How can we avoid terrible things in our lives? How can we change for the better? Change is hard, but God wants us to make the most of the time that He gives us. We must respond to the calling and opportunity that God has given us. We must devote as much time as possible to growing with God.
[Steve Myers] If someone asks you, what is the most difficult thing to do? What might you say? Difficult things to do, especially in this world. Of course, I realize we’ve just watched the Olympics not too long ago and we might say, a double back flip with a one and a half twist to, you know, beautiful dismount. Okay, I’m not talking about that sort of thing.
What is one of the most difficult things to do? You know what came to my mind? Change. It is hard to change, isn’t it? I mean, it’s not that we don’t want to, we want to change. We look around in this world and people do want to change, at least at some level, don’t they? Whether it’s changing our weight. Whether it’s changing our nose. Whether it’s changing jobs. There is a level of how we do want to change so that we’re dissatisfied with something in our lives.
But maybe taking a little bit more deeply, we probably know people who are more serious about things beyond those kinds of issues. There are those who want to change substantial things in their life. People who want a better attitude. They want a better temperament, spend more time with their families. Want to develop relationships.
And yet, when you consider those things, especially for our own lives, even with the best of intentions, those things can elude us. And I think it’s because when it comes to real, positive, lasting change in our lives, there’s only one way forward. There’s only one path. And that is through our eternal God, and, ultimately, His purpose for our lives. Because if we don’t understand what God’s purpose is, what His will is for our lives, how can we make the changes that are necessary?
And when we think about change, it can be one of those things that seems kind of not very clear, kind of ill-defined. It can seem kind of ethereal, if I want to change, “Okay, well, how do I do that?” Well, the apostle Paul had a section of his letter to the Ephesians that zeroes in on several elements that are specific. I think they’re true. They are lasting elements that can lead to real change, that can lead to spiritual change.
And so I thought it would be helpful to take time this afternoon to look at these necessities. I think you could call them, even more than necessities, they’re requirements. They’re essential if we’re going to change and ultimately find that path, that path that will avoid the difficulties, avoid the disasters that await out in the world, and can help us to a real relationship and a deeper relationship with God.
In fact, I think we can find those over in Ephesians 5:15 Ephesians 5:15See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,
American King James Version×. If you’ll turn there with me, Paul outlines these essentials so that we can avoid the difficulties and the disaster spiritually, that might otherwise await us. Ephesians 5:15 Ephesians 5:15See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,
American King James Version×, Paul starts this section by saying, “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” And so in these three very short verses, he outlines a plan that we can all put into effect in our lives.
So let’s look at these three things for a moment. First, he starts out by saying, “walk circumspectly.” And, of course, we all understand exactly what that means because we use that word every day in our conversation, don’t we? Circumspectly, it’s even a hard one to kind of say, “walk circumspectly.” When you get down to it he’s saying, “Have a purpose, don’t just kind of walk around. Don’t just kind of amble or meander, or walk to wander.” He’s much more specific than that because he’s pointing out the fact, this life that we’re walking is in a minefield. If you look back just a couple of verses to verse 8, he says, “You were once in darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.”
You see, we can’t grow dim. In this walk of life, we can’t blend in with the darkness around us. He says we have to stand out. In fact, verse 11 says, “Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.” And so rather than just thinking that God is light, or Jesus is light, here the apostle Paul says, “You are light.” You’re the source, and when you walk into a room and you’re the light, what happens to the darkness? Yeah, flip on a switch in a dark room and where’s the darkness? It’s gone. It’s gone. And so we’re to be that light and think of it in those terms, that we cannot have anything to do with things that are dark.
If you read verse 11 in the Good News translation, it says, “Have nothing to do with the worthless things that people do, things that belong to darkness. Instead, bring them out to the light.” And, of course, if they’re brought out to the light, they can’t be dark. They can’t be dark. And so we expose the darkness to the light. We reveal it. We recognize it. We see it. We show it for what it is, and, ultimately, it’s sin. That darkness is sin. And so we cannot do those things that others do that are in the darkness, and so we bring it to the light. We dispel it. We put it away.
And, in fact, when you look at verse 15, he uses this word, “walk” I think for a very specific reason. “Walk circumspectly” and it’s not just, “Well, I’m walking along and that’s the image that I can have,” but it’s so much more than that. So much more than that, especially when you consider the way that Paul most likely used this word in the first-century because we don’t do this.
In the first-century, people didn’t walk for exercise, did they? Did you read about anybody in the Bible, you know, that that had a treadmill? That just, “Hey, it’s great to walk.” No, that’s not why they walked. They walked for a purpose. They walked for a reason. Of course, they walked because they had to, they didn’t have any cars or anything like that. But there was purpose behind their walk. I mean, you can read of so many different times when this was the exact case.
