Ephesians 5:8-14 “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. 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. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret.
But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible.”
When we were children we were all afraid of the dark. We wanted the landing light to be left on, or a night-light to glow in a corner to keep back the all embracing darkness. Total darkness is a fascinating experience as long as it is controlled and temporary. You are visiting a heritage coal pit and the former collier who is leading you and the tour party around the pit-face wants you all to feel the oppressive nature of a complete absence of light, and so he warns you what he is about to do. He switches off all the lights for a minute and in the prevailing blackness there are sighs and nervous laughter. The darkness underground is impenetrable. Someone puts their hand in front of their eyes; the palm touches their nose but it can’t be seen. Nothing at all can be seen because of the total absence of light. You can almost feel the darkness; after a while it seems to be getting into your pores and under your skin. Then you hope that the light will soon be switched on again. What if there were a power cut and you were stuck in this unknown place without any light at all for hour after hour? What a relief when he switches the lights on again and continues his talk to you about conditions in a coal mine a century ago where 12 year old boys worked for eight hours. You have become a more subdued people under those borrowed hard hats.
Darkness was the condition of the universe before God acted and said, “Let there be light.” “Darkness was over the surface of the deep” (Gen. 1:2). We use darkness as a symbol of ignorance, of primitive savagery, of the pre-scientific superstitious ages ‘the dark ages.’ It is also a picture of hell – ‘outer darkness,’ and the devil is called the prince of darkness. What we have in our text comprehends the great deliverance of Christianity. It tells us what the gospel of Jesus Christ does, the effect it has on the lives of favoured men and women, and the challenge it brings to us. This is all described in these words.
1. THE GREAT CHANGE.
“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord” (v.8). For most people darkness is always ‘out there’. There is that memorable statement of the leader of the armed forces in Great Britain at the end of the 1930s as Nazism was spreading remorselessly across the continent. He commented, “They are switching the lights out all over Europe.” The bombs fall, and Auschwitz and Belsen and the other concentration camps are built; the cattle trucks full of people going to the gas chambers rattle along the railway lines, and the lights are going out in Europe. Darkness out there is terrible enough, but darkness within is far worse. I suppose that the worst of all plights consists of not even knowing where I myself come to an end and where the darkness begins. Where are these interfaces? “If the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness” said the Lord Jesus. You are in the dark about everything – where you came from, who you are, what is the purpose of life, what is the good life, who is God, what lies beyond death. Concerning every important question in life you are in the dark. How great is that darkness.
Saul of Tarsus was a man who considered himself enlightened. He knew what was right and wrong; he had his own religion and many agreed with him, certainly all his friends. He was totally sincere in everything he believed, and consistent in how he behaved. So when some Christians started to make noises claiming that Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of God he acted according to his own light. He protested, and belittled them and their crazy ideas. His friends cried, “Way to go, Saul!” What fools these people were to be taken in by a charlatan and blasphemer. Yet, to his growing anger, this Christian movement spread and thousands of people were getting drawn into it. Saul was outraged and he helped set up a kind of inquisition to quench those revival fires. Soon warnings and pronouncements on Sabbath days from various pulpits were not enough; men were brought to trial and then executed in a barbaric way if they worshipped Jesus Christ. They were stoned to death, and Saul of Tarsus agreed with it all, in fact he promoted it. “Way to go, Saul!” his friends cheered him on. He took pleasure in throwing men and women into prison and causing them to blaspheme. All this time Saul was in a state of darkness. In other words he was utterly ignorant of Jesus Christ. God showed him his true condition in a remarkable away. The Lord met with Saul on the Damascus Road and took away the common grace protection which guards everyone from the effects of his natural darkness. For three days Paul experienced unrelievedly what he writes here, “you were once darkness.”
I have told you how Lord Kinnock, the former leader of the Labour party was in school with me. He was asked what his Christian views were – this must be almost twenty years ago when he was involved in a general election. “I would like to be a Christian,” he said, “but I couldn’t make that leap into the dark.” I read those words of his and proceeded to write to him. I reminded him of his days in Lewis School and the Christian Union some of us had started in 1955, the year after I ‘saw the light.’ He would come to those early meetings – he was about 13 years of age – he is a few years younger than me. I wrote and told him that becoming a Christian is not leaping into the dark, it is coming to someone who claimed that he was the Light of the World. I know that anyone could make a statement like that but we would not believe them. We’d think they were crackers or wicked people. Why should we believe this to be true of the Lord Jesus Christ?
