Our God is such a gracious and kind God. Long before we ever recognize His wonderful blessings, long before we ever recognize His involvement in our lives, long before we ever bow our knees and acknowledge His goodness and mercy…He blesses us. Jesus said,
45 …He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (Matthew 5:45 NIV)
We can go through our entire lives and never acknowledge God’s provision, His mercy, and the many ways that He blesses us. Many people, rather than acknowledging God’s provision, attribute the blessings they experience to themselves or they chalk it up as “luck” or “coincidence” and never even give God a thought. When they go through the difficulties of life, the gut-wrenching times of life when you feel like you can’t breathe, then they tend to blame those hard times on others, chalk them up to bad luck, or worse yet, they blame God even though they never give Him a thought at any other time. When we fail to recognize His Sovereign hand at work in our lives then we will miss one of the greatest lessons that we can ever learn in life. The lesson is this: Life has purpose. History is “His story,” and we, each and every one of us, are part of the story. If you understand this then you know that your life has purpose, that God has a plan, and that there is nothing in life that is random or merely a coincidence.
Our lesson this morning concerns one of the other wonderful gifts that God has given to all people—time. Let’s take a look at our Scripture for this morning and we will see what we can learn. Turn with me to Ephesians 5:15-20.
15 Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. 19 Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 5:15-20 NIV)
This is such a powerful section of Scripture to help us understand that each moment of our life is infinitely valuable and holds definite purpose in God’s plan. Literally, the first phrase of verse 15 reads, “Watch carefully, then, how you walk.” If you will notice, in the New International Version of the Bible the Greek word, “περιπατέω” (peripateo), is translated, “live,” but literally the word means, “to walk, to make one’s way, progress, or to conduct one’s self.” It is all about how we live the life the Lord has given us.
Paul uses this powerful little word five times in his letter to the folks in Ephesus. We can learn so much about how we are to live, how we are to conduct our lives, the attitudes that we are to possess and the lifestyle we are to pursue simply by studying and seeking to live out what we learn in this letter to our brothers and sisters in Ephesus. Paul uses this word in Ephesians 2:10; 4:1; 4:17; 5:2; 5:8; and 5:15. Let me give you a sampling of what we can learn concerning how those who are “in Christ” are to go about living their lives from day-to-day. In Ephesians 2:10 we read,
10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10 NIV)
We, you and me, are the handiwork of Almighty God. We are created with purpose and we are recreated in Christ Jesus to do good works. The good works which God has prepared we are called “to do,” or to walk in, to live out in our daily life.
Let me show you one more place in Ephesians where Paul uses the word that we are looking at this morning. In Ephesians 4:1-3, Paul writes,
1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1-3 NIV)
We are to walk in a way that is worthy of the calling we have received from the Lord. What does that look like? I’m so glad you asked. Paul says that we are to be “completely humble,” “gentle,” “patient,” “bearing with one another in love,” and that we are to “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” that holds us all together.
Paul has much more to say about this walk of ours and I would encourage you to go back and read through all of the verses where he writes about our “walk.” In our Scripture for today Paul wants us to know that this calling from God will not come about by chance or because we “hope” it will. We must live “carefully.” That is an interesting word that needs our attention. The Greek word, “ἀκριβῶς” (akribos) means, “exactly, carefully, accurately, diligently.” John MacArthur writes,
‘Akribos’ (careful) has the basic meaning of accurate and exact, and carries the associated idea of looking, examining, and investigating something with great care. It also carries the idea of alertness. As believers walk through the spiritual mine field of the world, they are to be constantly alert to every danger that Satan puts in their way. That is why Jesus warned that “the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life.” (Matthew 7:14) (MacArthur, John. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Ephesians. pg. 219)
We have got to live this life with our eyes wide open, our minds fully alert, and watching all along the way. I’m not talking about merely watching just to watch, but I’m talking about watching what is going on, listening to what is being said, and doing all of this through the filter of God’s Word. Following his urging to watch our walk, Paul gives us three directives. First, we are not to live as unwise, but as wise (15b). Second, we are to live not like the foolish, but rather we are to seek to understand the Lord’s will (17). Last of all, we not to be drunk with wine, but we are to be filled by the Spirit (18).
