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Are You Being Wise? (Ephesians 5:15-17)

Sermon on 19 March 2023 by Reverend Kevin Teo



Ephesians 5:15-17 - “So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do.”


The days are going to be evil. We can’t pray for it to go away. For believers, we don’t worry because we are in Christ. We are looking forward to the blessed hope of the coming of Jesus. Paul was writing this letter to the church in Ephesus. He tells them not to be unwise. Walking carefully refers to living life with honour, purpose, and courage. The foolish are stupid. Can a believer, with God’s wisdom, ever become foolish or unwise? Paul writes to the church, so it tells us that there are unwise people inside the church. Just because you are born again doesn’t mean you will live wisely.


Who is the wisest man in the world? According to the Bible, the wisest man in the world, with exception of Jesus, is Solomon. He is the son of King David and the third king of Israel. He started out well. God chose him to be king.


1 Chronicles 28:5 - “And from among my sons—for the Lord has given me many—he chose Solomon to succeed me on the throne of Israel and to rule over the Lord’s kingdom.”


Solomon was ordained by God to be king. Not just because he happened to be the son of David. Out of the sons, God chose Solomon. Once we are born again, we have God’s love and blessing.


1 Kings 3:3-7 - “Solomon loved the Lord and followed all the decrees of his father, David, except that Solomon, too, offered sacrifices and burned incense at the local places of worship. The most important of these places of worship was at Gibeon, so the king went there and sacrificed 1,000 burnt offerings. That night the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream, and God said, “What do you want? Ask, and I will give it to you!” Solomon replied, “You showed great and faithful love to your servant my father, David, because he was honest and true and faithful to you. And you have continued to show this great and faithful love to him today by giving him a son to sit on his throne. “Now, O Lord my God, you have made me king instead of my father, David, but I am like a little child who doesn’t know his way around.”


Solomon had great love for God. He translated his words into action. We often pay lip service but Solomon meant what he said. He gave offerings with no strings attached. God appeared to him at night and asked him what He should give Solomon. When we worship God extravagantly, in purity and sincerity, it is a sweet smelling aroma to Him. God in His nature would want to respond. God asked him what should He give him. This question was initiated by God. Solomon did not demand anything back from God. Many times, that’s how we deal with God - in a transactional manner. That’s not how we should approach God. We should be like Solomon, just worship God without any conditions. God likewise would respond. Based on God’s question, then Solomon boldly asked. He took cues from God. If it’s us, we would properly sit down and think properly about what we want.


1 Kings 3:8-9 - “And here I am in the midst of your own chosen people, a nation so great and numerous they cannot be counted! Give me an understanding heart so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong. For who by himself is able to govern this great people of yours?””


It’s a very simple request. We might think that Solomon asked a stupid question or asked for too little. But Solomon, in the beginning, was very pure. His prayer was very simple. He started his reign with humility and loving shod. He acknowledged that God made him king and he was only a servant. He was young and lacked experience. He was probably only 20 when he was king. He needed divine wisdom, not human wisdom, to rule God’s people. He understood that God’s work must be done with God’s power and resources. He asked for all these not for himself but for the people. It is a very sincere prayer.


1 Kings 3:10-13 - “The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for wisdom. So God replied, “Because you have asked for wisdom in governing my people with justice and have not asked for a long life or wealth or the death of your enemies— I will give you what you asked for! I will give you a wise and understanding heart such as no one else has had or ever will have! And I will also give you what you did not ask for—riches and fame! No other king in all the world will be compared to you for the rest of your life!”


God was very pleased.


1 Kings 3:14 - “And if you follow me and obey my decrees and my commands as your father, David, did, I will give you a long life.””


Ephesians 3:20 - “Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.”


God gladly answered Solomon’s prayers because of his pure motive and gave him much more than he had requested. God is a good father. He doesn't just give us what we need. He sees ahead and supplies what we don’t need now, but in time to come. Humility and a pure heart touches God.


1 Kings 4:29-34 - “God gave Solomon very great wisdom and understanding, and knowledge as vast as the sands of the seashore. In fact, his wisdom exceeded that of all the wise men of the East and the wise men of Egypt. He was wiser than anyone else, including Ethan the Ezrahite and the sons of Mahol—Heman, Calcol, and Darda. His fame spread throughout all the surrounding nations. He composed some 3,000 proverbs and wrote 1,005 songs. He could speak with authority about all kinds of plants, from the great cedar of Lebanon to the tiny hyssop that grows from cracks in a wall. He could also speak about animals, birds, small creatures, and fish. And kings from every nation sent their ambassadors to listen to the wisdom of Solomon.”


