Identifying With Christianity!
Reading: Ephesians Ch. 5v15-17.
Be careful! These are words, which are very familiar to all of us. In fact, we use these words to exhort one another quite often. When our children leave the house, we often say, “Be careful.” If our children are teenagers, and are driving the car, we might say, “Be careful, drive safely.” What we are saying is “Watch out! Don't do something foolish! Look out for the other guy! Watch your step!”
We not only exhort our children this way, but we also exhort one another this way. We all know how easy it is to become distracted. We also know what can happen when we are distracted. The world can be a dangerous place. We all know that. And that is why we exhort one another to be careful.
I recall visiting an aunt in Glenarm on the North Antrim Coast Northern Ireland during my summer holidays; in fact she still lives there. I had made some new friends there and we would often go for a romp through one of those beautiful Glens. On one such occasion we decided to try and walk around the Glen at the highest point that is until we came to an impasse. Only one way to cross climb a tree; grasp hold of a high branch and swing across to the other bank. Every one did so successfully, then came my turn. I climbed the tree, caught hold of the branch, everyone shouting, "Be careful Ken, Be careful!" One swing, two swings, three swings and crash, bang, wallop, I was forty feet down the face of the Glen in about two seconds flat. All my new friends standing looking down, petrified, calling franticly, "are you all right Ken, are you all right Ken!" I mean, I am laying spread eagle, hardly able to get a breath and they were standing looking down, "are you all right, are you all right!" Their exhortation, be careful, be careful, was wise and I took heed of that exhortation and was careful, nevertheless, I fell. You see I should have had wisdom enough not to make the climb in the first place and keep my feet well and truly planted on firm ground.
That's why Paul is making the point, walk circumspectly or walk wisely! Just as it is in our earthly walk, so it is in our spiritual walk. In fact, our text exhorts us to be careful how you walk. Our walk with God should be one that is given great care. We need to watch what we are doing and where we are going.
An animated film of Pilgrim's Progress, the classic by John Bunyan, had Pilgrim, the main character, being attacked by roaring lions. The lions almost reached him. But Pilgrim discovered that if he carefully and cautiously watched his step, and stayed on the path, the lions could not reach him. They were held back by chains, which kept them just out of reach. But Pilgrim had to keep his eye on the path. If he took his eye off the path he might stray into the lion's territory and be devoured.
This is what is in view in the exhortation of this text. A literal translation of the Greek term translated be is “look, or observe.” The apostle is saying to “watch, or look” carefully at what we are doing and where you are going.
The young 12-year-old lady who had formed a relationship with the 31-year-old American Marine through the Internet did not realize how much danger she may have been in when she arranged to meet up with him. We need to pay attention to parents, teachers, Sunday school teachers, to all those who instruct us.
Parents, let me say this to you with deep feeling, don't you be instructing your children to pay attention if you are not paying attention yourself. Are you a parent who pays attention to what you are told? Are you a parent who pays attention to what you watch? Are you a parent who pays attention to what you read? Are you a parent who pays attention to what you say? Are you a parent who pays attention to what you do?
Never think that Jesus commanded a trifle, nor dare to trifle with anything he has commanded. Dwight Lyman Moody (1837-1899)
No bliss I seek, but to fulfill in life, in death, thy lovely will;
No succour in my woes I want, except what thou art pleased to grant.
Our days are numbered-let us spare our anxious hearts a needless care;
'Tis thine to number out our days, and ours to give them to thy praise.
- Madame Jeanne Marie De La Mothe Guyon (1648-1717).
1. Paul Gives An Instruction to Be Wise! Eph.5v15.
"Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise"
Being careful is only being wise. Proverbs 14v6 says, “A wise man is cautious and turns away from evil, but a fool is arrogant and careless.”
When we are told to be careful we are really being told to be wise. A foolish person is the person who is careless. A foolish person always thinks he is right. He doesn't need any help. He knows what he is doing. He just plunges ahead, thinking that he has everything under control. Proverbs 12v15 says, “The way of the fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel.”
That is precisely the fool's problem; he trusts in his own way. Proverbs 28v26 says, “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but he who walks wisely will be delivered.”
We are exhorted to walk in wisdom. The wisest thing we can do is to listen to God's counsel. Proverbs 9v10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”
To fear God is to respect what He says, and to obey it. So, the wisest thing we can do is to heed God's warning to be careful how you walk. In other words, pay attention to what comes next.
Robert Fulghum wrote in the Kansas City Times, "Most of what I really need to know about how to live, and what to do, and how to be, I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate School Mountain, but there in the sandbox at nursery school.
"These are the things I learned: Share everything. Play fair. Don't hit people. Put things back where you found them. Clean up your own mess. Don't take things that aren't yours. Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody. ... When you go out into the world watch for traffic, hold hands, and stick together." This writer has captured part of what Jesus meant when he said, "Unless you become like little children you won't enter the kingdom of heaven." Hugh Duncan, Moses Lake, Washington. Leadership, Vol. 9, no. 2.
2. Paul Gives An Instruction To Buy Up The Time! Eph.5v16.
"Making the most of your time, because the days are evil."
If you are a wise person, then you are engaged in making the most of your time. One of the reasons that we're exhorted to be careful is because time is finite and limited. There is only so much time available to us. A wise person uses time; a foolish person wastes it.
