Living Wisely

March 18th, 2018 sermon
By John Maiden, Associate Pastor

 Ephesians 5:15-21

Paul addresses the issue of living wisely in Ephesians 5:15-21, as he continues to instruct Christians in what it looks like to walk out their faith in their daily lives:

“Be very careful, then, how you live — not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

As believers, we are called to live differently: to live a life following after Jesus.  As we walk in obedience to the Lord, we discover it is clearly for our own good, and is the wisest way to live.

In Ephesians 5:15-21, we learn that WISE PERSON is one who:

  1. Makes the best use of their time. (Ephesians 5:15,16)

Living for God and doing things in our lives for the Kingdom, matter the most because in Jesus we truly find life, become who we were created to be, rest for our souls, and our fullness of joy in Him. C.T. Studd (missionary and evangelist) wrote: “Only what’s done for Christ will last..”

2. Lives according to God’s will. (Ephesians 5:17)

God’s will for our lives is both the revealed will (shown in the Bible) for all believers, and His particular will for our individual lives. As we prioritize and focus on God’s Word, commune with Him in prayer, and surround ourselves with godly people, we will begin to grow more like Jesus. In the process, we will discover that as we make decisions in our everyday life, His revealed will and our particular will, will overlap and merge.  His will becomes our will.

3. Lives filled with the Spirit. (Ephesians 5:18-21)

We can only walk this Christian life with the help of the Spirit of God. Our lives are to be controlled by the Spirit (not out of control with alcohol) so that we will be released to the fullness of life, only found in God. We are filled with the Spirit at conversion, and continually in our daily lives because we need help to obey Him. The Spirit overflows in believers’ lives in many ways, i.e.: worship through singing, giving thanks, and submission.(See also Col.3:16,17)

Instead of condemning ourselves for not living wisely in the areas of our lives where we need to grow, we need to remember Jesus.  In all these things, where we fail…Jesus did not. He has perfectly used His time, perfectly obeyed the will of God, and perfectly walked by the Spirit. Where we have failed, He has succeeded, and offers grace. Our role is to repent, ask for forgiveness, and live in the freedom we have been given in Jesus.

Discussion Questions

  1. As we are bombarded by the “tyranny of the urgent” every day of our lives, have we taken the time to prioritize our spiritual needs? When do we study the Bible, pray, spend time with God’s people?  What would help us do this more?
  2. As we quickly turn the pages of our monthly calendars, what do we see really matters to us?  Do we see ourselves controlled by others’ approval, politics, extreme healthy living, jobs, entertainment, Internet, appearances, etc.?
  3. How would you answer the question, “How can I know the will of God in my life?”
  4. Is there evidence of the control of God’s Spirit in your life? Have you ever experienced the Spirit showing you an area of your life where you need to repent and grow?
  5. Have you ever seen the Christmas season slogan: “Wise Men Still Follow Him”? Why is Jesus important to living wisely?

Introduction

As always, what a joy and a privilege it is to be able to bring God’s word to you this morning. Not something that I take for granted. Today, we are going to look at what it means to live wisely. Look, whether you are a Christian or a non-Christian, everyone wants to know how to live a life that is wise. I don’t think I have met many people who want to be known as a fool. So today, please turn with me in your Bibles to Ephesians 5:15-21.

Many of you know the story but for those of you we don’t – a little over two months ago, one of my best friends had an almost fatal accident. Cory was in Hawaii when he randomly passed out, hit his head on the floor, and went into a coma. Of all of my friends, I would have thought Cory was the least likely to end up in a coma on the verge of dying. Cory has always been someone who has been beyond health conscience. Like annoyingly so. Meanwhile, I went to Taco Bell at midnight in college.

But there he was, in a coma, and with people not knowing if he was going to make it. This past week, I got to fly over to Nashville to visit him. By God’s grace, he is making a speedy recovery and is now out of the hospital and in rehab. Thank you for all of your prayers.

