Worthless Deeds

“Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them. It is shameful even to talk about the things that ungodly people do in secret. But their evil intentions will be exposed when the light shines on them, for the light makes everything visible…”
‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭5:11-14‬ ‭NLT‬‬

In the work place I made no secret of my faith. There was a cost involved of course – I was no longer included in the social set, you know, the “cool” group, that got involved in chats around the coffee machine or the photocopier, chewing over “the worthless deeds of evil and darkness”. Sometimes there was an awkward silence in a meeting room when I arrived. The occasional apology when an expletive was inadvertently uttered. I often wondered that my work colleagues somehow felt that their behaviour was incompatible with my faith in Jesus. It was of course – they obviously knew what the “light” was. And that they behaved in a way that was different. But I sometimes had an opportunity to include myself in the office chatter – I can remember a discussion on life insurance where costs and benefits were being discussed. My contribution was to remind them that worldly life insurance, was costly, and only paid out in death, but eternal life insurance was far more important, it was free, and paid out with life. There were a few embarrassed coughs followed by a change of subject. Light exposing “worthless deeds” perhaps? I suppose I was grateful to be excluded from the sordid discussions about things of a dark world that I once knew, but had been redeemed from, by the blood of Jesus.

But how should a 21st Century pilgrim allow God’s light to shine out into the dark and evil world around us? Over the past centuries, there have always been a small number of men and women who have cut themselves off from society, to avoid contaminating themselves by contact with the darkness. They live in monasteries and nunneries, spending their time in prayer and working in their gardens, in a life devoted to God. But is that the answer to God’s call to holiness? In 1 Peter 1:15-16, we read, “But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.”“. A monasterial lifestyle may be the way for some, but for me there is that difficult balancing act between being in the world but not of the world. In Jesus’s amazing prayer to His Father in Heaven, in John 17, He said, “I have given them Your Word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I’m not asking You to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one.” We pilgrims have a mission in life, folks. In this dark world, not apart from it. Our service to God includes telling those who live on the dark side about the hope we have for a future with God in Heaven. It includes being a light shining in the darkness around us (Matthew 5). We are salt savouring a tasteless society. The story of Sodom and Gomorrah, when Abraham pleaded with God not to destroy these wicked towns if any righteous people lived there, is perhaps a warning that God’s patience with a dark society will one day expire. Perhaps our presence in the darkness of our age is turning way His wrath.

But on a more positive note, we know the love of God. We know what He has done for us. We know that one day we will be in His presence. And as we trudge through life we share our messages of hope, our testimonies of what God has done for us, with those around us. Sharing in the dark places where we find ourselves, our schools, workplaces, communities and families. But all the time being conscious of our call to holiness and the love of our wonderful God.

Light Life

“For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true.”
Ephesians 5:8-9

“But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.”
1 Peter 2:9

Paul and Peter picked up the same theme, which is the fact that as Christian pilgrims, we no longer have the option of living in the darkness of worldliness, but instead must take up the opportunity to live in the light of God’s presence. But why is there such a stark difference, literally black and white, between the two? Why should the way we once lived be so different to the way we should now live, as pilgrims of light? After all, much of what we do – for example, working for a living, caring for a relative, doing chores around the house and garden – won’t change, whether or not we are living in God’s presence. 

Paul said in his Ephesian letter that living God’s way is marked by “only what is good and right and true”. In the verse from Peter, living in the light leads to others seeing the goodness of God. So there is something about living in God’s presence, full of His light, that will be visible to those around us. I suppose we could use the analogy of looking at a light bulb. With it switched off, there is nothing to see. But when powered up, it is very visible. As we pilgrims journey through life, do our fellow travellers see a light bulb stitched on, or off? 

So living in the light will impact our behaviour; the way we do our job in the workplace, the way we interact with others on-line, the way we do our chores around the home, the way we care for someone who is less able than we are. Jesus gave us a hint of what this behavioural change means. In Matthew 5:41, Jesus said “If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles.” There is something counter-cultural here, something that highlights the difference between the two domains in which we live, the kingdom of darkness and the Kingdom of Light. You see, we know what we do but living in the light brings in another dimension – we then know why we do it. Paul wrote in his Colossians epistle, “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” (‭‭Colossians‬ ‭3:23‬ ‭NLT‬‬).

