The Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost
August 22, 2021
Live the Wise Life!
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. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (NIV1984)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
“Ah, this is the good life!” What might prompt you or someone else to speak those words? For some people the “good life” might center around lounging on a beach— maybe even a beach in Hawaii. For some people the “good life” might center on sitting around a bonfire with their family and their friends. I used to think that the “good life” included sitting on a deck and looking out over a lake or sitting in my boat out on a lake. Now, my idea of the “good life” centers on being surrounded by my grandchildren and watching them have fun as they play together.
The simple fact that there are a number of scenarios that might prompt someone to say, “Ah, this is the good life!” reveals to us that my definition of the “good life” and your definition of the “good life” can easily be very different. The simple fact that our personal definition of the “good life” can and very often does change reveals to us that the ”good life” if far more nebulous than we might like to think.
Because we all want to live the “good life” one of the questions we need to address is— how do we do that? Generally speaking, we answer that question by having a goal in our life. While many people would strive to achieve their goal by focusing on the things of this world, as Christians we strive to achieve our goal by focusing our eyes on a life that is far more joyous and far more beautiful than just a “good life.” We achieve this goal by following the encouragement that Paul gives to us here in our text. With that goal in mind, let’s study our text under the theme: Live the Wise Life!
Paul sets the stage for what he is about to tell us when he says in the opening verse of our text, “Be very careful, then, how you live— not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” As the apostle Paul very often does, he bases this statement on what he has just said. When we look back to the verses that precede our text, we hear Paul urge us to live as children of light, to find out what pleases our Lord, to expose the fruitless deeds of darkness and to realize that our faith in Jesus as our Savior is a gift— a gift that has been given to us purely because of God’s amazing grace.
Can this gift be lost? Can this gift be tossed aside as though it isn’t really all that important or all that precious? Yes, it can! Who could do such a thing? We could! Because we all have that old sinful nature lurking inside of us, it is possible for us to take for granted the “pearl of great price” (Matthew 13:45, 46), to become careless in our relationship with our Lord, to become irresponsible in our daily walk with God. Because it is possible for us to do this, Paul encourages us by saying, “Be very careful, then, how you live.” A more literal translation of these words would go like this, “Therefore, look, consider, discover with care how you are walking or how you are conducting yourself.”
As Christians living in a hostile world we need to “look very carefully” as we walk through this world so that we do not get caught in one of Satan’s traps or step on one of Satan’s land mines. This careful consideration of how we are living our day-to-day lives will enable us to “make the most of every opportunity” as we recognize that “the days are evil.” Every single day brings before our eyes example after example of the fact that “the days are evil.” I know a number of people— myself included— who don’t like to watch the news anymore. While there might be one example of someone who will come to the rescue of someone who is in trouble or do something good for someone else, there are many more accounts of people rioting and looting, people getting shot, hackers stealing other people’s personal information and the list of “evil” never seems to end.
How do we as Christians “consider very carefully how we walk”? How do we as Christians strive to live “not as unwise but as wise”? How do we as Christians “make the most of every opportunity”? Paul explains it to us when he says, “Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” As our Old Testament lesson for today (Proverbs 9:1-6) brought out in a very picturesque way, true wisdom is the wisdom that comes to us from God. This is the wisdom that leads us to “understand,” to “perceive,” to “have insight into” God’s holy will— both His will for us as well as His will for our lives. Where do we find God’s will? There is only one place— right here in the Bible!
“Understanding, perceiving, having insight into what the Lord’s will is” requires that we are reading and studying our Bible on a regular basis. “Understanding, perceiving, having insight into what the Lord’s will is” requires that we gather together in God’s Name— whether it is here in His house or on Zoom— so that we can listen as God’s Word, God’s will, is both proclaimed and explained to us. Any child of God who thinks that they can “understand, perceive, have insight into what the Lord’s will is” without reading and studying their Bible on a regular basis, without gathering together with their brothers and sisters in the faith to hear God’s Word, God’s will, proclaimed and explained to them needs to seriously reconsider and apply to themselves what Paul is saying here in this text: “Be very careful, then, how you live— not as unwise but as wise…do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.”
