November 28, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (Ephesians 5)

Submitted by John C. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Ephesians 5:10 

    Reflect on the fact that I can “please the Lord.”  Who have I tried to please in the past?  Who am I trying to please now?  What impact does it have on my Christian walk that what I do can please the Lord? 

In the past, I wanted to please my teachers from school, my friends, and my parents. I remember in high school, I had two goals in mind. It was to get good grades to get into a good college and it was to be accepted and liked amongst my peers (i.e. be popular). I would try to please others as a way to try to get those two goals. Getting good grades meant to do well in school and doing well didn’t only mean to get good grades but it also meant to be in a good relationship with them so that they would be more inclined to give me a better grade if I was on the borderline—in which most of time I was. I have had really good relationships with all my teachers, I knew the administration staff well, I knew the vice-principal and principal well, in fact, I was even close to the librarian. For my high school peers, I would constantly just do everything that will make me accepted by all the different groups of friends at school. I wore all the different masks I knew how to, so to please them. I would know how to carry out conversations with the nerdy crowd, dressed up preppy and spoke a certain way to hang out with the cool crowd, spoke in Korean and listened to kpop to fit in with the fobby group…When it came to pleasing my parents, however, the dominant reason for this wasn’t to get what I want but rather it was done out of a different motivation. I wanted to please them because I derived joy when they were pleased. It was love that was the ultimate driving force for that. I wanted to please them with getting good grades, obeying them, helping them around the house, taking care of my sister, etc. rooted in my love for them

As I think about the different people who I tried to please and am still trying to please, it is clear that that desire of wanting to please is definitely a strong motivation for driving my actions, determining what I do for them. This is why, it makes a huge impact on my Christian walk knowing that what I can do to please the Lord because this will drive me to do what pleases God all the more. As I think about this more, this is so amazing. That someone like me, a wretched and twisted being, a sinner like me, can actually do something for God the Almighty, creator of the Heaven and the Earth, who is larger than anything I can even imagine, and please him. As written in Colossians 1:10 it is written that I ought to “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in knowledge of God.”  As is written in Ephesians 5:2 in which I am called to “walk in love,” it is when I walk in the Lord, obedient to his word and living a life of loving others just as Christ has loved me, it is then when I am living a life pleasing to God. In my struggle against my that life that I once lived as written in Ephesians 2:3 “in the passions of my flesh, carrying out the desires of my body and the mind,” it is especially motivating to know that what I am called to do in this battle against my sinful nature is something that I know that brings pleasure to the Lord. Every time I deny my ego and pride to be recognized, every time I refuse to give into my lustful desires, every time I say no my desire for comfort and laziness, every time I die to my greedy desires and give generously, these are not only acts of obedience to what God is calling me to live for, it is also that which brings pleasure to God. Knowing this, this motivates me to strive harder, to really desire to do that which pleases God.

  • Think about what it means to discern what is pleasing to the Lord?  If “what is pleasing to the Lord,” must be “discerned,” what does this imply? 

It’s interesting that Apostle Paul is telling the Ephesians to “try do discern what is pleasing to the Lord.”  He doesn’t simply say to do what is pleasing to the Lord but to “discern” it. I think this implies that to have that desire and to do what is pleasing to the Lord isn’t the hard part, but the hard part is knowing what it is. In any relationship, it takes time and it takes effort to actually get to a point where you actually know what it is that pleases the other person. In my relationship with my wife, the small things that pleases her, it wasn’t until after some time of being in a relationship with her that I was able to discern what it is that pleases her. It’s something that I as her husband, was actually actively searching for, to know what it is that pleases her, to have an eye for it and remember it. This is the same case as in my relationship with God. In my relationship with God, as I obey his commands, as I immerse myself in his word, as I engage in the struggles of living as children of light, it is then when I come to really see his heart and his will and desire for my life. It’s then when I can begin to discern what it is that pleases God, that I can genuinely know that living a faithful life, obedient to his words, living a life that is striving to be like Christ is what will please God. Someone who is “trying to discern to please God” will be someone who seizes every opportunity to do such that pleases him. This past Thanksgiving, I could have used that break to just rest up, have dinner with my mom who lives nearby, relax, spend time with my wife, read some books that I’ve always wanted to read, and just focus it on myself. But rather than doing that, I used that time, seized this opportunity to concretely express my love for my mom, my sister, my cousin Dan, and my wife by bringing all of us together and going out on a family trip together to Yosemite. I did all the planning for where to go and used my time to concretely love my family rather than indulging in my selfish desires of comfort. It’s times like this when I deny my own flesh and striving to “imitate God” in sacrificially striving to “walk in love” as written in Ephesians 5:2, when I am pleasing God. Had I not seized this opportunity, try to discern for ways to love God, I would have missed out on an opportunity to not only please my family members but ultimately to please God.

