Wisdom

Scriptures: 1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14; Ephesians 5:15-20

Looking at the passage in Ephesians today, I have to note (though you wouldn’t have known this if I didn’t tell you) that this is one of these cases where the translators and editors of the translation that you have in your pew Bible made decisions for you about the way things should be phrased, about the way. The Greek words should be translated. So if at times my words differ from that, it’s because of the difference in those translations.

It was noted by the liturgist Paul was exhorting his people to be wise, versus unwise, in the way they live. It’s a continuation, really, of something that he is already going on about and sharing with them. Where he says “Be careful then,” tt points us back to what Paul has asserted just prior to this.

He made a point of reminding them that they were once darkness and now they are light, that there’s been this complete change in their nature. It’s a reminder of the fact that they are to continually live differently because they are different. And he tells them to look closely and carefully at themselves and what they do.

We are different from the world. In Bible study on Wednesday (it always amazes me how these things tie together, because you know I picked the Scriptures a couple of months ago, so I had no idea where we were going to be by this time in the Bible study), we talked about the relationship between culture and the Church, or the people of the church.

Reinhold Niebuhr talks about several different possible relationships between Church and culture. In one, the church is the culture. There is no difference between the two, and the church is dominant over the culture. That happened for quite a while, particularly during the Roman Empire. The whole idea of being able to set up “Christendom” came because the assumption was that the basic culture was Christian.

The second kind of relationship between culture and the Church, or its members, is one where the culture and the church are the same but it’s the culture that dominates. The church conforms itself and re-forms itself to fit whatever the culture says. This is, unfortunately, I believe, what we have done far too much today, and we’re going to talk about that in terms of living wisely.

Because that means we’re getting our cues, not from God, not from the Scriptures, but from the culture. And as we know, by nature, all human beings, including us, without the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, are depraved. We’re totally self-centered.

It’s all subjective. You want things to be the way you want them to be. We even joke about it when we say, “You know, if a world would only be run the way say, then things would be so much smoother.” But smoother for who?

Another relationship between the Church and the culture is where the church creates its own enclave. That is, it pulls itself back from the culture, and builds a wall around itself, and says, “We’re here. The rest of you get to go to hell in a handbasket.” And a lot of times the church seems to be doing that as well, particularly in some denominations.

And yet, we’re to be in the world and not of the world. Nothing in this passage, no matter how you read it translation-wise, speaks of pulling away and not being a part of the world that you live in, not engaging it.

The fourth one is what’s called “opposition.” In that one, the church and the culture are complete opposites. They kind of war with each other, as each one tries to assert dominance over the other. It’s countercultural – anything culture does, we’re going to do the opposite. Even, sometimes, perhaps, if the culture happens to get it right. Because in this view, the culture can’t ever be right.

The last kind, and the kind that I believe that we are to be in, was promoted by Niebuhr, and I believe is pointed to here in this passage by Paul, is what’s called “apposition” (versus “opposition”). In that kind of relationship, church and culture exist side by side.

We are in the world, but not of the world. We engage the world, but we are not affected by the world in terms of our beliefs, our traits, our ethics, the way we live our lives, the choices that we make.

What we do is we set ourselves up as an example. At those points where culture touches with us, great! Those points where culture doesn’t touch with us? Well, we provide an alternative. Not so actively fighting, but pointing the way to a better way, the way of Jesus Christ.

The world will often call this foolishness. Because the wisdom of the world is not the wisdom of God. And the perspective that we have is not the perspective of the world. I know I’ve spoken of that many times.

“Be careful then how you live, not as unwise but wise, making the most of every opportunity because the days are evil.” Let me tell you that in other translations, it says “redeeming (or reclaiming) the time because the days are evil.”

Why is that important? The word for time that is used here is kairos. There are two kinds of time in Greek. There is chronos, which is the kind that’s on your clock. [Looks at cell phone] It’s now 11:07 a.m. It’s a linear thing, horizontal.

