Today we are continuing our series called the Light of the World. Last week, we heard that Jesus, the Light of the World, shines against the Darkness. He shines against the darkness or terrorism and racism, cancer and car crashes, guilt and shame.
But maybe, last week, you got done thinking:
That’s right pastor! You tell ‘em. I’m gonna take your message and share it with all those people who living in darkness out there.
I will share it with that guy who cut me off in the Belk’s Christmas Wrapping station line.
I’ll share it with that woman who honked her horn, waved her finger at me and cut me off in the mall parking lot.
I’ll share it with my brother who told me that he doesn’t want to spend time with our family at Christmas. He’s being the darkness and he needs to hear about the light.
To be fair…
That all may be true.
But today, Jesus says worry less about the Darkness out there; worry first about the darkness inside here. Our goal is to get help identifying the darkness in our own hearts, reconsider the uplifting message of Jesus and get some guidance on how to let our light shine this Christmas season. Before we do that, a prayer: Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see; our ears to hear what you want us to hear and our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. The Darkness that Was…
The lesson for this morning comes from Ephesians 5:8-14. Ephesians is a letter written by a Jesus’-commissioned pastor named Paul to Christians living in Ephesus. Look at what he writes: You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. (v.8)
The reality is that no one’s heart is naturally filled with light.
Apart from Jesus our hearts are filled with darkness.
To prove that point – let’s think about it logically and then anecdotally:
Logically speaking, God creates Adam and Eve. They are sinless. Their hearts are filled with light. But then, before they have any kids, they sin. They choose to step into the darkness. They become greedy, selfish, prideful, liars. Their hearts become filled with darkness.
Then, these humans with sin-darkened hearts have children.
And just like crocodiles give birth to crocodiles…
And reindeer give birth to reindeer…
Humans with -sin-darkened hearts give birth to children with sin darkened hearts.
Darkness passed on.
Think of it like a Christmas light chain. If the first Christmas light goes out, then what does that mean for the rest of the Christmas lights? The whole thing goes out! The chain has been broken. The first light is not able to provide the power to power up the next Christmas light. The result? They are all darkness.
It’s the same with humans.
The first humans sinned.
All are sinners.
All have sin darkened hearts.
Including – you.
Anecdotally Speaking. Do you know the story of Scrooge? The Charles Dicken’s Christmas Carol classic. There are many different versions of it. I, personally, enjoy the Muppet classic. In all of these versions, Scrooge is not very likable. He’s grouchy. He’s gloomy. He’s mean. He’s greedy. He’s Scroogy. You know you’re not doing too well when a verb is developed after your name that essentially means: “being a jerk.”
But here’s the thing about Scrooge. Scrooge is perhaps the most-easily-able-to-be-identified-with-character in Christmas mythology.
Because the difference with Scrooge and all of us isn’t that Scrooge was mean and we aren’t.
The difference is that Scrooge was just worse at hiding it.
Think about your heart.
Are you always MERRY and BRIGHT?
Or do you get unnecessarily angry at that coworker because if he did his job better you’d have more time for Christmas stuff?
Do you think things at your kids that you would never repeat in front of these good church folk here?
Do you have a hard time not wanting to gaze at the Victoria’s Secret window at the mall – even though you aren’t a woman and you aren’t shopping for your wife?
Do you think, “Man! Why do I have to buy a lousy gift for that lousy guy – They deserve a punch in the face. If only I could figure out how to box it…?”
Here’s the truth.
Humans hearts are naturally filled with darkness.
Our hearts are naturally filled with darkness.
The most urgent issue isn’t out there.
It’s in here.
II. The Light that is…
But look again at our text: You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. (v.8)
Fellow believers, pay careful attention to the verb tenses to teach about what you are.
Those of you who don’t believe, pay careful attention to what the verb tenses teach about what you could be.
Meaning before Jesus.
Meaning before faith.
Meaning that was the case, but….
It is so no longer.
Meaning this is your NEW reality.
You are LIGHT.
And you aren’t light because you figured out how to go from light to darkness on your own.
It isn’t because you scrounged up your spiritual lighter of trying hard.
Or you rubbed a stick of “let’s do better” together with a stick of “try harder” in your heart and some kind of spiritual ‘good works’ fire was built.
You are light in the Lord.
Because in Jesus is forgiveness.
Forgiveness for the dirty sins of your hearts.
Forgiveness for the secrets you want no one else to know.
Forgiveness for those sinful thoughts you are deeply embarrassed that you ever thought.
In Jesus is forgiveness.
He cleans out the darkness of guilt.
He leaves us with the bright light of holiness.
It’s like a Christmas tree. When you light that Christmas tree up, even the wall next to it shines brightly. Think about it. That dead space of darkness that would otherwise be darkness becomes brighter when light shines upon it.
The same thing happened in our fellowship hall. We moved out the preschool stuff, freshened up the paint, and put a brighter color on it. Now, the light reflects off those walls and they are brighter than ever before!
Christ is the Light of the world.
You are light in Christ.
III. A “What Now” for Shining this Christmas
With all of that in mind, God gives us some very specific commands this Christmas. You might call it a host of “What Now” commands for shining this Christmas season.
It starts with this:
(1) Live like Your Dad!
Ephesians 5:9 says this: “Live as children of the light.” Because children tend to do what their family does.
Think about the royal family! They gather in Buckingham palace. They dress in the finest British fashions. They drink their tea with their pinky in the air and celebrate the Christmas season in a royal affair. If one of them wore one of those ugly Christmas sweaters to the ball at Buckingham palace, well…they’d be told: “Live as a royal child.”
