Tuesday, February 27, 2007


Ephesians 5:8

With this background information we are ready to hear what Paul says in Ephesians 5:8, “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.” Notice that he says we were once darkness and not that we were just once in the darkness. We were not just wandering around in a world of sin; we were full of sin ourselves. We were part of that darkness, part of the evil, death, and ignorance. Remember how Paul put it in Ephesians 2:1, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins.” What happened to us? How did we come out of the darkness and into light? Ephesians 2:4, 5 makes it clear, “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” Paul says it like this in Colossians 1:13, 14, “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.” He wrote to the Corinthians, “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). How did we become light instead of darkness? God did it! He made us alive. He acted upon our hearts and pierced the darkness of sin with his light and made us light! We are the light of the world!

It has come full circle! From the first verses of the Bible when God called light into a lifeless world to this, when God called light into lifeless human beings! He reintroduced the light of his life into us and made us light! Thus Paul calls us children of light. God is light and he has made us his children! He rescued us from the realm of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of light! God has adopted us as his children and has made us the royal offspring of the kingdom of light.

So what do we do? We live like children of light. We live like princes and princesses of the kingdom of light. This is what Paul has been saying since Ephesians 4:17. Beginning in 5:3 he speaks to us about how we are to live. We are to have nothing to do with any kind of sexual immorality, impurity, or greed. We live in a society that is sexually charged. We see sex everywhere and there seem to be no rules. In fact, our society scolds us if we are not tolerant. Sexual relations were designed by God to be enjoyed by a husband and wife within the marriage bond. In short, anything else is what Paul calls sexual immorality. Premarital sex, extramarital sex, gay and lesbian sex, it’s all sexual immorality and Paul says it is improper for God’s holy people. It is darkness and we are light.

We are to live as children of light and stay clear of any kind of impurity or uncleanness. In 5:4 Paul explains more. We are to be pure and clean. There should be no immoral conversation among us. He lists obscenity, foolish talk, and coarse joking. Again, this kind of conversation is everywhere. You can’t escape it at work or school. You can’t avoid it on the internet. Sex and immorality sell everywhere! I keep an eye on the internet and I’m amazed at the things kids talk about and joke about. These are things that are improper for God’s holy people.

Paul warns us about greed. He calls greed idolatry. Greed is idolatry because it causes us to worship things rather than God. In 5:5 he cautions us that immoral, impure, and greedy people have no place in the kingdom of light.

Then in 5:6 Paul says something very interesting, “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient.” Christian! Don’t let yourself be deceived by empty words! This is exactly the danger we all face today! We are in very serious danger here because of the darkness of our society. The world says there is no absolute right or wrong. They say there is no absolute truth. They say that everyone has the right to choose his own lifestyle and we cannot attach right or wrong to it. The world is deceived and it is trying to deceive us with empty words. The world says it’s all right to experience sex however and whenever you want to. It’s all right to fill your mind with filth and dirty joking. It’s all right to go after all the stuff you want. It’s your life! Live it the way you want to live it! Paul says, “Don’t listen to that! Don’t let yourself be deceived by such empty talk! God will pour out his wrath on people who are disobedient. They will be judged! So Paul says in 5:7 that we should not join with them in the things they do.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


Ephesians 5:8

Darkness and light are used as symbols throughout the Bible. Darkness symbolizes lifelessness or death, evil, sin, ignorance, and sorrow. Light is its opposite. Light is life, righteousness, holiness, knowledge of God and joy. Light is what results when God takes action against darkness. Darkness is the absence of God and light is the work of God. The apostle John explains this to us in 1 John 1:5, “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.”

We discover this principle at the very beginning of the Bible. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light” (Genesis 1:1-3). The earth lay in darkness and when God began his creation of life on earth he brought light. Adam and Eve were created in this light and they shared the life of God until they sinned. With their sin mankind was plunged into darkness and the life and light of God which was inside them was extinguished.