One of the ones, I think it was Acts 10, where Peter walked 40 miles from Joppa to Caesarea, and it was for a specific purpose that he walked. As I began to think about that, I got totally distracted and I thought, “I wonder how far Jesus walked.” Have you ever wondered that? Well, you can actually Google that and it’ll, you know, give you several sources that will tell you who how far Jesus walked. How far do you think He walked? Well, according to mywellnesswarriors.com, “In His lifetime, Christ walked over 21,000 miles.” 21,000 miles. They’ve even got to calculate it out.
Now, He is down in Egypt. Okay, He’s a little baby but He did have to, as He was older, walk back all the way to Jerusalem… Nazareth. You walk from Egypt to Nazareth, that’s 400 miles by itself. You know, they didn’t hop on the freeway and take the car and get there. And, of course, you had to go back and forth and back and forth from Nazareth to Jerusalem and back and forth again. They calculate that would have been something like 18,000 miles in His lifetime.
And then just during His ministry, just during that three and a half years, they calculate Christ would have walked well over 3,000 miles. So can you imagine walking over 1,000 miles a year? Now, did Christ have a purpose? Did He have a reason for walking? You see, first-century disciples, our Savior, during the first-century, walked to get somewhere. They walked to a destination. They walked for a purpose.
And so Paul didn’t use this concept of walking as just a nice little idea, he’s making a point here. Walking spiritually pictures that constant progress toward our ultimate goal, to that destination of the Kingdom of God. That’s what this is about. And so you walk circumspectly. You walk for a purpose. You walk accurately. You walk diligently. Because if you don’t know where you’re walking, what will happen? In fact, I think they have an old saying for that, don’t they? “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up somewhere else,” right? Yeah, you won’t get where you need to go.
And, in fact, the Bible says so much about the way we walk and the difficulties. If we get off that path, if we don’t walk circumspectly, if we don’t walk with a purpose, if we don’t walk toward our goal, we’re going to end up somewhere else. And when we’re somewhere else, we’re in danger. We’re in danger because this world is a minefield that is out there to destroy us spiritually. It’s a spiritual minefield out in this world. And we can get so off track that if we’re not careful, it will blow apart our spiritual life.
And so God doesn’t want us just to meander through life. He’s got a purpose and a plan, and if we do that, if we get off track, we’re going to end up where God doesn’t want us to be. And so we have to pray. We have to pray about that, because, well, you remember what it says in Jeremiah. Is it in me? You know, do I know the best way to live my life? Most Americans, I think, would say, “Well, of course. We’re Americans, we know what’s best. I know what’s best for me, this is what I want to do.”
But, really, is that the way we need to look at life? Do I know the best way to order my life? Do I know the best way to walk through the minefields of this world? Do I know the best way to worship and honor God? You see, most people would say, “Well, yeah, I can take that in my own hands. I can decide for myself. I can do what I want. That’s the American way.” But God inspired Jeremiah to write, “It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps.” It’s Jeremiah 10:23 Jeremiah 10:23O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walks to direct his steps.
American King James Version×. We don’t know the way to walk toward the Kingdom of God. We don’t know that way. We need God to reveal that to us. God has to show it to us.
Now, of course, He will direct our steps when we submit our lives to Him, but you know what? There’s still a little bit of a catch. We have to choose to walk that way, don’t we? God can reveal it to us, “This is the way. Walk this way,” but He also says, “Choose life. Choose which way you’re going to order your steps.” And so when you look back at Ephesians 5:15 Ephesians 5:15See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,
American King James Version×, “Walk circumspectly, not as fools but wise,” because there are the minefields that would spiritually destroy us. And if we are to avoid a spiritual disaster and avoid those minefields of that destruction that’s out there, we have to walk circumspectly, carefully, carefully.
Now, how do you negotiate a minefield? Well, I thought of that and got totally distracted as I was preparing the sermon. And do you know there’s articles out there on the internet that tell you about how to negotiate a minefield? There are, in fact, here was one by a man named Phil Sylvester, editor for Travel Insights . It’s a travel site, website. And there was an article, right, called, “Landmines in Cambodia,” and it’s subtitled, “Why you should watch your steps.”
Now, it’s been many years since some of the wars and problems that they’ve had, so tourists are returning to Cambodia. And if you remember years ago with the Khmer Rouge, and even Vietnam and some of the difficulties between the tribes there, nobody would go there. But now people are returning. And, of course, that means the mines that they laid during that time, they’re still there. They’re still there.
And so in this particular article, he writes about how to avoid landmines. Now, here’s one of the first things he said, “It’s when you step outside the main areas that you’re taking a risk.” When you get off the beaten path, in other words, you are in trouble. You are in trouble. He says, “Tourists… are well advised not to wander around.” In other words, “Here’s the way, walk in it.” You get off the path, you wander around, you could walk right into a minefield. And so he says, “You better consider carefully what you’re doing. You better watch carefully and pay careful attention so that you don’t end up in an area you don’t want to be.”
