Redeem the Time

Redeem Your Time

Ephesians 5:15-17 – Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise, [16] making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. [17] Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

Scripture says we are like vapors which are here today and then, POOF, gone in an instant. Some of us may live to the national average or even past it. Others will not live that long. Whatever the case may be, Scripture reminds us, “man knows not his time.” Therefore, since no one knows when they will be called home, doesn’t it make sense to make the most of every day as though it was our last?

Have you ever been asked what you would do if you only had one week or month left to live? Often, when we’re asked such a question, we offer a sweet, sentimental, or even profound answer that stresses urgency. Yet, few “live out” their answers because they suppress the truth of reality and mistakenly believe they have an infinite supply of time and opportunities before them.

In our Scripture, the Apostle Paul says this is unwise.

Making the Most of Time

Paul instructs us to be careful in how we live. He says we need to be wise, not unwise, and make the most of every opportunity. Many of the great saints of Christian history referred to this as, “redeeming the time.”

Brother, your life is a gift from God. You are called to be a steward of it. In a real sense your life is not your own. In Romans 12, the Apostle Paul said followers of Christ must offer themselves as living sacrifices to God. He lived during Israel’s sacrificial system in which the animal “gave up its life” on the altar. If we are called to be living sacrifices, we must daily put ourselves back on the altar before God in dedication to him, because living sacrifices tend to crawl off the altar by the end of each day.

There is cost involved here to be sure. To give ourselves to the Lord in this way will require sacrifice, commitment, and self-discipline. To redeem the time we have been given, to make the most of every opportunity, we must change the way see and think about our daily lives. A change of perspective is required.

An Eternal Perspective Needed

God can be glorified in our most mundane tasks. Whether we are driving to work, mowing the yard, or wrestling with our children, we can do so to God’s glory (1 Corinthians 10:31). What matters is the motivation of our heart. Martin Luther is attributed as saying a cobbler who makes excellent shoes on Monday glorifies God as much as the pastor who preaches the Gospel on Sunday. Both require an eternal perspective and motivation that transcends themselves.

Isn’t it a relief to know you can glorify God without necessarily moving to the other side of the world as a missionary or becoming an ordained pastor? You don’t have to be doing something “religious” to redeem your time. The Apostle Paul said whether you eat, or drink, or whatever you do, do it for God’s glory. What’s more ordinary than eating and drinking? What you are doing is not as important as why and how you are doing it. So, redeem your time.

Walking Points

  • What are some ways you unthinkingly waste your days and miss the opportunities God has for you? What are some reasons you do so?
  • How can you change the focus and motivation of your daily life from the temporal minutiae to an eternal perspective that seeks God’s glory?
  • What are three ordinary things you do daily that can be transformed by wisely making the most of them?
  • Share your ideas with someone you can trust to hold you accountable and will pray for you.


All-wise Father, you have told me in your Word to number my days so I may have a heart of wisdom. You want me to seek wisdom and live my life in such a way that I may make the most of every opportunity. You know better than I how often I have failed in this pursuit. I don’t wake up each day planning to fail at this, and yet by not better preparing I often fail by default. Please forgive me. Fill me with your Spirit of wisdom and give me not only a desire to live each and every day wisely for you, but enable me to do so. Help me to prepare on the front end so I may be ready to make the most of each opportunity you present me. Most of all, let my thoughts, words, and deeds be done for your glory. In Christ I pray. Amen.

The World or the Word

James 3:13-18

Default or Discipline

We are going to take a look at two kinds of wisdom and two sources of wisdom. There’s a quotation I first heard from Ken Boa that I think will help us think through this together.

“The world will define you by default; but the Word will define you by discipline.”

In other words, be passive… do nothing… and the world will lead you, tell you who you are and what you value. But the Word will only do that through disciplined reading, meditation, and study. That seems to be the consensus of the biblical writers and church history.


