Time Management for Eternity
P. G. Mathew | Sunday, August 22, 2004
Copyright © 2004, P. G. Mathew
Be very careful, then, how you live--not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is.
God has given each of us a limited time on this earth. Here Paul exhorts us to use this precious commodity of time wisely, not wasting it in sin, but redeeming it by doing good works that will bring honor and glory to our heavenly Father.
Verse 15 opens with the admonition, "Be very careful. . . ." In the Greek it is, "See accurately," or "see carefully." That means we must be governed by our minds, not our emotions. God has given us the mind of Christ and we are to use it! Our eyes were blinded by Satan, but now the Holy Spirit of God has opened them so that we can "see accurately." Now we can make decisions "not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil." So Paul says, "Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is." We are to exercise our minds, continuously thinking and learning, so that we can accurately perceive spiritual reality.
Why is it so important that we see clearly? Because the world is under the control of the evil one, and though we are Christians, we still have sin dwelling in us. We are not yet perfect; thus, we still sin. We do not have to, but we are quite capable of it. We are surrounded by traps and stumbling blocks and ditches. We are tempted daily, and there are times we succumb to these temptations. So we are exhorted to walk carefully, and to look carefully before we walk. Think! Know! Understand! Perceive! We must think biblically, not according to the philosophies of this world.
The word translated "carefully" is akribí´s. It is the same word Herod used in Matthew 2:8 when he sent the Magi to Bethlehem: "Go and make a careful search for the child." The historian Luke uses the same word: "Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning . . ." (Luke 1:3). It indicates doing careful research and understanding-not mental laziness.
We must have a correct perception of reality. So we are to understand a situation accurately before we make a decision. As Christians, we are not to be led by our emotions but by our sanctified reason. Look before you leap! In many countries today there are people who have lost limbs after stepping on landmines. Just so, there are spiritual landmines everywhere, and if we walk carelessly, we will suffer great loss. So Paul exhorts us, "Watch out! Be careful how you live in the world."
The word "see" is translated "watch out" in Philippians 3:2: "Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh." Be aware of them, Paul was warning the Philippians. Know what they are teaching, and compare it with the gospel, the touchstone of truth, rather than being gullible and naí¯ve. Don't be like blotting paper, absorbing all kinds of wrong ideas. Paul wanted the Philippians to intelligently apprehend the doctrines of the gospel, so they would not be deceived by heretics teaching against salvation by grace through faith alone.
This word is also used in Colossians 2:8: "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ." This is our responsibility as Christians. We are not to believe everything; we must discriminate. We must compare everything with the gospel and then reject what is not in harmony with it. We must watch out for heretics, deceivers, emotionalists and antinomians, and reject non-Christian philosophy at every turn. We must be intelligent Christians, guided by the gospel in our daily decisions.
Ephesians 5:6 says, "Let no one deceive you with empty words." Who are deceived? Those who refuse to exercise their minds to understand the gospel. The world's words are lies, void of reality. Psalm 1 tells us, "Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers." When a Christian hears the counsel of the wicked, he makes distinctions and says, "No, this is evil." But he does even more than that: "[H]is delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night." We must exercise our minds so that we can resist the hollow philosophies of the world.
When Joseph lived in Egypt, Potiphar's wife tempted him daily to commit fornication. But he was very careful, and refused, saying, "How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?" Then he ran away from the scene of temptation. Even so, we are to understand every situation in the light of the gospel so that we can resist and flee temptation. Our question should not be whether or not a course of action will give us maximum pleasure. If that were the question, then Jesus would not have gone to the cross. The question is: Will this course of action bring glory to God directly? And our mind should be satisfied with the reasoning before we act.
We are to do all things for the glory of God alone. Just as Jesus walked with God, so are we to follow in his footsteps: "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has foreordained that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10 KJV). The straight and narrow path is the path of obedience to Jesus Christ. It has nothing to do with what makes us happy, although the truth is, obedience to God will always make us happy in the long run. The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. Thus we are to walk worthy of our calling (4:1); walk in love (5:2); and walk in wisdom (5:15).
