ACTION WORDS FOR THE ENLIGHTENED
Dear friends in Christ,
There is a city these days called Izmir. It is in western Turkey. It is where ancient Ephesus stood 2000 years ago. The apostle Paul spent three years in the ancient city of Ephesus doing mission work. Ephesus was the home of the Temple of Diana, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. The poet Antipater of Sidon wrote a poem naming the seven wonders that went like this, “I have set eyes on the wall of lofty Babylon on which is a road for chariots, and the statue of Zeus by the Alpheus, and the hanging gardens, and the colossus of the Sun, and the huge labour of the high pyramids, and the vast tomb of Mausolus; but when I saw the house of Artemis that mounted to the clouds, those other marvels lost their brilliancy, and I said, "Lo, apart from Olympus, the Sun never looked on anything so grand.” You might not have recognized it but he named the seven wonders of the ancient world. His favorite was the Temple of Diana. He calls her Artemis – her Greek name. Diana was Roman.
It was the center piece of the city. Diana was the goddess of the hunt and a fertility goddess. Every year the Artemis festival was celebrated. People came from everywhere. The festival was an economic boon to the region. One can really understand why the apostle Paul was very much reviled by many in the city when he dared to bring Jesus Christ to Ephesus. Conversions to Christ meant fewer followers to Diana. Fewer followers to Diana meant less money pouring into their coffers.
Many were living a different life after following Jesus. The apostle Paul encouraged them while imprisoned a few years later and reminded them of that Christianity means putting faith into action. Today we theme our sermon “Action Words for the Enlightened.”
The first action word is walk about as God’s children. Lives change radically when Christ is embraced by faith. That was certainly true of the people of Ephesus. Paul uses a contrast of darkness and light. “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.”
The people of Ephesus were indeed stumbling around in the dark as they worshipped Diana. Among other things Diana was the goddess who was supposed to protect the young, especially those of her own gender. Young women offered her a lock of their hair in their youth as a part of worship. While the worship of Diana was refined over the centuries, there was a time the Ephesians sacrificed their young to her. A fine way to watch out for the young!
To show how fanatic people worshipped Diana, three times they rebuilt the magnificent temple. A flood destroyed it; they rebuilt it. In 356 BC Herostratus made a name for himself by lighting it on fire. It happened on the same day Alexander the Great was born. In fact, some Greek philosophers said that that “Artemis (Diana) was too preoccupied with Alexander's delivery to save her burning temple.” Apparently Diana couldn’t multi-task even though she was a goddess.
When the apostle Paul rolled into town and preached the crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ, light was brought to a city living in darkness. Acts 19 gives us a front row seat. Verse eleven and twelve tell us, “God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.” When the seven sons of Sceva, as Jewish high priest wanted to duplicate Paul and cast out an evil spirit, the man with the evil spirit said to the seven sons, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?” Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and beat the tar out of them. I know it is an evil spirit, but that’s kind of funny.
But now listen to what the preaching of Jesus Christ did in the city of Ephesus. Verses eighteen and nineteen tell us, “Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed what they had done. A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.”
Knowing Jesus changes lives. He says, “Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.” Let me tell you about that word live as in “live as children of light.” The word "live" literally means to “walk about.”
Some people think that to live as a child of light, you need to hide behind the walls of a monastery and stay away from the evil influences of the world. No, you walk about boldly as children of God. Don’t use the vulgar language of hell. Don’t use the name of Jesus as an interjection! No need to G-D everything. You don’t get into gossip cliques and smear people’s reputation. Be bold to rebuke or step away when it is going on.
We have young people from Wisconsin Lutheran High School here this morning. Anyone who moves from Wisconsin or Minnesota and lives in the South knows that our language gives us away. Years ago a southern saleswoman called me on the phone. She said that by listening to me she guessed that I came from 90 miles north of Milwaukee. I objected. She wasn’t even close. I told her she missed by 30 miles. When all is said and done, it doesn’t make a hill of beans difference if we are from Milwaukee or Mayretta or Minnesooota, what is important is that we walk about as God’s children washed in the blood of Jesus Christ.
