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Mar 23 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

March 22, 2015 – Ephesians 5:14-20

God’s Will? It’s Quite Simple

Awake, sleeper,
And arise from the dead,
And Christ will shine on you.”
Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.
 Ephesians 5:14-16

Intro: The Hebrew Scriptures contain a rich diversity of content and style

There are stories, commandments, poetry, riddles, parables and so on
– biblical scholars refer to a particular classification of style as wisdom literature
• in general, the purpose of the wisdom literature is:

To know wisdom and instruction,
To discern the sayings of understanding,
To receive instruction in wise behavior,
Righteousness, justice and equity;
To give prudence to the naive,
To the youth knowledge and discretion . . .
To understand a proverb and a figure,
The words of the wise and their riddles. (Pr. 1:2-6)

• the wisdom embodied in these writings is practical
◦ it demonstrates how people improve or ruin their lives by choices they make
– Proverbs chapter 9 is a parable involving two women, Prudence and Folly
• both call out from the heights of the city to anyone who will listen
◦ both invite the naive into their homes to feed on what’s been prepared for them
• but the consequences of entering one home are opposite those of the other
◦ in the home of Prudence is life and a continuous journey in understanding
◦ in the home of Folly is death and the path to Sheol (the grave)

Paul’s goal in this Ephesians’ passage is to guide his readers to path of wisdom

Vv. 14-16, We take a step back (v. 14) to mark the transition

To what and Whom do we awake?
– we awake to this present moment and we learn to do this by practice
• for example, in our time alone with God we may:

  1. Prayerfully thank God for the “spirit of wisdom and revelation” (Ep. 1:17)
  2. Then meditate on a verse or passage of scripture
  3. Next, we sit in silence and listen
    – perhaps, first, to what our physical bodies are telling us (cf. Pss. 31:9; 38:3)
    – secondly, listen to our environment, how it registers on our senses
    – third, free our awareness to what lies beyond the body and its environment
    • e.g., eternity, spirit, Presence (specifically, the presence of God)

– the more we do this, the more we awaken to the moment and God who inhabits it
• even during a busy day we can awaken our spirit with a short prayer or a breath

In the Greek text, v. 15 begins with “See,” as if to say, “Look here!” or “See to it”
– Paul’s point in this verse is that we watch our step (our “walk” again)
• the light to which we are awakened, illuminates the road ahead
• so when we come to a crossroads, we do not proceed “as fools but as wise”
– like the wisdom of Proverbs, the wisdom Paul endorses leads to action
• it has us thinking about consequences in the future
• how what we do today affects tomorrow
◦ we are given a choice of potential outcomes

The King James Version translates the first word of verse 16 literally,
“Redeeming the time”
– I like the phrase for the catchy way it locates time in an economical setting
• to redeem is to buy back or pay a ransom
◦ the idea is that something has been stealing our time (how it’s been “spent”)
◦ time is treated as a gift, a resource a form of currency
• perhaps the most famous piece of wisdom literature is a reflection on time

There is an appointed time for everything under heaven. And there is a time for every event under heaven–
A time to give birth and a time to die;

A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted . . . etc. (Ecc. 3:1-8)

– it is recommended that we begin the practice of silent prayer with twenty minutes in the morning and twenty minutes in the evening
• why is this? because it takes time to listen to life
◦ and it takes time to listen to what God has to say to us about our lives

Rowan Williams, “The time we have renounced, given up, is given back to us as a time in which we have become more human, more real, even (or especially) when we can’t say what we have learned, only that we have changed.”

• the Greek word for time is kairos
◦ it refers to a specific period of time, a moment of opportunity
◦ this word appears only once before in Ephesians

remember that you were at that time separate from Christ (Ep. 2:12)

◦ “separate from Christ” defined that moment of our lives

The reason we have to take back ownership of time is “because the days are evil”
– yet these are the very days in which kairos occurs
• in which eternity intersects with calendar time — a brief encounter with the eternal now
• a unique quality of time flows in ordinary time
◦ and in this new kairos time, we walk at a different pace than before
◦ our lives are calibrated to a different clock

