Thursday, February 28, 2013


Ephesians 5:8 (NIV)
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light

                We live in a dark world that is getting darker all of the time. The moral fabric of our world is not just fraying; it is being torn apart violently. The unsettling nature of this trend is heightened by the fact that this dismantling of moral standards is being portrayed as progress. It is being applauded, even celebrated, in the public forum.

                Paul’s depiction of the world in Romans 1 reads like today’s newspaper. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless.  Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. Romans 1:26-32 (NIV)

                In Ephesians 4, Paul calls us to reject the current moral trends of our world. So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more. Ephesians 4:17-19 (NIV)

                So the question arises, just how are we to stand against the moral decay that is all around us? Many people today have chosen the path of “cursing the darkness.” They spend their time expounding upon how evil things are getting. They defiantly shake their fist at the gathering gloom. Anger is the emotion that shapes their actions.

                Others have chosen the path of isolation. Feeling helpless to change the course of events, they withdraw. They seek to create a safe microcosm, which will insulate them from the darkness. Fear becomes the ruling emotion that shapes their actions.

                But still others choose the path of being light in a dark world. These people understand the situation, but instead of cursing the darkness they confront it in positive ways. Compassion and courage are the emotions that shape their actions.

                John tells us that Jesus came into our world to bring light to the darkness. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.
3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it
. John 1:1-5 (NIV)

                Later in John, Jesus openly proclaimed that he is the light of the world. When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." John 8:12 (NIV)

                In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus extends his light to and through those who are his followers. He commends his followers to be light in a dark world. "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16 (NIV)

                In the book of Ephesians, Paul reiterates Jesus’ command to be light and then gives us very practical instructions of what it means to be light. The only real way to overcome darkness is to light a light. As a follower of Jesus, we do this by living positive lives. There is a place for protest, but if all we do is protest then we are only cursing the darkness. Jesus and the Apostles modeled a very different approach. They overcame the darkness with compassion, clarity and commitment.

                We can be light by living lives of compassion. As the book of James makes so clear, our faith without actions is dead. It is not enough to decry negative situations; we have to do something about them. When Jesus saw the crowds, with all of their mixed motives and unrealistic expectations of him, he was moved with compassion.

                We can be light by clearly taking a stand for godly living. In many of Paul’s letters he boldly instructed Christ followers to live morally pure and productive lives. He clearly spoke about an alternative way of living in this dark world. He was straight forward about what to avoid and what to embrace. Unlike in our society today, he was not afraid to name sin as sin.

                Ultimately, we can be light in our world by being fully committed to Christ. Our motives cannot be preserving a particular political system or a long ago social norm. Instead our actions and attitudes should be shaped by one desire, to please Christ. Probably the best summary of what it means to be light in our world is Colossians 3:12-17.

                Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

                Children are afraid of the dark. Adults know how to turn on the lights. We do not have to live in fear of the darkness. We have the power within us to turn on the lights.

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