Sermon: Living as Christ in This World (Ephesians 5:1-20)

Living as Christ in this World

Ephes. 5:1-20 (ESV)

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.  [2] And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

[3] But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.  [4] Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.  [5] For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous ( that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.  [6] Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.  [7] Therefore do not associate with them;  [8] for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light

[9] (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true),  [10] and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.  [11] Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.  [12] For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret.  [13] But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible,  [14] for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,

“Awake, O sleeper,

and arise from the dead,

and Christ will shine on you.”

[15] Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise,  [16] making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.  [17] Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.  [18] And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,  [19] addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart,  [20] giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,

In our text today, the Lord has for us a challenge to walk through this world and yet remain completely dedicated to Him.  How is it that we are in the world but not of the world?

Our Lord gives us this command:

Matthew 5:13-16 (ESV)

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

[14] “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  [15] Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  [16] In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

What Jesus has in mind here is that we as Christians are to be affecting or infiltrating the world.  We affect it, it should not affect us.  This is the challenge.  How is it that we enter into the world without allowing it to affect us?

Throughout history there have been different ideas concerning this topic.  Some thought the best way to live an effective Christian life is to hole up in a monastery separating one’s self from the outside world.  In this way according to these folks one could live a life pleasing to the Lord. This is continued today as the Fundamentalists emphasize godliness as not associating with sinners or avoiding “Every form of ungodliness”.

What’s the problem with this type of thinking? One cannot obey the command to be salt and light when we are isolated from the outside world.

Then there is the other extreme that tends toward a libertine attitude.  This is someone who basically believes that because Christ saved us then what we do really has no effect on us at all.  These are the folks who many times believe the doctrine of once saved always saved but take it as a license to sin.  In this case they are not being salt and light either because culture is affecting them rather than them affecting it.

Where is the middle ground?  What are we to do as believers?

The first step in accomplishing this very important task is to look to Jesus. In our text today Paul pictures the Christian life as a walk.  Other places in the Bible he uses the metaphor of an athlete in a race.  Here he is highlighting something else…living a consistent Christian life, so it’s a walk.  Most of us are not world class athletes that can run marathons.  The Christian life is a walk.  We can walk a long way.  We don’t have to stop to catch our breath while walking.

Look to Jesus…

1. Walk in Love (Ephesians 5:1-6)

A. Imitate Christ

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.  [2] And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Seek to love others as Christ loved us.  As a child often mimics his father, we are to mimic our heavenly Father.  We are to look to Jesus as an example of love.  Jesus came and placed Himself right in the middle of evil and sin.  So much so, that He was even accused of being a glutton and a drunkard.

Luke 7:34 (ESV)

The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’

One key in walking in love and imitating Christ is to know what sin is and what sin isn’t. Jesus associated with drunks and with gluttons but He was never drunk and didn’t overeat. I believe we can deduce that it’s not sinful to hang out with sinners as long as we don’t partake in their sin.  No doubt Jesus ate and drank but never did He do so in a way that over indulged to commit sin.

A well meaning person once told me that if you hang out in a coal mine you’re going to get dirty.  He used this to try to convince me to avoid associating with the wrong crowd.  He meant well but his advice was more in line with the extreme to isolate oneself from the very people that Jesus spent most of His time with.  There is a breakdown here.

The truth is if you hang out in a coal mine you will get dirty and if you hang out with sinners you’ll probably get dirty as well.  I believe Jesus got a lot of dirt on Him.  Walking in love as Jesus did can be dirty business.  Loving the unlovely is not often a pleasant experience.  That, however, is our calling.

Jesus succeeded.

John 9:5 (ESV)

As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

Our text shows us what He did to remain faithful to God while in the world.  He stated that as long as He was in the world He would be the light.  In other words, He would affect the world for good; the world would not affect Him for evil.

The key was in the fact that Jesus unselfishly loved us and gave himself up for us. If we are to imitate our Lord in this world we must die to self and seek the good of others.  Otherwise we will get caught up in temptation and sin.

B. Guard Against Temptation

[3] But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.  [4] Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.  [5] For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous ( that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.  [6] Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.

As we walk through this world always be watchful, guarding against temptation.  Rather than seeing how close we can come or how much we can get by with, be on guard.  We should see how righteous we can be.  As we imitate Christ we guard against impurity and covetousness.  We also watch what we say because if we’re not careful our speech can lead to sin.  We also must think as we walk through this world.  There are those who would seek to deceive us at every turn.  As we imitate Christ we are careful not to be caught up in impurity, foolish talk and deceptive words.

