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Darkness Is Bondage; Light Is Freedom


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), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.
(Ephesians 5:7-10 ESV)


Yesterday God warned His children not to engage in the same activities as those who are not His children. Only those who have been born-again by repenting of their sins and accepting Jesus’ death as necessary and complete for the payment of those sins are God’s children [John 1:12-13]. Everyone else is not. As we have been learning recently, those who are not God’s children make poor choices in life. Their lives are controlled by sin.

This is how God’s children used to be. At one time [we] were darkness, but now [we] are light. This is the reason (for) why we should not engage in these sinful practices any longer. We are no longer what we were.

Notice that God does not say we were in darkness and now are in light. He says we were darkness and are now light. This is very interesting.

If we stop to think about what it means to be darkness it isn’t pretty. Darkness is our enemy. It hides reality and increases the chance of harm. None of us would drive down an unlit street at night with our headlights off. We wouldn’t be able to tell where the road turns or what might be in front of us. Darkness is dangerous.

When people don’t know God they are darkness – they hide reality from the people around them and, hence, are dangerous. Such people are enemies of God [Colossians 1:21] and are also the enemies of mankind. This is why God has warned us not to become partners with them.

But when a person is born-again we become light. Light illuminates. Light is helpful. Light allows us to see reality and it keeps us from harm. What a contrast. People who don’t know God are harmful to the world. People who do know God are beneficial.

Sadly, the world thinks just the opposite. Governments and anti-Christian organizations believe that the Bible (i.e. Jesus) takes away freedom. False. Darkness is bondage. Light provides freedom. No one can look at world events over the past few decades and claim that, as we have removed Jesus from our lives, the world is getting better. The evidence is overwhelmingly to the contrary.

When we remove Jesus we take away our freedom because we plunge ourselves into darkness. We take away our ability to see reality and as a result, make bad decisions based on faulty theories (e.g. global warming).

God is light [John 8:12; 1 John 1:5]. The only way a person can be light to others is to be in the Lord. Conversely, anyone who does not know God is darkness: dangerous and harmful to the world.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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Using Our Lives To Influence Others


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), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.
(Ephesians 5:7-10 ESV)


Yesterday we read how we – those who have been adopted into God’s family through faith in Christ – should not practice sexual impurity. We should instead, practice lives of righteousness to the best of our ability through the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul refers to people who don’t do this as “sons of disobedience”. This is the them referred to in today’s verse.

Because these people practice (i.e. make a habit of) disobeying God when it comes to sexual sin, we should not become partakers with them. The Greek word translated “partakers” is συμμετοχηοσ (pronounced: soom-met’-okh-os). This word means “to be involved with”. It was used to refer to the mutual participation in a civic or community endeavor. Those of us who are practicing lives of integrity should not partake in the same activities as those who are practicing sin.

The immediate context of Paul’s words regard sexual sin, but can certainly be applied in a broader sense. Often when we are around people who are not interested in obeying God there will be temptation to sin. Temptation, of course, is the first step to disobedience.

God warns us, therefore, not to get too close to people who do not belong to Him [2 Corinthians 6:14-18]. This does not mean that we can’t have any non-believing friends. Of course we should. God calls on us to reach people with His message of love and forgiveness. Our actions and words will demonstrate the love of God, but only if someone is around to observe and hear them.

We can’t do that if we isolate ourselves, as the Amish do. They separate themselves from society to keep themselves pure. But in so doing they have become a cultural oddity and have no impact for Christ on the lost world around them.

On the other hand, God’s children are to be in the world, but not of the world [John 17:14-19; Romans 8:12] (once again, prepositions are very important when studying the Bible). We are to have friends, neighbors, and coworkers to whom we can show Christ through what we do and say.

But we need to be careful. People who do not know God are practicing sin, even if they don’t realize it. They may pressure us – or we may pressure ourselves – into doing what they do. But this is just the opposite of what God commands. The lives of non-believers should not be influencing our behavior. Rather, our behavior should be influencing theirs.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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We Practice What We Believe


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. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.
(Ephesians 5:5-6 ESV)


One of the drawbacks of studying just a verse or two of the Bible a day is we can forget the context within which each day’s words were written. As a result it is easy to apply incorrect meaning to a passage, such as today’s.