We are to live out what God has declared us to be. We who are followers of Jesus are not “unwise,” we are wise. When you accept Jesus as Lord of your life a vast storehouse of wisdom is made available to you and me. Peter declared such when he wrote,
2 Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. 3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. (2 Peter 1:2-3 NIV)
We are not to live as unwise, but we are to utilize the wisdom the Lord provides for us in living out this calling to be His people in this dark world. You say, “I don’t feel so wise. I’m in a situation right now where I just don’t know what to do.” I’ve been there so many times I’ve lost count. When we find ourselves in situations where we just don’t know what to do, when it seems like there’s not a good answer, or a clear choice, then we must confess that to the Lord. James, the brother of Jesus, must have been in the situation where we find ourselves. He talked about trials and perseverance and the need to ask God for wisdom when we lack it. Turn with me to James 1:2-5 with me.
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. (James 1:2-5 NIV)
I need to clarify something real quick. Wisdom is not intelligence or education in the sense that we think of today. Intelligence is a gift from God, but wisdom goes beyond intelligence. It is the ability to apply God’s truth to life’s situations. God has given us His Son and He has lavished us with wisdom. That is what Paul wrote in Ephesians 1:7-8. Listen to this.
7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. (Ephesians 1:7-8 NIV)
God has lavished His people with grace, wisdom, and understanding. How has He done this? He has given us His Word and His Spirit. Paul told Timothy,
14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:14-17 NIV)
You can spend the rest of your life in the halls of higher learning and acquire more degrees than a thermometer and never acquire wisdom. On the other hand, you can lack a high I.Q. and yet be wiser than your teachers if you will spend time in God’s Word, allowing the Holy Spirit to teach you, and then apply what you learn to everyday life. We need both the Word and the Spirit to be able to apply the wisdom God has provided for us. Concerning the importance of the Holy Spirit in our life, Jesus said,
26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. (John 14:26 NIV)
How much of the Word do we need? How much of the Spirit is enough? That’s a great question isn’t it? There are many today who attend church every now and then and that is enough for them. They call themselves religious, but they don’t want to get too fanatical about all of this Jesus stuff. One day out of seven suits them just fine. There are others who come to Bible study and worship faithfully and yet that is the only time during the week they spend any time with God. Paul says that we need to be filled with the Holy Spirit. He writes,
18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. (Ephesians 5:18 NIV)
The unwise will be filled with wine, and whatever else can get them drunk, and where will this lead? It leads to “debauchery.” The same Greek word that is translated as “debauchery” in Ephesians 5:18 is also found in Luke 15 in the story of the Prodigal Son. In Luke 15:12-13 we read,
12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. 13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. (Luke 15:12-13 NIV)
“Wild living.” That’s a pretty broad description, a wide open category that includes many kinds of excess doesn’t it? So the life that is filled with wine will result in excess and ruin. Paul says that this kind of lifestyle doesn’t fit the follower of Jesus. Instead of being filled with wine we are to be filled with the Spirit of God. The question has to be asked, “And just where will that kind of life get us? What will be the result if I seek to be filled, totally yielded, to the Spirit of God?” Paul wrote to the Galatians and answered our question. Read along with me from Galatians 5:22-23.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23 NIV)
What an amazing contrast! Paul says that God’s people are to be wise, we are to make our passion the understanding of the will of God, and we are to be filled with the Spirit—that is what is fitting for the people of God as we live with intentionality and purpose.
Those who are unwise and those who are foolish neglect or despise the thought that God has a purpose and a plan for life and history. Throughout God’s Word there is a contrast between the wise person and the unwise or fool. Not only is there a contrast in the character and thought processes of these two types of people, but the path of the fool and the path of the wise are put on full display in God’s Word as well. Let me share an example from the Psalms with you. Turn with me to Psalm 1 and let’s read together.
1 Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. 2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. 3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. 4 Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. 5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. 6 For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish. (Psalm 1:1 NIV)
The words “foolish” and “wise” are nowhere to be found in Psalm 1, but the two paths are described in detail. The man of God doesn’t live an unwise life, he doesn’t live a foolish life, but he delights in the law of the Lord, he meditates on it day and night. As a result, he is blessed in all of his ways. The “wicked” man neglects the Lord, dismisses His counsel, and as a result he not only destroys his own life, but he leads others down a path of destruction.
Now, can you see why I say that we must live this life with our eyes wide open, paying full attention to how we live, as well as how those around us are living, and all the while doing so with the counsel of God’s Word in our hearts and minds?
