Ephesians Study, Part 38: Walk Carefully

Review:

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 Ephesians.

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.

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.

Today's Lesson-- Walk Carefully:

So now let's jump back into Paul's teaching.

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 get there.

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:

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:

And to see why he said this, you just need to go to the next verses where he tells them why they should plan: 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.

Psalm 90:12 says: 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." The greatest 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.

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Next week:

...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.