Or if one of your kids comes home and says, “My Friend, Jonny said that his the Tarheels are the best! They’re house is covered in Baby Blue. They have coach bobbleheads throughout. I’m thinking for Christmas I want a Tarheel jersey.”
And you say: “Nope. You’ll get the Coach K Biography – and like it.”
Essentially God says to us:
You are my child.
You are my son.
You are my daughter.
You are a part of my family.
Live like you are a part of my family.
And how do I do that?
(2) Find Out What’s on God’s Christmas List
Look at what Ephesians 5:9 says, “the fruit of the light consists of all goodness, righteousness and truth, and Find out what pleases the Lord.” (v.10)
Because if you don’t know what’s on someone’s Christmas list then it suddenly gets harder to get them what they want. Christmas lists help you know what they want. It tells you that Cindy Lou wants a Rainbow Dash doll and little Bobby wants a Pokémon watch. Christmas lists prevent you from making the fatal mistake of getting Uncle Dan a Cabbage Patch doll.
The same thing is true with God.
We need to find out what he wants and give him the gift of living accordingly.
Because too often we think to ourselves:
“I know what God wants. God wants me to be happy. And what makes me happy is writing a nasty email to my coworker. Just living as the light God!”
“I know what God wants. God wants me to unstressed. So, he’s cool with me losing it on my kids – as long as I don’t leave a bruise.”
“I know what God wants. God wants me to be with my soul mate. So, I’m going to go ahead and cheat on my wife because it makes me happy and that’s what God wants. Just down here being the light of the world God.”
Find out what God actually wants…
Not what you want God to want.
And you can find it out by examining God’s Christmas list.
“Pastor! That sounds nice. But where would I find some kind of Christmas list. Surely, God didn’t write it down and preserve it for centuries for me to clearly and easily read.”
Yes, he did.
It’s called the Bible.
In it, you literally have a list.
A list of Ten Commandments.
Plus, all kinds of other insights – ways to please God and live as the Child of Light that He has made you.
But you have to read it to know what it says.
You have to study it to know what God wants.
Make that a key part of your Christmas preparation.
Spend time in God’s Word.
Here at worship.
At home on your own.
Have everything to do with Godly deeds and then…
(3) Have NOTHING to do with Dark Deeds
That’s exactly what verse 11 says, “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness.”
Because if you’re going to bear fruit of righteousness, unrighteousness is fruitless.
If you’re are going to bear fruit of goodness, badness is fruitless.
If you are going to bear fruit of truth, deception is fruitless.
Notice it doesn’t say:
Have some to do with evil.
Or, a bit to do with.
Or even, mostly nothing to do with.
But…NOTHING to do with.
Block the old boyfriend on Facebook that always makes you think…just for a minute of leaving your spouse.
Getting rid of the alcohol that will cause you over the edge.
Avoid that party that’ll just lead to dirty jokes and four-letter words.
Drop that grudge that’s been ruining your family Christmas for years.
And in this area – give special attention to the deeds done in secret. Verse 12 says, “It is shameful to mention what the disobedient do in secret.”
This shouldn’t surprise us.
It’s easier to do dark deeds in the literal dark.
It’s easier to do dark deeds when no one is watching.
Hear God’s Word to you right now – don’t just clean up your public life.
Clean up your private life.
(4) Expose the Darkness to the Light
And…maybe you’re in the midst of a dark deed.
Maybe you’re dealing with an addiction or a vice or some kind of sexual impulse.
Maybe you know it’s wrong and you want to stop, and you yearn to stop, but…
…you just can’t.
Listen to God’s Word in verse 13:
Everything exposed to the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.
There’s a man who I once worked with who came into my office.
His eyes were bloodshot.
His hair was amuck.
He was downtrodden.
He took a deep breath. And said. “Pastor, I’m addicted to drugs.
And I can’t stop.
no one knows.
My family doesn’t know.
My friends don’t know.
I’ve wanted to stop, but I just can’t! And I’m so sorry.
I just feel like such…darkness.”
And I said.
You aren’t in the darkness.
You are forgiven.
You are in the light.
Because here’s the thing – now that he told me. I could offer forgiveness. I could encourage him in what he was doing. I could remind him of his desires. I could check in with him. I could connect him with others who could do the same.
He took the deed out of the darkness.
He took it into the light.
By God’s strength, he conquered that addiction.
Do the same.
Expose the dark deeds to the light.
Like mold that grows in the dark, but dies in the light, your sins will die.
Confess to God.
Confess to others.
And if someone confesses to you, don’t hold it against them.
Don’t withhold help.
That’s amazing they trusted you with that!
Share God’s Word.
Help them stay in the light.
Because you and I friends – we are a part of the light! Jesus made it so. That’s why Paul concludes:
Wake up, O Sleeper! Rise from the dead. And Christ will shine in you. (v.14)
Because beating these sins can seem like a daunting task.
They might seem like a challenging task.
It might seem like something that is absolutely impossible to do.
But you aren’t doing it alone.
Christ will shine in you. (v.14b)
That’s the one who defeated sin.
That’s the one who defeated death.
That’s the one who did the impossible for you now working to do the impossible through you.
Think back to the Christmas light chain. If the first light is dark, the whole chain is dark. But if you take that dead, broken light out and you replace it with a new, working light – then? The whole chain becomes bright. Every light that is connected to the first light is empowered to give light.
You are connected to Christ.
He is the Light of the world.
Therefore, you too, are light in the world.
Live as the light of the world. Amen.