At a fundraising dinner for a school that serves learning-disabled children, the father of one of the students shared a story of what had happened to his son. Shay and his father had walked past a park where some boys Shay knew were playing baseball. Shay asked, “Do you think they’ll let me play?” Shay’s father knew that most of the boys would not want someone like Shay on their team, but the father also understood that if his son were allowed to play, it would give him a much-needed sense of belonging and some confidence to be accepted by others in spite of his handicaps.
Shay’s father approached one of the boys on the field and asked (not expecting much) if Shay could play. The boy looked around for guidance and said, “We’re losing by six runs and the game is in the eighth inning. I guess he can be on our team and we’ll try to put him in to bat in the ninth inning.”
Shay struggled over to the team’s bench and, with a broad smile, put on a team shirt. His Father watched with a small tear in his eye and warmth in his heart. The boys saw the father’s joy at his son being accepted. In the bottom of the eighth inning, Shay’s team scored a few runs but was still behind by three. In the top of the ninth inning, Shay put on a glove and played in the right field. Even though no hits came his way, he was obviously ecstatic just to be in the game and on the field, grinning from ear to ear as his father waved to him from the stands. In the bottom of the ninth inning, Shay’s team scored again. Now, with two outs and the bases loaded, the potential winning run was on base and Shay was scheduled to be next at bat.
At this juncture, do they let Shay bat and give away their chance to win the game? Surprisingly, Shay was given the bat. Everyone knew that a hit was all but impossible because Shay didn’t even know how to hold the bat properly, much less connect with the ball. However, as Shay stepped up to the plate, the pitcher, recognizing that the other team was putting winning aside for this moment in Shay’s life, moved in a few steps to lob the ball in softly so Shay could at least make contact. The first pitch came and Shay swung clumsily and missed. The pitcher again took a few steps forward to toss the ball softly towards Shay. As the pitch came in, Shay swung at the ball and hit a slow ground ball right back to the pitcher.
The game would now be over. The pitcher picked up the soft grounder and could have easily thrown the ball to the first baseman. Shay would have been out and that would have been the end of the game. Instead, the pitcher threw the ball right over the first baseman’s head, out of reach of all of his team mates. Everyone from the stands and both teams started yelling, “Shay, run to first! Run to first!” Never in his life had Shay ever run that far, but he made it to first base. He scampered down the baseline, wide-eyed and startled. Everyone yelled, “Run to second, run to second!”
Catching his breath, Shay awkwardly ran towards second, gleaming and struggling to make it to the base. By the time Shay rounded towards second base, the right fielder had the ball … the smallest guy on their team who now had his first chance to be the hero for his team. He could have thrown the ball to the second-baseman for the tag, but he understood the pitcher’s intentions so he, too, intentionally threw the ball high and far over the third-baseman’s head. Shay ran toward third base deliriously as the runners ahead of him circled the bases toward home. All were screaming, “Shay, Shay, all the Way Shay!” Shay reached third base because the opposing shortstop ran to help him by turning him in the direction of third base, and shouted, “Run to third! Shay, run to third!”
As Shay rounded third, the boys from both teams and the spectators were on their feet screaming, “Shay, run home! Run home!” Shay ran to home base, stepped on the plate, and was cheered as the hero who hit the grand slam and won the game for his team. You know you are more like Shay then you will ever realize. Sin has marred and disfigured our family likeness. Yet you have a Father in heaven who is cheering you on.
He loves you so much that he sent Jesus to save you and his Holy Spirit to transform you from the person you were into the person he designed you to be – like Himself. Ephesians 1:5 says,
“His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. And this gave him great pleasure.” (Ephesians 1:5 NLT).
Please turn with me to Ephesians 5. Lets observe three things.
· How we are Described: “Dearly loved children” (Ephesians 5:1-2). This is who we are.
· How we are Distinguished: “Children of light”
(Ephesians 5:3-14). This is how we must live.
· How we are Developed : “Filled with the Spirit”
(Ephesians 5:15-20) This is how we mature.
1. How we are Described: “Dearly loved Children”
“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children.” (Ephesians 5:1)
If you have trusted in Jesus Christ, this is who you are – dearly loved children of God. This is consistently taught in Scripture.
