Sunday, November 20, 2011

Children of Light

Eph 5:8 For once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of Light [lead the lives of those native-born to the Light]. AMP

The dynamic of grace shapes our personal relationships as much as it does our behavior. Since no immoral, greedy, or impure person has any inheritance in the kingdom of God, Christ's followers should not be "partners" with such people (Eph 5:7). This is the same word Paul used to describe believers in Eph 3:6, where it refers to believers as "sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus." Those who are "sharers together" in Christ should not share in the actions of those who are alienated from Him
The reason for this is twofold. First, we should not be partners in this kind of behavior because it is displeasing to God (Eph 5:6). On a more fundamental level, however, we are to behave differently because we are different.
Paul uses the contrast of light and darkness in Eph 5:8 to illustrate the difference between those who belong to Christ and those who do not. Throughout the New Testament, the present world is described as being in a state of darkness. For example, John 1:5 says that when the "light" of Jesus' life shone in the realm of darkness, it was not understood. Also, the world condemned itself by loving darkness more than light (John 3:19). And Jesus' enemies handed Him over to be crucified because they operated under the domain of darkness (Luke 22:53).
Christ, however, has removed us from the control of this realm and transferred us into the kingdom of light: "For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins" (Col 1:13-14).
This darkness was more than an environment in which we lived prior to the entrance of Christ into our lives. According to Paul, before we trusted in Christ, we were darkness. The deepest core of our being was controlled by the power of sin. We may have been very religious; it is even possible that we lived a life of exemplary morality. The Bible says that Paul's own life before his encounter with the resurrected Jesus on the Damascus road was unparalleled (Phil 3:4-7). Unfortunately, all his moral achievements—even his own sincere desire to do right—could not change the fact that there was another influence in Paul's heart constantly working against his best intentions. He characterized this influence as "the law of sin" and wrote: "For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members" (Rom 7:22-23).
The Cross has changed this. The light of Christ now shines in our hearts (2 Cor 4:6). We no longer belong to the darkness but are "sons of the light" (1 Thess 5:5). Since God is Himself light, our status as children of God obligates us to walk as children of light (1 John 1:6-7). According to Eph 5:8-9, this is a matter of producing the fruit of goodness, righteousness, and truth. The language of fruit bearing points to God's role in this process. We can walk as children of light because the Holy Spirit is at work reproducing God's own character in us.
While the ability to walk in the light requires dependency upon God, we still must make a deliberate decision to do so. There is even an element of exploration as we "find out what pleases the Lord," a command that implies that such knowledge is not automatic (Eph 5:10). Paul literally says that we are to "test" the things that are pleasing to God. Fortunately, we have something more reliable than trial and error at our disposal for this. In order to bring to light the things that please God, we must have our minds renewed (Rom 12:2). The two primary instruments God uses to do this are the anointing of His Spirit and the teaching of His Word.
The Holy Spirit functions as an internal instructor (1 John 2:20,27). The Scriptures provide us with a written record of what "pleases" God (1 John 3:22), and the internal testimony of the Spirit never contradicts God's written testimony. Both work in concert with one another in the believer's life. God has also gifted the church with individuals who have the ability to teach and whose ministry equips believers for obedience (Eph 4:11-12).
Although we ourselves are no longer a part of the domain of darkness, we continue to have a responsibility to those who are. One of the chief characteristics of light is its ability to illuminate what is hidden in darkness. As children of light, we "expose" the fruitless deeds of darkness (Eph 5:11). This is what John the Baptist did when he reproved Herod for marrying his brother's wife (Matt 14:3-4). He uncovered Herod's behavior and revealed its true nature. Like John's preaching, a life fully committed to Jesus Christ can serve as a "wake-up call" to those who are still in the grip of darkness (Eph 5:14).
It is easy to see how such a responsibility calls for discernment. When it comes to confronting others with their sin and their need for Christ, we have many strategies at our disposal. In some cases, direct confrontation is the best method. Others respond to mercy (Jude 23). We need to know how to make the most of each opportunity that comes along (Eph 5:15). The improper approach may cause us to squander an opportunity that will never come again.
This kind of discernment can only come as insight from the Holy Spirit. Therefore, it is essential that we be "filled" with the Spirit (Eph 5:18). We have already received the Holy Spirit as part of our birthright as God's children, but we need to continually yield to His control (Rom 8:9). To help us understand how this works, Paul contrasts the influence of the Holy Spirit with that of wine. When someone becomes drunk on wine, there is a chemical reaction in the brain that results in a loss of control. The power to reason, the ability to react, and the capacity for self-control are all affected. The Holy Spirit affects these same areas, but in a different way. The Holy Spirit also operates on the mind, but the effect is rational and spiritual rather than chemical. The Holy Spirit affects the believer's ability to react and the capacity for reason and self-control. Instead of inhibiting these areas, as alcohol does, the Spirit stimulates them. It is the Holy Spirit who takes the knowledge we gain as we read the Bible and enables us to apply it to our circumstances. The Holy Spirit does not cause us to lose control but produces the fruit of self-control (Gal 5:22-23).
Those who live as children of light also have a mutual responsibility to one another. They are to "Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs . . ." (Eph 5:19). These activities are congregational in nature. One implication of this command is that those who wish to be controlled by the Spirit also need to worship with God's people. This is a foundational principle in the Christian life. It is simply impossible to have a healthy Christian life while neglecting corporate worship. Even if we maintain our personal disciplines of prayer and Bible study, we still need to meet with God's people. Life in the Spirit will produce life in the body of Christ.

Paul's command also underscores our need to be directed by the Holy Spirit when we gather for worship. It is important to remember that we serve as God's mouthpiece when we interact with others. The Holy Spirit is also an important factor in the overall attitude of the church. A church full of grumbling and complaining is a hindrance to the gospel. It is unlikely that we will be able to attract unbelievers to Christ if we are constantly criticizing one another.
We are called to live as children of light, but we are not called to do it alone. This responsibility is placed upon the whole church. Living as children of light is a group effort.
Light of the World, shine through Your church in a way that will enable others to see our love. Help me to live as a child of the Light. Amen.
Thanks to John Koessler for allowing us to publish his


John Koessler serves as chair and professor of pastoral studies at the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois. He is married to Jane and has two sons, Drew and Jarred. John is the author of ten books and numerous articles. He also serves as a contributing editor for the Moody Bible Institute publication Today in the Word, where you can read his monthly “Theology Matters” column. You can contact John via email at or by phone at (312) 329-4077

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