There is the teaching of Christ, utterly sublime, contemporary, challenging and awesome.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt. 5:38-48). That’s from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.
Or there is this, from one of his most famous parables; “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.'” (Lk. 15:17-24). That’s from the parable of the prodigal son in Luke’s gospel.
Or there is this; “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honour the Son just as they honour the Father. He who does not honour the Son does not honour the Father, who sent him. I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man. Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out – those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned” (Jn. 5:19-29). That is a typical sermon of Jesus in John’s gospel.
Men and women, this great teacher is absolutely discontinuous from every other philosopher and guru and pundit the world has ever heard, the beauty of Jesus’ prose, the images and parables and aphorisms that drop from his lips whether he is speaking to one man who comes to see him at night, or whether he is addressing 5,000 men sitting on a hill. Little wonder men heard him and concluded that no man in the entire world had ever spoken like this man.
Or consider the claims that he made; he claimed, for example, that he would be the judge of all mankind, that all of us must one day – after we die or on the day of resurrection – meet with him and he would pronounce on our lives and allocate to all of us our eternal destinies. Those are the words of a megalomaniac or they are the words of God. Again he claims pre-existence; “before Abraham was I am,” he said. “I go right back, long before Bethlehem, even before Abraham, to the very start of everything. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and Word was God.” He claims to be the only means by which men and women may come to God; “I am the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father but by me.” What an colossal statement to make about oneself. Here is a self-consciousness of overwhelming dimensions. Even more, he claims equality with God; “I and my Father are one,” he said. This is no humble country teacher, a backwoodsman full of old-fashioned humour and wise observations. Jesus is nothing like that. He doesn’t say, “Don’t think much of me; I’m just a nobody. Why do people make all this fuss about an old timer like me?” There is nothing like that. He is not holding up a candle in a corner; in fact he is saying, “I am the Light of the World.” He claims to be your light, and if you don’t have him there is no other light. You are in darkness except for those other lights around that he has already kindled. He is the source of all true light.
Or consider his miracles that were divine confirmations of his claims. Of course Jesus healed the sick; there have been plenty of people throughout history and everywhere in the world who make such claims from time to time. The crowds search for them and the healers grow rich. Jesus was not like other healers either in the sheer numbers of those he healed or in the 100% success rate he had. Old people, men and women in the advanced state of cancer, men with withered arms, some who had been born blind, paralysed people, those with a severed part of their anatomy – an ear that had been cut off – and so on; yet every single one who came to him was cured without paying any fee. He healed every single one of them; there were no partial temporary cures. He abolished disease from the villages of Galilee. But more than that he raised the dead, Jairus’ daughter and the widow of Nain’s son – the lad was actually in his coffin on his way to the cemetery when Christ resurrected him; he was not in a coma lying in bed. Jesus raised Lazarus who had lain in his grave for three days and many saw what happened and came to visit Lazarus in the following days to make sure that all this was not a cruel trick. Even more than that, Jesus showed his power over creation, over a herd of pigs, over the winds and waves, over a fig tree, over water when he turned it into wine, over the sea when he walked on its surface. You might isolate just a single one of these miracles, separating it from all the others and from the whole impact of the life and teaching of Christ. And if you should do that it will naturally seem far-fetched and mythical, but when you meet one after another after another, hundreds and hundreds of them – in fact we have just a few samples given to us in the Bible – all performed by this extraordinary teacher and holy loving man then who are you dealing with? Mohammed performed no miracles whilst Jesus performed many.
