Ronald Reagan’s tomb features this phrase: “I know in my heart that man is good, that what is right will always eventually triumph, and there is purpose and worth to each and every life.”
We all want to believe that man is good. I suspect that most people do, anyway. Perhaps if the scales of justice weighed one person against another, some would surely be weighed and measured as good. Plenty of people with whom I’ve shared the gospel have thought so. They’ve tried to convince me that they are good people and that I needed to talk to the bad people. Yet, those of us well versed in the depravity of the heart know better. We know that none of us, not even one, is good, not even a little bit.
But after recently studying a passage from Ephesians, it struck me that I don’t always live out this knowledge. Even after following Christ for about twenty-five years, I still whitewash my own depravity. I often imagine myself a decent fellow, the type of fellow who the King of the universe might just want on His team. In my own mind, I might even think to myself: “Jesus made a pretty good decision choosing someone like me. I’m a star player . . . a good draft pick.” Far too often, I’m the Pharisee off in the corner thanking God that I am not as bad as those other people.
Enter Ephesians 5:7–10:
Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord (emphasis added).
At one time, I was darkness. My sinful nature did not merely walk around in the darkness wandering back and forth from darkness to twilight to light. The old self did not exist as a neutral person who needed a herald to call me from the wayward streets of darkness into the well-lit path to glory. Oh, no—I was an all-out rebel, and much worse off than that. It wasn’t as if I was stumbling around in the darkness of a hotel room looking for an unfamiliar light switch. I was the darkness. Everywhere I went, I carried darkness with me. I coexisted with the darkness. I was darkness.
This makes the following words so much better. “But now you are light in the Lord” (Eph. 2:8). This “but now” reminds us of a similar phrase earlier in Ephesians 2: “But God.” We were dead. We were children of wrath. “But God” made us alive. And as Paul has already told us in chapter 1, the same God who made us alive also chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world, adopted us in Christ, and has redeemed us through Christ’s blood (Eph. 1:4–7). We are loved and forgiven because of the imputed righteousness of Christ. In Christ, we have gone from darkness to light.