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Redeeming the Time

Redeeming the Time  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  49:52
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In 2021, I’m not looking to just survive. I want to position our church to be part of a move of God. I want to take full advantage of this moment to see more people become followers of Christ.

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One of our holiday traditions is to watch all of the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings movies on DVD. At the turn of the year it reminds us that each of us has a role to play in God’s greater purpose.
Why did Gandalf choose a Hobbit for his adventure? Precisely because they are not drawn to power and pride like so may others, but they are made resilient by their love of life itself.
These Tolkien movies remind me of why I am put here on this earth and that I too am on an adventure. I have a purpose for which I am on a journey both to find and to fulfil.
This year especially, I could relate to the themes of impending darkness, that the world is changing. That there is the growing presence of evil in the world. That things are happening behind the scenes which will call for courage in all of us.
That leads me to one of my favorite LOTR quotes: Frodo volunteers to carry the ring to Mount Doom because apparently, he’s the only one who can do it without being tempted by it’s power. Everyone is out to get him. The fate of middle earth hangs in the balance causing Frodo to lament his task.
“I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo. "So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
It is now the Year 2021.
We can finally put 2020 behind us, but 2021 already looks like it may have some significant challenges as well.
You don’t have to like these times that we are living in, but you do have to decide what you will do with the time that is given us?
How will future generations look aback on this generation?
Sure. There’s a lot we don’t know and some things are beyond our control, but have we done what we can while we can still do it?
As I was seeking the Lord for a theme for 2021, the phrase I kept hearing was, “Redeeming the time.”
I remember hearing prophesies about the election and about the turmoil and confusion in our society. We were warned about this.
It was also prophesied that there would be revival and a great outpouring of the Spirit.
When I hear a prophecy like that my question is How do I participate?
In 2021, I’m not looking to just survive. I want to position our church to be part of a move of God. I want to take full advantage of this moment to see more people become followers of Christ.

Redeeming the Time

Ephesians 5:15–21 ESV
15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Practice awareness.
Each year Karie and I take a spiritual retreat. It is a practice that each of us started some years ago, and we have different ways of doing it, but the purpose is to slow down and take the time to reflect, evaluate and refocus.
Some of the questions that we ask are:
Did we do what God called us to do this year? Have we been obedient to God’s will? Have we done it from a place of rest or are we striving? Are we using the gifts that God has given us? Are we pursuing relationships that are pursuing the same goals or are we being pulled in a different direction? Is there something that we need to learn to do better?
You see that awareness comes from taking the time to look and to ask the right questions.
So many times we find ourselves just coasting through life.
Sometimes we are specifically avoiding difficult questions because we are afraid of the answers.
Sometimes we get lazy and just want to be entertained.
Paul’s illustration about wine isn’t just about alcohol.
It’s a contrasting metaphor. Don’t be drunk, but be alert!
People who drink too much do so to forget, to numb the pain.
The word that Paul uses here literally means “It’s a waste - of your time, your resources and your life.”
Do you want clarity?
Do you want to know who you are?
Do you want to know that your life has meaning?
Do you want to know what you can do that would please God?
Be intentional.
God gave you a will because He wants you to use it.
What if we all made the decision to engage in life rather than ignore most of it?
What if we each had a sense of why God put us here on this earth? What if we began to be and to do what God made us to be?
Those are big questions and one’s that we will be taking some time to answer in the coming year.
Each year I try to do some expository preaching (Preaching through a book of the Bible) from both the Old Testament and New Testament.
This year we will be looking at Daniel as an example of someone we served God’s purpose in his generation, even in the worst of times and against all odds.
We will also study through Paul’s letter to the Galatians in the fall. This letter is big on identity and understanding how we are transformed from slaves to Sons.
Cultivate devotion.
Why does this passage say that we are to speak in “hymns, psalms and spiritual songs?”
Are we to now chant our greetings like medieval monks?
I think the picture is not just what we say or how we say it, but where it comes from.
Hymns, songs and spiritual songs all start from a heart of adoration.
When we meditate on God’s goodness and we start our day in worship, all of our thoughts, speech and attitudes flow from that place.
I don’t know how many people think about it these days, but for most of the Christian age, followers of Jesus were very conscious of where their thoughts flow from.
You want your thoughts to flow from a heart that is devoted to Christ.
We sometimes calls this practice daily devotions.
For many of us it means reading a scripture or two and a paragraph of someone else’s thoughts just before we rush out the door.
If I ask you at noon what you read in your morning devotions, could you tell me?
That’s because we have come to think of our daily devotions as a sort of spiritual vitamin rather than as our very sustenance?
What does it take for you to get your mind truly centered on Christ?
How long does that take?
Are you willing to do what ever it takes?
If you understood the times and how critically important you are, living at this moment in history, you might think differently.

Understanding the times.