While there this week, one of the things that he said was he is understanding how fragile life really is. We don’t like thinking about that, but how true is it? We know that we have all been given one life. So, if God has given us one life, we obviously need to live that life as wisely as we can. One day we will no longer live our lives on this earth and we will spend an eternity based on how we choose to live our lives now. So, this morning we are going to look at what God’s word tells us on how to live a wise life.

“Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise,  making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

– Ephesians 5:15-21

So, before we get into the points seen in the passage, let’s set it up a little bit.

“Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise,”

– Ephesians 5:15

All the way back when we started this series in Ephesians 4:1, Paul said, “I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” All throughout this sermon series we have learned what it means to live your life as called has called you to live, as a Christian. Paul is telling us again, how we are to live. As a believer, we are called to live differently. We are told to live a life following after Jesus. We learn is that as we walk in obedience to the Lord, it is actually for our good. As we will learn today, it is the wisest way to live.

As Christians, we are called to give special attention to our life as a Christian. The way Paul says it, “Be very careful how you live” or another way of saying it “Watch closely how you walk.” Paul is reminding us that this is important stuff! We are to approach the Christian life with purpose and meaning, working to live in holiness and in the pursuit of God for the sake of the kingdom and the good of our souls.

Here is the reality: We all give special attention to things that we care about. We make time for what we want to make time for:  job, education, wealth, relationships, appearance, personal fitness, hobbies. Do we give special attention to our walk with Jesus?

A person who does give special attention to their holiness is a very wise person. When it comes to life, there is an unwise way to live and a wise way to live. Throughout this passage, Paul compares unwise living to wise living. We are obviously called and should want to live wisely. So, how do we live a wise life? What are characteristics of people who live wisely. I mean talk about a question everyone on earth wants to know.

101 Ways to Live Wisely. But, what does God say? In this passage, we learn that a wise person:

  1. Makes the best use of their time
  2. Lives according to God’s will
  3. Lives filled with the Spirit

Makes The Best Use Of Their Time

Making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil

– Ephesians 5:16

How we use our time matters to God, and it should matter to us. “Exagorazo” can mean to “redeem” or “buy back.” We are to redeem the time we have been given. A good way this verse can be said in another way is: “Time is going by, and evil will fill that time, if Christian living does not.” If you want to live a wise life, a life obedient to the will of God, then we are called make the most of every opportunity we have been given.

I remember a kind of a bizarre movie that Sarah and I watched a while back about time. The currency for the society of the people was not money but time. You worked and you were given time. When your time runs out, you die. Obviously that is not how life works. We cannot add time to our lives.

We all know that we have a limited amount of time on this earth and we are called by God to use that time well. We can’t add time to our lives.

I am sure that many of you, if not all of you, have been to graveyards. There are many different emotions that one gets when walking around in a graveyard. One thing I experience while in a graveyard is perspective. It is a sobering reminder that this life will come to an end. Either by death or by the return of Jesus, and we have one shot. One chance to make the most of the time we have been given. So why would we not spend that time on what matters most.

What matters most? Ecclesiastes, probably not a book you were in this week, is about a king of Israel, most believe Solomon, telling us how we are to live wisely. Throughout the book, he describes how he searched everything that this word had to offer. The wealth this world has to offer, the wisdom this word has to offer and it says this at the end of the book:

“Now all has been heard;

   here is the conclusion of the matter:

Fear God and keep his commandments,

   for this is the duty of all mankind.

For God will bring every deed into judgment,

   including every hidden thing,

   whether it is good or evil.”

– Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

Living for God and doing things in our lives for the kingdom matter the most. I love how Paul says it: “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ our Lord.” Why does Paul say this? Paul knows that in Jesus we truly find life, become who we were created to be, rest for our souls, and our fullness of joy in Him. There are so many things vying for our attention, so many things that can distract us from God and what matters most. Are we living our lives for what matters most?

