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Alive In Christ

Children Of Light

Rev. Philip Miller | July 9, 2023
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Scripture Reference: Leviticus 21:8, Isaiah 60:1—2, Matthew 5:48, Matthew 16:24, Galatians 5:16—25, Ephesians 4:1, Ephesians 4:22—23, Ephesians 5:1—21, James 1:17

Selected highlights from this sermon

The change that God intends to bring into our lives isn’t superficial. It’s a comprehensive change and goes down to the very heart of who we are and stretches to encompass all that we are. It is the complete and utter transformation of our entire being into becoming like Christ in every way.

In this message, Pastor Miller tells us that God intends to transform every dimension of our being. Then he walks us through how it can be done even though the deep, comprehensive, transformational change we need is beyond our doing.

Last week we were visiting family and we stopped by our old house, and the thing I noticed the most when I saw it was how much the trees had grown. Have you ever done that? Gone back to a place you used to live in and see those trees you planted or your landscaping and you go, “Wow! Look at that change.” Here’s what’s weird. It was growing all the time that I lived there. Right? But I never noticed it. It was only when I came back over time, and then I could see the growth.

You know, there’s so much power in the quiet, organic, incremental growth of living things. And the same thing is true of the growth that God is doing in our lives. When the seed of the Gospel is planted in our lives as the Father redeems us in the Son and gives us the Holy Spirit, the new life of God that is coming to life, growing, planted in us, it’s slow and steady, and sometimes you don’t notice when it’s happening. You’re too close to see it, but every so often you catch a glimpse. Maybe over time you realize you see a shift, or maybe other people notice change in you, and they say things like, “You know, you’re way more patient than you once were. I’ve noticed you’re less anxious these days. You’re more encouraging to others, you’ve grown in your ability to extend forgiveness.” You start to notice it over time.

It’s like my son a couple year ago. He came in, eyes wide, full of energy. He’s like, “Dad, I got fast.” I was like, “Wow, when did that happen?” He said, “I don’t know, but I’m fast. Watch!” And he ran off. Right? So, he all of a sudden noticed. I’m fast! When did that happen? It didn’t happen overnight. It happened slow and steadily, but all of a sudden one day he saw it.

There’s tremendous power in the quiet, organic, incremental growth of God’s life planted in us, friends, and the change that God wants to bring in your life is not superficial. It goes all the way down. It goes to the depths, the very depths of the heart of who you are, and it extends to the breadths of your entire being. God wants to bring transformation completely and utterly to every facet of your life and being, and He intends to make you like Jesus, Himself, which means everything about us ultimately has to change. Right? Everything, which is exactly what the apostle Paul is telling us in the second half of Ephesians.

Remember he kicked off the second half in chapter 4, verse 1, when he said, “I, therefore, a prisoner of the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.” Now that you’ve been called from darkness to the light, from death to life, from sin to righteousness, I want you to live like it. I want you to live out what’s already happened to you by grace through faith in Christ. He says, “I want you to put off the old self, which belongs to the former manner of your life, and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” That’s chapter 4, verses 22 and 23.

And now in Ephesians, chapter 5, verses 1 to 21, our passage for today, Paul’s going to show us just how comprehensive this transformation project is. So, if you will grab your Bibles, let’s open them up. Ephesians, chapter 5, verses 1 to 21. If you are not familiar with the Bible and didn’t bring one, you can grab the pew Bible. You’ll find today’s passage on page 978. 978. Ephesians, chapter 5, verses 1 to 21:

This is the Word of the Lord:

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

“But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.  Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore, do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore, it says, ’Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

Thanks be to the Lord for the reading of His Word.

In this passage this morning we’re going to see the three-dimensional transformation that God is bringing into our lives. It is upward, outward, and inward. Three dimensions: upward, outward, inward.

Upward: Be imitators of God.

Outward: Be children of light.

Inward: Be filled with the Spirit.

Okay? That’s our roadmap for this morning. Let’s bow our heads. Let’s pray and ask the Lord to be our teacher.

