A Careful Walk
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.
The message begins at approximately the 30 min mark.
I would like to begin today by introducing you to three fictitious people. The names have been changed to protect the identities of these people who I have completely made up.
Let me first introduce to you Windy. Windy was a girl who grew up in your average evangelical home. She attended church and went to youth group. Her family was very dedicated to Christ and she herself made a profession of faith when she was around 8 years old. She was what you might call a staunch Christian in that she attended Bible studies and tried to reach out to her unbelieving friends.
As Windy got older she began to have some experiences that challenged the faith that she had grown up with. One was her high school science class. She was a diligent student, as every Christian girl should be (right?). So she listened to the teacher’s lectures and read the class textbook with a studiousness that only an honor roll student can do. The problem was that she found some things in that book that conflicted with her Bible study. She had read about evolution and Darwinian theory. She didn’t really know how to reconcile the two and thought about how the Bible might be trying to summarize these scientific truths. It wasn’t too big of a deal. After all, it was only one unit and she rationalized that the Bible was speaking about things of faith, not exact science.
However, when she got to college, things began to take a different shape. In college she majored in psychology and had a minor in theology and religious studies. She appreciated her philosophy and religion professors because they challenged her to question the things she had grown up with. They were pressing the students to understand what really held their beliefs together. They wanted the students to get at the big questions of life. This seemed like the beginning of an awakening to Windy. That’s because a lot of what her faith had didn’t give her those answers.
Two other major events collided at the same time; both of which made her more skeptical of the faith that she had held on to so tightly through her early life. The first was a friend of hers who came out as a lesbian. At first she was caught off guard and did not know what to do with this. They had developed a friendship in college and Windy had appreciated her humor and intelligence. While it was hard to grasp her friend’s sudden announcement, it was harder to see how this friend was treated. Being at a Christian college, this friend was ostracized by quite a few of the students at the institution. She was ridiculed and made the butt of various jokes.
Windy found this even more painful and was very much turned off by the fact that these Christians would treat someone in this way. After all, she thought, how can she help being this way? Can it really be her fault that this was her orientation?
The other major shift occurred on a mission trip she took to Cambodia. This was an eye opening experience because there she witnessed massive suffering. She had opportunity to study the genocides and the killings, and the oppression that went on in that country in previous generations. She had gone there to help people, but what she found was a world of horrendous pain and loss. And this made her ask questions. It made her ask questions about God and about man. There were questions about how such things could not just happen, but could be permitted.
This track of life continued for Windy. There were various other events that led her into a state of depression. And there were things that kept coming up that was causing the faith she had once held to feel like holes were being punched through it with a sledge hammer.
She felt like she needed to begin again and rebuild her faith. Only this time it would be much different. It would not be bound by the moral confines that had shaped her previously. She wanted people to be accepted, no matter their background or orientation. She wanted a view of God which would be more freeing. She wanted a faith that would be be more conducive to her mental and emotional health.
The second person I want to introduce you to is a girl named Polly. Polly was a lot like Windy in her upbringing. She was another who was the product of an evangelical family. She too came to profess faith and be baptized early in life. And she too had a real zeal for God. Polly went to Bible studies and attended conferences. She also went to a Christian college. Unlike Windy, Polly was one who thrived on apologetics. She knew the fundamentals of the faith and recognized the place of evil in God’s world.
As a matter of fact, Polly was fervent to address these evils. She would speak out against them and attack them. She took as her theme verse the passage here in Ephesians 5 where it says to expose the works of darkness. And Polly gained quite a reputation for her ability to win arguments and make those she called liberals look really bad. She not only was quick to spot a faulty argument or faulty way of thinking, but she was also quick to point it out and shame it. She could often be heard saying, “that’s the stupidest thing in the world! What a moronic thing to say!”
Polly is also active on social media. There she shares and creates cutting memes and personal posts that (in her words) would ‘shred the lib-tards to pieces.’ From time to time people will tell Polly that she seems a little over the top and that she might be a little more effective if she would tone things down a bit. But she always saw right through that kind of snowflake attitude. She knows she’s doing the world good by taking the fight to them and pouring it on hard. After all, that’s the only way to stop these people from gaining control and taking over.