Paul then goes on in our text to give God’s people two very specific examples of how to apply what he has just said to their own hearts and to their own lives. One example is negative. It emphasizes what God’s people are not to do. The other example is positive. It emphasizes what God’s people are to do. Using two Gospel imperatives, two evangelical commands, Paul says, “Do not get drunk (literally = Do not be getting drunk) on wine which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled (literally = be filling/ making full) with the Spirit.”
Striving to live a wise life will lead us to follow Paul’s Gospel imperative, “Do not be getting drunk on wine which leads to debauchery.” This could be a reference to the festivals that were dedicated to Bacchus, the “god of wine.” During these festivals both men and women regarded it as an acceptable act of worship to get drunk, run through the streets and the vineyards singing wild songs and engaging in all sorts of “debauchery.” Even to this day the “unwise” and the “foolish” see drunkenness as an acceptable way to “have fun.” All too often the “unwise” and “foolish” find it amusing when someone is so drunk that they are slurring their words and stumbling around when they try to walk. That’s why we still need to heed Paul’s evangelical command, “Do not be getting drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery.”
Striving to live a wise life will also lead us to follow Paul’s Gospel imperative, “Be filling yourself up, be making yourself full with the Holy Spirit.” God the Holy Spirit fills an extremely critical role in our life as a Christian. God the Holy Spirit not only brought us to faith, but He is the One who keeps us in the faith. He is our Paraclete. He is our Comforter and our Counselor. He gives us joy even in the midst of suffering and sorrow. He gives us peace even in the midst of trials and tribulations. How does the Holy Spirit do all this? Through the power of His holy inspired Word! This reminds us that the best way to “be filling ourselves up” with the Holy Spirit each and every day is by “filling ourselves up” with God’s holy Word each and every day!
Paul then goes on to give us two very practical ways to achieve the goal of “filling ourselves up with the Holy Spirit.” In verse 19 of our text Paul says, “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to God.” This describes one of the fundamental reasons we gather together for worship. All too often we can easily become very self-centered in our worship life. All too often we expect that the worship service— the liturgy, the hymns, the sermon— will fit inside the definition of what we want and what we like. As the one who is preparing and leading the worship service, I always pray that you will take something home with you from the worship service— whether it is something from one of the Scripture lessons or something from one of the hymns or something from the sermon. At the same time, my friends, striving to live a wise life means that when you come to the worship service you need to see how you can help “fill up” the people around you with the Holy Spirit! Be enthusiastic as you participate in the liturgy. Sing from the heart so that others can see and hear your faith. When you talk to each other after the worship service or during the week don’t forget to talk about the joy and the peace and the confidence that God the Holy Spirit brings into your heart and into your life.
The second encouragement that Paul gives to us is found in the closing verse of our text. He says to you and to me, “Always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Striving to live a wise life will include “always giving thanks…for everything.” That’s not always easy to do, is it. Yes, it’s easy to give thanks to our heavenly Father when He sends “good and perfect gifts” into our lives. (See James 1:17) But what about when the heavenly Father allows disaster or disease or death to strike us or someone we love? Can we still “give thanks” to Him? As Christians we can answer that question, Yes. As the dearly beloved children of the heavenly Father we know that He has a plan for us! Sometimes that plan may include reminding us that we can’t get so focused on this life that we lose sight of the glorious perfect life He has waiting for us in heaven. Sometimes His plan may include reminding us of how much we need Him— His power, His guidance, His strength, His grace, His forgiveness. Sometimes His plan may include reminding us of how important it is to always stay close to Him as we journey through this world so that no matter when and how our journey here comes to an end, we know what comes next! Ultimately, “always giving thanks to God the Father for everything” is possible only because by God’s power and by God’s grace we are “in the sphere of the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Knowing who Jesus is and knowing what Jesus has done for us (Pointing to the cross) both enables us and empowers us to “always be giving thanks for everything.”
If you find yourself lounging on a beach in Hawaii or sitting on a deck overlooking a lake or grinning from ear-to-ear as you watch your grandchildren and you say to yourself, “Ah, this is the good life!” take a moment. Take a moment to thank the Lord for allowing you to enjoy that blessing. Once you have thanked Him consciously take a moment to reflect on the realization that that version of the “good life” can and probably will change. Finally, take a moment to remember what Paul says to you here in our text so that with God’s help, God’s direction you can live the best life of all as you strive to live a wise life!
To God be the glory!