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CHRISTIAN LIFE - CHRISTIAN VALUES Ephesians 5:15-17

KEEPING CHRISTIAN VALUES IN TODAY’S CULTURE

I have friends who can complete the work of three people in a single day. Some folks, no matter how hard they try, never seem to cross a single item off their to-do lists. The difference probably is not a matter of ability. Some just have a better sense of time management than others. This skill is essential because we are all responsible to God for how we use our time. If we're going to accomplish all He's planned, we must learn how to invest it wisely for His purposes.

We simply need a balanced schedule. The goal is to be proactive, not reactive. Those who just react to demands of the day are shortsighted in their approach. The Lord has a custom-designed purpose for every person, and He has perfectly placed each of us to accomplish His goals.

When Paul wrote to the Ephesians, he gave some very helpful instructions in Ephesians 5:15-17 regarding the use of time. The word “careful” conveys the idea of turning your mind to a matter and giving it serious consideration. Have you ever asked, "What does the Lord want me to do today? Am I investing my time in His plans or pursuing my own agenda?" As stewards of God's precious gift of time, we should always consider whether we are living wisely according to His will or just drifting through life.

What does a balanced life look like? Although some people may think a schedule is too restrictive, in reality, it's simply a way to budget time to live purposefully and productively. Since Jesus is the only person who ever lived a completely balanced life, let's consider how He spent His time.
•    Communing with the Father (Mark 1:35).
Now, if the Son of God needed to begin the morning with His Father, how much more do we? This has to be our top priority to grow in our relationship with God and to receive His guidance. It doesn't matter how much we can accomplish in a day if we haven't submitted our plans to the Lord and invited Him to arrange our schedules.

•    Building relationships.
Since people are God's top priority, we must make sure that we, too, are investing in them. Jesus spent His early years with family and the last three years with twelve men, eleven who became His most intimate friends. To thrive, our families and friends need us to be available and involved in their lives. We must guard against letting tasks become more important than people.

•    Working.
The Lord's instructions in Colossians 3:23 mean we should always do our best at work, but we should never let our careers become idols. Jesus maintained balance because He did only the work His Father gave Him to do, even if it meant leaving other needs unmet (Mark 1:35-39). He also saw interruptions as opportunities to minister to hurting people (Luke 8:41-48).

•    Worshiping.
Throughout His ministry, Jesus often entered synagogues and the temple to worship. I've sometimes heard folks say, "Well, I don't have to go to church to be a Christian." Although this is true, believers who try to live the Christian life on their own miss some great blessings. When we gather together, we rejoice together, receive instruction from God's Word, and find encouragement, support, and fellowship.

•    Relaxing.
Have you ever wondered if Jesus had fun? Although the Scriptures don't explicitly describe Him as laughing and joking around with His disciples, the fact that children were attracted to Him as we read in Matthew 21:15-16 tells me that He knew how to have a good time. God loves to see His children enjoying themselves. After all, if we're living holy, obedient lives, we have every reason to be happy. Proverbs 17:22 says, A cheerful heart is good medicine and that's exactly what the Lord prescribes for us.

A balanced schedule requires commitment. We will never accidentally manage our time wisely. It's going to require an intentional evaluation of priorities, a commitment to live under the canopy of God’s guidance, and an ongoing review of our direction.
•    First we must examine where our true commitments lie. We think our desires reveal our priorities, but our activities are a more accurate measure. We may want to spend more time with our families or have a more consistent quiet time with the Lord, but if we're not doing it, they're not priorities.
•    The next step is to ask the Lord what His schedule for us looks like. We should also ask Him to give us His long-term goals for our lives. Then we will have a direction for not just our hours but also our years.
•    Finally, we need to ask Him to help us stay on track. We can't always assume that the direction He gave us years ago is the one He wants us to follow today. What once demanded our time might now be an empty place He wants to fill with new responsibilities. A balanced schedule doesn't restrict freedom. It liberates us to become who God wants us to be and accomplish what He desires. And that is the most wonderful way to spend our time.

The #1 factor in faithfulness is Bible study (2 Timothy 2:15), Study to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.  That's God's command to us: study the Word.

