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This powerful series will challenge you to understand your role in the body of Christ. Through the book of Ephesians, Pastor Philip will remind us of the joy and blessings God intends for believers to experience in the church as they live as a united family in Christ.
More From This Series
Well, let’s grab our Bibles and turn to Ephesians 5: 15-17. We are in a series on Ephesians. We started a sermon on verses 15 to 17 on chapter five a week ago. We’re not going to complete it today, but we will hopefully conclude it next Sunday morning. Message I’ve entitled, Time is of the Essence. And it’s just such a good theme. It’s something that challenges me and I know, indeed, it challenges you, that I think this is just a text worth slowing down on. Who doesn’t believe that these are evil days? And we want to learn how we’re to live in the midst of evil and how do we redeem the time? What does it mean to discover God’s will? That’s something we’ll cover next Sunday morning. What is God’s will? How can you know it? Can you have confidence you’re undertaking it?
So we’ll keep that for next week, but stand in honor of God’s word. Ephesians 5:15. We’ll just read the three verses together. I’m reading from the New King James translation of holy scripture. If you’re new to the church and you don’t have a Bible, just let us know. We’ll get you one. Be happy to get you a copy of God’s word. Ephesians 5:15. “See then that you walk circumspectly not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” So reads God’s word. You may be seated.
Just this week, I’ve been rereading the letter by Dr. Martin Luther King. It’s the letter he wrote in the Birmingham jail. It’s called the Birmingham Letter. The interesting thing was that the letter was written to several white southern ministers who, indeed, supported the civil rights movement, but they were a little critical of Dr. King coming down to Alabama. They thought that, one, he was going too fast, two, that he was kind of provoking unnecessary reaction. And while he sat in that jail for civil rights and the pursuit of justice, he wrote these poignant words to these ministers and kind of rebuked them, and rightly so. But in the letter, he deals with time and I find this part of the letter fascinating. Like, there’s no time to waste. You’re tell me to slow down. We need to redeem the time. The days are evil.
So listen to these words written to southern ministers. “Time itself is neutral. It can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more, I feel that people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have people of goodwill. We will have to repent in this generation, not merely for the hateful words and the actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts of man willing to work to be coworkers with God. And without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively in the knowledge that the time is always right to do right.” I find those words powerful, poignant, piercing. Isn’t he right?
Using time constructively and creatively for good ends and righteous purposes in the midst of evil is always an urgent matter. Our first priority. Time may be neutral, but the righteous are not neutral about their use of time. The redeemed are to redeem the time because the days are evil. And yet, what a scandal that, at times, people of ill will use their time more effectively in the prosecution of evil than people of goodwill use their time in the promotion of the righteous cause. God’s people, in each and every generation, are called to use time more wisely than those who pursue a worldly agenda. Dr. Martin Luther King was right when he said, “The time is always right to do right.”
And from one prisoner to another prisoner, Paul would agree. Paul would appreciate the letter that came from that Birmingham jail. From his sale in Rome, Paul pens a letter to the church in Ephesus calling them to seize the day, to redeem the time for the cause of the gospel. Paul calls upon the disciples of Jesus in Ephesus to redeem time from its evil bondage. People of ill will are using it for the prosecution of evil. People of goodwill and gospel intent ought to be using it for the promotion of righteousness.
If you read the letter to the Ephesians, you see in Ephesians 1:11 that God is sovereign. He’s working all things at all times after the counsel of His own will. God’s in charge of history and He governs time. And yet, according to Ephesians 2:10, God has placed us within time to carry out a plan that He has ordained sovereignly for us to accomplish good works that He planned for us to do. Ephesians 2:10. And so as we live out our lives within time, under His sovereign direction, we ought to use time because it’s of the essence and we ought to redeem it for gospel ends. Those of us who have been bought by the blood of Christ, the redeemed, will seek to redeem time back from useless pursuits and we will seek to invest it for God’s glory. The redeemed, redeem time for God’s glory. So let’s come and look at this text. We put it in its context. I’m not going to regurgitate that.
