Scripture: Ephesians 5:8-17; 1 Samuel 16:1-13; Psalm 23 (along with John 9:1-42)
Theme: Light and Darkness - "CHILDREN OF LIGHT"
The Apostle Paul wants to share with us the Good News that we are "Children of Light". He reminds us of the majesty of our Spiritual Conversion and Challenges us to be God's Children of Light.
Grace and peace from God our Father and from His Son Jesus Christ who came to take away the sin of the world and give us New Life in His Holy Spirit.
A couple of weeks ago a majority of us living in the United States once again began our annual dance with Daylight Saving Time. Daylight Saving Time is that time of the year in the Spring that we set our clocks ahead one hour with the idea that we will be able to enjoy more sunlight/daylight in our evenings. Of course, we all know that merely changing the clock does not suddenly create another hour or two of sunshine. The number of hours each day that we experience sun light is determined by how our earth is rotating around the sun.
The main purpose (according to the Government) of Daylight Saving Time is for us to be able to make better use of our day light hours. The thought is that if we move one of our daylight hours from the morning to the evening it will give us an additional hour to do our work or enjoy a longer time of pleasure after our work hours. The idea of daylight saving was the brain child of Benjamin Franklin in an essay written back in 1784 entitled, "An Economical Project." Dr. Franklin saw Daylight Saving Time as an excellent way to save energy and enable the country to better use its day light hours for industrial and economic gain.
However, not everyone worldwide agrees with Dr. Franklin. Around seventy countries worldwide choose not to enjoy Daylight Saving Time. Those include countries like Japan, India and China. Each one of them believe that its best to merely leave things alone. And in our country the states of Arizona and Hawaii along with some parts of the state of Indiana have also chosen not to join the dance. When you begin to see who and who doesn't go along with Daylight Saving Time it can get very confusing. No wonder people who travel a great deal have some issues with being on time or on schedule. It's always best to do a double check on who is doing what and what the local time is before you either arrive to early or to late.
As we look at each of our scripture passages this morning we see that they too deal with the subject of light. Actually, they deal with the subjects of both light and darkness. Each of them challenges us to be a person of light. That is to say, they challenge us to be a "child of the light" who is living a life of being obedient to the LORD and listening to His guidance. Each of our passages reminds us that there are great dangers to living in the dark. Dangers that include at the very least missing out on some of the blessings of the LORD to missing out on the opportunity for peace with God and everlasting life.
For example, in 1 Samuel 16:1-13 we are invited to walk alongside the Prophet Samuel as the LORD leads him step by step out of a period of darkness into a time of great light and revelation. The LORD was calling Samuel to anoint a new king for His chosen people - Israel. This was necessary because the LORD had rejected King Saul because he had persistently decided to walk the path of spiritual darkness. Saul had chosen to use the Apostle Paul's words to take part "in the unfruitful works of darkness" (Ephesians 5:11 ESV) and because of that life choice King Saul was no longer fit to lead God's people. This news had caused the prophet Samuel great anguish and had actually lead him to a time of spiritual sluggishness. I believe we are to understand that Samuel, himself was in danger of missing out on God's leading and beginning his own walk towards darkness. In verse one God calls Samuel to come out of a period of despair and darkness and rejoin Him in the light.
"The LORD said to Samuel, 'How long will you grieve over Saul, since I have rejected him from being king over Israel.'" (verse 1a ESV).
In the following verses we watch as the prophet regains his spiritual footing and begins his walk back into the light. Initially, he stumbles and a bit and gets confused. He tries to get a little ahead of God in picking Saul's replacement. It takes Samuel a little while to understand that it's best to allow God to tell him who to anoint rather than thinking that he knows who to anoint. "The LORD sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7 ESV) Much to Samuel and to everyone else's surprise the LORD had chosen the young shepherd boy David to be the next king. Samuel would have missed this miracle in his life if he had not decided to walk in the light of the LORD's will and revelation.
We go on to look at Psalm 23 where David reveals to us what the life of a person who walks with God or walks in the light looks like in the here and now. Psalm 23 expresses for us what life looks life looks like for a person whose deepest trust is in the LORD. David uses the image of a sheep sharing words with another sheep about the beauty of being able to trust their shepherd for care, guidance, protection and love. As we read these words we are able to hear Paul's words, "walk as children of light" (Ephesians 5:8 ESV) resonate in our hearts, minds and soul.
