Ephesians: Transformed

Good morning and welcome.  My name is Phil Human and I’m one of the pastors here at Journey and it’s a joy to be able to share with you the good news that Jesus brought to us 2000 years ago.  And the good news is that there is an alternative kingdom to the kingdom of darkness that we were born into by default.

There is a Kingdom of light – a kingdom where God rules and reigns and Jesus came to throw open the gates to that Kingdom of light for anyone who comes to think highly enough of Jesus enough to trust him with their lives.

This morning we are going to dive into a passage in Paul’s letter that was written to the church that met in Ephesus – and this passage is all about the change that we go through when we place our faith in Jesus.

And so we will come across yet another section from Paul who is going to compare and contrast two kinds of lives.  The Bible has many ways of describing the Before I followed Jesus with the after I followed Jesus.

It uses words like, dead, alive.  Asleep, awake.  Blind, now I see.  Fruitless, Fruitful.  Old clothes New Clothes.  Bad fruit Good Fruit.  Born, Born again.

Clearly, the Bible insists that there will be a difference if we rethink the way we think about God.  If He really has left heaven and died for us out of intense love for us in order to open wide the gate out of the darkness and into the light.  Now there is a different kingdom than the kingdom of darkness we were born into by default.  It comes through faith in Jesus.  Thinking highly enough of him to trust him with your life.  That’s faith.

Once we make that call – once we enter into Jesus’ kingdom we will begin to be re-formed and re-shaped into a different kind of human being.

In this passage Paul is going to use one of his favorite metaphors – darkness/Light.  And he is going to get descriptive about exactly how dark the darkness really is by describing at least three characteristics – there are more than three – of a person who is living in darkness.

And then he is going to describe a picture of characteristics of a person who is living in the light.  Who, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, will display characteristics of a person at home in Jesus’ Kingdom.

So let’s jump into Ephesians 5:1-20 NIV  And I’ going to read the entire 20 verses and then come back because Paul kind of jumps back and forth between darkness and light and so we’ll read the section and then come back and sort them a bit.

Ephesians 5:1-20

Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. 2 Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.

3 Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people. 4 Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes—these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God. 5 You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God. For a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world.

6 Don’t be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins, for the anger of God will fall on all who disobey him. 7 Don’t participate in the things these people do. 8 For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! 9 For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true.

10 Carefully determine what pleases the Lord. 11 Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them. 12 It is shameful even to talk about the things that ungodly people do in secret. 13 But their evil intentions will be exposed when the light shines on them, 14 for the light makes everything visible. This is why it is said,

“Awake, O sleeper,

    rise up from the dead,

    and Christ will give you light.”

15 So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. 16 Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. 17 Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. 18 Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, 19 singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. 20 And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

First – how did that passage of scripture feel to you?  Did it feel a little heavy handed?  Like Paul was really going after sin?  I have to admit the first time I read it I felt a little bit like asking Paul where’s the grace here?  A Little bit like he’s pounding the pulpit and getting in people’s faces.  So what gives?

Well Paul is trying to communicate to us exactly how dark the darkness really is and even more so – he is trying to communicate to us an important theological truth – see before we came to Jesus not only were we sitting in darkness, we were part of it.  We were creating it.

It wasn’t just that we were good people who didn’t know any better we didn’t even know we were in the darkness until Jesus showed us a better way.  No – listen to verse 8.  And let me use a translation that shows I think slightly more clearly the point.

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.

Before Jesus, we were darkness engines.  We didn’t just sin,  We were sin.  We added to the darkness – Darkness naturally and easily flowed from us because we were engines of darkness spewing darkness everywhere we went.

I was driving through Gretna a few weeks ago and came across this old diesel Pickup truck with a couple of giant exhaust pipes – and I’m I the lane next to this thing looking into the barrel of a cannon – and when the light turned green this person gunned the engine and thick black disgusting clouds of black fumes spewed out of the exhaust and into my face and car and life and just nasty and gross and rude and – That was us before we came to Christ.

We spewed darkness out of us, thick plumes of darkness that choked out this world.

But Jesus rescued us – and overhauled our engine.  And now – through the power of the holy spirit, can be the kind of people who spew goodness and grace and light and love.

No wonder Paul says – we should now abhor the filth that once poured from our lives.  We should now see clearly enough the evil that we were producing to be the kind of people who run from it – we renounce it as evil and out of character with our new lives in Christ.

