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4501 Waller Rd E
Tacoma, Washington
INI
Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost
August 16, 2015
Ascension Lutheran Church, Tacoma WA
Paul Naumann, Pastor

THE REVEALING WALK OF A CHRISTIAN
Ephesians 5:1-9

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you, Amen. This morning we will consider the Word of God in St. Paul's letter to the Ephesians, chapter five, beginning with the first verse, as follows:

Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. 3 But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; 4 neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. 5 For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any 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 be partakers with them. 8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth). Here ends our text.

In Christ Jesus, whose walk we follow in this life, Dear Fellow Redeemed,

There are some people who can't hide what they do for a living, because it's revealed in the way they walk. Sailors are a good example. Years ago, they say, you could always tell an old sailor by his rolling gait as he walked down the street, as if his legs were still adjusting to the pitching deck of a ship. Cowboys are another example. Tradition says that those old cattle hands, whenever they're not on a horse, are supposed to walk bowlegged. Modern ranch hands seem to spend a lot less time on horseback, so it's harder to tell. But once in a while in my old home town of White River SD, you'd see a fellow with a big straw hat and a silver buckle on his belt, moseying down the street on the outside edges of his boots, a little bowlegged. You knew without even asking him that he was a cowboy. It was that revealing walk that settled it.

You should be able to tell a Christian, too, by the way he walks. Not by his physical gait as he walks down the street, but by his "walk in life" - his behavior, the way he conducts himself. The Apostle Peter describes Christians as "...a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people." I Pet 2:9. God wants us to stand out from the crowd; He wants others to notice that we Christians are a peculiar, or "special", people. The problem we have is that, by nature, we don't want to stand out. We want to blend in! In our text for today, God is calling on us to do a hard thing. He's calling us to publicly display our identity as Christians. That's why the theme of our sermon this morning is:

THE REVEALING WALK OF A CHRISTIAN
I. He walks in the love of Christ
II. He walks away from sin
III. He walks as a child of light

If you spend a little time reading the epistles of St. Paul in the New Testament, you'll notice an interesting thing - he's always talking about the way Christians walk. It seems like one of Paul's favorite subjects! That may seem confusing at first, until you understand the way he uses the word "walk". Obviously, he couldn't be talking about the physical way a Christian walks, because many of the most devoted Christians don't walk at all -- when they're bedridden because of illness, or when they're confined to a wheelchair. No, the word Paul uses for "walk" means "to behave, or to conduct one's life." It's a general term that describes the way that you live and act every day of the week. Your "walk" in life reflects who you are and what you are. And Paul says that a Christian's walk in life should reveal him clearly as a child of God. According to Paul, if you're walking like a Christian, people should be able to tell it from a mile away! For one thing, Paul says, a Christian always walks in the love of Christ.

Love, of course, is a universal experience. Everyone knows what it feels like. Children love their parents, and vice-versa. A husband loves his wife, and vice-versa. A pastor loves his parishioners, and vice-versa. But how can you tell when somebody truly loves somebody else? The best way is not by what they say, but by what they do. The actions of Christ - what He did for us - are proof positive that he loved us. Our text says, Walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.

The Apostle is urging Christians to walk in love, and the best example of love he can think of is the love of Christ for sinners. Jesus' love for you and me was no superficial feeling. His love for us was deep, and active, and totally committed. He knew that, if left to ourselves, we sinners would simply go speeding on down the broad highway to hell, without a hope of escaping our sins, and without even the desire to do so. So Jesus' love drove Him into action. He brought the sacrifice to end all sacrifices. He poured out His own blood on the cross. The suffering and death of the God-Man Jesus was the only offering precious enough to pay the price of our sins, so He paid it. His was surely a very active love!

And that's why the walk of a Christian is so revealing, Paul says, because the Christian walks in that same active type of love that Christ had. When God tells us to "love our neighbor," he's telling us to act with love toward him. We may not always feel love toward him, but that's not the important thing. Let's face it, even our own family members get on our nerves once in a while, but that doesn't mean we don't love them. Love is primarily what you do, not what you feel. Jesus says that walking in love even means doing good for your enemies, those people who downright hate you! "I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you." Matt 5:54. When you think about it, that's exactly what Christ did for us, isn't it? By nature we were His enemies, and yet He loved us. And our faith in Him will inspire us do good to others, to "walk like Christians." And that kind of "walk" really stands out!

Another way you can tell a Christian is that he walks away from sin. Paul paints a picture of the sinful world that sounds alarmingly similar to our world of 2015. He says, But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. There were those in Paul's day whose "walk in life" was just the opposite of what a Christian's walk should be. These were people for whom sexual immorality was a way of life; for whom filthy practices, foolish talk and dirty jokes were just part of their daily routine. Paul told the Ephesian Christians in the strongest terms that these things shouldn't even be mentioned among believers, let alone practiced.

