Christian Living
Ephesians 5:1-7

By Paul Robison

Here's a modern parable for you: “A boat at anchor doesn’t disturb the water.  Only after leaving the mooring does it break the water and send out ripples.  A boat will make waves when it is under full sail or powered by a motor.  Though the waves may disturb other vessels, the boat also creates a wake which makes sailing easier for following vessels.”  Now here's the interpretation: “Many Christians are like boats that don’t move forward in case they disturb the water. They float through life keeping Christianity a secret because they don’t want to cause a ripple.  When we are motivated to leave our mooring (declare to the world we are Christians), it may break friendships or even separate families.  If we continue to follow Christ through the Sea-of-Life, we will make ripples.  As we rev-up our spiritual life, drawing upon God’s power, we will certainly cause waves in the devil’s kingdom.  One thing is for sure: we can’t expect to go on a voyage without making waves.  The waves caused by our voyage may upset some, but remember that we also cause a wake.  With our course firmly set on God, we won’t know who will decide to follow in our wake ...” (both parable and interpretation by Ian Coates).  We can't expect to be a Christian without making some waves in our world!  Paul wants the Christians in Ephesus and us to make some waves in our culture.  As the parable has suggested, that action could be unpleasant at times.  Paul continues to flesh out the nitty-gritty of what making waves as a Christian will look like in a pagan culture.  In chapter 5, he talks about three ways that we do this: living in Christ's love (5:2-8), living in Christ's light (5:8-14), and live in Christ's wisdom (5:15-21).  Let's look quickly at the first of these areas this morning.

Paul admonishes all Christians to live in Christ's love.  Paul wants these believers to practice three behaviors: reproduce certain actions, renounce certain evils, and heed certain warnings.  Now let's read 5:2:
“And walk [or live] in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.” Here are three actions that Paul desires that we reproduce. First of all, we live in Christ's love when we love unconditionally, “as Christ has loved us.”  Most of the world loves conditionally.  “The world's pattern is this: 'As long as you meet my needs, you can stick around.'  The type of love the world practices depends on the object.  It says, 'I love you because you are nice to love, because you stroke me, or because you haven't done anything to offend me or hurt my feelings.'  ... For Jesus, love is never controlled by the object.  Love flows from Jesus because it was His nature to love others. ... He did not love the people who deserved His love.  There was not anybody alive who deserved it!  He loved people—sinners, harlots, the outcasts of society—because He wanted to love them.  He touched the untouchables because love [and mercy] made Him do it” (Bullard).  Someone has observed: “While we were yet sinners, Christ loved us because of our desperate condition and utter helplessness in sin.  How far we fall short of following His example!  We have our circle of friends, chosen largely because of what they can mean to us.  Our choice is governed by our likes and dislike, by prejudice or favoritism, all of which are condemned by Christ's way of loving us.  How often we do not even care to have fellowship with those outside our social circle ...” (Paxson).  You see, our love is conditional.  Someone has noted that when Jesus was put upon the cross, He symbolically stretched out His arms to embrace all who would see God's grace and His goodness and repent of their sins.  We live in Christ's love when we love unconditionally.  Secondly, we live in Christ's love when we love personally, “He has given Himself for us.”  Janet leads a weekly 'Christian Circle' at a local nursing home.  An Alzheimer’s patient named Betsy faithfully attends, led there by a staff worker, and sits through the hour.  Every week Janet introduces herself, and every week Betsy responds as if she’s never seen her before.  After a few weeks, Janet learned that Betsy has retained the ability to read.  She has no comprehension of what she is reading and will repeat the same line over and over, like a stuck record, until someone prompts her to move on.  But on a good day, she can read a passage straight through in a clear, strong voice.  Janet began calling on her each week to read a hymn.  One Friday the senior citizens selected “The Old Rugged Cross” for Betsy to read. 'On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross, the emblem of suffering and shame,' she began, and stopped.  She suddenly got agitated. 'I can’t go on; it’s too sad, too sad,' she said.  Some of the seniors gasped, and others stared at her dumbfounded.  In years of living at the nursing home, not once had Betsy shown the ability to put words together meaningfully.  Now, obviously, she did understand.  Janet calmed her: 'That’s fine, Betsy. You don’t have to keep reading if you don’t want to.'  After a pause, though, she started reading again, and stopped at the same place.  A tear made a trail down each cheek.  'I can’t go on; it’s so sad' she said, unaware she had said the same thing two minutes ago.  She tried again, and again and reacted with a sudden shock of recognition, grief, and the exact same words.  Finally, when Betsy seemed tranquil, Janet led her to the elevator to return her to her room.  To her amazement, Betsy began singing the entire hymn from memory: 'And I love that old cross where the dearest and best for a world of lost sinners was slain ... I will cling to the old rugged cross, and exchange it some day for a crown.'  Somewhere in that tattered mind, damaged neurons had tapped into a network of old connections to resurrect a pattern of meaning for Betsy.  In her confusion, two things only stood out: suffering and shame. Those two words summarize the human condition, the condition she lives in every day of her sad life.  Who knows more about suffering and shame than Betsy?  For her, the hymn answered that question: Jesus does” (Yancey).  Jesus' love for us is a personal love; we too must learn to love others personally.  We live in Christ's love when we love personally.  Lastly, we must learn to love others sacrificially, an offering and sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.”  “During the 17th century, Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of England, sentenced a soldier to be shot for his crimes.  The execution was to take place at the ringing of the evening curfew bell.  However, the bell did not sound.  The soldier's fiancé had climbed into the belfry and clung to the great clapper of the bell to prevent it from striking.  When she was summoned by Cromwell to account for her actions, she wept as she showed him her bruised and bleeding hands.  Cromwell's heart was touched and he said, 'Your lover shall live because of your sacrifice.  Curfew shall not ring tonight' (!"  This maiden's suffering is almost trivial when compared to that of our Lord, but both showed a sacrificial spirit.  They suffered hardships on behalf of another.  Sacrificial love causes us to do the same.  We give up our rights in order that another might be blessed.  We live in Christ's love when we love sacrificially.  Did you notice that Christ's love has nothing to do with erotic love?  Hopefully, this is understood, but several recent film makers have tried to make Jesus into a fornicator or a homosexual.  As one who never sinned according to Hebrews 4:15, He was neither of those!  Christ's great love, as our friend and Lord, becomes a reality when we reproduce His actions of loving others unconditionally, personally, and sacrificially!  Are you making waves in your world by reproducing Christ's love? 