Solomon wrote the Song of Solomon, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, which contain his wise reflections on life. He built the first Temple in Jerusalem, a significant architectural achievement of his time and established Jerusalem as the religious and political center of Israel. During the 40 years of Solomon’s reign, there was peace and unity as God intended.


1 Chronicles 22:9 - “But you will have a son who will be a man of peace. I will give him peace with his enemies in all the surrounding lands. His name will be Solomon, and I will give peace and quiet to Israel during his reign.”


Yet, at the end of his reign, Israel became spiritually bankrupt. Deterioration, oppression and strife was everywhere. Bible scholars believed Solomon died in his sixties and didn’t live a long life. But didn’t God promise him a long life? There was a condition attached to it. Obviously, something went wrong with his life. Within a year of his death, Israel was split into 2 kingdoms and the course of history was permanently altered. The kingdoms were taken over by other people and became scattered.


Was Solomon the wisest of the dumbest? He started so well and had so much potential. But at the end of his reign, Israel was in such a bad condition.


1 Kings 11:1-8 - “Now King Solomon loved many foreign women. Besides Pharaoh’s daughter, he married women from Moab, Ammon, Edom, Sidon, and from among the Hittites. The Lord had clearly instructed the people of Israel, “You must not marry them, because they will turn your hearts to their gods.” Yet Solomon insisted on loving them anyway. He had 700 wives of royal birth and 300 concubines. And in fact, they did turn his heart away from the Lord. In Solomon’s old age, they turned his heart to worship other gods instead of being completely faithful to the Lord his God, as his father, David, had been. Solomon worshiped Ashtoreth, the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molech, the detestable god of the Ammonites. In this way, Solomon did what was evil in the Lord’s sight; he refused to follow the Lord completely, as his father, David, had done. On the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, he even built a pagan shrine for Chemosh, the detestable god of Moab, and another for Molech, the detestable god of the Ammonites. Solomon built such shrines for all his foreign wives to use for burning incense and sacrificing to their gods.”


This was an explicit command that God gave to Israel, not to intermarry with those women. He started to get distracted with all these women. He followed them to worship their gods. He helped them to build temples to worship their gods. He started falling and straying away from God. He walked the path God told him not to walk. David had his weaknesses but his heart was always focused on God. Solomon’s heart was changed. He started to cater to all his wives. Though greatly blessed by God in all areas of his life, he chose to indulge in the lust of the flesh. He wilfully disobeyed God’s commands and sowed to his flesh.


Galatians 6:7-8 - “Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit.”


He spent more time with others than with God.


1 Corinthians 15:33 - “Don’t be fooled by those who say such things, for “bad company corrupts good character.””


He gave place to the devil and was devoured.


Ephesians 4:27 - “for anger gives a foothold to the devil.”


1 Peter 5:8 - “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.”


1 Kings 11:9-10 - “The Lord was very angry with Solomon, for his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice. He had warned Solomon specifically about worshiping other gods, but Solomon did not listen to the Lord’s command.”


In God’s grace and mercy, God warned Solomon not once but twice.


1 Kings 3:12-14 - “I will give you what you asked for! I will give you a wise and understanding heart such as no one else has had or ever will have! And I will also give you what you did not ask for—riches and fame! No other king in all the world will be compared to you for the rest of your life! And if you follow me and obey my decrees and my commands as your father, David, did, I will give you a long life.””


1 Kings 9:4-7 - ““As for you, if you will follow me with integrity and godliness, as David your father did, obeying all my commands, decrees, and regulations, then I will establish the throne of your dynasty over Israel forever. For I made this promise to your father, David: ‘One of your descendants will always sit on the throne of Israel.’ “But if you or your descendants abandon me and disobey the commands and decrees I have given you, and if you serve and worship other gods, then I will uproot Israel from this land that I have given them. I will reject this Temple that I have made holy to honor my name. I will make Israel an object of mockery and ridicule among the nations.”


Solomon could not plead ignorance of God’s word. Moreover, as a king, he had access to all the records of Israel’s history; he knew how Israel suffered when the nation disobeyed God. Solomon knew all these things, yet he chose to disobey. He decided out of his own free will to walk differently. Growing self-sufficient in wealth and fame, the wisest man became corrupted and failed to practice what he preached. He thought that he achieved these with his own might. He didn’t spend time with God and his mind was conditioned differently.


