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  • Writer's pictureJim Hays

The Wise Walk

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16).

Smartphones are the most amazing invention of my lifetime, I think. From anywhere in the world, we can communicate instantaneously; send documents, photos, and videos; do all our Christmas shopping; map out our drive; check the traffic; listen to music; watch TV; make a to-do list; play a game; or read our Bible.

As long as we have Internet access, we can do almost anything. That's astounding!

When was the last time you asked the hotel front desk to give you a 6 o’clock wakeup call? Today you talk about "wakeup calls" and the younger generations look at you as if you had a third eye in the middle of your forehead.

But a wakeup call is what we get in Ephesians 5. In verse 14, Paul writes,

Therefore it says,

“Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

There’s some debate about what “it” is. Since Paul often quotes from the Hebrew scriptures, we assume that’s what he’s doing here. But a quick word search of the Old Testament returns nothing. Some think Paul might be paraphrasing Isaiah 26:19 which says,

Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For your dew is a dew of light, and the earth will give birth to the dead.

Maybe that’s what Paul’s doing. But usually, when Paul quotes from the Old Testament, it’s more exact. That’s not the case here.

Other scholars think Paul might be quoting lyrics from an early Christian hymn. That’s plausible, too. There are other places in Paul’s writings where it seems he’s quoting song lyrics (Philippians 2:5-11; Colossians 1:15-20).

In context, it seems reasonable that this is what he’s doing in Ephesians 5. Just a few verses after this “wakeup call”, Paul encourages us to “address one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” (Ephesians 5:19). It makes sense for Paul to encourage that just a few verses after doing it himself.

Paul’s wake-up call is also for us. We must be alert to everything going on around us, especially to societal trends that can be harmful to the body of Christ. One trend I see creeping into the church is divided politics. On Twitter, I follow many different preachers in Churches of Christ—liberal, conservative, and middle of the road. Some of the things they Tweet are, in my opinion, divisive. Their opinions parallel the lines of division in society.

It seems to me that it would be much more constructive to have messages that unify or maybe no message at all about things that really don’t matter. I like to put those things into God’s hands. I expect He’ll do a good job of sorting them out. I will post about the taking of human life and the sanctity of Biblical marriage because I believe God is clear on those things. Why comment on divisive opinions? Let's state God's stance and be done with it. His stance is the right stance and is the only one that matters. And please, preachers, no proof-texting! One preacher I follow tweeted that Genesis 2:15 condemns oilwell "fracking" as sin. That's not helpful!

In the previous chapter of this same letter, Paul encourages the church to “make every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” I’m not sure a preacher taking a public stance on impeachment does that. Again, that’s just my opinion.

Why does Paul issue this wakeup call? In context, Paul is reminding the Ephesian Christians that their old lives of pagan behavior are dead and buried. In Christ, they are new people! And they need to live like it. Be who God declares you to be!

Instead of imitating your idolatrous, sex-obsessed, crude-talking neighbor, imitate God! Walk in love! No more rampant sex with anybody, anywhere, any time. Cut out the dirty jokes. That’s the old life of darkness! But now, you are children of light. So, walk in the light! In the hymnic quote, Paul reminds them that the light … is Jesus. Let Christ shine on you!

Paul says, “Be wise with your time because the days are evil.”

Since the beginning of the year, we’ve been talking about how we, the Southern Hills Church, can be wise with our time. The elders have provided us a means for a daily encounter with God through the reading of His word. You’ve heard sermons on the spiritual disciplines of prayer, fasting, and meditation.

Instead of wasting our time on Smartphones with endless game-playing, TV watching, and making rude, divisive comments on social media to people we don’t even know, let’s use our time wisely.

It seems to me that the best use of time for Christians includes regular, ongoing worship of the true and living God; growing in our love and knowledge of Him through the spiritual disciplines; and serving others by tending to their needs, especially their greatest need ... which is to fall head over heels in love with Jesus. Everybody needs Jesus.

May we be a church devoted to the higher things of God, not the lesser things of the world.

Because the days are evil.

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