Living in Christ's love also means that we must renounce certain evils.  Notice 5:3-4:
“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 course jesting, which are not fitting [or proper], but rather giving thanks.”  Here's two more stories that serve as good leads into the evils that Paul says we must renounce.  “A little boy's mother had just baked a fresh batch of cookies and placed them in the cookie jar, giving instructions that no one touch them until after dinner.  But it was not long until she heard the lid of the jar move, and she called out, 'My son, what are you doing?'  To which a timid voice called back, 'My hand is in the cookie jar resisting temptation!'  The fact is, no one can resist temptation with his or her hand in the cookie jar.  There are open cookie jars all around us.  The [most glaring] cookie jar of our culture is the television, dwelling in the heart of nearly every home in America.  Turn it off, and the goodies are present in open magazines, on billboards, at malls, on computers, on I-pods, on DVD players.  There are living cookie jars everywhere, inviting passersby to taste their wares.  ... Keeping one's hand out of the cookie jar is a challenge for all God's children” (Hughes).  Here's the second story: “There was a 1,200 member church in Ohio [denomination unknown] whose preacher 'came out of closet', disclosed to his church that he was gay, divorced his wife of some 25 years by whom he had fathered 3 children.  The church’s response was a standing ovation!  'We were relieved!' members said, 'We thought he had cancer or some other life-threatening disease.'  It is sickening to think about how 'X-rated' our society is; [those members could not see his soul-threatening sin!] ... It is tough to live a “G-rated” life, a “God”-rated life [in our X-rated society], but that is exactly what [Paul calls us to do]” (Daniels).  Now Paul spells out six evils that we are to renounce. “Love as the world comprehends it is perverted [and focused purely on satisfying the flesh].  It is self-centered, as is each of the evils that Paul mentions” (Black).  The first evil is fornication or sexual immorality (it comes from the Greek word “porneia,” from which we get our word “pornography,” and did you know that the word originally came from a word meaning “to sell”?  Yes, to sell your body for a price).  This word stands for every kind of unlawful sexual intercourse, and you can clearly see that it is self-gratifying to the core.  Consider the man who is unfaithful to his wife [sadly, church leaders included]; he cannot possibly be doing what is in her best interest.  What he is really doing is seeking to fulfill his own lusts.  [This all starts in the mind long before the body gets involved.]   “If there is a clear lesson from Jesus’ statement in his Sermon on the Mount, it is that what one does with his or her mind does matter” (Black)!  Living in fornication and sexual immorality is not the example Jesus gave us to follow” (Bullard).  The next evil is called “all uncleanness” or it could also be translated “all impurity.”  Paul is telling us to drop anything that will make us impure in the sexual realm.  “In our day, Paul would urge Christians not to read those books or magazines, not to watch those TV programs, and not to attend those movies that promote sexually immoral ideas.  Impure thoughts lead to impure actions. 

