According to the book “Life of Francis d’Assisi”, Francis once invited a young monk to join him on a trip to town to preach. Honoured to be given the invitation, the monk readily accepted. All day long he and Francis walked through the streets, byways, and alleys, and even into the suburbs. They rubbed shoulders with hundreds of people. At day’s end, the two headed back home. Not even once had Francis addressed a crowd, nor had he talked to anyone about the gospel. Greatly disappointed, his young companion said, “I thought we were going into town to preach.”
Francis responded, “My son, we have preached. We were preaching while we were walking. We were seen by many and our behaviour was closely watched. It is of no use to walk anywhere to preach unless we preach everywhere as we walk!”
Young people, our Christian walk matters. It’s not only about us. It matters to God. It matters to the people around us. Our walk matters. Today, I want to preach from Ephesians 5:1-21. Before we go into the text, I want to begin by giving you a very broad structure to the book of Ephesians. The book of Ephesians can be divided into two big parts: Chapters 1-3 details what God has done for us. Chapters 4-6 details what our response should be. And this is very important. Christianity is not mainly what we are to do for God. It’s mainly about what God has done, is doing, and will do for us. That comes first, that is fundamental.
So the book of Ephesians begins… Ephesians 1:3 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ…” We are blessed. And Paul continues to expand on our blessings of being Christians. Chapters 1-3. Chapter 4 begins this way, Ephesians 4:1 “Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called…” God has called us, God has blessed us… therefore, walk in a manner worthy of our God. The theme of our Christian walk is key in chapters 4-6. And in chapter 5 which we are looking at today, the theme is repeated 3 times.
1. We are to walk in love (Ephesians 5:1-4)
Eph. 5:1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Eph. 5:3 But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. 4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.
We are to walk in love. But what is love really? Our society and world is confused about what love is. What many of us believe about love is very much influenced by pop culture. It is romantic. It is exciting. It is sensual. It is based on feelings, emotions, sex. I’m quite sure some of you read on NP_Confessions this week about a student couple making out at the rooftop of Ngee Ann Polytechnic. That, is not love. That, is lust… the very opposite of love.
So what then is love? v. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Love is self-giving and self-sacrificial. And Christ is our foremost example. Christ gave Himself for us. Christ sacrificed Himself for us. The way Christ loved us was with a self-sacrificial love, supremely demonstrated on the Cross of Calvary. We are to walk in love. Love is self-giving. Lust, on the other hand, is self-gratifying.
Look at v. 3. Sexual immorality. All impurity. Covetousness. When you take sexual immorality and all impurity together, it basically covers every kind of sexual sin; that is, all sexuality outside God’s plan of marriage – one husband, one wife, for life. So sexual sin includes fornication (sex before marriage), adultery (sex outside of marriage), LGBT (lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transexuals), pornography.
Covetousness doesn’t seem to fit here, except if you remember the 10th commandment “Do not covet your neighbour’s wife”, then we begin to see that it means wanting/desiring that which you should not have. Lust is all about self-gratification. Friends, this is a big issue. This is our world, our culture. Sex-saturated. Sex-obsessed. Sex-crazy. Now, for the ladies, I realise that sex may not be the thing you’re looking for. Perhaps romance? What’s wrong with romance. Nothing, except if it leads your heart away from God and walking with Him. Lust.
But there’s more. v. 4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. No filthiness. No foolish talk. No crude joking. It struck me for the first time how closely linked this is to sexuality. Think of the popular Singaporean curse-words: either has to do with sexual acts (like the ‘F’ word) or sexual organs (all the Hokkien vulgarities). And God says no filthiness. No foolish talk. No crude joking. Man, that certainly eliminates a lot of pop songs, talk shows, movies. Now, I’m not saying you must completely cut out all those influences, but at the bare minimum, if you find yourselves thinking or using vulgarities, you have to consider cutting out these influences. So don’t use vulgarities and say, it’s just for fun, it’s just a joke. Don’t excuse yourself by saying you were provoked. When you do it, repent of it.
Now it is interesting that the contrast to vulgarity is thanksgiving. You see, vulgarity is treating sex too lowly, too casually. It is trivialised. But God gave sex as a gift to us, not for joking, but for thanksgiving. God is the One who created sex. In its proper context of marriage, sex is good. The world’s obsession and trivialisation of sex in fact denigrates sex and marginalises marriage. As Christians, we are to hold a high view of marriage AND sex because they come together! And that is how we walk in love.
In 125 AD, the Athenian philosopher Christian Aristides described Christians to his king in this way… “They (Christians) do not commit adultery or immorality… Their wives, O king, are as pure as virgins, and their daughters are modest. Their men abstain from all unlawful sexual contact and from impurity, in the hopes of recompense that is to come in another world.” These Christians were a shining example before a watching world. And in our world and society, we desperately need Christians to do the same. We need to walk in love.
