Buck Naked Before the Lord

 (Ephesians 5:8-14)

Benjamin Franklin writes in his autobiography about his efforts to convince the citizens of Philadelphia to light the streets at night. But nobody listened to him. So he bought an attractive lantern, polished the glass and placed it on a long bracket that extended from the front of his house.

Each evening as it began to get dark, he lit the wick. His neighbors soon noticed the warm glow in front of his house. Passersby's found the light helpful as they navigated down the cobblestone walk, avoiding protruding stones that would often times cause them to stumble and fall. As a result it wasn't long until others placed lanterns in front of their homes, and eventually the city recognized there was a better way, the need to light the streets when it gets dark.

Like the cobblestone streets of Franklin's time our world is a place of darkness, full of protruding temptations and wrong living that threaten to cause us to stumble and fall as well. But God has extended a lantern from his heavenly home to keep us from tripping and falling, a perpetual light; the light of the world, Jesus Christ. And because of this gift that God has made possible through our relationship with Jesus, we need to recognize there is a better way, a way that keeps us from stumbling around in the dark, a way that allows us to "walk as children of the light."

Can you imagine the difference "walking in the light" of Christ would make on our streets today, in our homes, in our schools, at our places of work, and even in the church itself. Imagine, if you will, a perpetual light moving throughout the world, shinning the Light of Christ everywhere, kind of like wearing one of those caving lights on our head continually illuminating the path in front of us, keeping us from tripping and falling.

You know, Light is a powerful thing. Not only does light illuminate our path for doing good and to keep us from falling; it also exposes the not so good in our lives.

"What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" is a popular catch phrase right now, but we're really kidding ourselves if we think we can hide things from God, and that includes what happens in Vegas. Like it or not we are fully exposed before God; we are essentially buck naked before the Lord, and our true selves shine forth. God sees all and knows all; there's no hiding from or fooling God. Perhaps we can fool our friends and families for awhile, but there's no pulling the wool over God's eyes.

In his letter to the Ephesians the Apostle Paul counsels, there's a stark difference between those in darkness and those in light. The former "loves darkness…practices evil…and walks in darkness" while the individual who knows Christ "learns the truth…comes to the light…and follows Christ."

But for someone to move from a dark life to a life of walking in the light a change of heart must take place, a radical transformation of the heart, made possible only by the work of the Holy Spirit. " You see, it's the Holy Spirit that helps us differentiate between dark and light. " It's the Holy Spirit that saves us from tripping and falling into sin. " It's the Holy Spirit that leads us to experience new life in Christ.

Our scripture reading this morning also emphasizes our need to live in the light and to become proactive in following Christ. Living in the light is an active experience, not a passive spectator event.

And again a point I want to re-emphasize here is that God knows when we're living in the Light and when we're not. It's important to remember that the light of Christ not only redeems and saves; it also exposes us before the Lord. And this is intentional because true redemption can only follow the recognition that we're not living in the light and we acknowledge we need to change.

We can't hide our darkness by wearing the light of Christ from time to time like a piece of jewelry, or by placing a Christian mask over our face when we walk through the doors of the Church, only to remove it when we leave and walk back into the world. Paul tells us that if we're truly followers of Christ then we'll "live as children of the light" at all times, not just when it's convenient and isn't challenging.

Children of the light act as one of God's family members always not just when it suits us. As you've heard me say many times before, "we can't walk with the devil and hold God's hand." We can't have it both ways.

Now what is the fruit or outcome of walking in the light, how do we really know we're walking in the light and not just tripping all over ourselves or kidding ourselves?

Well Paul tells us the fruit of our walking in the light, is "all goodness, righteousness, and truth." This means that the standard for our behavior is "what pleases the Lord." Any other standard is unacceptable; the standard for us is Christ and Christ alone.

No matter how hard we might try to justify our thoughts and deeds by using worldly standards or by using a misinterpretation of scripture, we will be exposed by the light and encouraged to move into the light.

That's great but how do we exhibit "all goodness, righteousness, and truth?" Well john Wesley gives us the answer when he counsels that we ought to, "Do all the good we can, by all the means we can, in all the ways we can, in all the places we can, at all the times we can, to all the people we can, for as long as we can."

And Wesley didn't just say these things he lived them by the power of the Holy Spirit. Wesley serves as a great example for us of what it means to walk in the light.

But again, it can be so tempting to put on our Christian jogging suit and our Christian walking shoes and pretend to walk in the Light, but God knows the truth, God knows our hearts, God knows what motivates us, and it's God that will ultimately judge us.

You know there are many studies out there that indicate there's still a high rate of obesity among those who complete a weight loss program. And that's because education itself isn't enough to combat obesity. We can know what not to eat and what behaviors are helpful to combat overeating; but what we need in addition to knowledge is the power to do it.

Same is true as we strive to "live as children of the light." It's just not enough to know what to do and what not to do; we need to want to do it, and we need the power to do it.

Now the power to change isn't self-generating or the act of our will alone. The power to change us, to empower us, and to equip us only comes from the grace of God, through faith in Christ, by the action of the Holy Spirit on our lives. The same power that raised Christ from the dead is available to us now if we want to receive it. Now receiving the power and committing fully to using it to be more like Christ isn't easy, it often times requires change, a change that begins in our hearts and then moves outward to our actions.

Let me illustrate what I mean. There's a man by the name of Sam Marci. Now Sam was a hard working man who usually blew most of his paycheck partying. His end-of-the-week routine included coming home and falling into bed after drinking away his paycheck. He would then fall asleep looking at the cross hanging on the wall next to his bed. Every night he asked God to forgive him, but then he'd go and live the same way the next weekend.

Well one night he became so convicted of the eventual deadly outcome his life was headed towards, that he prayed, "Lord, if you really died for me, please change me; give me the power to say no and to really commit to a new life."

You see Sam's life was being exposed to him by the Holy Spirit. He finally saw himself stumbling around in the dark and was convicted that he had to change. He looked at the cross hanging on the wall every night and he finally realized his life didn't reflect the life of the one who went to the cross for him. He was ready for a change; his heart was ready for transformation.

Well when Sam woke up the next morning after offering his prayer he was a new man and he began walking in the Light. Now after nearly 25 years, Sam is still walking in the light, influencing people in upstate New York as a pastor and master carpenter.

Christ is the Light of the world, there is no other true Light. Christ calls us daily to reject the darkness we encounter and to walk in the light of truth. And the good news is the light is always there, it's always shinning to keep us from being tripped up. Our challenge is to recognize the light and to move towards it.

So on this fourth Sunday of Lent, as we sit fully exposed before the Lord, we're challenged by Paul's letter with the question, "Are we living in the light or are we stumbling around in the dark trying to find our own way?"

Know that God wants His children to walk in the light because it illuminates the way that leads to new life. He wants us to receive His grace and to become wholly committed to a life of faithful discipleship.

You know talking with children is always fun for me; they seem to be in touch with what's true, what's fair, and what's good. And as we know children are very active, refreshingly honest, bold in conviction, hope-filled and optimistic in their outlook, and they're enthusiastic about life. And undaunted, children try again and again, they don't give up going after what they really want.

So as we draw another week closer to the cross, I pray we all will be more like children in our faith journey, meaning: very active, refreshingly honest, bold in conviction, hope-filled and optimistic in our outlook, and enthusiastic about life as we seek to walk in the light, and to walk with the one who is the light, Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Amen.

In addition to the Holy Spirit and the Holy Bible the following resources inspired and/or were used in part in the preparation of this sermon: Preaching, Vol. 23, Number 4, January/February 2008, pg. 62.

Read other messages by Pastor Wade