Lastly, let me introduce you to Lacy. Lacy is quite a bit different from Polly and Windy in that she’s much more laid back in her demeanor. She believes herself to be a dedicated Christian, but she’s not by any means as passionate as either of the two previous figures. She’s not going to be one who is taking the bull by the horns or making any kind of waves. She likes the quiet life of being at home and keeping her routine of common affairs.
To be sure, Lacy is a solid evangelical. Her faith isn’t by any means flamboyant, but it is real trust in Christ. What’s more, Lacy gives some credibility to her profession of faith by being obedient to her parents and hanging out with a relatively good set of friends. She’s mostly an amiable kind of person and appreciates the fact that she has a secure circle of people that she can engage with on a day to day basis.
Unlike Windy, Lacy doesn’t take any kind of the mission trip or try any kind of new ventures. She likes the normal lull of life. She will tell you that she’s not much of a risk taker and that the status quo is always the best kind of status.
Lacy isn’t anything like Polly either. She much prefers to scroll her social media than do anything that might be provocative or at odds with the regular beat of life. She simply goes to work, makes her paycheck, and then heads home to have dinner and curl up with a couple of her shows. It’s just simple, tranquil life.
Now I have just given you examples of three different kinds of people who are prevalent in our world today. They are people who have made different decisions and whose lives have taken different courses. To use the words of Scripture, they have had different walks of life.
And, you might say, that any of them may be the kind of person who might be right here in this church. Maybe you identify with one of these three figures or know someone who would.
I lay out these examples because our Scripture today speaks to each kind of person. Our Scripture speak to us about maintaining a walk. It’s calling us to examine our decisions and course of life and make sure that we are going down the right path.
You see, a Christian must be very careful about how he lives. When Christ comes into your life, you are, as our passage says, to be careful how you walk.” And Paul is telling us here that your life needs to have a certain shape to it. You need to be careful because your life can be easily shaped by the world, rather than by Christ and His Word.
And that is why I lay out these different scenarios. Because I want you to think about where each of us could go wrong. Each of these people has a distinct walk. Their lives have a certain shape that they take. Some are better than others, but they all could benefit from what our text says.
And as we listen to our text and to these different examples, we should be thinking about what the Lord wants from our own personal walk. So we can ask, how are we to walk?
This morning, I would like to point out three things from our text about the Christian walk; three things about how we are to conduct ourselves as Christians.
The first thing you should see is that the Lord demands that we have a precise walk.
I. A precise walk - Exact, careful walk
Paul says, “Look carefully how you walk.” And the word careful literally means “to be exact.”
As a side, the word here comes from the Greek word Akron. The word akron means high point. That’s why the city of Akron Ohio has its name. The founders of the city started it on the high point of the area. But word akron came to mean extreme and eventually morphed into akribos which means extremely accurate or precise.
Perhaps you know the passage in the book of Acts about Apollos. He had only known the baptism of John and he was a bold speaker. Along came Pricila and Aquilla and they “taught him the way more accurately.” That’s the same word.
So, one who walks carefully is one who is precise. He’s going to do his best to watch out for the slightest deviation. He will aim to be as accurate as he possibly can in his life’s decisions because he is demonstrating care in his actions. And of course, the accuracy and precision is his alignment with the Word of God. He’s not going to let anything blow him off course from the teachings of God.
You may think here of the tightrope walker. He is a good comparison to the Christian life. The tightrope walker cannot be concerned with anything but the exact placement of his feet. If he deviates in the smallest part, he will plummet to his demise. His whole career is dependent upon his walking with the highest degree of precision.
This is what we are called to do as Christians. We are to be careful how we walk. We are to make sure we are demonstrating the highest degree of care in our lives so that we do not deviate from the law of God. A god-pleasing life will be one that seeks to understand exactly what the Word of God requires. Christians are to be precise in what they believe. You will not want to have any faulty move in how you conduct yourself.
This is exactly what is wrong with Windy. Windy was more concerned about her own feelings and what was culturally acceptable. She wasn’t seeking to understand life in the most detailed way through the lens of Scripture.