Father, we know that you intend to transform every dimension of our being, all that we are, that we might be gloriously like Jesus Christ. If we’re honest, we sometimes grow weary at how slow the progress seems to be. But Father, would you give us a joyous confidence today to keep in step with the Spirit, and to make progress on this road toward holiness? Make us like yourself, we pray for Christ’s sake, Amen. Amen.

So, first of all upward, the first dimension of our transformation is upward, “Be imitators of God.” Chapter 5, verse 1, “Therefore, be imitators of God as beloved children.” That’s quite a command, isn’t it? (laughs) That’s an audacious command, right? “I want you to be an imitator of God. What He does, you do; what He thinks, you think.” I want you in every way to imitate God.

Oh, that’s it, huh? That’s all? Yeah. Be imitators of God. It’s all over the Bible, even in the Old Testament.

Leviticus 21:8: “Be holy for I am holy.”

Matthew 5:48: At the very heart of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus says, “You must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

So, the calling is uniform. All over the Bible we are to become like God, our Father.

Now notice this calling to imitate God does not come as those who are trying to pull up their own bootstraps, or as those who are trying to prove themselves, or as those who are trying really, really, really hard to be better people. No, it comes as beloved children. This is important.

Now that God has made you alive in Jesus Christ, now that the Father has adopted you as His beloved child, now that the Son has redeemed you in His blood, now that the Holy Spirit has sealed you forever, indwelling you, now that you are saved by grace through faith in Christ as a beloved child of God, be an imitator of Him. You see, what was impossible prior to grace is now imperative by grace. What was impossible before grace is imperative by grace now.

As children grow in the imitation of their parents (That’s the normal pattern.) so shall God’s children grow in imitation of Him. “As beloved children forever secure in the love of our Father,” Paul says, “be imitators of God.” Like Father, like child. Look to Him, follow Him, act like Him, be like Him. “Be holy as I am holy.”

So, the Father is our pattern, you see. He’s our pattern. Now how on Earth could we ever get there? Right? How do we get there? Well, we have someone to follow. Verse 2: “And walk in love as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” If God the Father is our pattern, then the Son is our path. The Father is our pattern. The Son is our path. He is the one who shows us the way. And notice the description here, a 4-fold path that Jesus walks.

Verse 2, it is a loving path, it is a self-giving path, it’s a sacrificing path, and it is a God-pleasing path. He loved us, He gave Himself up for us, He sacrificed Himself, and He gave Himself as a fragrant offering, pleasing to the Father in every way.

See, Jesus is showing us the way. He’s showing us what God is like as he lives among us. As He empties Himself, as He pours Himself out in a radical self-donating love, as He sacrifices Himself for others, as He pleases the Father in every way every day of His life, He’s showing us what God is like. And if you want to imitate your Father, follow Jesus. Right?

If you want to imitate God, you follow Jesus. You walk in love. You give yourself away. You sacrifice yourself for others. You offer your life as a pleasing sacrifice before God, to please Him in every way. But how?

How can self-centered, self-absorbed, self-obsessed, self-protective people like you and me, if we’re honest (Right?), how on Earth do we get the power to imitate God by following Jesus? How do we do it? The answer is all the way down in verse 18, the second half. We’ll look at this verse later in detail, but let’s just see it now where Paul says, “Be filled with the Spirit.”

So, the power to become imitators of God as we follow the way of Jesus comes through the filling of the Holy Spirit. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead, that kind of life-altering transformation, that same power lives and is at work in you, conforming you to the image of Christ so that you might imitate your Father as you follow the Son by the power of the Spirit. You see, the Father is our pattern, the Son is our path, and the Spirit is our power. The Father is our pattern, the Son is our path, and the Spirit is our power. Notice all three persons of the triune God who are now working, collaborating for your transformation.

You have a whole new identity, friends, as beloved children of God to imitate our Father, to follow the Son, to live by the power and infilling of the Holy Spirit. We are children of God. Now live like it. That’s Paul’s point. Act like it.

So that’s the first dimension of our transformation vertically, upwardly. We are imitators of God. Okay?

