[This was shared with the people of Friendship Lutheran Church of Amelia, Ohio during worship celebrations on August 19 and 20, 2006.]Ephesians 5:15-20
do three point sermons. Today I’ll be making three points. Here goes.
Christians may be aiming our lives for eternity, but the fact is that you and I live in a time-bound world. While we’re here, we have to put up with time. We have to put up with...
- the sun setting on the last days of vacations spent with loved ones
- deadlines on projects that aren’t as good as we want them to be
- the test that comes tomorrow morning, whether we’re ready for it or not
- 5:00 soccer practices and 7:00 piano recitals
- creaking bones, graying heads, and death.
Time is a reality of this life and we must deal with it.
So, here’s a question for you: How are you spending your time?
I was once told about a seminar in which the participants were challenged to log how they’d used their time in fifteen minute increments during an entire day. If you had to make note of how you spent every fifteen minute segment of your day, what would it look like? What might it say about how you were spending your time?
Frankly, I’d be afraid to keep a log like that because I have such a penchant for goofing off, winding down one little rabbit trail after another until, lo and behold, it’s late into the night and time to go to bed. In fact, to tell you the truth, one of the reasons I’m such a nightowl is that I hate
giving up on days which I fear I’ve wasted.
Our Bible lesson for today begins with the words, “Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil.”
Our lesson comes from the first century preacher Paul’s letter to the church in the Turkish city of Ephesus. It's taken specifically from a section of Ephesians in which Paul is contrasting two ways of living. One way is in light, the other is in darkness. Life in the light is about goodness, a right relationship with God, and building our lives on the true foundation of Jesus Christ. Darkness is the opposite of these.
Be careful, Paul is saying, not to cave into the foolishness of a life of darkness, away from Jesus Christ, away from forgiveness, and away from hope. In our lesson, Paul equates light with wisdom and darkness with foolishness. It’s all about where we place our lives each moment of every day, in the light or in the dark, on the wise path or on the foolish one.
If I had a bucket full of water here and I dunked a tissue into it, what would happen? No matter how absorbent the tissue was, it would eventually get swamped by all that water. Fluid mechanics tells us
that “an object which sinks completely displaces an amount equal to its volume...” A similar kind of displacement can happen to us when we spend time in the darkness away from God. We can be swamped and sunk.
Recently, a RAND Corporation study
was released on the relationship between the music kids had on their iPod
s and what they did sexually. The study showed that kids who spent time listening to music that saw men as sexual predators and women as mere objects were far more likely to have sex at an earlier age than kids with less of that music on their iPods.
I mentioned this study on my blog. (See here
.) Someone wrote to me
and said that these kids who had early sex probably had dysfunctional families. That's undoubtedly true! And the point is that if young people have no contact with affirming adults or more importantly, the God loving Who calls them worthy and lovable without having to prove themselves, they will chase after counterfeit love and intimacy. When there’s no light in our lives, we’ll spend time in the darkness...no matter what our ages.
There’s a lot that’s evil in our world, of course. Wise people spend time in the light. That means, among other things, being available to God through prayer, worship, and love of neighbor. A man I knew seemed perpetually busy with a demanding job. And yet, he had the capacity to make every person he met feel that they were important. He never was too busy to stop and listen to someone who truly needed an ear. He put me to shame because he always carried a slip of paper in his shirt pocket. On it, he would write prayer requests from people he encountered during his day.
That man used his time wisely.
Point one: Wise people spend time--they place their lives--in God’s light.
- So does the busy executive or teacher who stops to pray for the people with whom they’ll be dealing that day.
- Or, the student who makes the effort to memorize a passage of Scripture, allowing God’s truth and love to permeate their minds and wills.
- Or, the parent who gets down on the floor to play a game with their child, knowing that the lawn may have to go un-mowed today.
- Or, the neighbor, like one of my neighbors, who, knowing what a mechanical ignoramus I am, replaces an old doorknob on my front door and won't let me pay him for it.
Paul switches metaphors in what comes next in our lesson. He says: “Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts...”
