Rise N' Shine, Sleepyhead!
by Donn Dobberstein
based on Ephesians 5:8-14
Scooby-Doo and his cartoon friends would come early every Saturday morning growing up
in New Ulm, MN.. So when I heard my mother's voice cheerfully call out, "Rise n'
Shine, Sleepyhead!" it was a good thing! "Rise n' Shine, Sleepyhead! Is Paul's
earnest encouragement to Gentiles growing up in their faith in Ephesus. Today's sermon is
a wake up call to you if you've been sleep-walking through life. You need sleep for
physical life. But you don't need sleep for your spiritual life. Sleeping spiritually can
kill you. "Rise n' Shine, Sleepyhead!" is a wake up call this morning to leave
the darkness of the world and live in the Light of the Word.
I. It's time to leave the dark (vv. 7,8a,11a) Darkness and light are two words found in
the first couple verses of the Bible. God said, "Let there be light," and from
that moment on, there forever was a permanent separation between darkness and light. Ten
times, the Bible distinguishes between physical darkness and physical light. Darkness and
light are two words also found in the New Testament. But now they are used to represent
another difference between sin and holiness; unbelief and faith. Darkness represents the
world we live in and the worldly pleasures it offers us. Light represents Christ and the
spiritual heavenly pleasures he offers . Darkness represents our old nature and its sinful
desires. Light represents the new nature that desires what God wants. As different as day
is from night, so different is the sinful nature in us. Twenty three times, the Bible
distinguishes between spiritual darkness and spiritual light. Before Paul shouts out Rise
n' Shine this morning, he reminds the Ephesians and us of our former position in sin. He
says, "For you were once darkness."
To be in darkness is not a pleasant sensation. Already in infancy, many children are
afraid of the dark. Has the thought of a criminal lurking in a dark corner quickened your
steps at night? Has everyone in the class figured out the math problem but you're still
"in the dark" and embarrassed because of it? Spiritual darkness is worse than
physical or mental darkness. Paul says, "You, Ephesians, were once in darkness."
The city of Ephesus was a city of darkness. It was beautiful! It was called "The
Light of Asia." It's walls were 10 feet thick, and 36,000 feet in length,
strengthened every 100 feet by a watchtower. A broad, paved street connected libraries,
lecture-halls, and small temples to the city. The largest theater could seat 24,000
people. It was larger than the Roman Colosseum. A stadium on the north end of town drew
76,000 spectators to foot-races, wrestling matches, prize-fights, and beast-fights.
Condemned criminals were stripped naked and then shoved into the arena to be torn to
pieces. But the crowning attraction in Ephesus was the temple of Diana -- one of the 7
wonders of the world. It is said it took 120 years to build. 127 pillars standing 60 feet
held up a mammoth and magnificent roof of cedar. Inside, the air was moistened with
perfumes and fountains tossed sheaves of light so that the raindrops looked like showers
of diamonds. Inside was the most sacred idol of heathendom the Great Diana of the
Ephesians, goddess of light by night. She was the mother of youth and fertility. If you
wanted fertile crops, fertile marriage, fertile anything, you would come and worship
Diana. How? Swarms of young priestesses would perform lewd dances and entice men to the
grossest and most degrading forms of sexual immorality known to the world. They would
leave money offerings and take part in lustful, lewd sexual acts. That's what Ephesus was
known for. It was the smut capital of its time. If you wanted to abandon virtue, Ephesus
would be the ultimate get-away for fornication and drunkenness.
Into the immoral darkness of Ephesus, Paul arrived on his 3rd Missionary journey and
began to cry out, "Rise n' Shine!" In chapter 4 verse 18 , he said they were
"darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the
ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all
sensitivity, they gave themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of
impurity with a continual lust for more." That's darkness of life. Moral corruption.
Spiritual deadness. Has the world changed from the 1st century to the 20th century? After
you read the book of Ephesians, you come to this conclusion: the world hasn't changed a
bit. There is not a bit of difference between the moral problems we face in this 20th
century and those faced in the 1st century We live in dark times. I saw darkness a few
nights ago. An evening news program did a segment reporting how gay couples are legally
adopting children or hiring someone to carry their baby because "they too are capable
of loving a child and giving it what it needs." And how do many people react to it?
They excuse it saying, "Better to be loved by someone than not loved at all."
Darkness has blinded our thinking.
The darkness of our world is exposed when Paul warned in chapter 5:3: "There must
not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because
these are improper for God's holy people." In our day, Christians are not immune from
the flood of such uncleanness pornography, indecent exposure, X-rated movies. If
you're thinking you're off the hook because you are not tempted by such darkness, realize
the darkness is so strong, it has invaded us: our thoughts and desires. "Nor should
there be obscene, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place... ."
Barnyard language my mom called it. It may seem appropriate when the boys are together or
the girls are chatting, but dirty jokes, witty clever speech that makes light of
immorality does not measure up to the high standards the Lord sets for his people. Just in
case a few of you are still left standing, untouched by the world's darkness, smug in
sanctified little perch, the Apostle directs this toward you: "Each of you must put
off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor. In your anger do not sin: Do not let
the sun go down while you are still angry. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger,
brawling and slander, along with every form of malice." (Verse 30-31). If you have
ever lied, it means you have not kept yourself free from the darkness of your old man. If
you have experienced anger toward someone this past week, did it burst into rage? Anger is
a basic human emotion. If you are by nature quick-tempered, watch out! Nothing is more
spiritually destructive than anger that lasts and lasts and turns into a grudge and leads
to shouting at each other and name calling. Many a marriage ends up on the rocks because
the spouse wallowed in the darkness. All of us are knocked off our sanctified little
None of us are left standing. Ephesians 2 includes you when it says, "All of us
lived among transgression and sin at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful
nature and following its desires and thoughts." We cannot excuse the darkness of our
deeds by proclaiming the freedom of speech. God closes all loopholes to foul language with
the 2nd Commandment. We seek to justify immorality by saying, "It's only natural.
