Making the Best Use of the Time

20180816_210834.jpgClick here to listen to this sermon.

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15–16).

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!

The voice came from behind the stall in the men’s room: “So what about the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?” Pete chuckled to find himself in such a significant conversation while standing in a public restroom. Yet he finished drying his hands and stood outside the stall and answered, “Well, that’s the one sin in the Bible that God talks about which won’t be forgiven. It’s amazing to think that God will forgive any sin we could commit, except for the sin of persistently shutting out the work of the Holy Spirit,” he went on. “But when you think about it, you’re shutting out the very One who is able to bring you to faith.”

We shake our head and smile when we hear about that conversation. It is true that God works through common encounters. But how common can you get? Shouldn’t there be a certain degree of dignity to our conversations about the divine? Then we think back to Jesus’ conversations with the men that He was crucified with. Criminals. Hanging together on gore-stained trees. Mixture of sweat and spittle, buzzing flies. How much dignity could possibly be preserved in such a scene. But Jesus used the moment to invite one more into the Kingdom.

In his letter to the Colossians, St. Paul writes, “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ” (4:2–3). Little did Pete know that the “door” Paul was speaking of would on this day be attached to the stall of a men’s room. But such is the unpredictable nature of the Gospel. Such is the creative delight of a Father who loves His children. It seemed like a normal trip to the bathroom. But then God began to open a door.

Pete discovered quickly that this young man was well-schooled in matters of religion. He had been raised in a Roman Catholic church and had attended a Catholic school, although he was not currently involved in any church. He was familiar with fairly advanced Christian teachings. He showed interest in life and death, in God and the church. He said his 43-year-old cousin had died recently and that had started him thinking. In fact, it had been troubling him. He had attended the funeral at an evangelical Christian church. The pastor had said some things during the funeral service which made him think. He was thinking still. “I’ve got a lot of questions,” he said.

They talked some more, but their conversation had to end all too soon. “My name’s Eric,” the man said. “I’m Pete,” he replied. They shook hands. “Keep asking questions,” Pete said as Eric walked out of the room.

I would call Eric an educated seeker. He would probably call himself confused. He has a lot of information, but he hasn’t quite made sense of it all. His mind continues to probe, to question, to poke at the Infinite. Pete will probably never see Eric again or find out for sure if he has saving faith or not. But that’s okay. God hasn’t asked us to pick out the saved from the unsaved. That’s His job, not ours. He has simply told us to be faithful. He has asked us to stand as a clear witness to the person and work of Jesus Christ. St. Paul writes in our text, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15–16).

In order to win those who are outside the church, we Christians are to be very prudent in all our actions and speech. We are to live not as fools but as wise. We are not to drift along without forethought and plan, but to give serious thought upon the ways and means by which we may help to build the Kingdom of God and advance the cause of Christ. We are to look for the opportunities God lays before us to confess our Christian faith.

The time may not always seem favorable or convenient, but it is of utmost importance that we make the best use of the time we have to share the Gospel. Because the days are evil, Christians are not to become foolish. We are not to allow anything to cloud our minds, but to think carefully about exactly what, at this time, in this place, may be the Lord’s will. All this is important for all circumstances, but especially in relation to our behavior or conduct toward non-Christians with whom we live or come in contact.

Once again in this week’s text, we have a struggle between our old and new natures, between sinner and saint, the wise and the fool. Remember, we still live in the devil’s time, where he is free to roam the earth and wreak havoc and destruction. We battle with the ways of the world and wrestle with our own sinful nature. But Christ Jesus “gave Himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age” (Galatians 1:4). Baptized into His death and resurrection, we receive the rescue from sin, death, and the power of the devil that Christ won for us on the cross. We have a new life no longer focused on ourselves, but on Christ in which the possibilities of serving Him are many. So we make the best use of our time.

St. Paul encourages us to “be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Note that this verb is passive; it is not something we do, but is done for us. As we hear and read God’s holy Word, and receive Holy Absolution and Christ’s body and blood, we are filled with the Holy Spirit. What a great comfort that is for us! Living as wise ones is not something in which we are left to ourselves to do. Rather, in Christ we are given the means by which God keeps us in the one true faith—His Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is the impelling, directing power of our Christian life. It is the Holy Spirit living in us who gives us the power, ability, and willingness to walk in the light, to avoid—and even confront—the works of darkness, and to seek to know God’s will. The Holy Spirit motivates and enables us to make the most of every opportunity to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.

You see… Eric is not the only one who is searching for the truth. People like Eric walk in and out of our lives every day. A search for the spiritual seems to have taken on a new urgency. The next time you walk through the mall, look for items which have spiritual themes. Angels everywhere. Countless books on spirituality, providing worldly advice on how to find inner peace. Look at social media and see how many people are requesting prayers or seeking spiritual guidance.

Many people today are struggling to synthesize a religion that makes sense to them. But they are the first generation in America’s history, which is not using Christianity as a starting point. Instead, the majority of them are creating a belief system based on social justice and New Age religion. Throw in a little Catholicism and Mormonism. Add some Protestantism and sprinkle a little Islam on top. Call this Christianity, because we’re a Christian nation, right? It all makes sense and all hangs together fairly well. But it’s a far cry from biblical Christianity.

At first glance, we might become discouraged. But take a closer look at the world around you. Think then of Jesus’ words to His disciples: “Look, I tell you, lift up, and see that the fields are white for the harvest” (John 4:35).

We have an incredible opportunity before us. Consider, for example, those who are creating their own religion. Although they are starting from a non-Christian base, the important thing is that they are interested in spiritual things. Thank God they are searching!

Yet we must remember that the harvest doesn’t just happen. A field has never harvested itself. The present harvest involves us more intimately than we might like to think. Remember how Jesus talked to His disciples about this very thing. He said, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field” (Matthew 9:37b-38). And Jesus’ very next action was to send them out. They were to make the best use of the time left to share the Good News of the kingdom of God.

So, how does God prepare the workers for the harvest? How does He bring us to the point where we willingly step out into the fields? I believe that He starts at the cross of Calvary. God has given up everything for the sake of those whom He loves. The King cancels the enormous debt the servants owe Him. He writes the letters P-A-I-D across the details of our ledger sheet, not with black ink, but with scarlet red letters, scrawled out in blood. The blood of His own Son.

We read in 1 Peter 3:18, “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.” The unrighteous have nothing to offer. They merely receive the gift from the Righteous One. Any understanding of our actions to reach others must, therefore, begin at the cross. Our lives are lived in gratitude to the King of Righteousness who covers us with His righteousness. It is entirely natural for us to want to share us Good News!

Step out the doors of this church and you’ll find a whole world of mission fields white for the harvest. There are all sorts of souls to be won for the Lord. You never know where you might find them. It might be over the door of a bathroom stall.  It might be one of the students at Vacation Bible School. The visitor who came to the Community Block Party or Friendship Saturday…  But chances are your mission field is much closer to home—maybe even in your home.

Step out the doors of this church confidently, making the best use of the time that is left. Filled with the Holy Spirit in Baptism and through God’s Word, fed by Christ’s body and blood, you are motivated and equipped to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who lived the perfect life we could not live, who died on the cross to pay for our sins, who rose triumphantly on the third day and who is now interceding at the Father’s right hand on our behalf. Go in peace and serve your fellow man with joy. You are forgiven for all of your sins.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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