To live in the light is not an option for devoted Christians, but we don’t have to stress and strain to make “only what is good and right and true“ happen. Just by living close to God will produce a refining of our characters. Imagine a new Christian venturing forth on his pilgrimage, still wearing his old clothes. But amazingly, step by step, the old is replaced, thread by thread, by the new. The change is so gradual that we will probably not be aware of it, but those around us will start to see a royal priest emerge, like a butterfly from a chrysalis. Something of beauty rising from the ashes of the mundane. All due to our wonderful Heavenly Father, illuminating our lives with His presence. 

Light

“Your Word is a lamp to guide my feet 
and a light for my path.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭119:105‬ ‭NLT‬‬

This is a verse often quoted because it clearly states how important the Scriptures are in the life of our Christian pilgrim. The picture rises before us, of a person making their way along a dark path as it twists and turns through a forest or valley. A dangerous place where a light is essential. There are all sorts of boulders and other hazards in the way, but the pilgrim holds a lantern, perhaps on the end of a pole, which dimly lights  a small area of the path in front.

In our Western societies, total blackness, a total absence of a light source, is unusual. There are street lights, or glowing windows, or passing vehicles, or there is enough heavenly illumination to provide some light for a walk outside. But on several occasions I have experienced total blackness where there has been no ambient light at all. Typically this can happen in geographically remote places and under skies darkly obscured by a heavy cloud layer. It is a strange feeling. 

As we take this analogy into our spiritual lives, we too can visualise a place of total darkness, where God’s light is absent. Some people think a total absence of the light of God is a description of hell. But God’s light is all around us. We probably have no idea how well illuminated our lives are. His light holds back the dark forces of evil that are so prevalent, that are waiting in the wings, so to speak, to wreak their nefarious ways on unsuspecting people. 

From that perspective, we need access to some form of ambient light, and the Bible, God’s Word, is just that. Furthermore, in the Gospel of John, we read that the Word was Jesus. John 1:4-5, “The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.” So when we couple together our verse today from Psalm 119 with John 1, we immediately see that the Christian pilgrim has to be a Jesus-follower. Jesus is our Light. He is the One who illuminates our path through life. And it is only by following Him that we can avoid the problems and hazards in the darkness that surrounds us. At Christmas time we celebrate the coming of Jesus into this world; another verse from John 1, “The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, [is] coming into the world.”

There’s not much more to say about our verse from Psalm 119 today, except that we have a choice – we follow Jesus and His teachings, His ways, or we stumble around in the darkness, succumbing to all sorts of hazards. Surely a place without Jesus is a scary place to be.

Light and Care

“Send me Your light and Your faithful care, let them lead me; let them bring me to Your holy mountain, to the place where You dwell. Then I will go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight. I will praise You with the lyre, O God, my God.” Psalms‬ ‭43:3-4‬ ‭NIVUK‬‬

Have you ever been somewhere where there are no street lamps, even close by? No cities lighting the sky in the distance? Not a glimmer of light anywhere? With a clear sky overnight the visual presentation of celestial bodies is breathtaking – there are just so many of them. But if the stars are obscured by clouds it can be a scary place, because literally you cannot see your hand in front of your face. Spiritual darkness is a bit like that too. With a view of the spiritual Heavens, God is visible and tangible. Blessing us with His presence. Communicating Spirit to spirit. But when obscured by the clouds of our rebellion and sins, God isn’t visible to us anymore, and our prayers bounce off the cloud’s underbelly, falling back to our lips answered.

The Psalmist prayed that God would lead him through His light, dispensing His faithful care in the process, revealing through the spiritual gloom His presence and His home. The Psalmist knew that once there He would find joy, delight and a place of praise. It doesn’t get better than that!

Today, O Lord, I pray that through the light of Your Word, with a thankful heart because of Your faithful care, I would find You dwelling in my heart where I can praise and worship You. Amen.