The second dimension is outward. “Be children of light,” Paul says. If we are imitating God as His beloved children, following the way of Jesus through the filling of the Holy Spirit, that upward transformation should result in an outward transformation as well. Our being issues in behavior. Verse 3: “But sexual immorality and all impurity and covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among the saints.”

So, Paul gives us three traits that are simply incompatible with who you are as a beloved child of God. The first one is sexual immorality. The word here is porneia. You can see where it’s going, even from the term. It is the broadest possible term for referring to all kinds of sexual activity outside of the covenant of marriage. So, this would include adultery. It would include premarital sex. It would include homosexual sex, pornography, cultivating lust in your heart and mind, self-gratification. Paul says, “This is out for followers of Christ.”

The second word is impurity. This is a broad term dealing with our interactions and dealings with other people that are often tainted by selfishness. The purity of our actions is tainted by our selfish motives. So, we can have impure motives and hidden agendas. We can have the impure transactions and be fudging the numbers. We can have impure use of power, and be self-serving in our leadership. Right? Paul says, “This has no place either.”

The third word is covetousness. It could also be translated greediness, the same word basically. It’s the insatiable running after money and stuff, the envious pursuit of more and more and more, the selfish hoarding of resources for ourselves.

So basically, with these three terms you have the unholy trinity of money, sex, and power. Right? Money, sex, and power. Paul is saying, “The way the world pursues money, sex, and power, is incompatible with your new life as beloved children of God.

He says in fact, “I don’t even want you talking like the world.” Verse 4: “Let there be no filthiness or foolish talk nor crude joking which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.” He says, “Look, I don’t want there to be any bawdy locker room talk. I don’t want there to be lewd online comments. I don’t want there to be sleazy one-up-man-ship, or gossipy spilling of the tea. That’s not imitating God. That’s not the way of Jesus. That’s not full of the Holy Spirit. That’s not who you are as beloved children of God.”

Verse 5, “For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.”

And notice we have our three words again, the same words he used back in verse 3. They are repeated here but now they’ve become nouns. Right? Sexually immoral, impure, covetous. In other words, Paul is talking about people here for whom these traits have become a way of life, an established way of life. These folks are building their identity around sexual immorality, impurity, and covetousness. They are living for money, sex, and power. That’s why Paul calls them idolators, idol-worshipers.

Instead of worshiping God and finding our identity in the significance, security, and satisfaction that He alone can provide, these folks have turned to money, sex, and power to try to fill the God-shaped hole in their hearts, and it’s all about what they can get, and they always come up empty.

Now the kingdom of God, in contrast, is a place where money, sex, and power are radically turned upside down. Instead of amassing wealth for ourselves, we are called as followers of Jesus to steward all that we have in order that we might share generously and sacrificially with others.

Why? Listen. This is really important. Why is the ethic of Christian stewardship of our resources shaped like that? It’s shaped like that because God is shaped like that. God is generous and self-giving and sacrificial in His love. Therefore, His children are to steward their resources in generous, self-giving sacrificial love. Do you see that? So amassing wealth doesn’t just make you a miser, it makes you live in a way that is contrary to the ultimate good and beautiful reality who is God Himself. It’s a disconnect. Instead of pursuing sex to gratify our own needs, we are called as followers of Jesus to radical self-donation in a whole-life covenant of mutual self-sacrificing love.

Why is the ethic of Christian sexuality shaped the way it is? It’s because that’s how God is. God is a self-giving, self-donating, covenantally faithful God, so when we break our covenants, we are violating not only the people we marry, but the faithfulness of God Himself who never breaks His covenants. The reason premarital sex is a sin is not just because it hurts us, but because God gives Himself, His whole life, in radical self-donating love. He gives Himself in covenant, and when we hold back ourselves— We say, “I want one flesh union, but I won’t give you my whole life, I won’t give you my resources, I won’t give you my protection, I won’t give you my devotion and my covenant love. I want to hold on to my freedom and still enjoy this relationship.” That is— It’s disintegrating. It’s pulling us away from the holiness of God. Do you see that?

Instead of leveraging power for ourselves as Christians, we are called to serve one another with all that we are to sacrifice for the good of others. Why is the Christian ethic of power so radically different? Why is it shaped like this? Because God is shaped like this.

