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Redeeming the Time

Date: 2 Jun 2024, 9.30 am

Speaker: Deacon Lee Pak Choon Sermon Text: Ephesians 5:15-21

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TRANSCRIPT

15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

What is the relevance of this passage to you and me ?

Let me start by saying that this passage is very relevant to me as I am approaching semi-retirement. Semi-retirement is another way of saying I am getting old.


You know especially when I read the starting verse that says Look carefully then how you walk. It is like telling me literally, “ Hey Uncle Pak Choon , steady, look carefully how you walk. Don’t fall “


Indeed, this passage has a lot of relevance to seniors.  But it also has much to say to young people as well. But allow me to touch on this subject with our seniors first because as you know time is short. I will  talk about how this passage can apply to young people later. Young people can wait. Your time is longer.


Ever since I have passed 59 and going into my sixty this year, I have become fascinated by how the seniors spend their time.  Will they watch TV all day? Will they ever get bored with Korean drama?  


So, I asked our retired elders ; Elder Peter who retired 3 years ago and Elder Elgin who had just announced his retirement this year.


Surprisingly, what I heard from them is that they are enjoying their retirement. Relaxed. Steady. No more deadlines to meet. No more stress. And they look younger than before. Something must be good about retirement.


Let me continue. Retirees also get to do the things that they don’t normally do when they were working. They have taken up new hobbies like travelling, golfing,  painting, cooking, singing , dancing, playing the guitar and so many others.


Suddenly, I discover our seniors have so many hidden talents. You see their true colours shining through. Now, who says our church has no talents ?


I have also noted that some of the retirees, like Brother David Leong, Brother Gene Tan, Sister May Mei and Sister Jennifer, look very happy looking after their grandchildren.  Right?  Okay I hope I am right.


So, my conclusion is that retirement is not a bad thing after all. You are able to make the best use of the time to do the things that you enjoy and also making a lasting impact to others.


Time is a precious commodity. Given a choice, if I were to retire, I would like to learn some serious stuff like how to preach better than learn how to cook.


And talking about cooking ( let me digress a bit ), my wife can cook very well, but I can’t. That’s why I got married. What I am trying to say is that ...


If you look into the passage closely, you will realize it does not make a distinction on the types of pursuits. It is not about choosing between preaching and cooking. Rather it is about discerning and pursuing what is wise and unwise living by making the best use of the time and the gifts that God had given us.


We are told in the passage to live not as unwise, but as wise. There is a stark contrast between wise and unwise living. The distinction is as clear as being drunk and reckless as in foolish living and being filled with the Spirit as in wise living.  


The call to live wisely is made all the more imperative according to the passage because the days are evil. Why are the days evil ? Because sin and corruption have pervaded our societies. We are constantly being bombarded by temptations, seductions and deceptions of this world through the lust of the flesh , the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. We can be easily tempted and be led astray by these influences and follow the ways of the world. So, we must stay guarded against such worldly temptations so as not to fall away from the faith and live foolishly.


In order to be a good faithful witnesses for Christ, we need to understand how to live wisely.


Let ‘s dive deep into the passage :  


Ephesians 5 : 15 – 17 15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

There is a key word mentioned here in the passage. It is the word TIME.


What is the biblical meaning of Time?

The Greek name for Time is Kairos. The idea of Kairos is not the same as Clock Time which is Chronos in Greek. Chronos is basically time that can be measured as in seconds, minutes, hours and days. It is quantitative, but Kairos is qualitative.  Kairos measures moments and seasons. In the passage, Kairos represents the best time to do something when the circumstances are most suitable.  It  refers to specific times in which the opportunity is “ripe”, so that when the time passes, so does the opportunity.


The word Opportunity is also another interesting word. It is derived from the Latin word “Ob Portu” , meaning a ship waiting to make it to port …


In ancient times before modern harbours are built , ships had to wait for the timing of the tide before they could make it to port. So, they have to seize the crucial moment when it could ride the tide into safe harbour. If the ship missed the passing tide, it would have to wait for another tide to come in.


Shakespeare has a famous line from his play “Julius Caesar” that conveys the same idea : “ There is a tide in the affairs of men ( an “ob Portu””) which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; omitted, all the voyage of their lives is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat. And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.


In essence, this quote suggests that timing is crucial in life. Just as the tide ebbs and flows, opportunities come and go. To make the best use of the time, we must always be alert and recognize these pivotal moments or opportunities in our lives and act decisively.


 Biblical meaning of redeem

Another key word mentioned in the passage which I would like to use the  King James Version for its  translation is the word  “ Redeem “.


KJV version on Ephesians 5 : 15 says

15 See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

The word Redeem is the Greek word exagorazo which literally means to “buy out of the market place”.


The picture is that of a merchant who diligently seeks to buy up the best bargains in the market place, taking care not to miss the fleeing opportunities.


Redeem is in the present tense. It means we are to make it our daily practice, our lifestyle to buy up for ourselves the opportunities which God providentially places in our paths. 


If we are living wisely, filled with God’s Spirit, we will be spiritually alert to those divine opportunities in the “marketplace”. We will begin to view people and circumstance not just as encounters in time but as opportunities to impact for eternity.