  1. People of light renounce the deeds of darkness.

Specifically – Sexual immorality.

3 Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people.

It’s very interesting to read this. It’s like Paul had a clear picture of life in America in the 21st century.

I once heard a preacher say that in America there are only two religions.  Christianity and sex.  And apparently it wasn’t that different two thousand years ago.

But here’s the deal – for two thousand years now people who call themselves Christians have championed faithful marital relationships, and sexual purity before marriage.

Now I can’t take too long on this – there’s much more to talk about but I will say that of all the things we will mention here that belong in the darkness – much energy has been devoted by people who want to live in the light to define exactly what is sexual immorality.  Can you define this please.  Because I’d like to know exactly where the line is because my girlfriend and I would like to get to the line as quickly as possible but we’d like to honor God by not crossing the line.

So what is the line?  Is it first base, second base, third base?  Clearly fourth base is out – but am I allowed to go to strip clubs?  I’m just looking, – can I go to this website or that?  Is it okay if we consider each other to be married in the eyes of the Lord.

See – this is what religion has done to us.  We look for workarounds and loopholes and technicalities and whatever it takes to be able to say we obeyed the rules, God!  They are your rules – you should have written them out more clearly…

And Paul simply says – to honor God with your bodies.  to offer your bodies as living sacrifices to God.   To honor your future spouse or your present spouse by staying clear of sexual immorality.  A person of light knows the darkness that spews into the world from sexual immorality.

The Bible is super clear – uncomfortably clear for many who don’t want God to ask them to offer up their sexual desire – but the bible is super clear – that Sex was created by God to be enjoyed within the confines of a marriage between a husband and a wife.

When we enter the kingdom God asks us to relinquish everything.  Including our sexual desires.  We surrender them to Him.

Now – does that mean that you’re out if you sin in this area?  Well it means that if we are going to put up a stop sign in front of God – if we are going to stiff arm him and say – God this area you will not have say in my life – then that attitude should signal to us a real problem –

If we are going to say to God – well God we will have to agree to disagree and what you consider darkness I will consider light and I’m bringing this with me – then we don’t understand what it means to live int eh Kingdom of light.  We will never be at home in the Kingdom of Heaven because it requires us to surrender everything.

Now if we – on the other hand – say Lord I agree I’m not living as you wish and I want you to renovate me – I want to change – I’m willing to fight the good fight to expunge these things that are still lingering – I am struggling with certain sins that easily entangle and I’m giving you permission to renovate my life – that’s an attitude at home in the Kingdom.

And this is what Paul wants.  He says… 10 Carefully determine what pleases the Lord.   15 So be careful how you live.  17 Don’t act thoughtlessly.

These words are requests from Paul that we be willing to inspect our hearts and attitudes.  That we intentionally offer to God our bodies as living sacrifices.  And that we see darkness for what it is.

Because People of light renounce the deeds of darkness.

And that includes sexual immorality.

But wait, there’s more to the list of deeds of darkness to be renounced.  And it’s interesting to me that for all of the energy we put into thinking about God and sexuality – we now come to a topic that we hardly ever think about – that is hardly ever preached about – an area that is so insidious and sneaky that not a single person in this room thinks they might have a problem with it.  And if I were to suggest you did, you would be insulted.

People of light renounce greed.

3 Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people.

Now if sexual immorality targeted how our bodies felt about living in the light, greed reflects how our mind feels about this new reality called the Kingdom of heaven.

See the soul has parts, you know.  Mind, will and Body (or the bible calls it the flesh) The Mind, which consists of the Thoughts and feelings – the Will and the Body.

And certain parts of the soul will struggle more than other parts with life in the Kingdom.  For some people, our bodies will act like cavemen who demand to have their way.

But Greed targets the mind.  How we think.  Greed says, God cannot be trusted to provide for me.  Greed says God has not given me enough to give any away.  Greed says, The Lord may be my shepherd but I lack plenty and so, gather gather gather.

For some the greatest threat they feel is that God will ask them to surrender their sexuality.  For others, the greatest threat to the Kingdom is the idea that God will target their finances.

But how much damage has occurred in the world because of greed?  How many lives might be lost in Haiti because of greed?  In America?

Renounce greed!  Ask God to help you become more generous.  Make the most of your opportunity to be a blessing to others.

Thirdly – people of the light renounce Coarse and obscene talk. 

4 Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes—these are not for you.