There there is kairos, which is what we like to call, in the church, vertical time. That is, it deals with your relationship with God. It deals with the season of your life. It deals, not with specific minute-by-minute activities, but more in terms of effective, impactful living.

How is your relationship with God? When you spend time in devotions, it’s not supposed to be chronos.

It’s supposed to be kairos. When you’re here for worship, it’s not supposed to be chronos. “Let’s see how far into the hour we are – we’ve got only one hour.” No, it’s supposed to be kairos. We experience kairos in the presence of God. We’re concerned about being with God, not marking something off our checklist for Sunday morning.

We redeem the season, the kairos, because the days are evil. The actual Greek word says “buying out.” That’s why it’s translated as “redeemed.” We’re supposed to make the most of our chances and opportunities for relationship. Because the times, it says, are evil.

We’re supposed to make the most of the time that we have here, regardless of the chronos, because the times are evil. This is not talking about time management. This is something I struggled with all week, because no matter how hard preachers and commentators talk about that, they always seem to go into time management. And part of that, I have to admit, is because I’m terrible at time management. So maybe God was giving me a message – a personal one.

But I don’t think, in terms of what the Greek says, what Paul says here, that that’s what it was talking about. It’s talking about the time that you spend with people, the time that you spend with God, the time that you spend with your calling in your life, needs to be effective.

So you want to do what is wise, and not what is unwise. “Do not be foolish,” it says, “but understand what the Lord’s will is.” Those two go together. How can you take advantage of every opportunity, or make the most of it, unless you understand what the Lord’s will is?

We need to be in communication with God We need to be in relationship with God. We need to be in constant touch with God. That is part of what he gets into later on. I’m not going to speak now about “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord.” I know I’ve preached on that in the past.

I will note, in passing, that the word that they translated as “in” can also be “with,” and I heard a kind of a funny comment from a preacher just a couple of days ago. Looking at this passage, he said the difference between “sing and make music in your heart to the Lord” or “sing and make music with your heart to the Lord” is: How good is your voice?

You sing with your heart if you can sing well. If you can’t sing well, you sing in your heart. Some people say “I sing solos all the time: so low you can’t hear me.” Personally I’m of the opinion that you make a joyful noise. So “in” or “with” – it doesn’t matter. You sing to the Lord.

And you speak to each other with that kind of joy, with that kind of perception, with that kind of understanding, that hymns and psalms and spiritual songs give us. We’re not speaking out of our own need, our own thoughts, our own manipulation. We’re speaking with the power of the Holy Spirit, out of our relationship with God.

And we don’t want to be foolish but understand what the Lord’s will is. There are only two ways to understand what the Lord’s will is. Well, I suppose there are other ways, but God doesn’t seem to speak out loud to people very much anymore. And frankly, if He did, at least to me, I would be scared out of my pants and I would be wondering what kind of meds I accidentally took.

God speaks to us, and we learn what the Lord’s will is, through prayer, as it moves our heart, and through – as I mentioned last week – the Word of God, the bread of life, every day. That’s how we learn what the Lord’s will is.

For decisions that we make, major decisions in our life, and even minor decisions, we need to know the Lord’s will. And this doesn’t mean that you get down on your knees and you have a formal prayer to God before you make every decision.

“What am I going to have for lunch today?” I don’t think God’s going to tell you that. Maybe He will, but I don’t think so. But what the Spirit may point you toward is the reminder to try to have a balanced meal, or a healthy meal. Which with our nature, at least for me, that’s a big struggle. I’d much rather have macaroni and cheese than broccoli and carrots.

We are to understand what the Lord’s will is in the decisions that we make. Where do we go? How do we prioritize our time? Again, this is not time management. This is what’s important to you.

It’s so wonderful to see you in church. I take that to mean that God is a priority for you. It’s a beautiful day out. You could be out on the river. You could be at the fair. People are getting in their last little bits of funnel cake and fried butter and all those other kind of things, concerts and stuff.