Ephesians 5:11-14  

  • What are the two duties Apostle Paul outlines here?

The two duties are written in v11 which are 1) take no part in the fruitless works of darkness and 2) instead to expose them.

  • What would this look like in my life–i.e., what are the “works of darkness” I need to not partake in, and what can I do to expose and shine light on these things?

The “works of darkness” that I need to not partake in is finding security in the opinion of others. During last week’s DT on Thursday, Ephesians 4:25 really spoke to me. It states “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.” This verse spoke to me because I realized that the urge to continue to put on “falsehood” is strong as the desire of wanting to appear better than I really am—more spiritual than I really am, more thoughtful than I really am, more loving than I really am, more compassionate than I really am, more wise than I really am—is strong within me and digging even deeper such desire is strong because ultimately I still am partaking in the “works of darkness” that says my security lies in the praise and opinion of others. That is the lie of this world that I still continue to struggle with daily against the truth—that as beloved child of Christ my one source of significance is in my identity in Christ. No matter what I am, whether I am just an average normal guy who is not that spiritual, who isn’t very thoughtful, who isn’t very loving, who isn’t very compassionate, who isn’t very wise, God still values me and cherishes me the same as those who are greater than I am in everything. I’ve always lived by the this lie of this world, that Satan has always used to bring me down, that says my worth is measured by how I compare to others, what others say of me, and that is how I’ve lived my life, being a slave to the opinion of others. My view of being loved and accepted was very conditional in that sense. Ways for me to not partake in this is to not engage in activity that will naturally have people give me praise or compliments. It’s to engage in work that doesn’t bring many opportunities for praise from others. It’s to take on more background work, more menial labor, labor that will get unnoticed. Serving as a sound tech guy, running the sound board and mixing, setting up audio tech equipment for Sunday worship service or other big events, setting up for prayer meeting every Tuesday making sure there are no distractions for the speaker, all of that which is done in the background void of the attention and opinion of others has been something that I can do to not partake in the works of darkness in my life. The ways in which I can expose this about me is to be open to negative comments—constructive criticism, corrections, etc. It’s to be spoken the truth of who I am, which is often painful as it really does hurt my pride and ego. But as written in v.13 such truths expose into the light and make visible this sin in me, and it exposes just the lies of darkness that I have been following. Further more, I come to experience something far greater when truth is spoken to me and that is God’s unconditional love and affirmation of this his truth, that I am loved no matter what others may say of me.


Submitted by Sheri C. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Ephesians 5:10 

  • Reflect on the fact that I can “please the Lord.”  Who have I tried to please in the past?  Who am I trying to please now?  What impact does it have on my Christian walk that what I do can please the Lord? 

In the past, I was ruled by my desire to please other people. I wanted others to approve of me, to accept me, and I didn’t want to disappoint them. Depending on who “others” was at the time, living this way caused me to stay silent about what I really thought and just say what I thought the other person would want to hear. It also caused me to compromise in my commitments because I didn’t want to displease the other person. An example of this is how I would often relate to my parents the first couple years of college. I wouldn’t go to church during breaks because I was afraid of making them upset or disappointing them. I just wanted to keep them happy, and if that meant compromising my commitment to go to church every Sunday, then that’s what I sacrificed. Also, I tried to live in a way that would please myself first and foremost. I wasn’t practiced at self-denial or discipline, and so if I didn’t want to do something or something made me feel uncomfortable, I would avoid it. If I wanted to do something, even if I knew I shouldn’t, I would do it anyway. I lived with my own desires in mind because as long as I was pleased, I could excuse whatever negative actions or thoughts I had.

However, now I am trying to live in a way that pleases God. Granted, not perfectly. There are still remnants of me trying to please myself or please others. But I have a growing sense of problem now when I sense that in myself compared to before. I think as I have grown in my identity as a beloved and forgiven daughter of God, whose body is a holy temple for the Lord, as someone who has been entrusted with younger brothers and sisters who are looking up to me as an example–this causes me to want to live in a way that pleases God more and more. I know that the consequences of living to please others and myself result in a chaff-like life of low commitment and low conviction and low growth. It makes me hesitate and evaluate my actions, my words, my decisions in a different way from before.