Or consider again Jesus’ own resurrection from the dead. Three months ago the Baptist Seminary in New Orleans organised a public debate on the resurrection of Christ. There were two protagonists, an American who took Jesus’ resurrection as a picture, and Archbishop Tom Wright of Durham who accepted it as a historical concrete fact. This last week I read an account of the debate which took place before 1000 fascinated people way down in Louisiana. Tom Wright has written an important book on the resurrection of Christ, and this is how he argued – I quote you the words of a reporter taking notes: “Tom Wright began by examining some of the common attempts to explain away the resurrection. He said one argument proposes that ancient people didn’t understand the laws of nature and were, therefore, more inclined to accept unsophisticated answers. ‘That is simply absurd,’ Wright said. ‘The ancients knew perfectly well that dead people didn’t rise. We didn’t need modern science to tell us that.’ Others have pointed to Hellenistic and pagan stories featuring empty graves and visions of the dead as the reason the early church began to believe in the resurrection. But Wright said these stories are completely different from the biblical resurrection accounts.
“The presence of resurrection beliefs in Judaism cannot account for the focus on Jesus’ resurrection in the early church either, Wright said, noting that resurrection was peripheral in Judaism, or not a foundational part of the Jewish beliefs. But in Christianity, the resurrection of Jesus is central. ‘In my book I’ve shown conclusively that the apostle Paul really did believe in the bodily resurrection despite generations of critics going back as far as the second century trying to make out that he didn’t,’ Wright said. It was the empty tomb, and Jesus’ appearances that caused the early church to believe in his bodily resurrection, Wright said, noting that the empty tomb and the resurrection appearances taken together constitute a sufficient condition for belief in the resurrection. Tom Wright concluded, “Having examined as many of the alternative explanations I could find and having shown them all to be completely inadequate, the one we are left with, however unlikely, must press itself upon us as being true. It is only with the bodily resurrection of Jesus, demonstrating that his death dealt a decisive blow to evil, that we could find the proper grounds for calling the kingdoms of earth to submit to the Kingdom of God.”
My friends, this is the universal light of Christ; it is his extraordinary teaching, his claims, his miracles, his resurrection and the spread of his message and its endurance. It came right out of the ghetto of Israel; it quickly was accepted in Asia Minor, in Greece and Rome, throughout Europe, and north Africa. It has lasted for two thousand years; it flourishes in Korea, and in Africa and in Brazil. There are churches meeting all over Europe and the islands of the South Seas. It is not like those big religions which are restricted to people of a certain race and continent. The Christian faith is international and the Bible the one international best seller.
You consider the effect this teaching has on people who study it, and think about it, and come to believe it, entrusting themselves to Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour and turning from their sins to him. For them it is like coming from darkness to light.
I was teaching a Bible School in Gabalfa Baptist Church two weeks ago and discovered they had an old library there which I ransacked borrowing four biographies from a hundred years ago. One by William Haslam was particularly helpful, though I have also read the other three. One of these was the life of Albert Shakesby who was born in Hull in 1875 and had been a drunk, a cock of the walk, a pugilist and an abuser of his wife. But then Christians began to talk to him of the one we know as the Light of the world. He even accompanied them once to church. His life was steadily disintegrating. After many words of scorn and much despair he came to himself and ran back to that church where he had heard the gospel. There he cried to God for his light and truth, and no one who ever does that goes unanswered. I am saying that he asked God for mercy and forgiveness for his sins; he pleaded the name of Jesus Christ as the only reason why God should hear and save him, and in his praying and utter humiliation God met him and delivered him. Then off went Albert Shakesby to tell his wife of the great change. This is how he describes what happened:
After I had found her, I began to say, “Now, dear, I’ve got converted,” but she couldn’t believe it. Again did I reiterate the fact, “I’m sure I have, dear, and I’m going to be a better husband now; you’ll forgive me, won’t you, for what I’ve said and done? For I shall never repeat it ! God has saved me”
She still remained afraid of me.
“Don’t you believe me, dear?” I said.
“No, I don’t, how can I, after what I know about you and what you were going to do?”
No one knows how hard this was. If only I could properly have expressed my thoughts and feelings, but that I could not, for I was too much cut up and ill, and feeling very much discouraged.
Then did I begin to realise the help of my newly-found Master, and I started to plead again, and got on my knees.
“Why, just listen to me,” I cried, “and I’ll pray and then you’ll believe me!”