God intended to redeem his fallen creation and bring his people back into the light. He chose Abraham to be the father of his people. God worked through the children of Abraham for centuries, preparing to reintroduce the Light into the world. God revealed his purpose to Isaiah and we see another excellent illustration of the darkness and the light. God’s people, Judah, had fallen deep into the darkness of sin. God’s judgment was drawing near. There was fear and confusion. The people of God were not turning to God but to mediums and spiritists. Isaiah says, “To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn. Distressed and hungry, they will roam through the land; when they are famished they will become enraged and, looking upward, will curse their king and their God. Then they will look toward the earth and see only distress and darkness and fearful gloom, and they will be thrust into utter darkness” (Isaiah 8:20-22). In short, if the people do not return to God they will remain in darkness and gloom and they will experience God’s wrath, utter darkness. But immediately following this passage comes a prophecy of the Promised One, the Messiah, the child to be born who will be the Prince of Peace. Notice the words of God given to Isaiah in 9:2, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” Again, the people were living in darkness apart from God but when God acts he brings light.

After the close of the Old Testament there is a long period of silence. Four hundred years passed in darkness as the people of God heard no word from him. They were conquered and ruled by the Greeks, Egyptians, Syrians, and Romans. They walked in the gloom and darkness until one night the light of God broke through. “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord’” (Luke 2:8-11). The light of God came to bear on the darkness; the child was born, the Son was given.

God sent his Son, Jesus, into the darkness of our world. Remember what the apostle John said about him in John 1:4, 5, “In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.” Jesus’ own testimony about himself is found in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” There it is! The world and the people in the world are darkness. They are ignorant of the light of God. They do not have the light of God and therefore they do not have the life of God! They are darkness and darkness is death! It’s not just that they are lost in the darkness; they love the darkness. “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of life because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19). We who follow Jesus have been given his light and are supposed to let it light up the world! “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


Ephesians 5:2

Paul says, “Imitate God and live lives of love.” Clearly, living a life of love is imitating God! Our lives are to be characterized by love. Do the people who know you think of you as a loving person? Every aspect of our lives is to be characterized by and saturated by love. Every relationship; family, friends, marriage, co-workers. Every situation; home, work, church, school, community. We are to demonstrate love in every circumstance; in joy or sorrow, trial or blessing, health or sickness. Are we the kind of people who are characterized by love? Or are we thought of as critical, judgmental, negative, superior, and self-righteous?

Paul goes on to describe what a life of love looks like. He says we are to love people “just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us.” Jesus is our model, our example. We are to imitate our older brother. Caleb is five and a half years younger than Aaron but that didn’t stop him from trying to imitate him. Caleb used to copy everything about Aaron and it used to drive Aaron nuts. Caleb tried to act like Aaron, talk like him, and dress like him! That used to concern me a little because Aaron wasn’t always the kind of example I wanted Caleb to follow! But God has given us the perfect big brother example in Jesus!

What kind of example did Jesus set for us? He loved us and gave himself up for us! He put our welfare before his comfort. He held back nothing that would benefit us. He sacrificed his own life so that we might live! Jesus’ love was unconditional. His love was not dependent on the love or kindness of others. He loved people who were difficult to love. I gave some thought to the kinds of people whom I have trouble loving. It is difficult for me to love people who do not hold up their end of a friendship. I have trouble loving people who are undependable, who let me down over and over again and are untrustworthy. It is hard for me to love people who are always thinking about themselves. I have a problem loving people who are “takers,” people who take and take and never seem to give anything back. Then I realized that Jesus surrounded himself with people like this! His friends deserted him in Gethsemane. They let him down over and over again and even denied him. When he spoke about his approaching death they argued about who would be first in his kingdom. He poured out his life for them and never received anything back from them. Jesus’ love is unconditional, and we are grateful for that! Our love is to be like his!

There is one more thing we need to notice about the love of Christ. His love was an act of worship. Paul describes his love like this: “…just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Jesus saw his love as an act of worship. Because of his great love for us he offered himself as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. This fragrant offering was pleasing and acceptable to God. We need to learn this truth. Living lives characterized by love requires us to offer ourselves and to make sacrifices. When we give of ourselves in love we are offering worship to God; worship that is fragrant and pleasing to God.

It is love that will make a difference in our world. Our love for one another in the Church is evidence to the world that we belong to Christ. Jesus said it himself, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34, 35). Nothing seizes the attention of the world more than selfless sacrifice and love. When we unconditionally love and accept the people in our world, in our sphere of influence, it speaks louder than any argument or effort at persuasion. It is an act of worship on our part.

