Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.
Be Careful How You Walk
My Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
Many Christians are accustomed to referring to the life of a Christian as "the Christian Walk". This passage uses the word "walk in that way, which may account for people calling the Christian life "the Christian walk". As you all know, I avoid that language because some have hijacked it and tried to suggest that there is a particular set of rules or behaviors that must mark the life of the Christian - and of course, it quickly becomes some sort of salvation by works or some set of laws which qualify one for forgiveness and eternal life. Those sorts of ideas are contrary to the Gospel.
Nevertheless, it is okay to refer to one's conduct and life as their "walk". I am sure God has just breathed a sigh of relief since it appears I have just given Him permission to talk about things the way He does, here in Ephesians. I understand the use of the phrase "the Christian life" properly to be descriptive, not prescriptive - that is, the life which a Christian actually lives rather than the life one is supposed to live, or must live. So, when you walk, as it were, it is your walk. It is not necessarily how it should be - although we hope it is - but what it is. And Paul, inspired by God, has some counsel of the walk of those who are of the Church. Our theme is, "Be Careful How You Walk".
This is one of those interesting texts that uses Greek colloquialisms. The words, "make the most of your time" literally mean "to redeem the time" or "to rescue it from loss". We have the sense in this text of taking something that is not worth much and turning it into something precious. And what is it that you are transforming? The days. These days are called "evil" or "worthless". So Paul is telling us, that is, God is telling us through Paul to take these days which are dangerous, or pointless, or downright evil, and to turn them into something precious, redeeming them from their worthless state into something positively good. This careful use of time is a wise thing according to our text - I imagine it is wise in the sense that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
Paul writes that we are to accurately view these days and how we live in them - looking accurately, or carefully, at what we do and how we walk through these days, with the idea that our conduct will take dark and dangerous days of questionable value and turn them into something wonderful and good. When you look at your life like that, what a wonderful challenge - and what a beautiful opportunity Jesus give us, to turn the evil of our days into something blessed and good.
The question is, how do we do that? What is it that we can do that will transform these days into days of blessing and wonder from days of danger and evil? The answer begins with a simple sentence, but the actual meaning of that simple sentence is anything but simple: do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
The first answer, then, is, "What is the will of the Lord?" [Our Salvation.] Now, that was easy. But what does that mean to how we live our lives? What does that mean to how we spend these evil days in order to redeem them into something precious?
The second consideration is that the will of God is not merely that we are saved. If that we all there were to it, He could have called it quits as soon as the last one of us came to faith. God also wills that others be saved. God wills that we live out our salvation and our forgiveness in a way that gives glory to His name and shows forth the wisdom of His saving us at such a terrible cost. God did not have an end-point in mind when He saved us. He couldn't have - He is eternal, and there is no end in sight for God. He has a goal, but not ultimate, at least not in terms we normally think of as ultimate. God has plans for us that go on throughout eternity. But right now we have these evil, dark, and dangerous days to deal with.
His will for us in regards to these days is that we deal with them as His holy people, by His power and according to His way of doing things, and not necessarily our own. That is where cannot afford to be without wisdom - to be unwise - or foolish. The Greek word for foolish means without mind or thought. Instead we are to understand what the will of God is. The word which is translated 'understand' here means "to have an intelligent grasp of something that challenges one's thinking or practice." In other words, we are not to approach the times in which we live automatically or without being careful, but we are to deal with our lives in the light of God's will, which is to say that we are to live with our lives in ways, or in circumstances, that won't always - may be won't even usually - be in accord with our preferences or comfort. But what do you expect if you are going to redeem those evil and worthless days?
Sadly, we must start with the truth of our failure. We are not good people. You are not, and I am not. We sin. More or less constantly. We think of our comfort. We think of our desires. We think of our families first and others second. We want to fit in - and when you look at the culture in which we live, we are wanting to 'fit in' with evil and disgusting people in a twisted and perverse society. We generally don't want to stand out as good, Godly, holy people. - - - Oh, sure, intellectually and theoretically we do, but when push comes to shove we find it hard to sound all religious - and quote hymns and songs and Bible verses to others - even to one another. It just feels weird! We have been brought up and trained by the world around us to fit in and not draw that kind of attention to ourselves.
The affairs of this life and of this world seem to be so pressing and real and we are tempted by life to set our faith and our love for one another - Agape love - aside and measure the world the way the world wants to be measured. But our part - our task - is to understand what the will of God is: saving some and living in the light of His love and of our salvation day by day. That is a challenge because it is absolutely contrary to our flesh. Our flesh lives for self-advantage. Our flesh lives focused on how it feels - or how it seems to us, with an eye to having things our way. Our flesh seeks to melt into the crowd in every way except those that might bring us riches or public approval.
The Apostle Paul tells us that God would have us live according to His will, which is to live in the light of His goodness and grace towards us and the welfare and well-being of our neighbors, particularly those of the household of the faith. Walking in the light of salvation and understanding the will of God leads to a walk something like what Paul goes on to describe in our text: "And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ."
We are not to allow ourselves to be drawn away from engagement with life - drinking until you are drunk with wine is dissipation. That is a wasting of yourself and a frittering away of your time. Instead, we are to be filled with the Holy Spirit. We are to be about the things of God and the people of God - the God who has purchased us and won us from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and His innocent suffering and death; that I may be His own, and live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness.
The sorts of things that we should be about doing are speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. Most people look for a list of good deeds. Those sorts of things - good works - belong in your daily vocation. You do the work you have before you to do - employment if you are employed, and the work you have to do if retired. You do it to the best of your ability, to the glory of God (which means that you do the job as though you are doing it for God at His request). But while we do it, we are to encourage one another and remind each other of God's goodness, and of our need and desire for thanksgiving and praise to God, and help each other remain focused on the Gospel and forgiveness and such.
And we should be giving thanks. Our faith - if we are paying any attention to what we say we believe - should be a cause of joy and rejoicing in us, and thanksgiving to God because of Jesus. And because of forgiveness. And because of the promise of the resurrection. And because we have been chosen by God to know all of it and believe all of it and receive all of it.
And, finally, we should be dealing with one another in humility in every circumstance. Paul writes, And be subject to one another in the fear of Christ. These words mean that we should deal with one another as though the other were right, the other were smarter, the other were more important, and we are here to help them. Patience, honestly, and automatic forgiveness ought to mark our dealings with one another. We don't act like this because we feel that way, but because it is the only thing left if you believe what the Bible says about your sin, and about how much God loves you and what He had to do and endure in order to save you. Be subject to one another in the fear of Christ means because you believe, and you don't want anything to stand between you and the Gospel - or between the person next to you and the Gospel.
These are the sorts of things we need to pay attention to as God's children. Be careful how you walk! Admittedly, very few people actually live like this, which is why you will stand out as God's child when you do. And it is this humble and deliberate and thankful and faith oriented life that will also preserve you from the sorts of behaviors that lead men and women to stumble from the faith - as so many do. The foolish can do just about anything, and they usually do. Then they find a rationalization to justify their foolish behavior. Wise men are circumspect, and walk carefully. St. Paul urges us to be wise and to be careful how you walk.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
(Let the people say Amen)
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