And so we have to be careful. In fact, it’s… well, I thought it was a little humorous. One of the things he said to avoid a minefield is to take a guide along. Take a guide. Because he wrote, “Over the years… the locals have learned where it is safe to walk.” Probably by a little trial-and-error and maybe losing a limb or a couple of friends, that sort of thing. So he says, “Take a guide.” Well, hasn’t God guided us? Doesn’t God give us His direction as He tells us, “Walk with exactness, walk with precision.”
Trust God. Don’t trust your GPS. We probably all know how well our GPSs work, right? Because none of us have ever put a little address into the GPS and we follow it faithfully to our destination, and we pull up and we go, “Wait a second, this isn’t the restaurant. Where did it go?” It got it wrong and we just blindly followed it. And so we can’t do that, especially when you consider this spiritually speaking because if we do, it’s going to be a lot worse than not finding the restaurant. We could end up in a spiritual minefield that could take our spiritual life if we’re not careful.
So Paul is reminding us, “Walk precisely.” And, in fact, this word for “circumspectly,” was a word that the Greeks used in accounting. And, of course, if you’re an accountant, is it good enough just to kind of get close to the right total? Okay, we all probably have to do our checkbooks. We’re supposed to reconcile our account, maybe not our checkbook, but online. “Oh, did they do it? Did they do it right?”
Well, if you go to reconcile your account and you kind of look at it and you go, “Well, is that 1,000 or is that 10,000? Well, it doesn’t really matter. Close enough. I’ll say it’s $10,000.” Well, that isn’t going to work too well, right? We’re to start bouncing out account all over the place. And so you’ve absolutely got to be precise. And so when you translate that into how we walk, how we live our life every single day, Paul saying, we’ve got to walk like true believers. We’ve got to choose the way we walk. We’ve got to walk that right path and not be wandering all over the place, because our enemy has strewn that path with dangerous mines that will blow our lives apart, because, he says, “These days are evil.”
And we’re fighting a spiritual battle. We don’t want to kid ourselves. And too often, do we find ourselves kind of strolling around life, not really having a straightforward purpose? I mean, do we flirt with danger? Flirt with difficulties. Don’t really pay that close attention to what’s really at risk. I mean, if you think about it for a minute, what if the Israelites did that as they were to march around Jericho.
“Alright, God said this is the way, walk, walk around Jericho. You’re supposed to do this for seven days.” “Well, I don’t know if we have to do it exactly that way. Well, how about if we just walk down the Jordan? It’s kind of a little bit more scenic, a little bit more beautiful. We kind of take in the sights, enjoy the land. That’ll probably be… God doesn’t mean we have to do it that way, how about if we just go the way that we want to? Probably a lot more fun.”
Well, what would have happened? Certainly, it wouldn’t have fallen. The people followed God’s instructions. He said this is how you walk. This is the way you do it. This is how you spend your time. And, in fact, He said, “Spend your time every day doing this,” so they did it the First Day of Unleavened Bread, they did it the second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh day, completeness. A number of completion. Their whole walk was following God’s directions because you’re not going to get through life’s difficulties and life’s challenges without some spiritual disaster, a mine blowing up, if we don’t follow His guide. There’s going to be trouble. There’s going to be trouble.
Can we walk our own way and expect not to be attacked by the enemy? You see, I don’t think we can. And so God points us in this direction. And one of the challenges I think is, we sometimes convince ourselves, “Well, it’s not that big a deal, is it? I mean, it’s just a minor little thing.” And we kind of fool ourselves. And yet that’s not circumspectly.
I was reminded about this as I was reading a little bit about aircraft carriers. And so you can tell in my sermon I got totally off track as I was preparing it and started looking at aircraft carriers. But I learned something kind of interesting about them. Aircraft carriers had a problem when they first started implementing them. I mean, it’d be great. You’re out there in the water, we need planes, you know, they’d be closer to the destinations, closer to the targets, easier to refuel, what a great idea? And so they came up, “Well, you build a big boat, you make this long runway, voila! This will work great!”
But you know what happened? Where do you put the planes that aren’t flying? “Oh, we’ll just put them at the far end of the runway. That will be great.” And so that’s what they did. And so the planes would come and they’d land and, wow, that’s a really short runway. And they’d end up crashing into the planes at the end of the runway. And, of course, “Alright, we can fix this.” So what do you think they did? “We’ll have a net that will catch the planes and that will slow them down as they come in.” And you’ve probably all seen those YouTube videos, right? The planes come in, they land, “Oh, get the net, they’re not slowing down.” And then they hit the net and they flip over the net and then they smash into the planes that are at the end of the runway.