Proverbs 4:23 - “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”


He could write the book of Proverbs to counsel people but he couldn’t follow it.


1 Kings 11:11-13 - “So now the Lord said to him, “Since you have not kept my covenant and have disobeyed my decrees, I will surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your servants. But for the sake of your father, David, I will not do this while you are still alive. I will take the kingdom away from your son. And even so, I will not take away the entire kingdom; I will let him be king of one tribe, for the sake of my servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem, my chosen city.””


God took the kingdom away from him. Based on his own writings, Solomon, the wisest man on earth, became the greatest fool due to his unwise choices.


Proverbs 1:7 - “Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.”


Proverbs 1:10 - “My child, if sinners entice you, turn your back on them!”


Proverbs 4:14-15 - “Don’t do as the wicked do, and don’t follow the path of evildoers. Don’t even think about it; don’t go that way. Turn away and keep moving.”


Proverbs 13:20 - “Walk with the wise and become wise; associate with fools and get in trouble.”

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He didn’t follow all of these verses. Solomon made many mistakes. He didn’t renew his mind to God’s words. He knew what God said but he didn’t hold it close to his heart. Mentally he agreed but in his actions, it was the total opposite.


Psalms 119:11 - “I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”


Romans 12:2 - “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”


Solomon started liking man’s opinions on him and made decisions based on that. Towards the end of his reign, people were upset with his decisions and were complaining about him. Once he started to think and act like the world, things started to go astray. He didn’t discipline his flesh either.


1 John 2:15-17 - “Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.”


Solomon fell in all these 3 areas. Today, Satan also uses these 3 areas to pull people down.


Romans 12:1 - “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.”


Even if you are a believer, you have flesh that might want to do things against God. You need to discipline your flesh to avoid that from happening.


1 Corinthians 9:27 - “I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.”


It’s not that God takes away the blessing. It’s that you can’t access it anymore. Solomon was also associated with the wrong people.


Psalms 1:1 - “Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers.”


When you fellowship with the world, it’s for one purpose only - to share the word of God to them so that they can be saved. You don’t listen to the advice of the world as you have a better counsel - God.


1 Corinthians 15:33 - “Don’t be fooled by those who say such things, for “bad company corrupts good character.””


1 Corinthians 5:1-5 - “I can hardly believe the report about the sexual immorality going on among you—something that even pagans don’t do. I am told that a man in your church is living in sin with his stepmother. You are so proud of yourselves, but you should be mourning in sorrow and shame. And you should remove this man from your fellowship. Even though I am not with you in person, I am with you in the Spirit. And as though I were there, I have already passed judgment on this man in the name of the Lord Jesus. You must call a meeting of the church. I will be present with you in spirit, and so will the power of our Lord Jesus. Then you must throw this man out and hand him over to Satan so that his sinful nature will be destroyed and he himself will be saved on the day the Lord returns.”


1 Corinthians 5:9-13 - “When I wrote to you before, I told you not to associate with people who indulge in sexual sin. But I wasn’t talking about unbelievers who indulge in sexual sin, or are greedy, or cheat people, or worship idols. You would have to leave this world to avoid people like that. I meant that you are not to associate with anyone who claims to be a believer yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or is a drunkard, or cheats people. Don’t even eat with such people. It isn’t my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your responsibility to judge those inside the church who are sinning. God will judge those on the outside; but as the Scriptures say, “You must remove the evil person from among you.””


We help those believers who want to change. But there are some believers who don’t want to change anything. So Paul tells the church to stay away from these people as they will wrongly influence you.


2 Thessalonians 3:6 - “And now, dear brothers and sisters, we give you this command in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ: Stay away from all believers who live idle lives and don’t follow the tradition they received from us.”


It’s a particular group of people in church who won’t want to change at all. In the Corinthian church, there was a man who committed incest with his step mother. The man didn’t want to change so Paul asked to kick him out. Even among believers, there are strict guidelines.


Are you being wise? Let’s not repeat Solomon’s mistakes.


1 Corinthians 10:11 - “These things happened to them as examples for us. They were written down to warn us who live at the end of the age.”


Solomon started off well. He had God’s wisdom. Yet along the way, he made unwise decisions. We must walk circumspectly.


Ephesians 5:15-17 - “So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do.”


God has already given every believer with the God-kind of wisdom.


Ephesians 1:3 - “All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ.”


He also gave us free will, therefore choose wisely as our choices have consequences. Just because you are born again doesn’t mean you will automatically walk in wisdom. There are decisions to make - to follow the spirit or the flesh.


Amen.

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