WATCH YOUR STEP
13th after Pentecost
15 Look therefore carefully how you walk, not as unwise, but as wise; 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil. 17 Do not be foolish, therefore, but understand what the Will of the Lord is. 18 And do not be drunk with wine, which leads to debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit; 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; 20 giving God the Father thanks always for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…
A number of Scripture passages show that we can kill our faith and thereby lose the status of salvation. We’re pointed, therefore, to continual involvement with God’s Word and His Sacraments and leading holy lives, lest we do eventually quench His Spirit within us, give up the inheritance already granted to us, and risk final condemnation and hell fire. Jesus urged that we not be afraid of the harm others can bring about, but to FEAR Him who can destroy both body and soul.
St. Paul broached the subject of need for holy living from a completely different motivation for the Ephesian Gentile Christians (and for us). He tells us to WATCH YOUR STEP because of who we are and what we already have in the Gospel!
That really is the pattern throughout Scripture: God’s Commandments did not come along until centuries after His promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He first made the Israelite race His own people by virtue of what He Himself would do for them through the coming of Christ, and so it is for us today! Paul devoted many pages in his Ephesians letter to the gifts and promises of God and the high standing we have in Christ (already being God’s people) before venturing to tell us how we ought to behave.
As we follow the injunction to WATCH YOUR STEP, nevertheless, it is critical to bear in mind that those who DON’T watch themselves risk hurting both themselves and others, as well as missing out (to some extent) on what joy God has in seeing us, His children, LEARN to walk!
Isn’t one of the fondest parenthood memories the blessing of being clasped by tiny fingers as chubby little legs churn and learn to balance? We love our children regardless of their dependence and inabilities! Paul in essence wrote for ALL God’s children: ‘You’re special!’ May we EACH therefore be enabled to learn how transcendent God is and how great His gifts are! He made you one with His own Chosen People, and you are fellow citizens with the saints!
“Therefore, walk worthy of your calling, walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us as an offering ... to God ...” ( A LOT of “walking” goes on in Ephesians!) “Now you are Light in the Lord: Walk as children of Light.” And “Look therefore carefully how you walk,” the Text says. WATCH YOUR STEP, in other words! So, “HOW(?),” we might ask…
(v. 15) LOOK THEREFORE CAREFULLY HOW YOU WALK, NOT AS UNWISE, BUT AS WISE...
Do you married men remember how you behaved during your days of courtship? (Same for the ladies I suspect, and for those persons presently experiencing it.) You no doubt were mighty careful to maintain a good impression! But we’re prone later on to manifest just the opposite kind of behavior, and the same thing pertains to that which God Himself seeks. Once the relationship was fully established with your chosen partner, you no longer kept up appearances so stringently (Did you?!). But God tells us, as in Paul’s Text, that now that our relationship is established with Him is ESPECIALLY the time to “watch it.”
He says that our walk should be “wise.” The Book of Proverbs shows us wisdom, and that it is found in Jesus Christ. It paints a picture of a feast for those who will take its gift, while death is the end for those who reject it and act foolishly. The wisdom of God appears foolish to men, but His “foolishness” surpasses even the greatest wisdom of men. St. James sums it up well by advising us that: “If you lack wisdom, ask it of God, who will give it gladly…”
(v. 16) REDEEM … THE TIME BECAUSE THE DAYS ARE EVIL...
Literally this verse says to “Buy time back from wasting it.” Grasp every opportunity, in other words. If you have an opportunity to make a positive impression of Jesus with someone, then GRAB it. There’s the choice to watch a bawdy movie or pay an encouraging visit to someone who needs it, for example, and we know full well how the time is best spent. The days are evil, and the world wants our time to be spent selfishly. As the verse implies, then, two things are to be done to handle our time properly: First is to use it for what’s right and good and proper, and second is to use it to resist temptation and what’s evil and wrong. We do it, as the next verse says, by seeking to-
(v. 17) UNDERSTAND WHAT THE WILL OF THE LORD IS...
Some people spend a lot of time musing, it seems, as to what God’s Will may be for their careers, mates, financial choices, and so forth. While that’s of course perhaps a noble enough endeavor in human terms, we need to see to it that we hear and learn what God clearly SAYS IS His Will concerning a number of items that maybe don’t get due attention from us.
