“I AM WALKING”
If you’ve ever done any boating, you know that you need a way to steer and a power source. If you’re out in the middle of the lake and you lose the ability to steer, all the power in the world won’t help you. Or if you can steer but have no power, you’re in big trouble. You may drift into rocks or reefs.
Steering and power are necessary, especially if you’re navigating through dangerous waters. You also need an accurate navigational chart and some way to determine where you are, otherwise you’re still going to hit the rocks and reefs.
The Christian life is like that. There are lots of rocks and reefs out there that can break your boat. Navigating life requires steering, power, and chart to pay close attention to.
Today we’re returning to our series in Ephesians. And we are going to be looking at how Paul tells us to navigate a dark world that is full for rocks and reefs. So, if you have your bibles please turn to Ephesians 5.
Ephesians 5:1–21, ESV
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. 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. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,
“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
After I graduated from high school and before I started college I worked for the summer at the Ford Motor Company in Dearborn, MI. That was the same summer in which I was really coming to know Jesus, and something was beginning to change in my life. My passions were changing, my commitments were changing, what I delighted in was changing. So at work when my co-workers were talking crudely I’d walk away. And sometimes at lunch I would sit at my desk and read the Bible. Eventually my co-workers begin to tease me, they changed my name tag to read “thumper” short for “Bible thumper.” That hurt. I wasn’t preaching to them or anything I just wasn’t joining in their banter.
In our text Paul says, “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” Exposing the darkness doesn’t mean shouting it down. You never win a hearing shouting others down anyway. Often your actions will speak louder than your words. I think that is why Paul tells us, “Look carefully then how you walk…” When you walk in the light of God, the empire of darkness is naturally exposed—and sometimes the empire strikes back.
“Look carefully how you walk!” What does that mean? Well, to look carefully means to consider with precision. It was an accounting term. If you’re keeping the books for an organization or just balancing your bank account, it is vital to be exact. You can’t say, “Is that a 10 or 100? Oh, well, it doesn’t matter. Let’s call it 100.” You have to be precise. You have to be mindful.
Some of you have children and their are times in when you don’t want to claim them. Well, there are times when children of God don’t always act like children of God. So Paul says, in effect, “Be what you are! Walk in the light.”
There is too much in this passage for me to address, so I want to spend the rest of my time this morning giving you some pointers on how to walk in the light.
To Walk Apply the Word of God
Our text opened up by saying, “Be imitators of God” (Eph 5:1). Well, you can’t imitate God unless you know God; you can’t know God without knowing Jesus. And the only Jesus you can know is the one that presented in the Bible. So if you want to know God, you’ve got to become familiar with the content of the Bible.
And the more familiar you are with the Bible; the more you learn to put the pieces together and understand what the Bible is teaching; then, the wiser you’ll become.
I don’t say you’ll be wise because you’ll know more things. I say wise because lingering in Bible puts you in touch with the one who reveals himself through the Bible. Proverbs reads: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight” (Prov 9:10). I don’t think most people understand what this means.
I once was told by a church leader that I wasn’t preaching right because I didn’t give lists of what folks should do to be better, which is what his previous pastor had done. I listened, then asked him if he recalled any of the items from the lists previous pastor had given him. He said, “No, I can’t” and walked away. I felt condemned and guilt. I spent the next week wondering if I was wrong. I think I felt that way because I’m conditioned to feel that way when I’m confronted by someone who has more grey hair than I do.
A lot of Christians “choose not to read the Bible because they already feel guilty and condemned, and and we just don’t need any more rules and regulations when we can’t even keep the ones we know.
The Bible does have rules and commandments. But if you read the Bible closely I think you’ll be surprised to discover that God didn’t make the rules to save us, to make us better, or even to grant us the permission to be self-righteous.
God gave us the rules and regulations of the Bible so we would know our need, understand our helplessness, and accept our inability to live up to them. Then—and this is why we were created—we would run to the only helper, forgiver, and redeemer around—God” (Steve Brown, What Was I Thinking?, 73).
Friends, this is wisdom. This what the fear of the Lord is all about. This is what applying the the Word of God is all about. When you see God and yourself rightly—application of the Bible—your mind changes, and how you walk in this world naturally changes.
To Walk Seek the Will of God
Our text also says, “Do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Eph 5:17).
I come meet a lot of people who are really interested in what the will of God for them is. They want to know which way to go; they’re interested in God’s specific plan for them. They’re afraid they might make a wrong turn somewhere and miss his will.
If you understand God’s general will for his people, you won’t miss his specific will for you. You don’t need to read tea leaves, a horoscope, or try to read between the line of some odd meme that you saw on Facebook. If you stick with God’s general will, it will lead you into his specific will for you.
God’s will is the navigation chart that tells us where we’re going. If you’re at sea, far from land, you would want to know the answer to one crucial question: “What course are you steering?” Steering the right course is going to take you to where you need to be. The captain determines the course, and if he says, “Steer at 280,” you aren’t free to steer at 180. When the wind and the currents pull you off course, you’ve got to steer back to 280, for only 280 is the heading that will lead you to where you need to be.