There are so many different things you can do, but God is a priority to you. And that is a good thing. That is a wise thing. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, understanding the importance of strengthening your relationship with Christ, through the Word and worship, is redeeming your time, even in these evil days.

That carries over into the rest of our lives as well, outside the church and worship. We are to redeem our relationships, the relational time we spend with each other. I like to tell people that the first priority should be God – your personal relationship with God, then your family, and then your church.

Though in order to have your relationship with God as most important, you have to spend some time in the church. You know what the key is? Bring your family too. Then you get all three at once.

You want to make those times worthwhile. Worthwhile not just in pleasure for you, but worthwhile in terms of sharing the love of God with people. I’m not talking about witnessing to every person you meet. I’m not talking about sharing the gospel with every person you meet.

(I had one pastor who said that his goal was to share the gospel with somebody who hadn’t heard it, at least once every single week, outside of preaching on Sunday morning. He was a Presbyterian.)

What we can do is share the love of God in Christ Jesus, and make them aware that there is something different, that they can go to, look to, lean on. Hopefully it will inspire them to ask, how do you get there? What is it that makes it different? And then we do have the opportunity to witness and share the gospel of good news.

A life of wisdom pays attention to how they are living. A life of wisdom pays attention to their use of time. Paul provides the what and the why in this verse. Wise living uses utilizes time effectively for God.

Jesus himself said, “The fields are white for harvest, but the laborers are few.” Paul considered the sufferings of this present time to not be worthy compared to eternity. We live with a perspective that looks at our life from God’s view.

We live a life that witnesses to the fact there’s something more important than the clock. We live a life that witnesses to the importance of relational time and relationship and sharing.

Now we do have to schedule time. As I said, there are priorities. We have to be intentional. We can’t let life dictate what we do. So many of us live reactively rather than proactively. And I’m as guilty of it as any. There are times when life overtakes you and you can’t help it. You have to just respond. Absolutely.

But as much as possible, by being in the Word, by knowing what God’s will is, we want to be intentional in how we live. When an opportunity presents itself, you take it. Shine the light in a dark place. It’s necessary.

It’s necessary because we live in a dark time. The days are evil. I know Paul wrote this nearly two thousand years ago, and I’m sure things were dark in his time. And probably every generation says “this is the worst time ever,” but I have to say, it really feels a lot like the days are truly evil in these times.

We need to live our lives as lights, intentionally. We need to take those opportunities to show what God has. Seize every opportune moment to deepen your relationship with God. Seize every opportune moment to share Jesus with the lost, by loving them.

And then, if you have the opportunity to actually speak the gospel, to defend the good news, the hope which you have, as Peter said. Seize every opportune moment to do good for others, to serve others, so they can see the difference.

We’ve all been gifted with the same amount of time each and every day. None of us knows how many days we actually have. And there have been a lot of movies that consider how differently would you live if you knew you only had X amount of time to live. Six Weeks is one of the movies that’s older that explored that.

We want to most likely try to make every opportunity count. There’s a song out there called “Live like you were dying,” a country music song. That’s the kind of attitude that I think is being brought out here. Fearless.

Be fearless in your living. Not doing crazy things – I mean, you can if you enjoy it. Yesterday somebody was talking about jumping out of an airplane, and he said, “Why would somebody jump out of an airplane?” He was talking about adrenaline rush. And I leaned over and said to Pauline, “Because they’re morons.” But live fearlessly. And live well.

God instructs us to take a close look at how we’re living, both in relationship to Him and to each other. We waste so much time on things that have no eternal value.

So if I were to challenge you with anything today, in terms of living wisely, wisdom being knowledge applied, I would challenge you to take your experience – you all have a lot of experience – but to take that, and examine it, by the light of God’s Word, God’s will, and eternity. For as much experience as you have, it pales in comparison to eternity.

And then take that opportunity to redeem your time. Do something different this week, something that will point people to God. Something that will probably take you outside your comfort zone. You know, I always push you guys about doing that, and that’s because that’s the only way we grow. Just do it wisely, that God may get glory and honor, through all that you do.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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