Sermon on Ephesians 5:15-20
Text: 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 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Once again, schools are open. Students from preschool to college have begun or continued their pursuit of an education. These are important years as these students learn the things that they need to know to get along in life. It has become common these days for adults to go back to school. Many professions require continuing education so that they can keep their skills sharp and learn new ways to do things. Becoming wise is something that is strived for. However, do you ever think about all of the things that you learned in school that you don’t use in your current profession? When was the last time you needed to know the difference between the subject and predicate of a sentence? Have you recently been reading and thought to yourself, “I wonder if that is a direct or an indirect object’? Is the Pythagorean theorem something that you use very often? As important as these concepts were at the time, generally speaking, we don’t find much use for them in our everyday lives. This morning, we are going to talk about becoming wise. This wisdom is far different from the wisdom that we have been discussing. This wisdom comes from God. This morning, we are encouraged to BE TRULY WISE. 1. Understand What The Lord’s Will Is. 2. Make The Most Of Every Opportunity.
Throughout our text the apostle Paul contrasts wisdom and foolishness. Mankind likes to think that it is so wise. They use their reason to figure out the origins of the universe. They use their reason to decide what is right and what is wrong. They, also, use their reason to figure out how to quiet their guilty consciences and try to get right with God, if indeed there is one. Yet, all of these so-called wise people are actually foolish. They refuse to be made wise according to God.
True wisdom comes from God. Paul writes in verse 17, “do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” If we want to be wise, we will know what God’s will is. We are going to look at the Lord’s wisdom from two different viewpoints. First of all, we are going to look at what God’s will is for us. Then, we will look at God’s will from us.
What is God’s will for us? This is clearly stated in 1 Timothy 2:3-4, “God our Savior . . . wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” God’s will for us is that we are saved and spend our eternity with him in heaven. This is what God wants for us. However, that would have been impossible. The fault didn’t lie with God. God wants all people to be in heaven with him. The fault lies with mankind. The fault lies with us. The only way for entrance into heaven is to be perfect. There can never be even one sin. We can never have one unkind thought about someone else. We can never have even one little lie pass through our lips. God wants all people to be in heaven with him. Mankind cannot produce the type of perfection that God requires for entrance into heaven. Because there is this lack of perfection, God, in his justice, closes the gates to heaven. The foolish are left outside of heaven in the torments of hell for all eternity.
God’s will is still that we spend our eternity with him. So, he did something about it. He sent his Son into the world to rescue mankind. Jesus came to do for us what we could not do for ourselves. He knew what his Father’s will was for his life. He lived a perfect life. He fulfilled his Father’s requirements and he gave his perfection to us. To pay the debt of sin that we owed, he went to the cross and took our place as he felt the full force of God’s anger against sin. He suffered the torments of hell in our place. His payment for our sins was complete, as was announced by his resurrection from the dead. Jesus willed, wanted you and me to be in heaven with him so much that he was willing to endure all of this for us. He shared his will with us, when we were brought to faith. The Holy Spirit makes us wise in that we see exactly what God’s will was for us. God wanted us to be in heaven with him and he made sure that this would be the case. This is the first part of understanding what the Lord’s will is. It was his will for us.
Since we have been made wise, since we have been saved, now we want to understand what the Lord’s will is for us. God’s will for us is that we live lives that honor him. Out of thanksgiving for all that he has done for us, we want to not only understand what the Lord’s will is for us, but also carry it out. Part of this will is shown to us in verse 18, “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.” Paul, first of all, says, “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery.” There are many things that the world points to as what you should spend your time at. You should pursue this for happiness or that for gain. Yet, there is good reason for Paul to point out drunkenness. When a person is drunk, the alcohol takes control of him. People end up doing things or saying things that they never would have otherwise. If that continues, it leads to many other problems as relationships are shattered and health is compromised. People are looking for something to ease their pain or to just feel good. This is one solution that the world has come up with.
Unfortunately, this “high” only lasts for so long. Paul says, instead of trying to get your high from this, there is something better. He says, “Be filled with the Spirit.” He is the one who will give joy in the midst of suffering and sorrow. He heals wounds and gives peace. He gives a spiritual high that has no regrets and lasts forever. As we grow in our faith, the Holy Spirit gives us a calm in the face of a troubled conscience. He shows us the way to true happiness. It does not come from serving yourself. It comes from serving God.
There are several ways that Paul mentions in which the Spirit-filled life will show itself. He talks about “speaking to one another.” Here we might think of someone who needs our help. They need some encouragement as they are going through life’s struggles. They need the assurance of forgiveness after they have committed a sin. We might also think about someone who does not yet know that Jesus is their Savior. They are wandering around in the foolishness of their hearts, hoping that there is nothing beyond the grave. As we are filled with the Spirit, we are filled with the joy of knowing what God has done for us and we cannot help but share the good news with others.
