Walk the Talk

Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,

“Awake, O sleeper,
    and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”  Ephesians 5:6-14 ESV

Paul had a predilection or preference for certain words or concepts, and he weaved them into all his letters. One for which he was particularly fond is the  word, “walk.” In Greek, the word is peripateō and it appears more than 30 times in the writings of Paul.  It means “to walk, to live, to conduct one’s life,” and it carries the idea of moving from one location to another. But for Paul, it was a way of describing how people, either saved or unsaved, conduct their lives.

Seven times in his letter to the Ephesians, Paul uses the word peripateō to describe the way people navigate life on this planet. Everyone, regardless of their relationship with Christ, is required to “live” or “walk” their way through life. The question is what manner of “walk” they will display. What will be the basis of their conduct? How will they deport themselves as they make their way through life? What rules will they live by and by what criteria will they measure their success or failure?

Throughout this letter, Paul repeatedly uses the word peripateō to convey his desire that the Ephesians live or walk in a manner worthy of the Lord (Ephesians 4:1). He uses it to compare their old lifestyle to the new one made possible through their faith in Christ. Seven different times, he uses this same Greek word to establish a contrast between the old sinful nature and the new, Spirit-enabled nature graciously provided to the child of God.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked (peripateō), following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air – Ephesians 2:2 ESV

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk (peripateō) in them. – Ephesians 2:10 ESV

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk (peripateō) in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called – Ephesians 4:1 ESV

Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk (peripateō) as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. – Ephesians 4:17 ESV

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk (peripateō) in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. – Ephesians 5:1-2 ESV

for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk (peripateō) as children of light – Ephesians 58 ESV

Look carefully then how you walk, (peripateō) not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. – Ephesians 5:15-16 ESV

For Paul, the abundant life promised by Jesus (John 10:10) was not only possible, but it was indispensable and intended to be highly practical. Saving faith was meant to produce a radically different lifestyle modeled after Christ, enabled by the Spirit, and intended to glorify God the Father.

There is no place in the life of the believer for a dualistic or bifurcated approach to life. The willful mixing of old and new together is unacceptable and to be avoided at all costs. That is why Paul so strongly stated, “Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people” (Ephesians 5:3 NLT). And just so his audience understands, he takes those rather broad categories and boils them down to specific examples of unacceptable behavior for believers: “Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes—these are not for you” (Ephesians 5:4 NLT).

And Paul warns the Ephesians about the danger of rationalizing or justifying these kinds of behaviors.

Don’t be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins, for the anger of God will fall on all who disobey him. – Ephesians 5:5 NLT

For the Christ-follower, there is no excuse or explanation for such behavior. It can’t be excused or explained away as innocent or harmless. These kinds of “acceptable” behaviors are rooted in sexual immorality, impurity, or greed and, as Paul so strongly states, “You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God” (Ephesians 5:5 NLT).

Paul goes out of his way to differentiate between the old and the new and, to do so, he uses the metaphor of dark and light.

…once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true. – Ephesians 5:8-9 NLT

Something had changed. They were no longer who they used to be. They had been delivered from a life marked by darkness and sin and delivered into a new kingdom characterized by light and life. Paul emphasized this divine deliverance in his letter to the believers in Colossae.

…he [God] has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins. – Colossians 1:13-14 NLT

They were free to live distinctly different lives because they now possessed the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. They had the God-given capacity to “walk as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8 ESV). In other words, not only had they been transferred into the Kingdom of God’s dear Son, but they had also been given the power to live as citizens of that Kingdom. That’s why Paul insists that they “Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them” (Ephesians 5:11 NLT). They were no longer of this world. As Peter so aptly described it, they were “temporary residents and foreigners” whose task was “to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls” (1 Peter 2:11 NLT).