The Life of a Fool
First, then, we want to examine the life of a fool. Unbelievers are unwise. They are ignorant of God, ignorant of Christ, and ignorant of the Scriptures, which alone can make them wise unto salvation (2 Timothy 3:15). Such fools do not fear God. The Holy Spirit is not in them to give them wisdom and to open their eyes. Unbelievers claim to be wise, but they are not, so we read in 1 Corinthians 1:18-25:
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate." Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength.
First Corinthians 3:19-20 says, "For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God's sight. As it is written: 'He catches the wise in their craftiness'; and again, 'The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.'" Oh, the philosophies, the understanding, the brilliance of the wise people of the world! The world is filled with mountains of their books, huge volumes written by people who pretend to be intelligent. But it is all empty nonsense outside of Christ.
James 3:14-15 describes the wisdom of the unbeliever: "But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such wisdom does not come down from heaven but it is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil." Ephesians 2 is a vivid description of the life of a fool. It is true of every unbeliever, including us, in our pre-regenerate days. "As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts" (vv. 1-3). This is the life of a fool. He is filled with a spirit, but it is not the Holy Spirit.
Ephesians 4:17-19 gives further insight into the life of fools: "So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more." The philosophy of a fool is atheism. The fool has said in his heart, "There is no God," and that philosophy governs his every action. Enthroning himself as god, he demands all to worship him and serve his lusts and interests.
Who is a fool? Jesus spoke about such people. A fool is captivated by this world. He does not understand that this world is passing away. He is completely engrossed in eating, drinking, buying, selling, planting, harvesting, marrying and giving in marriage, and has no interest in the world to come. He spends all his time and energy running after money, power, fame and pleasure, and then throws a party to show people that he has arrived. What a fool!
Such a money-worshiping materialistic fool approached Jesus Christ in Luke 12. He said to Jesus, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me." But Jesus replied, "Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?" (v. 14) Jesus did not come to divide some earthly inheritance; he came to speak about the true inheritance of heaven! Then Jesus told the crowd that was gathered around, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." Yet every day people try to prove Jesus Christ to be wrong by amassing wealth, power, and fame. They hope these things will give them great happiness, but Jesus says they are fools.
Then Jesus told a parable: "The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.' Then he said, 'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I'll say to myself, "You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry."' But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?' This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God" (vv. 16-21). "You fool!" Paul uses the same term in Ephesians 5:17. You fool! You live for your body. You don't think about your immortal soul. But you have no control of your life. You fool!
Luke 16 speaks of another fool: "There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day" (v. 19). This man never gave any thought to his soul. He never thought about hell, because he always assumed he was going to heaven, into the bosom of Abraham. But he went to hell. This is a serious issue. One can live all one's life for money and power and everything else, with no interest in heaven, hell, or one's eternal soul. Such a person is a fool.
In 1 Samuel 25 we read of a certain man Nabal, whose very name means "fool," who was married to an intelligent, godly woman named Abigail. Theirs was the most mismatched marriage in history. It must have been a struggle, for how can believers and unbelievers be yoked together? Abigail told David, "Pay no attention to that wicked man Nabal. He is just like his name-his name is Fool, and folly goes with him." She knew that David had been chosen by God to be king, and prophesied to that effect. But Nabal spoke evil of David, having no understanding of the divine order of things. That is what a fool is. He does not understand God's word or God's purpose, and he will condemn those who do.
How to Recognize a Fool
According to Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, there are many ways to spot a fool, and they can be found even in the church. If we look, we may be able to find some. But perhaps we should examine ourselves, so that if we are fools, we can become wise.
A fool is governed by his feelings. His attention span is that of a child. He cannot endure the reasoned presentation of the gospel; instead, he seeks excitement and entertainment. He likes stories and singing, not the preaching of the word of God. He judges everything based on how well he was entertained.
Many Christians belong in this category. They make decisions based not on the word of God but on their own "gut feeling." This is the primacy of feelings. The fool listens to himself, especially to his feelings, rather than to his intellect. But the church is not a place where people are to be entertained. We are here to talk about hell and heaven and how to escape the wrath of God.
