Dark Life or Love Life?

Ephesians 4:17-19

I believe the Scripture makes it clear that it is God’s intention for us to live a life where we experience and give away God’s love. One of our purposes as the Church is that we are a healing community of love, acceptance, forgiveness and belonging.

In this series I want to emphasize the first of those healing ingredients—love. The series gets its title from Ephesians 5:1-2—"Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."

In order to understand what it means to live a life of love, I want to show you the contrast between living a love life and living a dark filled life, between living on the dark side and living on the love side of life. To get a true contrast between the dark side and the love side of life, let’s turn to Ephesians 4:17:

"So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking."

The need to understand the context of these verses is indicated in the first word of v. 17: "so..." The context is Ephesians 4:11-16.

"It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work."

Because we have the capacity in Christ to live this way, Paul says in verse 17, "...I tell you, and insist on it in the Lord..." He insists because of the authority he has in the Lord. In the church today there is similar authority, but it is usually inappropriate to declare or demand it, so a pastor’s authority is best expressed in the form of an appeal.

"I...insist on it in the Lord that you must no longer live as the Gentiles [ungodly] do..."

(Paraphrase: "Hey, are you listening? I encourage you in the strongest way I can, don’t live like the ungodly do." Then Paul outlines nine reasons or characteristics of the ungodly, i.e., why we shouldn’t live on the dark side:

Futile Thinking

Futile means activity, but no productivity—no destiny. It is the wasting of rational thoughts on worthless things. It’s not that the person isn’t brilliant in some area of life (very smart people can have futile thinking). When it comes to the deep questions of life (e.g., why am I here? Where am I going, etc.?), this person has no answers. Two pictures/illustrations can help us understand futile thinking:

The Mad Hatter ("I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date")

grandkids chasing bubbles

This is what it looks like to be involved in futile thinking.

Darkened in their understanding

This is a result of futile thinking. "Darkened" here is in the present tense, denoting an action completed in the past with a present-day effect. The picture is of lights slowly dimming, but once out, the impact continues. The darkness is in the mind, feelings, desires, and discernment.

This is not God’s intention. He wants a light-filled life.

"Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord." Eph. 5: 8b-10.

Now why are there futile thoughts and a slow dimming of understanding until the mind, the feelings, the desires and discernment have no light? The next characteristic tell us why:

(The ungodly are) separated from the life of God

This is the center of the problem—no spiritual life. The Christian life is not a simple adherence to a set of rules. It has meaning only and when we are born again. This means God lives in us by His Spirit.

There are profound implications of being in Christ as a believer. Jesus said, "I am come that you might have life." A person can mimic Christian behavior, but not be motivated/empowered by God’s life.

Because of the ignorance in them

This ignorance doesn’t mean the ungodly person has no intellectual prowess. This is referring to ignorance of the heart; they simply don’t know what is in their hearts. The Scripture says the heart is desperately wicked; who can know it? David said, "Search me, oh God, and know my heart." The ungodly can’t know the heart—their sins, their propensities, or even their spiritual passions/desires. There is no awareness of what is lurking in the heart.

Why are they ignorant? See the words "due to."

Hardening of the heart

Hardening means "petrified/calloused over" and denotes mental and moral hardening. Parents, watch for hardness of heart in your children. It starts with futile/flighty/nonproductive thinking. There is no light in understanding, and they are (darkened) fuzzy about deep questions; about right and wrong. There are no signs of life.

People with hardening hearts demonstrate real ignorance of their hearts' motivations, and are swayed more by the crowd and the pursuit of friendship than the heart. They are not moved by teaching or house rules.

The only hope for a hard heart is a "heart" attack: there must be the breaking up of hardness. In most cases, logical consequences break up the hardness of a heart.

Now we see the accelerated downward spiral and progression of these nine qualities:

Having lost all sensitivity

Sensitivity is very natural for a child. When we lose sensitivity, we shut the door to fellowship and intimacy with God. It is estrangement from God, the inability to be sensitive to God and others. Sensitivity is a gift; it is what God uses to direct, convict and move us. If sensitivity is lost, however, a person will seek after an alternative, a perversion of it.

(The ungodly) give themselves over to sensuality

This phrase "give themselves over" means "to hand over to another, to betray, to give oneself up." It's referring to one who acknowledges no restraint, who dares to do anything; it is a complete surrender of self. In other words, this person seeks to fill the void made by the loss of sensitivity with active sensuality.

It is in this state of sensuality the senses are given total attention, with little or no restraint being exercised. Think about the senses—taste, smell, sight, hearing, touch. When sensuality is in control, the quest is to express all or most to the max. 

This week I was at the grocery store, and I saw a very curious scene. I saw two guys staring into the glass doors of a freezer; they were almost in a trance as they ogled over the choices of ice cream before them. They were given over to the quest for ice cream.

Sensuality looks for ways to taste, smell, etc., whatever will satisfy the longing. Sensitivity, in contrast, is a vibrant relationship and interaction with God.

To indulge in every kind of impurity

Impurity is, of course, the opposite of purity. This kind of person moves from one kind of impurity to another, as if carrying on a trade or business in lewdness. Soon the quest becomes out of control.

With a continued lust for more

These people no longer care about hiding, no longer care if others are hurt. These are people obsessed, incapable of restraint/self-discipline. They are never satisfied and have an enormous appetite for more and more.


This week I walked on a path and came to a sign that said, "unsafe to proceed." The other side of the fence was green grass and a smooth trail. I was tempted to proceed.

On another walk I started playing with a dog and talking baby talk. The dog responded. I reached down to pet the dog and it bit me. This is the way the dark side is. It looks fun and it seems to respond positively to our attention, but the closer we get we will soon be bitten.


  1. Pray through the passage and use it to direct our prayers.
  2. Ask for the opposite of what we see here.
  3. Ask that God would lead us to a love-filled life.
  4. If you aren’t a believer, ask Jesus into your life.