Everybody's doing it. Situation ethics. Meaningful relationships. Freedom of choice.
Alternate lifestyle." They are all lies like the ancient one the devil told Adam and
Eve, "You shall not die; nothing is going to happen to you. God said you would die if
you sinned, but you're not going to die, nothing will happen," All of them reflect
the attempt to make it alright to live in darkness and sins against God's commandments
appear innocent. But listen to this: "No immoral, impure or greedy person -- has any
inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God." Any person who has or is right now
gravitating into the gutter of unclean mind or unclean speech or unclean action will be
excluded from heaven. Chapter 2:4 reminds us: "We were by nature objects of God's
wrath." God is dead serious about what you do.
II. It's time to live in the Light Lent is known as the season of darkness that reminds
us of our former state of darkness. Can you see the Light in Lent? What is it? Where can
you run to escape the darkness that damns us and the devil who defeats us? Chapter 1:7
declares: "In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of
sins." Jesus said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never
walk in darkness, but will have the light of life" (John 8:12). The church logo of
Hope in Manhattan depicts a lighthouse shining out a cross because the only thing that can
pierce the devil's dark deeds, the darkness of our sin, and the darkened thinking of our
world today is Jesus. "The true light that gives light to every man was coming into
the world" (Jn 1:9). "Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant
offering and sacrifice to God" (Eph 5:2). Light and dark may be figures of sin and
God's grace but there's nothing figurative about what Jesus did to take us misfits and
make us fit for membership into God's family. Jesus surrendered himself as the lamb of
sacrifice for our sins. Our punishment and death were inflicted upon him. For his sake we
So Rise n' Shine! "Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy,
made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions it is by grace
you have been saved!" (Eph. 2:4-5). Christ did not suffer so much and die so that you
might continue to stagger around in dark living. He flicked on the light of his love and
forgiveness to "live as children of the light." The first verse of chapter 5
says, "Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children." Children
imitate their parents. And as parents, don't we wish that wasn't true! Don't we see our
weaknesses filtered down to our children! But with God as our parent, we have a perfect
parent to imitate! Perfect love! Perfect life! Perfect Lord! If we call ourselves children
of God, we've just drawn a line in the sand and cast our lot with the side of light. If
it's true and we believe we are children of God through baptism and inherit his
characteristic of holiness and perfection, then our life of faith will reflect the
characteristics of light. Like the fruits of light in verse 9: "for the fruit of the
light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth. What is morally good, what God
declares is right and holey, and the things that truly pleases God ... all those are fruit
of the light. And they are totally different from the fruit of darkness. How do you tell
what is good fruit or bad fruit? What is darkness and sin and what is light and right?
Verse 10: "find out what pleases the Lord." How? Verse 13: But everything
exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible. That
is why it is said (and what follows may well be a hymn used by the early Christians:
"Wake up, O sleeper, rise form the dead, and CHRIST will shine on you."
If you want to see if you got the plate or the glass clean, hold it up to the light. If
you want to see if what you're doing is pleasing to God, hold it up to the light of God's
law. The light of God's law brings to light our sin. Once God's Word is a lamp to your
feet and a light for your path, then RISE N' SHINE! God's Word not only enlightens our
lives, but you light up people around you. I don't know if you heard of the Russian
experiment a few weeks ago. They tried to create in the sky an artificial moon. A huge
mirror, to reflect sun on Siberia. Warm it up a little. It didn't work. That idea, though
reflected God's command. You are the light of the world. Not the sun. That's Jesus. But a
moon, which reflects. "Let your light shine in front of people so that they might see
your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. Not to glorify self, but someone else.
Florists understand this. They constantly are bringing bouquets to people The nicest
people int he world, right? And yet those who receive the flowers know very well that the
gift is not really from the florist. For with every bouquet is included a card. Every nice
thing a florist does is accompanied by a card, which says, "This gifts is from
_______." God wants us to be a florist. To be on the lookout for ways to be nice to
our neighbor. To hand out bouquets of Christian love, but every time to attach a card.
"From the heavenly Father." What Paul encourages is a wonderful privilege to
"live as children of the light and talk as children of the light and stay away from
anything that would darken our light. Difficult? Sometimes as children of the light, we're
uncomfortable talking about our heavenly Dad. Sometimes we're even embarrassed. We are
afraid that we don't know enough. Or we're afraid of sounding silly ...
But remember, "you were once darkness." You've lived in the dark. Parents
know it. When husband shouts at wife, brother shouts at sister. When mother or father lie,
children stretch the truth. When older sister gets away with something, younger sister
remembers. God knows the darkness and said anybody caught in the dark will not enter God's
kingdom of heaven. Will not enter. That's harsh. That's telling a college graduate,
"No job, ever." That's telling a young man trying out for football, "Not
good enough, ever." That's telling sinners, "Heaven, never." That's what
Jesus said. But this Lenten season, we are walking toward the light. And you know as well
as I do -- wherever there is light, darkness ceases to be. The cross is the final puzzle
piece that forever solves the dilemma of light and dark. At one moment, great darkness. In
the next, brilliant light. And with that light, the college graduate, who is told,
"No job, ever," it's like an offer the next day. To a child who is told,
"You'll make the team, never," its a spot as a starter the very next day. To be
told, "Heaven, never," a promise that it's yours, this very day. So Rise n'
Shine! You are that child promised eternal light and life! It's time to live in the light!