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Redeeming the Time: What the Gospel Says About Your Time

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Redeeming The Time: What the Gospel Says About Your Time Eph. 5:16; Col. 4:5
Sunday Morning March 27, 2011 Church in the Boro Rob Wilkerson

The Greek verb exagorazo has a meaning centering on redemption. The word means to buy up something or to redeem or deliver something or someone (BAGD). The heartbeat of the word then, is purchasing something from one place to take it home with you. No doubt, as with most of the synonyms in the "redemption" family of words, the ancient near east slave market immediately comes to mind. From there, slaves were purchased, or "redeemed", and brought home with their new masters. This particular word occurs only four times in the NT: Gal. 3:13; 4:5; Eph. 5:16; and Col. 4:5. In the first two occurences found in Galatians, there is clearly a meaning that involves salvation from sin.
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Galatians 3:13 - "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us..." Galatians 4:4-5 - "But when the appropriate time had come, God sent out his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we may be adopted as sons with full rights."

In both of these texts, human beings are presented as slaves to God's law. In short, they are simply unable to perfectly comply with its demands, and as a result stand under its just judgments and condemnation. God wants obedience and they just can't do it. Jesus Christ came and redeemed, or purchased, or bought us "from the curse of the law" in two ways. First, He DID live a life that perfectly complied with the demands of God's law, by obeying everything in it perfectly. Second, because He lived a perfectly obedient life He was able to offer Himself as the perfect sacrifice on behalf of human beings. Living a perfect life gave Him the right to offer His life as a sacrifice for those who weren't perfect. By offering His life, His blood purchased or redeemed human beings from the demands and curse of God's law. Essentially, He purchased those who were slaves of the law, or slaves of sin, and He rescued them from the consequences, So then, the Greek word exagorazo inherently has salvation in mind...salvation from sin and from the curse of the law. It is with this gospel-mindedness, if you will, that we must come

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to the other two passages in Ephesians 5:16 and Colossians 4:5, in order to properly understand what Paul is saying. We have the same author using the same word in three different letters to three different churches. To be sure, the context of each letter (the reason for writing it) determines the way Paul will use the word to make his point. However, it is not unreasonable or illogical that he will all of the sudden change meanings on us when he uses the word in a different letter to a different church. I have to preface an understanding Ephesians 5 and Colossians 4 this way because in so many instances in so many commentaries there seems to be so little gospel-minded context, particularly in Ephesians 5:16. For many commentators, I found that they seem to separate the meaning of "redeem" in that verse from the inherent meaning Paul gives it in Galatians, as well as in Colossians, as we'll see later. What happens is that the verse is largely turned into a lesson on time management, or perhaps a godly motivation for managing time. To be sure, we are dealing with concrete time in Ephesians 5:16. But the gospel is at the root of it, if for no other reason than that (a) Paul is a preacher of the gospel and connects everything to it, and (b) the Greek verb he uses inherently involves the gospel by its very definition. When I heard the Lord saying to me this past week that He wanted to address us as a body on the issue of time and how to redeem time, I recalled the many sermons I've both read and heard using this verse to promote and stimulate the importance of managing our time wisely. The problem here seems clear enough: when the gospel root of the passage is removed, then all you have left is another behavioral modification of your life in the name of Jesus...yet mysteriously without Jesus. So let's unpack together what Paul means by this phrase, and more importantly what God has in store for us today when it comes to "redeeming the time." Context of Ephesians 5:1-14 shows that Paul wants to make certain that the Ephesians believers are doing all that they can to live opposite of the way they used to before they came to Christ (see 4:17-32). That lifestyle involves lying, anger, stealing, bitterness, wrath, quarreling, evil and slanderous talk, unforgiveness, uncompassionate, sexually immoral, impure, not fitting for saints, vulgar speech, foolish talk, coarse jesting, and greed. That lifestyle earns the wrath of God which comes on the sons of disbobedience (5:6). Believers should have nothing to do with these things (5:7) for one primary reason: they are no longer children of darkness but children of light (5:8). Jesus Christ has redeemed them from slaves to sin and the wrath He promises to bring on sin (2:1-10). Redeemed people do not act like they are still unredeemed. Children of light will have "the fruit of the light" to show for their profession. The "fruit of the light consists in all goodness and righteousness, and truth" (5:9), and is always "trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord" (5:10), instead of exploring and discovering all the various ways they can please and indulge themselves. These ways are "unfruitful deeds of

