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Buying Back Time

Ephesians: Bringing It All Together  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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You know the saying, “Time flies when you’re having fun?”
I would agree with that. There are some days when life is exciting and the moments seem to be gone in a heartbeat.
Really, though, I would have to modify that statement some: time flies, whether you are having fun or not.
With our oldest daughter starting middle school this week, Samantha and I have been reflecting back on the past 12 years or our marriage.
It is almost impossible to believe that much time has passed.
Maybe it is summed up better in a line that appears to have originated from a secular author by the name of Gretchen Rubin:
“The days are long, but the years are short.” (Gretchen Rubin)
That quote is most often used in the context of parenting, but I don’t think it just applies there. If you think about any aspect of your life, there were moments when you never thought you would make it, but looking back now, they seem to be a distant memory.
I can look back and laugh at myself for the late nights I spent worrying about who I was going to marry or what I was going to do with my life, because I have seen God answer that in more amazing ways than I could imagine.
The years have indeed passed quickly, and it is with a twinge of sadness that we look back and think of the time that we can’t get back.
In Ephesians, we have a passage that deals directly with this issue.
Open up to , where we are picking up our study this morning.
I am glad to be back in the pulpit this week, although I am incredibly grateful for D.J. bringing the sermon last week.
He continued our series through Ephesians, which we are picking back up this morning.
In this series, we have seen that God is bringing everything back together in Christ. Sin broke our relationship with God, and Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection enables us to come back into right relationship with God.
When God draws us back to himself, we have seen that he gives us every spiritual blessing in Christ. There is no division of race or status, but every person who has responded to God’s gift of salvation has been made spiritually alive where they were dead.
In chapter 4, we saw that when God saved us, he uniquely equipped each person in the church to help every other member in the church to grow up in him.
Last week, D.J. presented the hard-hitting truth that if God has brought us back to himself, we must change. We can’t live the same way we did. We have to put off the old way of living, thinking, talking, and reacting, and start living the righteous life God called us to live.
Today we are going to pick that concept up as we look again at how we are living.
If you catch nothing else from this morning’s message, let me encourage you to do this one thing: buy back your time.
Although we are going to put it in context, this idea comes straight out of . The phrase translated “making the most of the time” is literally, “redeeming/buying back the time”.
We are going to look at three reasons why you, as a Christian, need to buy back your time.
We are
If that strikes you as an odd phrase, think about it for a minute: have you ever heard anyone talk about “spending time” with someone?
We use that phrase so often that I doubt we even think about it anymore. Tied up in that picture is the idea that I have a set amount of time that is like coins in a vault. Whenever I give myself to something, I am taking money from my time vault and spending it somewhere.
<<coin example>>
So, why should we care how we are spending our time? Why should we fight to buy it back?
Let’s dive into to find out.

1) You aren’t in the dark anymore.

The first reason you and I need to buy back the time is because we aren’t in the dark anymore.
“these things” actually goes back up to verse 5, so let’s look at it.
If your life is characterized by what the Bible describes as sexual immorality, impurity, or greediness, then you are worshiping a false god. You may not have a shrine with an altar that you burn incense on, but you are an idolater because your god is pleasure or money or being popular or whatever.
Verse 6 confronts us with the harsh truth we don’t like to face: God is going to punish people who engage in that kind of behavior!
If you are still living apart from Christ, then you need to understand that you are in a very dangerous place, and you need to turn to him today.
What about those of us who know Jesus as our Savior and Lord?
We can’t live like that anymore!
That takes us back to what DJ preached to us last week, doesn’t it? We used to live like that, and now we have to put all that away.
The picture Paul uses here is of light and darkness, which is a common theme throughout the Bible.
Before you came to know Christ, you stumbled around in the darkness spiritually. You may have been doing what you thought was best, but once Jesus turned the lights on, you saw what a mess of things you had made.
When Jesus turned on the lights, though, you turned from your sin and turned to following him.
Now, notice that you are lights!
I think of this like glow-in-the-dark stars. Did any of you have some? I loved glow-in-the-dark stuff. Did you ever take something out and shine light on it for like 30 seconds and then cup your hands around it to see it glow? It would fade quickly, wouldn’t it?
The longer you exposed it to the light, the more it would glow, but it still would eventually go dark.
That’s the picture I have of our light spiritually. Notice that we are only spiritual lights “in the Lord.” In other words, you aren’t making the light, you are only reflecting it! When you get out of the light, you are going to run down and start running into trouble because you aren’t seeing correctly anymore.
Maybe that’s you this morning. You know you have committed your life to following Jesus, but you aren’t really spending any time with him. Your life is getting darker and darker, and you aren’t looking like what verse 9 says we should.
This is your wake-up call: start buying back the time!
Do what verse 10 tells us to do: test every aspect of your life to see if it matches up with who God is and what he wants you to do.
That’s going to lead you away from that old way of life, where you did things that you are now completely ashamed of.
As your life is characterized by righteousness, you are going to stop wasting time following your own selfish desires, doing things that don’t please God. Instead, you are going to invest those moments more and more into works of righteousness.
Take the words to heart in verse 14 - stop sleeping! Get up and let Christ’s light shine on you to show you where you are off track and how to get back.
That sounds like a lot of work, doesn’t it?
Do we really have to? I mean, isn’t being saved from my sin good enough? Do I have to change the way I live?
Yes!
That leads us to the second reason why you need to buy back your time:

