Look Closely At How You Walk - Ephesians 5:15

Our text this week will be Ephesians 5:15-21,

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Last year, Michael Hughes, who is one of our Field Staff at Community Church, gave me a book that I have really appreciated. It is a book that was written by Brian Hedges and he gave it a one word tile, ‘Watchfulness’. There was nothing about that title that excited me at the time. And to be honest, there was nothing in that title that enlightened me as to my need to read this book. But it did not take me long to discover that I would greatly benefit from reading it.

He began by talking about the resurgence within the Christian community to engage in the spiritual disciplines. He said in the opening paragraphs of this book, “Books on spiritual transformation and the spiritual disciplines line the shelves. Many of these are helpful, offering wise instruction on practices such as meditation, fasting and prayer.” Then he added these words, “But one discipline rarely appears in these catalogs of devotional habits: watchfulness.”

These words seemed to be true from my own experience. I could not recall seeing one book that was about the spiritual discipline of watchfulness. In fact, I could not recall any of the most popular books about the spiritual disciplines that contained even one chapter on watchfulness.

As if to capture my attention even more the author wrote these words just a few paragraphs later, “Past believers understood the need for watchfulness and spoke of it often. This was especially true of the sixteenth and seventeenth century English puritans and their evangelical heirs in the following centuries. In their sermons, letters, diaries, and manuals on spirituality, these saints commended the practice of watching.”

These puritans did not spend so much time speaking about watchfulness in their sermons, letters, diaries, and manuals because their generation had perfected it; but because their generation struggled to do it as much as ours.

One Puritan preacher of that time, John Flavel, lamented the loss of this discipline in his generation when he wrote in his book ‘Keeping the Heart’. He said, “The attracting beauty that shone, from the manner of life of the saints, upon the faces and consciences of the world (which, if it did not allure and bring them in love with the ways of God, at least left a testimony in their consciences of the excellency of those men of their ways,), is in a great measure lost, to the unspeakable detriment of religion. There was a time, when Christians conducted themselves in such a manner that the world stood gazing at them. Their life and language were of a different strain from those of others; their tongues discovered them to be Galileans wherever they came."

If that generation of believers who had access to so much teaching concerning watchfulness struggled to walk worthy of the call that they had received; then what might that say about the condition of our generation when it is rarely ever mentioned? How much more do we need to listen to Paul’s words today when he comes saying, “Look carefully then how you walk.” (v.15)

As I began to consider all of this and saw all of the references concerning watchfulness in the scriptures, I found myself more than a little shocked that our generation has all but ignored and neglected this discipline. It is sobering to think that this could even happen. It is shocking and even sad to consider all of the problems that the neglect of this discipline has had upon the lives of so many.

Dr. Sinclair Ferguson begins his commentary on Ephesians 5:15-17 with an opening sentence that seems to capture his understanding of the loss that has occurred in our generation. He begins with a sentence that gives voice to the sadness, regret and lament of having forgotten to be watchful in the Christian community concerning our walk with Christ. He says, “It used to be commonplace to speak about ‘the Christian walk’.

Something has changed in our day. Something has been forgotten. There is something that we need to begin to practice once again.

Here are some of the definitions used by others concerning ‘watchfulness’:

John Owen’s defined watchfulness as: “A universal carefulness and diligence, exercising itself in and by all ways and means prescribed by God over our hearts and ways, the baits and methods of Satan, the occasions and advantages of sin in the world, that we be not entangled.”

Isaac Ambrose says, “Watchfulness is the first and principle help to all exercises of religion; it is the eye to see them all well done and used, and therefore we set watchfulness in the front of all duties...For the nature of it: ‘Watchfulness is a continual, careful observing of our ways in all the passages and turnings of our life, that we still keep close to the written word of God.”

Thomas Brooks, “Watching is a military term. There are two aspects of it: 1. The soul’s keeping spiritually awake, for to watch is opposed to sleeping. 2. Our mind must be intent upon our business, that we may catch all advantages against, and ward off hazard from the enemy.”

This week I looked up all of the passages in which the Apostle Paul speaks of the Christian walk. He speaks of the Christian walk in the majority of his epistles. If Paul were here it would not surprise me if the topic of ‘Watching Carefully How We Walk As Christians’ was not sprinkled throughout his conversations among us.

Paul would remind Christians that:

  • We once walked and lived engaged in the very sins that brings about the wrath of God upon men (Col 3:5-7 – Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them.)

  • Having received Christ Jesus as Lord we are to walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith (Col 2:6 – Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith. Just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.)