How does God use His power? He lays it down in self-donation, radical sacrifice, in loving focus of others. Do you see that? This is who your Father is, and if you are to imitate God and follow the loving path of Jesus by the filling of the Spirit, your ethic, your life, has to shift into a new paradigm that reflects His character and likeness.

Remember the fourfold path of Jesus: loving, self-sacrificing, self-giving, God-pleasing. Don’t you see the way of Jesus radically transforms our relationship with money, sex, and power? These are no longer the places where we get identity, where we worship, what we tap meaning and make everything about us. They are not the sources of our happiness and fulfillment anymore. No, we found something better. In Jesus Christ we have access to the God we were made for, and He’s the one that gives us identity. He’s the one that gives us significance, security, and satisfaction.

And so, in the way of Jesus now, money, sex, and power are dethroned, and they become now avenues through which we can embrace the upside-down kingdom of Jesus. And we live in radical generosity with our resources. We live with holy sexuality. We live in sacrificial service of others. Friends, we’re living for a different kingdom. We’re alive to the new creation reality. We are living as children of light.

Verse 7: “Therefore do not become partners with them, for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true) and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.”

He says, “You were once darkness,” not in darkness. You were darkness, dead in your trespasses and sin, without God and without hope in the world. But now you are light in the Lord, not just in the light, you are light. You’ve been brought from dead to alive, from lost to found, from darkness to light, and so now walk, he says, as children of light. “I don’t want you partnering up with the darkness. No complicity, no entanglement, no enmeshment. Instead, I want you to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. I want you to live in the light. As the sun shines and greens the leaves and ripens the fruit, so the light of Christ bears the fruit of all that is good and right and true. Bad things grow in the dark.

Verse 11, “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore, it says, ‘Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’”

So, in contrast to the fruitfulness of the light, now we have the dead works of the darkness, shamefully done in secret. The children of the light are to take no part in those dark deeds but to walk as children of light. We are to shine into the darkness, and that shining will have two effects. He says, “Number one it will expose the darkness for what it is because the light reveals.” Right? You flip on the light switch and the cockroaches scuttle. Right?

The second one, the second effect, is the enlivening of those who are trapped in the dark, that the light is rescuing. Light is hope. Light is resurrection. That’s the whole point of this early hymnic quotation. This is probably a hymn that the early church sang, modeled off of Isaiah, certain passages in Isaiah. But it’s a hymn that the Ephesian church would have sung, and Paul quotes it here: “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Paul says, “Remember, you too were once dead. You were in your trespasses and sins. You were once sons of disobedience for whom the wrath of God was coming. You were trapped in the dark. And into the darkness of your death sleep the light of Christ shone upon your life, and God made you alive, by grace, through faith, in Christ. And He saved you from your sins, and He rescued you from darkness, and He adopted you as a child of the light. And now that same Gospel light that made us alive in Christ is shining in and through our lives as we live as children of light in this dark world (applause), which means that when we live with radical generosity the world has never seen— When we live with the kind of holy sexuality that displays the purity and covenant faithfulness of our God— When we steward our power with sacrificial service of one another, that is a light that shines in the darkness, and when we let our little light shine it reveals and it rescues.

Friends, in the light, our relationships with money, sex, and power are being radically transformed. Radically transformed. We are imitators of God, following the way of Jesus, filled with the Spirit. We are children of light with radical generosity, holy sexuality, and sacrificial service. We are living for the kingdom. We are alive to the realities of the new creation. We are a light shining in the darkness.

So, this is the second dimension of our transformation:

  • Upward: Be imitators of God.
  • Outward: Be children of light.

And now inward! Inward: Be filled with the Spirit.

Our upward transformation as children of God ought to lead to this outward transformation of living as children of light. But the question is, “How?” And this comes from the inward transformation that comes from being filled with the Spirit.

Verse 15: “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”

Friends, navigating this dark world as children of light requires great wisdom and care, doesn’t it? We’re behind enemy lines, as it were, and so we are not to foolishly lean on our own understanding, but instead, understand what is the will of the Lord. That’s what’s most important.