Avoid the very hint of such immoral things in your life if you want to be like [Christ]” (Bullard). 
There should be no question about where you stand as a Christian in regard to sexual sin” (Black).  Another preacher says it this way: “Forget the pressures which all spiritual leaders have but which act as excuses for only a few.  Forget the part that other people play in the process of seduction.  The bottom line is fleshly desire uncontrolled.  Fleshly desire unpurged.  Fleshly desire allowed to have its way.  That is the point where we must triumph” (L. Smith).  Someone came up with a good five part test for you when you watch some form of media: “M = Message – What is the message and how is it coming across?  E = Effect – What effect is this presentation having on me?  D = Damage – Will I suffer damage (ex. unhealthy fantasies, ungodly images, lustful thoughts) from this?  I = Instead – What could I be doing instead that would be more productive and more constructive?  A = Ask God – Does this glorify God and would I feel comfortable with Jesus in the room with me” (Sloan)?  The opposite of all uncleanness is living purely and with self-control, just like Christ!  The third evil to renounce is covetousness or greediness or the desire to always have more.  The tenth commandment states: “You shall not covet your neighbor's house, you shall not covet our neighbor's wife” (Exo. 20:17).  Sexual immorality can involve coveting a relationship with someone you do not have a right to.  Covetousness leads you to act for your own interest, and not for that of your neighbor.  It is a self-love, and is, of course, a distorted love” (Bullard).  “Greed tells us that we must have more than we have right now and that we must do anything it takes to get more, including sacrificing marriages, kids, careers, and friends” (Daniels).  Greed can cover more than just people and money; it can include the desire for anything that takes the place of God in our lives (Black).  Paul then states that these evils of fornication, all uncleanness, and covetousness should not even be named among church members since those evils just do not fit or are not proper with who they are.  These evils are just not suitable whatsoever to one who calls herself or himself a Christian.  We should renounce or repent of those evils!  Paul then gives three more evils that Christians are to renounce.  Filthiness is next evil.  This filthiness is basically shameful talk or sexually oriented remarks.  You see, we as Christians not only don't participate in such actions, we don't even talk about them!  We don't want any part of such obscenities (Bullard).  “Our tongues and ears are not steeped in vileness” (Paxson).  The next evil is “foolish talking” or talk which is silly or stupid.  This would especially include “conversations that ridicule or mock God's lofty standards for His people” (Bullard).  Some Athenians of Paul's day mocked him when he preached about the resurrection (Acts 17:32); they thought Paul's godly position was really philosophical stupidity.  Christians are not to participate in these kinds of senseless and degrading conversations.  The last evil to renounce is course jesting or dirty jokes.  “The Greek term here means 'able to turn easily,' and isn't it amazing how some folks can very easily turn anything that is said or done into something dirty?  All such corrupt speech mars the life of one who would [follow Christ].  We cannot have a foul mouth that devalues the things which God highly values” (Bullard).  “We should not be gloating in the laughter [which makes fun of that which is sacred]” (Paxson).  Again notice how Paul says that conversations filled with filthiness, fooling talking or ridicule, and course jesting or downgrading that which is holy are just not fitting or proper again for God's children.  You see “when you made a commitment to Jesus Christ, you made a commitment to live a holy life, a separated life, a life that is completely unlike the ways of the world.  Jesus is going to be the boss of your life, not your promiscuous passions, not your fleshly sensualities, not your insatiable desires, not your perverse conversations.  Renounce them or repent of them!  These are all “out of place” because it is Christ and His example that should be “in place” in our lives as His followers!  Living in Christ's love means that we must renounce certain evils.  Are you making waves in your world by renouncing these evils?