Another part of God’s will for us, as we are filled with the Spirit, is that we “[speak] to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord.” Music is a wonderful way that God has given us to praise him. We might automatically think of our worship at church. There we gather with other Christians to raise our voices in praise to God for all that he has done for us. However, it is not limited to that one time a week. A song of praise to God can always be on our lips as we think of all that God has done for us. It can come in the form of a favorite hymn or might even be a song that we make up. We praise our God.
Another part of God’s will for us is that we “always [give] thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” It really doesn’t take too much thinking to come up with the many ways that God has blessed us. He has given us so many wonderful things, starting with our salvation and going on to the physical blessings that we enjoy. We note the word “always.” We don’t just give thanks to God on Thanksgiving and forget about him the rest of the year. We have reason to thank God every single day for all that he has given to us. We, also, take note of the words “for everything.” It is so easy to be thankful when things are going well. It is much more of a challenge for us to be thankful when things are not going just the way that we would like them to go. There are the car accidents or job losses or health concerns. The list could go on and on about those things, as well. Yet, we can continue to be thankful, because we know that God is still in control and we have the promise that everything is ultimately going to be for our benefit. Maybe, we will see the benefit in time. Maybe, we will not see the benefit until we get to heaven. Yet, we know that we have a God who loves us and has promised all good to us. For that reason we can continue to give thanks for everything. This, too, is part of God’s will is for us. This is all a part of understanding what the will of the Lord is.
Imagine, if you will, a person who has gone through years and years of schooling. He has continued on and has earned a doctorate in a field. Now, can you imagine that person going to work flipping burgers at McDonald’s for the rest of his life? We might say of that person, “What a waste of his education!” He isn’t using what he learned. Paul encourages us to put into use what we have learned through the working of the Holy Spirit.
We read in verses 15&16, “Be very careful, then, how you live — not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” It doesn’t take a top-notch detective to find evidence that “days are evil.” All you have to do is peruse the news. There you find violence toward other people. You find apathy as people do not care about those with needs. You find lust and greed all over the place. You also see the facts that the days are evil in many churches. You find them promoting homosexuality and abortion and other evils while avoiding any worthwhile Bible teaching. The days are evil and it is so easy for us to be influenced by them.
That is why Paul tells us, “Be very careful, then, how you live — not as unwise but as wise.” God’s gift of salvation can be lost, foolishly tossed aside and discarded. This happens when we are tempted to abandon the wisdom of God for the foolishness of the world. Being wise means that we discern between what is valuable and what is not. It also means that we recognize the dangers we face as Christians living in this hostile environment. It may not look hostile to the human eye. It may look like it offers freedom and joy. Yet, we recognize that the devil continues to tempt us to throw away the wisdom that we get from God and replace it with the foolishness of the world. Indeed, as the hymn writer put it so well, “We walk in danger all the way.” Therefore, we step carefully, mindful of Satan’s mine fields and protective of the precious gift of salvation cradled in our arms. Jesus encourages us to “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”
Instead, we are encouraged to “[make] the most of every opportunity.” This word has the idea of going to a store and looking carefully at what we are buying. We look for a sale. We take advantage of the lowest price. We don’t just go and buy the first thing that we see. We examine everything carefully. This is what we are encouraged to do with everything that we come into contact with during our life here on the earth. We examine it carefully in the light of God’s Word. We look at what God’s will is and act accordingly. If it is something that is against our Father’s will, we discard it. We want nothing to do with it. If it is something that pleases God, we take it and we do it to the best of our ability. When we choose poorly, we come to him in repentance and, being assured that our sins are forgiven, we ask that he would continue to guide us so that we might choose what is pleasing to him. We make the most of every opportunity that God gives to us to praise him for all that he has done for us.
There are some people who are great at trivia. They know more things than you can imagine. Truth be told, a lot of the trivia that people know really isn’t all that important. Does it really make a difference who won the first Super Bowl or who was the first person to sign the Declaration of Independence? This morning, we are encouraged to be truly wise. As we begin our fall schedule, there are many opportunities that God gives us to increase our wisdom. We will soon begin our Bible classes and Sunday School. We also have the privilege of growing in our knowledge of God as we listen to him when we read his Word for ourselves. Much of what we learn in school is interesting, but ends up having very little bearing on our lives. We thank God that he has made us truly wise, because we know him and what he has done for us. We thank him that he gives us opportunities to put that wisdom into practice. We also thank him for all of the ways that he continues to teach us. Because of all of this, though the world may not always think so, we are truly wise. Amen.
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