So how do we start?
•    RECEIVE--We must put first things first. For God's Word to become a bright, living reality, we must receive the saving Author of the Bible. Without Jesus Christ, we are spiritually blind (1 Corinthians 2:14). Without the Author in our hearts, we can never truly understand the Bible.
•    PRAY--Never begin to study without first praying (Psalm 119:12). God becomes our Teacher. He opens our eyes to things we've never before seen. Truths jump up off pages into our hearts.
•    BELIEVE–We must believe the Bible is the Word of God. It will never be a real book to you until you accept it as the sovereign authority of Almighty God. All Scripture is the very breath of God (2 Timothy 3:16). When we read the Bible, we hear God speak..
•    COMMIT--We must bring our minds and commit to study (1 Timothy 4:13).

        What does the word "study" mean?
         - Give diligence.
         - Earnestly endeavor.
         - Have a burning desire for the Word of God.
There is no cheap, easy, lazy way to understand the Bible.

Life can be so frustrating! We are bombarded with media messages
•    with images of physical perfection that have been honed by the best professional trainers and dieticians money can buy.
•    that sexual immorality is not only OK but assumed.
When people live only for their own sensual pleasures and think only of themselves, the tragic results are individuals left with emotional scars, families torn apart, and a loving community replaced by self-serving individuals. However, we are so busy chasing our version of the American dream that the only exercise we get is driving through a fast-food restaurant. Do we compete with Hollywood's impossible pictures of perfection, or do we just "let ourselves go"? What's a body to do?

The Bible actually gives us practical principles for being comfortable in our skin, for thriving in a fast-food culture. We need to get rid of bad habits that tie us up and disqualify us from serving. We need to listen to the Holy Spirit when He tells us to get rid of the trash in our lives. We are called to a higher standard--a pure standard--and Christians can live in purity by following God and imitating Him.

We need to walk in love (Ephesians 5:1-5). Paul began this chapter with an amazing command: Imitate God. In Paul's day, orators mimicked the way the master speakers spoke. Paul commanded us to mimic God/Jesus who, as Messiah, also loved us and gave Himself for us.

In verse 3 Paul described a loving walk by what it does not do.
•    "Sexual immorality" translates as the word from which we get pornography and refers to any kind of sex outside of marriage.
•    "Impurity" describes a person who is morally dirty.
•    "Greed" is the desire to have more. In this context probably means more impurity and immorality.

In verse 4, Paul described a loving walk by what it does not say. In Paul's day as today, sexual innuendo, profanity, and crude jokes were a popular form of humor. How often do we need to be reminded that God hears every word? Paul reminded us that a new way of living requires a new way of talking.

Now when we come to verse 5, we need to be careful. Paul said that a person caught up in these kinds of sins has no inheritance in the kingdom of God. Paul did not mean that Christians who occasionally exhibit these sinful behaviors can lose their salvation. Rather, they may lose their reward. Paul was describing lifestyle, not occasional lapses. In 1 Corinthians  3:10-15, Paul described what happens to believers who do not build their Christian lives well. If they use substandard building materials--such as immorality or profanity--their work will be burned up. They'll get to Heaven, but without a reward.

We need to walk in light (Ephesians 5:8-12). We find purity by imitating God first through walking in love (Ephesians 5:1-2) and second through walking in the light (v. 8). Surprisingly, Paul did not say we were followers of darkness or members of darkness before we met Christ. He said we were darkness. When we invited Christ into our lives, we experienced a change of identity: We became light! People who walk in light live fruitful lives. Paul mentioned goodness righteousness, and truth (Galatians 5:22-23). People who walk in the light have lives that shine like light.

What activities help us to "Walk in the Light"?
•    Strengthening our relationship with God through daily prayer and Bible study.
•    Making God's priorities our priorities as stated in Matthew 6:33.
•    Following God's commands to stop doing bad things and focus on doing good things as Paul reminds us in Ephesians 5:1-12.
We study the Word of God to discover how to apply it to our lives. In worship we experience in song and sermon what God wants us to become, and in our own private Bible reading time we learn how Christians are supposed to live their lives.
•    How often do we attend Sunday School or some other small group Bible study or Prayer Services?
•    How often do we attend worship at church?
•    How often in the week do we read our Bible at least 10 minutes a day?