We looked at this text under three headings. Be serious, verse 15. Be strategic, verse 16. And be smart, verse 17. We’re going to keep be smart for next week. We’re not to be unwise, we’re to be wise. And wisdom and redeeming the time means you will discover what God’s will is and do it. But we did cover be serious. We’re to walk circumspectly. It’s a word that means judicious or meticulous. It means strict adherence to a standard. And so you and I are called, in the words of John Stott, to give some trouble to our Christian life, to take trouble or pain over our Christian life. To find out what is acceptable to the Lord, verse 10, and then to walk in the light as children of the light as we find God’s revealed word in His word.
Number two, we’re to be strategic. Part of taking trouble and pains over the Christian life means being a good steward of our time and the opportunities that time affords us to live purposely for God’s glory. I love what Murray Harris writes. “In the open market where the commodity of kairos, time, is on sale, Christians are to make a timely purchase for themselves.” In other words, they’re to seize eagerly and use wisely every opportunity afforded them by time to promote the kingdom of God. That’s where we were last week. Redeem the time, buy it back. Look for those kairos moments within Chronos time that are life shaping, eternally weary. They are the doors into a future that takes shape according to the will of God. So there’s two things here. We’ll just cover one of them. Redeem the time and recognize the times. You see that in verse 16. Redeeming the time because the days are evil. Two things to do if we’re going to be strategic for the kingdom, redeem the time and recognize the times. We’ll just cover redeem the time and then pick it up next Sunday morning.
Now, we started to get real practical and pointed. Are there some patterns of behavior, some trains of thought that would allow us to be more practical and pointed about redeeming the time? And I think there are. Number one, start early. We covered that. Start early, make the most of the morning. It’s the rudder of the day. It’s the cream of the day and we ought to give it to God. Saints of old made the most of their mornings, as did Jesus. We looked at Job 1:4-5, and we looked at Mark 1:35-39. There’s a legacy of early rising in the Bible. The early bird gets the worm and I think the early saint positions themselves well to redeem the time, to redeem the day they’re in. Because spending time with God, meditating and interacting with His word centers our soul and God before the world tears us and pulls at us in every direction. It allows God to speak into our lives before everyone else starts yapping, prevents us from getting more than 24 hours away from God. I love that, Steven. I think I stole that from D.L. Moody.
When you spend a morning with God every morning, you’ll never be more than 24 hours away from God. Keeps you close to God, keeps you intimate. And it helps us, while on earth, to set our hearts on things above. It winds up our hearts towards heaven, to use a puritan term. When Steve Farrar was here some years ago, he’s now with the Lord. A good brother, spoke at our man’s retreat. I always remember him talking about his morning routine and the importance of his morning routine. Cup of coffee, his Bible, and sitting in his easy chair which was red leather. And so this little statement, I always start the day in a red leather chair with a black leather Bible. It’s not a bad little statement. It stayed with me. That’s a good pattern. Begin every day in a red leather chair with a black leather Bible. It’ll help you redeem the time.
Number two, not only start early, stay focused. Stay focused. One of the keys to gospel productivity and keeping your life on track is to keep the main things, the main thing. That sounds easy, but it’s not. Life wants to stretch us and pull us, but we’ve got to keep the main things the mean thing. What about David in Psalm 27:4? “This one thing I desire and this one thing will I seek after.” I’m going to go into the temple, inquire from God one thing. The main thing. He kept the main thing. What about Paul in Philippines 3:13? “This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, I press forward and I want to achieve the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” The one thing. Keeping the main thing, the main thing. It’s one of the challenges in life. If you’re going to redeem the time, the important things need to stay important.
