walking in the light

There are innumerable benefits of light. The sun causes the earth to grow and keeps our body healthy. Flashes of lightning in a storm or glittering stars in the night sky bring delight to our awestruck eyes. A flashlight or nightlight in a dark place brings comfort to your fears and insecurities. Light is good.

Have you ever tried to walk around in a strange new place in the dark trying to find a light source? It can be difficult dodging objects trying to avoid knocking things over or stubbing your toes. Walking in the light is not only safe, but it is a theme for your spiritual life too.[1]

walking in the light avoids darkness [Ephesians 5:6-8a]

In the Bible, the theme of light and dark appears a lot.[2] Light usually refers to living in a way that pleases God, while darkness refers to living recklessly and selfishly. Throughout Ephesians it is clear that Paul is communicating with Christ followers. And followers of Christ are expected to walk in the light and avoid darkness [vs.6-8a].

The things that Paul was referring to are the “empty words” of physical and verbal immorality [cf. vs.3-5].[3] They are empty because they lack eternal substance and do not help a follower to walk in the light. It is uncertain who these people were. However, we do know they were trying to justify doing “these things.”

Immorality must be avoided because the wrath of God is upon sin. Since God is holy, He has righteous anger against sin. Disobedience deserves just consequence. A person characterized as a “son of disobedience” walks in a way that is characterized by habitual disobedience [cf. 2:2]. Only a fool would walk into a dark cave without a map and light. With each step you put yourself into further danger and your next step just might kill you. So it is if you do not submit to God’s authority. Removing yourself from His protection opens you up to the adversary’s attacks and ultimately divine destruction [cf. v.5; Romans 1:18-32].

Since, the consequence for an immoral life is so serious you are urged to not even partner with the practices of those who do not follow Christ. So am I supposed to be a monk that hides in a monastery away from the world my entire life? Of course not! It is impossible to step out of the world and avoid unbelievers completely, thus you are encouraged to be a light that shines Christ to the world. Walking in this manner is worthy of your calling and pleasing to God [cf. 4:1; 2 Corinthians 5:9; Romans 12:2; 14:18].

walking in the light is fruitful [Ephesians 5:8b-10]

The symbolic contrast between darkness and light is likened to that of death and life, poor and rich, old and new. Light and dark are polar opposites. Before Christ, unbelievers made their home in darkness [cf. Colossians 1:13], but Paul is speaking to believers saved by the Light of the World. Since they have the light they need to behave like they have the light.

When you shine the light of Christ the response is fruitful. What is the fruit of walking in the light? Christlikeness—goodness, righteousness, and truthfulness. God gets the glory for shining and fruit bearing. It is rare to see a person who is radiates selflessness, righteousness and truthfulness through and through. If you walk in the light you stick out in the crowd as if you are glowing in the dark because the light of Christ is shining supernaturally through you [cf. 4:24; Galatians 5;22; Philippians 1:11].

walking in the light is exposes secret sin [Ephesians 5:11-14]

Light and darkness are incompatible with one another. You cannot have both co-existing. Have you ever been in a dark room with a small candle? Or have you stood outside on a clear night with the stars above and a sliver of a moon? It is amazing the amount can be put out by a flickering flame or starry sky. A little light can pierce darkness.

It is no mistake that mischief happens during the dark for most burglaries and kidnappings happen in the middle of the night. Why? It is easier to hide and keep secret. Sin loves to hide secret crevasses and closets where there is no light. Sin can quickly slip into the shadows undisturbed for years. Sin is a nocturnal beast that thrives on living in darkness.

So shameful is secret immorality that it must not even be spoken [v.12; cf. 5:3]. Not that it is taboo, but evil must not be promoted or tolerated. Work that happens in darkness is not fruitful; rather it is destructive, unproductive, and does not please God.[4] Believers are to have nothing to do with darkness for a child of the light must look and live like the light.

Light has many benefits, but one of the greatest benefits is that light exposes darkness [cf. John 3:20]. If you walk in the light you are like a lighthouse to the world in distress seeking to find some sort of safe refuge from the storm. You will be a beacon that points people to Christ—the Rock and Strong Tower.

How should we go about exposing darkness? Exposing darkness is hard for most Christ followers because it makes them vulnerable. Therefore, walking in the light must be done humbly and helpfully as to restore a sinner to God through the life-transforming gospel of Christ. I saw this in a powerful way this week as one of our young people in FUEL Student Ministries posted some encouraging, but straightforward words on another young person Facebook wall who was sharing things that were vulgar and inappropriate. This young person was shining the light of Christ in darkness exposing sin and pointing the sinner to Christ.

Sometimes words shine, but moreover what shines the most is a consistent, genuine, everyday walk with God. I have hope that this young person will change because the light of Christ has the power to expose darkness and transform you in the light [cf. 2 Corinthians 4:6; John 3:19-21]. God can awaken anyone towards the light because living in darkness is frightening and miserable. As J.B. Phillip’s said, “It is even possible [after all, it happened to you!] for light to turn the thing it shines upon into light also”[5]

[1] Ephesians has a theme describing the negative and positive ways you are to “walk”: 2:2, 10; 4:17; 5:8; 5:2, 15

[2] Cf. Genesis 1:2-18; John 8:12; 1 Peter 2:9; 1 John 1:5-7; 2:9.

[3] Justifying immorality is not a new thing; 1 Corinthians 6:13; Galatians 1:6

[4] Cf. Matthew 13:22; Mark 4:19; Titus 3:14; 2 Peter 1:8; Jude 12.

[5] Peter Thomas O’Brien, The Letter to the Ephesians, The Pillar New Testament commentary (Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1999), 373.

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