His remarks strike home with us, too, don't they? God wants our walk in life to be away from the sinful practices of the people who live around us. But here you better not be afraid of sticking out in a crowd, because in our world these things are taken for granted. Examples abound. Our society scoffs at God's original plan for human sexuality - that it should be a sanctified part of a Christian marriage. In today's "hookup culture," sex is so casual that it seldom has anything to do even with a relationship, let alone marriage. One writer wondered what to make of a generation for whom losing one's cell phone is a more significant event than losing one's virginity. Young couples are increasingly avoiding marriage -- why bother, when it's so much easier to live together? On other fronts, gay rights groups boldly demand that the definition of marriage-as old as the earth itself-must be changed, and our own Supreme Court agrees with them. Planned Parenthood clinics across the nation use our tax dollars to murder unwanted children and then sell their body parts. Filth overflows on the airwaves and the internet; we hear the rankest profanity on the job and on the street. And all the while, this society is telling us, "Come on, get with the times! You're not going to let some obsolete old religion hold you back, are you? Come into the 21st century! Be cool and sophisticated! WALK WITH US - it's easy and it's fun!" Soon we may feel ourselves being tugged along, modifying our beliefs and our behavior to match theirs. We may find ourselves not noticing much anymore who goes to bed with whom. We may find the adult websites not so offensive anymore, we may find the filthy language and dirty jokes creeping into our own speech. But Paul snaps us back to reality; he says, 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 be partakers with them. There is a reckoning coming, if not in this world, then in the next. "Be not deceived," Scripture says, "God is not mocked!"

Christians are square pegs in a world full of round holes. The people of this world will try to pound you in, anyway -- but don't let them do it! If you're a Christian, then stand up and be counted as one! Don't be afraid to show the unbelievers that your lifestyle doesn't fit in with theirs, and you don't want it to. Remember, we're "a peculiar people;" God meant for us to stand out as a witness against ungodliness - and a witness for the Gospel! Paul advised the Romans, "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." Rom 12:2. One way to "prove" it-to demonstrate to others that God's will is better-is by walking like a Christian, and walking away from sin!

One final revealing thing about a Christian, Paul says, is that he walks as a child of light. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light. All the Ephesians had come to faith as adults, so they had something to compare with their walk as Christians. They could actually remember what it had been like to exist in the darkness of unbelief. It was as different as comparing midnight with noon. All the sin, the vice, the black despair of their guilty consciences had been replaced by the bright love of God, forgiveness in Christ, and peace. What a beautiful picture! It must have been like waking from a horrible nightmare to a cheerful, sunshiny morning.

Unlike those Ephesian Christians, many of us can't remember what it was like to be an unbeliever. We were brought to faith already as infants, through baptism. But each of us has his sinful flesh, and we know what the darkness is. We've felt it. We've felt the prick of our guilty conscience when God's Law shows us to be sinners. We've known the nightmare of realizing that we have not kept God's commandments, that we've fallen far short of His standards of righteousness. Yes, we know the Law. But we have also heard and believed the Gospel. We believe what God says in Lamentations: "Through the Lord's mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not, they are new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness." (3:22-23). Christ has awakened us from the dark nightmare of sin, awakened us to the bright, sunshiny morning of His grace and forgiveness. We are just as much the children of light as those Ephesians to whom Paul was writing -- and God wants us to reflect that light!

A college girl once came to her pastor, deeply disturbed. She was upset because of the immorality and unbelief she saw all around her at the university she was attending. "Christians are supposed to be lights," the pastor told her. "Yes, I know, but I don't see --" "Where do you put a light?" he asked. Understanding dawned in her eyes. "In a dark place!" she replied. Of course, the pastor was just rephrasing what Jesus Himself had once said about Christians, "You are the light of the world. People do not light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." Matt 5:14-16.

Jesus has brought light into our lives. You and I are "home free," in the best sense of the expression. That is, because of Jesus' sacrifice on the cross, we are free from sin and on our way home to heaven! Through Him, we are truly God's own children. Let's not be afraid to show it in the way we conduct our lives! It's not easy to stand out. Your walk may be difficult for a time. But it won't last forever. Your reward, on the other hand, will last forever! Jesus said, Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life. -Rev. 2:10. So take Paul's advice - walk in the love of Christ; walk away from sin; and walk as a child of light. You never know who might be watching. Hopefully, someone close to you will soon be saying, "I know that person's a Christian - his walk reveals it!" In Jesus' name, AMEN.