by Mike Ratliff
Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 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. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. (Ephesians 5:6-11 ESV)
Intentional godliness is the product of a spirit-filled walk. No Christian becomes godly by simply wanting it. Neither do they become godly through self-righteousness. Instead, the walk that is truly godly is one that is not self-focused at all. It is one that is totally wrapped up and empowered by a consistent, deliberate attempt to discover or discern what is pleasing to the Lord, then doing it. If we analyze this, and we should, we will see that the intentional walk in the light of God is one that separates the Christian from both non-Christians and professing Christians who bear no eternal fruit.
This separate walk does not include promises from God that all will be easy. There is no fine print that states that the obedient Christian will not become ill or lose their job or find themselves having to part with the world’s goods or even having a spouse walk out on them. No, we find examples in Sacred Scripture of God taking His saints through very heavy trials even though they were exemplary in their walk in the God’s light. Think of Joseph and Job. It is during these times that we discover who the real Christians are as well as those who either have a long way to go in their sanctification or are not genuine at all. The more mature believers are the ones who will come along side the suffering saint to help bear the burden while the others say insipid things like, “You must have committed some horrible sin and God has struck you down for it.”
Ephesians 5 begins with a command.
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:1-2 ESV)
Those who teach that religiosity is what pleases the Lord cannot have studied passages like this. I find it incredible that there are those today who actually teach that it is okay for Christians to be unrepentant. The walk that pleases God, which we must discern and do, is one that imitates our Lord. It is a walk of self-denial that is a living sacrifice which is well pleasing to God. This walk is one of forgiveness and longsuffering as our Lord’s was during His Earthly ministry. In order to walk in the light, we must also walk in this love. This forgiving and loving walk is not one of deliberate ignorance of what is really going on though.
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. 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. 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 (Ephesians 5:3-8 ESV)
No Christian will be sinless. However, we must beware of those who offer assurance of salvation to professing believers who live unrepentant lives. The unrepentant, those whose life is characterized by persistent sin and who show no shame for that sin or hunger for the holy and pure things of God, are headed for wrath and we must not be partakers in their wickedness. Instead, we are to walk in the light of the Lord because we are children of light. Think of those who claim that the standard of Matthew 5,6, & 7 (The Sermon on the Mount) is impossible for any Christian to conform to. Aren’t these the same ones who are handing out the false assurance to the unrepentant? What should our role be in this?
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. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” (Ephesians 5:7-14 ESV)
I pray that you noticed that we are not only to refrain from being partners with these people but we are also to seek discernment from God in order to discover what is pleasing to Him. We must do what pleases Him while avoiding doing what does not please Him. We take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness while actually exposing them to the light. Never forget that the ministry of discernment is two-fold. This passage lays it out very clearly. We must discern what is right, do that and help others to do the same. Then we are to discern that which is wicked, but professes faith in Christ. We must expose this to the light of God. This passage tells us that the purpose of this ‘exposing’ is to bring these people to the place where they either repent or go further into darkness.
This walk in the light is also a walk in God’s love. They cannot be separated.This is an intentional spirit-fillled walking with God.
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:15-21 ESV)
To remain in the spirit-filled walk with God, we must carefully or intentionally be wise. God imparts His wisdom to those who draw near to Him and ask for it. (James 1:5; James 4:7-10) If we learn to live intentionally and deliberately as James and Paul instruct us here we will find that we are filled with the Spirit and the evidence of it will be a godly focus and walk. This walk is one of submitting to others as we delight in God. As we abide in Christ, He gives us His joy. (John 15). This joy keeps our focus away from us and our felt needs while focusing on God and what pleases Him. When I feel the tug of the world or my flesh to take up my “old man” again I will stumble unless I stop it immediately by intentionally turning my focus back to God in delight, prayer, and praise. This will kill a temptation faster than anything I know.
Think of the temptations as tests allowed by God to exercise your faith. If we stumble into whatever the temptation is we miss the opportunity to walk further into the light with our Lord. However, if we mortify it by seeking our Lord in praise and prayer and thanksgiving, we become stronger spiritually because we deny ourselves in the power of the Holy Spirit. This will build contentment in Christ in us as a valuable treasure while we see the fleshly things that tempt us as dung. This is how we deny self, take up our crosses and follow Christ. The spriit-filled believer is obedient and humble while walking in the love of God, the light of God and the wisdom of God.
Soli Deo Gloria