November 29, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (Ephesians 5)

Submitted by Florence T. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Ephesians 5:15-17  

  • Note the parallel between v. 10 and v. 17.  Given the responsibilities outlined in between these two verses, how does this inform the Christian’s “best use” of time?

V10 …and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.

V17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

Both verses put emphasis on the task of discerning and understanding what pleases God, as that is the primary aim of every Christian, the driving force of our decisions, deeds and thoughts.  Sandwiched between these 2 verses are responsibilities outlined on how to conduct one’s life: (1) to abstain from participating in deeds of darkness, (2) to expose them by the light, and (3) to look carefully on how one walks, whether it is wise, trying to discern what pleases God, or being foolish–indulging in and getting manipulated by deeds of darkness.  These responsibilities inform me that the “best use” of the time I have on this earth is to steer clear of things that cause me to sin whether it be a comfortable life, or indulging in my laziness, cowardice, conflict avoidance, or seeking after human approval, or going after money, status, security, whatever idols that might supplant God as king over my life.  Not only do I need to “take no part” in them, I need to actively expose them as counterfeits, expose the underlying lies, and acknowledge that indeed these things will lead to a dead life.  All so that in my life I can live in such a way that pleases the Lord, which is to love him with all my heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love others as myself.

  • Why is knowing that “the days are evil” crucial to living a wise life? 

Before I became a Christian, I had no idea what to do with my life.  I actually thought that living till age 80 was too much time, especially since I thought life was going downhill after 25.  In retrospect, the fact that “the days are evil” because of sin and death made little difference to me because I had no greater purpose or reason for my life.  Every day was the same as yesterday.  But now as a Christian and a minister, I am given a noble task of sharing the gospel with the lost, impacting the trajectory of one’s life and eternity.  Against the backdrop of a world of brokenness and death, I never felt a great sense of urgency to make the most of every opportunity to love and spread this good news.  Though my sins and cowardice still get in the way, that urgency is there to keep pushing me to get out of myself.  I realize as I get older that the opportunity to love, to tell someone about God will not always be there and I cannot take it for granted.  Becoming a parent also has brought upon an acute awareness of the brevity of life and the short time I have here to love and protect those I love dearly.  All this brings my life to sharp focus–to live each day with discernment and to try to love in spite of myself.  Because the reality is that I do not have all the time in the world to wander around and waste time.  The reality is that there are a lot of broken people out there who have never heard the gospel, including people I see walking on campus to my own family members.  And the more I read the Bible, observe the lives of my leaders, and contrast that to the lives I see outside of the church, I am more convinced that true life is a surrendered life unto God and allow him to dictate how I should live.

Ephesians 5:18-21    

  • Reflect on the portrait of the Spirit-filled life depicted here. 

The Spirit-filled life depicted in these verses is a sober life, not drunk on wine and indulging in debauchery.  It is a life filled with the Holy Spirit, as it says in Galatians 5:22-23, “but the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control…”  Out of that comes sweetness in character that results in praise and thanks, humility to submit to one another.

  • What are some ways concrete steps I can take to live out this kind of life?

One concrete step I can take to live out this kind of life is to stay focus and alert to the spiritual reality I live in–the days are indeed evil, in that people are facing eternal separation from God yet still getting caught up with money, power, status, ambition, sensuality and enslaved by lust and desires.  Have courage to face it rather than escaping from reality by indulging in things that causes me “drunk” and too preoccupied to think.  Another step I need to take is to give thanks always, remember what God has done in my life, paying for my sins on the cross, giving me a new life.  Give thanks for everything rather than allowing my heart to be filled with worries or get easily frustrated when things don’t work out the way I wanted.  Another concrete step is to incorporate singing hymns and reading psalms during sharing times and fellowship, worship and praise God together.  Lastly, I need to treasure the people and relationships God’s given me by submitting to them out of reverence for Christ.

Submitted by Jesse K. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Ephesians 5:15-17  

  • Note the parallel between v. 10 and v. 17.  Given the responsibilities outlined in between these two verses, how does this inform the Christian’s “best use” of time?

10 …and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.

17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

The responsibilities that Paul outlines in between these verses are:

  • To take no part in the unfruitful work of darkness, but instead expose them.
  • To look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but wise, making the best use of the time.