What about Luke 10:42? We’ll come back to it in a moment. The story of Martha and Mary. Mary sitting at Jesus’ feet getting schooled and discipled. Martha’s in the kitchen trying to get Jesus some refreshments and she’s a little bothered by her sister not helping. And she comes out to scold Mary, but it ends up Martha being scolded by Jesus. Martha, Martha, you’re troubled about many things. One thing is needful and Mary has chosen the good part and it won’t be taken away from her. We must work it, not allowing the urgent to replace the important, not allowing the secondary to usurp the primary. I hope you have got set priorities about your family, your children, your marriage, your relationships, your church, your business, your personal sanctification, your health. Don’t allow the urgent to replace the important or the secondary to usurp the primary. You need to set priorities and stay focused because you can’t do it all. God doesn’t expect you to do it all and even Jesus didn’t do it all.
Number two, you need to set priorities and stay focused because there are certain things you do best. Remember what the apostle said, “We will give ourselves to the word in prayer.” This is our priority. Tables, that’s good. That’s not beneath us. But if somebody else needs to do that because we’ve got to stick to our priorities. This is what we do best, the word in prayer. Finally, you and I have got to set priorities and stay focused because others are happy to set them for us. A terrible example of this is Peter trying to stop the Lord Jesus going to the cross, but Jesus knew His priorities. So stay focused. Don’t get too distracted, don’t get off track.
A few years ago, my wife and I were treated to a flight back from London by one of the men of our church who’s a pilot with United. While we were in London, Curt got us on the plane and brought us up into the cockpit before the plane took off. It was one of those big planes, the Boeing Dreamliner, the 787, and it was a modern plane. The pilot dashboard was kind of just blinking lights and numbers. Flight deck was amazing, complicated. I was kind of, “Curt, where do you start? What do you keep your eye on? Because I need to know, I need to know you know what you’re doing.” And he says, “Hey Pastor, watch this.” And he pulled down this glass screen that kind of sat right in front of where the pilot sits. It’s called the HUD, the heads up display.
If you’ve got one of these really modern sports cars, you’ve kind of got it. There’s a display that prints up on your windscreen, your speed and all of that. Well, this is a massive version of that. And so when the pilot’s taking off or landing, the two most dangerous parts of the flight, rather than focus on all the data which is streaming constantly, buttons, digits, they focus on the heads up display, which just gives them the basics. Airspeed, pitch, roll, where they’re at in terms of the horizon, the basics of aviation are there. So the pilot focuses on the most important things and has the data necessary to respond to any emergency. And as I watched that, I kind of immediately said, “Man, we all need our own personal heads up display.” The things we know we must be doing, the things that are most important, the priorities of our life. I hope you’ve got a mental heads up display and you’re focused on the things that are most important for you to achieve God’s purposes for you.
Number three, say, no. So start early, stay focused. We kind of covered those last week. Number three, now, new material. Say, no. Redeeming the time requires us to say no to good things that are not the best things. Redeeming the time requires us to say no to the urgent in favor of the important. And I want to go back to that example of Martha and Mary. This is classic. Luke 10:38-42. I’ve given you the background.
Jesus drops in. Their home is one of His favorite spots. He sits down and Mary sits at His feet and Jesus begins to disciple her. Martha’s the practical one in a sense. She runs into the kitchen, says Jesus needs some refreshments. So she puts on a pot of tea and she’s cooking some scones. And then she realizes, hey, you know what, Mary’s absent here. And she goes, “Hey, tell Mary to come in and join me.” And Jesus said, “Funny, no. No, I’m not going to do that. You’re distracted by many things when one thing is needful. I’m the bread of life. I’m breaking some bread here. Martha, sit down and get some of it. We’ll get to the tea and the scones later.” But Jesus said this, “One thing is needful and Mary has chosen the good part, which will not be taken away from her.” Focus on those words, needful, good, and not taken away.
And I came across a outline, a Southern Baptist pastor I’ve memorized and love. Here’s what he said. “Martha had allowed the pressing to crowd out the necessary. Martha had allowed the good to crowd out the best. And Martha had allowed the temporary to crowd out the eternal.” So good. And that’s the fight in the trenches of life. Are you focused on what’s necessary? Are you focused on what is best? Are you focused on what is eternal? You need to say no. It’s not easy for us to say no, but we need to say no to the bad, right? Titus 2:12, denying ungodliness. Or as the NIV puts it, saying no to ungodliness. But the call of the Christian is not just to say no to the bad, the call of the Christian is to say no to the good for the best. And that’s what Mary did and that’s what Martha was taught. Life is short. It comes with limits. And saying no limits digression, distraction, dilution in order for you and I to fulfill God’s purposes and priorities in our lives.