Biblical Example in Paul the Apostle

We see this in the example of Paul the apostle.


Paul understands the will of God for his life which is to bring the gospel to the lost. Throughout his ministry, Paul demonstrated a relentless commitment to spreading the Gospel and advancing God's kingdom.


One notable example of Paul seizing the opportunity to share the Gospel is found in Acts 17:16-34, where he visits the city of Athens. Upon seeing the city full of idols, Paul is deeply distressed and begins engaging with both the Jews and Greeks in the synagogue and the marketplace. He even engages with the philosophers in the Areopagus, where he delivers a powerful message proclaiming the one true God and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.


How did Paul redeem the time when he was in Athens ?

 

He applied several key principles:


  1. Cultural Engagement: Paul took the time to understand the culture and beliefs of the people he was ministering to. He used familiar cultural references, such as the altar to the "unknown god," to bridge the gap and communicate the Gospel effectively.  

  2. Courage: Despite the intellectual and philosophical challenges, Paul boldly proclaimed the truth of the Gospel without hesitation. He was unafraid to confront false beliefs and present the exclusive claims of Christianity.

  3. Adaptability: Paul was flexible in his approach to ministry, willing to engage with people in various settings and adapt his message to meet their needs. He tailored his message to resonate with his audience, using language and concepts that they could understand.

 

Through cultural engagement, courage and adaptability, Paul effectively communicated the message of Jesus Christ to diverse audiences, leaving a lasting impact on the early church.


Biblical Example in Philip the Evangelist

Another notable example of a Bible character who redeem the time is Philip the evangelist.


In the narrative in Acts 8:26-40, Philip encounters an Ethiopian eunuch traveling in a chariot. The Spirit prompts Philip to approach the chariot, where he finds the eunuch reading from the book of Isaiah. Philip seizes the divine opportunity and engages the eunuch in conversation, explaining the passage and proclaiming Jesus Christ as the fulfilment of prophecy.


Here's how Philip's actions demonstrate the application of “redeeming the time” :

Sensitive to the Spirit’s Leading : Philip is sensitive to the Spirit leading and allow himself to be guided by God's direction. When prompted by the Spirit, he immediately responds and approaches the Ethiopian eunuch.


Ready to Engage: Philip seizes the opportunity to engage the eunuch in conversation about the Scriptures. He doesn't hesitate or shy away from initiating dialogue but demonstrates a willingness to share the Gospel message with openness and clarity.


Effective in Communicating the Gospel : Philip effectively communicates the message of Jesus Christ to the eunuch, using the Scriptures as a foundation for his teaching. He helps the eunuch understand the significance of what he is reading and how it relates to the person and work of Jesus Christ.


May we be like Philip seek to redeem the time and seize every opportunity that God places before us to share the love and truth of Jesus Christ with those around us.


Be Filled with the Spirit

One key principle of living wisely and making the most of the opportunities presented to us to impact for eternity is the verse found in Ephesians 5 : 18

18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit “


Paul warns us against the danger of excess, particularly in the form of drunkenness , which can lead to moral decline, spiritual emptiness and ultimately resulting in a wasted life. As believers, we are urged to exercise self control and moderation in all things.


Instead of seeking fulfilment through worldly means, we are to be filled with the Holy Spirit , allowing His presence to guide , empower and transform our lives.


Now, being filled with the Holy Spirit is not an option. It is a command.


John MacArthur says “If we do not obey this command, we cannot obey any other— simply because we cannot do any of God’s will apart from God’s Spirit.


Outside of the command for unbelievers to trust in Christ for salvation, there is no more practical and necessary command in Scripture than the one for believers to be filled with the Spirit.”


In other words, the Holy Spirit’s presence and empowerment are essential for living out God’s will and following His commands.


MacArthur suggests that this command is practical and necessary because it impacts every aspect of a believer’s life. When filled  with the Spirit , we exhibit the fruit of the Spirit and walk in obedience to God’s Word. Our relationships, attitudes, decisions, and responses are influenced by the Spirit’s work within us. Apart from the Spirit enabling, we cannot fulfil God’s will or live the Christian life effectively.

 

But how are we to be filled with the Spirit ?

John 7:38-39 says “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”


The filling of the Holy Spirit comes to those who believe in Jesus Christ  as Lord and Saviour. You must be a believer in Christ in order to have the Holy Spirit abide in you.


However, the filling of the Holy Spirit is not a one-time event. It is a on-going process of surrender, growth and reliance on God as you mature in your faith.


What facilitates the filling of the Spirit ?

Colossians 3:16 says “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. “


 Now compare this verse with Ephesians 5 : 18 – 20. Do you see any similarities?

Yes, there is a parallel between being filled with the Holy Spirit  & being indwelled with the Word of Christ.


Let us explore the similarities as shown in the table.