Remember this about fruit: we do not grow fruit. We may learn what an apple tree needs to grow apples. We may apply the right fertilizer and insecticide, keep it pruned properly, but we do not grow apples—God does. The same thing is true for spiritual fruit. 1 John 5:14-15 states that God grows fruit in our lives when we ask Him to. God wants us to have the fruit of the light in our lives, so if we ask Him, He will grow it in us.

People who walk in the light avoid dark deeds. They don't do what the world does. Tim Tebow was possibly the most popular football player of 2007 and 2008. A Heisman Trophy winner with a college football National Championship to his credit and the former star of the Florida Gators, Tebow no doubt has had women throwing themselves at him for his entire college career. Even so, he is on record that he is a virgin and saving himself for marriage. The media was stunned. It made headline news. However, Tebow is simply walking in the light and avoiding dark deeds as he continues his association with the NFL.

We need to walk in wisdom (Ephesians 5:15-16). There are aspects of life that need to be defeated, and only people who walk in wisdom will be ready to do it. We find purity by imitating God through walking in wisdom.
•    "Pay careful attention" translates a Greek verb that stresses continuous action.
•    The Greek word translated "time" refers to a strategic opportunity to make a difference. Paul meant that we are to live in such a way that we are determined to make a difference. And that is vital "because the days are evil."
•    The word translated "evil" refers to a determined resistance to good.

A balanced growing relationship with God means that we live out His values in ethics and morality. This can help show respect for others by treating them as God sees and values them. How does wisely approaching life to make a difference help us seek purity in a sensual culture?
(1) I am wisely going to follow God in life.
(2) I am going to commit to a personal devotional time so I can have the spiritual power to remain pure (Psalm 119:9) and to help others.
(3) I am going to be connected to a local church that will help me be the kind of person God can use (Hebrews 10:23-25).
(4) I am going to guard my affections from any relationships that would lead me away from my commitment to my wife or my future wife (Proverbs 4:23-27).
(5) I am going to commit the time necessary to build healthy relationships with my friends and family (1 Corinthians 13:1-8).
(6) The days are evil, so I am going to stand firm against that evil (Ephesians 6:10-13).
(7) If I need counseling, I will seek wise, pastoral counseling.

We all have things we just don't understand. At the top of that list quite often is why God does what He does. God not only runs the universe but actually holds it all together (Colossians 1:17). Sometimes we "fall asleep" on God and do things we know are wrong.  When we "wake up" and realize what we did was wrong, guilt can be so intense that we may even doubt our salvation. At times like that, we need to remember that God is still with us.

No matter what happens, when we know Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, then our relationship with God is indestructible as Romans 8:39 assures us. God's people represent Him. God often expresses His presence through believers' presence in the lives of those who hurt or feel devalued. The vast greatness of God might keep some people from seeking His presence, especially as they deal with past sins or hurts. We can encourage others to come to Christ as we show them grace and speak forgiveness.

What do you think makes someone a winner in life? Is it wealth, education, prominence, or fame? These world's standards are quite different from the Lord's. Our culture esteems the self-made person, but God's scale for success measures by dependence, not strength. Instead of looking for strong, independent people, He seeks those who know they're weak and inadequate who depend on Him.

Paul knew how to live victoriously. As he neared death, he summed his life in 2 Timothy 4:8. He expressed no hint of disappointment or regret but bold confidence that he had fulfilled God's purpose. That's how the Lord wants all of us to live. No Christian wants to come to the end of life and feel remorse over wasted opportunities to live for Christ.

Today is the day to evaluate whether you're following the apostle’s example.
•    Paul fought the good fight. When you trusted Christ as your Savior, you entered a battleground. Satan lost your soul, but he won’t give up. He'll do anything to make you useless for the Kingdom. The bad news is that you are no match for the Devil. It's impossible for you to win this fight in your own strength. Christ has given you His armor and the sword of His Word so you can stand firm (Ephesians 6:10-17).
•    Paul finished the course. He likened the Christian life to a marathon. God has designed a specific path for each of us and has bestowed gifts and abilities to enable us to fulfill His purposes and finish the course. This race is long and filled with distracting obstacles, but Christ hasn't left us to struggle on our own. His Holy Spirit guides and strengthens us along the way.
•    And Paul kept the faith. After revealing Himself to Paul on the road to Damascus, Jesus entrusted him with a priceless treasure: the Gospel. The word “keep” means "to guard," and that's what Paul did as he preached and defended the faith—whether to Gentiles, skeptics, or religious Jews.