And what is the will of the Lord? Verse 18, “Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.” The will of the Lord is that you and I might be filled with the Spirit. Now, what does that mean? Paul contrasts being filled with the Spirit with getting drunk with wine. It’s fascinating.

What’s up with that, by the way? That’s a little weird. Well, let’s think about it. When a person is drunk we say they are “under the influence.” Right? “Under the influence.” Something else has entered in and taken operational control over their choices in their life. Right? Paul is saying, “For children of the light, imitators of God, following the way of Jesus, something else has entered in our live, and taken operational control over our choices and our life, and it’s called the Holy Spirit. And we are called to listen to Him, to yield to Him, to defer to Him, to keep in step with Him because we are under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Do you see? Instead of being enslaved to our inordinate desires, running endlessly after money, sex, and power to kind of fill ourselves up so we know who we are, so we can have a little bit of happiness in life, instead of being enslaved to those desires, now we are following a different desire. We are alive to the desires of the Holy Spirit who is in us.

This is what Paul says in Galatians 5, verses 16 to 25 as he unpacks this reality to a different group of people. This is what he says or writes:

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of your flesh. (What are those? Money, sex, and power. Right?) For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. [But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.] Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.”

“Be filled with the Spirit” (Back to Ephesians). It’s a passive command, just like the one back in chapter 4:23: “Be renewed in the Spirit of your mind.” A passive command. Passive. You can’t do it. It has to be done to you, and yet it’s a command to obey which means our job is to allow it, to welcome it, to receive this work in our lives. It’s a continuous verb, which means this fillings is an ongoing, daily tethering to the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. What does that look like?

Well, word pictures sometimes help me. Have you ever seen one of those refueling aircraft? They have the big boom that comes out of the back of them, and the fighter jet flies up underneath, and it connects, and all the fuel then flows from that big tanker down into the fighter jet below? Right? The tanker has all the resources that fighter jet needs. The fighter jet’s job is to get in position and stay there, and let it flow. The fighter jet can’t get those resources any other way, but to get in position and stay in position. And friends, that’s our job, to get in position and stay in position as the resources of the Holy Spirit flow into our life and change who we are.

How do you know if you are being filled by the Holy Spirit? How do you know? Paul’s going to give us four evidences of a Spirit-filled life. Verse 19a: “Addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.”

It’s odd, isn’t it? The first thing on his list of spirit-filled living is worship in community. Worship in community. Why would that be? Think about it. If the Spirit’s aim is to help us imitate God and follow the loving way of Jesus with others, then his whole strategy is to get our attention focused on God, and to bind us together in loving community so we can live out this way of love with one another. And where does that happen? In the body of Christ, in the church, in the family of God where we gather and address each other in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. The Spirit leads us to the worship of God and the loving enfolding of a life in community. This is what He does.

The second evidence is in 19b: “Singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart.” The second evidence of the Spirit’s filling is a heartfelt, joyous praise and devotion, of genuine affections that have been cultivated for Christ.

Singing is an intimate thing, isn’t it? We sing with people we love. The Spirit is cultivating genuine heart-felt loving affections for the Lord Jesus Christ on the inside of who we are—heart transformation.

The third evidence is in verse 20: “Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The third evidence here is thankfulness. Instead of the insatiable discontentedness of running always after money, sex, and power, those who are led by the Spirit here have discovered that the Lord is their portion and the joy of their life, who gives them security, significance, and satisfaction, and are therefore brimming with thankfulness always, and for everything, for every good and perfect gift comes down from above from the Father of lights (James 1:17). And from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. And so, the Spirit is filling us with gratitude and thanksgiving.

And the fourth evidence is in verse 21: “Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Instead of the self-interested living that drove us in the darkness, using money, sex, and power for ourselves (It was all about us.), now the Spirit is reversing all of that, you see. He’s teaching us to “be imitators of God, to walk in love as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” And as the Spirit leads us we begin humbly submitting ourselves to one another out of reverence for Christ. We put other people’s needs ahead of our own. We defer to one another. We serve one another. We submit to one another.