Ephesians 5: 18 – 20

Colossians 3 : 16 – 17

Be Filled ( Present Imperative )

Let … dwell within you richly ( Present Imperative)

The Spirit

The Word of Christ

Speaking to one another ( Eph 5 : 19 )

Teaching & Admonishing one another ( Col 3 : 16 )

In Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs ( Eph 5 : 19 )

With Psalms, and Hymns and Spiritual Songs ( Col 3 : 16 )

Singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord ( Eph 5 : 19 )

Singing with thankfulness in your hearts ( Col 3 : 16 )

Always GIVING THANKS for ALL things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father Eph 5:20

Do ALL in the name of the Lord Jesus, GIVING THANKS through to God the Father Col 3:17

The filling of the Holy Spirit and the filling of Christ’s Word are interconnected. When we immerse ourselves in Scripture, the Holy Spirit uses that Word to transform us. The Word becomes a channel through which the Spirit works. As we meditate on Scripture, the Spirit brings it to life, convicts us, teaches us and empowers us to live according to God’s will.


So, as we seek to be filled by the Spirit, seek also to be filled with the Word of Christ. Both are essential for a vibrant Christian life.


Now , let us examine how the passage in Ephesians 5 : 15 – 21  can be applied to us.

Practical Applications to Seniors/Retirees

Let us start with the seniors and retirees . What are the practical applications for them from this passage ?


  1. Time management: Retirees often have more free time than during their working years. This passage encourages them to use time wisely, making the most of every opportunity. Instead of idleness or aimless pursuits, retirees can engage in activities that align with God's will, such as volunteering, pursuing healthy hobbies, investing in relationships or coaching the younger ones.

  2. Spiritual growth: Retirement can provide seniors with more opportunities for spiritual growth and reflection. By being filled with the Spirit and engaging in practices like prayer, worship, and studying scriptures, seniors can deepen their relationship with God and continue growing in their faith.

  3. Generational influence: Seniors have the opportunity to leave a lasting legacy of faith for their children, grandchildren, and others in their community. By modelling a life filled with the Spirit, gratitude, and mutual submission, seniors can inspire and influence future generations to live in accordance with God's will.  

  4. Transitioning with grace: Retirement often marks a significant transition in life, and this passage encourages retirees to navigate this transition with grace and trust in God's plan. Whether facing changes in health, relationships, or daily routines, retirees can find comfort and guidance in knowing that God is with them in every season of life.  

  5. Continued service: Retirement doesn't mean total retirement from Christian service. Sister Lai Har reminded us a few Sundays ago that there is no such thing as retirement for Christians in service. I don’t think she has spoiled the market. To be honest, I support her view. Why not? As long as one is able, retirees can still continue to use their skills, talents, and life experiences to serve their communities, churches, and other organizations. This passage reminds retirees that their lives still have purpose and value in God's kingdom, and they can make a meaningful impact through acts of service and generosity.

Overall, Ephesians 5:15-21 encourages seniors and retirees to embrace their retirement years as an opportunity to deepen their relationship with God, serve others, and leave a legacy of faith and wisdom for future generations.

Practical Applications to Young People

So, what about young people ?  How can the passage apply to them ?

  1. Making wise choices: A young man decides to settle down and get married. He has dated 3 girls and decides to marry one of them. The first one knows how to spend money wisely. The second one knows how to save money. The third one knows how to invest and grow money. He got married. Now, who do you think he chose to marry ?  Well, he chose the prettiest one!

  2. That’s why this passage is so relevant to young people. Young people often face numerous choices and decisions about their relationship, career, education, and lifestyle. This passage encourages them to consider these choices carefully, understanding God’s will for their lives and seeking wisdom and discernment in their decision-making process.

  3. Using time wisely: In a fast-paced and digitally connected world, young people can easily become consumed by distractions and time-wasting activities. This passage urges them to make the most of their time, recognising the importance of investing it in meaningful pursuits that align with God's will.

  4. Resisting peer pressure: Young people may face pressure from peers to engage in behaviours or activities that are contrary to their faith or values. By being filled with the Spirit and making wise choices, they can resist such pressure and stand firm in their convictions.

  5. Avoiding Addictive Behaviour: The warning against drunkenness in this passage applies to any form of substance abuse or addictive behaviour. Young people are encouraged to exercise self-control and avoid behaviours that can lead to physical, emotional, or spiritual harm.

  6. Engaging in worship and gratitude: Young people can cultivate a vibrant spiritual life by participating in worship, prayer, and expressions of gratitude. These practices can help them stay connected to God and find strength and peace amidst life's challenges.

  7. Building healthy relationships: The principle of mutual submission and unity applies to all relationships, including friendships, dating, and family dynamics. Young people are encouraged to prioritise humility, respect, and mutual care in their interactions with others.

 

In summary, this passage provides timeless principles that can guide young people in navigating the complexities of modern life, helping them to make wise choices, cultivate a vibrant faith, and build healthy relationships grounded in Christ.

 

Closing Thoughts

In closing, as we reflect on Ephesians 5:15-21, let us commit ourselves to live wisely, redeeming the time by making the most of every opportunity that God places before us. Let us be filled with the Spirit, expressing worship and gratitude in all that we do, and let us strive for mutual submission and unity within the body of Christ.  And may we be good stewards of the time and opportunities given to us to be faithful witnesses for Christ and impact lives for eternity’s sake.

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