Dr. Lloyd-Jones spoke of this some fifty years ago, yet his comments are just as true and relevant today:
"There are so many people who are governed entirely by their feelings, and they do not want to use their minds and their brains. Even in a religious service they just want happiness and enjoyment. They want to have a good time, as they call it, to get excited, to work themselves up by singing hymns and songs and choruses, and to keep on repeating and repeating and repeating until they are in a state of mental intoxication. They do not want to be made to think. Life is hard enough as it is, they say, without having to struggle with this thought and that, so let us have more singing and less preaching and so on. Feelings! Just a riot of enjoyment-that is a foolish person. Do you see the relevance of this to the state of the church today? It does not matter how crowded your churches are in whatever country you belong to. What I want to know is, what happens when the crowd gets there? How is the time spent? And, alas, one sees and hears more and more music and entertainment and less and less of teaching and doctrine and true understanding. That is one of the characteristics of folly" (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Darkness and Light [Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1982, 2003], 428).
"There is nothing more discouraging about the modern Church, nothing more culpable, than her failure to grapple with these great New Testament truths. There is much talk today about simplicity, some people saying that 'they cannot be bothered with doctrine'. There is also much emphasis upon singing; but the church is not a place where people are to be entertained. . . ." "or where people come to sit and listen either to singing or to the accounts of other people's experiences, coupled with a brief, light, comfortable message. If we are to become grown men, if we are to rise to the height of our 'high calling in Christ Jesus', and to be virile Christians in this tragic modern world, then we must face these great and glorious doctrines, and so exercise our minds, our understandings, and all our senses, that we begin to have some dim conception of ourselves in this great setting and context of the body of Christ" (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, God's Ultimate Purpose [Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1982, 2003], 424).
A fool is led by his desires. That is the teaching of Ephesians 2:1-3. The fool says, "I must have what I like, because anything I desire must be good. Don't confuse me with the facts." Such people argue that instinctive judgment is superior to judgments based on objective reason. A perfect example is found in the story of David and Bathsheba. David saw this woman and took her for himself, even though he knew she was someone else's wife. He threw away the Scripture, ignored the voice of the Holy Spirit, and became a fool. Esau was also led by his desires, selling his birthright because he was hungry. "Give me the stew!" he told Jacob. What good is the birthright to me?" In the estimation of a fool, the things of God are worthless.
A fool is a person of great zeal, but his zeal is without knowledge. Zeal is never a measure of righteousness or rightness. The Pharisees were zealous for God, yet they crucified Christ in their ignorance. Fools do not take time to think. They do not care if they think clearly. They are quick to act without understanding the issue.
A fool is only interested in the existential moment. Fools do not worry about the long term consequences of their actions. Consider Eve: she ate the forbidden fruit and the whole universe was plunged into sin. Fools think only of the pleasures of sin for a moment; they do not consider the consequences.
A fool is impatient. Fools will not wait. In the church, they will not endure a biblical sermon. They want a sermon that lasts maybe ten minutes, with lots of stories, given by a pastor who is always smiling. They are like little children.
The Life of a Wise Person
Paul tells us we must walk, not as fools, but as wise people. What is wisdom? It is the knowledge of God applied to daily life. It is not merely possessing the knowledge of God, and it is not possessing just any knowledge. A person may be a genius and have a lot of knowledge, yet he lacks wisdom. Just go to any university; you will find brilliant professors who teach complete nonsense. (PGM) A wise man is one who hears and does the word of God, and builds his life on it. The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.
Every Christian is wise. First Corinthians 6:4-5 says, "Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, appoint as judges even men of little account in the church! I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers?" The assumption is that every Christian is wise, and even the least important Christian is superior to all the unwise people of the world. What makes a person wise? The word of God (2 Timothy 3:15). The Bible is God's revelation to us, designed to make us wise by giving us the divine perspective of reality.
A wise man is one who has been given the Holy Spirit-the same Holy Spirit who came upon Jesus Christ himself. Isaiah 11:2 tells us it is the Spirit of wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, and fear of the Lord. A wise man is one who knows Christ, for the Bible says that in Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3). This is why I urge you to trust in Jesus Christ. Solomon prayed for practical wisdom, and God gave it to him. Even so, if anyone lacks wisdom, he must ask God, and God will give it to him (James 1:5).
