Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest. Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them; Therefore the prudent shall keep silence in that time; for it is an evil time. They shall not be ashamed in the evil time: and in the days of famine they shall be satisfied. Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time. Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people. And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.
~ Ecclesiastes 9:10, Ecclesiastes 12:1, Amos 5:13, Psalm 37:19, Colossians 4:5, Deuteronomy 4:6, Job 28:28
Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.
~ John 8:12
Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
~ Matthew 5:14
But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day. Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the LORD shall be thy reward. That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.
~ Proverbs 4:18, Isaiah 58:8, Titus 3:7-8, 1 Peter 4:14, Isaiah 61:3
Be thou exalted, O God, above the heavens; let thy glory be above all the earth.
~ Psalm 57:5
Let Your Light So Shine, by David Martyn Lloyd-Jones. This is from his work, “From Darkness and Light: An Exposition of Ephesians”.
Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.
~ Ephesians 5:16-17
People are judging Christianity by what they see in us. Not only that, they are judging Christ by us, they are judging God by us. We stand for God and for Christ, for the gospel of salvation, for the whole of the Christian message. We are its representatives. They judge it entirely by what they see in us. They do not read the Bible or books about the Bible. We stand for it. So, they are observing us. You see why the apostle says we must redeem the time and buy up every opportunity. God has often brought people to repentance and to salvation simply by leading them to observe other Christians; they have felt a sense of condemnation and at the same time a sense of something attracting them. This is the reason we are to be careful, says the apostle.
What, then, are we to do? How are we to redeem the time? We are to live in such a way that we will silence all criticism. Peter puts that perfectly in 1 Peter 2:11-12: “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul.” They are harmful to you, so do not do it for your own sake. But then he goes on: “Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.” Live in such a way, he says, that you will disarm their criticism. There will be nothing to say. Though they have been speaking against you as evildoers, your very good works will answer them, and they will have to admit that they were wrong.
That is obviously the first thing, but we must go beyond that. We must not only live in such a way that we silence criticism, we must positively live in such a way as to attract these people and to make them feel that they are missing something great and wonderful by not being Christians. There is to be that about us which was in the Lord Himself, which attracted people like a magnet. Do you see those poor men possessed with devils? When they saw Him, they ran to Him. They had lived up in the mountains and amongst the tombs. They were running away from people; but when they saw Him, they ran to Him. “Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners,” we read at the beginning of Luke, chapter 15. It was always the effect He had; the Pharisees did not attract people, but Christ did. There was something about Him that made them feel they would receive under- standing and sympathy. The woman that was a sinner in the city went and fell at His feet, washed them with her tears and wiped them with the hairs of her head. That was His effect always, and you and I are to live in that kind of way.
But how do we do so? What kind of a life must we live? The first essential, I would say, is this: it must be an ordered life. It must be a disciplined life. One of the things that does most harm to the Christian cause is an erratic Christian. You know the sort of man who comes rushing in and makes us feel for a while we have never been Christians before. But it does not last more than a few weeks; then he suddenly disappears completely. Then back again he comes. Nothing does such serious disservice as that. The world is watching, and it smiles when it sees such a person coming back again. Well, thank God, it is not the world who decides such a man’s destiny. If you have been an erratic Christian, let me assure you that if you have come back and come back truly, God will receive you, and you will have another opportunity. But do not go on behaving like that: “Go, and sin no more” (Joh 8:11). But we must not be erratic or changeable or unpredictable, if we claim that we are wise. We do not live by ad hoc1 legislation. We have a great plan and we live steadily according to it…
Or, look at it like this. We must live a life that is not characterised by stumbling or falling in any way. A stumbling or a falling Christian is a very poor recommendation for the gospel because the world can stumble and fall into sin in any shape or form—sin in temper, anger, lack of control, lack of sympathy and of understanding. A man who does that is not redeeming the time. He is not recommending Christianity, nor God, nor the Lord Jesus Christ. No, the great characteristic of the life of a Christian is to be consistency. There must be no violent reactions one way or another. Listen to a psalmist describing this kind of good man in the 112th Psalm: “He shall not be afraid of evil tidings: his heart is fixed, trusting in the LORD” (Psa 112:7). You see, times of crisis always help to show what a man really is. It is one thing to be a theoretical Christian, but the real test is what you are like when things go wrong. Suddenly you are taken ill; and if you are alarmed and do not know what to do, the world says, “I thought he
1 ad hoc – made only for a particular purpose or need, not planned before it happens.
was a Christian, but it doesn’t seem to help him very much.” What are you like when sorrow or bereavement comes to your home? What are you like when a war breaks out? You see, it is by our reactions that we betray what we are. Our Lord said, “By thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned” (Mat 12:37). Something happens, you speak instinctively, and you have shown exactly what you are in the depths. The Christian is steady: “He shall not be afraid of evil tidings: his heart is fixed, trusting in the LORD” (Psa 112:7).
