Now that my daughters have both gotten married and moved away, I find myself frequently visiting where they both live–New York City. Whenever I get the chance to spend some time there, I always try to stay through Sunday morning to attend Trinity Grace Church in Brooklyn with my girls. Their pastor, Tyler Staton, caused quite a stir recently when he visited the OneHope office. He presented a powerful message to the staff that left the office buzzing for the rest of the week. He asked the question: “How do we actually live the resurrection life that Jesus offers?” The answers he offered in his sermon were both compelling and challenging. Tyler unpacked insights from Ephesians chapter 5 describing how to leave apathy behind, and step into a renewed relationship with God.
1. Live as “children of light” (Ephesians 5:8, NIV). Allow yourself to be searched by God for hidden and dark places He needs to renew. “But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light” (verse 13, NIV). Invite God to be a searching light by bringing your whole life into the presence of God.
There is no darkness in God at all, so we may turn to Him to be the light in us. A.W. Tozer stated, “Whoever would be indwelt by the Spirit must judge his (own) life for any hidden iniquities. He must expel from his heart everything that is out of accord with the character of God…There can be no tolerance of evil, no laughing off the things that God hates.” God will shine a light on what we need to abandon in our lives; it is our job to confess and then turn from the darkness within us.
2. “Wake up, sleeper…” Verse 14 quotes a baptismal hymn that the early church would sing. After a person was baptized in water, the entire congregation recognized a change took place in the individual’s life. In today’s Western church context, spiritual drowsiness is our greatest temptation—and it’s easy to be unaware of our own apathy. If we are all sleepwalking next to each other, it feels like we are all awake.
Many aspects of this world are trying to woo us away from seeking the Lord. The Bible warns us that “the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16, NIV). In our modern society, there is an obsession with “now.” It is mainstream to seek after the latest trends. As John Piper wrote,“The greatest enemy of hunger for God is not poison, but apple pie. It is not the banquet of the wicked that dulls our appetite for heaven, but endless nibbling at the table of the world.”
3. Drink from a deeper well
Anything with which we try to fill the void in our life will not be as satisfying as knowing the Lord. Jesus displays this during his encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well: “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst” John 4:13-14, NIV. In Ephesians 5:18, we are called to be “filled by the Spirit.” By drinking the Spirit, we can have the resurrection life Jesus offers.
In our walk with God, we need both spiritual breakthrough, and slow and steady processes. Breakthrough is when God overwhelms your life with the weight of His presence. Process is an invitation to intimacy with God through the gentleness of His presence. Saul’s life was radically changed when he encountered God on the road to Damascus (Acts 9). Many more examples of dramatic spiritual breakthroughs are seen in the Bible and in current times. However, God also works through slow and steady processes as we take faithful steps toward Him.
I’m thankful that Tyler prompted us to fully embrace the life God has called us to live. As OneHope continues to celebrate our 30th year of ministry, Tyler’s message reminded me of the glorious responsibility we have to share the light of Christ with the children and youth around the world. I’m praying 2017 is the year we all walk more closely with God, who truly is the one who illuminates, awakens, and fulfills us.