Would you call yourself a wise person? Would you define your life as one wisely lived? You might think that’s kind of a subjective question. Some of you consider your life and think “Yeah, I think I am pretty wise from my experiences, from years of school and work.” But maybe you’re thinking of foolish decisions you’ve made, things you’ve done, or hours spent in classrooms without much wisdom taken away—and you’re thinking, “Nope, not really wise at all.”
Now, a fitting question for this service: If you told someone with no religious background about your faith, would they think you were wise or foolish? A Triune God, Jesus’ dual nature, his death earning salvation for all? Jesus true body and blood with that bread and wine in communion? They sound illogical or unreasonable. They sound foolish to believe. And don’t be fooled! There’s a lot of people in the world who think just that…that you are a fool for your faith. Hear to the opinions of Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, George Carlin, Bill Maher, and Bill Nye. They call you fools, brainless sheep with your heads stuck in the sand, unable to perceive reality while the rest of the world trusts in the perceived “certainty” of science, logic, and reason. To people like them, you’re the worst kind of fool! How can we stand it? How can we live for Christ while the rest of the world tells us we’re wasting our lives?
We can do so, because God tells us that a life of faith is a life of wisdom, not foolishness. He calls you wise, not a fool. And then he tells you how to live wisely! In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, God tells us that in order To live wisely, we need to be filled! So today, we’ll look to answer two questions: First, What is true wisdom? And second, what should we be filled with?
Paul writes this letter to Christians living in Ephesus, a huge Roman city that was an intersection of many major trade routes. Almost everything traded in Paul’s day went through Ephesus. So the Ephesians were influenced by just about every culture under the sun. Needless to say, the people who lived there thought the large variety of culture and thought they interacted with made them really wise! However, they were also surrounded by people of many different religions. People who worshipped false gods and idols. People who worshipped philosophy and human intellect. People who thought a wise life was one lived to satisfy their sinful desires. But God didn’t want his people to have that kind of wisdom. He wanted them to live not according to worldly wisdom, but according to his wisdom!
Paul tells them, “Be very careful, then, how you live —not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” Live wisely! Literally, Paul says “Carefully watch how you walk.” You can picture the Christian’s life like a long, narrow path. On both sides of the path are deep pits full of poisonous snakes and hungry lions. Would a wise person blindfold themselves and carelessly sprint down that path? No! A wise person would walk carefully, keeping a close eye on where and how they walked. God tells us to live the same way. To live wisely, walk carefully!
We have to walk so carefully because as Paul says, the days are evil! On both sides of our path are deep pits of people who think wisdom means living to please yourself…people who think they’re wiser than God…people who deem your faith “unreasonable, unenlightened, down-right foolish.” While the Ephesians interacted with people who worshipped Artemis and other false gods, we interact with people who worship money, science, intellect, and emotion. The days are indeed evil…as Planned Parenthood harvests organs from unborn babies for profit. As websites like Ashley Madison take people’s money to help them have an affair. Look around you. The days are evil. And so we have to walk carefully, because the days are evil! But we have to walk most carefully because there’s an evil pit called the sinful nature inside each of us.
As we walk, that sinful nature pushes us to carelessly step towards the edge. To listen to the world’s idea of wisdom and think, “Yeah…society is more reasonable. It feels better to serve myself than to serve God. Maybe I am a fool for believing in things like creation and miracles.” Sometimes, the gravest enemy of your faith… is the space between your ears, when we convince ourselves that we are wiser than God. In doing so, we blindfold ourselves, and start to sprint as our flawed human reasoning prepares to push us. A voice calls out, “Follow them to wisdom!” while pointing to the millions of lemmings who so foolishly throw themselves over the edge into unbelief. But what the world doesn’t tell you, is that the voice calling out isn’t wisdom. It’s foolishness. Following worldly wisdom has Satan nipping at our heels…or sinking his teeth into our legs.
