The Wise Walk In The Dark World
April 09, 2017 | Randy Smith
The Wise Walk In The Dark WorldEphesians 5:15-21
Sunday, April 9, 2017
Pastor Randy Smith
The church from the time of Jesus Christ has always had its opposition. But for the most part, generally agreed upon orthodox biblical theology was the accepted standard among Christians - that is, until the eighteenth century. Some scientists questioned creation. The sexual revolution questioned morality. Humanism questioned personal depravity and the need for a Savior.
Friedrich Schleiermacher (born 1768) was a German theologian and philosopher known for his attempt to reconcile the criticisms of the Enlightenment with traditional Protestant Christianity. Because of his profound effect on Christian thought he is often called the "Father of Modern Liberal Theology" and is considered an early leader in liberal Christianity (adapted from Wikipedia).
The problem was, as it still is today, much of liberalism and Christianity is incompatible. You can't have both!
The story is told that one day as Schleiermacher was sitting alone on a bench in a city park. A policeman thinking that he was a vagrant came over and shook him and asked, "Who are you?" Schleiermacher sadly replied, "I wish I knew."
Friedrich Schleiermacher is an example of what happens when we disregard either all or parts of the Bible. When we go outside of biblical teaching and try to find our identity in the world we are left with confusion, despair and frustration. God has built us for a purpose and we find that purpose filled only in Him and doing things His way.
It's tragic that most people never discover this. It's even more tragic when many so-called Christians never accept it and continue to search for significance in the very things that both anger God and never fully satisfy.
Over the past couple months we have been studying God's commands as they are found in Ephesians, chapters 4 and 5. The commands are primarily not there because of some unwelcomed burden we now have as believers. Be moral! Obey out of duty! Make a checklist of do's and don'ts! The commands are ultimately not there to earn or keep God's love. We already have His love. God gives us these commands as a sign of His love. He gives us these commands so it might go well for us. He gives us these commands that we might express our love back to Him. The commands are a reflection of His character.
So when we refuse to obey Him, it's not that we are neglecting some arbitrary set of rules. Rather we are committing cosmic treason against God's character. And as Schleiermacher apparently never learned we are also betraying our new identity in Christ because Christians have been recreated in the image of Christ. Obedience is now indispensable with our new identity. Obedience gives evidence of our new identity.
Think of obedience and our identity in light of what we have already studied:
- 4:1 - We have a glorious and high calling in Christ. Therefore we are to walk in a manner worthy of it.
- 4:7 - We have been given grace to empower us toward obedience.
- 4:15 - We are to mature in Christlikeness.
- 4:17-19 - We have been given a new mind and new heart to live no longer like an unbeliever.
- 4:22-24 - We have had God take away the old corrupted self and give us a new self, created in His likeness.
- 4:25-32 - We have the model of Christ and the Gospel message to follow.
- 5:1 - We have God as our spiritual Father and therefore it is only natural that we imitate Him as His children.
- 5:2 - We have God's love to us demonstrated through the suffering and sacrifice of Christ.
- 5:3 - We have been declared "saints," "holy ones" so it is only expected we will now live according to our new nature.
- 5:5-7 - God's wrath comes upon those who live in sin. So why would we want to follow the very behavior that angers God?
- And (as we learned last week) 5:8-14 - We were once darkness, but now we are in the light.
In today's passage, Paul will both summarize and inform us how to live out our identity in Christ by providing three contrasts. That is our main point. And those three contrasts will be the three subpoints of our sermon.
1. Walk With Wisdom (verses 15-16)
Let's begin with "Walk with Wisdom." Look with me at verse 15. "Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise."
The "therefore" obviously connects back to everything that Paul just said. Therefore, as a result of your new identity in Christ be careful how you live your life. Live your life not as an unwise pagan, but as a wise child of God that has been given the Holy Spirit and the Word of God as your guide.
What we are reminded of here is that every day throughout the day we are forced with decisions to make. They are loaded with spiritual ramifications.
- What will you say to that person who strikes up a conversation at the checkout line?
- What will you watch television?
- Will you even own a television?
- How will you respond to your disobedient child?
- Will you read your Bible?
- Should you attend Prayer Meeting?
- Should you make that purchase?
- How will you respond to that gossip you just received?
- How can you encourage that fainthearted sister in the Lord?
- What advice will you share with your son?
- Where will you let your mind dwell?
- How will you respond to a trial?
- And the list continuesÉ
Do you see all of life from this perspective? Your Christian identity does not get turned on and off based upon the setting you find yourself. The best example I can think of is the reverent man at the church wedding, bowing in prayer, singing the hymns, receiving communion with all seriousness and then overconsuming at the bar, telling dirty jokes and hitting on every girl at the reception. Or if I can put it in a way that might hit home to all of you - acting one way before others at church and then acting a different way in the privacy of your family when you get home.
