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Faith Bible Church, NY
November 17, 1996
Walking in Wisdom
Turn with me this morning to Ephesians 5:15 where we come to the sixth section in this book that deals with the practical ramifications of what God has done for us in Jesus Christ. Remember back in the first three chapters Paul has explained that it was God that chose us before the foundation of the world; He redeemed us to Himself through the bloody sacrifice of Christ and gave us the Holy Spirit. He did this all while we were dead in our trespasses and sin. He made us alive with Christ and adopted us as His children, placing us in the body of Christ. The result is that there are reasonable consequences in how we are to live. Paul has marked these out with the term, “therefore.” Eph. 5:15 brings out the seventh of these “therefore” marking the ramifications of being saved and their practical effect on daily life. 15 Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise.
The change that occurs when a person is saved is radical. It is from death to life (2:5), from a futile mind to a renewed mind (4:17-23), from the old sinful man to new righteous man (4:22-24), from selfishness to selflessness, from self-centered to other-centered (5:25-32), from being a son of disobedience to a son of God (5:1-6), from being darkness to light in the Lord (5:7-14) and in our passage this morning, from being unwise to wise.
Under this general heading of wisdom Paul will deal with a host of more specific issues like true spirituality (5:18-21), the roles of the husband and wife (5:22-33), the behavior of children and the duties of parents (6:1-4) and work ethics for both the employer and the employee (6:5-9). This morning we will deal with the general characteristics of wisdom vs. foolishness and especially as that relates to setting priorities and making wise use of the time that God has given you.
Before we can understand what God has done we need to understand what wisdom is. In our society our tendency is to equate wisdom with education and a person’s ability to accumulate knowledge by racking up degrees. While both of those factors can be helpful to being wise, I can say without hesitation that some of the greatest fools that have every lived and the greatest fools that are currently alive are highly educated, have great intellect and knowledge of vast amounts of information. They are simply intelligent, schooled fools. Moliere said, “A learned fool is more foolish than an ignorant fool.” 2 Tim. 3:7 warns us about those who are “always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
FOOLISHNESS: is not living according to the reality of the truth. Some people are only a little foolish, some are very foolish. When a person drifts far enough away from reality we say they are crazy or loony. The fool is someone who has been presented the truth but rejects it for a lie. Such a person may get along well in our society, and in fact might be held in high regard, but God says they are actually fools.
Foolishness is defined in scripture in relationship to a person’s recognition of God. He is the ultimate reality, the final truth. Ps 14:1 & 53:1 both say, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘there is no God’.” The avowed atheist is the ultimate fool because he claims to not believe in God and then spends his life arguing against His existence. I like what Warren Wiersbe said, “Nothing is so safe as an abstract idea that shelters me from reality, but nothing is so dangerous.” Most foolish people do not make such a bold statement but rather they live in a manner that basically ignores the reality of God and what He has revealed to mankind in both the creation and in the Scriptures.
Paul expressed it in Romans 1:21,22 saying, 21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools. All people have a certain amount of the revelation of God, but fools reject it.
Such foolishness is the natural state of mankind. 1 Cor. 2:14 But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.” Remember in an earlier study in this series we pointed out in Eph. 4:17 that apart from Christ mankind walks in the futility of their mind, 18 being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart.” That is why you cannot argue someone into the kingdom of God, it must instead be the work of the Holy Spirit. Until the Spirit of God starts His work of convicting them of sin, righteousness and judgement (John 16), they believe they are doing fine on their own. “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes” Prov. 12:15.
Everyone here was at one time in this state of foolishness, those here who are not trusting Jesus Christ alone as their savior are still in it. Sin is the evidence of foolishness for sin is missing the mark of God’s perfect will. To the degree we sin we demonstrate our lack of understanding of God and lack of desire to live according to His will.
WISDOM: In simple terms, wisdom is the ability to apply knowledge and understanding in the daily affairs of life with prudence (the ability to stay out of trouble). Biblically, wisdom is the ability to apply knowledge and understanding in the daily affairs of life in harmony with God’s revelation. In other words, wisdom takes knowledge and applies it in striving to do God’s will.
Salvation makes radical changes in us, but as we have seen in our study of Ephesians, the changes that God makes in us must be followed up by continuing change, and wisdom is no exception. In the work of regeneration which occurs at salvation God gives your mind a new ability to think and understand. We saw this earlier in Eph. 4:20-23 where Paul says, “you did not learn Christ in this way… be renewed in the spirit of your mind… created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” In 1 Cor. 2:14-16 we find that while the natural man finds spiritual things as foolish and can Not understand them, the person who is saved is given the “mind of Christ.”