In this section of Paul’s letter he has been contrasting the behavioral characteristics of people who are God’s children and those who are not. Yesterday, we learned that people who are part of God’s family should not engage in inappropriate sexual conduct. That is what the world does. But God does not want His children to live like that. Paul continues to expand on that topic today.

Everyone who is sexually immoral, or impure, or covetous (in a sexual way; who idolizes sex) has no claim to God’s inheritance. Now, its safe to say that all human beings fall into this category more or less, even those of us who are God’s born-again children [John 1:12-13]. None of us live 100% pure lives. But God’s children have an inheritance awaiting us in heaven because our sins have been forgiven by God [Ephesians 1:11-12]. So Paul cannot be referring to us here.

Paul’s point is not that any sexual sin keeps a person out of heaven. Believers may fall into sexual sin or may carry sexual sin from their past, unsaved life, into their life as a believer. It happens. God does not condemn such a person. God condemns people who practice sin [1 John 3:7-8].

If you want to play a musical instrument you practice playing it. You intentionally try to become better at it. In the process, though, you will occasionally play bad notes. But your goal is to eliminate such mistakes.

Likewise, those who want to live according to God’s design will practice living that way. This does not mean they won’t mess up at times. Of course they will. But the fact that they are intentionally trying to live God’s way is proof they are saved and are on their way to heaven.

On the other hand, those who are deceived into thinking their behavior is not sin will incur God’s wrath. We are responsible for the information we receive and what we do with that information. We may receive false information – empty words – but the responsibility for knowing it is false rests with us. We can’t blame anyone else for our own deception.

Those who practice sin without regard for what God says will not be in heaven because they see nothing wrong with their behavior [Galatians 5:19-21]. They live in disobedience and don’t see a need to repent. The result is their sins are not forgiven and hence they will have to face judgement.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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Misuse Of Sex Is Inappropriate For God’s Children


But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.
(Ephesians 5:3-4 ESV)


Yesterday we read that God wants His children to love like He loves – sacrificially. We learned that love is not an emotion nor does love seek to satisfy self. Love is selfless. To that end, Paul explains some behaviors that should not be a part of a believer’s life because they are self-serving and therefore do not exhibit love.

The practices Paul discusses today are related to sex. It seems that the Ephesians, like us, mistake lust for love. Love is an expression for someone else’s well being. Lust is an desire to satisfy self.

Paul’s comments would have resonated with the Ephesians. As we learned in our introduction, the Temple of Diana (Artemis) stood in Ephesus. Diana was, among other things, a fertility goddess and over time religious prostitution became a common practice on the grounds of her temple. But such behavior, or any sexual behavior outside of God’s boundaries (a heterosexual married male and female), is not fitting for a saint (on the word saint, see this post).

Practices such as sexual immorality (in Greek: πορνεια (pronounced: por-ni’-ah), a general term for all sexual sin), impurity, greed (in a sexual sense) fall into this category. In fact, such things shouldn’t be discussed (named). We all know how powerful sexual thoughts and words are. Just the slightest thought can be tempting and can lead to sin. God knows this. So He tells us to not even discuss sex in an inappropriate context otherwise we, or someone we are talking to, might fall into sin.

Likewise, any filthiness, foolish talk, or crude joking are out of place for those who are God’s children. In the original Greek the context of these words imply sexual humor, vulgar comments, double-entendre, etc. When we joke about a topic we degrade it. God considers sex to be a venerable topic and disapproves of talk that would reduce its importance.

God invented sex and, used appropriately, it is not sin or dirty. In fact, the very first command God gave Adam & Eve was “go have sex!” [Genesis 1:28]. Note that Adam & Even had already been married at this point [Genesis 2:22].

Rather than living a life that attempts to find meaning and satisfaction in sex, God commands us to instead fill ourselves with thanksgiving. When we are thankful for what God has given us, we can live in a way that serves others because we know our needs are being / will be met.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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Giving Is A Byproduct Of Love


Therefore, be imitators of God as dearly loved children and live in love, just as Christ also loved us and gave himself for us, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God.
(Ephesians 5:1-2 ESV)


Yesterday we learned that people who have been adopted into God’s family as children through faith in Christ should imitate God who loves us. Paul expands on that today by telling us that we imitate God when we live in love.

