Summary: 47th in a series from Ephesians. Shortcuts in our walk with God rob us of the joy of the journey.
We seem to always be in such a hurry that as a culture, we have fallen in love with shortcuts. My earliest recollection of taking shortcuts goes back to when we used to walk to school each morning. You know – 5 miles, uphill each way, through the snow – in Tucson! Actually it was more like half a mile each way, on flat ground, and if it even rained, one of the moms would drive us. But we still took a couple of shortcuts through vacant lots in order to make the walk even shorter. And, like some of you, I’ve taken a few shortcuts in my life that turned out to be anything of the sort. Today, shortcuts have taken on some new forms. All of you who use computers know that you can put short cuts on your computer desktop so that you can get to your programs and documents faster.
This week I read about a man who was in such a hurry that he experienced another kind of shortcut. This man flew into Chicago and hired a taxi to take him downtown. Since he was running late, he instructed the cab driver to get him there in a hurry. As he was riding along they came to a red light and the driver went right on through the red light. The man said, "Hey, the light was red. You’re supposed to stop." The driver said, "Yeah, I know, but my brother does it all the time."
Soon they came to a second red light and again he went right straight through. The passenger said, "You’re going to get us killed. That light was red. Why didn’t you stop?" The driver said, "Don’t worry about it. My brother does it all the time."
Then they came to a green light and he stopped. The man said, "The light is green. Now is the time to go. Why don’t you go on through?" The driver answered, "I know it’s green. But you never know when my brother may be coming through."
I think that we’re also tempted to take shortcuts in our walk with God. In our quest for the quickest, easiest and most expedient way to God, we’re often tempted to follow the latest program or fad which promises a shortcut to spirituality. But if there is one thing we’ve learned in our journey through Ephesians, it is that, because the destination is already assured for those who are followers of Jesus Christ, God leaves us here on this earth to experience the journey. And when we try to take shortcuts on that journey, we miss out on many of the experiences that God wants us to take part in. That principle is perhaps no more apparent anywhere in Ephesians than in the passage we’ll be looking at this morning.
Verse 15 of chapter 5 begins a new section of Paul’s letter that extends all the way through chapter 6, verse 9. Although we are going to focus on verses 15 through 17 this morning, it is crucial that we look at that passage in its proper context. So let’s start by reading all the way to verse 21. I’m going to read from the NKJV because it is the most literal of our English translations and that will be really helpful in allowing us to look at the structure of Paul’s writing.
See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God.
Ephesians 5:15-21 (NKJV)
Paul begins in verse 15 with a command to his readers to walk circumspectly. This is the fifth and final time that Paul will command his readers to “walk” in a manner that is consistent with their new life in Christ:
• walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called (4:1)
• walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk (4:17)
• walk in love (5:2)
• walk as children of light (5:8)
If you’re using the NIV or some other translations, you will find that they use the word “live”, rather than “walk” in all five of these passages. Although the Greek word Paul uses here literally means to walk or tread around, it also came to describe the way that a person conducted themselves and lived his or her life. And there is no doubt that is how Paul is using that word here. So “live” is actually a very accurate translation. This command is in the present tense, which we all know by now indicates continuing action. So Paul is commanding his readers to keep on walking, or living, in a manner consistent with their new life in Christ.