You Can’t Pick and Choose

Ephesians 5:3 Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people. 4 Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes—these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God. 5 You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God. For a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world.

 6 Don’t be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins, for the anger of God will fall on all who disobey him. 7 Don’t participate in the things these people do. 8 For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! 9 For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true.

 10 Carefully determine what pleases the Lord. 11 Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them. 12 It is shameful even to talk about the things that ungodly people do in secret. 13 But their evil intentions will be exposed when the light shines on them, 14 for the light makes everything visible. This is why it is said,

   “Awake, O sleeper, rise up from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” (NLT)

Be imitators of God. Walk in love. Now, the apostle Paul explains what that looks like in the life of a believer.

Here in the “new South” the discussions around church-planting circles are frequently about “contextualization” and “cultural moralism.” How do we introduce Jesus to people in language they will understand? How do we separate the gospel and a relationship with Jesus as Lord and Savior without just mandating a list of rules to follow? Here in the Richmond area, there is literally some kind of church on almost any corner. If you were to conduct a survey, most people would tell you that they belong to a church, even though they may not have actually walked through the doors in years. Being a good person, doing charitable things, are just a part of being in “good society.”

This passage is not just declaring a list of rules to follow so that God will like you better. It’s not a list to show how much better you are than another subculture. What it is, is an exposure of our hearts.

When you read these words, are you tempted, as I am, to “pick out” the things that are “really bad” and pat yourself on the back for not doing them? But what do you do with the rest? Do I really believe that being greedy is idolatry, worshiping things rather than worshiping God? Would I put raunchy humor, sexual innuendo, on this list? Do I really believe that neglecting to be thankful is a sin?

Cultural moralism is not a new phenomenon. It’s been around for as long as people have been around. Paul battled it in the Ephesian church. It’s not a matter of a list of “things I would never do so I’m a good person and God owes me;” it’s a matter of “how do I live my life to show a watching world that my relationship with God matters, and has produced change in me.”

So, I use my sexuality the way that God intended, because I believe that He, as the Sovereign Creator, knows best how His creation should work.

I stop being greedy and practice thankfulness and contentment with what God has given me, because I believe that God will supply what I need to bring Him the glory and to accomplish His mission in my world.

I stop arguing with God about His “expectations” for His children. My love for God and my desire to proclaim His message become more important to me than “being cool.” I stop looking down on people who don’t have a relationship with God because they don’t “follow the rules.” God changes hearts. Changed heart leads to changed behavior. Changed behavior without a transformed, redeemed heart just leads to self-rightous pride in rules kept, and despair over rules broken.

In “walking in love, as a dearly loved child,” I live in the light of God’s love and redemption for me. My sin is costly. Jesus had to die for my greed, my pride, my self-righteousness. My only hope is to depend completely on God to live His life through me. The “good and right and true” comes from God, not from me. Light is attractive, when it is illuminating, and not a spotlight shined straight in your eyes.

Matthew 5:14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (ESV)

On October 10 we celebrate our first service in our new facility. We are praying for more people to be so attracted to the “light” of our changed lives that they will want to come and see why we are different. In a city where there is a church on every corner, we want Village to definitely be a shining light of the gospel, and not just “something to do on a Sunday morning. . .”

I want to know what you think!

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