A few years ago my father picked up a new hobby—making walking sticks. Since starting Trail Tamer he has sold hundreds of sticks. Many of his sticks are a work of art in which he carves beautiful images and meaningful phrases. I own three sticks. Upon each of my sticks my father engraved verses from all over the Bible that talk about walking.
Ephesians talks a lot about walking: walking in new life [4:17-18], walking in forgiveness [4:32], walking in true love [5:2], walking in the light [5:8], and walking in wisdom [5:15]. Walking according to Paul is not about physical exercise, but about the spiritual life’s journey with Christ. Walking flexes your spiritual joints to become fit for the difficult road ahead. As you walk with Christ you become more and more like Him [cf. 4:1].
In Ephesians 5:15-21, the theme of walking continues with an encouragement to walk in wisdom. Walking in wisdom is more than knowledge of random facts about life or God. It is not about being able to win at spiritual Jeopardy or Trivial Pursuit. Wisdom is learning to live in a way that pleases God by putting on the character of Christ from inside out.
What does it mean to walk in wisdom? [Ephesians 5:15-17]
First, wisdom looks carefully at how you walk [v.15]. A wise person does not ask, “How far can I go before I sin?” Instead they ask, “Is this helpful for me and my walk with God?” I have freedom to do as I please, but that does not mean it is profitable for me. Paul elsewhere encourages the Corinthian church, which struggled with relationships and unwise habits, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable.” [1 Corinthians 6:12]
A wise person watches they way they walk because they are saved to new life. An unwise person is not careful how they walk, therefore, they are easily influenced by poor entertainment choices [i.e. TV, movies, games, internet], by addictive consumption [i.e. alcohol, media], and by corruptive people they mingling around. Although these things are not sinful in themselves they are things that can easily lead to sin.
Second, wisdom makes the best use of your time [v.16]. A wise person is disciplined and discerning with their time. As followers of Christ you are aware that time is limited and every opportunity matters because “you are buying time.”
People waste a lot of time on things that do not matter. When you stand before God one day will your labor in Farmville matter? Will racing your kids to sports practices and club activities matter? Will your endless hours of texting and gossiping about silliness matter? Time is but a vapor; it is here one moment, and the next “poof” it is gone. Everything you do everyday has eternal significance. Unwise people do not consider their time as God’s time. Wise people are a steward of the life God has given you. Do not be a slave to time; let time be a slave to you. Glorify God with the time you have remaining because that is what matters.
You can commit to making a wise use of your time at any age. Before the age of 20, Jonathan Edwards committed about 70 resolutions to God. It was his desire from a young age to walk with God. One of these resolutions was, “Resolved, never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can.” You are never too busy, too young or too old not to give your time to God. Imagine if God said that to you?
Third, wisdom understands what the will of God is [v.17]. Only a fool does not think about God. A fool thinks, “How much can I get away with?” This is kindergarten Christianity. A wise follower of Christ moves beyond elementary foolishness and considers God’s purposes and plans, and seeks to follow after Him in them.
What is the will of God? I often have people ask me, “Pastor, what is the will of God?” Most are shocked that as you unpack a biblical view of God’s will it is much simpler and wide-ranging than you may realize. God’s will is less about whom you will marry, what job you will have, what your future will be like, and more about the kind of person you are to become. “This is the will of God, your sanctification.” [1 Thessalonians 4:3] In other words, it is God’s will that you are growing up to be more like Christ. It really is that simple. Therefore, it is easy to know if you are out of God’s will—if you are not living like Christ.
How am I supposed to walk in wisdom? [Ephesians 5:18-21]
If you are walking in wisdom you are filled with the Spirit [vs.18]. Paul contrasts be filled with the Spirit to being drunk. Why would Paul use drunkenness in contrast with being filled with the Spirit? Paul knows that alcohol is a common substance that can control you if you have too much to drink. It is all a matter of what you allow to control you.
Being filled with the Holy Spirit is not the same thing as: being saved, being more saved, or having a mystical experience. The Holy Spirit is not a force or influence, He is God. Every believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit upon salvation and does not need more of Him after salvation [1 Corinthians 12:13]. Being filled with the Spirit is simply being under the control of the Holy Spirit. Being filled is allowing the Holy Spirit to head the command-center of your life and giving Him the ability to do with you as He pleases. You become the passenger and He becomes the pilot. If you do not submit yourself to the Holy Spirits control you are like a man wearing beer goggles driving a fully loaded box-truck down a Los Angeles interstate during rush hour.
Followers of Christ are commonly called the temple of God [cf. 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 & 6:19-20]. In the OT the temple was the place where God dwells, and where His people offered sacrifices of worship God. However, since Christ’ death on the cross the structural temple is no longer needed because Jesus opened the access to God. Today His followers are the physical temple of God offering their lives as an offering and sacrifice to God [Romans 12:1-2].
Those who are filled with the Spirit use worshipful words [vs.19-20]. The result of being filled with the Holy Spirit is letting “the Word of God dwell within you richly.” [Colossians 3:16] In other words, the words and songs that flow from your lips match the Word of God. Words not of God can “grieve the Holy Spirit” [cf. 4:30].
What brings people together more than the words of the music? Arenas are packed with people singing the anthems of their favorite bands. Churches every Sunday gather together singing songs to their great God. Music has a powerful way of communicating and teaching truth in a unique way that speech or sermons cannot.
Worshipful words include, “giving thanks for everything.” [cf. 5:4] Does giving thanks for everything include evil done towards me, personal tragedy, problems related to sin and temptations, or periods of physical and spiritual suffering? Yes. Gratitude is an attitude that gives you a godly outlook on life and the greatness of God [Colossians 3:17]. God uses evil, tragedy, sin, and suffering for His glory. I have seen numerous times how God has used my moments of failure and struggle to teach me about His presence and provisions.
Those who are filled with the Spirit also submit to one another [v.21]. Everybody submits to someone or something. Employers submit to their companies, soldiers submit to their superiors, citizens submit to their authorities, and Christians submit to God and others over them. Followers of Christ are committed to each other like living stones of the temple of God encouraging and helping one another to worship God. We live in a society that bucks against authority therefore submission is look down upon. However, submission is for our good, the good of our community and for the glory of God.
In Ephesians 5:15-21, walking in wisdom is less about knowing facts, and more about living with God and one another. Walking in wisdom walks carefully, makes a good use of time, understands the will of God, is filled with the Holy Spirit, uses worshipful words, and is submissive to other followers of Christ. Walking in wisdom will take you down a beautiful road. When the paths of hardship come, as they will, godly wisdom will be like a loyal walking stick carrying you through the tight passes, rugged terrains, and steep slopes. Walking in wisdom is not easy, but it brings God glory.