I found myself this week asking myself: “What will my kids grow up thinking that matters most in this world?” As my kids grow up and see my life, what will they think is most important to me? My ministry, sports, money, possessions or will it be Jesus! Will they see me on my knees in prayer, will they see me in God’s Word, will they see me talking to them about the things of God, will they see me leading them in family worship? Will my kids see me love my wife well? Will my kids see me raise them up to love and treasure Jesus above all?

If you were to ask the people closest to you what matters most to you, what would they say? Your job? Your business? Your possessions? How much money you make? Your relationships? That your kids are successful is sports? That your kids are successful in their respective extracurricular activity?

The calendar can be a sobering thing? When you look at your calendar, when you look at where you spend your time, what matters most to you? Where we are spending our time in a good indicator of what we value the most. Am I focusing on what matters most, in my relationship with Jesus, and in the various roles God has given me? I don’t know if this is helpful for you, but this week I made a list of three different categories:

  1. Am I using my time well in the areas and how can I grow? Personal relationship with God, spiritual disciplines, being in God’s Word, prayer, evangelism,
  1. My roles God has given me:  husband – is there more time I can give to loving and serving my wife? father, employee, minister, son, brother, friend, church member
  1. Personal life: rest and exercise

The is not to frustrate, but maybe it can help us to see where we need to grow by God’s grace. The bottom line is this: at the end of our lives, will people be able to say that you loved Jesus with your life?

Scripture is full of warning signs for all of us that time is limited. Think about Noah and the flood. God said the flood would come and wipe out the whole earth. As soon as the door of the ark shut, there was no turning back. Judgment them came on those people. If you do not know Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior, you are not guaranteed tomorrow. Time will one day run out, and it will be too late for salvation.

Believer: Are we using are we making the most of our time? Are there areas that we can repent and grow in?

CT Studd said:

“Only one life, ’twill soon be past,

Only what’s done for Christ will last.

And when I am dying, how happy I’ll be,

If the lamp of my life has been burned out for Thee”

So first, a wise person makes the best use of their time. Next, a wise person:

Lives According To God’s Will

Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.

– Ephesians 5:17

Talk about what one of the most important questions in all the world. What is God’s will for my life? It can be one of the most confusing questions as a Christian. Have you ever been struggling with a decision and you ask someone opinion and they ask you back, “Well, what is God’s will?” At that point you are then thinking: “If I knew that, I wouldn’t be asking you”.

But this idea of “What is God’s will for my life”? can seem so vague. If you are a Christian, you desire to do God’s will for your life. We desire to be like Jesus in our prayers, when before he was crucified and praying in the garden of Gethsemane he prayed to God the Father: “Not my will, but your will be done.”

But can we know God’s will for our lives? This is a question that many people wrestle with every single day of their lives. What is God’s will for me? It is a question that can cause much stress, I know it has for me, because we do not want to be living outside of God’s will. So, we read some of the 1,000s of books on this topic, listen to sermons, pray, read Scripture, look for signs, maybe try and follow our feelings, to find out what God’s will is for our lives. We are so afraid that a wrong decision will take us outside the “center of God’s will”.

This passage is telling us to live according to God’s will but what if we don’t know what God’s will is? So, can we know God’s will for our lives? Or is it some mystery that we have to search for like our kids will search for Easter eggs next week?

I think it is helpful to think of God’s will in two different ways: God has a revealed (or I like God’s Word) and a particular will for our lives:

  1. God’s revealed will is the same for all believers. To know Jesus, to grow in your relationship with God, and go make disciples. In other words, God’s revealed will is found in the Bible. We should seek to understand the God’s Word and be obedient to it. That is God’s will for our lives.  
  1. His Particular is God’s will for your particular life. What your job you choose? Who you will marry? Things like that.

I believe that in this passage Paul is mainly talking about the general will of God. So when Paul says, “Understand what the will of the Lord is” he is saying to live out what God has told us in the Bible.  We are called to focus on what we know is God’s will for our lives. If we are called to love out what is in here, we must know it. This goes right back to our first point. Where we spend our time is what we value the most. Are we making time to get to know God’s revealed will for our lives?