The best use of time would be to understand what the will of the Lord is–to be able to discern what is pleasing to God.  Instead of foolishly wasting time on the unfruitful works of darkness (things which I’ve already wasted so much time on), I am to seek and understand God’s will.  I am to seek and learn what pleases God.  Practically speaking, what does this mean?  How do I do this?  It’s through God’s word.  It’s through the Bible that I learn about God- his character, what he’s likes, what kind of person he wants me to become, what kind of people he wants his church to become.  And with this mindset, I need to approach God’s word.  With my devotions, with Bible Studies, Sunday messages, etc. I need to approach it hungry to learn what God desires and what pleases him.  What would it look like to do this?  It would look like prioritizing my spiritual disciplines.  It would mean being all there for my morning devotion time and prayer times–to not just wake up to be there on time, but to wake up a little earlier to ensure that I’m mentally all there.  It would mean digesting messages, reviewing notes, re-thinking the points and how they’re true about reality and how they’re true about my life.  And as I approach God’s word with this mindset, I’ll be able to learn God’s will and discern what pleases him.

  • Why is knowing that “the days are evil” crucial to living a wise life? 

Paul says, “the days are evil.”  Time isn’t just something that is short and fleeting, but it is evil.  This world, the entire system that I live in is evil.  It’s hostile towards God.  And understanding this gives me the proper sense of urgency to live a wise life.  Like what Mike shared through the Sunday sermon, I need to live life prizing what is of value.  Knowing that the days are evil gives me proper perspective to see that I can’t squander time doing what my selfish ambitions and fears tell me.  I can’t squander time by building up for myself a cozy little life for just my family and me.  I can’t squander time worrying and being anxious over the future or finances.  The days are evil.  The world is against God, and it is constantly trying to dupe people away from him.  So knowing this, I need to live life prizing what is of value.  I need to live life wisely, understanding what God’s will is.  So that I, myself, can live a life that is pleasing to God and so that I can help others live their lives in a manner pleasing to God.

Ephesians 5:18-21    

  • Reflect on the portrait of the Spirit-filled life depicted here.  

These verses depict a community that glued together by and focused on Christ.  It’s a picture where people, instead of filling their desires and sensuality, are filled by God’s Spirit.  It’s a picture of a people who relate with each other based on their common relationship with God.  It’s a picture of people who are able to submit to one another out of their own reverence and submission to Jesus.

  • What are some ways concrete steps I can take to live out this kind of life?

One concrete step that I can take to live out this kind of life is to continue to practice gratitude.  Though the Thanksgiving season is over, the practice of “giving thanks always,” still stands.  As I consider how God has saved me-plucking me from my meaningless life bent towards destruction.  As I consider how he’s taken the entirety of my sin on himself and said that I’m forgiven, I can have a fresh sense of thanksgiving and gratitude.  And knowing that I am completely and utterly underserving of my title of God’s beloved son, I can start to relate with others based on our common relationship to God.  As I understand what kind of life Jesus submitted to for my sake, I can begin to lovingly submit to others.  People, instead of being my competition; instead of being people whom I need to out-do, are instead my fellow forgiven brother and sisters.  I no longer need to always get my way or need to prove my worth by having them submit to me.  No, instead I can forgo my own rights, my own feelings and agendas for the sake of others out of reverence for Christ.  Thanksgivings will place reality in proper perspective.  It will humble me, place God where he belongs, and reorients me in relation to others.  So with this kind of community in mind, I need to continue to practice thanksgiving to God for my salvation and everything else has blessed me with.

Personal Prayer

God, thank you for saving me from my life bent on destruction.  I was dead in my sin, I was without God and without hope in the world.  Yet you took me from that, forgave all my sins and given me the title as your son, an heir and co-heir with Christ.  I know that I am in no way deserving of that.  I am in no way deserving of the sacrifice and submission that Jesus has done.  And with this in mind, help me to constantly give you proper thanks.  With this in mind, help me to value what is of real worth and help me to submit to others out of reverence for you.  I don’t need to be the one in charge.  I don’t need to be the one others submit to.  Help me to imitate you by living a life of loving submission to others.  Help me to also continue to seek after understanding you will.  The days are evil, so help me to not squander time for my own selfish ambition, but instead to discern and live a life prizing what is of real value.

Submitted by Jacqui W. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Ephesians 5:15-17  

  • Note the parallel between v. 10 and v. 17.  Given the responsibilities outlined in between these two verses, how does this inform the Christian’s “best use” of time?