How I began that new exercise of praying I don’t know. I think I must have had the cart before the horse many times. “Now can you believe me?” I asked, but there was no reply from my wife.
I put my arm around her neck, and kissed her. “Do believe me, do believe me,” I cried, and then I said, “I’d better bring some people over from the chapel.” But I was nearly afraid to leave her, lest she would go away from me.
At length I ran over as fast as I could, and found a dozen people still in the chapel. “Will you kindly come over to my home as quickly as you can, please, and see my wife? She won’t believe that God has saved me.”
They were all very ready and willing to come over and confirm the news which I had taken. There were the minister and his wife, and several others, but I didn’t stay while they made their way to my home for I was afraid my wife would have gone off. But she was still home and waiting to hear the correct news.
“My dearest,” I said, “will you believe it ? Here are some of the people from the chapel.”
Then the arms of the minister’s wife that had been around my neck, went round my wife’s, and these were the words she used : “Now, my dear, you need to praise God; it is blessedly true, God has saved your husband.”
Then I asked my wife couldn’t she believe that God could save me.
She answered, “Yes, I can.”
I then said, “Don’t you think it would be better for you also to start the Christian life with me, and let’s pull together from now on?”
She began to sob bitterly, and I encircled her with my embrace, and kissed her again, and we knelt down and I prayed with her. Several other prayers were lifted up on our behalf. Then I asked her to pray herself for God’s help. This she did, and God blessedly heard her, and we began to thank God together in the house, for we felt sure that the Lord was with us, and would remain with us as long as we put our trust in Him.
Thanks to His holy name for leading us to Himself. We give Him all the praise, and as for us and our house we will serve the Lord for evermore.
Those are the moving words of a man who called himself a ‘Street Arab’ who came from a life of darkness to the Light of the world. He spent the rest of his days telling other people of the Lord Jesus Christ. How Charles Wesley described his own conversion was also a description of what had happened to Albert Shakesby;
“Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eyes diffused a quickening ray,
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free;
I rose, went forth and followed Thee.” (Charles Wesley 1707-85).
I am not saying that the light of Christ always comes suddenly and dramatically to a person. Many Christians here do not know the month they were converted; a number don’t know the year. All they can say is, “This I do know; once I was blind, but now I see.” The sun rises suddenly at the Equator; within a few minutes it bobs up and the land is full of light. Nearer the Poles the sun rises more slowly and it is hard to say that this is the exact time of the dawn, but both at the Equator and near the poles the sun will rise. So it must be with you. Your darkness about Christ must come to an end; your dawn must break too; and you must cry to him like this, “Lord send forth your light and your truth into my life.” Plead with him that he will do this, that he will hear your prayer and bring you to light in the Lord. As the Word of God says here describing the sea change in every Christian, “You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord” (v.8). That is the radical transformation which makes a sinner a Christian. By the enabling of the Holy Spirit he sees that the light of the world is the Lord Jesus Christ.
2. THE GREAT CHALLENGE.
“Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth)” (vv.8&9). You are light in the Lord, then you must let your light shine before men, Jesus said to his disciples. Live as children of light, says Paul. In other words if your whole lives have indeed been illuminated by God the world has to see the difference. There will be all goodness and all righteousness and all truth. If the living God has come and miraculously given you light on your own origin, your ruin, your redemption and your destiny then there is going to be a transformation of commensurate dimensions, like a deliverance from utter darkness into blinding light.
Has that happened to you? There is no point in parroting, “Jesus is the light of the world,” unless your life is reflecting that, not in point of feelings, not in point of gifts but in point of goodness, and righteousness, and truth. That kind of life would tell the world that the light that shone at the beginning of creation through the word of God had also shined in you. Is there such a transfiguration? Are our lives different from what our unregenerate lives were? Is the difference this, “you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord”? Are your lives different from the lives of those who have no Christian profession at all, the unregenerate mass in the world? As we face the temptations of this life, does the way we emerge declare that we have faced them and overcome them by the power of a light-giving Creator? And as we undergo whatever this life may hold for us of suffering, do we have a courage and a patience that would argue that the Lord has held us with his own strength, and made over to us the resources of his own energy? Are we light in the Lord?
