4501 Waller Rd E
Fourth Sunday after Epiphany
January 31, 2016
Ascension Lutheran Church, Tacoma WA
Paul Naumann, Pastor
JESUS CHRIST IS THE LIGHT OF EXPOSURE
Grace and peace be multiplied unto you in the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, Amen.
This morning we look to the fifth chapter of Paul's letter to the Ephesians, beginning with the 13th
verse, as follows [ESV]:
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." Here ends our text.
In the Name of Jesus Christ, Who is Light that no darkness can overcome, Dear Fellow Redeemed,
The word "exposure" can mean various things when used in different contexts, but I think it's safe
to say that most of the meanings are bad. Granted, there are some benign meanings of the word
"exposure." When light is applied to photographic film, we call that an exposure. When most of the
windows in one's home face south, you might say that you have a pleasant southern exposure. But
if you google, say, the words "exposure" and "politician" together, or the words "exposure" and
"indecent," all the news that comes up will be bad news. It will be about people with dark, repulsive
secrets that they never intended to come to light. It will be about crime, and corruption, and dark
Epiphany is a season of light. During this time of the year we hear much about Jesus as "the light
of the world," and Jesus as "the light of the gentiles." Those are pretty straightforward concepts
for the Christian. Today's theme, however, isn't quite so self-evident. This morning we're reminded
that one of the specific goals that the Jesus came to earth to accomplish was exposure. Exposure in
two senses. Consider with me therefore the theme,
JESUS CHRIST IS THE LIGHT OF EXPOSURE
I. His Law exposes sin.
II. His Gospel exposes the way of salvation
In chapter five of his letter to the Ephesians, Paul's subject is enlightenment. He's talking about the
enlightened walk of a Christian, how believers are to behave, and how their behavior differs from
the unbelievers among whom they live. Unlike most of us, many of the Ephesians could remember a
time when they were unbelievers. They well remembered the darkness and ignorance of those
former days, and they had vivid memories of the change that took place when the Holy Spirit came
upon them and made them believers. Paul reminds them of this in v. 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.
The deeds of the world in which the Ephesians lived were dark and wicked. What were the
Christians to do? Join in those deeds? Certainly not. Ignore the deeds and pretend that they didn't
exist? No. They were neither to join in them nor to ignore them, but rather to expose them. To
expose them with the Word of Christ.
Christ and His Word are THE LIGHT OF EXPOSURE. First, and most obviously, because His Law
exposes sin. Paul says, when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that
becomes visible is light.
Light brings exposure, and that is not always pleasant. The world will not thank you for letting the
light of your faith shine. They will not thank you for living like a Christian and speaking like a
Christian. We American believers, especially, need to understand that, because for us, persecution
is a new experience. For over two hundred years, Christians in America have enjoyed this incredible
blessing from God of living in a society whose public morality-and even whose laws-were largely
based on Christian values. But that's changing, isn't it? Since the 1960's, and especially in these last
few years, America's public morality, and even its laws, have been moving sharply away from
Christian values. For the first time in America's history, Bible-believing Christians are being forced
out of the mainstream and being pushed toward the margins of society. Today, when you stand up
for values such as moderation and modesty and chastity, you're much more likely to be ridiculed
than praised. When you refuse to join the majority in viewing fornication, homosexuality and
abortion as normal and accepted behaviors, some unpleasant things are going to happen to you.
You will be shamed on social media, I can tell you that much. You may well be accused of "hate
speech." Who knows, in a few years you may be jailed! Is there even worse in America's future?
Jesus warned His disciples, "The time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God
service!" -- Jn. 16:2. The point is, this is not unusual for Christians. "Hey, welcome home," said one
Christian writer. For in nearly every era and nearly every country in history, this is what's normal for
Christians. Peter says, Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you,
as though some strange thing happened to you; 13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of
Christ's sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. -- 1
Pet. 4:12-13. Don't be afraid to tell the truth! Don't be afraid to shine the light! Our Lord's Law
exposes sin and provokes strong reactions in sinners, and that's exactly what it was designed to
do. Jesus said, "Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of
evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for
so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:11-12.
Christ's Law exposes the sin in the unbelieving word in which we live, it's true. But before we get
too far up on our high horse, we need to realize that it does something much more frightening that
that-it exposes the sin within our own hearts as well. This too is a function of God's Law. It's not a
pleasant function, but it's something we have to have. Let me illustrate. Our garage at the
parsonage has no electricity, so it's a dark place. It's also a bit cluttered, and it's hard to see your
way around. One summer a couple of years ago I noticed a vaguely disturbing smell coming from
the interior of the garage. I wasn't sure what it was but I knew that, whatever it was, it wasn't good.
And I was right. I finally discovered that the bad smell was coming from an old woolen army
blanket rolled up in the corner. Holding my nose, I dragged it out into the sunlight and unrolled it.
