August 24, 2015

August 23, 2015 - Ephesians 5:15-20

Theme: Pay attention to what you feed your soul
1) Don’t be ignorant
2) Don’t be foolish
3) Don’t be indifferent

How much do you care about what you eat? The familiar saying tells us that “you are what you eat.” In a sense this is true. Not that you become what you eat, but whatever you put in your body is responsible for giving you life and energy. We all rely on what we take in in order to give us energy. Therefore, what you eat is important.

The problem is that we don’t always eat the best or what we should. If you constantly eat unhealthy food you probably won’t feel very good or perform in life at a high level. There is abundant information in our day about healthy options for food, but there are equally as many temptations for unhealthy choices. In our modern age we’ve found ways to produce artificial flavors and genetically modified foods. Plenty of studies indicate that these things aren’t good for us yet there’s no shortage of people enjoying them.

When we get down to it, not everyone cares about what they put in their body. Not everyone cares about how much they get out of their body. But all dietary considerations aside, there is an important connection between this and our spiritual lives. Like the food you eat, whatever you intake in your spiritual life will motivate you. But not all options are healthy. In our text for today, Paul talks about exercising wisdom in discerning what we put in our souls and what we use to motivate ourselves spiritually. We read from Ephesians 5:15-20:

Pay careful attention, then, to how you walk-- not as unwise people but as wise-- 16 making the most of the time, because the days are evil. 17 So don't be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is. 18 And don't get drunk with wine, which leads to reckless actions, but be filled by the Spirit: 19 speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music from your heart to the Lord, 20 giving thanks always for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In the last decade there’s been a significant push to get back to simple and healthy eating habits. This movement is often associated with the term “organic” which points to the natural makeup of a consumable product. In grocery stores you usually find “organic” sections where natural products are sold without any additives. But despite this growing popularity, the majority of shopping centers offer much more non-organic products, and there are no shortage of people purchasing them.

For some, it’s more affordable to buy non-organic and it’s more convenient. For others, the potential risks of non-organic goods are not as great as the convenience and attachment to well-known products. Still some know the dangers of eating unhealthy or ingesting too many artificial products but don’t really care. No amount of research will stop them from snacking on unhealthy options, whether organic or not. I’m not advocating one position over the other when it comes to your diet. But like Paul in our text, I want you to think about the same principles in your spiritual life.

God has given you His living and abiding Word (Hebrews 4:12). He says that every word of His revelation to you is pure and that He has given it to you by inspiration of the Holy Spirit (Proverbs 30:5, 2 Timothy 3:16). He carefully saw to it that His Word was faithfully recorded by human writers so that you and future generations could trust it (2 Peter 1:21). You have at your fingertips the organic Word of God. You have the only healthy option for your soul. When you heed the Word of God you receive the necessary nutrients from Christ Himself to help your faith grow strong and secure in the message of salvation. But just like healthy options with food, God never forces anyone to take His Word in, He simply offers it freely.

There’s three things that we can avoid in order to stay connected to the pure, life-giving Word. The first is to avoid ignorance. By definition, simple ignorance is not knowing something. You don’t have to be stubbornly rejecting something to be ignorant. Simply being unaware makes you ignorant. When it comes to what God has done for us and the way He changes our lives, He expects us to know it. Certainly we don’t want to reject what God tells us, but it’s equally bad to be unaware.

Paul hints at this in the opening verses when he speaks about being wise. No one is naturally wise. Wisdom is something that must be learned like everything else. Some may pick up on wisdom easier than others but it doesn’t guarantee that they have more wisdom. In our quest for true, Godly wisdom, we must be pointed to the Word of God. What you put in your soul will determine what you think and say and what decisions you make. In short, if you lack God’s Word, you lack wisdom. You’ll never get it or know it, instead you’ll be caught unaware in the ignorance of unbelief.

Paul reinforces this by speaking about an application of wisdom, he says that we are to “pay careful attention to how we walk.” Literally, the idea of “paying attention” means that we “watch accurately.” This teaches us that we are not only to keep our spiritual eyes open, we are to follow after that which is true and certain. Usually when we think of paying attention we only dwell on being aware of what is happening. But God expects Christians to not only be aware, but to know the truth accurately and follow it. We see a clear connection to our church life in this. God wants you to pay attention to His Word and to do it accurately. Our sinful desire to follow our “itching ears (2 Timothy 4:3)” leads to the temptation to turn away from anything that God says which is unpopular or difficult to follow. Not all Christians insist on paying attention accurately as Paul describes here, including ourselves. We need to shake off that bondage of ignorance and realize what we are faced with in our spiritual lives. There are dangers to our faith on every hand, even from those who are supposed to be our allies. Allowing anything but the organic Word in our souls can have drastic effects.

But knowing the truth only gets you so far. True wisdom also includes being able to use that truth in your life. That’s where we come to the second thing that Paul tells us to avoid: foolishness. You, know, in the Greek, the difference between the unwise and wise in verse 15 is literally one letter. In the same way, the difference between wisdom and foolishness is often razor thin in life. And this is impressed all the more when we consider the connection of God’s Word. One letter or one word can make a huge difference. One passage or one doctrine can have life-changing effects for our lives. Think of your favorite Bible passage. I’m willing to guess that you could significantly change or alter the meaning of that verse by adding or subtracting only one word. In some passages you can completely distort the meaning by either capitalizing or not capitalizing a certain word. When it comes to your soul-care and to your relationship with God’s Word, little changes have huge effects.

