“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. Therefore He says:“Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light.” (Ephesians 5:8-14)
As often as we observe the Lord’s Supper, I do call the church to engage in self-examination. For it is written: Whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. So let a man examine himself; and then let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup.
This morning I would like us to allow this passage to examine our level of faithfulness as children of light – who have been called to avoid and expose all the unfruitful works of darkness (especially as it pertains to the issue of abortion).
This passage gives us at least Seven Questions that we need to ask ourselves this morning:
1st Do we Remember?
This is the first thing we need to stop and do this morning: Remember. Verse 8 says, For you were once darkness…Before we do anything – before we argue our politics – cast our votes – or hold up signs – or take a stand for righteousness – we need to just stop and remember who WE once were as children of darkness.
Why? Because this will deliver us from all the rotten and condescending attitudes which so many Christians manifest while engaging in political discussions and activities.Before we start criticizing people and calling them names, we need to stop remember what WE were like as children of darkness… and for some of us, that is very easy.
Many Christians were called into the kingdom very late in life (after years of living in the darkness of sin).
Many Christians have actually had abortions earlier in life (and they can remember all too well how painful it was to walk in darkness).
But for others, this is far more difficult. Many Christians were raised in covenant homes, taught to walk in the light from their youth, and never really thought to do otherwise.
These Christians simply cannot remember life BEFORE Christ, so what they need to try to do is this: Try to imagine what your life would be like WITHOUT Christ.
Do you realize that is Christ took his hand off your life for one split-second, you would fall so deep into sin that you wouldn’t even recognize yourself.
Yes – We have the same propensity toward sin as any other reprobate wretch in this world.The only difference between us and them is this: Jesus… who called [us] out of darkness, into his marvelous light.
Remember that as you prepare to take your stand for all that is true, righteous, and holy; for this will keep your attitude properly informed and pleasantly appropriate.
In fact, this will cause us as individuals essentially to disappear; so that all that can be seen is the light of Christ in us (and shining through us). Which raises the next question:
2nd Do we Realize?
Do we realize that we are now Light in the Lord ? This is what verse 8 calls us and it is really easy enough to understand: We are Light in the Lord because God has graciously chosen to allow the light of his countenance to shine upon us.
We are like the moon – Which (in and of itself) is very dark and ugly thing, but because of the Sun it shines is celestial glory. The only difference is this: We Christians are designed to shine in terrestrial glory.
This is why Jesus said, You are the Light OF THE WORLD. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden…
You see, when God saved us, he decided to leave us in this dark world as vivid and visual testimony of his power to save and sanctify.
We are like a well-lit city – a shining palace – a kingdom of light which has been set high upon a hill so that every passer-by cannot help but notice the brightness of our glory.
We need to realize God’s design in all this, lest we cease to function as we ought (and subsequently become the object of divine ridicule): No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.
Why do so many Christians (and churches) spend so much time and energy trying to do just that? Trying to hide away that light they been given? Why do so many refuse to be seen and identified as children of light in public? Why do so many refuse to take a stand for innocent life?
This, I will never understand… but we don’t need to understand it, we just need to avoid it.
We Christians – without saying or doing anything whatsoever – will inevitably shine in this dark work. So just do it – Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. How? Next question:
3rd Have we been Walking?
Even though a Christian will shine without even trying, it is simply not enough for us to stand around and passively illuminate our surroundings, for verse 8 calls us to WALK as children of light… to move – to act – to spread our light – to do things – to do good works.
And there are so many good works to do, I couldn’t even begin to name them… but for our purposes this morning, maybe I will just mention a few of the duties (good works) which are required by the sixth commandment (you shall not kill).
What does God here require? How are we to shine in this respect? He requires all careful studies, and lawful endeavors, to preserve the life of ourselves and of others. He requires that we protect and defend the innocent.
Even as it is written in Proverbs 24:11, Deliver those who are drawn toward death, and hold back those stumbling to the slaughter…
Don’t just sit there and think, “O, that’s really too bad… I wish somebody would do something… I hope our next president appoints some good judges to the Supreme Court…”
No! If it is in our lawful power actually to save someone from an un-lawful execution, then we must do so! Even as James said, Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.
Furthermore, there is no one in this room (or nation for that matter) who does not know to do the good. No one can claim ignorance when it comes to the modern holocaust called abortion. And that Proverb which I just read ends this way: If you say, “Surely we did not know this,” Does not he who weighs the hearts consider it?
But I don’t know… maybe I am wrong. Perhaps there are people who don’t understand what is going on. That is why we need to ask ourselves another difficult question:
4th Have we Learned?
Verse 10 calls us constantly and diligently to be finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. This is the duty of every Christian: To find out what is acceptable to God and (contrariwise) to find out what is un-acceptable to God.
This, of course, is a life long calling, but when it comes to issues of life and death, it is really not that complicated.
According to God’s Word, life begins at the moment of conception (when God knits together a new human being in his or her mother’s womb). (Psalm 139) Therefore any science (falsely called so) that claims otherwise is NOT acceptable to the Lord.
According to God’s Word, children are wonderful… they are reward from God himself. (Psalm 127). Therefore, anyone who claims otherwise (calling them a burden and a curse) is unacceptable to the Lord.