It is one of the great and urgent questions for our day: what is the life, what is the bearing of the Christian church? Are we the light of the world? Are we shining in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation. Do our lives bear testimony, not only to the sincerity of our theological convictions, but to the reality of all goodness, and all righteousness and all truth? Are our lives light? Are they different? Are they transfigured and illuminated? Are they pure and noble? Are they patient and courageous? Is there forgiveness and humility? Do we consider other men better than ourselves? What has transformed me? Paul tells us that it is the Lord, that is, the Lord Jesus Christ. Whatever light we have is from him. “You are light in the Lord.” I am united to him, engrafted into him and a member of his body, of his flesh and of his bones. In me there is the presence of the Light of the World. In me his Spirit lives.
This is not the privilege of an elite. It is not the mark of the eminent believer. There is no child of God, there is no illuminated man or woman but he or she is light in the Lord, standing in union with a risen living Christ. That is why their lives are all goodness, righteousness and truth, because they face the sufferings of the present time with him, because they confront the wiles of the devil with him. They face all their obligations with him. They cry, “I shine, yet not I, but Christ shines through me!”
Paul’s whole emphasis here is this: “I am going to tell you how a believer should live, but I want to begin by telling you what a believer is. He is a man who was once darkness, but now he is light in the Lord. And I expect you to live as such a man who is in union with the Lord. The great thrust of all Paul’s teaching and conduct is this – be what you are. Reckon yourselves to be light in the Lord. Keep on saying to yourselves, “I am light in the Lord.” I am not sure but sometimes we put our humility in the wrong place. We are not ashamed of our status, or of our station, or of our position; and it is time for us to realise what is our real condition, to grasp what is our potential in the Lord. There is nothing wrong with our power if we would reckon ourselves possessed of the power, if we would work out what the Lord has actually wrought within us. We Christians are now illuminated people, enlightened by the re-creative power of Almighty God. We have been transformed because we are in Christ, and so the commandment comes and it says, “Live as children of the light!” Are we living new, good, righteous and truthful lives?
When Ernest Reisinger wrote me a letter he would sign it always, “Yours according to my light and power.” Aren’t we the light of the world? Then do we let our lives shine that men see our good works? Are we living in Christ? Living by our resources, living out of the power of the God who is our strength. The Lord expects me to live according to what he has done in me, and according to the illumination that he has made available to me, and he spells it out, “all goodness” – not a trace of meanness or anything unkind or proud or tawdry or hard – “all righteousness” – that I am straight with people. What I am to their faces I am behind their backs. I am not a man-pleaser; I don’t have an itching ear for complements; I love the righteous law of God – and “all truth” – my yes is yes, and my no is no; no wild exaggerations; no deceiving words; no guile, no dishonesty, no error wrapped up in religious language. All goodness, all righteousness and all truth if I am light in the Lord, and if I am living as a child of light.
3. THE GREAT INVESTIGATION.
“Find out what pleases the Lord” (v.10). We know that there are some things that never please the Lord: “the fruitless deeds of darkness . . . it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret.” Then we are not going to mention them. The light of God’s Word exposes them as displeasing to him and to us. Our passion is to know what pleases the Lord. We want to give delight to those we love. A husband will often think of what pleases his wife and will give it to her. That’s his delight, to please the one he loves. “Where do you want to go for a holiday? What restaurant do you like? Would you like to go to this concert where they are playing your favourite music?” He wants to please his wife. In the same way if the Lord has been pleased to shine his light into our lives then we ask, “What can I do to please him?”
Is there anything more important than pleasing Almighty God while I live in his world? Do I have time for anything less? Consider the brevity of life. Moses says life is like a night’s sleep, David – like a fading shadow; James – like a vanishing vapor, and Peter – like the withering grass. You are on a fast one-way street, and never to pass this way again. In less than 100 years it will all be over; you will likely be long gone and scarcely remembered before the century is reached. The funeral home, the hearse, and the grave are at the end of the road. Are you spending your journey wisely? What pleases the Lord? Are you on the right road? What is your life’s ambition? What is the real purpose of life? It is bringing my will and God’s will into harmony. Have you found God’s will?