Light exposes darkness. That is Paul’s primary point in this passage. As children of light, they were expected to influence the darkness around them. Darkness is nothing more than the absence of light. So, the presence of these believers in their community should have resulted in a glaring exposure of the sins that lurked there. But instead, Paul seems to suggest that the Christians in Ephesus were actually joking about the sinfulness of their community. They were sharing obscene stories, engaging in foolish talk, and laughing at one another’s coarse jokes. In doing so, they were essentially hiding their light under a basket, something Jesus Himself warned about.

“You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father. – Matthew 5:14-16 NLT

Paul warns the Ephesians that their flippant approach to the sins of their community was unacceptable because it was ungodly.

It is shameful even to talk about the things that ungodly people do in secret. – Ephesians 5:12 NLT

And he firmly affixes the responsibility for exposing such behavior on the shoulders of the Ephesians Christians. Look closely at what he tells them.

…their evil intentions will be exposed when the light shines on them, for the light makes everything visible… – Ephesians 5:13-14 NLT

What is the source of that sin-exposing light? It is the believers who populate the church in Ephesus. They were, as Jesus put it, “the light of the world” and they were to shine so that the light of their good deeds was visible to “everyone in the house.” Paul wasn’t suggesting that they condemn their lost neighbors for their sinful behavior. No, he was calling on the Ephesian believers to live as light in the midst of the darkness. The good behavior of the Spirit-empowered Christians would radically expose the bad behavior of their lost neighbors and friends. The contrast would be palpable and powerful.

According to Paul, the believers to whom he wrote had a divine source for determining what was right and wrong.

…this light within you produces only what is good and right and true. – Ephesians 5:9 NLT

The indwelling presence of the Spirit of God provided them with the knowledge of God’s will that helped clarify and quality their conduct. That’s why Paul told the Galatian believers, “let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves” (Galatians 5:16 NLT). The Spirit was there to help them “discern what is pleasing to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:10 ESV). And once they knew what God deemed to be “good and right and true” (Ephesians 5:9), the Spirit could empower them to do it.

That’s why Paul issues a much-needed wake-up call. He pleads with his brothers and sisters, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you” (Ephesians 5:14 ESV). They had become lulled into a stupified sense of compromise and complacency, and Paul was calling them to snap out of it. They were to walk as children of the light. Their very presence in Ephesus should have been making an impact on the sin-darkened lives of their neighbors and friends. They had been redeemed for a reason. Ephesus was not their home anymore, but it was their God-appointed base of operations while they waited for the arrival of their future home: the Kingdom of God. As long as God delayed His Son’s return, the Ephesian Christians were to be His ambassadors and serve as His light-bearing emissaries into a world darkened by sin and in desperate need of the light of life (John 1:4). Jesus had chosen to shine His life-giving light through them and, as the apostle John declared, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it” (John 1:5 NLT).

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

New English Translation (NET)NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2017 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. http://netbible.com All rights reserved.

 

Self-gratification.

For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life —is not from the Father but is from the world. – 1 John 2:16 ESV