Monday, February 19, 2007


Ephesians 5:1

We have all seen children imitating their parents. Little girls love to play dress up and put on their mothers’ clothes and make up. Little boys like to do the things their dads do. I remember wanting to drive the car. I used to climb into the car and sit behind the steering wheel and pretend I was driving on a long trip. I wanted to be like my dad. My dad was a deacon in our church and on communion Sundays I used to watch him sitting in the front of the church with all the other deacons and then serving communion. I wanted so much to be a deacon like him and be able to serve communion! I was the batboy for our church softball team. I could hardly wait until I was old enough to play on that team like my dad.

I wanted to be like my dad so I watched him and imitated him. But I only wanted to be like him because I admired him so much. He loved me so much and so well that I could imagine nothing better than growing up to be like him. I was a dearly loved son and children who are dearly loved want to be like their parents. Paul tells us that we are to begin being imitators of God because we are dearly loved children! Can there be any doubt in your mind that you are a dearly loved child of God? When you realize the grace and mercy he demonstrated in lifting us from the depths of our own hopeless despair, can you doubt that we are his dearly loved children? When you think about the fact that he brought us into his kingdom and cleaned us up and clothed us with the righteous robes of his only begotten Son, can you doubt we are his dearly loved children? If you know how much God loves you as his child then you will have a longing to please him and be like him. The motivation we find for becoming imitators of God is that we are his dearly loved children!

One of the greatest joys I have experienced as a dad was watching my kids mimic me. When Aaron and Caleb were small we lived on Lake Michigan. For awhile there, whenever we went to the beach Caleb would insist on taking Aaron out into the water and baptizing him. It was so funny to watch this little three- or four-year-old kid make his big brother get down on his knees in the water while he baptized him! It brings a parent great joy to see his dearly loved child mimic him. It is God’s goal for us that we would become imitators of him!

Do you know someone who is a good mimic? Someone who is excellent at imitating accents or mimicking people? I have a secret…my wife is an excellent mimic. I don’t mean to say she does impersonations, but she does a great job imitating people. She gets just the right voice inflections and word pronunciations and then adds a little tone of voice and a gesture or two and it can really make me laugh. It amazes me! She can listen to a person for just a few minutes and do an excellent imitation. How does she do it? I’ll tell you. People who are excellent mimics have special abilities of observation. They watch and listen and pick up on details that most of us miss and those details are the very things that remind us of the person they are imitating.

Why am I saying all this? The way I learned to imitate my dad was by living with him, watching him closely, listening to him as he spoke, and spending time talking with him. This is exactly the way we will be able to imitate God! We need to live in his presence. We must learn to know him well. We have to talk to him and listen to him. How does one live in the presence of God? It is a decision we make. It is a difficult decision because it requires a lot of time and effort. You need to say to yourself, “I am going to live in the presence of God!” Then you need to do it! You have to make a conscious effort to be aware that he is right there with you all the time. Decide to be aware that you are always living with God. Watch him! What does that mean? Be alert to the things God is doing in your life and in your world. Look for the hand of God everywhere, every day! Get to know him intimately. How do we do that? We read the Bible carefully, looking for God’s attributes on every page. We look at history and see the kinds of things he does. We learn about him by listening to him tell us how he wants us to live. We have to be willing to invest the time to sit quietly at God’s feet and listen for his voice. That is why I say we have to make a conscious decision to live actively in the presence of God and learn what he is like so we can imitate him!

Look at it this way, if you are being shaped by the world and the people of the world then you are not imitating God. But if you are making an on purpose decision to imitate God you will no longer be under the influence of the world. You cannot imitate God and be conformed to the world at the same time! This is how we are shaped into the image of Christ! This is how we put on the “new man created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness!” This is the true Christian life!

