Ephesians Study, Part 38: Walk Carefully
The last time we studied Ephesians, we completed verse 14 of Chapter 5. So I
want to rebuild the foundation for Paul's teachings in Chapters 4, 5 and 6 of
In these three chapters, Paul gives us instructions about how we
should lead our lives as Christians. I was struck by this, after our lessons
from the National Prayer Breakfast, since in my mind, the key to their
success is "believers living as followers of Jesus of Nazareth". I think
that is exactly what Paul is telling us to do. In all the teachings in
Ephesians 4-6, if you keep in mind the big picture, what they are really
about, it will help you manage the instructions better. In the First verse of
Chapter 4, Paul makes it clear what he is trying to convey.
Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a
manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called... --Ephesians 4:1
Paul spent the first three chapters telling us how blessed we are to be Christians --
the fantastic contrast between the old and the new lives. In the second three
chapters he says… "So act like it." He then set about describing how we
should lead our lives, what to do and what to avoid. Since Paul was teaching
grace, this section is not a set of rules, not law, but how we should
naturally want to behave in reaction to the Grace of God toward us.
Did you hear
me? Paul is not reciting a set of laws to follow. He is describing how we
should naturally live our lives in response to the Grace and love of God.
Let's recap the general teachings that Paul gave us between 4:1 and 5:14,
where we last studied.
Then in Chapter 5, Paul focused on what we should be: imitators of God.
- 4:2 told us to preserve the unity of the church by being humble, gentle,
patient and tolerant with each other.
- 4:11 told us the each of us has a specific and unique assignment to be
used to equip the body of believers to build up the church.
- 4:17 told us not to behave like the pagans that we were before accepting
Jesus. Paul then proceeded to list things that the new self just shouldn't
be doing, like lying, stealing, acting in anger, course talk, and bitterness.
- 4:32 summed it up with the positive admonition of
- "be kind to one another,
tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
- 5:2 told us to walk in love, like Jesus did.
- 5:3-5 told us to avoid immorality and impurity and coarseness.
- 5:6-14 cautioned us to be careful, don't be led astray, avoid the old
ways and avoid the people of the old ways, don't put yourself in danger
of the old ways.
Today's Lesson-- Walk Carefully:
So now let's jump back into Paul's teaching.
Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise...
The word walk occurs seven times in this passage. So how we walk, how
we lead our lives, the examples we set, seem to be a big deal for Paul. But
as we all know, this is an area where we all stumble. To the extent that you
are trying to walk a Christian walk, we may be stumbling because we are not
being careful how we walk. The word careful here is sometimes also
translated "circumspectly". Paul is saying look around, pay attention, be
careful. The Greek word here is blepo, "to look at, to examine".
It carries the idea of precision are accuracy. The NAS translation of "be
careful how you walk" is pretty accurate. Paul is saying that "be careful
that you are walking exactly, the way God wants you to".
For comparison, the opposite would be to walk carelessly, without accuracy,
without forethought. We should not leave our Christian life to chance. We
need to make careful precise decisions to follow the will of God.
Today it is difficult not to contrast the young people of today with the
young people we were, and the ones we grew up with. We all messed up too, but I think
there is one common difference. When we were growing up, I think most of us
had dreams and ambitions and plans about how to get where we wanted to be
when we grew up. We were focused on our future and we had a game plan to
I recognize that I have, rightly so, been called "anal retentive". But then
I consider that a compliment, so I am not offended. But just to give you,
perhaps, an extreme example, when I was in the 4th grade, Mrs. Sargent
asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up. I explained that I was going
to go to the University of Illinois and be a civil engineer, which is
exactly what I did. I never looked back. I never had to make any
choices. I even skipped a year of high school, because I wanted to see
how quickly I could graduate as a civil engineer from the University of Illinois.
It is startling today to visit with many young people to find that they
are not that focused, the may not have a clear game plan. They really
are leaving life to chance. You could make the argument they have better
mental health that I do. Some would criticize my myopia.
You can attribute their lack of focus and drive to many things. We were
raised in a post-war era with our society focused on a bright future. Perhaps
our family structure has deteriorated since then. I would suggest that our
school and educational structure has deteriorated since then. I would claim
that our society has deteriorated since then. Unfortunately most young
people today do not truly expect to succeed at a higher level than their
parents did. When I was being raised, it was the exception who was not
expecting and planning to exceed the accomplishments of their parents.
You have to wonder if a part of this loss isn't the result of the kids having been
trained that they exist as result of cosmic accidents rather than the creation of God.
It is not un-Christian to plan. You could take the position that you should
not plan and just let God play out the future. Many Christians who do not
plan quote biblical verses out of context to avoid planning their future. They
might quote Matthew 6:34:
So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for
itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
But, if you look at the context, this verse does not discourage planning, but
just the tendency to depend on ourselves instead of God. If we depend on
God, God says, don't worry, be happy.
Jesus, in instructing the disciples how to live their lives, said:
For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not
first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? --Luke 14:28
And to see why he said this, you just need to go to the next verses where he
tells them why they should plan:
...otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to
finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, "This man
began to build and was not able to finish." --Luke 14:29-30
He says that they should plan ahead so the world will not see them as
foolish. To depend on God is one thing, but Jesus says that not to plan is stupid.
A planned life is better able to deal with unexpected events. Peter Drucker, a management
guru said that "Planning involves the futurity of today's decisions." In other
words, planning is not prophesying the future, it is understanding the future
consequences of today's decisions. That is really what planning is about. Someone
said that luck is when opportunity meets preparation. Unless you have plans, you
can't really prepare. Planning is a necessary part of it.
Our word opportunity comes from a Latin word which means "toward a port." It
suggests a ship taking advantage of a wind to get back to port. There is an ancient
proverb. "To him who has no course plotted, no wind is favorable". That
captures the idea.
Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. --Ephesians 5:15-16
Psalm 90:12 says:
So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart
If you to put this in modern lingo, in computerese, we are instructed to
number our nanoseconds. Paul is saying to take advantage of our
opportunities. Paul clearly expected a coming persecution from the Romans,
coming very quickly. If there is not a change in our society with regard to its
attitude toward Christianity and political correctness, we could end up in the
same place today and should be repeating what Paul is saying, "that we really
shouldn't waste any time because problems are coming."
So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. --Ephesians 5:17
adventure of your life is to discover God's purpose for you,
individually. Everyone of us has a purpose in our life, set by God. Each
of our purposes is absolutely unique. There are no two people in this room
who are identical or who have identical purposes as set by God. You have probably
already noticed that there are no two people in this room identical, physically
or emotionally. And you can be assured that everyone of us has a unique purpose
from God as well. And the greatest discovery we can ever find in this life,
after Jesus, is to identify and understand what God wants us to do. And you
do that by studying his Word and you do it by listening to his Spirit in your
hearts, and also by being sensitive to how God works our circumstances.
How do you do that? By knowing him.
- How do you know the will God? By knowing his mind.
- How do you know his mind? There are at least three ways.
- By prayer.
- By worship.
- By studying his Word.
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to
those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. --Romans 8:28
...we will pick up with verse 18 of Ephesians 5. We will discuss
wine and drinking and then proceed with a discussion of being filled with
the Holy Spirit instead.