July 24, 2019 • Life for Leaders
Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. This is why it is said: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
I follow a simple rule of thumb in my life: Don’t fall asleep while driving. This is common sense, of course. But something about sitting in a car, even while I am driving it, lures me to sleep. The purring of the motor and the gentle rocking of the car have the power to lead me to the land of slumber. Unfortunately, such a slumber could easily be my last. So if I’m driving when tired I usually stop for a cup of coffee or a bit of exercise. In forty-six years of driving, I’ve managed to obey my cardinal rule: Don’t fall asleep while driving.
Ephesians 5:14 suggests a slightly different version of this rule: Don’t fall asleep while shining. The passage beginning with verse 8 uses the imagery of light and darkness to reveal who we are (“light in the Lord” and “children of light”) and to show us how to live (“live as children of light,” don’t partner with deeds of darkness, “but rather expose them”). Verse 14 completes this use of light/dark imagery with a snippet of an early Christian hymn: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
As we saw in yesterday’s devotion, this quotation underscores the redemptive purpose of exposing the deeds of darkness. When we shine with Christ’s light into the dark world, we are not seeking to shame or punish, but rather to redeem and renew. The light of our life sings to others: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
I expect that Paul includes this hymn fragment here, not only to underscore the redemptive purpose of exposing, but also to encourage us not to fall asleep as we are shining. Indeed, we have already awakened and risen from the dead when we received God’s grace through faith in Christ. Christ has already shined on us so that we might be transformed into “light in the Lord.” But, there are times when we may begin to slip back into the darkness from where we have come. Though we have been raised to life and light with Christ, we can easily become drowsy, lulled into a kind of sleepy darkness. We stop shining with the light of Christ, leaving our part of the world in darkness and our neighbors without redemptive illumination.
Thus the hymn of verse 14 reminds us that our exposing is to be evangelistic and also encourages us to remain awake so that we might reflect Christ’s light into the dark world around us. This verse offers a trustworthy rule of thumb for living: Don’t fall asleep while shining.
Something to Think About:
In what ways might you be tempted to “fall asleep” and return to your “pre-light” lifestyle?
What helps you to shine with Christ’s light consistently? What keeps your lamp burning?
Something to Do:
As you think about what might cause you to “fall asleep,” ask the Lord for wisdom and motivation to avoid such behaviors or thoughts.
Gracious God, thank you for the reminder not to “fall asleep” as I am shining with your light in this world. It is easy, Lord, for me to be lulled into drowsiness, thus causing my light to be dimmed. Forgive me, I pray, for the times this has happened. By your Word and Spirit, keep me awake, shining as a child of the light. May your light and life be visible in me at all times. Amen.
Explore more at The High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project:
We Wanted Him to Shine
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.
With darkness all around us and love within us we have the ability to focus on the good of others however the truth is in us and it has a way of getting out and causing us grief.
My biggest problem is forgetting how God has poured out his truth in bucketfuls to me and then how to dispense it to people in a more gentle way.
Darkness is troublesome to expose.
God uses the sin we do while we slumber to refine us. Be slow to speak, quick to hear and slow to anger. I should pin that to my refrigerator.
Thanks, DiAnne, for our comment. Yes, I could use that on my refrigerator, too.
J.B. Phillips had a great quote about the dangers of being lulled to sleep as a Christian. “The real danger for professing believers lies not in the more glaring and grosser temptations and sins, but in a slow deterioration of vision, a slow death to daring, courage and a willingness to adventure.” This quote stares at me on my work desk each day, in an attempt to remind me to “stay awake.”
What a great line! I had not heard that before. Thanks for sharing it.
Or, as we used to sing in Sunday School – “Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning… keep me burning ’til the break of day” (ref. Matt. 25: 1-13)
Indeed! I can still sing that song.