Text: Ephesians 5:8-14
When I was growing up, I liked to stay up late at night. I would wander around the house at midnight or later, and as a teenager I was usually looking for something to eat. I didn't need to turn any lights on. I knew my way through the dining room downstairs quite well--the dining room table was in the middle of the room, and I could walk around it without ever seeing it. One night I went walking through the dining room in absolute darkness like usual, but had a nasty surprise--my mother had left the vacuum cleaner in the middle of my usual path. Since there was no light anywhere, I ran right into it and fell right over in the middle of the dining room. I didn't actually sprain my wrist when I fell over the vacuum, but it sure was sore for a few days.
Do you ever feel that way--like you are living your life in the dark? Before God made you a Christian, you were living in the dark--in the darkness of sin. Yet now you are different. You aren't blind, but as a Christian you can see because Christ is Your Light. Knowing that Christ is your light, you want to turn away from sin's darkness and live in God's light.
Many people feel like they are lost in the crowd in today's busy world. Yet Paul makes it clear that as a Christian you are different from most people in the world. You are a different person with a different attitude and a different outlook on life. Paul wrote, "You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord." Notice what he calls people who are lost in sin: "darkness." The Bible often uses the contrast between darkness and light to represent the difference between faith and unbelief. They are opposites. We would say that faith and unbelief are like day and night, completely different. Paul wrote, "You were once darkness." Darkness means that there is no light. That's what sin is like.
Sinners are darkness, according to Paul. That is a human being's natural state--darkness. Sinners live in darkness. Have you ever tried walking around your house in the middle of the night without turning on any lights? It's easy to get lost. You forget exactly where you are in a room. You run into things. You have a hard time getting where you want to go. That's what it's like to be a sinner. You wander around in the darkness of sin without knowing where your life is going. You have no direction. You have no idea where God is, if you even care. Some people live their whole lives that way, lost and wandering in darkness. Sinners disobey God. By nature, sinners have little interest in following God's commands and laws. Sinners don't know that God demands perfect obedience and holiness--or if they do know, they want to close their eyes and not see it. Sin is darkness, spiritual darkness, separation from God's light. Sinners deserve to spend their lives wandering around in darkness, and to spend eternity in hell, which Jesus calls the outer darkness, separated from their holy God forever.
You were once there too. You lived in that darkness of sin. Yet, as Paul put it, "Now you are light in the Lord." God promised to send light to this sinful world and to sinners. He said through the prophet Isaiah, "I will turn the darkness into light before them." God saw that his human creations would spend their earthly lives wandering in darkness, and eternity in hell. As a loving God he didn't want this to happen, so he promised to send us light, he promised to give sight to the blind. God kept that promise of light through Jesus, who said, "I am the light of the world." The sun is the only light for this earth. God's Son is the only light for mankind.
Jesus came to bring us light by suffering the worst of darkness. He came to bring us light by suffering the punishment for our sins--separation from God as we deserve to suffer forever in hell. You remember that it became dark when Jesus was on the cross--was the light of the world about to go out? It must have seemed like it. Yet on Easter morning when Jesus rose from his grave, God showed his light for all to see. That light has shone on this world for almost 2000 years as Christians have announced the good news about Jesus.
John wrote about Jesus in his gospel, "In him was life, and that life was the light of men." The light Jesus came to bring us means life for us. Jesus' light means an end to our spiritual blindness and wandering in sin. Jesus brings us light by bringing us forgiveness. When he suffered and died on the cross, he paid for all our sins. In God's eyes, we are forgiven.
When we hear about Jesus' sacrifice for us and the Holy Spirit gives us faith in Jesus our Savior, God opens our eyes. He gives us sight. He sends us light. As sinners, all we could do was wander in darkness, lost and hopeless. We were blinded by our sinfulness. Jesus opens our eyes through faith to realize that even though we were sinners before God, condemned forever, now we are forgiven. We no longer face an uncertain future, one where we hope that God will be good to us, where we hope everything will work out for the best. Instead, our eyes have been opened to the glory of heaven, eternal life, which God promises to give us as his forgiven children.
Paul writes, "You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light." Paul encourages us now to live out God's forgiveness, to live as Christians in a world full of sinners. That's what Jesus meant in the Sermon on the Mount when he said, "You are the light of the world." Christians know what sin is--God has rescued us from sin. We know that sin is any disobedience toward God, anything which disagrees with his will for us, anything which is unholy. As sinners, we liked to make sin into virtue. We liked the line between right and wrong to be a shadowy line, indistinct, so we could do what we pleased. Through Jesus we have light. Christians understand clearly the difference between right and wrong. So now what? The answer is clear--live in God's light by staying away from evil, from darkness and sin. Paul writes, "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."
Think about that blind man Jesus healed in today's gospel lesson. He had always been blind. Do you think that after a week of seeing, he would have asked Jesus to make him blind again? Of course not. Would you go to the doctor to have surgery to make you blind? That's a ridiculous question--of course you wouldn't. Yet now that God has opened our eyes spiritually, has forgiven our sins and shown us the difference between right and wrong, the devil constantly tempts us to close our eyes again, to shut out God's light, to go back into blindness and to go to hell. He offers us pleasure, he offers us happiness, he offers us anything he can to try to get us to shut our eyes again and close out God. He tempts us, "Just this once. One sin won't hurt. God will forgive you." He knows that the more we listen to him, the stronger his power.
God's solution to this problem is clear: "Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them." Rather than living in darkness, Jesus calls us turn away from sin's darkness and to live in God's light. Paul writes, "Live as children of light" and then tells us how: "for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth." Just as light and darkness are opposites, so are good and evil. God calls us to serve him and to do good rather than evil. Here are three examples of the way Christians live in God's light: "goodness, righteousness and truth."
Christians live as children of God's light and produce the fruit of "goodness, righteousness and truth." These aren't easy terms to define; they're much easier to do than to define. As a Christian, you know what it is to do "goodness"--your actions help others and please God. You know about "righteousness"--it means living and treating others fairly, with justice. It is God's will for Christians to live in truth, to live as his children whose lives are lit up by Christ.
Paul today encourages you as a Christian to "find out what pleases the Lord." That pretty well sums up what it means to live as a child of light. As a Christian you not only make every effort to turn away from dark sins which keep tempting you, but you also make every effort to live your life in a way which is pleasing to your Savior and God. You have a lot of help in that work of "finding out what pleases the Lord." You have the Bible, God's own Word, which shows you what pleases God. In his Word God teaches you how to live your life for him. He teaches you how to live as his child. Through his Word God gives strengthens your faith and shows you others examples of his children who lived in his light. By the examples of others such as Abraham, Joseph and David, God gives you courage to live as his child too.
Living as a Christian means that Christ is your light. His light of forgiveness shines in every corner of your heart and mind. That light shows you God's forgiveness and guides your path through this life. It exposes the sinful works of darkness so you can keep away from them. Since Christ is your light which wakes you up from sin, you live out the words Paul quotes today: "Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you." God has woken you from sinfulness through faith in Christ, has raised you from spiritual darkness and eternal death, and has given you his Word and Spirit to keep your eyes open and to keep you in his light. As a Christian, Christ is your light and he shines on you with his love, forgiveness and guidance. Live your life as a child of that light.