Since our Scripture is from the Book of James, let me first tell you a little about James. The Book of James has been called the “Proverbs of the New Testament” because it contains a lot of wisdom sayings, like Proverbs. It’s not a narrative. Instead, it is a general letter written somewhere between 40-60 AD, mainly to the Jewish Christians who had to leave Israel and were “scattered among the nations” (James 1:1). These were Christians who were experiencing persecution and suffering from both Rome and the Jews.

The author, James, was the brother of Jesus. James didn’t start off following Jesus. He didn’t believe. But some time after the resurrection not only did he believe in and follow Jesus, but he became one of the key leaders in the Jerusalem Church.

It was after the death of Stephen in the Book of Acts that many of the Jewish Christians had to flee Jerusalem because of the increased persecution. Thus, James would have known many of the names and faces of the people to whom he wrote, and they certainly would have been glad to hear from him.

That is also why James addresses suffering, since these Jewish Christians were going through so much of it. But he also addressed other themes such as faith and works, the words we say to others, and wisdom, to name a few.

What Wisdom Is Not

I find I pray for wisdom more consistently than almost anything else I pray about. I often find I’m in short supply of it. Can you relate to that?

But what is wisdom?

I grew up reading stories or watching movies where a person had to climb up a great mountain to find a  wise guru sitting at the top of it, someone who could tell the seeker the meaning of life.

Or, maybe when thinking of a wise person we think of someone like Gandalf, the wizard from The Lord of the Rings. Even the word, “wizard,” is derived from the word “wise,” and so it means “wise one” or “teacher.” And so, we might think that a wise person has to wear a long flowing robe and walk with a staff… and don’t forget about the long beard.

Even the philosophers of Greece argued over who the real philosophers (lovers of wisdom) were versus the ones who were merely playing a part to gain a following.

Or maybe when you hear the word “wise” you think of the smartest person you know. A person who knows a lot of information. Someone who would easily win Jeopardy.

What Wisdom Is

Well, none of those ideas really capture, what James means when he writes on wisdom. Biblically speaking, wisdom is much more concerned about and connected to our character and daily living. And that’s the point James is making in our Scripture. In verse 13, James writes,

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. (emphasis mine)

The Hebrew meaning of wisdom could be defined this way: “skill in the art of living.” It has to do with application. In other words, wisdom must show up in how a person lives their life.

Furthermore, biblical wisdom is always connected to humility because it’s a gift. It is not something you were able to come up with on your own. James is saying heavenly wisdom is not self-serving and arrogant. Instead, it’s a gift that should glorify God and bless others. It’s a gift that shows our daily dependence upon the Giver of the gift.

Therefore, it should impact the way we live each day – how and what we say, do, think, and desire.

Worldly Wisdom

But James says worldly wisdom emerges when we live without reference to God and his Kingdom. Such wisdom is not informed by God’s will and ways. With such wisdom, God is not the one who influences one’s perspective.

James cautions us by saying this kind of wisdom leads to bitter envy and selfish ambition, which, according to James, creates disorder and evil practices (v. 16). James says worldly wisdom is earthly, unspiritual, and even demonic (v. 15).

The Father of Worldly Wisdom

In a Bible Study I teach on the Old Testament, we recently studied Genesis 3. Read the following exchange between the serpent and Eve from that chapter.

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ”

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:1-4) (emphasis mine)

This earthly, unspiritual, and definitely demonic wisdom came from the father of lies (John 8:44). It was meant to create division, disorder, and depravity. It took Adam and Eve’s eyes off of their loving and gracious Creator who had already created them in his image and had provided for their every need.

But the serpent’s “wisdom” was to call God’s Word into question and cast doubt in their minds as to whether God was trustworthy and had their best interest at heart.

Unfortunately, the lie worked and we’ve been dealing with it ever since.

The Liar Versus Jesus

That same kind of wisdom was offered on another occasion. Recall this conversation in Matthew 4.

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted v by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:

“ ‘He will command his angels concerning you,

and they will lift you up in their hands,

so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”

11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him. (Matthew 4:1-11)

This tempter, this father of lies, tried to tempt our Lord. He even quoted Scripture.

