Oculi, The Third Sunday in Lent March 15, 1998
159, 151, 413, 416
Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour. But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them. For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth. Here ends our text.
In Christ Jesus, whose walk we follow during this Lenten Season, Dear Fellow Redeemed,
There are some people who can’t conceal what they do for a living, because you can see it in the way they walk. Sailors, for instance. 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 in the way he walked.
You should be able to tell a Christian, too, by the way he walks. Not necessarily 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. And, as the theme of our message today states:
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 behave 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 identify 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.
Young or old, we’ve all experienced love at one time or another. 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 hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.
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. Now, during Lent, is when we especially concentrate on that love of our Savior. 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 an active love!
One way you can tell a Christian, Paul says, is because he 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? Remembering that fact should 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 strangely identical to our world of 1997. He says, But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. There were those in Paul’s day whose “walk in life” was just opposite 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 them, 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. Our society ignores God’s original plan for sex—that it should be a sanctified part of a Christian marriage. Today it’s more like a national pastime—almost a sport—which has nothing to do with marriage. Young couples are increasingly avoiding marriage—why bother, when it’s so much easier to live together? Gay rights groups march in the streets demanding they be allowed to teach our children. Abortion clinics across the nation use our tax dollars to murder unwanted children. We see filth on our newsstands and our television sets; we hear 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 dusty old religion hold you down, are you? Walk with us—it’s easy and it’s fun!” And we feel ourselves being tugged along, modifying our beliefs and our behavior to match theirs. We find ourselves not noticing much anymore who goes to bed with whom. We find the dirty books and magazines creeping into our own homes, the filthy language and dirty jokes creeping into our own speech. But Paul snaps us back to reality; he says, Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore 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!”
As I’ve said before, 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 you 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—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” to others that God’s will is better, is by walking like a Christian—and walking away from sin!
Finally, Paul says, you can tell a Christian because he walks as a child of light. For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye 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. We are just as much the children of light, though—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! 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 he’s a Christian—I can tell it by the way he walks!” In Jesus’ name, AMEN.
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