Stephen Caswell ©1999
More Important Knowledge
A young man was being interviewed to be a pilot for a steamboat on the Mississippi River. The interviewer, doubtful that the young man could know the dangers of the river, asked if he knew where all the rocks were. To this he replied, "No, sir, I do not know where all the rocks are, but I know where they aren't." He got the job. Christians can't possibly know all the errors and pitfalls of the Christian life. But if they apply the truth they can walk safely. In today's passage Paul continues his fifth command to walk in a certain way. Christians are not to walk like the world around them. They have been given new life by Jesus Christ and therefore should walk appropriately. Previously he has commanded believers to walk worthy, holy, in love and in light. Today Paul commands believers to walk in Wisdom. This involves
I. Careful Walk - emphasizing planning II. and a Controlled Walk emphasizing power
Ephesians 5:15 See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise,
a. Undertake to Plan
Paul gives two commands in this verse. Firstly he commands believers to see or watch out. He wants us to pay attention to something. The second command is to walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise. This word circumspect ajkribw~" means to look around. Together they carry the idea of walking perfectly, exactly or accurately. The reason is that the non Christians around them are asleep, dead in sin. That is why Paul starts with the word then. Believers must be alert and pay attention to walk perfectly, lest they stumble with the wicked. How can believers walk in such a precise manner? By planning. Foolish people run into trouble. Wise people see it coming and avoid it. Why do some people's plans fail? Because they fail to plan! Believers shouldn't walk aimlessly like the unsaved people around them. Believers are to make plans for their life which will enhance God's will. They are to pay attention to their goals in life like a good athlete plans his race. They make wise plans considering their circumstances carefully.
Plans, Goals and Targets
I like to think of a goal as a target. The bull's eye is 100. Concentric rings are 80, 60, 40, and 20. I aim for 100, but sometimes I hit 80 or even 20. But if I don't aim for 100, I will hit zero every time. Someone said, "I would rather attempt to do something great for God and fail, than to do nothing and succeed." Most of the significant things done in the world were done by persons who were either too busy or too sick! There are few ideal and leisurely settings for the disciplines of growth. We must plan our lives lest we waste our time on earth.
b. Use Your Time Wisely Ephesians 5:16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
Paul tells believers to redeem or buy back the time. The word time here does not mean the passing of time, days, hours, minutes, which is crono". We get chronology from that word. But the word kairo" which means fitting season, proper time or opportunity.
Part of living is deciding how we will spend our time. Paul tells us to make the most of the opportunities that God gives us. There are many activities in life that we can be involved in. But we can only do so much in a day. Since everyone has the same amount of time, why is it that some people accomplish much more than others do? The answer is discipline. Some people plan their lives better than others. If we make no plans for our lives then that is what we will accomplish, nothing! Time stands still for no man. Therefore we must choose to use our time wisely or it will pass through our fingers and we will accomplish little or nothing.
Where the Time Goes
-- Reported in American Demographics, July, 1990. American adults watch television five times more than they read. Studies from the University of Maryland and the California Air Resource Board reveal that 18- to 64-year-olds spend, on average, their minutes each day:
Sleeping...461 Working...211 Watching TV...121 Doing Housework...101 Traveling...78
Eating...69 Socializing...48 Recreation...31 Caring for children...28 Dressing...28 Washing, grooming...25 Reading...24 Conversing...24 Thinking or relaxing...9
Significantly, perhaps, worship and devotional activities did not appear in the studies.
I don't believe that things are much different in Australia. People's priorities seem to be out of kilter. People spend so much time on TV or the Internet and yet so little time on things that are really important, such as our relationships. Most people neglect their family, talking to friends, witnessing to their neighbors, thinking, reading and devotional time with God. It is easy to find out what is important to someone by the way they spend their time. When we spend 15 minutes a day with the Lord and 2 or 3 hours watching TV what sort of message are we sending to God? If we claim that the Lord is dear to us, why don't we spend more time with Him? We can read the Bible through in 71 hours from cover to cover at normal speed. That's just 12 minutes a day!
Christians who don't plan their days carefully will accomplish very little. We need discipline in this area. We must take steps to build our relationships. Parents need to have a family devotions time as well as a regular quiet time. They need to set aside time with their families and have fun times together. We must grab the opportunities to talk to the neighbor when they are in the yard or invite them over for coffee or a meal. If you don't make plans, it just won't happen! A good place to start is our relationship with God and our family. Unless these relationships are in order our witness to the lost will be hindered. But we mustn't stop there. Christ said that we are obligated to do good to our neighbor! God will help us in this area if we are committed to Him. If we desire to reach out to people and pray for opportunities, He will provide them.