John Duke has gotten to where he absolutely loves books. So one way that we usually wind down at night is to read. We were hanging out together one night, and I was asking him where things were, and I said, “John Duke, where is God?” And he immediately went towards his book shelf. On top of his bookshelf we have placed his Bibles that we read him. So, he reached up and grabbed his Bible, and handed it to me. Yes! God is here! You want to know what God is like, you want to know his will for your life? It is here!

So, may we make time for His Word. If you are struggling with finding time to be in his Word, plan it out. Make it a priority. Block out a segment of time and say this is the time I am going to spend time in God’s Word. If you need help with what it looks like to study and be in God’s Word, ask. Asks your small group leaders – that is what they are for. Ask me. Ask John. I would love to sit down with you and show you how to read God’s Word.

A good way to prioritize God’s Word is have someone to it with you that can hold you accountable. Let’s make getting in God’s Word a priority of our lives this week. So, we know God’s will through the Bible, but what about the decisions we have to make in our lives. Last time I checked, who I am supposed to marry is not in the Bible.

What I believe is very significant is that as we live out the revealed will of God and focus our attention on God’s revealed will for our lives, as we make decisions in everyday life, his revealed will and our particular will will overlap.

I would not consider myself the best at making decisions. I can vividly remember in high school trying to make a decision about something and literally laying down on my bed and having knots in my stomach. My prayer was that if God wanted me to say yes to the decision that I needed to make that the knots in my stomach would go away.

Look, hear me say, I am not saying that God cannot reveal things to us in supernatural ways. He is God. He can do whatever he wants, but maybe sometimes we are making things too hard for ourselves?

When we decide to follow after Jesus, begin growing in his Word, communing with him and prayer, placing yourself around godly people who encourage you and give you sound biblical advice, focusing on His revealed will, a crazy thing begins to happen. God’s will begins to merge into your life. As we become more like God, in his revealed will, his will becomes our will.

When I began to view decision making, from this stand point, it was life changing. This process of discerning the will of God was actually freeing to me. God is telling me to focus my attention on his revealed will for my life. As you do that, when decisions come, yes, seek God’s Word, yes pray, yes seek godly counsel, yes, see which decision is the wisest, and have the freedom in Jesus to just make a decision and trust God with it.

One commentator said it like this: “This text is more concerned about God’s intent for the way we live every day, about what is pleasing to him. Perhaps we would not have so much trouble in finding God’s will for important decisions if we were more accustomed to discerning his will throughout life, making our lives conform to the pattern Christ has given.”

The takeaway from this passage is focus our attention on what we know God’s will is for our lives. The will that he has given us clearly in His word. As we do that, live free and walk in faith, trusting God with the daily decisions we make.  So, wise people, make the best use of their time, live according to God’s will, and lastly, wise people:

Lives Filled with the Spirit

I love how Paul ends with this one, because in light of all the ways we have been challenged to live, none of it is possible without God’s power by His Spirit.

“Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

– Ephesians 5:18-21

In this text, we see two imperatives or commands and then they are followed by present participles. (I bet you didn’t think you were going to have to do grammar this morning.) The commands are:

  1. Do not get drunk and
  2. Be filled with the Spirit

The present participles are results of someone who is filled with the Holy Spirit. Let’s first look at the commands: “Do not get drunk.” Why in the world of all things does Paul bring up not getting drunk here? Seems a little odd, doesn’t it? Paul makes a comparison to two different ways people can be “under the control” or “under the influence” of something.

1.Drunk person: Under the control of alcohol.

  1. Someone filled with the Spirit of God: Under the control of the power of the Spirit.

But obviously those two things influence us in completely different ways. Drunkenness causes you harm to yourself and causes you to lose control of yourself. One the other side, the Holy Spirit does the opposite as He makes us self-controlled. Also in contrast, it leads us to different things. Drunkenness leads us to debauchery (which can be translated as “reckless living”) and being filled with the Spirit leads to fullness of life, that is only found in God.