There is good reason why this Psalm is loved so much today. Just for a moment, see yourself as one of God's sheep and then walk through the words of this psalm. By doing so you will receive great comfort, encouragement and strength. It's words speak of a loving God who cares deeply about us and joins us in midst of our struggles and trials. It's words speak of a loving God who will lead us through times of darkness into times of great light and revelation. It's words speak to us of a loving God who will lead us to times of stillness and safety so we can rest and nourish our souls and enjoy the peace and comfort that only the LORD can bring to us. It would be good for us today to take some time and simply focus on the ideas of the LORD as loving and kind shepherd, the ideas of still waters, righteous paths, the rod and staff along with the oil, cup and goodness and mercy. Each of these images or ideas speak of how we can live in the light of the LORD instead of living a life of darkness.
This morning, what does it all mean to live in the light and not in the darkness? Let's take a few moments and focus our attention on the words that the Apostle Paul shared with the congregation of Ephesus.
I. Paul begins by speaking of the Light of Conversion/Salvation - v. 8
Paul begins by reminding his listeners that they were once living in darkness. That is to say at one time they were living a life very far away from the what the LORD had intended for them to live. They were living a life like that of King Saul who had chosen to live in darkness. A life that was continually taking one away from the light of God into the darkness of sin and spiritual death.
Throughout his letter to the Ephesians, Paul spends a great deal of time telling us what a life of darkness involves. Basically, it involves a person that has been made in the image of God deciding to live the life of a sinful subhuman. For that is what the darkness of sin does in our lives. It warps our hearts, our minds and our emotions to the point where we begin to act more like the beasts of the field than a person made into the image of the LORD. Sin diminishes us, degrades us and disintegrates us. We are left living as sub humans.
We see this all around us today. Sin left to its own devices will a person to abuse others ( and themselves), to manipulate them for their own pleasure and to exploit the weak and the innocent. The darkness of sin will people to throw away common decency and expose themselves in a way that are explicit and shameful. The darkness of sin will lead people to speak in words that belong more in the sewer and gutter than in the mouth of people whom God created to be a little less than the holy angels.
Sin and its ensuring darkness will lead people to live a life in which they embrace all the things that cannot exist in the Kingdom of God. Paul tells us that the darkness of sin will cause a person to embrace things like sexual immorality, impurity, covetousness, greed, bitterness and malice. The Bible is clear that none of those things can share space with the LORD GOD ALMIGHTY. None of those things will escape the wrath of the LORD and if they become a part of our lives then neither will we escape the darkness of sin nor the judgment of the LORD GOD ALMIGHTY.
The Good News this morning is that we do not have to live such a life nor do we have to stay on the path of sin, darkness or destruction. Paul shares with us in verse eight that such a life was the life we once lived. It is not the life that we have to live as humans on this earth. Instead, Paul shares with us the Good News of conversion, of experiencing New Life from Above and of being rescued and redeem through the blood of Jesus Christ.
The Apostle wanted the congregation in Ephesus and would want us this morning to focus on the Good News of Jesus Christ. The Good News that in Christ we can be rescued, redeemed and renewed in the image of Jesus Christ. The Good News that in Christ we can live the life that God has always wanted us to live as genuine human beings. That in Christ we can go from living a life full of darkness to being children of the LIGHT.
There is even more good news here in this passage. In verse eight Paul gives us this interesting phrase - "you are light in the LORD" (ESV). I believe that the Apostle wants us to understand that in Christ we are no longer condemned to being spiritual blind nor are we condemned of having to live a life of spiritual darkness. No longer do we have to be condemned to a life of decay, destruction and spiritual death. Instead, we can live differently. In Christ, the Apostle tells us "WE ARE LIGHT" - we are able to enjoy what it means to be filled with God's Spirit. We are able to be people of truth and knowledge. We are able to be people of openness and reason.
The Apostle wants us to understand that it isn't just that we can leave a life of darkness. It is much more than that. It isn't that we can live a life freed from the enslavement of sin. It is much more than that. It is that we can be so radically changed that we are no longer in darkness but we are in God's light and we are God's light. We are able to shine not because we reflect Christ but because we have the light of Christ in us and transforming us to be light itself.
Most of us have noticed that during the time of a woman's pregnancy that there comes a time when most women have a certain glow. It's more than mental, it is biological. There is a hormonal change that occurs in a woman that causes her face to literally glow. Some people refer to this time as a divine time of blessing. When the joy of carrying a new life inside one causes a glow to be seen on the outside.
In a very similar way in Christ we are to glow with the light of the Holy Spirit. That light is more than being a reflection. The idea is not that of say being a "Moon Christian". As you know the moon has no inner light of its own. What we see as moon light is merely sun light being reflected off the surface of the moon. Without the light from the sun we would not even see the moon.