Of course, you see, when things have been going well, this man has been talking to himself and saying, “Well, yes, thank God, things are going well. God is gracious and kind to me. I don’t deserve even this. I can’t understand why He blesses me as He does; but He does, and I thank Him for it. But I know that in an evil world like this, you never know when things go wrong. Sin has brought in all sorts of consequences and complications; and I am part of the world, and I am subject to these things. At any moment, they may come to me.” So, when they come, he is not taken unawares. He has thought ahead, he has seen it all. It is all right, he says, this is a part of my lot in this world; “in this tabernacle [we] do groan, being burdened…earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven” (2Co 5:2, 4). “His heart is fixed.” He is a steady man. He has a balance in his life. He has reserves that nobody else knows anything about. He is on a rock, on a foundation; and though the whole world may be convulsed in final calamity, this man is steady, trusting in the Lord. That is the sort of life we are to live.
Think also of redeeming the time as it is applied practically in the matter of speech. This is so important. You not only live like this because you know other people are looking at you, but when you are in conversation with them, you are full of wisdom, discretion, and understanding, and you watch for your opportunities. You may be sit- ting in the train next to somebody or talking to somebody over the garden wall. They begin to express their opinions, and you are able to buy up the opportunity. They may start by saying, “Isn’t it awful?” You do not just say, “Yes, isn’t it?” You say, “But why is it awful do you think? What is the cause of all this?” You have taken your opportunity. Let them speak. You do not suddenly go to them and say, “Are you saved?” Oh, no, you must be wise—he that is wise winneth souls (see Pro 11:30). Listen to their conversation. If they express a criticism or an opinion, be ready to use the Christian message. Lead them on to it, starting from where they start, gradually leading them on and linking what is said to eternal principles.
Or they may ask you questions. What a heaven-sent opportunity. If we only look at it in this way, it is amazing how constantly people are presenting us with these very opportunities. Yes, but are we buying them up, are we looking for them? Are we always ready to take hold of and to improve the occasion? That is what the apostle is telling us to do. Or again, we must keep our eyes open and watch what is happening to people. Here is a man who has taken ill, a man whom we have known and who has no interest in Christian matters. It is a wonderful thing to go and offer him a little sympathy, to try to help him in some practical way; and then you will soon be given your opportunity to improve it. Illness, sickness, accident, death, misfortune—all these things are constantly happening to people and there we find our opportunity. When their hearts are tender, let us be there and let us be ready. Redeem the time, buy up the opportunity.
Then, finally, we must be governed by our understanding of what the will of the Lord is. “Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is” (Eph 5:17). There is the overruling principle that governs everything. What does he mean? “Understanding what the will of the Lord is” does not mean that you seek a special guidance about everything that you do and say. There are people who interpret it like that, you know, and they never move without praying and waiting for some immediate guidance. But you need not do that. Here is the guidance in the Bible before you. Read your Bible instead. There are very exceptional circumstances in which one needs some special guidance, but they are very few. Understanding what the will of the Lord is does not mean that.
What does it mean? It means the very thing the apostle has already been telling us in verse 10: “Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.” He says exactly the same in Romans 12 in the second verse. What, then, is the will of the Lord? Surely, there should be no doubt about this. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” (Pro 9:10). What else is His will? Well, “This is the will of God, even your sanctification,” says Paul in the First Epistle to the Thessalonians, chapter 4 and verse 3. He says it here in the Epistle to the Ephesians, chapter 1 and verse 4: “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love.” Holiness is always the characteristic of the Christian. This is what the will of the Lord is. This is what He wants me to be. He wants me to be somebody who will act as light in this world, and the Bible is full of instruction to me about what to do and what not to do. Read the Ten Commandments, read the Beatitudes, read the Sermon on the Mount. That is the will of the Lord. To know the will of the Lord, I say, you must read your Bible. Meditate on the law of the Lord like the man in the first Psalm, whose delight is in it and who meditates in it day and night. Know it thoroughly and then apply it.
In other words, I would like to put it like this. Here is a man whose chief desire in life is to please the Lord…he, as it were, looks at the picture of the cross of Christ and reads that inscription—I did this for you, what have you done for Me?—and he gets up and serves obediently. He is a man who, having realised what God has done for him in Christ, [thinks] that he does not belong to himself. “Ye are not your own…ye are bought with a price” (1Co 6:20); therefore, serve God with your body, with your spirit, with the whole of your being. This is his one desire, and he knows that the Lord’s desire is that he should show to the world that the Lord has delivered him from sin, has made him holy, and is preparing him for heaven. If you keep that in your mind, you cannot go wrong. Everything, then, will be determined by that.
If you want something further, here it is. Look at the Son of God as He lived in this world. We are to try to live like that, to follow His steps Who did no wrong. “When he was reviled, [he] reviled not again…but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously” (1Pe 2:23). There it is all before us. “Be ye imitators”—Paul has already said that to these Ephesians—“Be ye imitators of God” (see Eph 5:1). Imitate the Lord Jesus Christ, not to make yourselves Christians, but because you are Christians. “As he is, so are we in this world” (1Jo 4:17). We are to follow in His steps. We are to deny ourselves, to take up the cross and to follow Christ. And as we do so, our lives will be holy, they will be steady. They will be calm and serene; they will be a rebuke to sin in every shape and form. They will be an attraction to poor sinners who are beginning to realise their state and their need. “Always knowing,” he says, “and understanding what the will of the Lord is.” Here is His will: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Mat 5:16)…“Let your light so shine”.