Living in Christ's love means reproducing His loving actions, renouncing fleshly evils, and heeding certain warnings.  The first warning is found in 5:5: “For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean [or impure] person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.”  The first warning is that habitual participation in evil can cause you to lose heaven!  Those who practice the evils mentioned previously will have no part or place in heaven.  Their wicked practices that they have adopted from their culture have debarred them from gaining eternal life (Bruce)!  Those who claim to follow Christ, but then live a sensual life, will not make it to heaven.  Paul is very plain here.  Only the saints doing what is fitting and proper for the saints will get to spend eternity with all the saints!  The saints at Ephesus could not call Artemis and Jesus god at the same time.  They had to chose one or the other.  The saints in Prescott can not call Sensuality and Christ god at the same time.  We must chose one or the other.  And the god we chose will determine the destiny in which we will spend eternity!  Warning one: habitually practicing evil can cause you to lose heaven!  A second warning is found in the next verse: “Let no one deceive you with empty words; for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.”  Paul knew that the members in Ephesus would hear false arguments encouraging them to return to their pagan and fleshly ways of living.  The same is true in our day.  One commentator rightly noted: “It is all to easy for believers to be influenced by the surrounding world and to succumb to its ways of thinking and behaving.  The result is that what is acceptable to the culture becomes acceptable in the church” (O'Brien).  Remember the church in Ohio?  “Our world is telling us: 'Affairs are great; do whatever you want.  Premarital sex is just fine.  Homosexuality is all right.'  It is the same old line: gratification of our own bodily desires.  Paul warns about being deceived by the world's philosophy.  People of the world talk about liberation and freedom from inhibitions, but it is all egocentic and sinful.  Paul says, 'Don't buy into that system.  God offers something better.  God's wrath [or His punishment] will ultimately come upon all who live by distorted love, even upon those professing to be Christians who remain unrepentant” (Bullard)!  Don't blindly follow our sensually possessed American culture and let it lead you stray into eternal punishment!  Warning two: “Let no one deceived you; God's will punish those who do these evils.”  Then there is a third warning, and it that may be the most difficult of all.  It is found in verse 7: “Therefore, do not be partakers with them.”  That word “partaker” means “sharing with someone in doing something together” (BGD).  You are no longer to participate in immoral acts or unholy conversations, which could mean severing some old friendships” is Paul's meaning for the members at Ephesus!  How might that apply today?  It could mean switching off the TV, the radio, or the I-pod; it could mean clicking off a certain webpage; it could mean ejecting the DVD or video tape.  Will you have the courage not to be partakers with them?  Just as the tornado siren warns of storm damage, will you heed Paul's warning about the fleshly life that can cause spiritual and eternal damage?  “A few years ago, the founder of a drugstore chain became a Christian.  Shortly afterward, as he walked through one of his stores, he noticed the magazine racks with their glossy copies of several well-known pornographic magazines.  Although he was retired from active management, he called the president of the company and urged him to get rid of those magazines.  The president protested because substantial profits were gained from their sales.  Being the largest stockholder, the founder himself stood to lose a lot of money by such a decision too.  But he remained firm in his objection, and he prevailed.  The offensive magazines were removed from all 1700 drugstores.  When the founder was asked what motivated him to take this action, he replied, 'God wouldn’t let me off the hook'" (Anselmi)!  Are you going to make some waves in your world by heeding the warnings that Paul gives?

Live in Christ's love by reproducing His love, by renouncing the world's evils, and by heeding Paul's warnings!  There was “a Haitian preacher who told his people a parable about a man who tried to sell his house for $2,000.  A perspective buyer could not afford the house at that price, so after haggling with the owner, the owner decided to let the house go for $1,000 with one stipulation: the owner would retain ownership of a nail that protruded from just over the door.  The buyer took possession of the house, but after several years the original owner decided he wanted it back.  The new owner refused to sell.  The old owner found the carcass of a dead dog, and hung it from the single nail that was still his.  Finally, the stench rendered the house uninhabitable, and the residents were forced to sell it back.  This Haitian preacher concluded, “If we leave the devil with even one small peg in our life, he will return to hang his rotten garbage on it, making it unfit for Christ’s habitation.”  Have you given Christ everything, except your sexual life?  When are you going to get rid of that perverted nail so Satan won't continue to have a hold on you?  Close up the cookie jar once and for all!  Like Paul himself basically said: “The promiscuous life and the Promised Land are two things that just won't go together!”  Live in Christ's love, not the world's distorted love!  Make some righteous waves and a holy wake as you journey toward heaven!  Repent and confess your sins right now.  Heed Paul's warnings!  Give Christ your all!