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darkness" which the redeemed are NOT to live in, but rather go so far as to even expose them. The things being done by unredeemed people are done in secret and are too shameful to even mention (5:12). When these things are exposed to the light, however, it becomes plainly obvious what they really are. Children of light live in such a way that their lifestyle of goodness, righteousness and truth (5:9) actually expose the activities of darkness. There is this pesky problem however, which all redeemed people will deal with. It's called the world, and it will be shrouded in darkness until Jesus returns. The world has a way of trying to squeeze us into its mold (Rom. 12:2), tempting us with its sinful activities, until part of us just gets lulled to sleep. To help believers see what is needed at this time in history, he pulls from Isaiah 26:19, 51:17, 52:1, and 60:1 in order to create his own poem, found in Ephesians 5:14. "Awake, O sleeper! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you!" The purpose of his poem is to tell each believer that he "should emerge completely from his sleep and arise and withdraw in every respect from the wicked ways of the company of the spiritually dead" (William Hendrickson: Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon; p. 236). In other words, Paul is telling them, "Now that you've been awakened from the dead...Now that you've been rescued from the darkness where you lived awaiting God's wrath for your disobedience...and Now that you've been put into the kingdom of WHATEVER you have to do to keep every part of your life WHATEVER you have to do to make sure you live every part of your life as a child of light." Why does he essentially keep repeating himself from 4:17 all the way to 5:20? Why does he even go to the extent of making up his own poem to say it again? Because Paul wants to show "how very necessary it is for believers to show in every way and at all times that they have repudiated their old nature and have embraced the new and godly life. That is the only effective way of verifying one's own state of salvation, exposing the unfruitful works of darkness, calling the workers to repentance, and doing all this to the glory of God" (ibid, p. 237). Put more concise, doing everything you possibly can to stay away from sinful activities and live as a child of light is the only real testimony you have before yourself, before others, and before God that you really are a follower of Jesus. Staying awake, and doing everything you can to make sure you don't fall asleep spiritually, is the best means of doing that. This is what it means to "be very careful how you live - not as unwise but as wise..." (5:15). And this brings us to the key verse we're focused on right now, which is verse 16. Redeeming or buying back every opportunity you possibly can in order stay awake, to stay away from darkness, and to live as a child of light is the best means of staying awake spiritually. Or, to connect verse 15 and 16, staying awake spiritually means living wisely, which looks like redeeming every moment of your life to make it a living testimony of your

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profession to follow Jesus. In other words, every time an opportunity comes up to fall asleep and live in darkness, turn that moment into a unashamed opportunity to wake yourself up and live in the light. This is why Paul says "the days are evil." He simply means that the world in which we live is always churning out opportunities to sin. Therefore, since we live in that kind of world, redeem each opportunity to take a nap in the darkness of sin, and turn it into an opportunity to stay awake in the light. What this means for you and me is two things. First, we SIEZE every opportunity to sin and make it an opportunity to do what is right and good and godly. Second, we LOOK for more opportunities to do this, rather than just waiting for them to fall into our laps. One commentator says, "In the light of the entire context the opportunity referred to is that of showing by means of their life and conduct the power and glory of the gospel, thus exposing evil, abounding in good works, obtaining assurance of salvation for themselves, strengthing the fellowship, winning the neighbor for Christ, and through it all glorifying God. The opportunity missed will never return. Let it therefore be used to the full" (ibid, p. 238). All the that the world constantly offers you in terms of opportunities to sin and please yourself, serve as a dark, black background against which the almost-neon lighted colors of your life are painted. And those colors are opportunities looked for and siezed upon to live out the good news of Jesus. That lifestyle is so vivid that it exposes the complete darkness in the background, thus sending a bright, loud, vivid, vivacious message. Living this way gives you assurance that you, in fact, are a child of the light, a follower of Jesus. Living this way exposes evil and sin, revealing just how awful it really is. And living this way clearly preaches the gospel to those who live in darkness, either attracting them to the light or forcing them into hiding. It is precisely BECAUSE the world in which we live is so filled with evil, sinful and dark behavior that we are not to be foolish, but wise, as the next verse says. God wants us to understand what His will is. This doesn't point to some "needle in a haystack" view of God's will, as if living wisely means we will instantaneously know God's mysterious and perfect will for our lives including all the decisions we have to make. No, not at all. It is merely a statement about God's will. God's will is that we live a life of light...a life of goodness, righteousness and truth...a life that exposes the darkness rather than sleeps in it...a life that pleases the Lord. When we make it our aim to do everything we can to stay awake spiritually, we will live wisely, looking for and seizing upon every opportunity to do just that, which in turn points us back to the need to be wise instead of foolish, all of which is simply God's will for us. That is the meaning of Ephesians 5:17 in relation to God's will. How to Redeem Opportunities for Drunkenness: Pursue the Filling of the Spirit