Saturday, February 17, 2007


Ephesians 5:1

Throughout Ephesians 4 Paul has been talking about how Christians are supposed to live their lives. He has said our goal is to “become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the body of Christ” (4:13). He has said we “must no longer live as the Gentiles do” (4:17). He has said that we are to put off the old man and “put on the new man, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (4:24). In 4:25-32 he listed off a number of sins and attitudes that we are to put off and new behaviors and attitudes that we are to put on. As we come to 5:1, 2 we arrive at a peak in Paul’s instruction, “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” In other words, the way we are to become mature, the way we are to live no longer as the Gentiles do, the way we are to put off the old man and put on the new, and the way we are to develop all these new behaviors and attitudes is to become imitators of God and live lives of love! What does this mean and how are we supposed to do it?

The Greek word Paul uses for “imitator” is μιμητής (mimetes) and from it comes our English word “mimic.” The English word “imitator” comes from the Latin word imago, or image. In short, what Paul is saying is that we should become mimics of God until we image him, until we are like him.

It’s hard enough for us to try to imagine how we are going to be able to imitate God. It’s even hard for us to want to imitate God and choose to imitate God! But Paul has to go and put this into a command form! He commands us, “Begin being imitators of God!” By commanding us to begin being imitators of God he makes it clear that we weren’t imitators of God. Before we came to faith in Christ we were imitators of the world. The world was shaping and molding us into its own image. We imitated what we saw around us and lived just like the rest of the world. Paul has told us that we have to stop living like the world around us. So who is to become our model? God! We are to begin being imitators of God! And what is it about God that we are supposed to imitate? We are supposed to imitate God’s characteristics. And how are we supposed to do that? God is perfect and we are not. God knows everything and we don’t. God is all powerful and we are weak.

Theologians divide the attributes of God into two groups, incommunicable attributes and communicable attributes. The incommunicable attributes are those which we cannot imitate; they are characteristics which cannot ever be developed by humans. For example, omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, eternity, majesty, and glory. But God has attributes which can be developed in humans: love, gentleness, kindness, truth, faithfulness, righteousness, and holiness. These are the attributes of God which Paul tells us we are to imitate.

Saturday, February 03, 2007


Ephesians 4:24-32

There is a third thing Paul says about how we are supposed to live our lives. With our minds being renewed we put off the old man and put on the new man. The new man is the new creation that was born when we were brought to God by faith in Christ. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17) Paul says we were “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” As we already saw in 2 Corinthians 3:18, we are being transformed into the image of Christ. In verse 13 of this very chapter Paul said that God’s purpose for us is to “become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” In short, we Christians are supposed to continually grow in holiness until we are the reflection of Jesus Christ! How do we do that? We put off the old man and put on the new! We say “no” to the sinful things we used to do and we replace them with deeds of righteousness.

This is exactly what Paul goes on to show us in verses 25-32. He gives us examples. He shows us the sinful deeds of the old man which need to be put off and then points to the Christlike actions of holiness we can put on.

Do you struggle with the sin of lying? What is in your mind that leads to your lying? Do you think you need to project yourself to others as being something different than you really are? That is pride. Do you want to cover over something you were supposed to do but didn’t because you are lazy? Do you want to get away with something you did wrong? All this is the old man. Put off lying and put on truth. Think about what makes you want to lie and be rid of it. Think about what is true and only say what is true.

Do you have a problem with anger? Are you an angry person? Do you lose your temper with your family? Does your anger cause you to bear grudges against people? Do you nurse your anger until you explode and spray it all over the people around you? It is possible to be angry without sinning. It depends on what you are angry about and it depends on what you do with it. What is going on in your mind when you sin in anger? “He can’t treat me like that! How dare she speak to me like that!” Again, pride. In fact, sinful anger is almost always related to pride! Inconsiderate drivers make us angry because they inconvenience us. Parents make us angry because they don’t let us do whatever we want. Who do they think they are anyway? People who disagree with us make us angry because they make us reconsider if we might be wrong. With renewed minds we put off such pride and selfishness and we put on quick reconciliation. We don’t let the day end without making peace and restoring our relationships. This is the new man!

Do you steal? We must be careful here. It would be too easy to limit this to robbing banks, breaking into houses, or shoplifting. There are many ways people can steal. One of the most common kinds of stealing is not giving your employer a full hour of work for an hour of pay. Another common form of stealing is cheating on your taxes. Or fudging on your expense reports. Downloading movies or music you haven’t paid for. Trying to get a child’s price for your twelve-year-old. We could go on and on. What goes on in your mind when you steal or cheat? Save myself money. Not have to work so hard. This is the old man! Put him off and put on the new man who willingly works hard for what he is paid and then gladly shares with others!