Do you see that everything is under the banner of honoring Christ or dishonoring Him, making wise choices or making foolish choices? There is no separation between the sacred and the secular. This is the "wise walk" as verse 15 says. We are always using our mind of Christ. We are always seeking the leading of the Holy Spirit. We are always in a spirit of prayer. We are always following principles of the Bible. We are always trying to set a good Christian example. We are always asking mature believers for counsel. And we are always, as we learned last week "trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord" (Eph. 5:10). Our goal is not to just have biblical knowledge, but the skill to apply biblical knowledge in whatever situation we might find ourselves. That is what it means to be wise. And that's how we are called to live in verse 15.
The Scripture goes on to say in verse 16 that we should "make the most of [our] time because the days are evil." This provides for us such a wonderful picture as to how we should be going through life in wisdom. Identity in Christ. Faced with a myriad of decisions. Making wise not foolish choices. Being aware of the evil that permeates us. Not being influenced by the darkness, but exposing the darkness with light. And realizing that our time here on earth is limited. So as a faithful steward of this resource, we will be found maximizing our time in a life that is well-spend for the glory of Christ.
One of the things that motivate me for Christ is keeping before my attention the fact that I will one day stand before His throne of examination. It is not a throne of judgement. It is a throne of works. When I gave my life to Christ back in 1989, He forgave me entirely of my sins and made me His eternal child. Yet with that great blessing was my promise (after all this is what faith is) that I would no longer live for myself, but for Him. That my life's goal would be to do His will. And for that He will hold me, and you if you are in Christ Jesus, accountable.
So when it is all said and done when Christ will see through the smokescreen and my motives, how will I fare? Think of it this way. He redeemed me with His blood, now it is my responsibility through His grace to redeem the time I have left in this evil world for Him. When it's all said and done and my life as it says in Scripture will be tested with fire what will remain of eternal value after it's gone through the flames of divine examination? My service? My decisions? My behavior? The opportunities He placed before me? Will there be legitimate evidence that my identity was Christ and I was "all-in" for Him? Did I make the most of my time in this evil world as verse 16 teaches?
2. Know God's Will (verse 17)
"So then," verse 17 as we move to the second point, "do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is."
Verse 17 is simply developing the thought from verses 15-16. And in verse 17 you see our second contrast. On the one side the call is to not be a fool. So what is God's definition of a fool? The best place to turn for His definition is the book of Proverbs. A fool is overly talkative (10:14). He speaks negatively of others (10:18). He does not take sin seriously (10:23). He rejects the advice of others (12:15). He takes pleasure in wrong actions (14:16). He refuses his parents instruction (15:5). He repeats his mistakes (26:11). A fool is careless, lacks understanding, despises correction, mocks God and is unable to discern between right and wrong actions. Proverbs 17:21, "He who sires a fool does so to his sorrow, and the father of a fool has no joy."
So don't be foolish, but rather by contrast, verse 17, "Understand what the will of the Lord is." Put another way, don't live like a spiritually mindless unbeliever, but since your identity is now Christ make it your ambition to learn what God desires of you. And the only sure guide to determine God's will is what you read on the pages of Scripture!
In other words, there may be things that you feel are right. But if your feelings contradict Scripture, your feelings need to take a backseat or better, be readjusted to what the Bible teaches. There may be people that tell you how you need to live your life (I call them "controllers'). But if their expectations are outside of Scripture, don't feel the necessity to adopt their personal convictions. And there may be spiritually gray areas in your life that you do not have an opinion. Regardless of what other people are doing, read your Bible and develop a conviction so that you and your family might be guided appropriately.
Don't' be, Ephesians 4:14, that spiritual baby "tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming," but rather live according to the will of the Lord! Don't be a fool! Walk wisely as you redeem the time, living in His light in your desire to reflect His light to others.
3. Be Filled By The Spirit (verse 18-21)
And our third contrast is, verse 18, to "not be drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit."
So, first point, do not be unwise, but be wise. Second, do not be a fool, but know God's will. And third, the contrast is again clear, do not be filled with wine, but rather be filled with the Holy Spirit.
Clearly drunkenness is forbidden in the Bible, but Paul seems to bring it up out of nowhere. So I believe what Paul is doing here is using the sin of drunkenness as an example to represent anything that has control over us, anything that holds us under its influence.
As God's children we are not to be under the power of alcohol or anything that can rule our mind and affections. As God's children we are to be under the power of God. King Jesus is to rule in our hearts as we submit to His lordship and (as we just said) seek to learn and do His will. Instead of being filled with alcohol, we are to be filled in contrast, verse 18, with the Holy Spirit. Now, what does that mean?