“It was a happy day for him when he gave us our new lives through the truth of his Word, and we became, as it were, the first children in his new family.” (James 1:18).
“See how very much our heavenly Father loves us, for he allows us to be called his children, and we really are!”
(1 John 3:1)
“…it is his boundless mercy that has given us the privilege of being born again so that we are now members of God’s own family” (1 Peter 1:3b).
“Since you are his child, everything he has belongs to you” (Galatians 4:7b).
“When we place our trust in Christ, God becomes our Father, we become his children, other believers become our brothers and sisters, and the church becomes our spiritual home. Our natural families are wonderful gifts from God, but they are temporary and fragile. Tragically, they can be broken by divorce, distance, growing old and, inevitably, by death. On the other hand, our spiritual family – our relationship to other believers – will continue throughout eternity. It is a much stronger union, a more permanent bond, than blood relationships.” Rick Warren reminds us that “The moment you were spiritually born into God’s family, you were given some amazing birthday gifts: the family name, the family likeness, family privileges, family access, and the family inheritance!”
As if to emphasize this, in these verses we learn all three persons of the Trinity are involved in bringing us into God’s family and enabling us to bear the family likeness.
· We are to imitate God the Father (Ephesians 5:1)
· We are illuminated by Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:14)
· We are indwelt by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18)
Notice first of all therefore, how we are described: “Dearly loved children” (Ephesians 5:1). This is who we are.
2. How we are Distinguished: Children of Light”
“But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.
Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.” (Ephesians 5:3-4)
This is what we are to be. Because we are God’s children he expects us to grow up and behave like him. When you are mixing with your non-Christian friends and the conversation turns to something immoral or impure, or greedy – what do you do? Walk away? Change the subject? Question their values? Any of these is better than joining in. Remember your heavenly father expects his children to stand out like light. Don’t join in. This is how Eugene Peterson translates Ephesians 5:3-11.
“Don’t allow love to turn into lust, setting off a downhill slide into sexual promiscuity, filthy practices, or bullying greed. Though some tongues just love the taste of gossip, Christians have better uses for language than that. Don’t talk dirty or silly. That kind of talk doesn’t fit our style. Thanksgiving is our dialect. You can be sure that using people or religion or things just for what you can get out of them—the usual variations on idolatry—will get you nowhere, and certainly nowhere near the kingdom of Christ, the kingdom of God… You groped your way through that murk once, but no longer. You’re out in the open now. The bright light of Christ makes your way plain. So no more stumbling around. Get on with it! The good, the right, the true—these are the actions appropriate for daylight hours. Figure out what will please Christ, and then do it. Don’t waste your time on useless work, mere busywork, the barren pursuits of darkness. Expose these things for the sham they are. It’s a scandal when people waste their lives on things they must do in the darkness where no one will see. Rip the cover off those frauds and see how attractive they look in the light of Christ.” (Ephesians 5:3-11)
So you don’t have to laugh at the course joke. You don’t need to pass on the latest gossip. You don’t need to covet your neighbour’s car. You don’t need to trade in your partner for a newer model. Show people that you belong to God’s family. You have a new parentage, a new motivation, a new way of life that is more fulfilling, more rewarding, and more satisfying.
How we are Described: “Dearly loved children” (Ephesians 5:1). This is what we have become.
How we are Distinguished: “Children of light” (Ephesians 5:3). This is what we are to be.
3. How we are Developed: “Be filled with the Spirit”
“Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:17-21)
God knows are hearts. He knows it is impossible for us to live as “children of light” by our own efforts. That is why God has given us his Holy Spirit. Now there is a good deal of confusion and even anxiety about the Holy Spirit. That is why it is important to understand what we are taught here.
3.1 It is a command :
“be filled” (5:18). This is not optional. This is universal and normative for every child of God.
3.2 It is continuous :
“be filled and keep on being filled” (5:18). The Greek present tense indicates this is not a once-and-for-all experience but a repeated necessity, as necessary for life as breathing. It is a command. It is continuous.