When we compare our life to Paul's, we may feel discouraged and defeated. After all, who could possibly live up to his example? Although we think of Paul as a "super Christian," he would be the last one to claim glory for a well-lived life. He had learned the secret in Philippians 4:13.
•    This Scripture describes the principle of dependence. Man is inadequate to fulfill God's purposes, but Jesus provides everything we need.
•    In his letters, Paul used "in Christ" to describe this dependent relationship. To live "in Christ" means we are walking around in human bodies that are overflowing with the life of Jesus. He dwells within us through the Holy Spirit, making us capable of achieving whatever He directs us to do. Jesus used the analogy of a vine and branches to describe this relationship. The only way a branch can bear fruit is by abiding in the vine so sap can flow through it. A Christian must maintain a connection with Jesus to become and do what He desires (John 15:5).

The problem of pride
A major obstacle to a dependent life is our own foolish pride. We forget that God is our Creator and Sustainer, and we are all totally dependent upon Him, even if we don't realize it. Without the Lord, we couldn't take our next breath or have any hope of eternal life. We're totally unable to save ourselves. No one can come to Jesus unless the Father draws him (John 6:44). Those who live in pride have simply closed their eyes to the reality of their condition.

The potential of a dependent life
Many boast of impressive accomplishments, but  anything they've achieved in their own strength will have zero eternal value. The only way to realize our full potential is to be rightly related to God through His Son, living in submission and reliance upon Him. With the almighty presence of the Holy Spirit within us, we tap into supernatural strength to accomplish what we can't humanly do.

Yet despite God's abundant power, many Christians are still living in defeat.
•    When asked to serve the Lord in a challenging way, they claim, "Oh, I couldn't possibly do that!"
•    The real problem is unbelief. They aren't seeing the situation from God's perspective.
•    He's promised to strengthen us to do all things within parameters of His will, but we're afraid of failure.
•    Fear draws a line around our life and limits God's work in and through us. Even with health or just natural “old age” issues, God can use us.
•    Self-made boundaries always hinder us from becoming people He wants us to be.
If we automatically say no to a God-given challenge, we are not living in our full potential. The Lord wants to do so much more in us than we generally let Him.

Our potential in Christ doesn't just refer to accomplishments and service. It also applies to our attitudes. Paul talked about learning to be content in every circumstance, whether in need and hardship or comfort and abundance in Philippians 4:11-13. He demonstrated the same attitude in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. If you and I could learn this lesson, we would be more like Paul because we'd recognize that Christ in us is sufficient for every heartache, burden, and sorrow we experience. This does not mean we shouldn’t keep trying to improve our lifestyle.

The practice of dependence
Now, the big question is, how do you move into a life of total dependence upon Christ? Acknowledge that you are completely inadequate to be and do what God desires. Your only hope of living a victorious life is to develop the mindset of Galatians 2:20. If you'll begin each morning with this attitude and let it shape your decisions throughout the day, you'll begin to glimpse what He is able to do in and through you. The more you surrender to His plans and obey by relying on His strength, the more you'll live in your full potential.

THE INVITATION
★    You can't depend on your own goodness to get to Heaven. We've all sinned  (Romans 3:23). Jesus paid the penalty for your sins with His death on the cross and His resurrection (John 3:16).
★    To be forgiven and be guaranteed a place in Heaven, you need to repent of sin, confess that you are a sinner, and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ in your heart (Acts 2:21).
★    You can use the following prayer or your own words, but you must actually believe in your heart that your prayer is real:
              Lord Jesus, I believe You are the Son of God. I confess that I have sinned against You in thought, word, and deed. Please forgive all my wrongdoing and let me live in relationship with You from now on.
              I receive You as my Savior and recognize that the work You accomplished once and for all on the cross was done on my behalf.
              Thank You for saving me. Help me to live a life that is pleasing to You.
                     In Your name I pray, Amen.

 

                              Broadway Baptist Church   Dr. Nicholas Gray, Pastor   October, 2015