2. We are to walk as children of light (Ephesians 5:5-14)
5 For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not become partners with them; 8 for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (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.”
Paul, who wrote this book of Ephesians, in these few verses gives a very severe warning as well as strong encouragements, for us to walk as light. Warnings need to be heeded. And they need to be heeded in time. One of the most tragic accidents of recent times is the Sewon (South Korean) ferry disaster. The ferry carried 476 people when it sank on 16 April 2014, after listing sharply to one side and then rolling over. The confirmed death toll stands at 269 with 35 people still unaccounted for. As investigations unveiled what had happened, we discovered that the instructions to many students was to stay put and the warning to abandon ship was given too late, dooming many of these young children/teenagers to their deaths.
Warnings need to be heeded. And they need to be heeded in time. The Bible gives us a very severe warning here in Ephesians 5:5. It tells us that if we persist in living a sexually immoral or impure life, if we keep coveting that which God forbids us to have, if there’s no repentance over this manner of life, God says we will be excluded from His kingdom.
Now let me be clear about what I’m not saying. I’m not saying we can earn our way into heaven by living a righteous life. Salvation is a gift from God to be received by faith. We don’t deserve it. We can’t earn it. However, having received God’s gift of salvation, it must show in how we live. In fact, the proof of us being a recipient of God’s grace is that our lives display His work of transformation. It’s not always obvious. It’s not always immediate. Change may proceed a little bit at a time. Change may take a long time. But change must eventually happen if your salvation and faith are genuine.
Recently, my children were given a caterpillar by my dad to nurture. So we kept it in a container, and fed it leaves. The caterpillar soon went into a cocoon. And it stayed that way a long time, many days. But eventually, it emerged… a beautiful butterfly. Initially, when it emerged from the cocoon, it couldn’t fly. My wife released it, and it stayed perched on her hand. But after a while, it started flapping its wings more vigourously. We then took it down to the park and released it. Man, did it fly! Radical transformation.
2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” Friends, examine your lives. Are you still living your former way of life? Self-centred. Immoral. Impure. Or has God begun a work in your life? Are there new desires in you to love Him and to love people? Do you seek to live a pure, holy, godly life? To walk as light, and not darkness.
This contrast of light and darkness is evident and repeated several times in v. 5-14. Here the metaphor is clear: light refers to good and darkness refers to evil. If you are children of light, walk as children of light. As children of light, we v. 7 “do not become partners with them (sons of disobedience)” and v. 11 “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness”. Now this doesn’t mean you don’t mix any more with non-Christian friends, because we are called to be witnesses to them and to win them to Christ. Rather, we should not be involved in any activity that can be considered unfruitful works of darkness. What are some things you can think of? Sexual immorality. Vulgarity. Smoking/drugs/alcohol abuse. Gambling. Illegal downloads (woah!) Etc. Don’t join in your friends if this is what they do.
And many of us may immediately think, “this is so legalistic, so restrictive.” Right? We really need a re-framing of this. So instead of thinking, ‘what a kill-joy God is’, the truth is we ought to be thinking, ‘how much God loves us, He doesn’t want us to suffer soul hurts and soul destruction.’ We must re-frame God’s restrictions because they are given to us in love. He loves us. He wants to protect us. He wants good for us.
Therefore, our response must be that we would drag our dark thoughts, words and deeds into the light. So that we may repent of them and forsake them. In so doing, we may live with this motto, “Nothing to hide.” And we may hear Paul’s exhortation v. 14 “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
We are to walk in love. We are to walk as children of light. Finally…
3. We are to walk in wisdom (Ephesians 5:15-21)
Eph. 5:15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
We all put in effort into and take care of the things or people that matter to us: our education, our family or friends, our hobbies, our dress or appearance (especially if we’re going out on a date!) So as Christians, we must also take care of our Christian walk. Eph. 5:15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.
We are to walk in wisdom. Story was told of an angel appears at a faculty meeting and tells the dean that in return for his outstanding and exemplary conduct, the Lord will reward him with his choice of great wealth, great wisdom or great looks. Without hesitating, the dean selects great wisdom. “Done!” says the angel, and disappears in a cloud of smoke and a bolt of lightning. Now, all heads turn toward the dean, who sits surrounded by a faint halo of light. At length, one of his colleagues whispers, “Say something.” The dean looks at them and says, “I should have taken the money.” Moral of the story: wise people choose money. No. What does walking in wisdom look like?
Walking in wisdom has 3 aspects to it:
i. Wise people make the most use of their time. They know that time is a precious commodity and they use it to its fullest potential. Young people, there is a place for rest, for recreation. Gaming, surfing the internet, watching TV, sports and hobbies etc… these have their place. But our walk with God, and our role in God’s mission must figure prominently. “Because the days are evil.” I don’t have to elaborate. Just take a look around our world. Is it not getting darker? Are the days not getting more challenging?