John has just issued a command: Do not love the world. Simple. Direct. Straight forward. But for most of us, it is easier said than done. Loving the world comes naturally to us. It is part of our nature – our sin nature. And the world is more than willing to accommodate and return our love. But at the end of the day, our love of or for the world is really self-love. It is motivated not by what we can give the world, but by what we can get from it. Yes, it is a reciprocal relationship. It is give-and-take. We give and we get. But for the most part, we give TO get. And John gives us three evidences of that give-to-get nature of our love affair with the world. The New Living Translation provides a very up-to-date and in-your-face interpretation of verse 16. “For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world.” I think this gives us a very clear idea of what John is attempting to say. He is providing us with three distinct characteristics that mark a love affair of the world or, better yet, a love of self. The first is “a craving for physical pleasure.” The NASB translates it as “the lust of the flesh.” The NIV reads, “the cravings of sinful man.” The ESV has “the desires of the flesh.” The word John uses that gives us any insight into what he is talking about is the Greek word sarx. It can refer to the human body, but in this case, John is using it to refer to “the earthly nature of man apart from divine influence, and therefore prone to sin and opposed to God.” It is our sin nature and even though we have been redeemed and renewed by Christ, it remains alive and well within us. Paul puts it this way: “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do” (Galatians 5:17 ESV). He goes on to describe the very dark side of our flesh or sin nature. “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these” (Galatians 5:19-21 ESV). So when John refers to the craving of sinful man, the desires of the flesh, this is what he is talking about. The real issue here is self-gratification. What I like to refer to is saying yes to what God has said no to. Self-gratification is the act of pleasing or satisfying oneself, especially the gratifying of one’s own impulses, needs, or desires. If you look at the list given by Paul, it provides a comprehensive catalog of sinful actions and attitudes that have been forbidden by God. They are aptly summed up in the Ten Commandments. God has forbidden us to do these things. But self-gratification causes us to say yes to what God has said no to. Rather than obey him, we give in to our sinful desires. And the world is more than willing to accommodate us. It gives us exactly what we crave, but not because it loves us, but because it hates us. Jesus warned His disciples, “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:19 ESV). Self-gratification is ultimately self-destructive. Paul tells us the only way to protect ourselves from this dangerous human tendency is by living in the light, by listening to and obeying the wisdom of the indwelling Holy Spirit. “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16 ESV).

The Spirit gives us the strength to say no to what God has said no to. He provides us with the capacity to turn away from self-love and self-gratification so that we can love others. The problem with a life of self-gratification is that it not only destroys us, it damages all those around us. Every one of the characteristics listed by Paul has a negative relational aspect to it. Jealousy, anger, immorality, impurity, strife, envy, and rivalries – they all involve a form of hatred toward others. They use and abuse others. But we have been called to love one another – as Christ has loved us. Yet the enemy is out to get us to say yes to what God has said no to and to say no to what God has said yes to. God had told Adam and Eve that one tree in the garden was a “no” for them. But Satan caused them to doubt God’s word. He tempted them to say yes to what God had said no to, and they gave in to their fleshly desires. What looked good to them ended up being highly destructive. The same is true for us today. Living a life of self-gratification appears to seductive and alluring. And the world whispers in our ear that what we desire is good and right. But God has said, “No!” He has something far greater in store for us. Whether we believe it or not, He is telling us that a life of selflessness is the key to fulfillment and satisfaction. A life of sacrifice is the path to joy and contentment. A life marked by a love for others will leave us feeling loved by God and more gratified than we could ever imagine.


No Cause For Stumbling.

Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. – 1 John 2:10 ESV

When it comes to this one verse, it seems the commentators are somewhat divided. It seems simple enough, but the last phrase is interpreted a variety of ways. For instance, the New Living Translation paraphrases verse 10 this way: “Anyone who loves another brother or sister is living in the light and does not cause others to stumble.” It puts the emphasis on those with whom we interact. The person who walks in the light loves as Jesus loved, and his life provides no reason for those around him to stumble or fall. But there is also the sense that the stumbling being referred to here is aimed at the one who loves his brother. When we love as Jesus loved, sacrificially and selflessly, it is a byproduct of abiding in the light of Christ’s love. And His light illuminates our path so that we can see where we are going. It would seem that this view is the most accurate, because the very next verse reads, “But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walk in the darkness and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes” (1 John 2:11 ESV). When we hate or, better yet, fail to love, we are NOT abiding in the light. As a result, we find ourselves walking in the dark, unable to see the obstructions, the sins, of our own lives. We can’t see our pride, arrogance, self-centeredness, and selfishness. The whole idea of the light is that it reveals or exposes the darkness. It is what David was asking God to do in his life when he wrote Psalm 139. “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23-24 ESV).