Wise people see reality from God's point of view. If someone speaks of godless evolution, a Christian will say, "I see reality from God's point of view, which is entirely different from the evolutionary hypothesis." If someone says we are getting better and better, a Christian says, "I see reality from God's point of view. The Bible says we are born sinners." Notice the profound wisdom that came out of Abigail. She saw everything from divine perspective-who David was, and what his future would be. She understood it all.
Ephesians 3:10 tells us that we, the church, are to display wisdom by knowing and doing the will of God. Likewise, Ephesians 5:17 commands us, "Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is."
We are not commanded to know something that is not revealed. The will of God is revealed in the Holy Scriptures. But to know it requires prayerful, persistent, and patient study of the Bible. It requires diligent digging into the word of God and a very disciplined life. Wise people do not merely read books about the Bible; they read the Bible itself, prayerfully, that God may register its truth into their minds. And not only are they to know the will of God from the Scripture, but they must then do it in their daily lives. Some people can speak mechanically about the Bible, but they never apply it to their own life. It is a like a garment that they put on and take off. It has nothing to do with their daily living. That is not wisdom.
We are to apply the word of God to every aspect of our lives, doing all things for the glory of God. Before, we faithfully did the will of the flesh (Ephesians 2:3), but now we faithfully do the will of God. Before, we were self-centered; now, we are Christ-centered. Jesus said, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work" (John 4:34). Doing God's will was his food, his enjoyment, his strength, his life. It is to be ours as well. In John 5:30 Jesus said, "By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me." Hebrews 10:5-9 tells us Jesus came to do the will of God. God is not interested in sacrifices and bloodletting; he wants us to live all our lives for his glory, as Christ did. We are to be led by the word of God and the Holy Spirit. We are also to seek the counsel of mature Christians if we are interested in being guided by wisdom.
Our private and public life should be lived according to the will of God. Our work life, our married life, our family life, our church life-there is no aspect of life to be lived according to our own desire, lust and will. All of life is to be according to the will of God. As Jesus prayed, "Not my will, but thine be done." "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."
Managing Time for Eternity
Ephesians 5:16 says we are to "redeem the time" because the days are evil. Colossians 4:5, the parallel passage, says, "Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity." The idea is that we are to go to the marketplace and buy up time. But how can we buy time? One way is to stop wasting time in sin and start doing the will of God. Though evil and moral darkness are everywhere, we are to shine as lights and resist every temptation.
The word used for time is kairos, not chronos. Chronos means the flow of time, hour after hour, day after day, year after year. One is born at a certain time, and one dies at a certain time. That is chronos, from which we get chronology and chronometer. But kairos is different. Chronos is a straight line; kairos speaks about certain points in that line-certain significant, opportune moments within the chronology of one's life.
In Matthew 26:18 Jesus said, "My kairos has come"-"My time has come." He did not mean that it was twelve o'clock or Thursday morning. He meant "My time to die, for which God sent me, has come, and I am going to do that." So "redeem the time" can be translated "redeem the many opportunities we have in our lives." You see, when you come to church, that is kairos. God can do wonderful things when you are listening to the word of God. It is kairos, not merely chronos.
In the Septuagint, the word kairos is used repeatedly in Ecclesiastes 3: "A time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot" and so on. This is the kairos-certain, significant, opportune moments in your life. Seize those opportunities and do the will of God.
There are certain things we must understand about time if we are to redeem it:
Our time is limited. Our chronology is limited; therefore, our kairos also is limited. Only certain opportunities are ours within our lifespan; additionally, our time is short. Thus, Psalm 90:12 says, "Teach us to number our days aright." It is referring to chronology, but within that chronology there are certain opportunities for us. Even now, as you are reading this, God is speaking to you. Seize that opportunity, repent of your sins, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and be saved. "Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom."
