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Comfortable in Our Own Skin

April 3rd 2011 by Joshua Simons

St. Paul writes that we were once darkness but NOW we are light in the Lord. Then he encourages us to walk as children of the light. Read or listen to Deacon Simon's message to find out what that looks like in our lives of faith....

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Lent 4, Series A - "COMFORTABLE IN OUR OWN SKIN?" - Ephesians 5:8-14 - April 3, 2011

I would guess that you’ve heard the phrase, “I’m comfortable in my own skin.” Or have been asked, “Are you comfortable in your own skin?” Are you comfortable with who you are? Are you good with who you are? Are you at peace with who you are? In self-reflection, are you confident in your being?
If we look at the question in a sort of worldly, psychological sense, then the answer should always be “yes” – we should be confident; we should believe in ourselves. And trust me, I’m not knocking that. Strong self-esteem and a good positive image are vastly important. But today, we’re going to look at this question from the Christian perspective and we’re going to look at our Epistle lesson for the answer where Paul talks about aspects of the Christian life. As Christians, “Are we comfortable in our own skin?”

Well, first of all, the truthful answer seems like a contradiction. We’re sinner-saints. We certainly answer “no” because we know that we aren’t perfect – far from it – and we can’t attain the righteousness that God demands. Like all, we have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Should we be comfortable with that? Absolutely not!

But hold on . . . we’ve been baptized! We’ve received faith by the Holy Spirit, we’ve been saved, Jesus died for us, our sins forgiven, we are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Romans 3:24). Should we be comfortable with that? Absolutely! We have been made new! And nothing can offer greater joy, peace, and confidence! So as Christians, “Are we comfortable in our own skin?” No . . . and . . . YES!!

Ok . . . so what does that mean for how we live our lives?

Our text comes from the 5th chapter of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Back in verse 17 of chapter 4, Paul describes our new life in Christ and then continuing through the first part of chapter 6 he offers guidance for living as Christians. And the constant throughout is that Christ is our example – we have new life in Christ, we walk in love because Christ loved us, and we serve and sacrifice for those we love because Christ served and sacrificed himself for us.

Our text today starts in chapter 5 verse 8 and I want to call attention to the first thing that Paul says, because it’s too important to overlook. Verse 8 begins, for at one time you were darkness. Now did you catch the seriousness of that? He said, “you were darkness”, not “you were like darkness . . . you were sort of dark in character . . . you weren’t all that bright . . . you were sort of like shade . . . you were dim.” No, he said, “you were darkness.”

So why does Paul say this? Why interject such a harsh statement? Because we must not forget our sin. Darkness is the absence of light. That is the depth of our sinful nature – the absence of good. Our sinful nature is completely contrary to God. We must not become so comfortable in our own skin that we fail to see that sinful nature. If we succumb to self-righteousness, pride, or even complacency such that we fail to recognize our own sin, then our hearts are no longer repentant and we are an abomination before the Lord. If we fail to see our sin, or if we think that we can achieve salvation on our own, then we are as blind and in the dark as the Pharisees from our gospel lesson.

See, there is no light in our nature other than the light of Christ. Without him, we are enemies of God. But recognizing our sin, our darkness, is the path to the Gospel. This desperate state brings us to repentance. Because in darkness, there is no life. Without the light of the Sun, the earth would die, and we with it. We can’t survive in darkness, so we seek light. The darkness of our sin leads only to death, so we seek light that we may find life. It is the purpose of the Law – the hammer of the Law – to convict us, to drive us to such despair that we look only to Jesus for salvation. And we find that salvation in the light of the Gospel, the light of God’s Word. Our light, our life, is in Jesus’ death and resurrection. Let’s look at the phrase again – “You were darkness,” – past tense. For we who are saved by grace through faith are now changed. Paul finishes his sentence from verse 8, but now you are light in the Lord. And then verse 9, Walk as children of light.

Have you ever thought about that description? Children of light. Is that not the most beautiful, encouraging, empowering, feel-good description of who we are? We are the opposite of what we were. We are radiant; filled with a Spiritual light. We possess a greater joy, a greater peace, and the love of Christ in us for the world to see.

It’s as if we are an eastern window, clean and transparent. The shades have been opened and morning has broken. Light shines through us. The room – illuminated. The household – refreshed. Jesus, by his death and resurrection, brought forth a new day – a new dawn of forgiveness for all . . . every . . . completely . . . totally . . . all sins. And the world sees this through us, the Church. So we are comfortable in our own skin; our new skin. Now forgiven, now saved, now under grace, we Walk as children of light.

But even in that we cannot be too comfortable in our skin. Because walking as children of light is a great blessing but also a great calling. With the help of the Holy Spirit our words and actions are pure and we are transparent so the light of Jesus’ love for us shines through us. Christ is our example. No, we cannot follow God’s commands perfectly as he did; no, we cannot love as perfectly as he did. But, it is what we strive for. And how?

Verse 10 from the text, try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. We come here to worship, to receive God’s gifts in Word and Sacrament, to increase our faith. We spend time in the Word and in prayer, letting the Spirit work in our hearts, instructing us in God’s will.

And verse 11, Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. To the best of our ability, we avoid sinful acts and the temptations that lead to sinful acts. We live as pure and as bright as we can. And in so doing, others see it, perhaps exposing their own sin. Or they see a peace and joy in us that they desire themselves. Simply put, as the Spirit guides our lives, people see the light of Jesus in us and want to know him also.

And let us remember the foundation of all of this. How are we sinners considered children of light? How are we sinners able to be comfortable in our own skin? Well, our comfort was only made possible by Jesus’ discomfort on the cross. Remember Gethsemane. Jesus was in such anguish, praying to the Father that he would not have to be crucified, that he sweat blood . . . discomfort. When he was beaten, he was stripped naked and the flagrum with which he was scourged containing pieces of sharp bone and metal balls tore through his flesh, ripping off his skin down to even the muscle . . . discomfort. On the cross, the nails in his hands and feet would have severed main nerves, causing continuous sharp, biting, pains to shoot through his arms and up his legs . . . discomfort. With his arms stretched out and bearing so much weight, breathing was very difficult; he would have to push up with his legs to accomplish each short breath, causing the tears on his back to rub against the rough wood . . . discomfort. And the lack of oxygen would have caused his body to cramp and contract, except he couldn’t . . . discomfort. And his greatest discomfort? Christ bore the weight of all sin on his shoulders.

The pain of Jesus’ death on the cross was excruciating, the word discomfort doesn’t do it justice; perhaps no word does. But we can use one word to explain why the King of the kings, the Ruler of the universe humbled himself in such a manner . . . love. Out of his great love for us, Jesus suffered our punishment that we need not fear death because he bore our death as the price for our sin.

So we return to the question, as Christians, “Are we comfortable in our own skin?” No. Knowing what Christ gave up for us by his love, surely we increase the love we show others. Not being satisfied or complacent, we continue to increase our good works that the Lord may be glorified, that the world may see the light of Christ’s love in us.

As Christians, “Are we comfortable in our own skin?” Yes! Because our salvation is not based on our works, it is based on our faith. So we have great joy and peace upon our hearts. We are forgiven! Through Christ, God sees us as holy! Jesus brought us back to the Father! We are his children! We are children of light – comfortable in our own skin! Amen.

And now may the peace of God, that which passes all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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