Jesus said no. Luke 4:38-44, 5:15-16, 10:38-42. Saying no is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. It shows self-control. If you can’t say no to anybody, you’ve got no self-control. Saying no allows us to say yes to the important, not the urgent. Saying no allows others to say yes to the thing we have said no to. Saying no encourages others to say no, which helps get the right people on the right seats on the bus. Saying no allows us to focus on the things we do best. Saying no reserves your energies for the things you must say yes to. Saying no saves you from saying no later.
Jim Collins, who was the former Chick-fil-A president said, “It is a kindness to refuse immediately when you will eventually intend to deny.” We cannot say yes to stuff knowing we should have said no, and given time, we’ll ultimately say no and back off and that doesn’t help anybody. So the sooner you say no, the better for you and the better for everybody else. Just embrace that. Maybe another biblical example would be Nehemiah. You can read it later. Nehemiah 6:1-3, where Nehemiah’s almost completed building the wall and he’s asked to come out into the plains of Ono, O-N-O, to sit down and have a powwow with the enemies of Israel. And he says, he refuses. And there’s a great line in one of Swindoll’s books. Nehemiah says, “Oh no to Ono.” And he’s not going to get distracted. What does Nehemiah say? Read it. It’s a great [inaudible 00:19:56]. I think he says, “I will not come down because I’m doing a great work.” I got better things to do than smoke some fake peace pipe with you guys on the plains of Ono. Oh no to Ono. Nehemiah could say no.
Good leaders say no. Focused people say no. “Learn to say no”, said Spurgeon, “It will do you better than reading Latin.” The good word. Let me tell you this story and we’ll move on. I love the story of the man who was unpacking his lunch one day in the factory cafeteria. As he started to eat his bologna sandwich, he said, “I don’t believe it. Bologna again. It was bologna on Monday, bologna on Tuesday, bologna on Wednesday. Bologna again.” One of the guys said, “Well, tell your wife to make you a ham and cheese sandwich for tomorrow.” He says, “I’m not married, I pack my own lunch.” And it’s kind of funny. And the joke’s on him, if you don’t like bologna, then don’t put it in your lunch. Say no to bologna. And the joke is us. You know what? We say it all the time. Well, I’m too busy, my schedule’s too busy, my calendar’s too busy. Who wrote your calendar? You. Well, you say, well, others did. Well, you let them. You didn’t listen. Say no. So work on saying no.
Number four. Start early, stay focused, say no. Number four, set goals. This is kind of a subset of stay focused. I’m not going to spend a lot of time on here, just to encourage you to, you know what, hear the wisdom of Benjamin Franklin, “The man who fails to plan, plans to fail.” So you’ve set some priorities, you get a sense of what you want to be doing as a wife, as a mother, as a Christian, as a neighbor. You get all of that. You get some sense. Here’s my priorities, here’s the big rocks in my big bottle of life. But you know what? If you don’t have a destination, any road will do. But if you do have a purpose that are governed by particular priorities, then you will decide on certain paths to arrive at a desired end. And that’s setting goals. Goals are the path to the desired end, which is the fulfillment of the priorities.
And so you and I need to set goals, goals that primarily are being determined by God and planning and goal setting’s not unbiblical. But what about Proverbs 6:6-8 where we’re to go and look at the ant. Now, you’re to go and look at him because he’s an industrious little creature. But the other thing about the ant is, he’s smart and strategic and he plans because he gathers in the summer what he’ll need in the winter. And we’re told to go and look at them, which is an endorsement of planning, strategic thinking.
