Summary: Using 2 video clips I begin by encouraging people to turn to Christ if they haven’t yet. Then I unpack this passage as to what it means to live as children of light, full of forgiveness, avoiding even a hint or a whiff of impurity.
(Note to the reader: I began this talk by showing a video called Ribbons, available from PremierTV2006: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c9K86vcHOLI. It shows how Jesus took upon himself the penalty for sin and all that binds us; see 1 Peter 2: 24-25.)
‘[Jesus the Messiah] himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed; for you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls’ (1 Peter 2:24-25).
You were like sheep going astray. That was then; but now you have returned to the shepherd and overseer of your souls. This is now.
‘For you were once darkness but now you are light in the Lord’ (Ephesians 5:8). That was then; but this is now. Or is it?
St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians was written to Christian believers. So, those who first heard his letter being read out in church gatherings knew that they had once been in darkness, but were now called to ‘live as children of light …and find out what pleases the Lord’; ‘for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth’ (5:8-10).
I’m really looking forward to our Church weekend away later this year, from 30 September to 2 October at High Leigh in Hertfordshire. I’d love you to book a place and forms are available on the notice board. Our guest speaker for that weekend, Phil Wason, was with us a few weeks ago. He spoke on Ephesians 2: 1-10 and called his talk ‘That was then. This is now’. It was a great talk and it’s still available for listening on our Church website.
That was then. This is now. That is true for Christian believers. Do you know it to be true for you?
When Bishop Henry, the Bishop of Embu, Kenya, was with us in November last year he said it is possible to be ‘lost’ in the Church. Is that true for any of us?
God created human beings to love him, and to love each other. God loved the world. He gave the 10 commandments so that we would know how to live in community, to love God, to love each other, and to respect and uphold boundaries of justice, marriage, truth, property, work, rest and worship; but humanity broke God’s commandments time after time – and which of us can say that we’ve not sinned by breaking God’s laws and guidelines for life (see 1 John 1:8).
Humanity was ruining itself, and continually spoiling its relationship with God. Trapped by our own pride and greed we were getting nowhere; but like any parent who sees their children in danger, God came to rescue us. That’s what the coming of Jesus is all about; a life and death rescue mission for humankind.
Jesus said, “For God so loved the world that he gave his Only Begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Jesus marks out a difference between spiritual death and spiritual life. In Ephesians chapter 5 St. Paul refers to a transfer from darkness to light.
Have you believed in Jesus, put your trust in him, and begun to grow in your relationship with him?
We need the sunshine! We need its light, heat and vitamin D; and we need to orbit the sun. It needs to be at the centre of our orbit. Without the sun’s light animals, green plants and humans would quickly die; and without the sun at the centre of earth’s orbit we would not survive. If the earth began to journey outwards, away from the sun, we would die. So it is with our human existence in relation to God. We need his light, warmth and vitality as revealed in Jesus, and we need him at the centre of our existence. Otherwise we die spiritually.
So, Paul writes to believers who know where they have come from – darkness; and know where they are now to live – in the light of Jesus; and in this section before us today he is helping and encouraging believers to know how to live in the light of Jesus.
Paul writes, ‘Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us’ (5:1-2). But how are we to imitate God? The answer lies in the last verse of chapter 4, because this is a good example of where manmade chapter divisions are not always helpful. ‘Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you’ (4:32). Specifically, that is how Paul is telling us to imitate God, just as Jesus teaches us to pray, ‘Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us’ (Matthew 6:12).