But while the second interpretation may appear to be the most accurate, I believe they both have relevance. An individual who lives his or her life in the dark, outside the influence of the light of Christ, will inevitably stumble. Because they fail to spend adequate time in the Word, allowing it to penetrate their lives and expose their sin, they will grow comfortable with the darkness in their life. As they walk outside the influence of the light, they will find their hearts increasingly darkened by unrepentant, unconfessed sin. But when these kinds of individuals stumble and fall, their actions have a ripple effect. If one person walking in the dark falls, all those behind him are likely to fall as well. When he goes down, he takes others with him. The same is true of our walk with the Lord. When we fail to abide in Christ, we will inevitably find ourselves in the dark. John reminds us “whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected” (1 John 2:5 ESV). We must know the word and obey it. We must read it and apply it. We must allow it to penetrate our lives and expose those hidden areas of sin to which we are blind. “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12 ESV). The word of God is one of the primary tools He uses to guide and direct us. David expressed it quite succinctly. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105 ESV). Without it, we will find ourselves stumbling and falling. When we fall, we will take others down with us. When David lusted after Bathsheba, he was not living in the light. He stumbled and not only caused Bathsheba to sin, but eventually took the life of her husband so that he could have her as his wife. His fall was far from personal. It had wide-sweeping ramifications. One of the lies of the enemy is that our stumbles are of no importance. They don’t hurt anyone else. Our sins are harmless and of no consequence. But God would have us know that a life lived in the dark is far from isolated. It will have an influence on those around us. Our sins have consequences. Our choices impact others. 

Paul told Timothy, “Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity” (1 Timothy 4:12 NLT). Our lives are to be an example to those around us. When we abide in the light, walking as Jesus walked, loving as He loved, we will not fall. Our sins will be exposed, not hidden, allowing us to confess them. We will enjoy the benefits and blessings of walking with God in the light of His Word, under the direction of His Spirit and with His Son interceding on our behalf every step of the way. The goal is that we would “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:10 ESV).

Something Old, Something New.

Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. – 1 John 2:7 ESV

John has gone out of his way to stress to his readers that they could know if their relationship with God was healthy and secure. He has stressed the need for them to understand that their right relationship with God was based on a firm belief in the deity of Jesus. He alone is the key to eternal life. And like His Father, Jesus is light and “in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5 ESV). And those that truly know God and His Son, Jesus Christ, should be marked by certain characteristics and behaviors. They should have a recognition of their sins and a willingness to confess them. They should walk in the same way in which Jesus walked – in the light. They should keep His commandments. In other words, John is not talking about a cognitive knowledge of God alone, but a practical, experiential knowledge that shows up in everyday life.

But in verse seven, John becomes even more specific, focusing in on a particular command that he feels is needed at that moment in the lives of his readers. He refers to it as both an old and a new commandment. He reminds them that they have had this commandment “from the beginning” (1 John 2:7 ESV). “The old commandment is the word that you have heard” (1 John 2:7 ESV). John is basically telling them that this is something they should already know. It was part of the original message they had heard when they came to faith in Christ. In fact, it was part of the message of Christ that had been taught to them. No doubt, they had heard the story of Jesus and His encounter with the lawyer. He had been put up by the Pharisees in an attempt by them to trick Jesus into saying something for which they could condemn Him. So the lawyer asked Jesus, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” (Matthew 22:36 ESV). And Jesus responded, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39 ESV). Love God. Love others. For Jesus, it was as simple as that. And now John is reminding his readers of this “old” command. He was attempting to give it new life by applying it to their immediate context. He tells his readers, “At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you…” (1 John 2:8 ESV). In other words, love for God and love for others was true in Jesus’ life, but it should also be true in their lives. John remembered well the words of Jesus, having recorded them in his gospel. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35 ESV). Jesus didn’t leave the definition of love up for grabs. He didn’t open it up for interpretation or debate. He said that we were to love others in the same way that He loved us – selflessly and sacrificially.