There is a way I can live that can please the Lord. God isn’t apathetic to my life and how I choose to live–rather, He can either be pleased or displeased by how I live. It tells me that the choices I make of how I am living actually matter, and that as I try to live a life of obedience to the Lord, He will be pleased. If the Almighty God of the universe, my Creator God, Heavenly Father can be pleased, why would I not try to live in a way that would please Him?

It’s also encouraging to think that my often-feeble steps of obedience would be pleasing to Him. When I know that God is pleased with me, relationally, I am happy too and there is joy in living that way. It’s like when I do something for a friend, or my husband, or the people that I minister to. Maybe I cooked them something that I knew they like to eat, or I bought them a gift that I know they need or would like–when I see that they are pleased, it brings me joy as well, and it makes me want to do it more. It’s not begrudging or with reluctance, but I am happy to do it. Likewise, when I think about the fact that the little I do can please God, it encourages me to continue.

  • Think about what it means to discern what is pleasing to the Lord?  If “what is pleasing to the Lord,” must be “discerned,” what does this imply? 

To discern what is pleasing to the Lord means that I need to know of God’s character, His likes and dislikes, His commands of how I am to live, examples of lives lived in obedience to Him, who are the people He praises, who are the ones to whom He says “woe.”  And this isn’t a big guessing game–it can be discerned. It’s not like God gives no guidance for what pleases Him. It’s all in His word. The fact that what pleases God can be discerned implies that there is something active that I need to do. I need to be actively engaged in finding out what pleases God. I need to be very familiar with His word.

Ephesians 5:11-14  

  • What are the two duties Apostle Paul outlines here?

To take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, and to expose them.

  • What would this look like in my life–i.e., what are the “works of darkness” I need to not partake in, and what can I do to expose and shine light on these things? 

It might be easy for me to think that the works of darkness are referring to behavioral things. However, the unfruitful work of darkness are the things that reside in my heart, the things that are not easily seen from the outside. These things corrupt my spirit, are displeasing to God, and are usually in secret. The works of darkness in my heart can be things like an unforgiving spirit, a resentment or grudge that I hold onto. I tend to bottle up these negative feelings, thinking that if I honestly reveal how I feel, then I’m being too much or too petty or that maybe I just need to have more grace and patience, so I’ll just keep it to myself. So things like an unforgiving spirit or resentment or bitterness can easily pile up in my heart. And in the darkness of my heart, not revealed, not exposed, those feelings fester and only grow bigger. I’ve had this experience many times. In retrospect, if only I had come to the light sooner and just honestly confessed what was actually in my heart, then I think I wouldn’t have wasted so much time marinating in my own resentment (which often resulted from my misconceptions or my own twisted thoughts). It must grieve God to see these unaddressed works of darkness in my heart. I need to expose and shine light on these works of darkness in my heart through honestly confessing–regardless of my pride, how I might appear before others, or fear of the consequences.

  • If I am “light in the Lord” (v. 8), then what role can I have in causing people to “arise from the dead” as envisioned in v. 14? 

According to verse 8, I am “light in the Lord”–I can be a light for people so that they can see their sins more clearly. Maybe through a conversation I have with them, or maybe even through my own testimony of how I turned from darkness to light–this could have that kind of revealing effect for someone. It’s an amazing privilege that I could have any kind of role in bringing people from death to life. This means that I need to be a source of light, and that happens when I have regularly experienced being brought to the light myself to have those work of darkness exposed in my own heart.

Submitted by Irene H. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church 

Ephesians 5:10 

  • Reflect on the fact that I can “please the Lord.”  Who have I tried to please in the past?  Who am I trying to please now?  What impact does it have on my Christian walk that what I do can please the Lord? 

Paul calls us to discern what is pleasing to the Lord, indicating that knowing what pleases the Lord is in fact discernable. But the question then arises, “Have I been able to discern this, and if not, why?” I think frequently the reason that I am unable to discern what pleases the Lord is due to the fact that I am so utterly preoccupied with pleasing everyone else including myself. In the past I was so consumed with pleasing the people around me: my leaders, my friends, my parents, basically anyone who would give me any attention. All my energy was expended on calculating what I had to say or do to be able to gain their audience and their applause. In many ways I was successful at this because my EQ was high enough to discern what I had to say or do to please these people in my life. But sadly this left very little energy and desire to learn how to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. As long as I could gain acceptance and approval from the people around me, by performing well enough or saying the right things, I would feel valuable and worth something. However, this was tiring and ultimately unsustainable. I was tossed back and forth in my worth and value based on whether I was on good terms with my peers or whether I was appreciated by my leaders.