However, the light of the sun is different. The sun is a star that is empowered with light. It's basic chemical composition creates light and emanates light. It is that light that enables us here on earth to enjoy life. Without the sun there would be no life on our planet. Like the moon we would only be a piece of dead rock floating around our galaxy.
In His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:14) Jesus told his followers that they were the light of the world. Jesus tells them that the LORD wants them to be much more than mere reflections of His grace and glory, Instead, it is God's will that His grace and glory be so placed in them/us that they/we would shine because His light is now their/our light. And therefore from that light others will be drawn to the LORD.
All it takes this morning, is for us to allow the LORD to transform us from people of darkness into people of light. All it takes is for us to ask the LORD to rescue us, redeem us and renew us into His own image. All it takes is for us to lay down our guilt, our shame and our sins and experience the transformation of being born again from above through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. All it takes is for us to acknowledge our sins, confess our sins and receive God's mercy, grace and love through faith alone.
By doing so we will experience the joy of salvation. By doing so we will experience a radical and life transforming conversion. We will go from being children of darkness to children of light. We will experience a whole new life - that of being one of God's Children of Light.
II. Paul challenges us to be Children of Light
Paul shares with us what all of this is means to our everyday practical lives. As Children of God's Light we are called to experience a new life, a life that is superior to our former life. Whereas we saw before that the darkness of sin will lead a person to live out a subhuman experience we see here that the life of living in God's Light will lead us to the exact opposite - to live a supernatural life. Living in Christ will lead us to live a life in which we experience being more than just flesh and blood. Living in Christ will lead us to living a life in which we can be infilled with God's Holy Spirit and be one with the LORD heart, mind and soul. In Christ, we can live a life in which we are at peace with God and are able to be restored into His Holy Image.
When the Prophet Samuel was a child it was by grace that he heard the voice of the LORD. The LORD called him to a particular life and mission. By faith, Samuel accepted that life call. Accepting that call meant that throughout the rest of his life he would do his best to live out a life of faith in the LORD. He would do his best to live out a life in which He would follow God's will and live as one of God's Holy People. For Samuel that meant he would live out his life as God's Prophet/Priest. He would live out a life of obedience to God's will and direction. Samuel would be God's voice to mankind. Samuel would be one of the ways that God's People would receive and understand both the Torah and His Holy Commandments.
In John chapter nine the now restored man is once again confronted by Jesus. Jesus asked him to have faith that He (Jesus) is in fact the Son of God. The man is asked to believe that Jesus is much more than a mere prophet or healer. He is asked to place his spiritual trust in Jesus as Savior and LORD. This was no small matter. Jesus was revealing to this man that He was in fact the Messiah, the Chosen One of God. The man response is recorded in John 38 where he says these words:
"Lord, I believe," and then the man worshipped Jesus."
Wow! What important words of grace and faith. Words that speak to us not only of a conversion but of a life that was going to live out that conversion. This man not only received his physical sight but his spiritual sight as well. Now, he was promising the LORD that he was going to live out a life radically different than the one that he had lived before. No longer would he be a blind man either physically or spiritually. Instead, he would live out his faith in Jesus and live a life of discipleship, praise and worship.
It is that same life that Paul seeks for all of us that read his words to experience. Conversion is being born from above. All of that takes but an instant. By grace through faith alone our lives can be radically born from above through the power and presence of God's Holy Spirit. But then what happens next? Sure we are born again, but born again to do what and be what? Is that the end of it all? To be born again? To then wait around until the LORD takes us home? Is that all that we have to do is to just exist until our everlasting life ticket is stamped for good?
On the contrary, Paul wants us to begin to enjoy being God's Children of Light living out God's Kingdom here on this earth. Paul wants us to understand that God has much more for us to enjoy and experience. Paul wants us to know that our LORD wants us to enjoy an abundant Spirit-filled life that Jesus made possible through His death, resurrection and ascension. God wants us to enjoy the fruits of a life of light brings to us and to our world.
When Adam and Eve where placed on our planet they were to enjoy all the riches of our earth. They were to enjoy all the pleasures that a holy life with the LORD provided for them. Part of those pleasures were to be in a right relationship with God, with themselves, with one another and with the world that God had created. It was a life filled with wonder, with creation and with agape love. It was a life in which life was shared between man and all the things around him. It was a life of enjoying both the natural and the supernatural. There was a very thin layer between heaven and earth.
The Bible tells us that Adam and Eve rebelled against the will of God and fell spiritually, physically, emotionally and mentally. Their world and as a result our world drastically changed. Sin not only entered our world it was embraced and therefore allowed to reign over the earth. Under God's reign the world was a paradise. Under sin's reign the world quickly turned into a hell on earth. The Bible tells us that life became so evil after only a few generations that the LORD had no other choice but to cleanse the planet and to do a reboot with Noah, his family and a selection of creatures on the Ark.