Listen to what Jesus said about changes to His Word: “Don't assume that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18 For I assure you: Until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or one stroke of a letter will pass from the law until all things are accomplished. 19 Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commands and teaches people to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17-19).”
As you think about your life, if you start to neglect one teaching or passage of God’s Word, it will have far-reaching effects. Paul brings to mind the example of getting drunk. Drunkenness was a part of the secular culture in Paul’s day. Much like our society, drunkenness was viewed as a harmless or playful thing. It was something that people did to have a good time. For many today, drunkenness isn’t even viewed as something sinful, so long as no one else is getting hurt. On the surface it certainly seems like this is the case, and it’s definitely the line we get fed by society.

But Paul reminds you to consider your relationship with God. Even if no one else is hurt by you getting drunk, what is it doing to your faith? Is it wise or is it foolish? Do you ever stop to think about that? And not just when it comes to drunkenness but when it involves any sin, especially the seemingly insignificant ones. Paul’s point is that what fills your heart will direct your actions; and what seems small will have huge effects. In a physical way we know the ill effects of getting drunk. It can certainly lead to immoral actions in many ways. The reverse is true of being filled with the Holy Spirit. Paul’s encouragement to the Ephesians is that they consume the Holy Spirit through hearing and studying God’s Word, and this will have a positive effect on their lives. Those led and filled by the Spirit produce the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control. Those filled alcohol to the point of being drunk often produce the opposite.

Neither Paul nor I are saying that drinking wine, beer, or liquor is sinful. An idea like that would be missing the point. Rather, it’s being controlled by these things that is sinful. But perhaps Paul singles out drunkenness in particular because it easily allows people to do some pretty foolish stuff. All types of sin have a negative effect on our lives and can lead to disastrous consequences. Drunkenness is unique in that it literally takes you out of the correct frame of mind. In a sense, it changes who you are and leads you to do things that you normally wouldn’t. Paul uses this negative example to show the reverse positive effect that the Holy Spirit works in your life. It’s incorrect to say that you could be “drunk” on the Holy Spirit, but what He does is work for positive effects in your life. When you are filled with the Spirit, your life will show it by your thoughts and actions. Although there is a great contrast between drunkenness and the Holy Spirt, both work in a similar way, one for your demise and one for your blessing.                 

The question you need to ask yourself is: Which one feeds your soul? It’s easy for most of us to say that drunkenness has no control in our lives, and we should be thankful for that. But just because Paul singles out this one particular sin, does not exclude the host of others that we often succumb to. Drunkenness serves as an example of the control that any sin can have in your life. The wreckless and sinful actions that we commit do negatively affect our spiritual beliefs. Drunkenness is merely one example in many. Only you know what you suffer from the most and what has the most negative control in your life. Take that one sin, and get rid of it. Be wise, instead of foolish, by consuming the Holy Spirit in your life. And when the Spirit helps you gain control over that sin, move on to the next one, and so on. It’s a continual battle in life, but one that needs to be fought daily.

But we often wonder, what does it mean to be filled by the Spirit? How can I be sure that He is the motivating force in my life? Jesus gave the clear answer to people who had the same questions when He said, “The Spirit is the One who gives life. The flesh doesn't help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life (John 6:63).” The Holy Spirit works through the Words of God and the Words of God come to us through the Bible. And this shouldn’t surprise us because the Bible was inspired by the Holy Spirit! If He authored the book, doesn’t it make sense that He would use it to accomplish His will and to help you and me out?

Here’s where our final thing to avoid comes in. Don’t allow yourself to become indifferent to the Holy Spirit’s work through the Word of God. It’s so easy for us to look at the Bible as common and ordinary. There’s an even greater temptation for us to despise it because so many others are. The wise way to feed your soul is to appreciate what God has given you and how He works in you. That doesn’t mean that God will always give you what you want, and you should thank Him for that, because what you often want is actually harmful and dangerous to your soul! 

Remember that as the Holy Spirit guides and strengthens you, you will see it in your physical life. He will direct how you speak, how you think, what you choose to spend your time on, and how you treat others. Don’t resist His influence on your life by being indifferent to the changes that He brings. You have been given the knowledge of free salvation – you are no longer ignorant. You have been given Godly wisdom to discern right from wrong, and to know the truth from the lie – you are no longer foolish. The only other way that Satan can get you is to coerce you into not caring about these precious gifts from you Savior. Satan wants you to think of them as so common and ordinary that you no longer use them because you think you’ll never lose them. The last great battle to be fought by all Christians is the battle of indifference to your faith – and it’s a battle that we all struggle mightily with.

The Holy Spirit holds the key to victory. You don’t have to become another statistic in the long line of former believers who forsook their faith because something they thought was better came along. Fight against indifference and spiritual laziness by feeding your soul with the Holy Spirit. Practice the art of wisdom in your life that was handed down to you by your father and mother and ultimately by Christ Himself. What you feed your soul will show itself in your life. Use the Word of God. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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