2. Walk in Light (Ephesians 5:7-14)

[7] Therefore do not associate with them;  [8] for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light

[9] (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true),  [10] and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.  [11] Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.  [12] For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret.  [13] But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible,  [14] for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,

“Awake, O sleeper,

and arise from the dead,

and Christ will shine on you.”

John 9:5 (ESV)

As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

As we look at this section there is one part that needs clarification.  So far we’ve been discussing how we can be in the world but not of the world.  Yet here in verse seven we read, we’re not to associate with them.  What the original Greek has in mind here is that we are not to associate with them in their sin or we are not to be fellow-partakers with them.  We can also come to this conclusion as we read further down.

[11] Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.

1 Thes. 5:5 (ESV)

For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness.

Philip. 2:15 (ESV)

that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,

We are to seek the direction of the Lord as we walk as children of the light.  We are to remember who we are.

One means of remembering is to look back at our baptism as a means of grace to encourage us to press on.  As believers we do look back for encouragement at times.  We can look back to our baptism and remember the commitment we made in front of everyone in the church that we promise to strive for obedience.

[14] for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,

“Awake, O sleeper,

and arise from the dead,

and Christ will shine on you.”

As far as the scholars can tell, this is not a direct quote from any passage of Scripture but an ancient baptismal formula.  The imagery here is that our baptism is a picture of us formerly being buried in darkness.  This really fits the context we as Paul discusses light and darkness.  As we think about Christ bringing us from death to life…from darkness to light the picture becomes very clear.  We were a sleep in darkness and buried in the grave of sin.  Then the light of Christ shined on us and we awoke rose and followed Him.

At times it is an encouragement to press on as we remember what the Lord did for us and our commitment to Him as we underwent the rite of baptism.

Christ is the Light of the world and His light shines on His people and brings them out of their darkness and into His light.

3. Walk in Wisdom (Ephesians 5: 15-20)

[15] Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise,  [16] making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.  [17] Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.  [18] And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,  [19] addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart,  [20] giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,

We are commanded to walk wisely because the lost world is watching ready to point fingers.  We walk wisely because we represent our Lord.  We are to be shining as little lights to lead those in darkness to the light of Jesus.

The Lord challenges us to make good use of our time.  The idea here is that every day is bringing us closer to the end of this age.  We don’t have time to waste.  Those in this world who are engulfed in darkness are running out of time.  Whether they will die or whether the Lord returns, everyone will meet the Lord within the next hundred years.  If time was short when the Apostle wrote this, how much shorter is it now?

We are to walk wisely as we discern what the will of the Lord is.  Many people have taken this to be an almost impossible task.  However, I believe for most things is pretty easy.  What are some things we know to be the Lord’s will?

Love Him over all things, Read Scripture, Pray, Evangelize, Love our Wives and Husbands, Love our Children, Guide our Families,…

It gets difficult when we are looking more to things like: Is it God’s will for me to buy something or do something specific?  Is it God’s will for me to change jobs?  These become more difficult.  Here is my advice in those situations…Make sure you’re doing the other stuff first.  The stuff that you know to be God’s will and He will reveal what you’re to do in the more specific personal areas.  Why would God show us the specific when we’re not doing what we already know to be His will now?

He then goes on to instruct us to not get drunk with wine which would lead to foolishness and unwise living but instead to be filled with the Holy Spirit.  Rather than allowing wine to control you as a drunken person does, allow the Holy Spirit to control you as wise godly people do.

Walk in the Spirit. Our speech again is very important here.  We are walking in the Lord as our speech builds up the church.  He specifically shows us two things:

First, our speech is to be so loving to our fellow believers that it is like a hymn.  It’s music to their ears as we speak and administer grace to them as hearers.  Second, we are to speak thanksgiving to God.  Our attitude is thankfulness with what the Lord has already given.  If we are thankful to God for His provisions we will not be tempted to gain things through sinning.  We will be apart of the world like Jesus was but we will not be affected by the world.

The bottom line is as we practice these things we will get better and better at walking through the world without being affected by it.  We will be able, more and more, to Walk as Christ in this World. The values of the world will have less and less effect on us as children of light.  In other words, the world will have nothing to offer us that would take our gaze off of Jesus Christ.

Lord’s Supper…

One way we can keep focused on Christ is to constantly remember His death, burial, and resurrection.  The Lord Himself gave us something to help stir us up to faithfulness.  The Lord’s Supper is a means of grace whereby the partaker has readied himself and will be reminded to remain faithful and anticipate the coming Lord.

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