Psalm 90:10,12 The days of our lives are seventy years; And if by reason of strength they are eighty years, Yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; For it is soon cut off, and we fly away. So teach us to number our days, That we may gain a heart of wisdom. Paul gives us another reason why we should buy back the time, the days are evil. When Paul wrote this letter Roman persecution was about to begin. So he encouraged the believers to make the most of the freedom that they had now. It may be lost and then sharing the Gospel would become more difficult. If the days were evil in Paul's day look at how much worse they are now. We must take the opportunities that that we have now, we might not get another chance in the future.
c. Understand God's Will
Ephesians 5:17 Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
God desires that believers should know His will. He hasn't made it so obscure that we can't work it out. But we must desire to know it. God wants people to use their minds to discover God's will and not only know it but understand it. Knowing God's will is not some mystical experience or seeing neon lights in the sky. We discover God's will as He transforms our mind. Romans 12:1-2 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
This transformation is the result of the Word of God, prayer, meditation, and worship. God gave us minds to use. But we must fill them with the right things if they are to be renewed. When we prayerfully consider God's Word He will guide us into His will. Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. Psalm 37:23 The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, And He delights in his way. God guides those who seek Him. In fact He delights to direct their steps as they look to Him. The Lord uses prayer, God's word, our circumstances, and other Christians in this process. This is why it is important to spend time with the Lord. The Bible reveals a number of specific things about God's will. These are non negotiable for all believers.
1. Our Salvation 2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is long-suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
2. Our Sanctification 1 Thessalonians 4:3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality;
3. Our Service 1 Peter 4:2 that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.
4. Our Thankfulness 1 Thessalonians 5:18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
5. Our Subjection 1 Peter 2:13-15 Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men—
6. Our Suffering 1 Peter 3:17 For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. 1 Peter 4:19 Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator.
7. Our Sincerity At Work Ephesians 6:5-6 Servants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ; not with eye service, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart,
Paul's command to walk wisely involves Christians being circumspect or careful. Non believers walk around aimlessly but Christians shouldn't walk like this. We must be careful how we walk!
a. Undertake to Plan - Believers must plan their life. They should set goals and work toward reaching them. What are your plans for life? Have you prayerfully considered your future or are you walking aimlessly? Is your walk with God on the top of the list? Do you take review?
b. Use Your Time Wisely - Are you making the most of the opportunities God has given you at work? Do you spend more time with the Lord or the TV? Are you growing in your relationship with the Lord? Do you know Him more closely than you did a year ago? Are you reading His word and meditating on it? Are you building your relationships with your family, with your neighbors? Are you developing your spiritual gifts and abilities? How are you using them for the Lord? Only things done for Christ will last. Where are you investing your time?
c. Understand God's Will - Do you know God's will for your life? He wants you too. But God won't reveal it to people who aren't really interested. If we want to know it then we must spend time with Him in prayer and the word. We must obey Him and this involves living by faith. God has a plan for every person. But He won't force it on us. Firstly His will is that we are saved. Secondly God's will is to make us holy. Thirdly His will is that we serve Him. Fourthly, His will involves us being thankful for everything. Fifthly His will involves us suffering for good and not evil. Sixthly, His will involves us being in subjection to the laws and rulers of the land. Seventhly His will involves us being faithful in our jobs and working to the best of our ability. Are you seeking God's will in your life? If so, are you obeying God's word in the areas I just mentioned? After emphasizing the need for Christians to plan Paul commands them to have a:
II. Controlled Walk
Eph 5:18 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit,
a. Don't Be Controlled By Wine.
Paul gives 2 commands in verse 18, a negative and then a positive. The emphasis here is power. Paul commands them not to be drunk with wine which is excess. The pagans in the world live this way. When faced with difficulties they look for happiness and peace by getting drunk. Wine controls their actions completely. This is not the way believers should live. They should not be under the control of alcohol but instead be filled with the Spirit.
b. Be Controlled By The Spirit
The word filled plhrow here means filled to the brim, overflowing. We often say that someone who is drunk is as full as a goog. They are filled with wine and it controls their behavior. Believers are to live differently to the lost people around them. They are to be controlled by the Holy Spirit. This command is in the present tense. It is what is known as a passive verb. That means that we must allow the Holy Spirit to control us.
The book of Acts reveals that the disciples were filled with the Spirit on more than one occasion. We receive the Holy Spirit when we believe. But we should be filled with the Spirit continually! This involves seeking fresh grace from the Lord each day. Asking God to fill us a fresh with His Spirit. Allowing Him to use us as He wills. This is walking under the Spirit's control. How do we know when we are controlled by the Spirit? When the fruit of the Spirit is evident in our lives. If envy, pride, strife, jealousy, anger, hatred and the like show we are living in the flesh. The Holy Spirit produces love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faith, meekness and self control. The works of the flesh are opposite to the fruit of the Spirit. Paul gives us 4 other signs that show we are under the Spirit's control.
1. Singing To One Another 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,
Singing is joy in action. Joy is one of the fruit of the Spirit. Christians living under the Spirit's power are joyful. They express this in song. James 5:13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. Paul and Silas demonstrated this perfectly. How else could they sing after being whipped and placed in stocks? Only the Holy Spirit can fill our hearts with joy so that we want to sing praises in the most difficult situations. Hudson Taylor was always singing even in difficult circumstances. There was great persecution in many of the provinces of China. So they had a prayer meeting in mission headquaters. After the meeting Hudson Taylor came away singing " Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus. " One of the new missionaries who just arrived thought him to be uncaring by his joyful manner. Hudson Taylor rebuked him gently saying I have turned this over to the Lord, would you have me to be anxious?
