Children of the Light, be Careful!
Dear Children of light! Just before the reading our text the Apostle Paul calls you “children of light.” Children of light, people upon which Christ’s love shines and who are changed by that light. “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light… and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” We have all come from darkness. We hail from sin and unbelief. But God has called us into the light of his love. Paul encourage us to use that gift and not to foolishly throw it away. Children of Light, Be Careful! See the Dangers.
Seize the Opportunities.
Be very careful, [literally, “see accurately”] then, how you live [literally, walk; so he’s saying “open your eyes and see and move according to what you see”]--not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.
In a world filled with billions of people, does your life really matter? Yes, there are billions of people in our world and the Lord how many hairs are on each head. Yes, this world will continue to go on if something were to happen to you, but God says to each person, “Be very careful.”
“Be very careful” In other words, “What you do with your life makes a difference at every moment.” You don’t handle your fine china the way you handle your everyday dishes. You don’t handle your fishing pole the way you handle your gardening tools. You have been purchased with the blood of Christ. You are valuable. God’s love makes you valuable. So what you do to your body, what you do with your body and your mind is important. What you do and how you live is important.
If you are important, then what you do is important. If you have responsibility to God, and others, and for others, then your life is important. If Jesus died and rose for you, you are important.
So, dear children of light, be very careful. “The days are evil.” See the dangers. Evil is everywhere. The days are so evil that it’s tempting to just join in. The days are so evil that we are tempted be self-righteous: “at least I’m not that evil.” The days are so evil that a defeatist attitude may be present: God is no longer in charge; nothing, not even God can change things. We don’t want to be the bad guy shining the light into the guy’s eyes who’s comfortable in his darkness.
What a temptation to play with the darkness. What a temptation to have one foot comfortably in the darkness and then thinking you have the other foot solidly in the light. As long as we’ve got the one foot in the light, we’ll be fine. How damnable we are even as Christians.
“Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” What does God want? Life in a sin-darkened world is challenging. Our consciences have been weakened from living as sinners. But we understand more fully the Lord’s will as we dig into God’s Word. God’s Word tells what the Lord’s will is. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” Put your Bible where you’ll see it and use it. And as you see what God wants you to do and be, you’ll be even more aware of God’s righteousness and justice.
But, “knowing God’s will” is also a matter of knowing what God has done rescue us from evil. This God wants our salvation. “God wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (Acts 4:12) “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) “God is not willing that any should perish, but that but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) He has caused his light to shine on us in Christ. How can we not walk, move, live in a different way?
Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Paul warns against the abuse of alcohol. Our culture winks at drunkenness. Wine is not evil by itself. But it leads to debauchery, behavior people wouldn’t otherwise do: senselessness, recklessness, foul language. Solomon said, “Do not gaze at wine while it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly! In the end it bits like a snake and poisons like a viper.” (Proverbs 23:31) We Christians wink at it? It’s evil.
So what someone drinks too much! Here’s what may be going on. Alcohol and drug use offers a substitute for Christ. An escape from the consequences of sin, a temporary relief from the difficulties of life. Drugs and alcohol take away your pain. Christ isn’t enough. God’s Word isn’t enough. Wine, beer, alcohol is the god the drunk runs to.
Drugs and alcohol promise personal growth. If you are not happy who you are, drugs or alcohol will free you from your inhibitions, make you more interesting. It’s called debauchery.
Drugs and alcohol can help escape from the voice of that nagging conscience. If someone wants to be caught in a sin, loves living in darkness, alcohol deadens the conscience and eases the pain of guilt.
The days are evil. As children of light, listen with care and recognize the pain tied to people living in darkness. You might need to wait until the person stumbles and falls in complete darkness. Be ready with the light. Be ready to share the light. Be ready for the knee-jerk reaction to the light. When someone is bruised and battered and living in darkness, he needs to be exposed to the light of God’s love and grace.
The solution to darkness is light. The solution for guilt is forgiveness. The solution for sin is grace. The solution for a troubled conscience is Good Friday. You’ve felt God’s anger against your sin as your conscience picked at you. Imagine the conscience of Jesus as he took the world’s blame. In Jesus there was no darkness, no sin, no troubled conscience. John wrote, “In him was life, and that life was the light of men.” John wrote that Jesus was the “true light that gives light to every man.”
Jesus said about himself, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” He also said, “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.”
So if the light of the world is on Mount Calvary, then why did it get dark? All the sin of all the world’s inhabitants, past, present and future, was there on Calvary, and on God’s Son, for three hours. All of God’s intense hatred against sin was there on Calvary, on God’s Son. How dark it looked as God’s enemies, as Jesus’ enemies, had their way with Jesus and extinguished the light. How troubling when darkness appears to rule the day. Make no mistake, sin was there on Calvary.
And what Jesus did for Jairus’ daughter, what he had done for Lazarus, he did for himself. Off came the grave clothes as Jesus again saw the light of day. And by rising again he has brought “life and immortality to the light” to his children. There is no darkness for you as all is light. There is not a one of you who should remain in darkness, as Jesus said. Jesus is the light of the world and he is the light of life.