According to these two verses, as Christians we are given the responsibility of learning and clarifying for ourselves what pleases God, what the will of the Lord is. It’s clear from these verses that the way in which we live can either please God or displease Him, that while there could be many potentially good uses of our time, the best use of our time is to live according to the will of God. And as beloved children of God, it’s only fitting that we choose to live in a way that pleases our Heavenly Father, that we are obedient to His will.

I think I used to struggle a lot with this question and it’s a question I’ve received from many others as well – how can I best use my time and what really is God’s will for my life? Or more specifically, it came down to questions like “how should I spend my summer? Should I study more or come out to some event? Should I stay here or go home after graduation?” I have come to appreciate that God’s will might not be spelled out in the bible in the form of something like “Jacqui, you ought to take this class, major in this, etc., but as I engaged in the word of God, as I got to know what God was like, and how He thought, what grieved Him, how for God, what He desired was a personal relationship with me and not just me trying to obey a bunch of rules just to look good before Him, it enables me to apply my knowledge and understanding of God to inform how I should use my time when I am faced with different choices I have to make. And as I continue to engage in God’s word, in seeking the counsel of people more spiritually mature in my life, He uses these to point me towards His will.

  • Why is knowing that “the days are evil” crucial to living a wise life? 

Knowing that the days are evil gives us the proper context with which to view our lives. Without understanding the times, we cannot possibly know what is appropriate, what is the right way to live. How are “the days evil”? They are evil because even though Satan has ultimately been defeated through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the battle for individual souls is still raging on. Satan is still actively at work in our world, in our midst, using everything within his power to hinder people from becoming reconciled to God, as well as to neutralize the effectiveness of Christians, of the Church in sharing the gospel. As I look around me and look within my own heart, it’s clear that I am in the thick of an intense spiritual battle where Satan’s schemes are plentiful. I see media and society that tells you that if you buy what you want and you look a certain way you’ll be happy and fulfilled, I see girls and boys, men and women alike enslaved to things like internet, pornography, looking for worth in their body image, looking to escape from the pain and fears they encounter in their circumstances by distracting themselves with the pain that comes from self-injury, I see an epidemic of depression in a world that is hyper connected yet also has the most number of individuals expressing a deep sense of loneliness. And in myself I see selfishness, envy, pride, self-centeredness, grumbling, laziness and so much more that counters my desire to obey God and to do His will. Knowing the darkness that exists in our own hearts, knowing that there is an enemy who is out there working unceasingly, relentlessly in a last-ditch attempt to bring as many people down with him as possible, and how one of those people is ME, how can I just live my life unthinkingly, allowing myself to become a hapless victim of Satan’s schemes wasting my time, my resources on things that are useless in fighting this spiritual battle? It’s as absurd as someone who is devoting all his time in decorating his house and thinking about having a tea party while his country is in the midst of a war and his property might be seized at any moment by the enemy. Knowing that every choice I make in what I feed my mind with, in the things I choose to do, either weakens Satan or aids him in advancing his agenda against God and the people I care about, either increases or dilutes my spiritual potency as a minister, it’s very clear that I have to live wisely for my sake and for the sake of those who God has entrusted to me to minister to. And what wiser way to live than to live by the will of the Lord, the one who created us and knows what’s best for us, the only one who is more powerful than Satan and has already defeated him.

Ephesians 5:18-21    

  • Reflect on the portrait of the Spirit-filled life depicted here. 

Before Paul goes onto describe the Spirit-filled life, he briefly sums up what a Spirit-filled life is not – it is not a life of debauchery, a life that is excessive and wasteful in indulgence (per commentary) and essentially me-centered (all about how can I best satisfy my desires, selfishly pamper myself, lavish what I have on myself for personal enjoyment). The contrasting description of a Spirit-filled life is clearly God-centered. A people who can address one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs must be a people whose heart is full of God’s word and whose reference point is always God. Such a life acknowledges that God is the author and giver of everything that we have, praises God, giving Him thanks regardless of the circumstances because the joy of his salvation cannot be taken away from him. Such a person is humble and servantlike to others, not out of fear and the desire to earn the approval of man but because he wants to honor Christ who was also humble and servantlike.