Jesus Himself warns us that this is precisely what it’s going to be like when the days approach for His return. Matthew 24:12 “And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.” Why are we to walk in love, why are we to walk in the light, why are we to walk in wisdom… because the world is going to tempt you to walk away from Jesus. The increase of lawlessness is going to tempt you to abandon your faith, or at the very least, to make your faith cold, to make your faith private, to make your faith a ritual. So wise people make the best use of their time walking closely with God, keeping their faith burning within their hearts, and being about God’s business.
Jesus puts it this way as He continues in Matthew 24:13-14 “But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” God’s mission is an unstoppable mission. The gospel will go forth into all the nations. Jesus will return. Question is: are you going to be a part of it?
ii. Wise people know God’s will. 17 “Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” God’s will needs to be understood in two arenas: God’s general will and God’s specific will. Too often we are concerned about God’s specific will. What course I should study. What job should I take. Whom should I date. Whom should I marry. Of course these decisions are important. You should ask God about all these decisions. But these are secondary. Because if you are not seeking God’s general will and obeying Him, then you will not seek God in the details of life in His specific will.
I’ll give you an example. Let’s take 2 Corinthians 6:14 “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers…” If the principle from this verse is your guide, then that narrows whom you should consider dating. Fellow believers. But that’s not the only thing. Not being unequally yoked means more than just dating a Christian. It means that your goals, aims, ambitions etc should come together in the Lord. That’s just an example.
Knowing God’s will means we must know God’s Word well. It is not that God cannot speak through dreams, visions, impressions etc. But that our hearts are often deceitful and we wrongly hear things, because they are things we want to hear. So read your Bibles. And I want to say this. Don’t read the Bible just to know God’s will. The main purpose of getting into God’s Word is really just to know God. To fellowship with Him. To enjoy Him.
iii. Wise people are ultimately Spirit-filled. 18 “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit…” There may be some confusion as to what being Spirit-filled means. So let’s be clear. When we become Christians; that is, we repent of our sin, we trust in Christ, we surrender our lives to Jesus… God gives us His Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit now indwells us. This is a once-for-all event. If God’s Holy Spirit is in you, He’s not going to leave you.
Being Spirit-filled refers to something else. I want to say 4 things about it before defining what it means.
- When the Bible says be filled with the Spirit, it’s not a suggestion, it’s a commandment.
- It is in the plural form; meaning, all of you be filled with the Spirit. It’s not for the spiritually elite. It’s for all believers.
- It is in the passive voice; meaning, it’s not something you can do for yourself. I fill myself with the Holy Spirit. No. Rather, it is a surrender to God in obedience.
- It is in the present tense; meaning, it’s not a once-for-all kind of thing. It’s a continual process. This verse is better rendered “be continually filled with the Spirit”.
I’d describe being filled with the Spirit as being energised by or being empowered by God’s Holy Spirit. Paul contrasts being filled with the Spirit and getting drunk with wine. What happens when you are drunk? You become less than your normal self. You lose the ability to think clearly, you lose the ability to make right decisions, you lose self-control. What happens when you are filled with the Spirit? You become more than your normal self. You are energised by God to think clearly, to make wise decisions, to have self-control. In other words, the Spirit makes us more like Jesus.
I want you to read what’s the result of being filled with the Spirit. 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs… (that’s vibrant corporate worship)
singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart… (that’s vibrant personal worship) 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ… (that’s joyful thanksgiving) 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ… (that’s mutual, loving fellowship).
Now, I ask you this: wouldn’t you like these verses to describe Point Community fellowship? Yah? So what’s the key? Each of us must choose to be filled with the Holy Spirit. We read our Bibles, we obey what God says, we allow the Spirit to transform us. The result? Spirit-filled Christians. Spirit-filled fellowship. Spirit-filled Point Community.
We have come a long way today. Let me do a recap. Our Christian walk matters. Let me ask you this one final question today. Who are you? Or rather whose are you? Who do you belong to? We can only serve one of two masters. God. Or Satan. (Some people may say, I’m my own master. No, Satan’s your master.) Who is your Master? Whom do you belong to? Whose you are determines how you walk. Today, if you have not decided who you belong to… choose God. Because He loves you. He gave Jesus to forgive you, to cleanse you and to save you, so that you could have a relationship with Him. Salvation. Eternal life. But if you are God’s “beloved children”, walk in love. The world only knows lust. Show them love. If you are “children of Light”, walk in light. The world is in darkness. Shine your light. If you are “wise”, walk in wisdom. The world only knows foolishness, show them how to live wisely.