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Now Paul moves to an example of an opportunity for darkness: drunkenness. Evidently this one problem was the more prominent sin in the Ephesian church, because this is the very first act of darkness he addresses after his speech. So he uses it an an example of what it looks like to do everything you can to stay awake, to live as wise people, to sieze an opportunity among many other evil ones, to live wisely instead of foolishly: instead of allowing yourself to take a nap in darkness by getting drunk, choose instead to seek the filling of the Spirit. Instead of giving your mind and time over to excessive alcoholic beverages, choose instead to give your mind and time over to the Holy Spirit. When you do THAT, your songs turn from bar tunes to psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. When you are filled with the Spirit instead of drunkenness, songs of sadness and sorrow sung to your latest girlfriend or boyfriend, turn instead to melodies of gladness in your heart. When you are filled with the Spirit, anger toward people in your drunken stupor and rage turns instead into thanksgiving to God. When you are filled with the Spirit, acts of selfishness and rebellion during drunkenness turn instead into mutual submission to one another because you revere and respect one another. How to Redeem Opportunities for Laziness: Pray FOR and ABOUT the Mission When we move two letters over to Colossians, we find a similar text about redeeming the time. This is because Ephesians and Colossians were written at the same time. Paul was in prison during his second missionary journey, as I recall. And, in a display of redeeming the time, chooses not to drown in sorrow and sadness, but instead to strengthening and encouraging and shepherding the churches he planted. The letter to Ephesus was actually intended as a general theological treatise on the doctrine of the church. And the letter to Colosse was written to the church in that city, who were dealing with some pretty erroneous doctrinal dangers. Both letters were intended to be circulated among all the churches in Asia Minor, so they all could benefit from them. This explains why so much of the material that is in one letter is also in the other, and vice versa. They were written at the same time and address somewhat similar concerns with the very same solutions. It would be natural for the believers in both Ephesus and Colosse to believe that since Paul was in jail, all they could do is to wait it out. This leads to laziness, doesn't it? Paul foresees this and, in ending his letter to the Colossians, chooses to help them see how to redeem every opportunity for laziness by turning it into an opportunity of prayer for the success of the mission. "Be devoted to prayer, keeping alert in it with thanksgiving. At the same time pray for us too, that God may open a door for the message so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may make it known as I should. Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunities. Let your