But you know what fixed the problem? You think, “Oh, we’ve got to go back and we’ve got to redesign the entire concept. We got to start from scratch and do it over again.” No. Nine degrees. That was the difference between success and smashed airplanes, nine degrees. Just nine degrees, you know what they did? They offset the runway nine degrees. So instead of going straight along the whole path of the aircraft carrier, they came in on a nine-degree angle, repainted the lines so planes could come in… guess where they put the extra planes? In that space that the nine degrees didn’t face directly.
So they could come in, land and, uh-oh, if it’s too short, I could hit the gas again and take off and go around and try it again. Nine degrees, that was the only difference. And the amazing part to me, do you know when they finally figured this out? Not after World War I. It was after World War II, 1952. Long after the Second World War, they figured out with this minor little adjustment, they could save millions of dollars and all kinds of planes. Just with that small, little correction.
And so I think it makes the point that just getting off a little bit, you get into big trouble. And to make those corrections in our life so that we are aimed in the right direction, it can save our life. It can save our life. And so it’s not oftentimes these big things that need to be changed. In fact, I read about another circumstance, I think one that probably most of us are familiar with, but you don’t think of it in these terms.
There was a man, back in 1972. I know for some of us that’s, wow, pre-historic. But for us, “old guys,” isn’t all that long ago, it seems. But in 1972, there was a man named Frank Wills. And he was a security guard. And while he was doing his rounds one night, he was walking down a certain section of the building and he noticed a set of doors that had a little bit of tape over the latch on the door. And, you know, you’ve got the handle and you got that little latch that pokes out and it kind of locks the door, well, he noticed there’s just a little bit of tape over that latch that was keeping it unlocked.
He thought, “Well, that’s kind of funny.” And so he took that little bit of tape off of there and kept going on his rounds. Well, on his next series of rounds he came back. He noticed the same doors and there was more tape, just barely sticking out from the edge of the door, that was back on that latch again. This time he said, “Alright, something’s up. There’s a little piece of tape keeping that door unlocked.” He called the police. You know what resulted from that little piece of tape and Frank Wills noticing it? The resignation of the president of the United States. He worked at the Watergate complex and he just happened to notice a little piece of tape that kept the doors open. It’s those little things.
Yeah, he walked circumspectly and noticed it. He didn’t overlook his rounds. And we can’t allow even the littlest of missteps to throw us off-track spiritually because our enemy that is out here is ready to pounce on us. He is a roaring lion that can’t wait to devour us. And so just a few missteps, even the small ones, can get us significantly off-track so that we could be devoured if we’re not careful.
And so, here the apostle Paul is reminding us of that very thing. That we need to walk circumspectly. We’ve got to be deliberate. We’ve got to be intentional. Don’t let life just happen, be intentional. Make the right choices. And then we’ll get to where we need to be. Where we, ultimately, where we want to be.
In fact, he expands on that a little, back in Ephesians 5:16 Ephesians 5:16Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
American King James Version×. So go back to Ephesians verse 16, chapter 5 verse 16. And Paul will talk about a second essential, a second necessity or requirement. If we’re going to avoid the spiritual minefields, if we’re going to avoid disaster and truly be on the path to real change, Paul focuses on that in a second aspect. Let’s notice it. Ephesians 5:16 Ephesians 5:16Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
American King James Version×he says, “redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”
And I think that’s kind of a given. I mean, would there be that many people whether they’re in the church or out of the church, to say that this is in a pretty evil time that we live in? I think most people will say, “Yeah, there’s terrorism, there’s difficulties, there’s ISIS, there’s, you know, difficulties with our health, heartache, tragedies. You know, terrible circumstances out here.” So most would probably agree.
But there’s so much more to what he’s getting at here. Do you see where he’s going? I mean, is God just concerned that we recognize the world’s a bad place, or is there more to it? Well, yeah, there’s more to it. Do you notice what he’s saying here? Because these days are evil, here’s something we must do. Because of the world we live in, this is what we have to be able to fulfill in our life. In order to change, we’ve got to make sure that we realize this is the time to do it. This is the time. Redeem the time.
In fact, we’ve got that famous phrase, “There’s no time like the present.” Or, “There’s no present like the time.” Well, they kind of reflect each other, don’t they? Isn’t that true? There’s no time like the present. We need to redeem the time. So, alright, practically, put that into practical terms, what does that mean?
If you were to look up this Greek word, it’s the Greek word exagorazó . It’s pretty impressive, isn’t it? I press this little button on this Biblical site and it pronounces the word for you, and I’m not sure if I got it right or fairly close, but that’s, I think that’s about what the guy was saying on the site. Exagorazó has several definitions. There’s several ways that the Greeks use the word, and when you consider these different definitions, I think it really brings home what the necessity is here. What is the requirement if we’re going to change and grow and avoid the spiritual minefields out there?