When I think about this portrait of the Spirit-filled life, it brings to mind the leaders who have ministered to me over the years, how they have used the word of God to address my fears and sins. Like Sue encouraging me to read Isaiah 40 onwards when I was feeling anxiety towards my child, how Suzanne shared the hymn “Day by Day” with me to encourage me to take one day at a time when I was feeling defeated in trying to fight against fears and emotions, etc.  How they can so readily help me connect everything back to God because they’re already so used to at connecting everything in their own lives back to God. How I received so much love and grace as an ungrateful college student from people like Bo and Ellen, not because they were trying to impress me or earn my approval but they were humble and servantlike out of reverence for Christ. I also think about the various missionaries that we’ve gotten to know and how scripture is so readily and so naturally part of their thoughts, what they say, how even in the midst of difficulties and setbacks they can still give God such high praise. I am thankful that there are concrete portraits of the Spirit-filled life in my midst who I can point to and learn from.

  • What are some ways concrete steps I can take to live out this kind of life?

One phrase that particularly challenges me in these verses is “giving thanks always and for everything to God” because there’s a part of me doesn’t want to give thanks to God in any circumstance. When things are going well, when I feel like I’m doing a good job as a minister and a leader, when I’m able to exercise self-discipline, the times when I feel like I’ve been a “good wife” or a “good mom,” there’s that part of me that desires to attribute that goodness to who I am, when blessings come my way there’s that part of me that wants to say “I earned/deserve that.”  And when things go wrong, when some stronghold of sin manifests once again, when life seems out of control, I am tempted to just indulge in self-pity or to nurse my bruised ego. However, when I’m rooted in the reality that I am a sinner who’s been forgiven by God and really doesn’t deserve anything, that’s when I can give thanks to God for the fact that I have salvation, regardless of the circumstances or my performance as a Christian. In order to fight against my ungrateful nature, I need to engage in that sometimes painful task of daily confession before God’s word and at times, God’s people so that I don’t forget the reality of who I am, and rightful condemnation that I have been saved from. Sometimes it’s scary to confront the reality of who I am, to try and dig a little deeper because I don’t want to open that can of worms, I’m afraid of what ugly truths I might see about myself, but when I bring what I realize about myself to God’s word and hold on to the truth that there is no condemnation, only forgiveness for my sins, it gives me the courage to go through that scary process. And in those times when I’ve struggled with honest reflection, I have actually come out of it with a greater gratitude and appreciation for what Jesus had done for me on the cross, and not such a strong sense of self-entitlement for the way my life ought to be.

Submitted by Annie K. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Ephesians 5:15-17  

  • Note the parallel between v. 10 and v. 17.  Given the responsibilities outlined in between these two verses, how does this inform the Christian’s “best use” of time?

Verses 10 and 17 tell us to try to discern what is pleasing to God and understand what his will is. In between these two verses we are told not to take part in unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. We have to look carefully at how we walk to make sure we are living wisely and making the best use of our time. The best use of our time would be to find out what pleases God and what his will is for our lives and carry it out to completion. We are not to use our time and freedom to indulge in our flesh and sin. How we live should not be dictated by our own desires, but by God’s standards and will. The world tells us that the best use of our time is to live for ourselves. We need to use our time to build a name for ourselves, secure money for the future, and relax and live comfortably when life gets hard. According to the world our desires, our comfort, our ambition, and our agenda for our lives should shape how we think about what the best use of our time is. But the Christian shouldn’t be inwardly bent, but rather have God at the center that our lives revolve around. Out of love for God, we want to know what pleases him and do those things rather than doing what pleases us and our sinful desires. Instead of being consumed with getting things done in an efficient manner and having amazing time-management skills, the Christian’s best use of time is making the most of every opportunity God places in our lives to serve him and spread the gospel. Sometimes that means being very inefficient and not getting things done on the timeline that I would like. Ministry and loving people often means opening up my life to interruptions and inconveniences that sometimes seem to take place at the worst possible moments. I shouldn’t turn people away or choose to avoid an opportunity to love and serve someone just so I could check one more item off of my to-do list. Something that comes to mind are mission trips that people go on during winter break or by taking time off of work. That may seem like a waste and unwise because you could be using that time to relax, get an internship that looks good on a resume, make money by working, saving those vacation days for a real comfortable and luxurious vacation, etc. But they choose to use their time and resources to go to a place like Cambodia to share the gospel with the people there. They are choosing to not take part in unfruitful works of darkness, but instead bring light to the lives of the people there and serve God by loving his people. This is what pleases God and while it may seem impractical and not the best use of one’s time from a worldly standpoint, in God’s eyes, this is the best use of one’s time because they are seizing the opportunity to share in God’s heart and do his work.

  • Why is knowing that “the days are evil” crucial to living a wise life? 