You get that with Jesus in Luke 14:28, right? Before you build a city or you build a building, you better sit down and count the cost and work out a plan and the different phases of the plan. In fact, in James 4:13-17, don’t mystique James’s condemnation directed towards the businessman as a censoring of planning because in James four, the businessmen say, “Hey, we have a plan. We’re going to go to this city, we’re going to stay there for a certain amount of years and we’re going to do this and we’re going to do that. Here’s the bottom line, here’s our financial goals. Here’s our strategic plan.” And James says, “No, that’s arrogant.” The planning isn’t arrogant. The fact that they didn’t submit it to God, that’s the arrogance because James says you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we’ll do this and we’ll do that.”
So the planning wasn’t wrong, it was they thought they were the captains of their own souls and the masters of their own fate. So set some goals for yourself. The military talk about mission creep. Make sure that you aren’t injured by mission creep. Constantly be looking at setting goals that are biblical, God glorifying, clearly stated, attainable, measurable, and something that requires you to stretch. Because if you don’t set goals, you’re just dreaming, you’re not doing. Without goals, it’ll just stay a dream. With goals, it’ll start to actually take shape.
Number five, step back. Step back. Not going to spend a lot of time on this, but redeeming the time involves finding time to think, to gain perspective. Stepping back for the purpose of evaluation and revision. So you know what you need to focus on. You’ve set some goals or paths to the achievement of a desired end. You need to constantly step back, find thinking time, quiet time, time to evaluate and assess the progress or non-progress made. Tim Challies, in his book, Doing More Better, says “Nothing in this world coasts towards order or productivity.” Nothing in this world coasts towards productivity, you’ve got to drive yourself there. A plan and the goals that are set to accomplish that plan need constant maintenance.
It’s easy with your nose to the grindstone to miss the big picture and not realize there’s mission creep going on or distraction has moved you in a direction away from the main goal. That’s why we need to retreat and we need to step back. You find Jesus stepping back and Luke 5:16, 6:12 and chapter nine verse 28. He often went away to a quiet place, we’ll come back to that, but just to get fresh insight, make sure His vision is clear and make sure that He has an accurate assessment of where He’s at and what needs yet to take place. Step back, gain perspective.
In the early days of Kindred, there were some challenges as we kind of united the church around a certain philosophy and theology and we headed in a certain direction and that can be disruptive. It was a young church, its heart was good and was given to much ministry, but that needed to be repurposed in some areas and we needed to bring some things under pastoral leadership. We got a little bit of pushback and I got drawn into that a little bit and I felt for the first while I was kind of a fireman just putting out fires here, there and spent a lot of time explaining and trying to get people on board. And part of that is just part of ministry and life and leadership, but it almost swamped me early on.
And one of the elders at the time, Alan Pott, took me aside and give me a good word of encouragement. He says, “Pastor, you’re spending too much time in the work and not enough time on the work. We need you to be away thinking, coming back, outlining the priorities, the goals and the steps that will accomplish those goals.” It’s a good word, it has stayed with me. Don’t just spend time in your marriage, spend time on your marriage. Don’t just get drawn into your parenting. Think about spending time on your parenting. Step back, get perspective. Very helpful, helps us redeem our time. You see that in Nehemiah 2:11-20 where Nehemiah steps back. He doesn’t start a thing until he’s got a good survey underway of what needs to be done and how it’s going to be accomplished.
Number six, it’s kind of a follow-on from points already made. Slow down. Slow down. You’ve got to work hard at resting. If you’re going to redeem the time which requires hard work, you’re going to have to work hard at resting so you can accomplish the hard work. It’s so simple, but we miss it. We can do more by doing less. In his book, Redeeming Your Time, Jay Rayner talks about that. In order to do more, most of us need to do less and rest more so that we can get more accomplished. Because we’re running on empty, we’re running ourselves ragged, which means that our productivity’s not what it could be. We don’t trust this process of stepping back and slowing down, but it’s true. You see it in the life of Jesus. Jesus set out to accomplish much, but throughout the gospels, Jesus embodied three rhythms of productive rest. He offered restorative breaks to His disciples. Right? Mark 6:30-32. “Let’s come apart and rest a while.” There’s too much going on.