An article was once published entitled, “If You Are 35, You Have 500 Days to Live.” The article went on to contend that when you subtract the time you spend sleeping, working, tending to personal matters, eating, traveling, doing chores, attending to personal hygiene, and add in the miscellaneous time stealers, in the next 36 years you will have only 500 days to spend as you wish. Think about how you spend your time. When all of the necessary things are done, how much time is left? No wonder the Psalmist advised, “So teach us to number our days that we may present to Thee a heart of wisdom.”
Time is limited. Time is important. To walk in wisdom means that we value time! The importance of time has been summarized poetically:
Just a tiny little minute only sixty seconds in it.
Forced upon. Can't refuse it. Didn't seek it, didn't choose it,
I must suffer if I loose it, Give account if I abuse it.
Just a tiny little minute, But eternity is in it.
Are you making the most of your time? You should be, because there is only so much time available. None of us know how much that is. How much time do you have?
In the cartoon “Peanuts,” Charlie Brown is found commenting to Lucy. He says to her, “Someone has said that we should live each day as if it were the last day of our life.” “Aaugh!” cries Lucy. “This is the last day! This is it!” She dashes away screaming, “I only have twenty-four hours left! Help me! Help me! This is the last day! Aaugh!” Charlie Brown, who is left alone, muses, “Some philosophies aren't for all people.”
Don't overreact, but don't brush the issue aside. How we spend our time is important. It is important because there is only so much time that we have, and it is important because the days are evil. Satan would like nothing better than to steal the time we have. If he can get us to waste our time on trivialities, then he has neutralized us. The phrase making the most of can also be translated as “buying back or buying up.” It is translated as “redeeming” in the KJV. The idea is that we are to “buy” the time. We are to “buy up every opportunity” to use our time wisely. If we do not, then we may miss the opportunities God places before us.
There is a tide in the affairs of men,
which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
is bound in shallows and in miseries.
(Julius Caesar, 4.3.217)
Napoleon is reported to have said, “There is in the midst of every great battle a 10 to 15 minute period that is the crucial point. Take that period and you win the battle; lose it and you will be defeated.”
We must all be careful not to miss the opportunity, which is placed before us. We must look carefully for it.
I read of an ancient Greek statue which depicted a man with wings on his feet, a large lock of hair on his forehead, and no hair on the back of his head. Beneath the statue was this inscription: “Who made thee? Lysippus made me. What is thy name? My name is Opportunity. Why hast thou wings on thy feet? That I may fly away swiftly. Why hast thou a great forelock? That man may see me when I come. Why art thou bald in back? That when I am gone by; none can lay hold of me.”
Because the days are evil we cannot afford to fail to seize every opportunity. If we do not seize the day, we may find ourselves in the same situation as the five foolish virgins who let their oil run out before the bridegroom came and were shut out from the wedding feast (Matthew 25v8-10). Or we might find ourselves in the same situation as the people in Noah's day that missed the opportunity to enter the Ark because the door was shut. We must make the most of our time.
3. Paul Gives An Instruction To Know God's Will! Eph.5v17.
Being wise means that we should not be foolish! And to do that we must understand what the will of the Lord is. This is the key to walking in wisdom. This is the key to making the most of your time.
If we are to make the most of the time we have available then we must understand how to use that time, as God desires it to be used. Simply put, we must know God's will. If we fail to understand what the will of the Lord is, then our time will be taken up in things, which may not be important.
We will find ourselves giving our time to things that are expedient, not necessarily that are important.
General Eisenhower is quoted as saying “The urgent is seldom important, and the important is seldom urgent.”
The way we know what is important is to know God's will. Otherwise, your life, like mine, will be controlled by the “Tyranny of the Urgent.” What you give your time to is what you give your life to. It has been said that most middle-class Westerners tend to worship their work, to work at their play, and to play at their worship. As a result, their meanings and values are distorted. Their relationships disintegrate faster then they can keep them in repair, and their lifestyles resemble a cast of characters in search of a plot.
The real question is “What does God desire of me?” Do you understand the will of God for your life? Do you consult the Lord on how you spend your time? Understanding what the will of the Lord is can refocus your life on the things that are important. This puts us on the path of wisdom.
What is God saying to you through His Word? If you could go back and change the past, how would you change how you have used your time? The things you regret not giving more time to are precisely the things that you should begin giving more time to now. Opportunities may have passed you by which will never be recovered. But do not let the opportunities of today pass you by. Do not wait for tomorrow. Begin today to seize the opportunities. Begin today to start making the most of your time. Begin today to seek to understand what the will of Lord is for you. Time is important, not because time is money, but because time is life.
At the beginning of his reign, King Solomon prayed one superior gift from God. Not wealth, not long life, but something far more valuable--he asked for "an understanding heart," which translated a hearing heart. He asked, we say, for wisdom. But the genius of wisdom ... is the ability to open a room in one's heart for the talk--and so for the presence--of another. Wisdom is none other than the ability to listen. - Walter Wangerin, Jr., in As for Me and My House. Christianity Today, Vol. 34, no. 2.
It appears that God has deliberately left us in a quandary about many things. Why did He not summarize all the rules in one book, and all the basic doctrines in another? He could have eliminated the loopholes, prevented all the schisms over morality and false teaching that have plagued His Church for two thousand years. Think of the squabbling and perplexity we would have been spared. And think of the crop of dwarfs He would have reared! He did not spare us. He wants us to reach maturity. He has so arranged things that if we are to go on beyond the "milk diet" we shall be forced to think. - Elisabeth Elliot in the Liberty of Obedience! Christianity Today, Vol. 31, no. 14.