Living a wise life is not always the easiest thing to do because our sinful desires are always tempting us to live for ourselves. We want to continually push off living a wise life to the next day. But the days are evil because if our time is not put to good use, then it will only end up being used for evil. This helps me to put things into perspective as I see that I need to live a wise life so that I won’t be given over to evil. I remember as an undergrad I would go home for winter break with every intention of reading the Bible, accomplishing something, or doing different exciting things, yet so often I would be too lazy to do anything and would spend most of my days sleeping and mindlessly watching television and movies all day long. Without the knowledge that the days are evil, I found no motivation to do anything more than indulge in my own fleshly desires. I would always tell myself that tomorrow would be different so today I’ll just do whatever I want. On the other hand, knowing that the days are evil gives me a sense of urgency to live wisely and make the best use of my time. I can’t continue to be foolish, but instead I need to seek God’s will for my life. I have to pay attention to my thoughts and actions and do a heart check regularly to see that I am living not for evil, but wisely so that I will be making the most of every opportunity to serve God and love his people.

Ephesians 5:18-21    

  • Reflect on the portrait of the Spirit-filled life depicted here. 

When you are filled with the Spirit, your outlook on life and relationships with others will be radically different from how the world says it should be. The commentary says that life in the Spirit is characterized by giving thanks. The recent Sunday messages on giving thanks reminded me how in today’s culture it’s so easy to complain, take things for granted, be filled with self-pity and be hyper-critical about everything. Society has changed to encourage people into thinking they’re a legitimate critic who can give their opinions on everything from pens to books to restaurants. People complain about first-world problems that are utterly insensitive to people who are actually living in harsh and difficult conditions. The sad thing is that this picture is considered to be perfectly normal and expected of people. When people fall into self-pity over trivial things, the right thing to do is to be empathetic and express your apologies that they’re going through some situation rather than pointing out that they have been blessed with so much that they have no reason to be feeling self-pity. It’s the norm and maybe even the cool thing to do to rate, review and comment on different social media platforms. But by living like the world, they are often missing out on the opportunity to show gratitude and thanks. But when you are filled with the Spirit, you are filled with gratitude and praise because you can’t help but worship and praise the God who has given you so much. Serving God and doing his work does not become a task or a dreary thing, but a joy because you recognize what a privilege it is to be used by God in any way in light of your sinfulness. As you recognize that your very existence, life, relationships, and possessions are all a gift from God, then you are filled with gratitude towards the one who blessed you. As the Spirit lives in you, you experience greater conviction of your sinfulness and brokenness. This causes you to experience love, forgiveness and mercy from others in a deeper and richer way that results in greater thanks and praise to God. You understand how much you actually don’t deserve anything and start to lose that sense of entitlement that causes you to complain and groan about the state of your life. Instead of complaints and criticism, a Spirit-filled life would be full of praise and thanksgiving. It would also change the way you relate to people. Instead of trying to always come out on top over your peers, leaders, students, family or friends in some area of life, you would strive to submit to one another in humility. You would be able to celebrate with others in their successes rather than feeling resentful or angry. You would also not live an individualistic life, but always consider others and their needs first. You would be quick to forgive others when they hurt you rather than nursing grudges. You would strive to love and serve others rather than thinking of your own needs and agendas. And all of this would be done out of reverence for Christ rather than out of a desire to look good before others, keep up a façade, or protect your reputation.

  • What are some ways concrete steps I can take to live out this kind of life?

In light of the Thanksgiving season, I realized that I need to be more intentional about giving thanks. It actually doesn’t come as easy as I would think and I often take a lot of things for granted. So one way to live a life of gratitude is by not only recognizing things or people to be grateful for, but actually expressing thanks in the form of words, cards, gifts, e-mail, etc. One thing that has helped me recently to give thanks always and for everything is writing one thing I’m grateful for each day for the past month with my Life Group. By doing this I was able to see how richly I have been blessed and I have no reason to be bitter, complain or feel self-pity. Another easy thing is simply expressing my gratitude towards other people. Whether it’s by simply saying thank you or writing thank you cards. I can also try to notice and anticipate the needs of others. Instead of being so inwardly bent and focused on my own agenda and things I need to get done, I need to be more others-centered. It’s not enough to just recognize their needs, but I need to move into action to meet those needs. Sometimes I think it would be too much of a hassle or it would take too much time to love others in this way, but there are many small things I can do. I can bring soup to someone who is sick, write an encouraging email to someone who’s going through a difficult time, offer to buy groceries for someone who’s feeling really harried since I’m going anyway, etc.

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