The second thing he did, he fought for sleep, which wasn’t often easy to find. In fact, you find Him sleeping in the midst of a storm in Mark 4:38-39. And then He reaffirmed the goodness of the Sabbath. Jesus kept the Sabbath. Mark 2:27, Jesus is the one that reminds us that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. God, out of His kindness, introduced the Sabbath. And we need to have many sabbaths. You need your sabbaths. We need to rest. Has it ever struck you, if you go back to the creation story, that on the sixth day, God makes man, makes woman and then gives them their creation mandate. Fill the earth, exercise dominion, become one flesh in marriage and bear children. That was day six.
What happened on day seven? And the Lord rested. And Adam and Eve rested with Him. That was the introduction of the Sabbath. That’s why we’re told in the 10 Commandments, remember the Sabbath because it was a creation ordinance, not just part of God’s moral law for Israel. It was part of a creation rhythm for mankind. And we do ourselves a disjustice and we disobey God when we don’t take breaks, when we don’t fight for sleep, when we don’t keep the Sabbath. If you want to be productive, you need to pursue those things, you need to rest.
The story is told of some western businessmen who went to Africa on a safari, on a hunt, and they took some of the local guides with them. And they were working their way across the prairie and the plains of Africa when all of a sudden the local guides just stopped. And they couldn’t be moved and they wouldn’t be budged. The Westerners were eager to keep going, to achieve more. And when they asked the local guides why they were sitting down, they said, because we need time for our souls to catch up with our bodies. And we need to have that perspective. Robert Murray M’Cheyne was a famous Scottish pastor, a very powerful preacher in Edinburgh and Dundee, died at 29. This is his own assessment of his life. He worked real hard. He did have some health and constitutional problems, but this is his own description.
He said, looking back on the verge of his death, he says, “The Lord gave me a horse and he gave me a message, but I killed the horse.” He’s talking about his body. I got a message, I’ve got a purpose. I’ve got to preach the gospel, and I killed the horse. So we need to start early, stay focused, say no, set goals, step back, slow down.
Number seven, show courage. Show courage. Redeeming the time involves taking risks, pushing hard. In the parable of the talents, I’ll just assume your knowledge in Matthew 25:24-29. And you know that, Jesus tells the parable of the businessman, the master who goes away and he leaves his servants, his stewards in charge of his business, his assets, his home. And he says to one of them, “Hey, I’m going to give you five talents. I want you to use that.” And he gives another one, three talents, another one talent. And then the master comes back and they’ve got to give an account for their time and their talents. And you know the story, the guy that had five, well, he traded it, exchanged it, and he made another five and he gave his master, 10. And the master goes, “You’re my kind of servant. Well done.” Then the guy with three, he doubled it.
So it’s not an issue of what you have, it’s an issue of what you do. Both of them doubled the master’s investment in them and he gave him six back to the master and goes, “You’re my kind of servant. Well done.” You get the guy with the one talent, he gives the master back one talent. Listen to the words of someone writing about this. From the third servant, we learn a sobering lesson. Then he who had received the one talent came and said, “Lord, I knew you were a hard man, reaping where you have not sowed, gathering where you have not scattered seed. And I was afraid and I went and I hid your talent in the ground.” I contrast the reaction of the third servant with the first two. The faithful servants went and traded, verse 16, the fearful one went and dug. I like what this writer says.
The first two invested, the last one buried. The first two went out on a limb, the third one hugged the tree. But if you want to redeem the time, you can’t hug the tree. You got to go out on a limb. You got to venture. You’ve got to adventure. You’ve got to trade, you’ve got to risk, you’ve got the gamble, in a sense. The only mistake when it comes to life is to try and not make a mistake. You’ll never redeem the time that way. You need to show courage. Write down Acts 15:25-26, write down Philippines 2:30. Says of the apostles that they risk their lives. It says of Epaphroditus, he gambled. He didn’t regard his life so that he might bring what Paul needed from the Philippines. That word is a very interesting word in the Greek, it was used of merchants who, for the sake of gain, exposed themselves to death, maybe in the open sea.