Because the world’s wisdom is not wisdom at all! In God’s eyes, the only true wisdom…is understanding. Paul says, “Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” True wisdom is understanding. Understanding and following God’s will! And that’s different than worldly wisdom which says, “Me first!” Godly wisdom means you have to sacrifice, and humans don’t like to sacrifice! You have to sacrifice the “wisdom” of living however you want, because God’s will is opposed to sinful desires. It means we have to sacrifice our flawed logic and reasoning at the cross when God’s word says something that our sinful minds deem illogical or foolish.
But when you truly understand God’s will, those things are meaningless! Aristotle said, “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” And in the context here, he’s right! We need to know the complete depravity that is our sinful nature. We need to understand how we deserve nothing but death and hell because we can’t stop foolishly sinning. We need to understand that we weren’t shuffling towards the edge into unbelief and death, we were falling…and not because we tripped, but because we dove headfirst.
When we understand that, and understand God’s perfect plan, we want to sacrifice everything for him. Because as we were diving into eternal death, God took a foolish action in the eyes of the world. He sacrificed his own Son, so that we might have eternal life. As Paul told the Corinthians, “It is because of (God) that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.” (1 Cor. 1:30)
Wisdom is knowing and understanding God’s will. Wisdom is walking according to God’s will. Because Jesus put aside everything so we could live, we lay down our lives, because he gave us everything. If he loved us enough to save us, then we can be confident, in spite of the world’s opinions, that following his will is wisdom.
Last weekend, Pastor Sellnow talked about how God gives us the Bread of Life to strengthen us for the journey. Again, this week God tells us that we need to fill up on the right things!
Imagine you’re going on a road trip. Obviously, you need to fill up your vehicle with gas, right? So you stop at a Kwik Trip advertising $3/gallon. But you see that the station across the street is only charging $1.50! Obviously, it’s wiser to fill up for half price! But when you get to fill up, you find out their gas is 90% mud. The cheaper price was attractive until you realize that filling up with that bad stuff would do irreparable damage to your vehicle! Isn’t it the same story with the things we “fill up” our lives with? It’s not wise to fill up with things that damage you. These things will have “influences” and results on our lives. Paul implores us, “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.”
Paul paints an obvious contrast here: being filled with wine vs. being filled with the Spirit. The influence of too much wine leads to wild living which desires more sin. Society tries to tell you getting drunk is fun, not sin! That it’s no big deal. And your body might say the same. But sin always snowballs. At the top of the hill it starts out small. Just two more beers…then 5 shots…then getting behind the wheel…then killing an innocent father on his way home from work to tuck in his kids. At the top of the hill, it’s just one porn site…then a few movies…then acting on your lusts when your spouse isn’t enough…then having to admit that you’ve broken your marriage. No matter how seemingly small or insignificant sin might seem, it gets worse. It gets bigger. It takes control. Before long, that snowball is out of control, smashing homes and destroying families, and Satan cheers. We’re not just talking about sex and booze though. It’s anything and everything we might fill our lives with. The things we fill up with influence our ability to walk with God.
That’s why it’s so important for us to be filled with the Spirit! The Spirit doesn’t lead to sin and death, but to eternal life! The Holy Spirit worked faith in our hearts by the means of grace! So now, filled with faith, we’re under the influence of the Spirit, and we can walk according to God’s will!
That’s what influences do. They take over. When we gather together here in God’s house to worship him, we’re filled with God’s word, and the Holy Spirit is at work. When we speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, Christian brothers and sisters encourage and build each other up, to strengthen us to live wisely!
The beauty of being filled with the Holy Spirit is this: This influence leads us to want to be here, to worship, to “sing and make music in your heart to the Lord,” to serve, and to share. The faith which the Holy Spirit worked in us leads us to do these things joyfully! And as we’re motivated to do these things by faith, the Holy Spirit fills us more and more, to strengthen our faith and resilience to remain in the faith! Being filled with the Holy Spirit comes beautifully full circle!
So, brothers and sisters, yes. You are wise, even if the world calls you a fool. You are wise in understanding God’s will– what you were, and what Jesus did for you. That is true wisdom! And with that wisdom, you live wisely, filled with the Spirit. Under his influence, continue to walk wisely, in step with the God’s will. To him we give thanks for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.