This is the fourth time Paul uses the idea of living or walking in the ways of God. The practical fruit that he is calling the church of Ephesus to live by is rooted in the spiritual truths found in the first three chapters of Ephesians. In essence Paul is wanting the believers in Ephesus to live out their faith IN CHRIST in a manner worthy of the Gospel (Eph 4:1), not as the Gentiles (Eph 4:17), but to live in love imitating God (Eph 5:1-2).
Children of light
One of the problems believers faced in Ephesus is deception. Even though they were spiritually blessed new creations IN CHRIST and seated in heavenly places, their old nature was still clinging to them. That is why Paul spoke to them about learning to put-off sin and Satan and put-on Jesus Christ. Paul encourages them by saying, “you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light” (Eph 5:8).
In this verse Paul contrasts darkness and light to the church. This would have specific meaning to those coming out of pagan temple worship. There was spiritual darkness due to the practice of sin and the presence of Satan. Paul already addressed those who were darkened in their understanding, separated from life and ignorant of heart (Eph 4:18-19). There was also the practice of sexual sins done in darkened rooms of pagan temples. Suffice it to say, darkness was not meant to be part of the believer’s life; that is why Paul prayed for the “eyes of your hearts to be enlightened” (Eph 1:18). Now he reminds them that, “you were once darkness” but now you are light in the Lord.
The spiritual blessing for the church in Ephesus and for us today is this – we are light in the Lord. This is the truth of Chapter 1-3 of Ephesians. We are full of God’s light (IN CHRIST) because of all that Jesus has accomplished for us. Therefore, Paul’s exhortation is to “live as children of light.” Paul gives us three words - goodness, righteousness and truth describing how to live in the light. We bear fruit because we are rooted IN CHRIST and in his love. In other words, as we stay in the light and love of Jesus bearing fruit is natural to his children.
The Apostle Paul wrote his letter to the Ephesian believers around 2,000 years ago, and even today, we understand the difference between the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of light. The culture in which we live gets it. The whole Star Wars epic was basically a story about the conflict between “the Darkside” and “the Force.” The Lord of the Rings trilogy was based upon the same conflict — the forces of the Dark Lord Sauron and the hobbits, elves, and wizards who represented good. These pop culture ideas tend to see as the struggle between darkness and light as equal. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, takes a more Biblical approach where the good King Aslan defeats the wicked witch. We know from Scripture that Jesus Christ, who is the light of the world (John 8:12) has completely defeated sin and the forces of Satan (Eph 1:19-23). The so-called struggle is not between equal kingdoms (dark and light) but is the ongoing expansion of the Kingdom of God, full of life, light and love, even though there is ongoing resistance by mankind. The key thought for us to understand is this – IN CHRIST we are on the winning team that is bearing fruit and expanding. We are light in the Lord and choose to live in the light.
Living in Freedom requires discernment
Another characteristic of being a child of light is to “find out what pleases the Lord” (Eph 5:10). I love the simplicity of this verse. This is a small verse with big implications. Find out carries with it a meaning of seeking and discovery, testing and approving. How is this possible – through discernment. Discernment can be defined as
· the quality of being able to grasp and comprehend what is hidden
· it is an act of perceiving something
· a power to see what is not evident to the average mind
· the ability to accurately see the truth
· spiritually it is the ability to tell the difference between truth and error, right and wrong and angels or demons
Paul doesn’t answer this statement for the believers but leaves it opened ended so that they can find the joy of bringing pleasure to God. I am sure we can all remember going on a treasure hunt as children. It was great fun to run here and there trying to find what was hidden followed by the joy of discovery. In this case we are discovering what brings pleasure and satisfaction to God. Paul is trying to help the church of Ephesus to grow in their desire and passion for God and what makes him glad.
We are to discern and discover what brings pleasure to God. However, on the other hand, we must “have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them” (Eph 5:11). Paul has concern for the believers in Ephesus because darkness often leads to deception. Just as there is righteous fruit that brings pleasure to God there are fruitless and useless acts that bring harm. We are told to have no participation, association or fellowship with individuals who choose to walk in darkness – the sphere dominated by evil, sinfulness, and ignorance of God and his ways; understood as the absence of light. There is a shame associated with the sinful practices of people trapped in darkness.
We must remember that we are not in a tug-of-war between the kingdom of darkness and light. Jesus, Light of the World, has overcome the darkness. Light influences darkness not the other way around. Darkness is simply the absence of light, “But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, 14 for it is light that makes everything visible…” (Eph 5:13-14). Even though we light in a world under the stimulus of the enemy, we are light in the Lord and shine our light everywhere we go. Paul was wanting the church in Ephesus to be the influencers in their darkened society. He wanted the church to wake up and let Christ shine on and through them. The same is true for us today, we are children of light shining in the darkness.
Living in the light means continuously receiving the light. In the natural we need our daily dose of vitamin D, spiritually speaking we all need to get our SON TAN in Jesus. We are light in the Lord and now choose to live as children of light. Throughout my Christian walk there are times when the Holy Spirit has said to me – “this or that needs to be put-off”. There was something dark that was attached to my life and I needed to discern between right and wrong, I needed to find out what pleases God. In those moments I chose to walk in the light. This reminds me of 1 John 1:7-9 - But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. 8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
Our theme over the last few months has been Freedom in Christ. The last few messages have been about learning how to put-off those sinful issues, whatever they are, and to discover how to put-on Jesus Christ. Today, Paul’s message it is all about putting off darkness and putting on light. We must allow the light of Christ to shine into all areas of our thoughts and emotions and actions in order to live in the fullness of our freedom.
One inspiring verse for me in today’s passage is this – “find out what pleases the Lord.” All too often I can find myself focusing on what needs to be put-off in my life. This verse changes my paradigm from putting-off to discovering what makes God happy and putting this into my daily living for God. We are all individuals with various likes and dislikes so as we find out what pleases God our discoveries will vary. It is a wonderful thing to bring pleasure to God and see joy on the faces of his people.
Take a moment and think about your walk with God and what you could do to please him?