We walk about by living in all goodness. Jesus once said the obvious that “there is only One who is good.” He is that one. What a relief to know he was the one who was good for us. The Bible calls Jesus our Righteousness. What that means is his righteousness is ours. His righteousness is charged to us while our sins were charged to him. But as enlightened children we are grateful. Gratefulness means practicing goodness.
What does it mean? Each of our five grandchildren is special. Each has their own personality. Three year old Catie, Kristina’s youngest, is full of life, vim and vigor. She played her first soccer game a week ago. She went charging into it. Kids were crying and afraid and shy. That’s not Catie. Kristina entertained me for a long time on the phone telling me how Catie did. As a three year old she doesn’t understand the team concept yet. Those in the yellow shirts were on her side. Catie took the strategic approach that soccer is every person for himself/herself. She kept stealing the ball away from her teammates.
Catie needs to practice goodness when she plays soccer. It has the concept that we are not in life for ourselves. We are on the Lord’s team. Other believers are on the same team and we try to win people by kindness and goodness to the Lord’s team. Walk about in goodness.
Walk about in righteousness. God’s standards are important to the Spirit–enlightened. They say what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Okay, let the Christian’s godly life in Vegas not bring shame to Christ but be influential in Vegas or wherever we go. Walk about in righteousness.
Walk about in truth. A hypocrite is someone who lives a lie. A hypocrite lives differently than what he says he stands for. Living in truth is what we are called to do. How we live is found within the two pages of this book, the Bible. While it is true we fail miserably at it, we also know what is found within the two covers – Jesus Christ crucified and his forgiveness and grace. Walk about as Christ’s children.
Another action word for the Spirit-enlightened is to test. Find out what pleases the Lord.” That takes Bible study. We find out quickly that there is a huge difference between what pleases the sinful flesh and what pleases the Lord. The sinful flesh operates on these principles: 1) if it is fun it has to be good; if it feels good it has to be good; if it excites it has to be good; if it is boring it has to be bad.
The apostle Paul warned that things that feel good or even sound good can be very deceiving. That’s part of the Devil’s scheme. “And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness.” What feels good, what appears to be good, what might sound to be good might be a device of Satan.
When ordering off a menu things might sound good but are they really? Escargot might sound intriguing but why would anyone want to eat slimy snails? Caviar sounds kind of cool but fish eggs? Really? There is a lot of things life that sound intriguing, but does the Bible call it sin in the end? There is only one way to know for sure. Test it by what the Bible says.
So walk about in Christ. Test everything. Expose the darkness. “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret.” I once read an article about someone who printed an ad that simply said, “Send in your five dollars today” and gave an address. The person who did it received a good number of dollars. Foolish? You bet it is.
Spending time sinning is a foolish investment too. “Have nothing to do with the deeds of darkness; they are unfruitful.” Nothing good comes from anger! Nothing good come from using the language of hell! Nothing good comes from premarital or extramarital sex? Nothing good come from slander and gossip? Nothing good comes from sin except it makes the Devil smile.
Instead, as God’s people expose sin! I keep reading about millennials, people who are born from the early 80’s to the early 2000’s, who are leaving the church. They say that the Church is too judgmental, too political, too fixated on sex, and generally out of touch with modern science and culture. I am not sure what that all means. Judgmental? God gives us commandments that tell us what is right and wrong. Maybe we need to emphasize they are God’s commandments. Too political? I do know that politicians are starting to invade my conscience and tell people to support things our God doesn’t support. Too fixated on sex? Hollywood has certainly become that way…and they don’t portray it the way God intended it to be. Out of touch with science and culture? I know that God operates on faith. I don’t know how science can actually claim they know what happened thirteen billion years ago. See there are two sides to these issues. I want to be, I want you to be on the side of God.
The final action word is “Wake up.” This can be applied to believer and unbeliever alike. Wake up, unbeliever! God is real. God loves you! God is calling you to repent. God is warning you that the end is coming. God wants you to know that Jesus brings light through the forgiveness of sins.
Believer, wake up too. This is no time to be lackadaisical or apathetic or lazy. Christ also shines on you with his love and grace and mercy. It is time to put your faith into action. Walk about in Christ Jesus; test everything, expose darkness, Wake up and be alert.