Is your having what you consider to be ‘a good time’ that pleases the Lord? Is he some old grandfather in his dotage who likes nothing better than seeing the young people enjoying themselves? Is it your fun, getting all the gusto you can, eating all you can, drinking all you can, shooting all the drugs you can, having all the sex you can, and laughing all you can that makes God happy? Does all that sort of thing please the Lord in any way? Look down the road a way. Will your life’s ambition give you joy when you are in a wheelchair? When you’ve spent your youth and its priceless energies, when your skin has the blotches of age, when your nails are thick and hard, when your toes have curled, your teeth have rotted, your face has wrinkled, your short term memory gone and your lusts have withered like your body. What’s left for you? Just a few fading memories whispering, “What was the use?” The tombstone will be your stop sign and the judgment of God will display all you’d done in your body like an open door. God says, “It is appointed to men to die once, and after this comes judgment.” I watched a documentary of a man who had been in a coma for twenty years and then amazingly opened his eyes and began to speak again. He remained bed-bound as his muscles had wasted away but he could talk to the people around him, and one was his 25 year old daughter. He could not grasp who she was but when she came into the room and spoke to him it was not long before he was propositioning her. What he was once as a young man without God and without any light he was still; the twenty years of a coma had not changed him. He was still in the dark; he was still an unrighteous creature of lusts. Is that going to be your future? You who make fun of men who say, “I’ve seen the light,” are you going to justify your darkness and be content with your darkness until the day you die and take your darkness into eternity with you? Death will make no difference to your personality at all. The nightmares of your memories will go with you into eternity. Rest in peace? I think not! I’m telling you that your having a good time is not what pleases the Lord.
Is it your accumulating possessions that will please the Lord? Is God like some indulgent parent who wants nothing more than that his children fill their rooms with toys? Is that why he has put you in this world, for stuff? Show me the house that hasn’t rotted, the car that hasn’t rusted, the clothes that haven’t worn out or haven’t been eaten by moths. Many are the elderly whose estates have been reduced to a few sticks of furniture in one room in a nursing home. Howard Hughes, who was one of the wealthiest of men, came to the end of his career holed up in a hotel room, collecting his urine, eating only ice cream, with fingernails like bird’s claws. What can mere things do for you when gasping for your last breath? The grave will even strip you of your precious family. I tell you that your gaining possessions is not what pleases the Lord.
Is your being popular that will please the Lord? Does God say, “If you win the contest of being the most popular girl in school then am I pleased with you!” Take a tour of the cemetery. Where did Mr. Popularity end his days? In the same place as the most hated man in town. Death is the great leveller. In two or three generations your name will be absorbed into all the faceless, forgotten multitudes who have gone before. Then one day God will close the world history book; he will burn the “Who’s Who” at the return of the Lord Jesus Christ because to him belongs the glory.
What pleases the Lord? I will tell you; to live for God and love him supremely. It is to glorify God and to enjoy him for ever. Isn’t God worthy of the glory? God made us for himself and a life spent for him and with him is fulfillment at its best; it yields righteousness, peace and joy unspeakable. Your plans, ambitions and wishes are but hollow idols; throw them into the bin. Take your splendid sins and cast them by faith on the mighty Savior, trusting that he died to pay your sin-debt – freely and fully forgiven for ever. Believe upon the Lord Jesus Christ. Get a Bible. Sit under Bible preaching. Saturate your mind with it and find it to be a manifesto of the mind of God, an operator’s manual for your soul, a blue print for building character, a rule book for the race of life, a road map to heaven. Invest everything in God himself. That pleases God. He alone has eternal life and those in union with him through Jesus Christ will rise in the last day with a brand new body; they will live forever. Will you repent and believe, or will you press on and perish?
“All that is in the world, the lust of the flesh (pleasures), the lust of the eyes (possessions) and the boastful pride of life (popularity) is not from the Father, but is from the world. And the world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:16&17). Make the will of God your career. Who are those who enter heaven at last? Those who do the will of God (Matthew 7:21).
July 2005 GEOFF THOMAS