Jesus literally called God’s Will His “Meat.” He confessed that it was His Father’s Will that none whom He would be given should become lost (except Judas, the “son of perdition,” in order that the Scriptures might be fulfilled). God “desires all ... to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth,” it says in Paul’s first letter to Timothy. THAT’S God’s Will that we need to hear and know most importantly! Consider the “walking” that Jesus did, from town to town and village to village, preaching and teaching and healing. Walking a number of times to Jerusalem, and then that final time during Holy Week! Walking the “Via Dolorosa,” the painful and sorrowful path to Golgotha with His Cross! He did all that “walking” because it was His Will for you that He take your sin on Himself and grant you the salvation He has eternally so deeply desired for every individual human being who ever did, does or will exist!
We can look at His Will as essentially being two-fold: What He wants for you, and also what He wants for others, which is really the same thing except that He wants His Will for others to be worked to some extent THROUGH you who believe in Him, so that they might also believe and then be kept in faith.
God wants you to cling to all His gracious Will exhibited at the Cross and by Christ’s rising powerfully from death. He wants you to enjoy His good gifts, such as His Holy Spirit. It’s His “good pleasure” to “GIVE” you the Kingdom, Luke recorded. And what God wants for you He also wants for our fellowmen, as He has clearly expressed it in these ways:
“Go ye, therefore, and make disciples of all nations...”
“He died for all, that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for Him who for their sake died and was raised.”
“... to this you have been called, Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps.”
“...This is the Will of God: Your Sanctification...”
That’s shown here in verse 18…
(v.18) … DO NOT BE DRUNK WITH WINE ... BUT BE FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT...
Some Christian believers perhaps need to know that Scripture does not condemn all drinking. There is no question, however, that drunkenness and a wild partying type of lifestyle is frequently mentioned as a category that deliberately shuts out God and His Spirit and Will. And those who feel free to drink moderately and responsibly should nevertheless still take care as to what impression or influence it may have on the faith of others. The “WATCH YOUR STEP” theme really fits here, doesn’t it?!
The alternative St. Paul cites for us to this “less than pious living” is to be filled with the Holy Spirit. We are filled with Him by making use of the gifts of God’s Word and His Sacraments. Always the Lutheran preacher’s duty is to remind us that God promises to grant His Spirit only through the MEANS OF GRACE, or Word and Sacrament. Don't look for mystical visions and revelations to fall to you from the sky, in other words, but act on your constant need to be availed of what may seem so ordinary: the printed and preached Word from God, daily renewal of our Baptisms, taking part in receiving the consecrated wafer of bread and sip of wine that are Christ’s Body and Blood given and shed for us, and all of which convey to us the very life eternal that Jesus strove to win for us!
(v.19) SPEAK TO ONE ANOTHER IN PSALMS AND HYMNS AND SPIRITUAL SONGS, SINGING AND MAKING MELODY WITH YOUR HEART TO THE LORD…
Some who claim to follow Christ spend altogether too much time glued to their televisions watching unedifying programs like Simpsons, letting also their children be raised on plain trash, and IT’S A SIN! Turn OFF the TV and have some devotions! Put on some spiritually edifying music. It’s a way, as we’re encouraged in the Book of Philippians, to “Think on what is honorable and true, just, pure, lovely, gracious, and excellent...”
Of course not all have the same tastes in music, but what’s the point here? That our Lord and His Grace be ever kept before us, rather than useless or even harmful things! That praise of Him be spontaneously arising in our hearts at all times rather than profanity and other spiritually harmful thinking!
Our formal worship is also implied here. When we have no fully legitimate excuse to miss out on gathering together in worship, then we are not singing to and with and sharing Christ with our brothers and sisters, which here we are called on to do.
Spiritual singing and music may exalt our God as Almighty Creator and be sung reverently or marchingly. It may point to the Kingship of the LORD Jesus Christ. Or perhaps in soft, simple happy melody we may be reminded of His coming to be our Friend, Brother or Beautiful Savior, that He’s always present as our Helper, and so on...
(v.20) GIVE GOD THE FATHER THANKS ALWAYS FOR ALL THINGS IN THE NAME OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST...
Do you want to know God’s Will for your life? Here’s a good one from St. Paul: “Give thanks in all circumstances, for THIS IS the Will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
We can give our thanks to God in good or bad, sad or happy times, in the Name of our Lord Jesus, to Whom we are connected by our Baptisms, and Whose Name avails for us as the Name above all others, and in Whom is vested that infallible guarantee that all things will be worked together for our good!
Know this, then: Because you are precious to God and He adores you so much He can’t take His eyes off of you, WATCH YOUR STEP. He delights in every successful one you make.