That was the problem, alright - sometime previously, a rat had crawled into the middle of that
blanket and died. The smell made me physically ill. Why do I bring up such an unpleasant story?
Because, my fellow Christians, our sin is even worse than that. The sins that we harbor in our
hearts are more unpleasant, more disgusting and - here's the point - more dangerous. For as soon
as we start nurturing our sins in the darkness of our heart, as soon as we start protecting them and
refusing to repent of them, the corruption and the rottenness begins. Eventually we may even
begin to think that we need no repentance, that sin isn't sin, and that we're good enough the way
we are. But that's what the Law is for. God's Law forces us to take the clothespin off our nose and
us smell the corruption that lies within each of us. In chapter 64 Isaiah, in effect, brings us right
back to that disgusting blanket and rubs our nose in it! "That's what we're like!" he says. "We are
all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags." Isa 64:6 NKJ.
Yes, the Word of Christ is THE LIGHT OF EXPOSURE because it exposes sin. The sins of the
world, and our own sins as well. But all is not lost. For Christ is the light of exposure in another
sense too - a very blessed and beneficial sense. Because His Gospel exposes way of salvation. Paul
goes on, … anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, "Awake, O sleeper, and arise
from the dead, and Christ will shine on you."
What a terrific message! That despite the darkness of sin that we see all around, that we see
indeed within ourselves, God has shined the light of the Gospel to show us the way of salvation.
It's the light that guides us in! Did you know that every time you come in for a landing on a
commercial airliner, there's a light shining on you? It's call the ILS, or instrument landing system. It's
a powerful electronic guidance beacon; there's one at every airport. It's designed to help airline
pilots align their planes with the center of the runway. Even in conditions of complete darkness and
fog, it gives pilots the perfect glide path to land safely, exactly in the center of the runway.
The light of Christ's Gospel is like that, too. In the midst of the darkness and sin of this evil world,
it shines a bright beacon that leads the sinner safely to heaven. John says in the first chapter of His
Gospel, In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the
darkness has not overcome it. On Good Friday, Christ went through the ultimate darkness. As inky
blackness covered the earth from noon to three, Jesus underwent the sufferings of hell, so that lost
sinners like us might be delivered from hell. He underwent the darkness of being forsaken by His
Heavenly Father, so that we might live in the light and never be forsaken. He endured the
punishment of every sin of mankind, so that triumph, joy and everlasting life is now ours. As Paul
wrote to the Corinthians For our sake [God] made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we
might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21.
We now have the privilege of shedding this light, of proclaiming the Good News of the Gospel to
the world. With the shepherds of Bethlehem, we cannot keep the Good News to ourselves, for
When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go
over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us."
And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when
they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all
who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. Luke 2:15-18. Of course the Gospel we
proclaim is not a half-way Gospel. We must make it clear that it is not a Band-Aid that we're
offering.. Unbelief is a spiritual slumber, and worse - it is a total spiritual death from which the
sleeper must arise. But the very Gospel command to "arise" contains within it the power to make
that resurrection happen. You and I, in speaking with friends and relatives, coworkers and
acquaintances, can be confident in our message. We can be confident that it is not our eloquence,
not our powers of logic and persuasion, that will convert them. Heaven forbid! It is the powerful
beacon of the Gospel that will reveal to them - as it has to us - the path that leads safely to heaven!
The American Civil War was one of the darkest periods in our nation's history. Toward the end of
the war an interesting incident took place. In December of 1864, Union and Confederate armies
faced each other at Petersburg, Virginia. One cold winter's night, Union General Ulysses S. Grant
was startled to observe bright bonfires all along the Confederate lines opposite him. What could it
mean? Were the rebels preparing for a night attack? Nervously, he dispatched a reconnaissance
patrol to find out. The scouts returned with smiles on their faces. Confederate General George
Picket's wife had had a baby boy, and the lights that Grant saw were bonfires lit in celebration.
Grant and Pickett went to West Point together and knew one another well, so to honor the occasion
Grant, too, ordered that bonfires should be built. What a peculiar night it was. For miles on both
sides of the lines the light blazed forth. No warfare, no dying, no darkness. Only light, celebrating
the birth of a baby boy. It didn't last, of course - the fires burned down and once again the darkness
took over. The darkness of the night and the darkness of war. What about us, my fellow
Christians? A month ago our homes were ablaze with lights - lights to help us celebrate the birth of
a baby Boy. Those Christmas lights are all packed away by now. Will we pack away the light of our
Christian witness as well? May it never be! May our celebration of the Light of the World keep
burning brightly for all to see, especially during this season of His Epiphany. For this we know:
though His Law exposes the sin of the world, His Gospel exposes the way of salvation for all men.
God grant that all may see and follow that Epiphany light! AMEN.