Pentecost 13b

Preached: August 30, 2009

Be Filled with Spirit-worked Thanksgiving in Jesus
Ephesians 5:15-20

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Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Word from God through which the Holy Spirit brings us to live for Jesus is Ephesians 5

Therefore, watch how carefully you walk [through life] -- not as unwise people but as wise, redeeming the time, for the days are evil. Because of this don't be ignorant, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And don't become drunk with wine, which wastes you away, but be filled in the Spirit, speaking among yourselves with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, always giving thanks to God, the Father, for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 5:15-20)

Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our risen Savior:

Uncle Billy had drunk too much at Harry and Ruth's engagement party. He staggers out of the Bailey house, planning to head home. Good thing George was there to point him in the right direction.

So often we see drunkenness portrayed as comic relief. And maybe you have stories of college days or the local drunk at the bar or what happened at a wedding dance or Christmas party. But drunkenness is nothing to laugh at. It wastes you away. It dissipates your health -- physically, emotionally, and spiritually. How many fatalities come from drunk driving? How many livers have been lost to liquor? How many homes and families torn apart, emotionally abandoned or even physically abused? How many sins committed and opportunities to do good lost because the drinker was no longer thinking clearly? How much self-inflicted spiritual harm! Remember the drunkenness of Noah after the Flood and the shame and harm that brought.

Instead, dear friends, how much better to be filled with the Holy Spirit! “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18 NIV), the Apostle Paul writes. Be filled with the Spirit. For the Spirit points you to Jesus Christ. He works in you true thanksgiving. Be filled with Spirit-worked thanksgiving in Jesus. That's the theme to take to heart. Be filled with Spirit-worked thanksgiving in Jesus, wisely redeeming your time (part one) and singing spiritual words to your Lord with your heart (part two).

A. Wisely redeeming your time

1. Why is using our time wisely so important?

For you see, when we live Spirit-filled lives giving thanks to God in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord, we grow wiser in using our time. The Apostle writes, “Be very careful, then, how you live -- not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15, 16 NIV). The Holy Spirit leads us to redeem our time wisely with an attitude of thanks centered in Jesus.

How precious time is! Consider the stock market. Compared to a year ago stocks are down 10% to 20%. But there's a good chance that a year or two from now they will have made up much of that ground (though past performance doesn't promise future profits). Money comes and goes and comes back again. But those 365 days from a year ago, you will never get back. Time goes but it doesn't come back.

How important to redeem our time wisely, for (as Paul says) the days are evil! If we just go with the flow of our age and its priorities our minutes and day will be stolen bit by bit, for we live in an evil age. The world's glitz fools us into spending our time amassing stuff, time making a name for ourselves, time getting ahead in life, time making money, time for entertainment and sports, time for our leisures and pleasures, me-time, time trying to escape life's problems and lose ourselves in the moment. On a lot of these things it may be fine to spend a little time. But the world monopolizes our time. It pushes it's agenda and priorities first, robbing us of our time.

Redeem your time, dear friends. You can't buy back the moments past, but you can redeem the time yet to come. The world wants to rob you of that as well, to keep you on its schedule. It makes us feel we need to spend our time on its priorities or we'll fall behind and miss out on happiness. It makes us feel as if we're paying a great price to redeem our time. But, dear friends, the biggest lose comes when you fail to wisely redeem the time and instead keep following the world priorities.

2. How do we know what priorities to set for our time?

But how do we know what priorities to spend or redeem our time on? One says more time for yourself, another more time for your family, another more time for community, another more for the helping other, another more time for prayer, another more time for church, another says more time for meditation. How do we know what priorities to spend our time on? How are we redeem our time wisely?

Paul answers that, “Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is” (Ephesians 5:17 NIV). Knowing the Lord's will shows you what your priorities for spending your time ought to be. Now, you won't find the Lord's will by searching your heart or looking for signs or weighing people's opinions. You find his will by listening to his Word. Isn't that how you know what someone wants? You listen to them. Let's say you have a friend who's allergic to peanuts and he's you so. How silly to go to that friend and say, “I was searching deep in my heart and realized how much I like peanut brittle so I want you to have some too.” Or to say, “I saw a squirrel burying a peanut. I think that's a sign for me to give you this bag of peanuts.” Or to say, “I read that most people like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches so I made one for you.” We wouldn't treat a friend like that! Yet how often don't we imagine that, even though God's Word hasn't said it, yet we think we know what God wants because we feel it deep in our heart, or thought we saw a sign, or had a dream, or hear others say so. The only way to know what God wants is to listen to his Word. His Word reveals his will. So his Word ought to have very high priority as we redeem our time. For through his Word God shows us how to set all our other priorities for spending our time.

As you search his Word for his will, remember this is not a tyrant's will. This is the will of your Lord -- your Lord, who purchased you with his own blood so that we are his people and he, he is our Lord. Wouldn't the will of such a Lord always be good and best?

