“For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.”
Many religions adhere to the idea that mankind has within itself the basic goodness or moral neutrality and free will required to take the proper steps towards reaching the supreme ends of its spiritual journey. Christianity, among other major faiths, stands alone in teaching that mankind is unable to achieve salvation or right standing with God through its own effort (Isa. 64:6; Rom. 3:10-12). Notice that in the verse above, Paul, writing to the believers at Ephesus, does not say that they were at one time in darkness but that they themselves were the darkness. There is a great divide between these two concepts. It is feasible that, by taking the proper steps, the creature who is merely in darkness may find a way out of it. But if the creature itself is the darkness there in no such hope, for how is the darkness to change itself into light; how can it change its own nature?
In short, it can’t.
But Paul tells the Ephesians that though they were once darkness they are now light in the Lord. How is this so? He says earlier in the same letter that it is not of their own doing but is the gift of God (Eph. 2:8) and is accomplished by way of their union with the Lord Jesus who is the “true light” (John 1:9). By receiving Him and believing in Him, the creature is transformed by Him and given the right to be a child of God (John 1:12). Christianity is not self-improvement or behavior modification. It is death and resurrection. It is new birth. Christ died for our sins in order that we may die to our sins; He was raised to life that we may be raised in Him; born again by the Spirit and reconciled to the Father. Salvation is not something we do, it is something that has been done for us. And when this gift is received the result is that the darkness turns to light, as it is written: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17).
Christianity is not self-improvement or behavior modification. It is death and resurrection.
It is new birth.
Scripture teaches that the bad news is worse than we ever feared and that the good news is better than we ever hoped for. Apart from Christ we are dead in our sins (Eph. 2:1), in Christ we are forgiven (Col. 1:14). Apart from Him the wrath of God remains on us (John 3:36), in Him we have peace with God by the blood of His cross (Col 1:20). Apart from Him our lot is the lake of fire (Rev. 20:15), in Him ours is the kingdom of heaven (Luke 12:32). Apart from Christ we are darkness, in Christ we are light.