Paul says, in verse 16, 16 “…making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:16 NIV) In the NIV we read, “opportunity,” but in many other translations of the Bible the word, “opportunity” is translated as “time.” In the Greek language there are different words used for difference aspects of time. When we hear the word, “time,” we think of a clock or a calendar. That would be the Greek word, “χρόνος” (chronos). This word is used in Matthew 2:7 when Herod gathered the Magi to determine the exact “time” that Jesus was born. This word is used 53 times in the New Testament, but that’s not the word that Paul used in Ephesians 5.
The word that Paul used is the word, “καιρός” (kairos) and it means, “an opportune or seasonable time, the right time, or a fixed and definite period of time.” The NIV translation of this word as “opportunity” is a great translation. It is so important for us to understand the powerful message we can gain from this little verse if we will only pay attention.
There is definitely a fixed period to each of our lives. We all know when we had our beginning. I was born on May 9, 1961 and you were born when you were born. We have no idea when our last day will come, but God does. We read in Psalm 139:15-16,
15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, 16 your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. (Psalm 139:15-16 NIV)
God knows when we will draw our last breath, but we don’t have a clue. What we do know is that we are alive today and we must seek to live this day to His glory, we must determine today to live a life worthy of the calling we have received from the Lord.
There is another aspect of this word that we are looking at that will help to determine how we live…if we take it seriously. We are not just marking time or passing time; we are utilizing and seizing the opportunities the Lord brings our way during this time. Paul wrote to the Galatians,
9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. (Galatians 6:9-10 NIV)
Look around your life just for a moment and you can see “windows of opportunity.” You may be wondering, “What in the world is Mike talking about?” I’m talking about those opportunities that the Lord brings our way which He desires for us to recognize while we still have time. It may be an opportunity to share an invaluable lesson with a friend or your child. A lesson which is timely and fitting for what they are experiencing right now. Not later, but right now. It may be an opportunity to come alongside of a friend or someone you know who is going through a terrible trial. I’m sure Job had lots of friends, but only three of them stopped what they were doing and went to sit with him. Or it could be an opportunity to hear God calling you to Himself; an opportunity to receive salvation or to get your life back on track this very morning. If you hear God calling, you would be a fool to turn away as if you didn’t hear a thing. The writer of Hebrews said,
15 …”Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.” (Hebrews 3:15 NIV)
“I still have time. I will get right with the Lord later.” These are some of the most common statements made when someone is given the opportunity to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior, and yet they are convinced that all Jesus will do is rob them of a good time. God is patient my friend, but there are two factors at work that make it crucial for you to not test His patience. First of all, you don’t know if you will be around later to get right with God. Remember, there are limits set to each of our lives and you only know the day you were born—you have no idea of the time of your death. Secondly, the window of opportunity for salvation is open right now, but that doesn’t mean that it will forever be open.
There is a startling story found in Genesis that should cause us to seize the moment while the opportunity is before us. I’m sure most of you know the story of Noah and the ark. God was going to bring judgment upon the earth so He instructed Noah to build an ark. It took years to build that ark. I’m sure there were people who asked Noah, “What’s up with the ark?” And I’m sure Noah told them. As I said earlier, God is a patient God, He is a gracious and forgiving God, but the door to the ark didn’t remain open forever. The time of God’s judgment came and we read in Genesis 7:16 that after all of the animals and Noah and his family entered the ark, “Then the LORD shut him in.” (Genesis 7:16 NIV) When the door closed the opportunity was no more. My friend, the windows of opportunity will close, some of them have already closed for you and for me, but it is important that we recognize the time of opportunity from the Lord this very morning and act.
What will you do with the time you have remaining? What will you do with the opportunity the Lord has brought your way this morning? How will you recognize the opportunities He has planned for you in the coming week? If you are a follower of Jesus then I hope you will take this lesson and apply it to your life. Yield yourself to the will of the Father, yield yourself to being consumed, filled, with His Spirit and His Word so that you might recognize the opportunities He brings your way. If you are not a follower of Jesus then the only opportunity you need to think about this morning is the opportunity you are being given to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior of your life. He is standing at the door of your heart and knocking. Will you recognize the One who loves you so much that He has come to you time and time again? Will you answer His call this very morning?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
September 16, 2012