42. Be Careful

Ephesians Meditations No.42

Eph  5:15-17 Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.

Sometimes when focusing on single verses we can lose sight of the overall picture. This is why we go back again and again and either recap where we have been, or check out the flow of thought that Paul has clearly followed, so we can see how everything fits together. Paul has spoken a lot about the church and how it is Christ’s body, and Christ is its head. He first reminded us of the life we came from (2:1-3) and of the work of God in us (2:4-10), how we had been separated from God (2:11-12) but have now been brought near and made one (2:13-18) and made God’s dwelling (2:19-22). After an aside (3:2-13) he had prayed that we would understand God’s love of us and the wonder of who we are as His church (3:14-21). It was because of all this, that in chapter 4 he moved on to deal generally with the Christian life (4:1,2), and how about there should be unity and life in the body (4:3-16). He started to move from the general to the specific as he called us to shy away from the life lived by unbelievers (4:17-19) but instead to live new lives (4:20-24). It is only then that he started listing specifics of things to be avoided (4:25-31) and things to do (4:32-5:2), and then again things to be avoided (5:3-7). He followed with a comparison of light and darkness (4:8-14) with an exhortation to have nothing to do with the things of darkness (v.11).

Thus he has gone from who God has made us to be, to the lives we should live as a result of that, making clear distinctions between Christian and non-Christian lives. The “then” in the middle of the first sentence implies, “because of all I’ve been saying so far…” So we could take it to read, “[Because of all I’ve been saying about the distinctions between your old unbelieving life and the new life], be very careful how you live.” i.e. check it out that you don’t let any elements of your old life remain or, as he goes on to say, “not as unwise but as wise.” i.e. don’t be foolish and careless but understand what is required of the new life and live accordingly. Wisdom is about ‘knowing how to’ do something and so a wise Christian is one who understands the world, the nature of sin and the battle against the enemy, what has happened to them, and the resources that are now available to them, and so how to live.

He continues, “making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” What is he now saying? Live a godly life and take any and every opportunity to shine (remember, you ARE light in the darkness). In the light of the above paragraph (sorry about the pun!), it is recognizing that we live in days when the majority are godless and unrighteousness and we are called to shine as lights, godly and righteous, and in such ways we take the opportunities to shine.

He continues, “Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” This is a call to awareness. How many Christians totter through life not being aware of these things – of the nature of sin, of the nature of the enemy and the tactics he uses to try and bring us down (temptation, deception, lies and outright hostility)?  How many are aware that they have a calling from God to live as lights in the darkness, to be salt in a putrefying world?  How many are clear in their minds of the things that the Lord has done for us, and the truth that we are saved by the finished work of Christ on the Cross and nothing more? How many are sure of the resources that are open to them as God’s children? How many have a sense of purpose and destiny to live out their lives in accordance with God’s declared printed word (the Bible) and His imparted word (prophecy) and the daily leading of His Holy Spirit?  This is what the will of God is all about! It is living holy, righteous, pure and good lives, inspired and led by the Holy Spirit to do the things that are on God’s heart for us.

Still not sure? Well then go back a few verses: “Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.” (5:8-10) This is what Paul is referring to: expressing goodness, righteous and truth and set on a daily mission to find out what God’s intent is for us. Remember part of what Jesus taught us to pray: “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Mt 6:10) i.e. let your rule be expressed in and through me and your will for me worked out in me and through me.

There is a difficulty when we are trying to work out what is good and right in our lives and, more particularly, what is not. It is that those of over-sensitive conscience allow the enemy to make them feel guilty about things that are quite legitimate. If that is you and you are not sure of your life, find a mature Spirit-filled Christian that you can trust and confide in the and let them reassure you if necessary. Be blessed!