Darkness will never rule another day, no sin will ever be charged against you, no punishment waits for you. Jesus Christ is our light and has defeated darkness. Where there is light, there can be no darkness. Well with Christ as our light, the darkness is gone.
So now, children of light, “Be very careful, how you live…making the most of every opportunity.” Making the most of every opportunity, that is, we are to redeem or buy up the right time. Buying something involves giving up something of value to you in exchange. We are to give up something of value in order to take hold of something of greater value. Give up a sinful habit. Now is the time to put off that pet sin. Now is the time to live for your Lord Jesus. Now is the time to witness Christ to the unbeliever. Now is the time to repent and to call others to repentance. Now is the time to do good works so that others may glorify your Father in heaven. Think of Paul in jail in Philippi, hardly an opportune time to be taken as a credible witness, but he was singing hymns. And in the middle of the night, his jailer was led from despair to joy. Make the most of every opportunity. As King Solomon said, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all of your might.” (Eccl. 9:10)
“Be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord.” He encourages us to express the joy we have in our salvation through music that comes from the heart. The sound of thankfulness heard in dark times is noticed. Christian music, Christ-centered music and hymns, have a remarkable power to remind us what we believe, what we have to rely on. God’s gift of music gives his people a beautiful way to express what they have.
Be careful how you live. “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light. Ask yourself as you listen to music, as you work, as you play, as you watch TV: does this keep me in the light? Does this let my light shine? Am I kidding myself and playing with darkness? Am I buying something valuable with my time? Is it worth the expenditure of my time? Are others benefiting from the use of my time? Am I reflecting the light and forgiveness of Christ?
So, children of light, be careful! That sounds so negative, but it is important to be warned of dangers against our faith. But there is a positive side: Look at the opportunities to reflect the light of God’s love and seize them. Amen.
Calm for the Storms of Life
When I think about the storms of life, when I think about the times I’ve been afraid, and I mean really afraid, I flash back to a number of things. When I was 10 I was picking blackberries when I realized that a black bear was picking blackberries about 10 feet away. He didn’t know I was there. I ran like the wind to find my dad and never left his side.
When I was fifteen our family had a cancer scare. My mother had a lump. My mother was, to me, the glue that held our family together. In all my life I don’t ever remember praying so boldly and telling the Lord what my will was.
Eight years ago, I lost my way in the mountains. Ever been on a mountain ridge in a blizzard, lost, trying to figure out which way to go? Before you get a fire going, that’s not a good feeling.
What are your storm stories? When has life-threatening fear set in, or life-altering fear, set in for you? Maybe you are living through one of those storms right now.
Fear is one of the basic emotions of human life. Sometimes fear is good.
A healthy fear will keep you out of a lot of trouble. A fear of breaking the commandments will keep you out of a lot of trouble.
But there is a fear that is not healthy. Jesus calls this fear a weakness in faith. And not just a weakness of faith, but Jesus calls this fear a sin against the first commandment that denies God’s power.
When we don’t have control over what’s happening, the result can be fear. We fear failure, poverty, the breakup of a marriage. We fear losing our health or our lives.
We can’t sleep at night. We might lose our appetite. We feel helpless. We don’t laugh like we used to. You can see worry, and depression, in peoples’ faces.
“It is a mother’s prerogative to worry,” I’m told. It is a mothers prerogative to stop fearing, loving and trusting in the Lord above all things. Worry, like outright fear, is contrary to faith. Worry is opposite of faith. It is unbelief. Jesus said, “Do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?; or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.” (Matthew 6:31).
It’s one thing when the unbeliever trembles in fear. And understandable because they have no one to but helpless human beings to turn to when the storms of life hit.
But, and I say this not with a shaking finger, but with heaviness of heart. How sad, how pitiful, when God’s people fear.
“Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
We say the same thing, don’t we? “Lord, don’t you care that this is happening to me?” “Don’t you care that I am in the struggle for my life?” Don’t you care that I am afraid of what might happen?”
At least the disciples didn’t say, “Don’t bother waking Jesus, he can’t do anything about it.” No, they believed he could. But they also believed that Jesus stopped caring for them, stopped loving them. What led to their fear was that they believed Jesus stopped loving them. “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
Is there anything that can separate us from the love of God? “Shall trouble, or hardship…” Paul says “No.” “Nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.” If God stopped loving he would cease to exist because he is love.
For the child of God, there is never a cause for fear. Paul wrote to the Romans, “You did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:5). In the midst of temptation to fear we can call upon the Holy Spirit to remind us that we have a Father in heaven who loves us with an infinite love. Knowing our Father and knowing his love drives out all fear because as John writes in his first epistle, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The man who fears is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18). The ultimate cause of all fear is God’s punishment. But God’s perfect love for us, his grace, removes any idea of punishment. And if the punishment is removed then the fear is removed. John had written earlier, 1 John 4:7-10. “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
The reason there is no punishment, and the reason we have no fear, is that God sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. Yes, to live without fear of punishment, without worry, without anxiety. Yes, to live in peace and joy and hope. We don’t love God the way he demands, but God loves us in Christ and that perfect love is all we need to know to drive out any fear.
