My Mouth is full of death.
Now, I don’t mean I speak words of death, I just have bad teeth. I go to the dentist a lot and I’m not sure if it’s because I don’t take care of them enough or if it’s because I am genetically disposed to bad teeth. Either way, I’m not that old, but I already have had three root canals. If you know me, you’d know I am a very curious person, so it wouldn’t shock you to find out that when I go to the Dentist; I play with his tools (when he’s not looking of course). I just have to know what’s going into my mouth! Don’t pretend, I know you’ve done it…or thought about it!
One such time, when I was at the office for my third root canal, the dentist walked out of my room for a second. He said my mouth had to numb and it would take some time, so he would be back soon. When he left, I grabbed his drill. I wanted to know what was going to be drilling my teeth apart. I studied the drill and was looking intently at the drill bit when I hit the pedal to make it go. To my surprise, I was blinded! There was a tiny light at the end of the drill and it took me by surprise.
At first I was ticked that I was blinded, but then I thought about it. That little light gives the dentist the clear view of the tooth decay so he can drill it out. The light shines in the darkness and makes it easier for the expert driller to drill out the death within my mouth. The light exposes the death that lies there so the death can be removed.
We, like the drill can be used by the expert to expose death. When we allow our light to shine before men, we are living in such a way that exposes the darkness around us. This is why Jesus says we are the light of the world, because truthfully, we are!
This truth, of our mission hit me as I was preparing a sermon for last week. In Ephesians 5:11-14, it calls us, those of us who profess Christ to expose death in the world we live in. As I got to thinking this was part of our calling, I started asking: how?
How do we expose the death around us? With all the sin, turmoil, death, hate, disease, poverty, slander and the like, how do we begin to expose this death our world is living in? Here’s the passage where Paul discusses the issues at hand:
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.” (Ephesians 5:11-14 ESV)
When it comes to the ‘How’, I think there are three key elements we can grab and the first one may surprise you:
I. Be Convinced of Death (Vs. 11a)
Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness…
Before we can begin to expose death, we must fully be convinced that the things of darkness really do lead to death. This can’t be a religious attitude of abstinence for the sake of abstaining; because a religious person abstaining out of duty secretly wishes to partake of the darkness but doesn’t partake simply out of fear for his or her own reputation (we see this in the Older Brother from the prodigal son). Religious folks banter on and on about not being in the darkness but convince no one that the darkness is death.
The reason being is that they themselves don’t fully believe it’s a killer. They feel the louder they shout, the more it will do to convince them it’s death but they are not convinced so they can’t truly recognize death. We must see it for what it is, not by shouting about it, not by trying to get others to see reason by arguing them into stopping but by truly asking the Spirit of God to convince you beyond a shadow of a doubt that the things of darkness truly lead to death. The Spirit in John 16:13 is called the revealer of Truth and He desperately desires for us to see the true reality of our dying world. He desires to expose the lies the darkness believes and even the lies we ourselves believe.
Here’s a statement I get into trouble for saying: We can’t hold non-Christians to a Christian standard. We can’t shout at them to stop sinning. We can’t expect them to cease the dance with death they are dancing by yelling at them about it. They can’t stop because they don’t have the Spirit. We are to show them the better way, The Way.
I fear all our sin mongering over the past years of Christendom has blinded us from actually seeing death and from convincing the world darkness is death. We shout that the behaviors must cease, without a real reason as to why. Many of you may have been told to stop sinning, but weren’t told why and so truth didn’t find it’s place to the reason and sin didn’t look so bad. But let me tell you brothers and sisters, the deeds of the darkness truly lead to DEATH!
Last week, in a small group we asked the question: what if everything we believed wasn’t true, how would we respond. Immediately, I said, well I’d be upset I didn’t have more fun, because that would mean sin wasn’t wrong. Looking at that now, I realized I exposed that somewhere inside I’m not 100% convinced that all sin leads to death. I still have a sense that sin could be fun, if it weren’t sin. I’ve been rocked by this passage because it has shown me the fact that I still sin and I do this because I am not fully convinced it all leads to death. I am becoming more convinced but we all need to get honest and ask ourselves if we are convinced, because if we’re not, we will not fully be the light we are supposed to be in order to expose the darkness and death!
To expose death we must be convinced of death and that it comes through the deeds of the Darkness; next we can see in order to expose death, we Don’t dance with Death.
II. Don’t Dance With Death (Vs. 11)
Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.
Once we come to the place where we are fully convinced that sin and the deeds of the darkness lead to death, we shouldn’t dance with death by being partakers in the unfruitful deeds of darkness. Here we see that living in the light brings fruit to our lives. It makes life sweet, worth living and full, while the works of darkness are unfruitful. The Greek word here for unfruitful means pointless.
Life is pointless while living in the darkness.
Dancing with death in the dark is not just stupid, it’s pointless. This picture of dancing with death immediately reminded me of an MTV video I saw for the song: Last Dance With Mary Jane. Now the song is about drugs, but the music video pictured a husband dancing with the corpse of his dead wife. That dance can’t lead to anything. No romance, no love, no future can be had with that dance…it’s pointless to dance with a corpse. Yet, the darkness dresses the corpse up so well that we can hardly believe its dead, and the darkness is so thick that we can’t properly see its dead, but it is. Sin is dancing with death.
The opposite of dancing with death that Paul gives here is exposure. By our being so convinced darkness leads to death, we will cease to desire partaking in it and by our true, convinced abstinence we will expose the death that lies within those deeds.
By exposure, I am not saying to rebuke the people who do them and nor is Paul. Too often the church has taken upon itself to be the righteous police and “exposes” sin by yelling at people.
Jesus did no such thing (except with the Religious people who wanted to be sinning but weren’t because of their reputations). Jesus lived a life of righteousness before them, had compassion for those dying in the darkness, walked with them (not in the deeds, but in life) and showed them what true life looks like by the way in which he lived.
As light, we are to look differently but the way in which we live has to be rooted in true conviction that darkness leads to death;otherwise we are not fully being the light God desires us to be.
When we refrain from dancing with death among those lost in darkness, they see the light within us and if we get close enough to them, we will expose the death in their lives by allowing Christ to shine on them through us.
First, in order to expose death, we have to be convinced of death, next we don’t dance with the death we see, lastly we wake the dead!
III. Wake the Dead (Vs. 12-14)
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.”
The great news in all of this is when we are the light and we live close enough to those in darkness, the death of their lives becomes visible and they too can enter into the light if they so choose.
In this, the overall assumption is that we are spending time with people who need the light.
Are we in community with people who need Jesus or are we in holy huddles all day? That’s a real question to be answered. We have the light of the Lord within us and we can’t keep it under a bushel by hiding away in church buildings all the time. I am speaking to myself here to. We need to expose death and in order to do so, we need to go where death is!
Once we do this, and allow the Spirit to live through us, and convince us of the death all around we have the ability to be used by God to wake the dead! We can point the dead person towards Jesus and they will awake and arise from the dead! This, although it is a poem is not just nice words. It’s reality.
God desires those lost in death to arise and have the light of Christ shine on them. It’s dangerous to have God expose out sins, it’s dangerous to be used by God to expose others sins, but people will rise from the dead! Every time someone comes to know Jesus, that’s another dead person up from the grave of darkness into the life of light!
When folks question why the life you live is different, show them Jesus and let them walk out of the grave into His glorious light!