With the mind of Christ comes wisdom for in Him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col. 2:3). In 1 Cor. 1:30 we find that by God’s doing the believer is “in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption…”. In the same way that we are partakers of Christ’s righteousness and sanctification we are also partakers of His wisdom because we are in Him. When we fall into sin is it partly because we are living as unwise rather than wisdom God has given to His people.
At the same time, we are also to grow in wisdom in the same way we grow in righteousness and sanctification. In one of the more amazing verses of Scripture we find that even Jesus Himself “kept increasing in wisdom” (Luke 2:52) though the treasure of wisdom is hidden in Him. We are to learn the lessons the Holy Spirit teaches us. He is the One that teaches us all things (1 John 2:27). He is the anointing that God has given to us so that we will know the truth (1 John 2:20-21). We are to continue to “grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord” (2 Pet. 3:18).
Paul’s admonition here in Eph. 5:15 is like the others he has given in this book – live according to the change that God has made in you. Live as one who is wise, not unwise. He calls us to “be careful” or as the word can also be translated, “to look, observe” how we walk, how we live. The idea here is of being alert to be careful and exact in how you live. Watch out for Satan’s traps which would trip you up and cling to doing God’s will.
The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord (Prov. 9:10) and it comes only to the humble (Prov. 11:2). The book of Proverbs gives the clearest descriptions of wisdom and how to gain it, and if you will be wise then you will spend much time there. Wisdom comes from God, (2:6) and yet it must be pursued (4:5). Those who have it are blessed (2:10-21; 3:13-18) while those who neglect it are cursed (2:22).
Paul calls us to be careful to be wise and not unwise because we are still this side of final redemption and must struggle against sin. If we are not careful we will play the part of the fool because it is very easy for us to return to our old habits of foolishness, to forget God’s involvement in our lives and live by our own thoughts and desires. If we do not know God’s will or do not believe Him completely in what He has revealed of Himself, we play the part of a fool.
The source of wisdom is the Bible, because it alone explains the will of God, and wisdom is built of doing God’s will. To the extent that we do not know and do not follow the scriptures we are foolish. Jesus called the two disciples on the road to Emmaus “foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken” (Luke 24:25). Paul admonished the Galatians for being foolish to the point of turning away from the gospel of Christ to the heresies of a group that perverted the gospel (Gal. 3:1,3). Paul warned Timothy about those who would take their eyes off of pursuing Christ and pursue the things of this world. “But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction” 1 Tim. 6:9).
It is a great tragedy when believers live as the unwise and do not believe God in everything, do not obey Him and pursue after the futile things of this world. We really have no excuse to live in such foolishness when God’s wisdom belongs to us. If we genuinely want to know God and truth we can attain that knowledge and the wisdom that accompanies it. God has made available to us all that we need to be “wise in what is good, and innocent (or simple) in what is evil” (Rom. 16:19).
REDEEMING THE TIME
The first and foremost area that will demonstrate our wisdom is the use of the time that God has given to us. Paul says here in our text: 15 Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise 16 making the most of your time, because the days are evil. This idea of making the most of your time or “redeeming the time” as the KJV says is not simply a call for us to be good time managers. It includes that but it is much more than that.
There are two Greek words for time. One is “chronos” from which we get “chronometer” – as in a clock. It refers time as measured in hours, minutes and seconds. If Paul was simply talking about time management he would have used that word. Instead Paul used “kairos”, which designates a measured, allocated or fixed season. It refers to the specific periods of time that are given to you to accomplish particular tasks. For example, discount coupons you use for shopping can only be used until a certain date; sales events only last so long and then the sale is over; if you take a class you only have so long to learn the material before the final exam.
The same term is used in 1 Peter 1:17. Peter repeats the Old Testament command for God’s people to be holy because God is holy, and then he adds this, And if you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each man’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay (upon earth). In other words, God has only given you a certain length of time to dwell on the earth and accomplish whatever it is you are going to accomplish with your life. That is the point of Psalm 90, in which Moses calls on God to “Teach us to number our days, That we may present to Thee a heart of wisdom” (vs. 12). Paul is addressing this idea here in Ephesians.