Unfortunately, this perspective of my life continues to be a battle at times. I still long to look like a reliable and rooted person before my leaders. I want to be seen as a lovable and supportive wife to my husband. I still want to put on the air of growing in competence and responsibility before my peers. I still desire to be known as the well-liked spiritual leader. These desires still remain, and these desires in themselves are not wrong, but I must battle against them being my sole motivation and the thing that gives me a sense of worth and identity. I find each time I slip back into this perspective and mode of operation, I end up feeling tired and bitter, because I find that I am insufficient and inadequate to perform in these ways for a sustained amount of time with my own bag of tricks. When it becomes merely about discerning how to please these people in order to stroke my own ego or to build up my own image, my heart becomes empty and dry.

The reality is that when I take on this perspective again of being solely motivated by discerning what is pleasing before these people in my life, either the Lord is completely absent, or becomes someone I must perform before as well. So, even before the Lord it becomes a mere performance in which I can succeed or fail. As I strive to achieve and grasp for my own sense of worth and value through the approval of man, I become blind to what would please the Lord. There is a complete lack of relationship with Him, and thus life becomes a tiring task list of impossible expectations to satisfy.

  • Think about what it means to discern what is pleasing to the Lord?  If “what is pleasing to the Lord,” must be “discerned,” what does this imply? 

Apostle Paul calling us to discern what is pleasing to the Lord implicates that it is not so readily apparent or natural to us. It means that it is a reality that we must struggle to understand, and also that we must struggle against our natural desires to merely please ourselves, and the people around us. We must go to the source, which will help us to discern this truth, and thus we must go to the word of God to understand what it is that pleases the Lord.  Our limited understanding and narrow perspective must be enlightened by the truths that the word of God speaks into our lives.

Ephesians 5:11-14  

  • What are the two duties Apostle Paul outlines here?

Apostle Paul outlines:

1) to take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness

2) to expose those works of darkness by the light.

  • What would this look like in my life–i.e., what are the “works of darkness” I need to not partake in, and what can I do to expose and shine light on these things? 

To not partake in the unfruitful works of darkness would be to live a life by standards very different from this world. The world tells us that it is all about the money, power, and worth that we are able to achieve with our own abilities or even at times by our methods of cheating or deceiving. I think the reason why Apostle Paul delineates it specifically as unfruitful works of darkness is because all the achievements we are able to grasp for in these ways ultimately leave us empty and hollowed out. There is no fruit, only momentary and passing pleasures. So, I can’t play the world’s game of trying to grasp for myself some kind of power or worth. I can’t keep deceiving others and myself into thinking I’m worth something because of my talents, skills, or performance. Ultimately, not partaking in “works of darkness” looks like being aware of my inadequacies and rather than trying desperately to make up for them, trying more desperately to cling to the gospel. And it looks like living a life of integrity where my character is more important than my image, so being willing to admit mistakes or failures.

I have found that it is not enough to try and commit to no longer partake in the unfruitful works of darkness, but that I must expose them. Apostle Paul is so wise to outline these two duties together, because I think more than exposing others for the things that they do in secret, it is the necessity of exposing the works of darkness in my own heart. I can commit to battling against the works of darkness in my heart again and again, but it isn’t until they have been confessed and exposed to the light that they are properly dealt with and battled against.

I have had to commit time and time again to confession before my leaders and the people in my life regarding my patterns of lying and deception in order to save face or to build up my image and ego. To be honest each time I have done so it has felt much like a death, or even being burned deeply by the exposure to the light. However, it has been through this process of confession before people and before the Lord that has helped me to properly battle this work of darkness that continues to burden my heart. It is this discipline of confession that has allowed me to expose the not only the lies that I would speak, but also the lies that the world continues to tell me as to how I must remain in the works of darkness to be accepted or worth anything. It has been through the painful experiences of confessing the darkness in my own heart that has allowed me to see how the world has deceived me.

  • If I am “light in the Lord” (v. 8), then what role can I have in causing people to “arise from the dead” as envisioned in v. 14? 

It is an amazing reality that Apostle Paul speaks in v. 14 stating that, “anything that becomes visible is light.” Though I was once in darkness, as I confess and come into the light, somehow God transforms me into the light. I see this being a shocking reality as the lies in my own heart being exposed in turn exposed to me the lies of the world, which now causes in me desperation and desire for others to come into the light, so that they may expose the lies for themselves. As I have experienced the pain yet joy of being exposed by the light, I long for others to experience this same reality of Christ shining upon us. It is a joy and freeing experience because as we are exposed we are also covered by Christ’s light so that we might be counted as righteous.

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