After the Flood, Noah and his family were to create a new earth. It would be a new earth that would be filled with God's wonder and joy. It would be a new earth in which man would surrender his control to the LORD and allow the LORD to reign instead of sin. However, once again we see sin being embraced by man. Once again the LORD has to step in and confuse the languages of humans so that mankind would not self-destruct.
Starting in Genesis chapter 12 we begin to read about the story of Abraham. The Lord had chosen Abraham and his promised family to be God's Lights for the World. Through Abraham's Children, the Lord would rescue mankind, would redeem them and provide for them a way to share the Good News with the rest of the World. Abraham's people were to become a nation of priests for all mankind. They were chosen by the LORD to be His Lights, His Priests and His Ambassadors to all the world.
However, instead they isolated themselves and twisted God's laws to the point where they were filled with more exclusions than mercy, grace and love. They walled themselves off from the world and believed that God had chosen them not to be the way of salvation for the world but the means in which God would condemn the world and destroy all those who would not join their "religious" cause. Like Adam and the people after Noah they had decided to allow sin to reign and they embraced sin so tightly that when God's Son came to our earth they were blinded to His light.
The Bible tells us that through Jesus, God's Only Son, God's Messiah the way of salvation has been made fully possible. The door of rescue, redemption and renewal is open to all men, women, boys and girls who will by grace through faith accept Jesus as Savior and LORD. This is the message of Paul. Now, it is possible for all mankind to enjoy a life of living as light - as people who have been forgiven and filled once more with God life giving and light giving spirit.
But again, like Adam, like Noah and like Abraham we all have a choice. We can choose to walk in the light and be the light or we can choose to return to a walk of darkness and ultimately exist in eternal darkness. We can choose to live a life as one who is wise or as one who is unwise. We can choose to live a life that we can enjoy the fruit of the light or to feed off the barrenness that comes from the darkness. It is our choice. It was the choice of those who read these words in Ephesus and it is our choice who read these words today.
However, the LORD has something wonderful for each and every one of us this morning through Jesus Christ. The LORD has planned a life that we can live that will be full of His Presence and Power. The LORD has planned for us a life in which we can enjoy all the fruit of the Holy Spirit. The LORD has planned a life for us that we can experience the joy of being at peace with God, with ourselves, with others and with all of creation.
This plan of the LORD is far greater than I can tell you this morning. It is something that you have to experience by grace through faith. It is something that as you read the Bible you will begin to imagine that what the Early Church lived we can live today. There is no limit to what an abundant life we can experience here on God's earth. There is no limit to how close we can be with the LORD and with one another. As the Bible says over and over again - "With God nothing is impossible."
All we have to do is to live up to being Children of Light. All we have to do is to keep our minds open, our hearts receptive and be ready to obey and hear God's voice. Like Samuel of old it will require us to listen closely to the words of the LORD. We even may be tempted to anoint a false king in our lives. Like Samuel we can be tempted to accept the wrong image of what it means to be a person anointed by the LORD. It took Samuel seven wrong tries before he finally allowed his eyes to be opened to the one whom God had chosen. But even though it took seven wrong tries Samuel never give up. He waited until the eighth son came and was blessed by His presence and the anointing presence of the Holy Spirit.
Like the blind man in John's story we need to understand this morning that we can live out our new life of being God's light. We must step forth and speak up for what Christ has done in our lives no matter what others say or their threats of persecution. We must put down the voices of those who want to deny Christ and the healing and wholeness He brings to our lives. We must acknowledge Him as Savior and LORD and worshiped Him now and forevermore.
We are to take up the life of those sheep we read about in Psalms 23. Sheep that begin to walk not in front of their shepherd but allow their Shepherd to lead them. Sheep that enjoy the times of stillness with their Shepherd as He leads them to places where they can rest and be renewed and restored. Sheep that follow a path that brings righteousness and a deeper communion with their Shepherd. Sheep that when they are faced with trials and tribulations do not resort to running away or hiding but stand behind the Shepherd as He warns off the attacks with His mighty rod and staff. Sheep who are able to grow in grace in the midst of being surrounded by all kinds of evil because they know that they are under God's protection. Sheep that allow the LORD to pour out the oil of His Holy Spirit to bring unity and healing in times of inner struggles and confusion. Sheep that never want to go anywhere but where the Shepherd goes and who enjoy life to its fullest with their Good and Loving Shepherd.