According to God’s Word, to injure or kill an unborn child (even it is by accident) is a crime worthy of punishment (Exodus 21). Therefore any activity (including the use of certain types of birth control) which stop a conceived child from growing and being delivered is NOT acceptable to the Lord.
According to God’s Word, to deliberately sacrifice the life of child is a crime worthy of death (Leviticus 20). Therefore, the women who choose to have abortions, the men who pressure them and pay for these abortions, and the doctors who perform these abortion, are all unacceptable to God.
According to God’s Word, judges and governments have been given the responsibility to defend the defenseless and to punish the wicked (Psalm 82, Romans 13, etc). Therefore, any nation that allows and promotes this atrocity called Abortion is unacceptable to God.
My friends, this is our responsibility: To find out what God says about these things and to live our lives accordingly. And the next step toward doing that is raised in this next question:
5th Have we Separated?
In verse 11a, we are commanded to have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness. Now this doesn’t mean that we should all move to some monastery in the desert (so that we never ever come into contact with the darkness).
Verse 13 just assumes that we will be coming into contact with the darkness (so that we can expose wickedness with our light… for whatever makes manifest is light).
Our calling to live separately is all about living alongside of darkness without ever having fellowship with that darkness, for the word translated ‘fellowship’ here means: To be connected with – to be associated with – to be joined with – to be intimately involved with – so that we are actually taking part in these unfruitful works of darkness.
This is why we must separate ourselves from everything which supports (or is even associated with) the unfruitful work of darkness called abortion.
And this brings us right back to our previous question (about learning what is acceptable to the Lord). We also need to be learning whether or not we are connected with or supporting the abortionists.Yes – We need to search our lives and ask some difficult questions:
- Do I hold membership in a pro-abortion church?
- Am I dating (or engaged to) a pro-abortion person?
- Am I planning to vote for a pro-abortion candidate?
- Have I invested my money in a pro-abortion company?
Are these difficult questions to ask? Yes. But I think they are necessary questions to ask if indeed we are to have no fellowship with (and no involvement with) the unfruitful works of darkness.
And again, this does not mean that we should all disappear into our monasteries — way out there in the country. No – We need to be present in this culture and we need to be part of this culture (and verse 11 tells us how). Next Question:
6th Do we Expose Darkness?
Verses 11-12 require us to expose [the unfruitful works of darkness]. What exactly does this mean? Well, first of all, let me explain what it does not mean.
Unfortunately, when we hear the word ‘expose’ we tend to think of something very unwholesome: Somebody removing their clothing so that others can see what ought not to be seen.
This is an unfortunate connotation to the word ‘expose’ and it is this connotation that leads so many pro-life activists to show pictures of aborted children in public.
That practice (at least in my opinion) is very difficult to reconcile with the very next verse, which says, it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in private…
Now if it is shameful even to speak in detail about all the gruesome details of abortion, how much more so would it be shameful to graphically display such things in public?
But despite my personal opinions, let’s just let the Bible speak. How does the Bible itself use this word ‘expose’?
This is the word used to describe what an offended brother does when he CONFRONTS his brother and TELLS him his fault (Mat. 18:15).
This is the word used to describe what the Holy Spirit does when he CONVINCES the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8).
This is the word used to describe what a Pastor does when he REBUKES in the sight all a sinner – that all may fear (1 Tim. 5:20).
This is the word used to describe what a Preacher does as he uses sound doctrine to CORRECT those who contradict (Titus 1:9).
This word is used to describe what our conscience does when we are CONVICTED of sin and hypocrisy (John 8:9).
There are other examples of how this word is used, but I think these are sufficient to establish our calling. Exposing has to do with confronting – convincing – correcting – reasoning with – and rebuking unrighteousness – so that people might come to acknowledge, own, and repent of their sin.
How best can we do this? By declaring the Word of God which is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
And listen – As this word goes forth and pricks the hearts of unbelievers, we need to remember that our chief goal in all this is not to end abortion, but to save souls from hell. Last question:
7th Have we been Evangelizing?
Verse 14 does not call us to elect presidents, write legislation, shut down abortion mills, or any such thing. Rather, it calls us to do the work of an evangelist by issuing this summons to all: Awake, you who sleep! Arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light!
Now even though this sermon was filled with exhortations to have proper political attitudes and to engage in proper political activities, I do need to say this to close:
This morning, I am not calling you to engage in social activism. I am calling you to engage in evangelism. We are Christians – not politicians. What we have to offer the world is Light – not legislation.
And this shouldn’t disappoint you, it should rather excite you! The evangelical coordinators of the Life Chain say it wonderfully. They instruct us: “Please avoid all political activity!” Why would we want to do that? “Only God can meet our nation’s most urgent needs.”
This is true and this is why we need to avoid the temptation into which so many Christian and so many Christian ministries fall: Substituting social activism for Christian evangelism.
Do you want to protect the unborn? Do you want to stop women from killing their children? Do you want to put an end to the unfruitful work of darkness called abortion? Then tell someone about the Light of the World – Jesus. Amen.
This sermon was preached by Pastor McShaffrey at Grace Reformed Church before the 2008 Life Chain.