V. 17, Can Paul really be this certain of knowing God’s will?

Our difficulty with discerning God’s will is probably because we fixate on the big picture
– where people typically struggle with God’s will includes:
• “Should I pursue this career or that?” “Marry this person?”
“What is my calling?” “What is my purpose in life?”
• anything big or potentially risky
– but Paul isn’t talking about God’s as it pertains to a whole life
• rather, he is referring to finding our way through life in the day-to-day decisions
◦ it’s far easier to discern God’s will for the present moment than the distant future

Abbot John Chapman, “One lives in perpetual doubt and ignorance what God’s Will is going to be, but now what it is at this individual moment: that we always know, because it is. [I.e., it is whatever the circumstances are right now, which is where we always begin to look for, and apply God’s will.]
. . . All my duty is to keep in touch with Him as this moment passes into the next.”

• we have to keep asking, because God’s will changes, sometimes from season to season
◦ that’s because the universe is in constant motion
◦ I believe that acceptance of this dynamic view of life is a facet of wisdom

V. 18-20, Behavior that tends toward foolishness and toward wisdom

“Do not get drunk with wine”
– where does that get you? “dissipation”
• in other words, more wrongdoing, sin and stupidity
– does the qualification “with wine” indicate there’s another intoxication that’s OK?
• remember when the disciples were first filled with the Spirit (Acts 2:22)
◦ some spectators assumed they were drunk because of how they behaved
• what is this experience of being filled with the Spirit?
◦ an infusion of divine energy (e.g., “. . . you will receive power . . .”; Acts 1:8)
◦ it can feel intoxicating, but not the point or purpose — how it feels is irrelevant
– Paul urged them to keep on moving into this state of being filled
• and they were to express it, by “speaking to one another in psalms . . . etc.”

A few days ago, Calum, my two year old grandson, and I dropped sister at school
– it was beautiful day and on the way home I started to sing about it
• from the back seat a little, but commanding voice said, “No singing!”
• not everyone will appreciate us speaking to them with songs
– last week we saw that verse 14 was most likely an early Christian hymn
• Paul used it to call the Ephesians to attentive awareness and caution
◦ he can envision the Ephesians doing likewise

  1. That we seed our conversations with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs
    • what is the “spiritual song”?
    • creative singing without charts or lyrics? mystical lyrics? music without singing? (cf. the prophesying of musicians in 1 Chron. 25:1)
  2. That we constantly make music in our hearts
    • and that we offer it to the Lord

– “always giving thanks for all things”
• here is another reference to time (“always”) and includes circumstances (“all”)

. . . in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for your in Christ Jesus (1 Thes. 5:18)

• not just special occasions
◦ why would we give God thanks for everything?
◦ one reason is so that we would connect everything to God
◦ we don’t want to deal with anything (especially bad things) apart from God

Conc: There’s one more thought I want to track regarding giving thanks

Barbara Brown Taylor: “While the dark night of the soul is usually understood to descend on one person at a time, there are clearly times when whole communities of people lose sight of the sun in ways that unnerve them. This seems to be what is happening to a lot of church people right now, especially in those denominations that are losing members at an alarming rate. While they experiment with new worship styles and set up Facebook pages, most of them know that the problem runs deeper than that. The ol ways of being Christian are not working anymore, not even for those who are old themselves. Something in the ways has died, or is dying–truly cause for great sorrow, even among those who know the time has come–and yet at the same time something is being born. Many people refer to the new ways as ’emerging Christianity,’ though there are so many varieties of it that it defies description. The one thing most emerging Christians will say is that the faith they inherited from the elders is all worn out.”

– I mostly agree with Taylor–would we be here if we did not?–but not entirely
• the faith of many is not worn out because we’ve lost:
◦ our ability to relate to the old forms and doctrines
◦ the innocence or naivete that fed a sentimental romance with our dear, sweet Lord
◦ the culture and worldview of the early church that gave their faith its vitality
• but what we’ve lost is the early church’s experience

William Barclay, “The early church . . . was a thankful church for never had men such a consciousness that they were in the hands of God. They were able to give thanks for all things, because they were convinced that all things came from God.”

We do not need to forge new territory as we to recover the authentic Christian experience
– we need to find out, through subjective exploration as well as objective research, what it means to be filled with the Spirit
• a world-changing Christian faith is still out there
we just need to connect with the people who are living it
and the God who is sponsoring it

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