Yet as he did with Adam and Eve, the liar was only offering Jesus what already belonged to Jesus. Moreover, he offered something that wasn’t his to give. Perhaps worst of all, he was trying to tempt Jesus with what sounded like an easier way to have it all… no suffering… no Cross.

Just rebellion and betrayal to his heavenly Father.

But Jesus wasn’t just smart, though he was. And he didn’t just know a lot, though he did. He was wise. In fact, the Apostle Paul calls Jesus the very wisdom of God in 1 Corinthians 1:24. And Jesus knew who he was. He had nothing to prove. He had nothing to gain. The devil twisted and manipulated Scripture to deceive and tempt Jesus. But Jesus responded with the correct interpretation and application of Scripture. That’s wisdom.

Because Jesus did not “live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4), he was prepared for that moment.

The Fruit of Wisdom

We live in an upside-down world where many of the beliefs and values we hold dear run counter to much of the world around us. We see that when we look at the virtues listed in the Beatitudes in Matthew 5 or the Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5.

The fruit of God’s wisdom we find listed in James 3 looks a lot like those two lists.  James writes,

17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.

A life that bears this fruit is the good life according to James 3:13. Such a good life is made up of godly character and good deeds done in the humility that flows from godly wisdom.

Don’t you want to live that good life – not the good life that’s often portrayed in our ambient culture, but the good life James describes? I sure do. But when I’m thinking, speaking, and acting unwisely – or according to worldly wisdom – I experience the discord and disorder James warns us about.

Every Word of God

On the other hand, when I’m saturating myself in the Word of God and walking in the power and direction of the Holy Spirit I feel aligned with God’s will. It’s that very point the Apostle Paul addressed with these words in Romans 12:2.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

I want to be aligned with God’s good, pleasing and perfect will. I want to have and live a transformed life. But to do so I need to renew my mind daily. I must soak in the wisdom of God. That’s true for all of us.

When I’m tempted by the world, the flesh, or the devil, I want to have the wisdom Jesus had when he was tempted. I want to think, speak, act, and desire what glorifies God. But to go back to the quotation from the beginning, if I don’t discipline myself to be a student of God’s Word, then I’ll end up drifting down the stream of the world by default.

Fellowship of the Word

I praise God we have so many opportunities at the church I serve to be people of the Word together. To be sure, we ought to be reading and studying Scripture on our own. But that value and impact is exponentially multiplied when we gather in fellowship with other Christians. We grow when we talk about what we’ve read and how that wisdom can mold us, shape us, and align us more and more to God’s will.

In Ephesians 1:17, Paul told the Church at Ephesus that he prayed they would be given the Spirit of wisdom (Ephesians 1:17). By the Spirit’s wisdom and power we’re able to know God better and grow in the wisdom James is talking about and bear its good fruit.

That is my prayer for you too.

Thanks be to God.

Living Wisely

Living Wisely


Have you ever caught yourself cruising through life, somewhere between autopilot and sleeping at the wheel? “Wise” would not be a word we would use to describe ourselves during those lapses of intentional living. The Apostle Paul addresses this very thing in Ephesians 5.

Earlier in Ephesians, Paul dealt with how those who claim to love and follow Christ ought to live. He wrote,

Ephesians 4:1 – …I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.

Ephesians 5:1 – Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children

Ephesians 5:8, 10 – For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light… [10] and find out what pleases the Lord. (Emphases Added)

On Purpose Living

Paul taught clearly in those verses that there’s nothing casual or accidental about living the Christian life. It takes purpose, commitment, and intentionality. In light of those verses, let’s take a deeper look at how Paul described this lifestyle in Ephesians 5. In verse 15, Paul wrote,

Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise,

How are you doing on that count? Does that verse describe how you live on any given day? Perhaps it does portray many areas of your life. But how about your faith? Are you “very careful” in how you walk with Christ?