Think about this for a moment. In this crisis situation the disciples come to their Lord not with prayer, not with a respectful request, but with an accusation. What were they thinking? “Here we are almost dead, working our tails off to keep this boat afloat and you’re just sleeping away as if we don’t mean anything to you! Perhaps, if it does not interfere with your nap, we could use a little help, thank you please.”
“Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” Of course Jesus cared. And Jesus knew the Father cared. With perfect trust in His Father, Jesus could sleep. With that perfect trust in His Father, with his perfect life, with His dual nature of God and Man, he became the perfect sacrifice for sin. Jesus proves the Father’s love. Jesus knew he wasn’t going to drown, he knew he was going to die on a cross for all sinners. Jesus knew the Sea of Galilee and wind weren’t in charge, he knew His Father was in charge.
Another truth that removes fear is that Jesus is control of all things. “He (Jesus) got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still.’” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, ‘Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?’ They were terrified and asked each other, ‘Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!’” What we forget sometimes in the storms of life is that there is one who controls the wind and waves and earthquakes and tsunamis. There is one who is the master over all of disease and draught and economies and wars. He is the one who created this world using only His Word and someday will bring it to an end when the last believer comes to faith. The wind and waves obey the Lord Jesus, ruler over heaven and earth.
I think the key to this text lies in these words, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” Why were they afraid? Simple. Because they didn’t understand the nature of Jesus, and they didn’t understand his mission. Jesus wasn’t supposed to die drowning in the Sea of Galilee, he was supposed to be the cursed one on the tree. The sleeping Jesus didn’t have a human father.
When he asks “Do you still have no faith?” he specifically means faith in him as the Old Testament Messiah, the Savior of Israel and the world. Trust in Jesus’ work of redemption takes away fear, no matter what the circumstance may be.
So here’s what out text boils down to: If Christ took away sin and is the Savior of the world—we have no reason to fear dying. If Christ is in control of all things, then there is no reason to fear what happens before we die. If God loves us in Christ, and if “nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus,” then again, there is no need to ever fear.
The clouds are always gathering. Personal tragedy. Nagging problems which defy human solution. A burden placed on the family. Finances. Each one of us sees the storm clouds gather.
And sometimes the clouds just blow over. But sometimes it rains. Then the waves get bigger and the boat starts to take on water. The remedy: Know his love. Trust he’s in control. “He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still. Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.”
People of faith wrote these words for you, people of faith to find calm during storms: “When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid.” (Psalm 56:3-4). “The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1). “The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man to do me? The Lord is with me; he is my helper. I will look in triumph on my enemies. (Psalm 118:6,7).
The storms of life serve a very useful purpose. They show we are not in control. Storms move us to ask God to intervene on our behalf. Storms show us how much we need God. Storms remind us of how much he loves us in Christ.
Which means we can sing with conviction the hymn verse we just sang:
Be still my soul; your God will undertake
To guide the future as he has the past.
Your hope, your confidence, let nothing shake
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still my soul, the waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while he lived below. Amen.
THE TRUE MEANING OF EASTER
Most Christians know that Easter is the most important day of the entire church year. Every other Sunday revolves around Easter. That is why each Sunday is sometimes referred to as a “mini-Easter”.
Easter, of course, is the day Jesus rose from the dead. The Bible states that “(Jesus) was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification” (Romans 4:25). We might compare what happened to Jesus to what we do when we go to a grocery store. After we pick up our groceries and take them to the check-out counter, the cashier scans our groceries and tells us how much we owe. That is the PRICE for our groceries. We pay the cashier what we owe. That is the PAYMENT that we make. But after the payment is made, the cashier may give us our change and our groceries. But there is one more thing we want to have. That is our receipt. The receipt is our PROOF OF PURCHASE .
On Good Friday Jesus died on the cross. His suffering and death and the shedding of His innocent blood was the PAYMENT for all our sins. Because Jesus made the payment on our behalf, for our sins, there is nothing more that we need to pay. There is nothing that we can pay. Jesus did it all for us.
On the third day Jesus rose from the dead. His resurrection was God’s way of demonstrating that He had accepted the payment that Jesus made for us. In other words, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead is our PROOF OF PURCHASE. Jesus redeemed (bought us back) from our sin, from death and from the power of the devil. Because of that payment that Jesus made for us, God has now “justified” us or declared us to be “not guilty”. We are forgiven. And that means we have the certainty of eternal life through Jesus. “Whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
No wonder Easter means so much to the Christian. It is our day of victory. “Because I (Jesus) lives, you (we) also will live” (John 14:19).
On Easter we decorate our church with flowers, most of which are white (the Easter lily). White is the color of joy and celebration. It is also the color of purity or holiness. Because Jesus died and rose again, all our sins are forgiven and, through faith in Him, we are cleansed, purified, of all sin.
Easter is also the symbol of new life from the dead. As believers in Jesus, we have a new life. It is the life we live by faith in Him who loved us and gave Himself for us. Each day of our lives, we want to live for Him to show our love and gratitude for all that He has done for us.
May our Easter celebration again this year bring renewed joy, celebration and life through our risen and glorified Savior – JESUS CHRIST!