The command here is clear: do not get drunk. Look, I am sure many people stop here, get on their soap box and give their position on alcohol. This is not going to be our focus today. There are many different views on who should and should not drink, is it helpful or not helpful, and if you have questions, John will be available after the service. But seriously, all I want to say today is this, Scripture is clear that drunkenness is a sin. Someone who is filled with the Spirit does not want themselves to be controlled by anything else.

Instead we want to be filled with the Spirit of the living God. If we are commanded to be filled with the Spirit, how do we accomplish this task? I thought that once you are a Christian you have the Holy Spirit at the moment of conversion. But here we are commanded to be filled with the Spirit as we walk with God in our daily lives. Remember all the way back in Ephesians 1, we are told once you believe in God, you are filled with the Spirit at that moment. The Holy Spirit then will not ever leave you. But we do see that at certain moments in our lives, the Spirit fills us. We need the Spirit to continue filling us in our daily lives, because we need help to obey Him. We are not given a secret recipe to allow the Spirit to fill us, but as we look at Scripture we learn was to be filled by the Spirit.

  1. Walk by faith in God. Faith – “For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.”
  2. Don’t grieve the Spirit (Ephesians 4:30)
  3. Let the Word of Christ dwell in you (Col. 3:16: This is the parallel passage of this text)
  4. Ask God for his Spirit to fill you (Luke 11:13)

Next, let’s look at the results of being filled with the Spirit.

These things are the overflow of the person walking in the Spirit.

  1. Worship Through Singing
  2. Giving Thanks
  3. Submission

19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord

– Ephesians 5:19

What does it look like to be filled with the Spirit?

  1. Worship Through Singing. What does it mean to speak to one another in song? Does it mean that instead of greeting this morning with “Good, morning, How are you?” We should have sung, “Good Morning, How are you?” Talk about freaking out the guest. A person who is filled with Holy Spirit overflows in song. One of the main ways we see this is cooperate worship. What we are doing this morning. And to their singing there is horizontal aspect and a vertical aspect. There is actually a point, believe it or not, to why we gather together on Sunday morning and sing worship songs! Have you ever wondered why worship services are structured the way they are? Why do we stand you and sing? It is good for our souls! This passage speaks to that. Those who are walking in the Spirit overflow in song to God. Praising him for who he is. Also, though, there is a horizontal part to our singing. Our singing benefits the church. I remember talking to someone one day about church, and they told me they didn’t need church, as they felt like they could stay at home instead. This is another reason why watching a worship service on TV is not cooperate worship. You are not able to live out this passage. There is something about being together, singing praises to God, together, that is good for our souls. O and notice, this is all to be done from our heart. This is the part that gives those who say that don’t have the greatest voice, much relief. So, its OK if your voice is not the greatest!
  1. Giving Thanks. This is a big one. All of us know those complainers. Maybe you can be that person sometimes. Look, I have been convicted of that before. Complainers are not fun to be around, are they? But someone walking with the Spirit has a thankful heart. How easy is it to focus on the negative? Are you know as a complainer or one full of thanks?  This week, I want to encourage you to get out a sheet of paper, or your computer, or as a small group, and list things you are thankful for. It will remind you of God’s blessings and the graces that he has given you. This will then lead us to praise!
  1. Submit to one another. The can be a taboo word in our society, but that should not be the case. As we end this series, I would be remiss if I did not mention this. We have been told a lot about how you are to live these past two chapters.

If you are like me, you might have a tendency to beat yourself up and have seen in how many areas of your life you need to grow. In all these things, where we fail Jesus has not. He has perfectly used his time, perfectly obeyed the will of God, and perfectly walked by the Spirit. Where we have failed, in has succeeded, there is grace. Repent, ask for forgiveness, and live in the freedom we have been given in Jesus.