2) You are commanded to.

None of us really enjoy being told what to do.
We all want to be the captain of our own ships, the master of our fate, right?
As great as that sounds, you were not made to be independent and the god of your own universe.
You were made by a God who is infinitely better, infinitely smarter, infinitely kinder and more loving and more wise than you are, and he has given us commands to obey.
This is one of them. Look at verses 15-17.
You have to care about how you live because God tells you too.
You can’t claim to know God and have been changed by his love if you aren’t willing to do what he says. He makes that quite clear in the book of 1 John if you haven’t read it.
It is crystal clear: pay attention to how you live.
Why? There is an interesting phrase in verse 16 - “because the days are evil.”
This makes sense with what we have been seeing, doesn’t it?
We have talked at length at different times about how the world is chasing after their own desires.
We have seen in this passage that, apart from Christ, people are walking in darkness.
Even those of us who know Christ can still get off track and don’t perfectly live out the Christian life, which is why we are called to put off the old life and put on the new.
If that’s the case, then wouldn’t it be safe to say that the way most of the world spends their time isn’t the way God would want them to?
The days are evil because our world still refuses to submit to Jesus’ authority. The shows you watch on TV, the bloggers you read, the folks you follow on Facebook and Instagram, and every ad you see are designed to pull your heart farther inward, to satisfy your desires, to make you comfortable and happy.
That’s not how life is supposed to work for you if you know Christ!
Following Jesus is hard, because it is counter-cultural! We can’t act like most people, we can’t react like most people. We can’t waste our time like most people, because they are still walking around in the dark.
God commands you to put that behind you, wake up, and live differently.
That’s what Paul is telling us in verse 17- Take time to figure out how to live a God-honoring life, and then do it.
Go back to chapter 4 and look back over the specific commands he gives. He covers the words we use, telling the truth, handling anger, and responding to hurt. That’s a great place to start.
We are going to see in the next few chapters that he has given us some strong guidelines in our key relationships, including marriage, parenting, and work, so we don’t have an excuse to disobey.
Here’s the problem, though: this is hard.
We have a dangerous combination of factors fighting against us:
We naturally like comfort and don’t like to do hard things for very long.
We like to be accepted, so we don’t like to be on the outside.
We want what we want and we want it right now.
So, if all you do with this sermon is walk out of here and try harder, you are going to fail.
You can’t keep this up on your own, which is what we see in our third reason we need to buy back the time:

3) You can be filled by the Holy Spirit.