Like John’s audience, most of us know this commandment all too well. We have heard it and, more than likely, memorized it. But do we keep it? When John writes, “we ought to walk in the same way in which he walked” (1 John 2:6 ESV), he has this commandment in mind. Jesus referred to it as the greatest commandment. To love God and to love others. Two commands, but in Jesus’ mind, they were one and the same, inseparable and indistinguishable. Which is why John could write, “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen” (1 John 4:20 NIV). Pretty strong words. But John isn’t done. He goes on to say, “Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (1 John 3:14-15 ESV). And then he adds, “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:7 ESV).

Our love for God is expressed through our love for others. God’s love for us is evidenced in our capacity to love others. It is proof that we have a relationship with Him. “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7 ESV). Just as God is light, God is love. It is His very essence. It is not a characteristic of God, but the very nature of God. And as His children, we are to live in the light and walk in His love. We are to spread His light and love through our lives to those who are our brothers and sisters in Christ – both locally and globally. The apostle Paul puts it this way: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4 ESV). Then he goes on to tell us to have the mind of Christ. We are to share His same attitude of selflessness, sacrifice, and humble service to others. We are to walk in the same way in which He walked. We are to love as He loved. And when we do, the world will know that we are His disciples.

The Fading Darkness.

At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. – 1 John 2:8 ESV

Light penetrates and permeates. Light illuminates and eliminates the darkness. Just as physical light has a transformative nature, so does the Light of the world. Jesus said, ““I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12 ESV). Those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ have had the darkness of their lives penetrated by the Light. We have been given the Spirit of God, resident within us, to enlighten us and empower us to live our lives in such a way that we make a difference. “You are the light of the world. A city located on a hill cannot be hidden. People do not light a lamp and put it under a basket  but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before people, so that they can see your good deeds and give honor to your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16 ESV). But if we are going to have an illuminating impact on the world around us, we first have to allow the Light to have its full influence on us. John made the claim that the darkness is fading. It is a statement of fact. As light grows, darkness diminishes and fades. Yet, it would be easy to look around the world and conclude that the darkness is winning. Evil appears to be increasing. But could the problem be that we, as children of light, have allowed the darkness to overtake the light in our own lives? Are our lamps too feeble? Is our faith too small? Is our light too weak to penetrate the darkness around us? 

Paul gives us words of encouragement. The night has advanced toward dawn; the day is near. So then we must lay aside the works of darkness, and put on the weapons of light” (Romans 13:12 ESV). We must live with a realization that the light wins. The darkness loses. There is a movement of God going on that is moving the world from darkness to light. We may not be able to see it. We may not feel it. But as soon as Jesus entered the world, the light of God penetrated the darkness and began to spread. But we have a responsibility to see to it that we don’t end up loving the darkness more than the light. We must live as children of the light, fanning the flame of faith through regular time in the Word, fellowship with other believers, and a reliance upon the Spirit of God for strength, wisdom and ongoing exposure of any darkness that remains in our lives. The darkness still resident in our lives should be passing away. The light – the righteousness and holiness of God – should be increasing. Everywhere we go, our lives should provide light in the darkness. Our lives should be proof of the transforming power of God made available through Jesus Christ. When Jesus commissioned Paul to take the good news regarding Jesus Christ and His offer of salvation to the Gentiles, He said, “I am sending you to open their eyes so that they turn  from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a share among those who are sanctified by faith in me. (Acts 26:17-18 ESV). So not only is the light in our own lives to be increasing, slowly and steadily eliminating the last vestiges of darkness; but it is to be shining out of us into the darkness around us. “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Corinthians 4:6-7 ESV). We have the light of God in our lives. That light should be increasing in intensity and influence. It should be shining through all the cracks and flaws our lives, revealing the power of God at work in our lives. When people look at us, they will still see clay jars; flawed, cracked and seemingly without value. But they should also see God’s light shining through us and around us. We are simply receptacles of His glory. We are the conduits of His life-changing, darkness-diminishing light. As the children’s song says, “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine! Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!” But we must never forget that our ability to illuminate others and eliminate darkness is not self-produced, but a by-product of walking in the light.