The Greek word translated “live” here is περιπατεο (pronounced: per-ee-pat-eh’-o). This word means “walk”. When we walk we take one step at a time. Every step we take through life should be filled with love. It is the way Jesus lived. God is calling us to love just as Christ also loved and gave Himself for us.

What the world calls love is really lust. It is self-focused. It seeks self-gratification. But that is not how God defines love. God’s definition of love (which is the accurate definition) is sacrificial. When we love someone we seek their good at the possible expense of our own.

God’s love for us caused Him to give [John 3:16]. God sent His son from heaven to earth to die for our sins even though His son was 100% innocent. God had our greater good in mind. Jesus’ love for us caused Him to give up His place in heaven and take on the dire penalty of our sins so that we could be free [Philippians 2:5-8]. God is love [1 John 4:8].

Giving is the byproduct of love. When you love others, you want the best for them and you do what you can to bring it about.

As a result love is costly. It may require we sacrifice our time or our pride. Too many marriages fail because one or both partners only want to take. They don’t want to give. The vast majority of people who get married really have no idea that they are not in love, but that they are in lust.

Love also requires a commitment regardless of the possible consequences. Our culture thinks that love is a warm, fuzzy feeling and if they don’t get that then they decide they aren’t in love. But Jesus debunks this definition of love. Jesus willingly allowed nails to be driven through His wrists and feet and then hung on a cross for hours in incredible pain because He loved us. There was no warm, fuzzy feeling. There was incredible pain. But He stayed committed because He loved.

Jesus gave His life as a sacrificial and fragrant (pleasing) offering to God. God was pleased with this not because He is sadistic but because through Jesus’ love human beings could be washed clean of their sins and spend eternity with Him in heaven. He had our good in mind.

God wants us to live similarly. We should love others by seeking their good at the expense of our own. An incredibly high standard.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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Be Imitators Of God


Therefore, be imitators of God as dearly loved children and live in love, just as Christ also loved us and gave himself for us, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God.
(Ephesians 5:1-2 ESV)


After giving instructions in five ways the behavior of God’s children should be different than the world around us, Paul sums up what he is saying by telling us to be imitators of God as dearly loved children. All the characteristics we read over the previous days – telling the truth, working hard, speaking kindly, getting angry appropriately, and controlling our emotions – are some of the characteristics of God.

Just like children imitate their parents, those of us who are God’s children should imitate Him for He is our father. Its important to note that while every human being is created in God’s image [Genesis 1:26-27] not every human being is a child of God. Only those who have been born-again are part of God’s family [John 1:12-13, 3:3; 1 Peter 1:3]. We have been adopted and are now His children with the same standing as His son, Jesus.

In order to imitate someone we must know them. We can’t imitate someone we don’t know. If an actress is portraying a famous person in a biopic she must first study that person. She must learn her mannerisms, speech patterns, and facial expressions. In a similar way, God’s children cannot truly imitate Him unless we know Him. To know Him we have to study – not just read - the Bible.

God has revealed Himself to us in His word. God came to earth as Jesus for several reasons, one of which was to pay our sin penalty. But during His 33 or so years on this planet He also showed us what God is like. Those of us living today can learn from Jesus by reading the four gospel accounts (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) of Jesus’ life. In them we will see the heart of God.

Another way we can get to know God is through prayer. Just like we have to spend time talking with a friend or neighbor in order to know them, we have to spend time talking with God to know Him.

Sadly, though, most people know more about their coworkers and fictional TV characters than they do about God. Today many people pattern their lives after people like Oprah or the Kardashians.

We are God’s ambassadors on this earth – we represent Him [2 Corinthians 5:20]. To represent Him well we have to know Him. When we know Him we can imitate Him. When we imitate Him we live lives that reflect who He is and thereby spread His message of love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness to the world around us so that they can come into a relationship with Him also.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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The Most Powerful Way to Exhibit God’s Love


Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
(Ephesians 4:31-32 ESV)


Today Paul wraps up his list of five behavioral changes that should accompany anyone who becomes a member of God’s family through repentance of their sin and acceptance of God’s forgiveness [John 1:12]. The first four changes were: we should stop lying, we should have appropriate anger, we should work hard, and we should speak well of others. Today we are told to control our emotions.

