August 26, 2012: How Then Shall We Live?

Let us pray: Dear Savior, we know that darkness presages sunshine and that chaos comes before peace. The problem is: when darkness and/or chaos intrude into our corner of the world, we often don’t believe anything good will come afterward. Remind us today that You, not we, are in control of the world. Remind us that You have ordained that all things will work for good to those who love You. Remind us that tough times are actually character-building times. And most of all, give us the capacity during such times to expand our faith and our reliance on You alone—with joy. Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, OUR LOVING SAVIOR!

TEXT: Ephesians 5: 15-20

Dearly Beloved By Christ:

One of the first words I learned in my first year Greek class was: kairos. No, I’m not talking about Cairo, the capitol of Egypt! Kairos is spelled differently and ends with an “s”. The word means: a critical time. A time of testing. A time inner self-examination. A time when we either fall apart or rise to the occasion. People face those critical times of testing when they lose their jobs, when mom gets cancer, or when their marriage crumbles. In fact, as you get older, you can trace and count the rings of your spiritual growth by such kairos times. And, of course, handling them in a Godly fashion is the key to spiritual increase, or decrease. In today’s lesson, Paul uses that word “kairos.” It is translated in our text as: “every opportunity.” Thus, for the Christian, “kairos” times are positive times for real, personal growth. With that in mind, I want to ponder this question:

HOW THEN SHALL WE LIVE?

I

“Be very careful then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.”

How then shall we live?—In Godly wisdom! And the first aspect of Godly wisdom is: knowing that this world is not a nice place. People are basically selfish. They will do for you only if they can reap some sort of benefit. And if they pull you down through their greed or immoral behavior, they really don’t care. In the sports world you’re only as good as your last home-run or touchdown. In the business realm you’re only as valuable as your last big deal. In the friendship world you’re only as useful as the last time you put yourself out for another. Now such selfish attitudes make us sad, angry, frustrated, and can cause real unhappiness. So much so that people often drown their discontent and the pain over being let down by drinking too much, which in turn leads to even more unhappiness. It was a big problem 2000 years ago and nothing has changed today!

Godly wisdom is the way out! Godly wisdom is not only recognizing the moral bankruptcy the unGodly world offers, but that God has a better idea for us! His more excellent way is for us to embrace Christ, Who is the wisdom of God and the power of God. It is to remember that God never disappoints. It is to recall the truth of the cross—forgiveness and kindly love in the midst of pain—and to also remember the empty grave—from darkness and despair comes life and light! So, make the most of your critical times, the times in which you live, by embracing the One individual who never disappoints—Jesus Christ! And then in His wisdom you can rise above the pettiness of human life.

II

How then shall we live?—Under the Spirit’s guidance. “Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your hearts to the Lord.”

When we embrace Christ via faith after coming to know that He has already embraced us in unfailing love, when that occurs we’re given a most blessed gift. Each of us is given the gift of the Holy Spirit. Each of us is given the Spirit’s gifts of: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Remember the parable of the talents? The one where Christ rewards the fellow who used his talents to make more talents? That’s the point when it comes to using spiritual gifts. The more you exercise them, the more the Spirit gives to you. And the more fulfilled with life you are.

Paul isn’t saying here we should always walk around quoting the Bible at each other, although that’s not such a bad idea. No, he’s reminding us to live, think, and speak in Godly terms—all the time. The more you talk about your faith and focus your attention on what God has done for you in Christ and what He still does for you each day by way of blessings, well, such spiritual songs uplift us and everyone we meet. One of the great joys in going to church is that you never go home feeling dirty. So, when you carry those same themes into your daily life, God knocks the dirt off—both of you and those you touch—and once again makes you feel useful, important, vital, and clean. He makes you feel alive!

Harvard researchers even agree with this assessment! It’s true. The other evening I was channel surfing and came upon an enlightening lecture on channel 2 from a Harvard research psychologist. It seems that if older, set-in-their-ways people spend 45 seconds a day contemplating their blessings they have measurably better physical health, are much happier, and those around them perk up, too! Medical research shows that dwelling upon such “uplifting” thoughts actually changes the neural pathways in the brain for the better! In God-speak “psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” help re-wire our sin-mired brains. Likewise, such people live years longer and have more productive lives. My conclusion is: dwelling on the Spirit, His gifts, and enunciating them energizes the whole person—body and soul. Yes, God knew what He was doing when He prodded St. Paul to write the words of our text.

III

So, how then shall we live?—With thanksgiving in our hearts. “Always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Thankful people are happy people. Christian thankfulness is the inner recognition that you possess something terribly special which you didn’t earn, but received through kindness and love. It is the recognition that Someone bigger and much more powerful than you is watching over your life and is involved in helping and assisting you every single day. I guess, I’d say true thankfulness is relief.—Relief from worry. Relief from fear. Relief from feeling helpless and alone. And because God gave His Son to save you—you can have all that simply by believing in your Savior. Christ is the ultimate in life-preservers.

This morning when you awoke, I doubt whether you thought your hour in church would be a kairos, a critical time, in your history. But it is! Today God has challenged you with the question: how then shall you live? And by His grace, you now know the answer and can put it into action. Amen