And this is why people in our day have a tendency to fly off into what they call “progressive Christianity.” Progressive Christianity is a Christianity that is trying to progress, not in a Biblical way, but in a way that becomes more shaped by the culture around us. It accepts the legitimacy of our feelings over Scripture. It accepts the so called “science” of our culture. It accepts the morals of our culture. It is progressing away from true Christianity and progressing towards the religion of the world around us.
And this happens because the Word of God is seen as unhelpful. It is not recognized as sufficient to deal with all of life’s questions and issues. So instead of making your decisions based upon what the Scriptures say, you base your decisions on your feelings or what the world says.
Let me give you an example. I spoke with a progressive Christian this past week. She was looking for a progressive church. And I asked her what exactly she meant by that. She said that she wanted a church that was open and accepting of all kinds of people. She wanted a church that accepted all faiths and all people, no matter what their religious or sexual orientation.
I then asked her about the Old Testament passages that had to do with Baalism. I said, it seems to me that God was rather unaccepting of the Canaanites and their religions. That’s all I said. Do you know how she replied? She said she didn’t want a debate; she was just asking for some help finding a church that fit her beliefs.
Do you what happened there? There was no interest in the exactness of God’s Word. There was no desire to think deeply about what God had said and make sure that her beliefs were precisely aligned with it.
This is the problem with what is termed “progressive” Christianity in our day. It is not concerned with Biblical precision.
But this is why Paul says what he does. We need to be careful in the way we walk in that adhere to Scripture alone. We must watch that we do not go along with the culture or follow its norms. Or, to put it another way, we must not allow ourselves to be blown off course like the Windy’s of the world.
But we must not only walk carefully, we must also walk wisely.
II. Wise walk
That’s what Paul says next part of verse 15. He says, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise.”
You’ll notice that Paul elaborates on what a careful walk is like. A careful walk will be one that is governed by wisdom. Part of the accuracy of one’s life is his ability to discern between what is wise and what is not wise. One has to be sure that his precision is not mixed with folly.
It is possible to lead a careful life, but not be all that judicious in one’s actions. You can be very careful to be precise, but your precision is not exact because there’s been a lack of moderation in certain respects. One may have all the truth and be able to dot the i’s and cross the t’s, but he may not know how to handle that knowledge. He might still be foolish in the way he uses that knowledge.
So think of it this way: Many of us are not in any danger of becoming a progressive. We are likely going to stay on the straight and narrow in that respect. But that doesn’t mean we couldn’t easily deviate in a different kind of direction. Instead of losing our faith, we could become obnoxious with our faith. We can become ungracious; we can become rude. We can lack a gospel’s grace as we seek to defend the gospel’s truth.
Sometimes it will be said that we not only defend the faith, we are to also commend the faith. There can be some failure in that respect sometimes. That’s because we lack the kind of concern and tact that is required of us.
This was Polly’s error. Polly was one who was intelligent. She had a keen understanding of what was true. But what she did with that truth was not altogether wise. She was brash. She had a brazen attitude. There was much to be commended about her walk, but because she lacked a spirit of love and grace that would really make her persuasive and effective.
And this is something that often happens with Christian people. They are to be commended because they have that spiritual grounding. They are to be applauded for the zeal that they have. But they also need to demonstrate discernment in the way they communicate.
Last time I spoke I talked about exposing the deeds of darkness and the need to drag the evils of our age out into the light. That is our job; there is no doubt about that. But that does not give us license to be undiplomatic or rude. We might think that God’s calling us to go out with guns blazing like it is high noon. That’s not so.
The words of 1 Peter 3:15 should be a guide in this respect. Be prepared to give a defense of the hope that is within you, yet do so with gentleness and respect.
It is very much in keeping with what Paul is saying, “Don’t be unwise, but be wise.”
You understand that we can be just as much influenced by our culture on this point. This too is an attitude that can pick up from the world around us. The world wants to be the one who is on top. The world’s attitude is to lord it over people.
Now, I’m not say that we should be pushovers who act like the bathmat that everyone stomps all over. Not at all. There’s a place for standing our ground and there’s a place for going on the offensive. We are to expose the works of darkness.
But you understand that there’s another way. It’s not an either or. One of Christ’s main attributes while on earth was his meekness. He was gentle and lowly in spirit. That’s what made him attractive. That’s what made him effective. And our walk will be all wiser if we follow him in those footsteps.
