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Have you ever caught yourself cruising through life, somewhere between autopilot and sleeping at the wheel? “Wise” would not be a word we would use to describe ourselves during those lapses of intentional living. The Apostle Paul addresses this very thing in Ephesians 5.
Earlier in Ephesians, Paul dealt with how those who claim to love and follow Christ ought to live. He wrote,
Ephesians 4:1 – …I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.
Ephesians 5:1 – Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children
Ephesians 5:8, 10 – For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light…  and find out what pleases the Lord. (Emphases Added)
On Purpose Living
Paul taught clearly in those verses that there’s nothing casual or accidental about living the Christian life. It takes purpose, commitment, and intentionality. In light of those verses, let’s take a deeper look at how Paul described this lifestyle in Ephesians 5. In verse 15, Paul wrote,
Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise,
How are you doing on that count? Does that verse describe how you live on any given day? Perhaps it does portray many areas of your life. But how about your faith? Are you “very careful” in how you walk with Christ?
I’ve discovered something about myself. I’ve noticed when I “don’t have time” to spend in prayer or in reading, studying, and meditating on God’s Word in the morning, I’m usually not very “careful” in how I live throughout the rest of the day. 1 Peter 5:8 says,
Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
When I’m not being careful in my walk with Christ, I become a sitting duck for the devil to devour. It becomes much easier for me to fall prey to the temptations in my life. That doesn’t mean God has abandoned me. Yet it does indicate I’m not prepared for what the day may bring. It’s as though I’m choosing not to wear the full armor of God. I would never say that was my motivation, but that’s the result.
The word “careful” in our text means “accurate and exact.” It carries the idea of closely examining or investigating something. In this case, Paul is talking about our “walk” with Christ or living the Christian life.
Learn from Poor Pilgrim
My favorite book, outside of the Bible, is Pilgrim’s Progress. The first part of the story tells us about a man who discovered his great need for Christ and how he came to faith. However, most of the book focuses on the pilgrim’s pursuit to live the Christian life after he came to Christ.
Chapter after chapter reveals to us through the pilgrim’s journey what happens when he’s not being “careful in how he lives.” We watch helplessly as he makes mistakes, takes wrong roads, listens to bad advice, and often ends up in gut-wrenching predicaments.
Brothers, we shouldn’t laugh at the poor pilgrim because his experience is ours. Through the smallness of our daily surrenders to sin and temptation, we too veer off the road, on one side or the other, and end up miles from where we should be.
When we do such things, we reveal we’re not “being careful in how we live.”
Where We Find Wisdom
Paul next provides substance to what “being careful” as Christians looks like. At the end of Ephesians 5:15 he writes, Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise,
This verse is tied to verse 17, which says,
Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.
If you want to be wise, you need to understand what the Lord’s will is, and then do it.
Paul’s exhortation to “be careful” by being wise and not foolish is not an ivory tower academic or intellectual exercise. The word “wisdom” in Scripture means “skill for living.” We discover and acquire this skill as we understand what the Lord’s will is and, in his power, obey it.
If you don’t know what pleases or displeases God, then it is awfully hard to please God. God isn’t glorified by our ignorance and foolishness. We show we’re wise when we understand what God’s will is. And once we understand it, we then must do it.
Listen to God
Romans 12:2 explains how we can learn that. Observe these words,
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.
A good question here would be: How do we renew our minds? One key way is to regularly read, study, and meditate upon God’s Word. So often in prayer we want to do all the talking. We essentially say things like, “Dear God, here’s my list of things I need you to give me or fix for me. Amen.” That’s often what our prayers sound like.
There is certainly a place for bringing God our needs. Of course there is. But a transformed life and renewed mind happen as we listen to God. And we listen to God as we interact with his Word, whether it’s in private devotions, worship on the Lord’s Day, or in a Bible study with a smaller group of believers. I’m able to pray much more effectively when I know what God’s will is, when I know what pleases him and brings glory to his name.
Living wisely, the way Paul has in mind, takes place once we consider what God has said on a particular subject and then act on it. That’s what it means to “be careful” and to “live wisely.” We’re called to be very careful in how we live. We’re called to be wise and not unwise. And we become wise as we understand what the Lord’s will is and then do it.
· What are the areas of your life in which you’re living most carefully?
· What are you doing in those areas that help you live wisely?
· What are the areas of your life in which you are living least carefully?
· What seems to be the main obstacle that is keeping you from living more faithfully in those areas?
· Are you living carefully, wisely, and intentionally in the area of your faith?
· What are two things you could do to help you grow wiser and more careful as a Christian? Come up with a plan and ask two friends to hold you accountable to it.
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Listen, my son, and be wise, and set your heart on the right path: (Proverbs 23:19)
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.