2. Singing To The Lord Ephesians 5:19 b singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord,
It is good to sing praises to one another. We encourage each other when we do this. But let us not lose sight of the fact that we are also singing to God. Paul says that we are to sing to the Lord. Not just from our lips but from our heart. God listens to our praises from the heart. God saves us that we might serve him. Part of this is singing praises to God. 1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; The lost person seeks joy and fulfillment by getting drunk. This results in a corrupt lifestyle that offends those around them. Believers find joy and fulfillment by being controlled by the Holy Spirit. The result of this is purity and a fruitful life that is a blessing to all. Do you have the Spirit's joy?
Jesus said that true worship is in Spirit and in truth. Ephesians 5:18-19 emphasizes the work of the Holy Spirit in our worship. The parallel passage in Colossians 3 emphasizes the need of God's word, the truth in our worship. Both are needed. However, true worship takes place 7 days a week, not just on Sundays. Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. Ephesians 5:18-19 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord,
3. Saying Thanks Ephesians 5:20 giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
Another sign of the Spirit's control is thankfulness. Believers have so much to be thankful for. As we saw earlier in 1 Thessalonians 5:18. It is God's will that Christians be thankful in everything. The hymn says it so well, count your blessings name them one by one, count your blessings see what God has done, count your blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done. So often we focus on the trials of life so much that we forget God's abundant blessings. We are so lucky in Australia. God has blessed us so richly, yet we often take it for granted. Today many people think that life owes them. It is their right. We need to look again at the Lord's goodness to us and be thankful. People controlled by the Holy Spirit are thankful. They appreciate the things people do for them. They recognize that every good and perfect gift comes down from our heavenly Father. How can we be thankful for all things at all times? By recognizing that God is in control. He works all things together for good.
Matthew Henry: Thankful Anyway
A famous English Bible scholar named Matthew Henry was once attacked by thieves and robbed of his purse. He wrote these words in his diary: "Let me be thankful. First, I was never robbed before. Second, although they took my purse, they didn't take my life. Third, although they took my all, it was not much. Fourth, let me be thankful because it was I who was robbed and not I who did the robbing."
4. Submitting To One Another Ephesians 5:21 submitting to one another in the fear of God.
A fourth sign of the Holy Spirit's control is submission. A submissive person is able to control authority. They follow the example of Jesus when He washed the disciples feet. He didn't have to do that. But showed us how to use our authority to build people up through service. Too often we behave like the disciples fighting over who is the greatest. We wouldn't dare lower ourselves by serving another. Yet that is how Jesus defined true greatness. More than this He demonstrated it. Philippians 2:5-8 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Only Spirit controlled people can be submissive. Pride prevents most people from being submissive. Service is bellow them since they are so important!
$3 Worth of God
I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please, not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk or a snooze in the sunshine. I don't want enough of him to make me love a black man or pick beet roots with a migrant. I want ecstasy, not transformation; I want the warmth of the womb, not a new birth. I want a pound of the Eternal in a paper sack. I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please.
Does this describe your view of Christianity? In the New Testament, believers are mostly referred to as disciples. Someone under discipline, a follower of Christ, people who walked in the way. Are you Christ's disciple? If so are you following His example? Are you living as a voluntary servant? Thankfulness and submission are the results of being controlled by the Spirit of God and guided by the word of God. Unless both of these rule in your lives you won't have harmony in your relationships. Joy, thankfulness and submission only come from obedience to the Word of God and the power of the Spirit of God.
Are you controlled by the Holy Spirit or by the flesh? Do you seek His filling daily? Can people see the fruit of this in your life? Is your life guided by the word of God? Do you see worship as a Sunday experience or a seven day experience? Are you joyful singing praises to others and God? Are you thankful for all things at all times? Spirit controlled will be! The Holy Spirit fills are hearts with joy and thanks. Are you submissive or does pride keep you from becoming a servant? The Holy Spirit empowered Jesus to serve others. If you are Spirit controlled then you will be able to serve. Only believers filled with the Spirit of God and guided by the Word of God will show forth these qualities. Without this selfishness prevents harmony in our relationships. Today we've seen Paul's command to walk wisely. It requires a careful walk and controlled walk.
I. Careful Walk - emphasizes planning
a. Undertake to Plan - Are you making careful plans for your life? You only get one shot at it!
b. Use Your Time Wisely - Take the opportunities God gives you. Invest your time for eternity.
c. Understand God's Will - Study God's word and pray. The Lord wants you to know His will. Are you obeying the areas of God's will revealed? Salvation, service, sanctification, sincerity at work, thankfulness, suffering for good, subjection to the rules and leaders of the land.
II. Controlled Walk emphasizes power
a. Don't Be Controlled By Wine - The lost seek joy and fulfillment through alcohol and drugs.
b. Be Controlled By The Spirit - The believer is commanded to be filled by the Spirit! Are you? This results in joy that is expressed in singing to one another and the Lord. It results in thankfulness and submission. Can these qualities be seen in your life? Who are you serving?
1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.