One of the ways to think about it, are there any of us here who like to shop? Okay, I guess I got my hand up. Don’t go make me buy underwear or clothes or socks. I’m not into that kind of shopping. But many of us are into some kind of shopping in our lives. I mean, who of us doesn’t like a good deal? I like to get a great deal. It’s like, “Whoa, I got a fantastic deal on this.” And in a way, this word for redeem, points to that idea, because it literally means “to buy something out of the marketplace.”
So you go shopping, and it doesn’t mean, well, I just went shopping and I bought something. No, it means more than that. It should have us picture a merchant, you know, someone that’s a shopper, would be another one. And they go to the marketplace, but what they do is they find the best deal. And it’s not just find it, “Oh, here’s a cheap thing and it’s a great price so I’m buying it.” That’s not the purpose. The point is, this merchant goes to the market, gets the best deal on the best quality item.
And that’s kind of the backdrop to one of the meanings of this word ‘for redeem.’ To get the best bargain on the best item in the marketplace. And, of course, that means you got to look for it. You got to find it. Because if you’re a lousy shopper like me, I show up at the store and they say, “Oh, it was yesterday we had the 20% off, not today. Oh, that’s too bad, you just missed it by a day.” It’s like, “Ah!” Yeah, that’s the way I shop sometimes. Like, uh, that’s terrible.
That does carry the meaning of this redeem the time because this time is an opportunity. And there are certain opportunities that we have that only come along once in a while, right? You miss the half off sale, sorry you got to wait, maybe until next year, we might do it again there. And that’s the sense of what he’s getting at here. That we don’t want to miss this opportunity, we got to make the best purchase at the best price of the best item.
And that applies to our life, because another definition for this word, maybe brings out that aspect even a little bit more. Because it can mean “to make a wise choice,” but not just make a wise choice, “but use that choice for good.” In fact, if you looked it up in Thayer’s , Thayer’s Word Dictionary , it says, “To make wise and sacred use of every opportunity for doing good.” So everything we do isn’t just for me or my fun or my self-interest. He says we can have it for a sacred interest.
You know, do we use every opportunity for doing good? I mean, that’s a pretty amazing concept, when you begin to think about it. Because we have been given the ability to make wise choices and dedicate them for a good purpose, for a godly purpose, for a sacred purpose. That’s what redeeming the time can mean, because it also carries a connotation of redeeming a slave. It’s another facet of the definition for this word, to redeem. And what that means, you go to the slave market. Now, instead of going to the store to buy something out of the marketplace, now you redeem something from the slave market. Which means, you as a householder, you go to the slave market, you purchase a slave and then you bring them to your household. And it carries a connotation, they’re never on the market again. So you purchase them out of the market so they never can be enslaved again.
And I think that brings to mind some interesting connections when you think about it. Because in some ways, don’t you think we can kind of be enslaved to time? I mean, sometimes we’ll say, “Our boss is a slave driver,” or, “My work enslaves me. You know, if I could just get out from under the slavery of my job.” You know, sometimes we think in those terms.
And I think there is a connection when you really consider what it’s talking about here because there is a price to be paid to make sacred use of every opportunity. Isn’t there? I mean, we can just go through life and it just kind of happens. And it just occurs. But can we use those things for a godly purpose? I mean, this is telling us, don’t let time pass without the opportunity to make it right. To make it good. Even to make it holy.
You know, can I do holy things when I do them for God’s purposes? Yeah, I think that’s kind of what He’s getting at, and it certainly reminds us, how often does opportunity knock? Yeah, not very often, once, is the way the saying goes. And so if we waste those opportunities, if we waste that opportunity and we fit in with everyone else in the world, yeah, we’re going to waste 11 years of our life watching television. Is that what we want? Is that a sacred purpose for the time of our life?
We waste the opportunity, we’re going to spend what, 70% of our life in front of digital media? That’s what surveys say these days. Is that a sacred use of our time? Now, some of it could be, but come on, what do we get out of watching YouTube videos hour after hour, “Oh, that’s a funny looking cat. Wow, isn’t that great? Well, you got to see this.” How much time do we waste? Is that really using the opportunity to redeem the time for a sacred purpose? I mean, come on.
Surveys show that men waste a year of their life. Do you know what they do? Watching women. A year of their life. I mean, unbelievable, unbelievable. And then there’s all those other things that we really become enslaved by. And so I think that’s a question we have to ask ourselves, “Are we enslaved in the way that we use our time?” Because Paul is telling us, God… He’s telling us here. You can’t retrieve it. You can’t relive it. You can’t stretch it out or borrow it or loan it or stop time, or store it up.
