Summary: The general principle stated in this passage is simple, “Be careful how you live your life.” And then we are given three important directives to consider.

“Good Advice For A New Beginning”

Ephesians 5:15-17

Just one year ago a thug, dictator and mass murderer by the name of Saddam Hussein was trying to be the modern incarnation of Nebuchadnezzar, the great ruler of Babylon. He built himself opulent palaces while his people suffered. He thumbed his nose at the world in general and the United States in particular. Today he sits in a prison cell, and awaits the judgment he so richly deserves. Isn’t it amazing the difference a year makes?

A few short days ago, as the clock struck midnight, we said goodbye to the year 2003 with all of its joys, heartaches, challenges and opportunities and welcomed in the New Year of 2004. It seems that at the beginning of every New Year we get excited about having a new start, a new beginning, and new opportunities to make positive changes in our lives. So here we are, at the Sunday of 2004, and I wonder what advice I can offer to you to make a success of the year 2004.

The Apostle Paul offered some “Good Advice For A New Beginning” in Ephesians 5:15-17. Would you turn there and read along with me.

“See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, (16) redeeming the time, because the days are evil. (17) Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”

The New Living Translation renders those same verses this way, “So be careful how you live, not as fools but as those who are wise. (16) Make the most of every opportunity for doing good in these evil days. (17) Don’t act thoughtlessly, but try to understand what the Lord wants you to do.”

“Be Careful!” Those are words that we all have heard from our Mothers growing up! When we were children our mothers would say, “Be careful playing with that or you will hurt yourself.” As teenagers and were leaving with the car we heard, “Be careful and drive safely.” We even exhort each other with, “You be careful!”

The general principle stated in this passage is simple, “Be careful how you live your life.” And then we are given three important directives to consider.

First, We Must Realize That Our Time On Earth Is Limited. (v. 15) “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise,”

If you are a wise person, then you must “make the most of your time.” One of the reasons we are to be careful is because time is finite and limited. There is only so much time available to us. A wise person uses time, a foolish person wastes it.

Scripture over and over warns us that our time on Earth is not unlimited. The Psalmist says in Psalm 39:4, "LORD, make me to know my end, And what is the measure of my days, That I may know how frail I am.”

And again Psalm 90:10 the Psalmist says, “The days of our lives are seventy years; And if by reason of strength they are eighty years, Yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; For it is soon cut off, and we fly away.”

Time is significant because it is so rare. It is completely irretrievable. You can never repeat or relive it. There is no such thing as a literal instant replay. That exists only in the world of film.

So how can we make the most of our allotted time in this New Year?

1. By Refusing to Be In Bondage to the Past

No matter what this year held we do not

have to be in bondage to the past. Maybe this past year was time of great transitions in your life – the kids grew up and moved out. Maybe your job came to an end and you’re having a tough time financially. Maybe a loved one died and your trying to deal with the loss.

Maybe it was a time when sin got a real hold in your life and you feel the burden and guilt of that sin.

The two greatest enemies of happiness in our lives are regrets about the past and anxiety about what may happen in the future. So often, we face the new year with a "what if," "what might have been," or "if only" mentality -- when we should say with confidence, "2004 will be my year!!"

2. By Establishing Priorities In Your Life

“A while back an expert on the subject of

time management was speaking to a group of business students.

After speaking to them for a while, he said, “Okay, it’s time for a quiz.” He set a one-gallon, wide mouthed Mason jar on the table in front of him. Then he produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks & carefully placed them, one at a time, inside the jar. When the jar was filled to the top & no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, “Is this jar full?” Everyone in the class said, “Yes.”

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