3.3 It is conditional :
“have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” 5:11), “don’t be foolish but understand the Lord’s will” (5:17). God’s Holy Spirit therefore will not fill us if there is unconfessed sin in our lives. We must repent and turn from evil.
“Be filled with the Spirit” – It is a command, it is continuous and it is conditional.
3.4 There is a comparison to being filled :
“don’t get drunk with wine but be filled with the Spirit” (5:18). In both cases a person is under the influence. Being ‘filled with the Spirit’ is passive, for God is the one doing the filling, not us. There is another comparison in the parallel passage in Colossians,
“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” (Colossians 3:15-16)
To let the ‘peace of Christ rule in your heart’ and let ‘the message of Christ dwell among you richly’ is the same experience as being ‘filled with the Spirit’.
In each, we are coming under God’s control. And as we shall see in a moment, the manifestations are the same. So there is a comparison here, but there is also,
3.5 There is a contrast to being filled
“don’t get drunk with wine but be filled with the Spirit” (5:18). A person who is drunk has lost all self control. This is the opposite of being filled with the Spirit. This is because self control is one of the fruit of the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22-23). Any experience that leads to a loss of self control – hysterical laughter, shaking, rolling on the floor, animal noises, and the like are not to be equated with the Holy Spirit. What then are the authentic manifestations of being filled with the Spirit? They are the same as allowing the Word of Christ to dwell in us richly.
3.5 There are consequences of being filled
“speaking to one another with psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:19-21)
· Joyful praise in our hearts (5:19)
· Thankfulness for everything (5:20)
· Submission to one another (5:21)
That is why corporate praise and thanksgiving is central to Christian gatherings, as is mutual submission in all we do.
The desire to praise God and make music and serve one another in the Body of Christ are the hallmarks of the Holy Spirit’s presence. As his adopted children, God has given us His Spirit to help us imitate him and live as children of the light. The Holy Spirit is also as a guarantee of all that is to come.
“When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:13-14)
What an inheritance! You are therefore far richer than you realize. Paul goes on to say “I want you to realize what a rich and glorious inheritance he has given his people.” (1:18)
What exactly does this inheritance include?
1. We get to be with God for ever (1 Thess. 4:13-18).
2. We will be transformed like Christ (2 Cor. 3:17-18).
3. We will receive an imperishable body (1 Cor. 15:51-57).
4. We will be free from all pain and suffering (Rev. 21:4-5).
5. We will be rewarded (1 Peter 1:3-9).
The Bible says,
“God has reserved a priceless inheritance for his children. It is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay.” (1 Peter 1:4)
“Your eternal inheritance is priceless, pure, permanent, and protected; no one can take it from you. It can’t be destroyed by war, a poor economy, or disaster. This inheritance, not retirement, is what you should be looking forward to. Retirement is a shortsighted goal.”
“Jesus and the people He makes holy all belong to the same family. That is why He isn’t ashamed to call them His brothers and sisters.” (Hebrews 2:11).
“Let that amazing truth set in. We are part of our God’s family, and because Jesus made you holy, God is proud of you!
How we are Described: “Dearly loved children” This is who we are. How we are Distinguished: “Children of light”. This is how we must live. How we are Developed : “Filled with the Spirit”. This is how we mature. “Being included in God’s family is the highest honour and the greatest privilege you will ever receive. Nothing else comes close. Remember that when you feel unimportant, unloved or insecure, remember to whom you belong.” In his book, “Knowing God” Jim Packer has a chapter about being children of God. This is how it ends.
“Do I, as a Christian, understand myself? Do I know my own real identity? My own real destiny? I am a child of God. God is my Father; heaven is my home; every day is one day nearer. My Savior is my brother; every Christian is my brother too. Say it over and over to yourself first thing in the morning, last thing at night, as you wait for the bus, any time when your mind is free, and ask that you may be enabled to live as one who knows it is all utterly and completely true. For this is the Christian’s secret of — a happy life? — yes, certainly, but we have something both higher and profounder to say. This is the Christian’s secret of a Christian life, and of a God-honoring life… May this secret become fully yours, and fully mine.”
This sermon is inspired by and makes use of resources from Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Life, (pp.117-121), and Jim Packer’s book Knowing God.