One of the challenges of preaching a text like Ephesians 5:1-14 is how straight-forward it is. There is really no wiggle room and there is very little elaboration from Paul. On the flip side, it’s a challenge because the text is so straight forward, there’s not a lot of examples that have to be given for explanation. Some have asked me if it’s hard on me to preach a text like this and my reply is ‘no, because it’s in God’s word and His authority is what matters.’ And I really believe that. Sexual sin, while pervasive in this world, will eventually bow its knee to Jesus and Jesus has not left us alone in dealing with it.
And that’s something that I think bears repeating. If you’re a Christian, Jesus has not left you powerless to overcome sexual sin or temptation. What I have found personally and in caring for others is that when repentance takes place in the heart and when Christians see and believe the beauty and wonder of God’s grace, they begin to win this battle. When Jesus becomes more lovely to me than my sin, I begin to win the battle of the mind and body. Remember, sexual sin reveals who and what we love and worship. There is freedom and victory for the Christ-follower over any and all sexual sin.
Things I left out:
- I really didn’t have time yesterday to discuss practical ways of overcoming sexual sin. So, I thought I’d list a few of these things here. But at the outset of this list, please understand that none of these things will ‘work’ without the power and presence of Christ. I worry sometimes that Christians want practical help but forget that Jesus must be our treasure. We sometimes treasure the practical help, without valuing Jesus. So, this is merely a list for helping you treasure Christ more and it’s a list to help you find victory over sexual sin.
- I found victory over lust, as a young man, by learning to turn lustful thoughts into prayers for others. Because I’m a sports fan, I begin to pray for my favorite athletes whenever I had a bad thought. What I found was that my thoughts began to diminish and my prayer life increased.
- For those who have struggled with online issues or wanting to care for their kids, there are a few technological resources (and if you know of more, please email me privately), that might help:
- Tim Challies has blogged about parenting in a digital world quite a bit. Here are some that I have found helpful:
- Circle, which is found here: https://meetcircle.com, is a resource to put restrictions on your family’s online entertainment. Some in our church use it and speak very highly of it.
- Covenant Eyes, which is found here: https://www.covenanteyes.com, is technology help and accountability for screens. What I’ve found with men who’ve used this is that they set up accountability partners who receive an email or a notification when they go to questionable sites.
- I have found that the guys who win in this struggle are men who become very transparent with their lives. Men who hide, don’t. This is why “accountability groups”, in my opinion, fall short. Sinners will hide if they want to hide. And the best way to stop hiding…is know that God already knows all of your sin and Jesus died for you anyway. He’s already faced your most embarrassing sin so there’s nothing to fear anymore.
- Some have asked me about confessing their sin to their spouse and my reply is that at some point, ‘yes’ you should. I know in my marriage, Jill and I are very honest about all of life and I feel confident to confess my sin to her. It has created a great source of accountability in my life. But for others, this is more challenging and I understand completely. I would get advice and counsel from a respected Christian friend, if you’re unsure of what to do because there a varying issues that might affect this.
- Finally, and this should be listed first, fill your mind with God’s word as you look to Christ. When we see the beauty and wonder of Jesus on display in God’s word, it serves a weapon against sexual temptation.
- I didn’t have time yesterday to discuss vs. 10, which says, “and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.” In this context, Paul is talking about walking a children of the light which is good, right and true. And then writes this verse about discerning what’s pleasing to the Lord. I find great comfort in this verse because there are times, when life and things of morality are not as “black and white” as we’d like to make them. “Try”, seems to indicate to me that it is sometimes difficult. But the point is clear: in matters like this and learning how to walk as children of the light, pursue God for wisdom in these matters. And one thing that we have that 1st century Christians didn’t have, is the completed Canon of Scripture to give us more discernible insight. We can look into God’s word for help on these issues and most certainly, His Spirit will guide us as we walk this tightrope in the world. Now, I think this is important in our “exposing the words of darkness” as well. There are times we need to open our mouths and speak up to expose these things. And there are times that our mere presence is needed. But one thing is clear: the demonstration of Jesus’ transformation in our lives and the declaration of what He has done for us are both used by God to expose the works of darkness. And, we must, “try to discern what is the pleasing to the Lord” in each and every moment of engagement with people.