It is not acceptable for any child of God to exhibit bitterness, wrath, anger, quarrelling (clamor), slander, or malice. These words describe our emotions and how we deal with them. The world around us is fueled by their emotions. We’ve all read too many stories of road rage, or other violent outbursts. Earlier this year two men came to blows in the stands at a major league baseball game over a $5 foul ball. Our culture clearly has issues with controlling our emotions.

God’s children are human beings just like anyone else. It would be understandable for us to behave similarly. But it would not be acceptable. God wants us to remove all such behavior from our lives. The Greek word for “all” is πασ (pronounced: pas) which means “each and every”. As a pastor in Chandler, Arizona likes to say “all means all and that’s all it means”. No exceptions. No excuses. When God says “all” he means 100% and not one iota less.

The world is filled with sin and therefore we will all be wronged by others. There is no way around that. But God does not want His children to respond in-kind. We are to instead be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another. This is not something we can do in our natural selves. Human beings are filled with sin. We need an outside force to change us. That outside force is the Holy Spirit, who is God, living inside us. The Holy Spirit makes us “new” [Titus 3:5].

The reason God calls on us to control our emotions and to forgive, is simple: God in Christ forgave [us]. None of us are innocent. We are all guilty. We’re all up to our ears in sin with no ability to redeem ourselves. The only thing that can help us is having our slate wiped clean. And that is exactly what God has done through Jesus.

God took all our sin, placed it upon Jesus, and poured out the penalty for that sin on Christ. He remembers our sin no more [Psalm 103:12; Isaiah 43:25; Micah 7:18-19 et. al]. When we are forgiven and know we are forgiven the proper way to live our lives is with forgiveness towards others [Matthew 18:21-35].

Our culture demands justice. We jump at the chance to take others to court for the slightest infraction. God does not approve of this. He does not want His children to seek revenge. He wants us to forgive. I don’t think there is a more powerful testimony we can make to the unbelieving world around us than to exhibit forgiveness quickly, willingly, and freely.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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This Life Is Nothing Like The Life God Wants For Us


And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
(Ephesians 4:30 ESV)


Over the past few days Paul has given us specifics about how the behavior of God’s children should be different from the world around us. While the world is steeped in sin and isn’t aware of it (or if they are, they don’t care), those who belong to God are not to sin. Of course, its impossible for anyone to stop sinning. None of us can be, or will be, perfect in this life. Sin will always be a temptation and it will get the best of us more than we’d like to admit.

But sin hurts us and hurts others, as we’ve been reading. When we lie, steal, speak unkindly, or get angry we damage relationships between ourselves and other people. God is all about relationships. He desires an individual, personal relationship with each of us through His son, Jesus. He also desires for us to have healthy relationships with our family members and neighbors.

Its easy to see that sinful behaviors hurt other people. But God wants us to also realize that sin greive[s] the Holy Spirit, who is God. In this verse Paul takes a short break from his list of five behavior changes to remind us that when we sin we are not only damaging our human relationships, but we also hurt God.

The Greek word translated “grieve” here is λυπεο (pronounced: loo-peh’-o) which means “to cause sorrow; to make sad”. God gets sad when we sin. This word is an anthropopathism which is a big word simply meaning a human emotion ascribed to God. It is similar to the word anthropomorphism which refers to a human physical characteristic we attribute to God, such as “God’s right hand”. These types of words don’t describe God exactly, but help us understand Him to some extent through the use of human characteristics. God does not have a right hand. Nor does He get sad the same way we do.

God does not need us to make Him happy. The sadness He experiences when we sin is not because He feels a loss – He is complete with or without us – but because He knows what sin costs us. Just look at all the wars, diseases, poverty, loneliness, pollution, and misery all around our planet. All of it is caused by our sin. This life is nothing like the life God wanted for us and we have no one to blame but ourselves.

God created the world and designed how it should work. He then told us exactly how to have a great life. But we disobey Him. Disobedience to God is the very definition of sin. Instead of doing what God tells us to we do our own thing and it causes all kinds of problems.

Life was meant to be one of perfect relationships among human beings, God, and nature. That is exactly how it was in the Garden of Eden [Genesis 2]. But it didn’t last long. From the moment Adam & Eve disobeyed God the world has been on the wrong course and will only continue to get more off-course as sin is cumulative. We can never undo the damage we have done.

