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DAY 1 – Who God Says We Are
In Ephesians 5:8, Paul writes that we were once darkness, but we are now light. Notice that he doesn’t say that we were once in the dark and are now in the light, but that we are light itself. That is who God says we are. That is our new identity.
We struggle a lot with identity. We are always looking for something other than Christ to define who we are. For many of us, we identify ourselves by our jobs. We give outsized importance to what we do. It even becomes a basic part of how we introduce ourselves to others. When a job loss or unplanned job change occurs it unmoors us, because we were so wrapped up in identifying ourselves as what we do.
We can find false identity in all sorts of things: relationships, hobbies, even our families! But Paul reminds us that the core of our identity is Jesus. The core of our identity is the transformation that has taken place. The core of our identity is light.
In last week’s devotional we read, “On a very practical level, living as children of light means that we work to illuminate the world. It means that our speech will be filled with words that give thanks, show honor, give respect. It means that we look around us for pockets of darkness that need the illuminating light of God.” One of the core things light does is that it illuminates the dark. And so, since we are light, we literally don’t even have a choice in illuminating the dark! It is simply what we do by being who we are.
Where do you find your identity? Is it in Jesus? What “dark” around you needs the light of Christ? How can you live this week as light?
DAY 2 – Rise And Shine
Some people, I imagine, don’t mind their alarm going off each day. I am not one of them. I am not a morning person. I rarely get to sleep in, but when I do it is such a treat! No alarms to mess with, no rushing out of bed. Our passage today is something of an alarm bell. Paul tells us, essentially, to rise and shine, to get about the business of living as children of light.
While the passage seems to echo several Old Testament verses, like Isaiah 26:19 (“let those who dwell in the dust wake up and shout for joy”) and Isaiah 60:1 (“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you”), it most closely resembles a baptismal hymn “in which the congregation greets the new convert as he or she emerges sacramentally from the sleep of spiritual death into the light of life” (F.F. Bruce).
It is like Paul is encouraging the readers in Ephesus to remember what it was like to be baptized, to remember how it felt to be encouraged and excited and energized for the new life of Christ.
How often do you think about your baptism? It’s not something that we often think about, right? What was it
like to step out of the water, after just publicly telling others about how you found Jesus? How did you feel? Paul’s “alarm” isn’t a bell of warning. It isn’t an alarm we need to dread. It certainly isn’t an alarm we need to hit the snooze button on! Instead, Paul’s words are energizing here. Wake up, friends! Rise and shine the light of Christ wherever you go!
Do you remember being baptized? Have you been baptized? If not, what is keeping you from taking this public step of faith?
DAY 3 – What Pleases God
One of the things that usually happens in a brand-new relationship is that we want to find out everything that makes our new boyfriend or girlfriend happy. What is their favorite food? What is their favorite color? What kind of movies do they like? What do they do for fun? We want to know everything! We want to figure them out, figure out how to make them happy, and figure out how to demonstrate our affection by getting involved in the things they like to do.
Part of showing affection to God is figuring out what pleases him and how to walk in such a way that brings honor to him. This isn’t always easy. It often involves figuring out what scripture says about God, and how we
apply that to our present circumstances. Bible scholar Ben Witherington III writes, “The Christian life is not all
a matter of following present rules. It also involves using good Christian judgement and character to decide what is and is not ‘light.’” This takes some thinking on our part. Of course, the Bible doesn’t say a single thing about smartphones or social media.
The writers couldn’t even conceive of such a thing! But it does speak about loving our neighbors, using the power of the tongue wisely, and not being too attached to possessions. All of these principles guide how we use technology. We have to use our own sense of discernment, with the Holy Spirit’s guiding, to decide what sort of behavior pleases God. To do this, we need to be constantly working on transforming our hearts and minds. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Is there a situation in your life where you need help discerning what will please God? Take a moment and pray about your situation. Ask for the Holy Spirit’s guiding help as you try to live in a way that pleases God.
DAY 4 – Living Carefully
I love to go hiking, and I have been blessed with the opportunity to do some incredible hikes. I love working my way up a rocky, steep terrain to be rewarded with an incredible mountain view. I recently climbed a smaller mountain in Vermont that had a fire tower at the top. When I reached the top and climbed the fire tower, I could see a beautiful 360-degree view of the Green Mountains.
That incredible vista was the result of some careful hiking. The last mile was steep and rocky. I had to watch each step I took. On other climbs, I’ve hiked at the edge of a drop off, where I had to be aware of each step so I didn’t mistakenly fall!
In these verses, we are reminded that we need to watch the way we walk. In The Message, we are told to “Watch your step. Use your head. Make the most of every chance you get. These are desperate times!” and later “Don’t live carelessly, unthinkingly. Make sure you understand what the Master wants.”
As Pastor Garrett Lowe mentioned in his sermon, the command “Be very careful, then, how you live” is explained by three “not . . . but” contrasts:
1) not as unwise, but as wise
2) not foolish, but understanding what the Lord’s will is
3) not drunk, but filled with the Spirit
. . . and then with speaking, singing, making music, giving thanks, and mutual submission to one another.
We don’t have to walk in fear, but we do need to walk carefully, watching where we place our feet.
How’s your walk? Are you walking carefully? When you look at those three contrasts, are you wise, understanding the Lord’s will, and filled with the Spirit?
DAY 5 – Always Giving Thanks
Scientists studying gratitude have found evidence that suggests everything from sleep to pain to cardiovascular health might be improved by gratitude. Science is discovering what is written all over scripture: Gratitude is key to a healthy life. Paul wraps up our verses by saying that we should “always [be] giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Consider these verses:
Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind. Let them sacrifice thank offerings and tell of his works with songs of joy.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
When we “walk carefully” as Paul has previously told us to, we can’t help but bubble over with praise and gratitude to God for what he is doing in our lives, transforming us from darkness to light. Even in hard circumstances, with God we can still feel grateful. Adele Ahlberg Calhoun writes, “Gratitude is a loving and thankful response toward God for his presence with us and within this world. Though ‘blessings’ can move us into gratitude, it is not at the root of a thankful heart. Delight in God and his good will is the heartbeat of thankfulness.”
How are you doing with gratitude? Do you feel grateful? Challenge yourself to keep a gratitude journal. Each day, jot down a few things for which you are grateful to God. How does this change your perspective? How do you feel after keeping your journal?
- Songs We Sing
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