He’s telling us, we got one life. We have one opportunity, and either we use it or we lose it, right? Game of life. “Can I have a timeout?” “Sorry, used them all up. There ain’t no timeouts in life. Not going to happen.” “How about an instant replay? Can I have an instant replay in life?” Literally, no, ain’t going to happen. There’s no such thing as an instant replay in life.
And I was reminded of this when I read about a survey that was done by a psychologist. This was done many, many years ago. It was by a guy named Dr. William Marston. And he polled thousands of people and he asked this question. He asked, “What do you have to live for? What do you have to live for?” Now, how do you think people answered that question? What do you have to live for?
And after kind of tabulating all the results and the different responses, he kind of boiled it down to something that was really pretty stark, when you consider it. What he surmised is that 94% of the people he polled were enduring the present while waiting for the future. Ninety-four percent enduring the present while waiting for the future. And I read that and went, “That doesn’t… how is that true? How would that fit in a poll like this?”
But as I read more about the survey, they were waiting for something to happen. They were waiting for something to happen, like, “Wow, can’t wait for my children to grow up and be independent.” “Oh, I can’t wait to retire and do all those things I never could do while I worked.” “I can’t wait to pay off the mortgage and then I’ll have some extra money.” “I can’t wait to take that big vacation I’ve always looked forward to.” “I cannot wait for…” Well, fill in the blank. Do we find ourselves thinking like that? Because while we wait, life is passing us by and it’s not enjoyed, it’s not appreciated. It’s not walking because either we’re waiting or we’re walking.
So, God reminds us, we got some purchases to make, don’t we? You better buy those wasted hours and use them for an eternal significance. You’ve got to grab every opportunity, buy out of the marketplace every opportunity to grow, every opportunity to come to a deeper relationship with God, every opportunity to conform to His image. And whether it’s raising children, whether it’s dealing with people, that has to be a part of it as well. We have to be good stewards of all of our resources.
And He says to us, invest wisely. Use those opportunities to give and to serve. Purchase those opportunities for the purpose of the Kingdom of God. Because you know what the challenge is, are we handed these things on a silver platter? Does this world just say, “Alright, you’re such a nice Christian. Here it is.” No way! This world wants to control us, wants to control our time. It wants to encourage us to use those opportunities for pleasure, for self-seeking self-interest, and whatever self you can think of.
It wants us to focus inward instead of outward. And we can get sucked into that way of thinking. We can be drawn into it, even when we least expect it. I mean, we have a wonderful opportunity just ahead of us. We’re going to go to the Feast of Tabernacles. What a wonderful opportunity to redeem the time! And yet all too often, we get into pleasure and self-seeking. “Well, this is the time during the Feast. Well, let’s go clubbing, because what a great opportunity!” Is that what we should do at Panama City Beach? Is that what we should do in Mexico? Is that what we’re going to do? “Well, now is the time to… well, I don’t want to party that much, but maybe just a little tape on the door, maybe just one big bash.” Will that do it? “Well, they’re doing it, so I guess that’s okay.” Well, is that our standard? Is that redeeming the time? Are we going to be a standard of righteousness striving to live by the standard that Jesus Christ set? Are we putting on His mind? Are we growing in that way, using those opportunities for eternal significance? Or has our runway faced the wrong direction? You see, that’s what it comes down to. And we can’t allow that.
And we talk about that with our young people. Talk about that as counselors at camp. What do we say? Well, we have a camp standard. This is the standard for camp. This is the kind of swimsuits we wear. This is the kind of behavior. This is in the zone, that’s out of the zone. Of course, we all know that only applies to camp. “I’m not at camp anymore, so that standard…” wait a second. We kid ourselves like that. How ridiculous to think that way? We’re just fooling ourselves. And we’re just putting a little tape on the door, and that can lead straight to that ambling, wandering minefield that’s out there.
And so when it tells us to redeem the time, yeah, there’s a cost. The cost is saying, “no.” No, to what’s dispensable. No, to what’s temporary. No, for what’s not lasting. No, to what’s nonessential. No, to the secondary physical things. And it means saying “yes” to what’s crucial. Saying, no. Yeah, that means saying no, to endless hours of video games.
I got to say “yes” to reading my Bible. Yes, to not missing services. Yes, to prayer, to growing in that relationship with God. No, to wasting money on… you know, I don’t like that word but, “worldly pursuits.” Call it what you want, right? Fill in the blank with what, “worldly pursuits” mean. We got to say “no” to that, and “yes” to what will last. And so walk carefully and use those opportunities wisely.
So, redeeming the time means making the most of those opportunities and taking advantages of the opportunities God’s put before us. So, can we live with eternal perspective now? You see, that’s what God has in mind for us. It means well, quit saying, “Well, if I only had the time.” Because we do have time. What do we do with that time that we’ve been given? If we quit worrying, yeah, it sometimes means I got to quit worrying about what tomorrow might bring and focus on today, because God’s going to take care of tomorrow. He promises to take care of tomorrow.