Lastly, you’ll notice that we are to have a productive walk.
III. Productive walk
Paul says in verse 16 that we are to be “making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.”
Some of the older versions will say, “redeeming the time.” The word here comes from the world of commerce. It literally means to buy back. Oftentimes this was used in the slave market. Someone in your family was sold into servitude. Once you got enough money, you might redeem them. You could buy them back.
Paul’s using that imagery to talk about how we should be spending our time. Our actions need to be such that we make the best investment of our time. We want to do that which will not only please God, but it will also be most beneficial thing that we can possibly do in that moment. We want to buy back our time in that we use it in the most advantageous way.
I like what one commentator has said: There are decisions in this world that we must make. Some of those decisions are between what is good and what is bad; what is right and what is wrong. But there are other decisions that we must make. Sometimes we need to decide between what is good and what is best.
This is what I mean when I say we need to have a productive walk. Are we using the time that we have in the best possible way? What we are doing may not necessarily be sinful, but is it the best thing that we could be doing? Is there something more profitable that we could be pursuing?
This is where Lacy could be said to be at fault. You may remember that I said that Lacy likes to live the quiet life. She has her normal routine of working, eating, and hunkering down for the evening with her shows. She’s not one who will deviate much from that rhythm of life. She’s not someone who will do anything extraordinary.
Now, on the face of things, there’s nothing really wrong with that kind of lifestyle. If she were a member of this church, we’d be happy to have her be a part. She’s not involved in any kind of activity that would be considered horribly unchristian.
The question simply for her is this: Is this the best thing that she can be doing with her everyday life? Is there something more that she could be aspiring to which would bring greater benefit to her life and to the other people in her life?
Certainly there is nothing wrong with some good shows at the end of the day. But if you add up all the minutes in front of the screen, might we say that there could be something else that could be more advantageous?
Some of you may have been a part of our Sunday evening study a while back. We watched some videos about people who came for counseling. One of the people we looked at was a fellow who was a single guy who love his hobbies. He would spend time at the gym working out. Then he would come home and spend time with his collectors items and his games. He loved certain board games.
One of the questions that was posed to him was whether he was making the best use of his time. Again, there was nothing inherently wrong with what he was doing. The question was was this the best use of his time. The counselor working with this man suggested that he cut back on those hobbies and get involved in the church some more: Join a Bible study, find a way to serve. Get out a little more and make a difference in the community.
That episode was basically teaching the principle that Paul is talking about here. `How do we make the best use of our time?
Now, I know that with this group there may be someone who says, “Well, I have 5 minutes to myself, I need to redeem this time and go do something.” This is not saying that you should have no leisure and that taking a nap is forbidden. That can be the best use of your time sometimes.
No one is saying you should overwork yourself. The point is that we are thinking about how we might capitalize on the opportunities we have. Are there changes in my daily routines that I could make which would advance my walk with God. Is there a way I could make a better impact upon God’s kingdom and the community around me?
Those are just a couple questions that one might consider. There certainly may be more options. And that’s where looking at how other people spend their time might be beneficial. Maybe asking some people what were some of the best things that they have ever done outside of work? Maybe you even find a person who has been somewhat successful in life and ask them what were some of the different activities they have been involved with over the years. That could be a kickstarter to a new way of living for you.
The point simply is to examine your use of time and determine if it is being maximized.
Well, this morning we’ve had opportunity to consider quite a few things. We’ve looked at some fictitious characters and how their lives might be tweaked. How did they err in their walk? And what does Scripture say in terms of how it could be more in tune with what the Lord wants.
My hope is that in looking at these fake scenarios, your life might be better equipped. I hope that you might understand the kind of walk that God is wants of you. That’s the most productive use of your time here. It would be highly ineffective if we only sat here and critiqued these hypotheticals.
What matters is where we go from here. That’s going to be the tell tale sign on whether you are truly having a wise walk.
I want to encourage you with these words. Be careful how you walk. As we live in this world, we can easily be shaped by the world. We can be shaped by our own desires. But our call is to be careful in our walk so that we make the most of the time.