This grieves God because He knows how great life could be for us and what we are missing out on.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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Using Our Words To Build Each Other Up


Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
(Ephesians 4:29 ESV)


Those of us who have been born-again through faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins are God’s children [John 1:12]. At the moment God forgave us we were changed into new creations [2 Corinthians 5:17]. As such, God expects us to no longer act like we used to (and the way the world still does) but to act in a way that is compatible with our membership in His family.

Over the previous three days we learned that our behavior should change by not lying, controlling our anger, and by working hard. Today we come to the fourth change: we are to let no corrupting talk come out of [our] mouths.

The Greek word translated “corrupting” is σαπροσ (pronounced: sap-ros’) which means “rotten, putrefied; unfit for any use”. In ancient Greek culture it was used to describe rotten food that was not fit for consumption.

Words that are complaining, gossiping, blaming, mocking, insulting, argumentative, profane, or crude would fit this description. We should evaluate our words while they are still thoughts. If they are not nourishing, like healthy food, then we should not say them.

This is a pretty fitting description of the way the world speaks. Just turn on any sitcom and you’ll see that most of the humor is either crude jokes or insults. The overwhelming majority of TV and Internet news are filled with negativity and exposition of people’s flaws and mistakes for the sole purpose of attracting viewers. Negativity sells. And our culture is awash in it.

But, not unexpectedly, this is not how God wants His children to speak [Colossians 3:8]. He wants us to say only that which is good for building up others. Certainly this can, and should, include appropriately conveyed constructive criticism – this very passage we’re studying is constructive advice. But it is the intent that determines the value of one’s statements. If the intent of one’s remarks is to put people down or to promote self, then they are not pleasing to God. Our words should be encouraging, appreciative, gentle, and edifying.

The reason behind all of this is to give grace to those who hear. Grace is undeserved. We may think someone deserves to be put down with harsh words. But this would not be helpful [Proverbs 12:18]. Instead, give them what they don’t deserve – grace – with words that build them up. Alternatively, if we can’t say something nice, we should not say anything (cliché, but biblical).

This is how God treats us. He does not condemn. He does not remind us of our mistakes or flaws. He doesn’t whine or complain that we are sinners. Instead He is patient and encouraging as He teaches us with His words – both in the Bible and as He speaks to us through the Holy Spirit.

The world would be a much better place if we treated people similarly.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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Doing Honest Work


Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.
(Ephesians 4:28 ESV)


Those of us who God calls His children – those who have been born-again through faith in Jesus [John 1:12] – are to live in ways that are different than how we lived previously. Paul is currently teaching 5 ways this should be so. Thus far we’ve learned that we are not to lie and our anger should be properly directed.

Today we learn that we to no longer steal. Instead God wants us to labor, doing honest work with [our] own hands. We might recall that this command is also one of the Ten Commandments (number 8). Stealing is a disobedient, selfish act that reveals a lack of trust in God.

God is a worker. He is a creator. In fact, the very first thing God tells us about Himself is that He is a creator [Genesis 1:1]. God created and made the world through work. God continues working even today [John 5:17]. Right now Jesus is in heaven preparing (i.e. working) a place for each one of us who will join Him there someday [John 14:2].

Human beings are made in God’s image, He designed in us the need and the capacity to work. Adam was placed in the Garden of Eden to work it and to reap the benefit of his efforts [Genesis 2:15]. Throughout the Bible God condemns laziness and praises work [Proverbs 6:6, 10:4, 13:4, 2 Thessalonians 3:10 et. al].

But notice that our work should be honest. The original Greek word means “useful”. Just being busy is not necessarily work. Work produces something of value. To that end, I doubt God considers producing tabloid magazines or selling drugs work as those activities (and many others) do not provide value to anyone else.

The reason we should work is so we may have something to share with anyone in need. The more we work the more we have. But God doesn’t want us to use that extra wealth on ourselves. We are to be thinking of others who are in need.

The people in need in this verse are not lazy people who refuse to work and instead live off of others. They are people who have hit hard times through no fault of their own, perhaps through a physical disability, natural disaster, or just plan bad luck.

Once we are saved our lives are no longer about ourselves. We must take care of our needs, of course. But beyond that God commands us to meet the needs of others with our extra wealth. We should work hard not only for us, but for them.

God is a giver [John 3:16]. He has used His infinite resources to bless us. We are to no longer to be takers. We are to become givers too.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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