Spoke of someone taking a risk to defend the friend, going to court, exposing themselves to liability. Talked about nurses and doctors who dealt with infectious diseases. That’s our word. That’s what they early Christians were like. They gambled for God. They didn’t play it safe. They understood that the only mistake is not to risk making a mistake. And I certainly would want to be calculated, not reckless. But as we see here, the two traded, one buried. The two went out on a limb, the other one hugged the tree. You’ll never redeemed the time doing that. I like what Helen Keller, the author and poet and advocate for disabled persons once asserted, “Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of man as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” Here’s another thought. [inaudible 00:35:18] stay ready or stand ready. Redeeming the time means being ready for the moment or opportunity that comes your way.
Let’s go to Colossians four quickly. Colossians 4:5-6. This is the parallel passage in Colossians regarding our passage. And here’s what we read in Colossians 4:5-6, it’s about evangelism. Paul says, “Walk in wisdom towards those who are outside, redeeming the time”, there’s our word, “let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” So here’s what it means to redeem the time. It means to walk in wisdom with regards to the unsaved and those outside the church and outside of Christ. And if you’re going to redeem the time, you better be ready when the moment presents itself to give an answer to everyone that asks.
So redeeming the time, in Ephesians 4:5-6, is being ready when the gospel opportunity presents itself. But I think we can extrapolate and we can extend. That’s what redeeming the time is. It’s being ready for that moment, that kairos moment when it presents itself. It’s making sure that when that moment comes, your trousers aren’t down around your ankles. You’re ready, prepared. You’ve anticipated it, you’ve got yourself ready for it. What you understand to be the will of God, you’re ready to do when you’re asked to do it. That’s what redeeming the time means. Stand ready. Want another example of that? Read Nehemiah 2:4-9. Remember Nehemiah chapter one, hears about Jerusalem, doesn’t like what he hears. Walls are broken, gates are burned. The name of God is a byword among the nations. This is the city of Zion. This is where God has put His name.
And so he prays, Lord, if you can use me, use me. In chapter two, he’s in the king’s court, he’s a cup bearer and he’s weighed down with that. And the king says, “Hey, why are you sad? Why are you sullen? What’s the mood?” And by the way, if you know anything about the background, that’s cause enough to get your head chopped off. You never bring your bad mood into the king’s court. But this was a good king, or let’s admit maybe God turned the heart of the king here. Proverbs 21:1. And he says, “Nehemiah, what is it?” He says, “Well, I’ll tell you what it is. City of Jerusalem. I want to do something about it.” And Nehemiah prayed to God at that moment. And God opens the heart of the king and the king says, “Okay, if I was to let you go, how long? If I was to let you go, what would you need?”
And you know what, right there, Nehemiah 2:4-9, Nehemiah didn’t go, can I get back to you on that one? Now, he had prayed about it. He was willing to be an answer to his own prayer. And then he had prepared himself. He had a plan and he’d set goals and he’d stay focused and he was standing ready for the kairos moment. And the kairos moment comes and he says, “I tell you what I need. I need trees from your forest in Lebanon. I need a compliment of soldiers to guard us on the journey and I need letters of authority when I get there to do this work.” And amazing, isn’t it? Artaxerxes says, “Well, away you go.”
Stand ready. Is there a job you want? Is there a promotion you want? Are you ready? Have you gone to school? Have you got the experience? Are you ready when the boss might see you and your work ethic and your integrity and go, that’s the kind of guy, that’s the kind of girl I want in there. Are you ready? Are you ready when the gospel opportunity presents itself to share the gospel? Do you have a kind of talk or something you can share with that person when that moment comes? Churchill said it well, didn’t he? “To each there comes in their lifetime, a special moment when they’re figuratively tapped on the shoulder, offered the chance to do something special, unique to them and fitted to their talents. What a tragedy if that moment finds them unprepared or unqualified for that which could have been their finest hour.”
