“The Dash Between the Dates”
August 18, 2019
“For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them.
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.
Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. This is why it is said:
“Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.
Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
One of the reasons I like the Pauline Epistles so much is because they are so practical and clear and relevant. He clearly reveals God’s will for our lives. There is not much to debate or be confused about. That is why some people I know don’t like them. He calls sin – sin. Not much they can use to justify their sinful actions. If you are seeking God’s will – you can clearly find it, as well.
The title of this little talk is “The Dash between the Dates”. I got it from my older brother, Fred. Years ago we were talking about life and death and he mentioned he had preached a sermon one time on the dash between the dates on your headstone. He was mulling over the fact that a person’s whole life if contained in that dash. He is born and he dies and everything he did while living is contained in that dash. That seemed profound to me. How amazing! But it is true. We live our entire lives and may do many great things, or in some cases, not so great, and it is all contained within that one little dash.
It was an interesting thought and I have no idea how his sermon turned out, or even what it was about, but as I was thinking about this scripture that thought came to mind. All the instruction of this chapter is contained within the dash. Let’s see what we can learn.
One of the ways the writers of old wrote is kind of opposite of the way we do it. The conclusion comes first. This is the case here. The conclusion comes first. Listen.
“For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and - of God.”
The conclusion is that at the end of life if you are immoral, impure or greedy you will not inherit the kingdom of Christ – or, in other words – go to heaven. I suppose you can argue about what things are immoral or impure or what constitute greediness. We get pretty good at rationalizing our actions and making excuses. You can find any number of teachers and preachers who will tell you (or deceive you) that you can sin and get away with it. They will tell you God is love and merciful and kind and forgiving (and of course He is) but they leave out the negative side of God’s nature. Paul doesn’t. He says,
“Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient.”
That is about as clear as it gets and it gives you a clear mark – a clear standard. Disobedience. It doesn’t say anything about Levitical laws or rules or statutes. It doesn’t say anything about good works or self-justification or any of that stuff we sometimes get caught up it. The simple test is obedience.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”
Do you see that none of the good works did any good at getting that
person in heaven – why? Because they were still doing evil. The Bible says,
“when a righteous person turns from their righteousness and does evil, and I put a stumbling block before them, they will die. Since you did not warn them, they will die for their sin. The righteous things that person did will not be remembered…” Ezekiel 3:20
“But if a righteous person turns from their righteousness and commits sin and does the same detestable things the wicked person does, will they live? None of the righteous things that person has done will be remembered. Because of the unfaithfulness they are guilty of and because of the sins they have committed, they will die.” Ezekiel 18:24
Do not be deceived. The soul that sins will die. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. God’s wrath comes on the disobedient. Don’t be partners with them.
Secondly, Paul reminds us that we have been changed. We have been transformed. He uses the analogy of light. He says,
“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light…”
Sometimes the Bible uses other words to describe this amazing thing that happened to us like, “Born Again” and “New Creation” and “Child of the Light”.
“Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” John 2:3
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” 2 Corinthians 5:17
“…For we are the temple of the living God.” 2 Corinthians 6:16
It is important to realize that the old us has gone and we are changed into a new spiritual creature. We were of the darkness – but no more! We are children of the light and as children of the light – we are to LIVE as children of Light.
The Third thing Paul points out to us is that, as Children of the Light, we are to have nothing to do with the darkness. You can’t live in both worlds. Jesus said you will hate one and love the other. Paul says, “Therefore do not be partners with them.” To the Corinth Church he says,
“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols?” 2 Corinthians 6:14-16
Some early believers took this to the extreme and became hermits and isolated themselves from the world. God doesn’t want that – otherwise we wouldn’t be able to influence and affect the world for good. Jesus prayed,
“I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.”
We need to understand that we are not of this world. We are just passing through. We were not created for this world. We were created for something more – something better – something greater. Paul encourages us to live like it.
How do we do that? Well, he gives us some direction. He says,
“Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth).”
The fruit of the Light consists of what is good, right and true. Sounds a little like the fruit of the Spirit, doesn’t it? If that is not enough he goes on to say, “and find out what pleases the Lord.”
That needs to be our heart, doesn’t it? So many try to look for loopholes in the Bible to see what they can get away with. They create theologies that justifies their sin and their rebellion. That is the wrong attitude for the Child of the Light to have. Jesus said,
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness…” Matthew 6:33
He asked Peter when Peter had fallen, “Do you love me?” That is the question that will be asked of us. It’s the only important one. Denomination and theology and doctrine will be irrelevant in the face of that one question. “Do you love Me?” If you do - you will seek to find out how to please the Lord. Paul gives some direction in how to do that. He says,
“Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret.”
We are living in a day and age where a lot of shameful things are coming to light. Evil is being thrust upon us. Things like homosexuality and pornography. Those perversions have become acceptable to many – even people claiming to be Christians. But shameful things like sex trafficking and deviant sexual practices and even sexual exploitation of children are coming to light. Paul says “have nothing to do with them” and even further instruction is “expose them.” We have a moral obligation to stand against evil. When you have an opportunity to do so by exposing the darkness or voting against it – you need to do so. Paul says “make the most of every opportunity”.
“Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Paul, again, says to understand what the Lord’s will is. In fact, notice he says, “Do not be foolish”. The Bible defines what a fool is.” In Psalm 14:1 it says, “The fool says in his heart there is no God.” So being foolish is not knowing what the Lord’s will is. The instruction is, “Find out what the Lord’s will is.” Some might think “I don’t know what the Lord’s will is” so Paul tells us. Don’t get drunk on wine. Why? It leads to debauchery. That is “excessive indulgence in sensual pleasures”. One definition said, “Debauchery is a noun meaning crazy partying and wild nights, usually accompanied by a lot of alcohol.”
I learned a long time ago that alcohol was not my friend. It lowers your willpower and makes you susceptible to wrong suggestions. I just avoid it and so I don’t have a problem with it. Don’t get drunk with wine – instead of being filled with ‘spirits’ be filled with THE Spirit.
Notice this is a command; it is instruction. That means it is a choice on our part. We need to choose to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Jesus said,
“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11:11-13
Do you see that we need to ask for the Holy Spirit? That usually happens right after we begin to seek for God’s will for our lives. I want to encourage you to ask to be filled with the Holy Spirit if you have never done so. God may reveal to you to drop some habits or ways of talking or doing things before you can be filled. Paul, talking to an unbelieving crowd about the resurrection, says,
“We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” Acts 5:32
Almost as an afterthought he reveals that the Holy Spirit is only given to those who obey Him.” I think the Holy Spirit is involved in our life convicting us of sin and so on from kind of an eternal relationship in our soul. But to be filled, to be led, to be empowered by the Holy Spirit, you need to be walking in obedience.
Finally, we are shown the habits of a Spirit-filled Christian.
“be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
A Spirit-filled Christian is a thankful, joyful person. Again – notice it is a choice. We need to choose to speak to one another with scriptures and hymns and spiritual songs. It’s a choice. It’s a choice to make music in your heart. It is choice to count your blessings instead of your problems.
This week you have your assignment. Go out and live as Children of the Light; find out what pleases the Lord. Choose to let the Holy Spirit have His way in your life. Sing a happy song. If you are critical of your singing – whistle a tune. You are in more control of your life than you realize.