Why does Paul speak out so harshly against sin?
Doesn’t this just perpetuate the idea that Christianity is just a list of dos and don’ts, doom and gloom, and rigid, religious superiority?
If you look at the big picture of the book of Ephesians you first see that Paul lays the foundation by reminding us that our good behavior cannot be the basis for our acceptance by God.
He loves us, accepts us and blesses us because He wants to; not because we’ve been good enough.
He then reminds us that we don’t even have the power to be good enough, it has to be the power of God in us that helps us to do good works.
This removes any pride that we could possibly have about being part of some elite, superior Christian club. It also reminds us that if we were powerless to rescue ourselves once from the bondage of sin, we should reject any idea that we can participate in that same bondage as children of God and get away with it.
Why would we want to?
Why would we want to go back to living the way we used to live before Christ saved us? If that way of living was easier and better, what did Christ save us from anyway?
If He saved us, there must have been a reason we needed saving!
If that old life is bondage, then the opposite of that life is victory. Wouldn’t we want to live in victory? Wouldn’t we want to have the power to just walk away from temptation, leaving it writhing in the dust?
The truth is we can!
5 Ways to Walk Victoriously in Christ
1. Know who you are
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light
You are light, and you are children of light. Paul’s words are reminiscent of Jesus’ words in Matthew 5, “You are the light of the world…”
Light and darkness cannot co-exist, which is why Christians must not participate in or entertain themselves with sin – darkness.
My dad has often said, “The amount of light shining in your life is in direct proportion to the amount of darkness you allow to reside in you.”
This is so true.
Light dispels darkness. A little bit of light can only dispel a little bit of darkness, but a powerful floodlight will obliterate darkness.
You could have the shape of a floodlight, but if you have a cover over your lamp with just a pin-prick hole, that floodlight will still only shine a little bit of light.
You can only be a floodlight for Jesus when you are sensitive to the Holy Spirit and allow Him to remove every blockage and distraction from your life that would threaten to block your light from shining the way God intended it to.
finding out what is acceptable to the Lord.
You will find out what is acceptable to the Lord, so that your light can shine brightly, when you are consistent in the Word and prayer.
Let the Word speak to you about the character of God, and then allow the Holy Spirit to show you areas of your life that have not yet come into agreement with God’s character.
2. Expose sin
The purpose of light is to eliminate darkness so you can see where you’re going. Sin and darkness go hand-in-hand, but sin is also referred to in the Bible as a “stumbling block”.
If you want to see where you’re going, and you don’t want to get tripped up by sin, turn on the light.
Paul starts off this verse by saying:
And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.
This is critical because we aren’t called to be light just so we can see where we’re going, but so that others can see where they’re going, too.
If we fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, our light is turned off and we’ve become a stumbling block. We could literally trip up our brothers and sisters in Christ and cause them to sin.
Instead, we’re called to be light so we can expose the unfruitful works of darkness in order to avoid falling into their trap.
The Paul goes on to say, “For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light.”
All that stuff we talked about before: lying, anger, stealing, corrupt speech, bitterness and wrath, fornication, uncleanness, filthiness, foolish talking, and coarse jesting…
those things are so shameful, that we shouldn’t even talk about them!
But when expose them to the light, we’re living in our identity.
Paul says, “…for whatever makes manifest [or exposes] is light”
You’re not being unloving or intolerant, you are being what Christ called you to be – light!
Therefore He says: “Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light.”
3. Walk in the Spirit
See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
Walk perfectly, walk accurately.
In other words, walk in the Spirit! When we walk in the Spirit, when we submit ourselves to the Holy Spirit and allow the Word of God to determine our thoughts, actions and decisions, we will walk accurately.
It is foolish to be led by our physical senses and soul.
Jesus said, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ ”
What do you live by?
Are you driven by your 5 senses? Does what you see, hear, taste, touch, or smell drive you to make unwise decisions? Lust after someone? Become angry? Binge eat? Become anxious? Reminisce about your old life?
Are you led by your soul? Your thought life? Your stubborn will? Your fluctuating emotions? The drama around you or in you?
If you’re led by these and not by the Holy Spirit that brings your 5 senses and your soul under submission then you are not living wisely.
Instead, we need to walk in the Spirit and take every opportunity under our control, because these are evil times we live in.
We can be influenced by evil, we can be passive and co-exist with evil, or we can combat evil, which we will look at in Ephesians 6.
4. Understand the will of the Lord
Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
Paul starts off this sentence with “therefore”, and thus isn’t referring to believers seeking God’s will or direction for their lives, but is referring to the previous verses about shining the light on evil and walking with wisdom.
Don’t be unwise, led by your 5 senses and your soul, but rather intercede and understand what the Lord’s will is in that situation with your rebellious child, in that conflict with your boss, with your unbelieving spouse.
5. Be filled with the Spirit
And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God.
The word “be” in this verse doesn’t indicate a one-time event, but rather an ongoing event.
“Keep on being filled with the Spirit”.
We need to pray and seek God everyday, as a part of our daily prayer life, to fill us with His Holy Spirit, and we need to daily submit our flesh and soul to the direction of the Holy Spirit so that we walk wisely and in line with His will.
But why would Paul contrast this with being drunk? I believe he did this for two reasons:
Because in both instances you are completely taken over by something outside of yourself and cease to be in control, and because in situations when evil is prevalent you can either turn to alcohol to deaden your fear and depression or to the Holy Spirit to give you power to live victoriously in the face of that evil.
Then we are given four ways this filling of the Holy Spirit is evident in our lives
- Speaking to one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs – it transforms our speech
- Singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord – it transforms our emotions
- Giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ – it transforms our thinking patterns
- Submitting to one another in the fear of the Lord -it transforms our behavior
Paul will then take this list of Spirit-filled behaviors and show us how they play out in our interpersonal relationships.