Be Careful

“So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do.‭‭
Ephesians‬ ‭5:15-17‬ ‭NLT

I’m sure we all take care in the way we live. After all, we are wired to keep ourselves safe from danger, and that basic instinct increases, and becomes more important somehow, as we get older. But there are adrenalin junkies who take on incredible tasks, performing feats of courage and ignoring danger. I’m thinking of people like mountain climbers, or single-handed Atlantic rowers. Perhaps those who fly hang gliders or head for the breakers to surf their way ashore. There are also those who engage in more insidious tasks, taking illicit drugs of unknown content or purity, or those who deliberately head for temptation, trying to determine how strong they really are.

But this is a worldly perspective. As Christian pilgrims, we take seriously Paul’s instructions about the way we live. Not for us the way of fools, exploring places where we should never go. Instead we must seek out the ways of wisdom. True wisdom has its source in God. In James 1:5, we read, “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking”. There is another helpful verse in James 3:17,  “But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favouritism and is always sincere”. Following this advice will help us live like wise pilgrims.

In our verse today, Paul continues by encouraging us to make the most of our lives. He was right, when he wrote this Epistle, by discerning that the days were evil. And our days in the 21st Century are still evil. Nothing has changed over the centuries. The media is full of reports of crime, drug taking, wars and so on. An evil world where our enemy, the devil, prowls around causing mayhem and distress. An evil world where sin is endemic. But as we read in a recent blog, we are light in this dark and evil world, and must be opportunistic in shining our light into dark places. We must be counter-cultural pilgrims walking against the tide of those of humanity who are sadly and unknowingly heading for a lost eternity. And we must be diligent in aligning our lives to the true Way, avoiding the false and evil ways of darkness. Thinking clearly. Remaining focused on our assignment, doing God’s work. True in His service.

A Tale of Two Kingdoms

“I said to myself, “I will watch what I do and not sin in what I say. I will hold my tongue when the ungodly are around me.” But as I stood there in silence— not even speaking of good things— the turmoil within me grew worse. The more I thought about it, the hotter I got, igniting a fire of words:” Psalms‬ ‭39:1-3‬ ‭NLT‬‬

The Psalmist is in worldly company. This Godly man is in a quandary – the worldly talk going on around him is distressing and sinful. It probably contains language and humour he disagrees with, and alludes to practices he abhors. So he keeps silent. And becomes seriously upset internally – turmoil is the word he uses to describe his feelings. And eventually he is unable to hold within himself the feelings of frustration, and he blows up, blasting his companions with a torrent of words. Sound familiar? It’s a place where I have been during my work-a-day life. Conversations take place in the office that I find degrading and upsetting. Gossip, smutty jokes, character assassination, foul language, sexual innuendo. It’s all there and as a Christian it’s a place where I don’t want to be. But I have to be there because it’s a place where I earn the money I need for life.

But there is a different meaning in these verses. We see from later in the Psalm that the Psalmist is perhaps quiet before the “ungodly” because of his sins. And in the Psalm he goes on to reflect on the temporary nature of life, his sins, his hope in God, being disciplined by God and finally pleading with God for his prayers to be heard.

But whatever interpretation we choose, the message is clear. The dichotomy between the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of the world is stark. We can’t have a foot in each kingdom. Jesus was clear about this in His teaching during what we call the Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 6:24 Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money.” Once settled in the Promised Land, Joshua delivered a rousing message to the Israelites which was recorded in Joshua 24:15, “But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.” The choice he laid before his countrymen was the same choice we have before us today. Whom will we serve? As for me I can say without hesitation – I and my family will serve the Lord.