Now as you search the Scriptures, the Bible is not a day-planner. God does not detail our schedule. He doesn't say, “Get up at 6:30 a.m. Brush your teeth, shower, and get dressed. Spend fifteen minutes in Bible reading and prayer, etc.” But our Lord does clearly reveal his will. It makes his priorities plain, so that we can schedule our day, redeeming our time.

What is his will? “God our Savior . . . wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3, 4 NIV). God wants us to grow in the knowledge of his truth and to spread that truth so that others are saved. “It is God's will that you should be sanctified” (1 Thessalonians 4:3 NIV). He wants you to live holy lives that obey his commandments glorifying him in all that you do, shining as lights that draw others to Christ. And these are just summary statements. In the verses after the text, the Apostle Paul shows how it's God's will for us to carry out the responsibilities he has given us as a wife or husband, as child or father, as a worker or employer. There is so much to say about God's will, not to mention how to apply it in setting our priorities and redeeming our time! That's why even a life time of studying God's Word and regularly hearing it is not enough.

For you see the Word of God not only reveals his will but also brings the Holy Spirit to empower us to put his will into practice. Through the Word the Spirit works in us that thankfulness which changes our will to want what our Lord and Savior want. Unlike beer and liquor that deaden our abilities, the Spirit makes us alive. “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18 NIV). Yes, be filled with Spirit-worked thanksgiving centered in Jesus Christ. That thankfulness leads us to wisely redeem our time, following our Lord's priorities. That thankfulness overflows you sing spiritual words to your Lord with your heart.

B. Singing spiritual words to your Lord with your heart.

1. Why connect God's truths to music?

This brings us to part two. “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” (Ephesians 5:19 NIV). The world certainly knows the power of music. It packages it's agenda in music whether lusty drinking song of ages past or the latest tunes blaring as the kegs are tapped for the party.

But how powerful when music is connected to God's truth! God's truth is certainly powerful by itself. It's very essence flows with power as the plain, spoken word. Music can't add to it. But music can lodge those words deep into our hearts. Think of how a tune gets stuck in your mind. How much better to have God's truth stuck there by music rather than some advertising ditty. I've also seen where someone devastated by Alzheimer's disease can't remember her children or even make it through the Lord's Prayer, but still can join in singing “Jesus loves me this I know . . .”

In addition what encouragement for one another as we gather together in worship and sing these hymns and songs filled with God's good news and truth! You're speaking not only to God, but to each other. You are encouraging and strengthening your fellow Christians as you sing to your Lord. You are filling them with the Holy Spirit through God Word connected with music.

And take the words to heart for yourself as well. Paul says, “Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:19 NIV). The best sounding church musicians in the world are not praising God if the sound does not come from a heart of faith. So take to heart the words these words we sing. Take them to heart so that even as you read them off the page, they are also coming from your heart. Then you are singing these spiritual words to your Lord with your heart.

2. Describe the thanksgiving the Holy Spirit works in us as we take spiritual words to heart.

As we take to heart God's truth wrapped in song, the Holy Spirit works thanksgiving in us -- a most wonderful, unearthly thanksgiving. Did you catch how extraordinary this thanks is? Listen again to what Paul writes, “always giving thanks to God the Father for everything” (Ephesians 5:20 NIV). You heard it right -- for everything, the pleasant and the unpleasant, the joys and the sorrows, the gladness and the pains, for everything.

How different from the ordinary thanks of the world! Even the world feels thankful for good things, even though it does not acknowledge the true Giver. But Spirit-worked thanksgiving gives thanks for everything. How can that be? Through the words of God's truth, the Holy Spirit opens our hearts to trust that God is at work for our good even during the darkest times. So no matter how weary the battle, how dreary the day, or how battered, beaten and worn you feel, faith trusts that your God is at work for you, and therefore faith gives thanks. For you see, God is your Father through Jesus. He is your true Father, for he gave his Son to bring you into his family. He is your dear Father, who cares for you and protects you and provides for you. Will he not certainly keep you safe, so that without a worry you can gladly give thanks in everything?

Believe that truth, dear Christian friend, believe it for you know the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. You know the meaning of his name, what that name has done for you. As your Lord, he has purchased you to be his blood-bought people. He saved you from sin, death, and the devil's power, for he is Jesus, which means “the Lord saves.” He has carried out the work the Father sent him to do, for he is the Christ, the One anointed as Prophet, Priest, and King to do the divine work of saving us sinners. Since God did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all as our Savior, will he not certainly make all things work out for good for you his people?

So be filled with Spirit-worked thanksgiving, thanksgiving that is centered in Jesus. With him and his Word at the center of your life, you are wisely redeeming the time as you sing spiritual words to your Lord with your heart. Amen.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and mind sin Christ Jesus. Amen.

Pastor Gregg Bitter

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
859 5th Street
Hancock, MN 56244
(320) 392-5313