We could spend a whole sermon answering that question, but I think Wayne Grudem's definition is helpful. "Being filled with the Spirit means to be filled with the immediate presence of God to the extent that you are feeling what God Himself feels, desiring what God desires, doing what God wants, speaking by God's power, praying and ministering in God's strength, and knowing with the knowledge that God Himself gives" (Sermon delivered at Bethlehem Baptist in MN).
What more can I add? Being filled with the Holy Spirit is not adding what I do not have as a Christian, but rather allowing what I have in Him to be fully in control in my life. The Holy Spirit is not given out in partial measure. Either He is being allowed to control my thoughts and actions or He is not. It is not getting more of God, but rather allowing God to get more of me. And He is not filling me when I am given over to pride or presently unrepentant of the sins God hates. But He is filling me when I yield to Christ's authority and allow Him to dominate my thoughts and actions. So for the Christian, it is a command that I be filled continually with the Holy Spirit, but the goal is not that I might gain His influence, but that His influence as He always dwells within me might gain me.
So if I am filled with alcohol or self or sin I will not be filled with the Holy Spirit. Maybe the best translation of verse 18 is to "be continually filled with (by? - cf. Eph. 1:23; 3:19; 4:13) the Holy Spirit."
Samuel Chadwick said, "Spirit filled souls are ablaze for God. They love with a love that glows. They serve with a faith that kindles. They serve with a devotion that consumes. They hate sin with fierceness that burns. They rejoice with a joy that radiates. Love is perfected in the fire of God."
I can tell when I am filled with the Spirit. Not when I demonstrate spiritual gifts, as many Pentecostal friends will tell us, but rather when I demonstrate spiritual fruit. And that is where Paul goes with the remaining verses of this section. Using five participles, he tells us how we can know we are being filled with the Spirit. Let's take a brief look at them.
The first, second and third way (speaking, singing and making melody) are mentioned in verse 19. "Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord."
A lot of ink has been spilled on this verse. I can spend much time on the details that many of you will forget the moment you leave the church! So let me boil it down to what I believe is the heart of this verse.
When we are filled with the Holy Spirit, the joy of the Lord will fill our hearts. So when we speak to others, Christ will naturally flow out of us. When we sing in church, the passion of worshipping Christ will be spontaneous. When we speak to unbelievers, our instinctive desire will be to lead them to the Lord. And when we are just alone by ourselves, Christ will be at the center of our affections and our entire being will express the glory of our Savior - "making melody with your heart to the Lord."
Being filled with the Holy Spirit will always direct our hearts to make a big deal about Christ. So whether it be speaking, singing or making melody in our own hearts, when Jesus Christ is first and foremost, we are filled with the Spirit.
Fourth, when we are filled with the Holy Spirit we will be grateful people. Verse 20, "Always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father."
When we are filled with the Spirit we are able to see the sovereign hand of a loving God in all things. We will show gratitude for His daily blessings that sustain us and gratitude for the people in our lives that love us and gratitude for our heath and employment and gratitude for all the simple things in life that we often taken for granted. We will even show gratitude for our trials, knowing that God is using them for our greatest good. And most importantly, we will express daily gratitude for our wonderful salvation in Christ. The mere fact that we are delivered from hell should be enough to keep us eternally grateful. As the verse says, "giving thanks for all things." On the contrary, bitter hearts, sour spirits, jealousy, unbelief, unrighteous anger and complaining give evidence we are not being filled with the Spirit.
And last, the fifth evidence we are filled by the Holy Spirit is found in verse 21. "And be subject to one another in the fear of Christ."
What this is not saying is "mutual submission." Sure, we are to consider one another more important than ourselves, but that is not what this verse is teaching. What we must also understand is that God has established levels of authority in our lives. All of those authorities, whether they are in society or the home or the workforce or the church, are all under the lordship of Jesus Christ. Being filled with the Holy Spirit is honoring Christ (the verse literally says "in the fear of Christ") by recognizing those spheres of authority over us and submitting to them. And when we submit to them, we are ultimately submitting to Christ who is King over all.
And in keeping with the context, this is where Paul will go next in this letter and what we will cover when we return to Ephesians.
So my Christian friend, do you realize your identity in Christ? And if so, are you living not as an unwise person, but as wise individual? Are you living not as a fool, but a person knowledgeable of God's will? And are you living not controlled by your sin, but controlled by the Holy Spirit giving evidence through the joy of Christ in your heart, the ongoing attitude of gratitude and the submissiveness to God's ordained authorities in your life?