Our times are in his hand. We must recognize that we have no control of our time. So if you say to God, as Felix said to Paul, "I will do it at a kairos-at another convenient time," it will never happen. If you say you will do something tomorrow, you must realize that tomorrow may never come. Time and tide wait for no man. Opportune moments are passing by; our kairos is slipping away. It is like spilt milk; we cannot recapture it. Use it or lose it! But use it for God, and make it eternally significant.
There is a time for everything. There is a time to study, a time to pray, a time to repent and trust in Christ, a time to marry, a time to train our children in the gospel, a time to witness to others about Jesus Christ. There is a time to work hard, a time to do good works, a time to be generous, a time to help others. There is a time to make a phone call, to write a letter, or to visit somebody and encourage that person. There is a time to be with the family, and a time to be with God's people. There is a time to resist temptation and flee youthful lusts. There is a time to say no and a time to say yes.
Time is precious. Time is precious because it is limited and we have certain things to do in this life. It is appointed for man once to die and then comes the judgment. The rich man went to hell, and there was no way for him to be saved. When you die, that is the end of it.
Time has a purpose. Whether it is chronology or the opportunities within that chronology, there is a specific purpose for all time. God performed his redemptive work in time, and he applies that redemption to his people in time. That is the message of the Bible. So the purpose of our time on earth is not to make money or to become famous, but to know Christ as Lord and Savior, and to serve him by living and declaring his gospel.
We cannot be certain of tomorrow. This moment is all that we can be certain of; it alone is ours. "Now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation." "Today, if you hear his voice, harden not your heart." To think, "Oh, well, I can serve God tomorrow" is utter foolishness. How dare you think that you have control of your life!
Redeeming the Time
How, then, are we to redeem the time? First Peter 4:3 says, "For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do." Don't waste your time doing the same old wicked things; do the will of God! As Ephesians 2:10 says, "We are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus"-for what purpose? To do good works. Good works are those we do for God's glory alone, not merely for our pleasure. Our pleasure should not be the determinate of our work.
Let me assure you, when you get up early in the morning to pray and read the Bible, you are doing good works. When you get up and go to work, you are doing the will of God, because the Bible says you have to take care of your family. When you go to school and study hard, you are doing the will of God. When you go to worship, when you clean the house, when you discipline your children, you are working for God and redeeming the time. When you love your wife, when you bear children, when you submit to your husband, when you obey your parents, when you help the needy, when you dress modestly, when you save your money, when you clean your car, when you study God's word, when you resist temptation, when you fast and pray-all these things are good works, because they are the will of God. This, then, is what it means to redeem the time. And 1 Corinthians 15:58 tell us, "Abound in good works."
What motivates us to good works? In 2 Corinthians 5:9-10 Paul says, "So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad." In Matthew 25 Jesus says, "Whatsoever you have done to the least of my brothers, you have done it to me. Come, blessed of the Father." Galatians 6:9-10 tells us, "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity"-the word is kairos-"let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers."
Now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation. In Mark 1:21-34 we find a record of what Jesus Christ did in a single day. Then we are told in verse 35 that Jesus got up very early the next morning and went out to a solitary place to pray. That is redeeming the time.
I urge you live a Christian life, energized by the Holy Spirit of God, laboring for God and redeeming the time. Seek opportunities to serve God and others in his name. Avoid laziness and self-indulgence. Get rid of all selfish activities and increase in activities of eternal significance. Avoid sin like a plague, because it is a waste of precious time. Make use of all opportunities in your life. Emulate Jonathan Edwards, who, at nineteen years of age, wrote in 1735: "Resolved: Never to lose one moment of time, but to improve it in the most profitable way I possibly can."
Time is precious. Time is limited. Time is purposeful. Time is under God's control, and we can do mighty things in time. Time can be of eternal significance. Expect great things from God, and attempt great things for God today. Lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven.
Revelation 14:13 speaks about the death of those who live this way: "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on. 'Yes,' says the Spirit, 'they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.'" Redeem the time. Grasp every opportunity. Abound in good works, and when you die, your good works will follow you into heaven. In fact, you will be dressed in your good works, as we are told in Revelation 19:6-8: "'Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.' (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)" Only what is done in the name of Christ and for his glory will last forever. Amen.
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Copyright © 2004, P. G. Mathew
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