Ecclesiastes 3 speaks to this issue well – “There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven” – and then he lists them: birth, death; planting, harvesting; mourning, dancing; war, peace; etc. God has given you certain seasons in your life in which you can accomplish certain things. After that season is past, the opportunities are gone. We do not know how long the season will last, but its length is fixed. Scripture speaks of that time being shortened, but never lengthened. A person may die or lose opportunity before the end of God’s time, but there is no reason to expect life or opportunity to continue after the end of God’s predetermined time. “It is appointed unto men once to die, and then the judgement” (Heb 9:27). Wisdom makes the most of the opportunities presented in life.
The Greeks had a good understanding of this Lysippus crafted it into a statue called “Opportunity.” It was the figure of a man that wings on its feet, a long lock of hair on his forehead, but the rest of his head was bald. The inscription explained. Why has thou wings on thy feet? That I may fly away swiftly. Why has thou a great forelock? That men may seize me when I come. Why are thou bald in back? That when I am gone by, none can lay hold of me. The sailors cliche for this is that time and tide wait for no man.
The idea of making the most of your time is not an invitation to busyness, but rather to ordering your life according to God’s priorities. Certainly God does not want to “rust out,” but there is no reward for “burning out” either. We need to follow the example of Jesus who never rushed but kept steadily moving forward. He kept His focus on God’s will and accomplished that rather than getting caught up in the tyranny of the urgent – which is really just the demands other people place upon you. Jesus had compassion on people, but He also knew the weaknesses of the human condition and the body’s need for rest and the mind’s need for some solitude. He would spend time in communion with the Father as well as ministering to the needs of people, but He always kept the balance by keeping His focus on the Father’s will.
Our text says that the days are evil, and if you are not careful, society can suck you into its evil ways. Life in this day and age can be fast paced, and that can quickly burn you out. You can be out and about every day and every evening and hardly scratch the surface of all the things there are to do. You can also fall into the leisure trap and easily squander your life away pursuing entertainment and things of little importance. Perhaps the greatest time waster in our society is television – consider how it can easily consume hours of your day with little return on the time investment, and considering the rubbish that most programs contain now, it may be a negative return. The days are evil, don’t let your life be frittered away. The opportunities you have now for righteousness may not be available in the future.
Time is precious, but it is not a commodity that can be stored or traded. Rather it is the marking of your life passing away. Benjamin Franklin said, “Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that’s the stuff life is made of.” And the seasons of your life pass too quickly.
When as a child I laughed and wept; Time crept
When as a youth, I dreamed and talked; Time walked
When I became a full-grown man; Time ran
And later, as I older grew; Time flew
Soon I shall find while traveling on; Time gone.
God has appointed for us seasons of opportunity in our short lives. The question is whether we make the most of them, and how will we know what is the right way to use our time. That is answered in verse 17.
17 So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
The foolish are self-centered and see their lives as revolving around themselves. In selfishness they use their time to do whatever pleases them for the moment or whatever will help them achieve whatever they define as success – usually one of the definitions society has set – wealth, fame, fortune, happiness, power, prestige, pleasure, etc. All the things Solomon has told us in Ecclesiastes turn out to be vanity and chasing after the wind. The foolish give little if any consideration to God’s eternal perspective and purposes. The result: wasted lives. How tragic that many Christians end up doing the same thing, hence Paul’s warning – So then do not be foolish!
How can you keep everything in balance and know what to do? There’s only one way – wisdom! And wisdom is based on knowing the will of God and following the priorities He has set for your life and His priorities are often opposite of those of the world. Where do we know the will of God? We are back to the beginning of this morning’s sermon. You have to know His Word and become sensitive to the Holy Spirit. How else would you know the following are priorities He has set and commanded? How else will you know how to carry them out in practical terms?
Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness (Mt. 6:33). Love the Lord God with all your heart, soul & mind (Mt. 22). Love your neighbor as yourself (Mt. 22). Husbands, love your wife (Eph. 5). Wives, see to it that you respect your husband (Eph 5). Raise your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord without provoking them to anger or causing them to lose heart (Eph. 6, Col. 4). Serve the Lord with gladness (Ps 100) and offer sacrifices of praise (Heb 13). Use your spiritual gifts with love (1 Cor 12 & 13). Be holy and humble (1 Peter 1:16; 5:6).
Paul calls on all believers to be careful how they walk. We are to be wise, not unwise. The days are evil and we need to be making the most of our time – taking advantage of the opportunities that God gives us while there is time to do so. We are not to be foolish, but are to know what the will of the Lord is. The foundation for all of this is knowing and then living according to the Scriptures, and if you do not, then you will live in foolishness.
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