Quotes I left out:
- “Christians, however, have ‘learned Christ’. They have responded to the gospel and received further instruction about him (4:20, 21) from those specially equipped by the ascended Lord Jesus (4:11; cf. 2:20; 3:5). Thus, their lives are shaped in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus (4:21). This Christ-centred instruction, which focusses on the truth of the gospel, is the yardstick by which believers are to discern in specific situations what pleases their Lord. Those who belong to the light are to live as children of light: as members of Christ they are to grow corporately and individually, and their overarching goal is to please him in all circumstances (cf. Rom. 12:2; 14:18; 2 Cor. 5:9; Phil. 4:18; Col. 3:20).” P.T. O’Brien
- “Since the object of this reproving activity, both here and in v. 13, is ‘the unfruitful works’ rather than the persons themselves, it is preferable to understand the verb in the sense of ‘bringing to light or exposing’ these deeds, rather than convincing or convicting those engaged in such activities. The conduct of the children of light will shine as a beacon to others, revealing evil deeds for what they are. To interpret the verb along these lines of exposing sin for what it is does not imply that Christians should remain silent or fail to speak out against evil. But the particular point being made here is that of living a godly lifestyle and showing evil to be evil.” P.T. O’Brien
- “So we are to take no part in them, but instead, positively, expose them, ‘show them up for what they are’ (neb). We may not wish to do this, but we cannot help it, for this is what light invariably does. Besides, evil deeds deserve to be exposed, that is, to be unmasked and rebuked, for it is a shame even to speak of the things that they do in secret.” John Stott
- “The dominant imagery throughout the passage is that of light and darkness; there is no middle ground or shades of grey. The apostle wants his Christian readers to realize that they are to live by values that are diametrically opposed to the standards of their contemporary world, values that include sexual purity and wholesome speech. Instead of being corrupted by the surrounding darkness, believers are to exercise their influence on it. Paul adopts no defeatist attitude towards the society around him. Christ is the light who has summoned the readers to wake up and rise from the dead. He has shone upon them so that they have become light in the Lord. As children of light their lives are to shine as a beacon, exposing the darkness around for what it really is. Some who sit in darkness may be attracted to the light and even choose to enter it.” P.T. O’Brien
- “‘Exposure’ sounds negative, showing people up for what they are, judgmental, condemning. And it is that. But the light which exposes has positive evangelistic power also, ‘the light of one soul making another light’. For it may bring people, as they see the ugliness of evil, to conviction of their sin and so to penitent faith in Jesus. This, then, is the twofold effect which a Christian’s light has on the prevailing darkness: it makes visible and it makes light.” John Stott
- This past Saturday, I had the privilege of officiating the wedding of Taylor Ellis and Austin Nix. James and Shari Ellis are dear friends of Jill and I, and Taylor is like a second daughter, so this wedding was really awesome to be a part of. It is so cool so see Christian kids marry well and Taylor did just that. We love Austin and are really happy for both of them.
- Now, that wedding brought me face-to-face with the reality that I’m facing this week with the wedding of my oldest daughter, Hannah, to Grant Laiblin. Jill and I are thrilled for them, but we’re freshly aware of what this means for us and our family. We’re happy to add Grant to the family but we’re sad that Hannah’s days of living at our house are coming to end. 21 years has flown by. Can’t wait to celebrate…as I bawl my eyes out:).
- Tomorrow, my brother, Kevin, and his wife, Amber, are coming with their 3 kids. This will be the first time Kevin has been here in 12 years and Amber has never been here. We can’t wait to show them our beautiful state and enjoy time with them.
- Finally, this coming Sunday, I am thrilled to let you know that Luis Castellanos will be preaching God’s word to us. I can’t wait to be in church on Sunday as our dear friend, who served CLF for almost 5 years, comes back home to preach in our pulpit. Be sure to make it and shake his hand and give Amanda a hug. Love these guys!
To watch or listen to the sermon described in this post, please click here