This isn’t about musical comedies or more seriously, teetotling. In an ultimate sense, it’s not even really about having an occasional drink. Once more, we’re dealing with displacement.
It’s about letting God be the source of your joy. “This is the day that the Lord has made,” the Psalmist writes
, “Rejoice and be glad in it.” The Bible commends the high that comes to us when we regard each moment of our lives, even the troubled ones, as gifts from God
to be savored,
to be used for His glory,
to love others,
to mature in our faith and the call to self-giving and surrender, or
to learn about His amazing grace toward us.
This past week, I heard a report on the difficulty that US Customs officials are having in finding a technology that will allow them to detect dangerous substances in cargo shipped into our country
. One official said that given the nature of the complicated gear that gets imported into the States, any detecting equipment is likely as not to give a “false positive,” labeling items that are safe as dangerous and vice versa.
There are some things in this life, like getting a buzz from booze, that can seem so good. But that’s a false positive. Let yourself instead be filled with God’s Holy Spirit, Paul says.
A few years after I’d come to faith in Christ, Ann and I were at a wedding reception with Ann’s mom. I was having a great time with some of the other guys from our church when I went to the rest room. Ann’s mother pulled her aside and said, “You’d better cut him off.” Ann laughed and told her, “He’s only been drinking Seven-Up’s all night!” Some people will confuse your behavior with drunkenness, I suppose, but when you’re filled with God’s Spirit, you’ll always be good to slip in behind the steering wheel of your car. Point two: When you wisely spend time in God’s light, joy will be its byproduct.
At the end of our lesson, Paul says that wise people spend their time, “...giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”Six years ago, comedian Drew Carey was asked if he considered himself ambitious
. “Now, yes,” he said. “But before, I always thought I was going to win the lottery or get lucky. I had no idea what I was going to do. Now I would never buy a lottery ticket--that would be like slapping God in the face.”
I really don’t think that Carey was talking about the relative advisability of buying a lottery ticket here. I think that he was talking about how you go through life. It’s so easy to try to float, to try to luck our way through living. But in a world often swamped by evil, people who take that route are more often than not drowned by evil, or by cares and hopelessness, and their lives devolve into irrelevance and what Henry David Thoreau called “quiet desperation.”
Christians don’t live by dumb luck or superstitions. They know the God Who, in Jesus’ death and resurrection, has proved Himself bigger than all the fears and sins that dog us, a God Who has entered our timebound world and given all with faith in Him freedom from the death sentence that our sins have placed on us.Christians can live with intentionality, with purpose
. We can make it our aim, as Paul puts it, to use our time and our lives to give thanks to God the Father for the new and never-ending lives we have through Jesus Christ. Point three: When you wisely spend time in God’s light, joy will be its byproduct and thankfulness will pour out of you all the time.
This past week, at the Athenaeum Library
, where I go to study, I ran across a new book of sermons, Let Jesus Easter in Us
, by Roman Catholic preacher Walter J. Burghardt.
I learned that he’s ninety-two and in his retirement years, travels the country as an advocate for Christian justice. At times, Burghardt speaks up for the nearly half-million US veterans who are homeless at some point in their lives. At others, he may be an advocate for the one-in-five American children who live in poverty. But he always
speaks in the light of Jesus’ love for us all and there is a joy even in his most serious words. (He even has one sermon in which he speaks of the propriety, horror of horrors, of smiling during Lent!)
The point is that Burghardt wouldn’t have to travel the country speaking up for Christian justice. He’s ninety-two, for crying out loud! But he knows that Christians never retire from life
. In fact, in Drew Carey’s words, it would be like slapping God in the face to do so.Jesus’ people can make the most of their time in this often evil world. Jesus’ people live for Him from the Baptismal font to the grave...and beyond! That’s our call and our privilege.
(1) The wise spend time in God’s light,How are you using your time?
(2) Joy is the byproduct of that time, and
(3) Thankfulness comes from them because of the time they spend living with God, Who graciously loves and accepts them as they are.