Paul turns to subjects of conversation. “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths.” The word “unwholesome” is literally “rotten, worthless.” Do you have a problem with dirty language or dirty jokes? Do you find yourself talking just like the other people at work? Do you enter into the sexual joking and conversation? What is going on in your mind? Are the things you are watching and reading filling your mind with rotten language and immoral sex? This is the old man! Put him off! Put on purity and holiness. Work hard to say things that will bless others and build them up or draw them to God.

Finally, Paul lumps together all kinds of sinful attitudes: bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, slander and malice. All of these things are the result of a prideful selfishness and meanness. They are the behaviors of people whose minds are not renewed. They are the actions of the old man and they must be put off once and for all! They are to be replaced with kindness, compassion, and forgiveness. We are being conformed to the likeness of Christ! We can’t even begin to imagine him with bitterness, brawling, or malice. We see him being kind to the needy, compassionate to the fallen, and forgiving even those who nailed him to the cross! That is the mind we must have! We need to fill our minds with ways we might show kindness, compassion, and forgiveness! This is how we learn to live as followers of Christ!

Friday, February 02, 2007


Ephesians 4:23

In Ephesians 4:22 Paul tells his readers they were taught to put off the old man which is being corrupted by its deceitful schemes. He goes on to say there is a second thing they were taught. They were also taught to be made new in the spirit of their minds (4:23). The verb “to be made new” is in the passive voice. That means this is something God does to us, not something we do! We are to be made new, not make ourselves new. This is the work of the Holy Spirit. It is a work he does in our hearts and minds. It is a process by which he is shaping us into the image of Christ. It is the renewing of our minds that keeps us from living like the world. Romans 12:2 shows us this, “Do not be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” There are pressures in this world that seek to shape us to fit into the pattern of the world. Paul says the way to avoid being conformed to the world is to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. As the Spirit transforms our minds he shapes them into the image of Christ’s mind. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 3:18, “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” Having the mind of Christ keeps us from living like the world and helps us to live like Christ.

If this is a work of the Holy Spirit, then why does Paul even mention it to us? If there is nothing we can do to renew our own minds, and there isn’t, then why is it included between these two commands to “put off” and “put on?” One reason would be that even though we can do nothing to renew our own minds we may still hinder the work of the Holy Spirit by insisting on having a worldly mindset. In other words, continuing in sin results in quenching the work of the Spirit.

So our part in the renewing of our minds is refraining from hindering the Spirit by being stubborn in sin. What can we do? The Holy Spirit is working on our minds so that is where we can focus our attention. What kinds of things do we put into our minds? What kinds of things do we think about? What kinds of things do we look at? It seems an obvious conclusion that the things that occupy our minds eventually produce related behavior in our lives. For example, we all know that children who are fed a steady diet of violence on television and in the movies are much more likely to behave violently. We know that men who habitually view pornography usually abuse women. What are we putting into our minds? What kind of music do we listen to? What television and movies do we watch? What do we read? Do we think about money all the time? Do we think about how angry we are at someone all the time? These things will hinder the renewing of our minds! They must be replaced with spiritual and God-honoring things. Like what? We can read the Bible and other edifying literature. We can memorize passages of Scripture, especially passages that address our sins. We can limit our viewing to benign television and movies. We can spend time meditating upon and praying through Scripture.

Another reason Paul put this statement about the renewing of our minds here is that it has an immense influence on the two things we are responsible for, the “putting off” of the old man and the “putting on” of the new man. As has already been said, that which goes on in our minds almost always works itself out in our behavior. If our minds are set on worldly and sinful things then it will be almost impossible for us to put off the ways of the old man. But if we intentionally fill our minds with spiritual and godly things then our minds will be renewed. We will know which things need to be put off and we will discover a desire to be rid of them! With renewed minds we will be able to see through the deceitfulness of the lusts of the flesh. With minds that are full of the Spirit we will be empowered to put on the new man.