If you don’t like Churchill, what about Rudy in the movie, right? You know the story. It’s a great story. Great movie, working class guy from Gary, Indiana, wants to play for Notre Dame, the Fighting Irish. He’s too small, doesn’t have football acumen, but he works real hard. And when you get to the end of the movie, sorry, I’m going to spoil it for you. The coach who’s kind of going out, kind of caves the wall to popular pressure, and he lets him dress up. Doesn’t intend to play him, lets him dress up and run out with the team. Remember the scene in the tunnel and the captain hands Rudy the ball and says, “Rudy, are you ready to take us out?” What does Rudy say? Come on. “I’ve been ready for this moment my whole life.” That’s better than any chick flick. That moment right there. That’ll move you to tears, man. I’ve been ready for this moment my whole life. Kairos, time presents itself to Rudy. He takes it.
All right, study death. Pretty morbid. You say no. No, it’s not morbid. If you’re going to redeem the time, you’ve got to live life backwards. There is a wisdom to allowing the one thing in life that is certain, your death, at any moment, to become a reference point for all the details and decisions of your life. Read the story of Jesus. We touched on it last week. There was the hour that determined every hour He lived. The hour was his death. The hour was the cross. The hour was accomplishment of atonement. The hour. And the hour of your death should hang over you, not in a morbid fashion, but it brings about time is precious. When you’re enjoying something, enjoy it. Number your days and apply your hearts to wisdom. Proverbs 90:12, Ecclesiastes 7:1-4 is what? Go to the house of mourning. It’s better than going to the house of feasting because this is the end of all men and the wise think about it.
I don’t think we rush to funerals, but they’re good for us because they kind of sober us up. They recent our life. It brings to the front of our thinking that which we push to the back of our minds, death, which remind us, are we living for the things that count? Are we making every moment kind of redeeming the time? Because there’s only so much time left to change, only so much time left to examine our direction. Only so much time to confess our sin and find forgiveness. Only much time to accomplish the will of God. We finish with this. If you’ve read my book, Take Cover, it’s about my time in the police in Northern Ireland, at least the opening chapter is. The RUC officer, during the troubles in Northern Ireland, was more likely to be killed off duty than on-duty. We had no sense of security. Every day could be our last day.
At the height of the troubles, there was a bombing, a shooting every 24 hours to 48 hours. I remember being on an anti-terrorist training class with the British Army and they showed us a bone-chilling video called, You Could Be Next. It was chilling. I’m like 22, still not married. Got dreams of marriage, having children. What if I don’t make it? What if I don’t get there? I had to fight all of that stuff, think that through, beat that fear. The IRA had plenty of tactics, car bombs, pressure plates, all manners of improvised explosive devices. So you needed to be on your game. But what I say in the book is this, I learned to use the constant threat of death as a motivation to live wisely. Let me quote from the book and we’ll wrap this up.
“God ministered to me through several verses regarding the end of life, allowing the approach of death to bring about a new beginning of obedience and a deeper spiritual accountability to my life. Verses like Ecclesiastes seven, Psalm 90 reminded me that thought of death can act as an elixir for better living. As the Puritans advocated, meditation upon one’s death is a good thing. It taught me to treasure time, prioritize relationships, hold material things loosely, keep a short account with God and rejoice in the fact that Jesus is the life and the resurrection.” Death will do that. It’s a good thing. Want to redeem the time, study death, study your death, and live in the light of its impending reality. It will inspire you to better things and you’ll find hope in the gospel.
Father, we thank you for this word. We’ve taken a second dig at Ephesians 5:15-17. We thank you for these practical pointers to redeeming the time because the days are evil. Lord, help us to hear the ancient wisdom of your word. All that we have said is as true today as it was a hundred or a thousand years ago. Help us to start early. Help us to stay focused. Help us to set goals. Help us to say no. Help us to slow down, help us to step back. Help us to show courage. Help us to stay ready. Help us to study death. If we’ll do that, then our life will not be in vain and our death will not be a huge regret. For Jesus’ sake, amen.