Why?  Well, the Bible says that there is a pipeline from our heart to our tongue.  And so will we use our words to bless people or curse them.  Will we build up or tear down.  And the bible throws gossip and slander into the pool here by the way.  You can be obscene without ever uttering a curse word by spreading gossip and slandering people.

The book of James has a great section in chapter 1 and 3 devoted to exposing the evil that can naturally and easily slide off the tip of the tongue that has not been surrendered to God.

Do we see how the darkness has spewed from every part of our soul?  Mind, body and will?  Darkness and evil emanated from us – but now through faith we’ve been introduced to the ONE who can utterly overhaul us.

What do we do if we see some of these things in our life?  We pray and talk with our heavenly father.  We say – I’m in trouble- I better call my dad.  Father – I’m seeing things in me that aren’t compatible with the kind of life you’ve got in mind for me.

I surrender- and now – this is an important key – Paul is going to lay out – we ask God to provide the power to change.

I like how Paul is going to say – you used to be people who got drunk.  You got got drunk on wine.  Now – get drunk on God.  You used to be under the influence of alcohol – now live under the influence of the Holy Spirit.

So we renounce the deeds of darkness.  Instead 2.  We live under the influence of the Holy Spirit.

18 Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit,

Now this is an interesting comparison, isn’t it?  You’d think the comparison would be, Do not get drunk on wine, instead, know when to say when.  Or do not get drunk, instead, be sober…

But instead, the verse goes in an unexpected direction…  don’t get drunk on wine, instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit.

Are there similarities between being drunk and being filled with the Holy Spirit? Will being filled with the Holy Spirit cause you to put a lampshade on your head?  Will the Holy Spirit cause you to leave long messages on people’s voice mail?

In what possible way can we compare getting drunk with being filled with the spirit?

Well, why do people turn to alcohol?

Is it because they are stressed out?   Where do people turn to de-stress?   Where do we turn when we are frightened, or fearful, or discouraged or depressed?  Where do we turn when the heaviness of life seems to sap us of joy and strength?  Where do people turn when they are sad?

Many people turn to happy hour.   Hoping that they can forget the stress.   Drink away their worries. Provide a measure of happiness.

Pretty soon they are forgetting their worries and they are singing tunes and throwing their arms around strangers and making friends and laughing.   They are living a care-free life again.  Freedom from anxiety and stress!  Their burdens are lifted.

Until the next morning when the reality of life hangs-over them.  And they are plunged back into the stress and anxiety and trouble.  And we come face to face with the truth that alcohol can’t change anything in reality, and can’t lighten our burdens.  It cannot carry our burdens. It only provides an escape for a few hours.  A short lived respite, that cannot produce long term results.

The Bible says, the days are evil, so live wisely, don’t turn to alcohol.  Instead, be filled with the Spirit.  Anything of value that alcohol can bring us, the Holy Spirit can provide even more.

What are we going to allow ourselves to be controlled by?  Alcohol is a poor option.  Instead, be filled with the Spirit of God.

How do we do this?  Is there some magical spiritual ritual?  I mean – Paul just throws it out there.  Well – first it’s important to know that when we cross the line of faith we are given the Holy Spirit.  He resides within us and welcomes us to the dance – where we are now part of the community of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

To be filled with the spirit means to invite God to influence every area of our soul that we come to see as needing to be overhauled.

The job of the Holy Spirit is to inspect us from the inside out and to make us aware of those areas in our life that need to be overhauled and made new.  And then the spirit provides the power to work alongside you – you and the spirit together addressing those areas that need work.

So ask him – give the Holy Spirit permission to inspect and convict and challenge and change us.

  1. We live under the influence of the Holy Spirit.

And what does he lay out as two signs of living under the spirit?

We will worship him, and be thankful

Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, 19 singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. 20 And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We become thankful people.  This Halloween we sat in our driveway and kids came and grabbed candy and I heard parents of all types say the same thing to their kids.  What do you say?  Thank you.  They were training their children.  What you’ve been given is a gift.  You didn’t earn it.  You aren’t owed it.  It’s a gift.

How much greater is the gift God has given us?  To be overhauled and changed from the inside out into the kind of people who naturally and easily fill the world with light and love and goodness?

Is this not the kind of God we will be thankful to and worship with others who have received the same gift?

Live as children of light.  Renounce those old deeds of darkness.  Be filled with the Spirit of God.  Be thankful and worship Him.

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