This is something Paul keeps looping back to time and time again.
Read verses 18-21 with me...
We have seen throughout our time in Ephesians that you and I have the Holy Spirit living inside us.
We saw that back in our very first message, when we talked about .
We have reiterated several times that at the moment you were saved, you gained access to all of God you can ever get. You have the resurrection power of the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead living inside you.
You may notice something a little different about the translation I am using, the CSB. Most translations take this as “be filled with the Spirit,” where the CSB says “by.”
Either translation could be right, so the translators have to make a call on how to render it in English.
I actually think it is a good way to look at it, although the grammatical reasons why are a little tough to explain on a Sunday morning.
However, it does make sense when you look at it in the flow of the letter itself. It actually paints a beautiful picture of the Trinity when you put it together.
So, if you have that, then what is Paul talking about when he says, “be filled by the Spirit”?
What did Paul pray back in ? That we would be filled to the fulness of God, which implies we would be filled with all of God’s moral goodness and power.
Now, look at something we only touched on briefly in 4:10 - Jesus fills all things.
Now, look at 4:10 - Jesus is the one who fills all things.
Bring that into this passage, and you see this: “Believers are to be filled by Christ by means of the Spirit with the content of the fullness of God.” (NET Notes on Ephesians 5:17)
Our passage, then, completes that picture. The Spirit is the agent who fills us with the fulness of Christ
In other words, Jesus works through the Holy Spirit to fill us with all God’s moral goodness and power!
So, if you have that, then what is Paul talking about when he says, “be filled by the Spirit”?
Even if you don’t agree with this translation, the outcome is essentially the same. When you are filled with the Holy Spirit, you are allowing God to control you.
One of the clearest ways I have heard this expressed is this:
“The baptism of the Spirit means that I belong to Christ’s body. The filling of the Spirit means that my body belongs to Christ.” (Warren Wiersbe)
When you are buying back time, you aren’t pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps.
Instead, you are setting aside your agendas, your hopes, your dreams, your rights, and your wants, and allowing God to have access to all of you.
This isn’t a one-time decision, unfortunately.
It is a moment-by-moment, day-by-day surrender to him.
You are fighting against the darkness and surrendering your life to him, which lets you walk in a wise way, not wasting away time.
The contrast Paul uses is a vivid one, isn’t it? He says that being filled by the Spirit is similar in some ways to being drunk with wine!
We don’t believe this means you are going to start babbling or staggering around, but there are some interesting contrasts drawn here.
In fact, one of the Early Church Fathers, a preacher by the name of Chrysostom, pointed out the contrast that Paul makes.
How do people speak when they are drunk? Slurred, often angry, irritable, and with words and topics we shouldn’t repeat in church, right?
What about those who are filled by the Spirit?
Look at verse 19. When God has all of us, when we are living in complete surrender, it overflows in the way we talk and act.
I am not saying that your home should look like some Disney movie with everyone only speaking in song, but when God is working in and through your life and you have his fullness at work in you, then you are naturally going to be drawn to praise him from your heart.
Maybe this is why music can be such a contentious issue in churches, because songs are so often an extension of how we feel in the deepest part of who we are.
If you are buying back time, if you are living in complete surrender and filled to God’s fullness by his Spirit, then your heart is going to overflow with praise to him.
Not only that, but you are going to be thankful! Look at verse 20.
Instead of being stingy and selfish and ungrateful, your heart will overflow with a sense of gratitude, even in the most difficult days.
Again, there is a little bit of a contrast with drunkenness here.
What is one reason people drink? To forget about their problems, or to lighten the load some.
Here, being filled by the Spirit doesn’t numb you to what is going on. Instead, when he has control over all of you, you see that he is shaping every moment, every pain, every struggle, for his glory and your good.
As you are filled by the Spirit, you see deeper and deeper the incredible way God loved you through Jesus’ death on the cross, and gratitude grows in you in ways that cannot be explained otherwise.
That filling also leads to something we will come back to next week. Look at verse 21 - when you surrender everything to God’s control, asking him to fill you and move you like a hand moves a glove, then you can humbly submit to each other, seeking others’ needs above your own.
After all, isn’t that what Jesus did for us?
tells us that Jesus came as the light of the world, exposing our sin. When we saw what truth really looked like, we chose to reject it because we would rather foolishly waste our lives away. But God loved us so much that he would go to the cross and be raised from the dead so we can have life and light.
Now, we can be filled by him to do whatever he calls us to do. We don’t have to waste our lives. Instead, because of the power the Holy Spirit fills us with, we can buy back the time.
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