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4501 Waller Rd E
Tacoma, Washington
INI
Fourth Sunday after Epiphany
January 31, 2016
Ascension Lutheran Church, Tacoma WA
Paul Naumann, Pastor

JESUS CHRIST IS THE LIGHT OF EXPOSURE
Ephesians 5:13-14

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 deeds exposed.

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.