I’ve discovered something about myself. I’ve noticed when I “don’t have time” to spend in prayer or in reading, studying, and meditating on God’s Word in the morning, I’m usually not very “careful” in how I live throughout the rest of the day. 1 Peter 5:8 says,

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

When I’m not being careful in my walk with Christ, I become a sitting duck for the devil to devour. It becomes much easier for me to fall prey to the temptations in my life. That doesn’t mean God has abandoned me. Yet it does indicate I’m not prepared for what the day may bring. It’s as though I’m choosing not to wear the full armor of God. I would never say that was my motivation, but that’s the result.

The word “careful” in our text means “accurate and exact.” It carries the idea of closely examining or investigating something. In this case, Paul is talking about our “walk” with Christ or living the Christian life.

Learn from Poor Pilgrim

My favorite book, outside of the Bible, is Pilgrim’s Progress. The first part of the story tells us about a man who discovered his great need for Christ and how he came to faith. However, most of the book focuses on the pilgrim’s pursuit to live the Christian life after he came to Christ.

Chapter after chapter reveals to us through the pilgrim’s journey what happens when he’s not being “careful in how he lives.” We watch helplessly as he makes mistakes, takes wrong roads, listens to bad advice, and often ends up in gut-wrenching predicaments.

Friends, we shouldn’t laugh at the poor pilgrim because his experience is ours. Through the smallness of our daily surrenders to sin and temptation, we too veer off the road, on one side or the other, and end up miles from where we should be.

When we do such things, we reveal we’re not “being careful in how we live.”

Where We Find Wisdom

Paul next provides substance to what “being careful” as Christians looks like. At the end of Ephesians 5:15 he writes, Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise,

This verse is tied to verse 17, which says,

Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.

If you want to be wise, you need to understand what the Lord’s will is, and then do it.

Paul’s exhortation to “be careful” by being wise and not foolish is not an ivory tower academic or intellectual exercise. The word “wisdom” in Scripture means “skill for living.” We discover and acquire this skill as we understand what the Lord’s will is and, in his power, obey it.

If you don’t know what pleases or displeases God, then it is awfully hard to please God. God isn’t glorified by our ignorance and foolishness. We show we’re wise when we understand what God’s will is. And once we understand it, we then must do it.

Listen to God

Romans 12:2 explains how we can learn that. Observe these words,

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.

A good question here would be: How do we renew our minds? One key way is to regularly read, study, and meditate upon God’s Word. So often in prayer we want to do all the talking. We essentially say things like, “Dear God, here’s my list of things I need you to give me or fix for me. Amen.” That’s often what our prayers sound like.

There is certainly a place for bringing God our needs. Of course there is. But a transformed life and renewed mind happen as we listen to God. And we listen to God as we interact with his Word, whether it’s in private devotions, worship on the Lord’s Day, or in a Bible study with a smaller group of believers. I’m able to pray much more effectively when I know what God’s will is, when I know what pleases him and brings glory to his name.

Living wisely, the way Paul has in mind, takes place once we consider what God has said on a particular subject and then act on it. That’s what it means to “be careful” and to “live wisely.” We’re called to be very careful in how we live. We’re called to be wise and not unwise. And we become wise as we understand what the Lord’s will is and then do it.

Walking Points

  • What are the areas of your life in which you’re living most carefully?
  • What are you doing in those areas that help you live wisely?
  • What are the areas of your life in which you are living least carefully?
  • What seems to be the main obstacle that is keeping you from living more faithfully in those areas?
  • Are you living carefully, wisely, and intentionally in the area of your faith?
  • What are two things you could do to help you grow wiser and more careful as a Christian? Come up with a plan and ask two friends to hold you accountable to it.


All-wise God, the world looks at your wisdom and calls it foolishness. It looks at what you call foolishness and declares it wisdom. What an upside-down world we live in. I am grateful you have graciously spoken to us and given us light in such a dark world. Thank you for giving us all the treasures of knowledge in and through your Son, Jesus Christ. Please direct and empower me by your Spirit to regularly renew my mind so I may know your good, perfect, and pleasing will. And I pray, O Lord, that you enable me to obey your will so that my life will become aligned with your Kingdom. In the name of the One who is wisdom incarnate. Amen.