, they are the foundation of our faith. Without the means of grace we take away the way our Lord has to come to us to give us His good gifts and blessings. Without the means of grace we would be lost. Thanks be to God that He has given us the means of grace. Thanks be to God that He has given us His Word which is His authority and which works, that is it does what is says. Thanks be to God that He has given us confession and absolution, through which we are constantly being given forgiveness. Thanks be to God that He has given us Holy Baptism and His Holy Supper through which He also gives, strengthens and keeps us in faith. Thanks be to God for His great grace and to Him be the glory. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.