And so, yes, sometimes it’s the other direction. Sometimes I got to cut loose of the past. I can’t be wrapped up in what’s happened before, and so I’ve got to make sure that I bury the failures, bury the past in that grave of God’s mercy. God extends His mercy and forgiveness as we repent and redeem the time.
In fact, there’s such a powerful passage right near here. It’s 2 Corinthians 6:2 2 Corinthians 6:2(For he said, I have heard you in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succored you: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.)
American King James Version×, let’s notice it. 2 Corinthians 6:2 2 Corinthians 6:2(For he said, I have heard you in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succored you: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.)
American King James Version×. Perhaps a little bit of a summary of this whole concept of redeeming the time. 2 Corinthians 6:2 2 Corinthians 6:2(For he said, I have heard you in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succored you: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.)
American King James Version×. Notice what God inspires, what He says. 2 Corinthians 6:2 2 Corinthians 6:2(For he said, I have heard you in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succored you: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.)
American King James Version×, it says, “At the acceptable time,” now this word for time is the exact one we just read in Ephesians, “redeem the time.” That opportune moment, that opportune event. “At the acceptable time, I listened to you. At the opportune moment, God called us, opened our minds to His way.” And He says, “’And on the day of salvation I helped you.’ Behold, now is the acceptable time.” This is it. Now is the time. Now is our opportunity, “behold, now is the day of salvation.”
And so we have to respond to that calling that God’s given us. Now is the time. And we can liberate our time by dedicating absolutely as much as possible, to grow in our relationship with God and not letting it slip out of our hands and go some other direction. That’s what God wants. He’s called us right now, so now is the best time. Now is the best time for us. Now is our best shot at this. And so take advantage of that opportunity.
Back to Ephesians 5, we can pick up the third essential, third necessity, third requirement, if we’re going to avoid those spiritual minefields, spiritual disaster that’s out there and truly grow and change. God inspired Paul to write for us this third necessity. It’s not a real complicated one either, once again, chapter 5 verse 17, “Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”
Well, not wanting to make changes, makes it happen, not even just wanting to be serious about making changes makes it happen. If we’re really serious about making change in our life, we need to understand, what is our purpose? What is God’s goal for us? What is His overall purpose in our life? And so if we don’t understand the ultimate purpose for our life, we are going to wander off the path. We aren’t going to stay on direction to what God ultimately has for us in His Kingdom.
And so Paul uses much of the book of Ephesians to point out that purpose. And we know that purpose. We know there is an eternal purpose for us. We know that God wants to bring us into His family. He wants us to be His spiritual children. He wants us to be divine members of His family. Chapter 3 of Ephesians talks so clearly about all of those things.
Now, the challenge then is, we have to live our life in line with that purpose. Yeah, we can understand that purpose. We can know that purpose. But knowing it, understanding the truth, that doesn’t cut it. We got to do something about it. We have to live our life in line with that truth, because it turns out, if it’s not the will of God, if it’s not in accordance with His word, it’s not of God. I mean, we have God’s will. This is God’s will before us. It is His word. And if my behavior doesn’t match with His word, it’s not God’s will. That’s how simple it is. If my behavior doesn’t line up with the word of God, it is not His will. We can’t claim it to be His will.
And so then we’ve got to strive to be like David. Psalm 143, don’t need to turn there. David praised, “Teach me Your will. Teach me Your will.” We need to be taught God’s will. “Lead me to repentance,” David said. “By Your Spirit, lead me in that path.” And so, as we discover this word and internalize it that much more, we find there is a prerequisite for knowing God’s will. A prerequisite is mentioned over in John 7:17 John 7:17If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.
American King James Version×. I will turn there. John 7:17 John 7:17If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.
American King James Version×. Here Jesus states a prerequisite for knowing the will of God.
Let’s notice what Christ Himself said here in John 7:17 John 7:17If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.
American King James Version×. Well, first He gives the Father credit in verse 16, saying, “My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me.” So we see the humility of Jesus Christ. But then He goes on in verse 17 and it says something, I think is pretty amazing. He tells us, John 7:17 John 7:17If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.
American King James Version×, “If anyone wills to do His will,” so if we want to do the will of God, it says, “he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority.” So he uses Himself as an example, but it applies to all of us.
When we want to determine the will of God, He says it better match up with true doctrine. It better match up with the teachings of the Bible. If we want to do God’s will, we better recognize, what is the teaching that really is from God? What is true teaching? And once we recognize doctrine, the truth, it’s not just knowing it, now we have to conform to it. We have to live it. We have to do it. We have to really experience.