In the Early Church one of the names that was given to followers of Jesus was the title of "The Enlightened Ones." As enlightened ones those early disciples saw that part of their mission was:
a. To live a life of co-partnering life with the LORD through the infilling presence of the Holy Spirit. A life in which a person saw themselves to be a vessel of God's light. A vessel that possessed the very nature of the LORD.
b. Exposing the darkness for what it is - that sin/evil can only lead to a life of darkness, enslavement, disintegration and decay. Exposing darkness not for judgment sake but so that others can see the Light of Christ and be drawn to its life, it purity and right living.
c. Resist the temptation to live a life where the thought is that we must have a little darkness alongside our light. While that may be the philosophy of dualism and of Yin and Yang but it is not the theology of God's Word. We are people of Light not people of darkness.
When God's People were rescued from Egypt they were given a whole new life of freedom to live. A life in which they could be under the love, protection and care of the LORD GOD ALMIGHTY. Over and over again we read as they were tempted to return to Egypt and to place themselves once more under the rule of harsh taskmasters. Over and over again they were tempted to return to their former state of enslavement.
But they didn't return. The Bible tells us that even in their times of rebellion, idolatry and a host of other sinful acts they keep course. Even when it meant for 40 years they would go around in circles that circle never took them back to Egypt. Underneath all their hubris there was a greater desire to experience the LORD, His Holy Word and the Promise Land. They wanted to experience a life of milk and honey. They wanted to experience a life in which they would realize the promises given back to Abraham by the LORD.
One of the reasons I believe they were able to sustain and grow in their walk with the LORD was in how they set up their community. The tabernacle of the LORD was always placed in the midst of the community. The tribes and life in general revolved around the Tabernacle making the LORD the center of all activity. This was done not by fate or chance but by design. It was done through the leading of the Holy Spirit. With the LORD at the center it enabled life to ultimately be focused on Him. The LORD was the hub that kept all things together.
Later on when the Children of Israel took the Promise Land they forgot this key truth. They went away from placing God at the center of their land and at the center of their nation. Without God being at the center they began to lose focus and direction. Their faith, their families and their society fell apart at the seams. Ultimately they rebelled against the LORD and ended up in exile.
All of this reveals to us an essential truth. The best way for us to resist and defeat temptation is to make sure that our LORD is at the center of our lives. We can never go wrong when we allow God to take His throne in the middle of our hearts, our lives, our homes and in His Church.
d. Finally, we see that "The Enlighten Ones" merely became whom the LORD had made them - The Lord had told them that they were LIGHT and so they surrendered to that reality. They surrendered themselves over to their true identity of being Christ's Light Followers.
As we come to a close this morning, let's think for a moment of a candle. It contains all the things necessary to be a light for all those around. Many times it also contains an aroma that will be pleasant to all that are within a certain distance. It's whole reason to exist is to be a light to those around it.
And then one day you reach for it and you light it. It surrenders to the fire that you bring to it. It allows the transference of the fire and now it becomes a fire all to itself. It ever so slowly begins to melt and if it has a special aroma it begins to spread that wonderful aroma all around it. It doesn't worry about if it will have enough oil to do its job. It knows that it has been given enough oil to do its mission. It doesn't worry about hoarding up some oil or putting aside some aroma - it just dedicates itself to being the light that it was created to be.
We can learn a lot from the image of a simple candle. We too are invited to receive God's fire and become God's fire. We too have been given a lifetime of oil to shine forth for others to see Christ and glorify the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We too have been given the aroma of blessing, of favor and life that we are to share with others. We have been given the ability to dispel the darkness around us and be a positive agent for change. We have been given the power to defeat sin, death, Hell and the grave in our lives, in other's lives and in our world at large.
This morning, all of our passages have dealt with the subjects of light and darkness. We all start off in darkness but we do not have to remain. We all start off in sin but we do not have to remain in sin. Through Christ we can experience the New Birth - being born of the Spirit from above. In Christ we can be receive the infilling fire of the Holy Spirit. We can begin a life of being God's Fire here on earth. A fire that will bring glory and honor to the LORD and a fire that will enable us to experience the life that the LORD has for each and every one of us.
This morning as we close how is it with our soul? Do we know the love of Jesus in our hearts this morning? Have we confess our sins, by grace through faith received God's saving grace through Jesus Christ our Savior and LORD? Are we living as one of God's lights? Is our light burning brightly or is on low flame?
This morning as we close we do so with a time of silence, reflection and invitation. Our altars are open for any who would like to come and pray. Our altars are open for any who would like to come and ask for the forgiveness of their sins, who would like to ask for a renewed anointing of God's Holy Fire or any who have need of prayer or anointing. As we sing a closing song let us allow the Holy Spirit to lead us to a deeper life with our LORD.
Closing hymn/open altar