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speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer everyone." It is all too easy to sink down into discouragement and depression when someone we love and respect is persecuted or hurt, and is outside our reach. Perhaps they are in jail like Paul. Perhaps they are imprisoned in some other foreign country, locked away, unable to have outside communication. Perhaps they are persecuted by Muslims in a closed country, and are recovering from a life-threatening beating. Or maybe they are just sick and hospitalized in another city. The point is that when they are suffering and distanced from us, it is easy to become discouraged and depressed thinking we will never actually be able to help in any significant way. This gives way to just not even doing the simplest thing and PRAYING for them. And if we should arouse enough desire to pray, we often end up finding ourselves praying meely-mouth prayers which don't move God, much less the air we breathe. This leads to self-absorption, or the "woe is me" mentality, when WE aren't even the ones suffering!!! This in turn leads to poor-mouthing, talking about how bad so-and-so is and how sad we are, how things will probably get worse, etc. Paul senses the danger of this whole endless cycle of faithlessness and unbeliefe, so he encourages them to sieze this opportunity and redeem it with one activity in two different directions, all of which is wrapped up in the old command we heard from our parents and teachers growing up: Pay attention! One commentator has written, "What the apostle has in mind is that, while continuing in prayer, the worshiper shall be made alive to such matters as: a. his own needs and those of the family, church, country, world, b. the dangers that threaten the Christian community, c. the blessings received and promised, and (last but not least) d. the will of God" (Hendrickson: Exposition of Colossians and Philemon, p. 179). Here then are the two ways in which God wants us to stay awake, redeeming opportunities for laziness as opportunities for prayer for the mission. 1. Pray for the mission abroad. Paul was in prison for preaching the gospel. He used every opportunity he could to preach to the lost. One of those opportunities got him in enough trouble that he was arrested. He then turned every opportunity he had in prison to preach the gospel to the Roman soldiers and other prisoners. He wanted the Colossian belivers to stay awake spiritually and pray for the success of his mission, which he wanted them to know actually INCLUDED his imprisonment. Today, God wants to understand that His will for us is to sieze similar opportunities today and pray for the success of the mission abroad, wherever we know of it and whoever we

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know that is connected to it. God wants us to see His sovereignty in the seemingly backwards ways in which He gets His saints into the right places to preach the gospel. God wants us to pray WITH His sovereignty, and not against it or in complaint about it. Redeem opportunities of sadness, discouragement, depression and spiritual sleepiness, and turn them into opportunities to pray for the success of the mission as God is unfolding it. 2. Pray for the mission here at home. Paul knew that the cycle of laziness brings self-absorbtion. Not only did they need to pray for the mission abroad, but they needed success in the mission where they were in their own communities. Paul needed prayer for reaching the lost with whom he traveled and was imprisoned. The believers needed encouragement and exhortation regarding the lost who were there with them. This is why He tells them to "conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunities." The outsiders are those who are lost. A lazy heart and mind leads to a lazy mouth and behavior. You can take so many spiritual naps that you begin to compromise here and there, making unwise decisions, forgetting almost completely that other people are watching how you live. Jesus put it this way to His disciples, "You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its flavor, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled on by people. You are the light of the world. A city located on a hill cannot be hidden. People do not light a lamp and put it under a basket but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before people, so that they can see your good deeds and give honor to your Father in heaven" (Matt. 5:13-16). One of the ways we must watch our behavior toward the lost is through what we say. It happens quite frequent to many a saint that they fall sleep spiritually and don't watch their mouths or hold their tongues. Next thing you know, sinful words slip out...or in many cases are launched out. The words are no longer gracious, but stinging, sarcastic and destructive. Attitudes toward one another or those in authority denigrate, and words no longer show respect for one another. Words become cheap and many, so that whether the subject is God or the weather, the tongue is too loose. But, "when gracious speech becomes their habit they will not use improper language when suddenly confronted with a difficult situation; for example, when summoned to appear before a worldly judge or when persecuted for the faith" (ibid, p. 183). In other words, every opportunity to respond with vindictiveness, abuse, unbelief, sarcasm, or cynicism will be redeemed and used instead to reflect the grace of God and unconditional love for those who are unlovable. We can injure and inhibit the mission here at home in our own cities, communities, and neighborhoods by falling alseep spiritually so that our mouths no longer