1 Chronicles 12:32 ESV
32 Of Issachar, men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do, 200 chiefs, and all their kinsmen under their command.
Recognize the plan of God through the ages.
In the first sermon I preached at SCF and the first sermon series on Ephesians, I laid out what I see as the big picture and what guides my thinking.
Ephesians 1:9–10 ESV
9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
God is uniting everything under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
He is restoring us to the image in which He first created us.
In Christ we are Sons and Daughter of God with authority to rule in life.
We are bringing everything under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
First ourselves, and then everything under our influence.
Realize the purpose of God for our generation.
We recognize that the kingdoms of this world is clashing with the Kingdom of God that is emerging.
We talked about the “man of lawlessness” being revealed before Christ is revealed as the final victor.
I think we all feel the intensity of the spiritual warfare in our society and in our world.
The answer, I believe is not just to push back the darkness, but to release the power of the Kingdom.
There is a teaching that we do in the School of Ministry where we explain that Ephesus was a spiritual stronghold of a demonic entity.
Paul didn’t spend his time trying to engage the cult of Artemis in spiritual warfare.
He spent his time making disciples of Christ and teaching the truth.
At one point this did result in a riot, but once again, they were not confronting the principalities, they were only speaking truth.
I believe that there are those who are called to pray and do warfare in the heavenly realm, but without stirring up those powers, most of our warfare happens as we simply live and speak the truth.
We are called to make disciples (followers) of Jesus Christ.
If we were to simple obey the great commission and share christ freely, what would that do?
Release the promise of God for our children.
What if instead of getting upset about all the lies and the evil in the world, what if we spoke the truth instead?
How will people recognize a lie when they hear it unless they also know the truth?
If people are willing to tolerate evil, doesn’t that come from a lack of conscience?
A lack of morality is a lack of God-awareness.
As I thought about this year and the prophecies of revival, I wanted to be ready for a move of God when it comes.
I was thinking to do a series on discipleship.
Discipleship in the American context usually means teaching on basic beliefs, like Larry Kreider’s Foundation Series or the Purple Book.
I had lunch with a CRU missionary who shared a book about discipleship in China.
The discipleship model being used in China, Iran and other parts of the world where the church is growing exponentially is called T4T - Training for trainers.
Discipleship is not about information, it is about obedience.
I was concerned about people having enough information to lead someone else to Christ.
But it’s not our doctrine that wins people to Christ, it’s our obedience.
They focus on training people who train others.
A disciple is a follower of Jesus, but a trainer is meant to train others.
Church planters in China say that you haven’t started a movement until you have a third and fourth generation of trainers.
How many have led someone to Christ?
How many know that the person that they led to Christ has led someone else to Christ?
When that person leads someone to Christ you have a third generation disciple.
It’s like saying that you are not just raising your children, but you are raising the parents of your grandchildren.
Your job is not just to convey your values to the next generation, but to inspire them to want to do so for generations to come.

Knowing what to do.

Colossians 4:5–6 ASV 1901
5 Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time. 6 Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer each one.
What do you do with what you already know?
Most of us sitting here today have more Bible knowledge than half of the world, but what do you do with what you know?
We already have an army of believers.
We came together at The Return in prayer and repentance, but what do we do now? Do we just go back to the way things were?
What if things don’t go our way, do we just fade into the woodwork?
Or do we continue to do the things that we gathered to renew?
We continue to worship and declare Jesus as Lord.
We continue to stand for truth and what is right.
We share Christ with those who do not know Him.
And we do that against a backdrop of a world that is consumed by sin, evil and increasing chaos.
Worship is not complete without a response.
I don’t know if you have thought about this, but when we gather each week for worship and then to hear the teaching of the Word, our gathering is not complete until there is some kind of response.
John 13:15–17 ESV
15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.
In the T4T model, group meetings are broken into three parts.
The first third is prayer, encouragement and accountability - how have you been since the last time we were together?
The second part is teaching -hearing the Word and receiving from God.
The third part is about obedience - what is God saying and what is my specific response in obedience.
Believers learn in this context to come away from each meeting with a specific step that they need to take in obedience to God.
Is it any wonder that they are multiplying faster than we are?
I tend to pose questions for reflection each week as a way of gently provoking a response. I want you to go a think about what was said and not just forget it.
But what if we were in the practice of coming to each meeting with the question in our spirit: God, what are you saying to me this week?
More importantly: God what do you want me to do this week out of obedience to you?
Maybe it is sharing Christ with someone.
Maybe is it simply caring for someone in need?
Maybe it is an obstacle that we need to overcome, a personal struggle or the need to forgive.
Those are things that we usually need help with.
I am honestly looking for ways to do this better in our fellowship.
The men’s and women’s groups that started last year are a great step in this direction.
Small groups where people are in regular relationship are the best way to tackle big changes.
Sometimes you just need someone to look you in the eye and ask you, “how are you doing?”
Celebrate the little victories along the way.
And encourage and pray for one another for the big breakthroughs.
I would also like to see us develop prayer teams over the next year, so that anyone who comes to church will know that they can receive prayer for any need after any meeting.

Questions for reflection:

How do you cultivate devotion? Is there a special place and/or time set aside in your day to focus on Christ? What keeps your heart centered on Him? What keeps you awake and alive spiritually?
Do you have a sense of purpose? Do you know why God put you here in this place at this time? Are you living out God’s purpose? Are you living for something bigger than just yourself?
If following Christ is measured by obedience, are you a follower of Christ? What is the last thing that Jesus asked you to do? What step will you take today in obedience to God?
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