So what’s God’s general will? His general will is what the context of Ephesians is about; it’s not about going to this or that school, taking this or that job. It’s about God’s ultimate purpose, which Paul told us about back in the 3rd chapter: The “eternal purpose that [God] has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord” is for us to “comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that [we] may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph 3:11, 18–19).
In other words, God’s general will for all is that we would know the gospel, delight in the gospel, and rest in the gospel. And as we do just this God himself is glorified in us. One pastor put it this way: “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him” (John Piper).
The gospel only becomes interesting, delightful and restful when you understand your need for the gospel. All of the darkness that Paul was talking about in the passage … when in a moment of self-reflection you’re able to say, “Yeah, that’s in me too. I need Jesus’s forgiveness.” Then the gospel becomes life to you.
Now, what I just said might not immediately make you feel free and excited. But you’ve got to look at in light of the truth that there are no “super-Christians.”
A friend of mine use to pastor a church in Boston and sometimes they would have a testimony time. Once during that testimony time a man got up and praised God for bringing him into a position of conquering sin. God has removed so much sin from his life, he said, that his eyes welled up with tears whenever he talked about it.
My friend, however, told me the truth. He said that that man was the most critical mean-spirited Christian he had ever known. He had destroyed his son and was very close to doing the same with his daughter. He was narrow, negative, and nauseating. My friend almost stood up and said, “You hypocrite! Why don’t you tell them the truth? I’m not even sure you’re saved.”
There was another man in that same congregation who had been a Christian for only two years. He visited my friend’s office the next day and said, “I’m not coming to church anymore. I just can’t be the kind of Christian I ought to be. … I listened to Sam last night, and decided that I’ll never be as good as him.” My friend said, “I hope you never are.” (Steve Brown, Born Free, 129.)
The point is: Seeing your need for Jesus is God’s will. Being a super-Christian who is proud of your purity and success, someone who doesn’t have the slightest clue how much you need Jesus, isn’t God’s will for you.
When you know your need for Jesus you’ll find yourself in a relationship with God. It is NEED that brings you to God. Need softens the heart, and a soft heart shows up in every greater ways, revealing the One who you’re in a relationship with. That man who was so proud of defeating his own sin was only in a relationship with himself.
To Walk Be Filled with the Spirit of God
Paul gives one another thing to steer us in the right direction. He says, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit” (Eph 5:18). The prohibition here isn’t against wine, but against wasting one’s self through misuse of wine. And we know that anything done to excess—drinking, eating, sleeping, shopping, working—will ruin a person.
But I am interest in why all of a sudden Paul interject a word about drunkenness here. I think there are two reasons: First, the old way of life from which the Ephesians have come out from was very sensual. Ephesus was were the temple of Diana, the goddess of fertility, was located. And orgies and drunkenness, being worked up into ecstatic state, all of that was part of the worship of this false god. Paul draws a line between the old and new way of life.
Second, by bringing up wine and drunkenness Paul shows a contrast between two states that might look similar from the outside because there is happiness and joviality.
Wine can put you in another state. But being under the influence of God’s Spirit can put you in another state too.
So how do you get filled with the Holy Spirit? Well, to get filled with wine, you give yourself over to it. To get filled with the Spirit you yield yourself to the Spirit.
How do you know if you are filled with the Spirit?
You know when you get pricked in your conscious with regard to something. In a moment of selfishness or self-centeredness, a moment of narcissism or defensiveness, when you lose your peace with God, done something or even thought something that weighs on your conscience, something that causes the feeling of guilt or shame to invade your soul, that’s the Spirit of God blowing the whistle.
Now, “Everything that disturbs the peace of God in our hearts is sin, no matter how small it is, and no matter how little like sin it may at first appear to be” (Roy Hession). And we never lose our peace with God over someone else’s sin, only over our own.
When you lose your peace with God you are more susceptible to sin, unless you own it and confess it, and let Jesus wash it clean with his blood.
When the Holy Spirit is blowing the whistle, calling you to repentance and to the cross where you can receive afresh Jesus’ forgiveness, you’ll know a “visceral experience” within your heart that his cross applies to you in this matter. That’s the moment when you’ll experience the joy of the Spirit flood your soul. The Spirit of God—not the spirit of anger and defensiveness and self-service—will fill your heart.
There’s a story of a Christian pastor who was talking at a conference and in “one session a lady missionary gave a very honest testimony of how the Lord had dealt with her on the mission field over various things which had come to mar her work and witness. [The pastor’s] wife was to speak at the next session, and alluding to what …had just [been] heard, began by saying, “Praise the Lord for hearing a missionary confess herself a failure!” Immediately the missionary concerned became very disturbed in heart. She said to herself, “Is that the impression I gave, that I am a failure.” And she lost her peace for two days and did not regain it until at least she confessed that that was what it did mean—she was a failure. It was an important turning point for her, for it gave Jesus a new opportunity with her” (Roy Hession, Not I, But Christ, 25).
When we walk in this world in a way in which we’re continually confessing our sin and being cleansed by Jesus, we will find ourselves in a different state of mind and heart. Jesus, who is the light of the world, begin to shine his light through us.
I pray you’ll remember this, this week and beyond. For it will, honestly, change your life. Amen.