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come from a heart that is alive but asleep, no longer attractive but marginalized. Here's the way Peter put it to his church. "But set Christ apart as Lord in your hearts and always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks about the hope you possess. Yet do it with courtesy and respect, keeping a good conscience, so that those who slander your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame when they accuse you" (1 Peter 3:15). A MAJOR way our mouths can get us into trouble and inhibit our mission here at home is through whining and complaining. Addressing this issue of what is essentially erbal laziness, Paul wrote to the Philippians, "Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God without blemish though you live in a crooked and perverse society, in which you shine as lights in the world..." (Phil. 2:14, 15). Conclusion Redemption necessarily includes currency of some sort. When ANY product is redeemed, you offer a currency for it in exchange for the product itself. Sometimes that currency includes a coupon offering a free product just for using the coupon. Others may include the use of a coupon which acts as a discount, requiring less money than you would have normally spent on the product. Others may have NO coupons at all, which simply require you to redeem or purchase or buy the item you want, exchanging cash or check or credit for it. Redeeming the time, buying back every opportunity, and making the most of every moment requires currency, too. It is a purchase you are making, meaning it is a decision you are making. You are choosing to use the opportunity or moment to act one way instead of another. But what is the currency you are using to make that choice, or that transaction? After all, you are believing SOMETHING that causes you to decide to act one way instead of another, right? I mean, there has to be SOME reason why you choose to do one thing instead of another. For the believer, the currency you use to buy back every opportunity for evil and use it as an opportunity for the gospel One scholar has written that, "Faith brings release from being the servile victim of time" (Hans Christoph Hahn, "Time" in The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, 3: 839). I love that statement, because that's how so many of us feel so often if we are honest. We feel like we are helpless victims of time and that we can do nothing about it or the events that happen in it.

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Yet this is to ignore the currency we have in our pockets, especially if we are a believer. There is a thing call faith, and God says it is the currency that represents what we cannot see but we know exists (Heb. 11:1, 6). Faith is the evidence of things we know exist, and the substance of things we are confident about. It is the currency that has serious buying power in both the visible and invisible world. It is a currency we possess in the visible world that 100% affects the invisible world. In other words, faith actually has an effect on the spacetime continuum. Jesus taught, for example in Matthew 18, that whatever the church binds on earth is already considered bound in heaven. Whatever we forgive here on this earth is already considered forgiven in heaven. Jesus actual, physical, literal death on the cross, according to Colossians 2, actually disabled and disarmed Satan and the fallen angels who try to harm us. There are scores of events and narratives through the Bible that depict a person exercising faith toward the visible and it creating a ripple effect in the invisible, whether positive or negative. Peter rebukes Ananias and Sapphira for lying to the Holy Spirit and they died. What was said in the visible affected the invisible, so that something in the invisible affected the physical health of those two people. Jesus looked at a physically suffering man in Gadarene and commanded invisible demons to come out of him, which in turn affected the man's physical health and well-being. It happened A LOT in Scripture, and God put those stories there to show us something important: What we do in the physical and visible affects the spiritual and invisible. And the effect that is felt in the spiritual and the invisible affects the physical in return. The point here is simple: your faith affects how you spend your time. If you believe that every opportunity for sin and evil can be redeemed and used for good, for the mission, then you are essentially buying back that moment with the currency of faith. You actually believe that what you do here and now affects what comes next, because you believe it effects the spiritual and invisible world. If you are a person of saving faith...the kind Jesus offers...then you will refuse to see yourself as simply a helpless victim of time and the events that happen in it. You will no longer view your life as a long series of disappointing days at work, filled with escapist-mentality weekends. You can no longer sit mindlessly in front of a video game for hours on end, or watching TV and movies for hours on end. You actually believe that what you do here and now in the visible affects the invisible. And that is why you choose to do different things with your time. That is why you choose to make different decisions when tempation to sin comes your way. You believe differently...not with your eyes, but with your soul. So we are left with some key questions. Are we living the kind of lifestyle that assures us that we are children of light? Or do the decisions and choices we make reveal that we are actually children of darkness? When we are tempted to sin, do we buy back that opportunity and do something righteous, thereby proving our walk with Jesus to ourselves,

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to the world, and to God? Or do we just give in and take it as it comes, praying and hoping in the ridiculous notion that somehow things will just suddenly and spontaneously change and be different? They will NEVER be different until YOU make them different. The way you live will never change until YOU change it. The commands in Ephesians 5 and Colossians 4 are present tense, meaning God wants you to do them all the time and never, ever take a break from it. The verbs for redeeming in both texts support the main verbs which are imperatives. God COMMANDS you to live wisely instead of unwisely. He COMMANDS you to conduct yourselves honorably among the lost. You do these things by taking on the personal responsibility of making wise choices that look for and sieze opportunities to show the world you love Jesus. Where are you at today? Is the currency of faith in your pocket to make these purchases?