I think that’s another way to think about it. Wanting to do the will of God, knowing the will of God, and then experiencing the will of God, means we put it into practice. And so, like Romans 12 talks about, not conformed to this world but transformed. What is that good and perfect, acceptable will of God? Well, it’s being conformed to Him, transformed to His way. That’s what it’s about.
And so we submit our own life, our own thinking, our own ways, into His hand, and we commit to it. Not just that we’re convinced that it’s the truth, but we’re convicted. We’re committed to it. We’re committed to each other. We’re committed to each other as His Church because if Christ is coming to marry His Church, we better be a part of that. And so we have to have a commitment to each other as well.
So if someone is straying off the path, can we help them? Can we influence them? Absolutely, because if we are to be wise, especially when it comes to His plan and His purposes, then we have to base our choices and our decisions on His eternal plan. That means, “Oh, what I want, what I think might be fun, what I think might be cool, what doesn’t line up with the will of God, that’s got to take a back seat. I can’t go that way. I have to subordinate my plans to God’s will and His attitude and His perspective.” It has to be that.
And so, His will dictates the plan, the walk, for my life. And He’s going to direct that path. He promises to direct that path. And so, hopefully, it motivates us and moves us to face the tough questions, to face the difficult questions in our life. I think a difficult question is, “Am I completely willing to surrender to what God says?” That’s some difficult words right there, “Completely surrender. Completely surrender.” Because that means, what, a little bit of obedience? Mostly obedience? Sort of submitting to Him?
You see, it’s not in-between with God. He says it’s absolute, total obedience. And that goes against our thinking. It goes against our human nature. But it doesn’t go against the spirit that God’s given us. It doesn’t. If we submit to that spirit, we can give up what we want and we can follow what’s best. And God promises, that is best for us. And the results will be so much better than if we amble off in our own direction. And so we’ve got to ask ourselves, “How much sin do I tolerate in myself? Am I drifting into tolerating sin?”
We know those tiny, little compromises. They can take us into a very bad place. And if we focus more on the physical rather than the spiritual, boy, it’s going to be pretty tough to go the right direction. So God tells us, don’t get caught up in that way. And, yeah, being different might feel uncomfortable at times. We are set apart from the way the world thinks. And it should help us, really, ultimately, to counteract the world’s influence.
And that’s a tough question too, “Am I really counteracting the world’s influence by submitting to God’s will, knowing that will, doing that will?” Which means I’m not going to leave my Bible in my car for the whole rest of the week and never take it out until next Sabbath. That’s not what I’m going to do. I can’t do that. It means I’m going to obey God. It means that I’m going to pray, develop a deeper relationship. It means I’m going to serve others. It means I’m going to fast, and maybe not just on Atonement. I’m going to draw closer to God.
And maybe I ought to ask myself as well, “Have I brought it before God? Have I laid it out before Him?” Have I said, “God, this is tough because it goes against my nature. Help me. Help me to grow. Help me to submit to you. Show me how I can better apply your will and your way in my life. Help me to do that.” How do you think God would answer that prayer? He loves us. He cares for us. He wants to help us and direct us and guide us.
In fact, He looks at us and, you know, He sees the ultimate. He sees the completed project, doesn’t He? In fact, a couple of pages over from where we began, in Ephesians 5, if you go to Ephesians 2, notice this perspective that God has. I think it’s a powerful, positive perspective. Ephesians 2:19 Ephesians 2:19Now therefore you are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
American King James Version×, gives us a little insight into God’s mind and how He looks at us.
Ephesians 2:19 Ephesians 2:19Now therefore you are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
American King James Version×, “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners,” right, we’re no longer wandering and ambling around this world and its ways. “But” instead, we’re “fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,” we’re in the family. We’re in the house. We’re a part of God’s family, “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fit together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”
And so God sees us in a positive way. He sees us walking that path toward His Kingdom and He wants to keep us on that path. He wants to continue to direct us that way. He wants us to grow. He wants us to be built together. He has all the best plan for us. And so He tells us, “Don’t live dangerously. Don’t walk out there into trouble.”
Now is the time to be more fully committed to God. These Holy Days that we’re coming to, they help us. They help guide us through the mind of God, to be that much more determined to live it, day in and day out. And if we’re going to negotiate those minefields that are out here, and if we’re going to avoid that spiritual catastrophe that we might otherwise face, that means we’ve got to use the time. And we’ve got to use that time wisely and for sacred purposes. That means we’ve got to walk circumspectly and know exactly where we’re going, and strive with ever more determination, to continue on that path to the Kingdom. And it means we know God’s will, and more than just knowing it, we are going to put it into practice.
We’ve got a great God on our side. We can do this. And so we’ve got to take that opportunity because He’s telling us, “That’s the time. The time is now.” So let’s be determined to make the most out of every single opportunity.