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I invite you to open your folders or your Bibles to our second lesson for today, Ephesians 5, as we consider what God has to say to us in these verses.
School has started. If you were or are a teacher you have probably said it, and as a student you probably heard it, “make good use of your time.” Most of us know from experience that if we goof off, or day dream; if we don’t make good use of our time; we will pay for it later. Instead of little or no homework and being able to enjoy some free time, we have lots of homework. Instead of being able to leave work on time, we have to stay late, or come early to finish the things that could have been done while we were wasting time.
Having a lot of homework we didn’t have to have, or having to stay late or go in early for work when we wouldn’t have had to, isn’t a huge deal. But failing to make the best use of our time when it comes to spiritual things could be a big deal. It could affect where we spend eternity.
Make good use of your time because the days are evil. They aren’t getting any better and they won’t. Jesus said that this should remind us that this world isn’t going to last forever. Each day we are one day closer to the end, to the day when Jesus will come again in glory, and everyone will be called to stand before him in the judgment. Make good use of your time making sure that you are ready to meet the Lord, either at your death or at his second coming whichever comes first. And, you are ready, not because you are always doing the right thing, no one is always doing the right thing, but because you are trusting that, in Jesus, your sins are forgiven.
Make good use of your time because the days are evil. There are a lot of temptations out there. There are a lot of ways that we can use our time for things that are displeasing to God. So Paul suggests that one of the best ways that we can use our time is to understand what the will of he Lord is. That means using some of our time everyday listening to, reading and studying the word of God. It is in the word that he has reveled his will to us. He hasn’t promised that we will understand what his will is by trusting our feelings or taking a survey of our friends’ opinions. The only place we can learn what the will of the Lord is, is in the Bible. So, if you want to be wise, not unwise or foolish, study the word daily. The Psalmist says meditate on it day and night, and you will learn what the will of the Lord is.
Consider the alternative. If you don’t know your Scripture well you will be easily deceived by the arguments of the evil world around you. When your faith is challenged you won’t know what to say and may be convinced to give up your faith. When people make it sound so loving to accept alternative life styles, saying, or implying, that if you don’t you are hateful and unloving you might be swayed by their argument. Who wants to be unloving? Aren’t Christians supposed to be loving? If you don’t know the Scriptures well you might not be able to point out that encouraging someone to live contrary to the will of the Lord is the most unloving thing you can do. Ignoring God and his word could cost you a place in heaven. When a very smart professor says that anyone who accepts creation is foolish, if you don’t understand the Lord’s will you might be swayed by his arguments. Who wants to be considered foolish by those who seem to be so smart? If you don’t know the Scriptures you might not be able to respond that the real fool is the one who says there is no God. And it is only by faith that we understand that God is the creator of all things. By studying the word we understand that it’s foolish to trust in what man says, in scientific theories that change day to day and year to year, when we can trust in the word of the one who is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
God’s ultimate will is that all be saved through faith in Jesus. He calls those who do have faith in him to consider carefully how they live and to turn away from things God says are against his will. His will is that we recognize and confess our sins, look to him for forgiveness, and ask for his help to struggle against temptation and those things he says are sinful.
Paul gives us one example. If we are making the most of our time here on earth each day and being careful that we are living as wise servants of our God who has saved us through Jesus, we won’t get drunk which causes us to lose control. Whether it’s alcohol or drugs, whatever affects our brains to the point that we lose control and are willing to do foolish things that we would not otherwise do, that is something to avoid. There’s a reason God tells us to be sober and alert at all times. If we aren’t, we become an easy target for the prowling lion Satan. If you are filled with spirits you become an easy target for the evil spirits who are out to get you to do something foolish that you will later regret, something that they can use to put a wedge between you and God. Spending a lot of time drinking with friends or using drugs is the opposite of making the most of your time here on earth. Instead of being filled with spirits, be filled with the Spirit. The Holy Spirit who works to produce in your heart and life the fruit of self-control.
What helps you be filled with the Spirit? Not gathering with your friends at the bar every night, but gathering with fellow believers. Speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (singing and making music with your hearts to the Lord). In fact, Paul tells the Corinthians that the number one reason to gather together as a congregation of believers is to encourage one another. Everything else you can do on your own. You can read Scripture on your own. You can pray on your own. You can sing praises to God on your own, and you should be doing all those things on your own. But if you remain on your own you will be missing something very important. You won’t be able to share your faith with others nor will you be able to receive the encouragement others can give you. If you are going through a difficult time and you stay on your own you will miss out on the encouragement a fellow Christian can give you who has been through similar a circumstance and can share with you some words of God that helped and encouraged them. Instead of wallowing in your own pity party, you can be lifted up by a Psalmist who has felt what you are feeling, or by promises of God set to music and sung with your fellow believers. Even King Saul was comforted when David sang his Psalms for him.
What helps you be filled with the Spirit? Always giving thanks for everything to God the Father, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Being reminded of what God has done for us in Christ. Being reminded that we deserve much worse than anything we are facing in life because the just punishment for our sins, small or great, is the eternal fire of Hell. For every time we have lost control because of alcohol or drugs; for every time we have wasted our time doing things that we knew were the opposite of God’s will; for every time we have failed to gather with our fellow Christians to give them encouragement; for even one sin we deserve God’s eternal punishment. But in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ he has forgiven every single sin. Because Jesus never lost control through drunkenness or for any other reason; because he always knew and did God’s will perfectly; because he always gathered on the Sabbath to encourage others; because he went to the cross and paid for all our sinful lack of control, foolishness, and failure to watch our lives and make the most of our time here on earth; God has said “I declare you not guilty. You are free from the guilt of your sin. You are free to serve me and your neighbor in love.”
What a difference that makes in our lives and the way we make use of our time! No matter where we are or what we are doing, whenever we think about what we deserve and what God has done for us instead, we can’t help but give him thanks. In fact, because of what Jesus has done for us, we can even give him thanks when bad things happen and when our bodies wear out and we are facing our last hour. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ we have forgiveness and eternal life.
There’s one more thing we should notice here. It’s hard to miss the contrast that Paul draws between drunkenness and lack of control, and being filled with the Spirit and self-control. But you might miss this contrast. The focus of drunkenness is self. I want to have “fun”, I want to drown my sorrows, dull my pain, be popular; whatever it is, it’s self-focused. The focus of being filled with the Spirit is just the opposite. The focus the Spirit gives us is God and others. The spirit moves you to use Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs to encourage one another. The Spirit moves you to give constant thanks and praise to God because, in Jesus, when your time on earth is gone, you know you have the gift of eternal life.
Make good use of your time. Your time here on earth is limited. Be in the word every day so that you know what God’s will is, so that you can watch your life closely, so that you can be filled with the Spirit giving thanks to God for your salvation and encouraging one another with the word.