Just as Christ submitted Himself to the Father, and put our needs ahead of His own, now we are called to submit to one another in loving, self-giving, sacrificial, and God-pleasing ways. And friends, don’t you see we are transformed under the influence of the Spirit. We are transformed under the influence of the Spirit.

Now, if you’re a follower of Jesus Christ, if you’ve trusted in Jesus as your Lord and Savior, if you’ve given your life to Him, you have the Holy Spirit. He’s in your life. You are sealed with the Holy Spirit now and forever. But having the Spirit is not the same thing as the Spirit having you. Having the Spirit is not the same thing as the Spirit having you. To be filled by the Spirit is to come under His transforming influence. It’s to “Hand over your whole self and hold nothing back.”

C.S. Lewis writes this in Mere Christianity: “The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self—all your wishes and precautions—to Christ. But,” he says, “it is far easier than what we are all trying to do instead. For what we are trying to do is to remain what we call ‘ourselves,’ to keep personal happiness as our great aim in life, and yet at the same time be ‘good.’ We are all trying to let our mind and heart go their own way, centered on money or pleasure or ambition—and hoping, in spite of this, to behave honestly and chastely and humbly. And that is exactly what Christ warned us you could not do. As He said, a thistle cannot produce figs. If I am a field that contains nothing but grass seed, I cannot produce wheat. Cutting the grass may keep it short, but I shall still produce grass and no wheat. If I want to produce wheat, the change must go deeper than the surface. I must be ploughed up and resown.”

As Jesus said, you cannot serve two masters. “If anyone would come after me,” Jesus said, “let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.”

Friends, the key to Spirit-filled living is found in surrender. The key to Spirit-filled living is found in surrender. For so many years of my Christian life, I tried to change. I wanted to be good. I wanted to be pure. I wanted to be righteous, and so I worked really hard at it. I had accountability partners. I beat myself up more effectively than most people, and I tried hard, but it never worked because I was trying to do it in my own strength. I was still in the driver’s seat. I was still trying to be in charge, in control of my own transformation. I wasn’t willing to let God drive.

And I’m telling you, friends, the only real lasting change that has ever come into my life (and it comes in fits and starts) has come when I learned to surrender, to yield, to submit, to obey, to keep in step with the Spirit.

He leads. I follow. Not running ahead. Not lagging behind. Keeping in step with the Spirit.

Friends, the deep transformational change that God wants to do in your life is— You cannot do it. You cannot change yourself the way God wants to change you. Only God can do this work. Our job is to stay in position. Stay in position.

Be filled with the Spirit so that you can become an imitator of God and live as children of light. This is who you are.

You know, sometimes I think, growing up in my tradition, we saw the excesses of people that claimed to be Spirit-led, and there was some craziness going on in the world. That’s not what God’s talking about here, but the danger is that we swing the pendulum the other direction, and having seen excesses over here, we forget that the greatest miracle has taken place in that God moved into the heart of your life and is doing a transformational change that you could never do on your own. If you would stop insisting on your own way, stop holding on to your habits and the things that you wrapped your little soul around in life with money, sex, and power, if you would say no to those desires, crucify and lay them down at the foot of the cross, and yield to the Spirit and say yes to His desires and follow Him into life and glory, you could be changed in ways you can’t begin to imagine. God wants to change you. You can’t do this on your own. So, we begin by saying, “Help, Lord Jesus.”

Would you bow your heads. Let’s pray.

Father, we’re up against it. The people we are is so far from the people we need to become. Father, forgive us for trying to do it on our own. Help us to yield to your Holy Spirit, to follow Him. Would you change us and make us new? Help us to say yes to what you call us to do. Help us to be willing to lay down our sinful habits and our co-dependent sins the way we run after money, sex, and power and prop up our lives. Father, help us to see the greater treasure that you are, to yield to the call of your Spirit as He leads and guides us. Would you change us and make us new? This isn’t passive. This is active, proactive dependence on the Holy Spirit. We have to keep in step with Him. It takes a lot of work, but it is His power at work in us.

So, we cling to you. We give you ourselves, our whole selves. We hold nothing back. Would you change us, renew us, resurrect us, transform us, we pray, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

And all of God’s people said, Amen!

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