Christ, The Lord Of Our TimeErwin W. Lutzer | January 6, 1991
Selected highlights from this sermon
Are we using our days wisely?
Believe it or not, God has given us commands regarding the use of our time. We’re to deny lesser things in order to pursue activities with spiritual value. As the culture of the world gets ever darker, we need to use our time for God, pursuing Him wholeheartedly. Our devotion for God should be measured by the quality and quantity of the time we set aside each day for Him.
It’s great to be back here again. As you know, we were gone last week. My wife and I were in a place called Chattanooga, Tennessee, and you’ve probably heard of that place and Precept Ministries. And just so you remember that your pastor is subject to the same pushes and pulls and vicissitudes of circumstances, I want to tell you how we got there. We left here at noon on Friday, intending to fly down on American Airlines to Nashville, and from Nashville catch a plane to Chattanooga, which was to arrive at 5:15. And I was to preach at 7:30 that night.
When we got on the plane here at O’Hare, American said that there was a problem with their plane. It had mechanical difficulties and would not be leaving for at least an hour. We were on the plane and then we were told that. And then they said that the plane would not be going to Nashville because there was too much fog. It would be landing in Birmingham anyway once it did get off the ground.
We thought, “Well, we’re smart. I mean, we’re intelligent people. We’ll get off American and we’ll try find out if there’s another flight that will make it down.” Sure enough, you could have suspected it. United had a flight leaving in 15 minutes that would go to Atlanta. We could catch a plane from Atlanta and we could make it to Chattanooga in time.
So we ran over to United because they said, “Run! You’ve only got 15 minutes (if you know what the distance is between American and United),” and so we ran. And we found out later we could have walked very slowly (laughter), but nevertheless we ran. We were told that American didn’t really check with United to know whether there was room, and technically there wasn’t. But the guy was nice and so he decided to put us on the flight anyway.
The first thing we did when we were on the United flight was to wait on the airstrip for an hour before take-off, and then we flew to Atlanta, and circled Atlanta for 40 minutes before we landed. By now, of course, there was no way for me to keep my speaking engagement, so the next flight out was at 8:30 from Atlanta to Chattanooga, and so we phoned ahead and said, “I won’t be there, but Delta has a flight and we are going to be on it.”
Well, we were ready. Delta wasn’t, but nevertheless, 8:30 came and 9:30 came and the flight hadn’t left. 10:30 came and at 11:30 in the evening they said, “Now it’s time to get on this flight.”
We got on the plane, and we were all sitting there ready to fly. I said to my wife, “Well, at least we’ll get there.” We didn’t have to spend the night in the airport. As soon as we got on the plane the pilot said, “We hate to tell you this, but this flight is canceled because first of all, the airport is closing in Chattanooga at midnight and it’s twenty to twelve, and it’s almost going to close. And secondly, fog is beginning to settle in. But if you go to the main desk they’ll put you up for the night and maybe you can get a flight tomorrow.”
So we went to the main desk. That’s a long way to go you know just with our hand luggage. We went to the main desk and they said, “Yes, we can put you up for the night but we can’t guarantee that the plane will fly in the morning because there’s going to be fog in the morning. But if you go back to the gate where you were, we will have a bus there that will take you to Chattanooga.”
So we went back to the gate where we were. The bus wasn’t there at 12:30 as indicated, but it did show up just before 1:00. At 4:00 o’clock in the morning we’re in Chattanooga precisely where we were supposed to be, and of course, our baggage was somewhere on that American flight. But my wife, who is very persistent, said, “It’s probably here at the airport somewhere.” In Chattanooga the whole airport was basically locked up at this time of night, and so we finally found someone who was in a uniform and he convinced a janitor to open this room with American Airlines, and guess what! Our suitcases were there.
Now just think about this, folks. If we had stayed on the original flight we would have arrived there earlier, assuming that we would have arrived when our suitcases arrived. We don’t know when our suitcases arrived, but we know it must have been before midnight because the airport closes at midnight, so we would have been better off to stay with American. We went with United and ended up arriving at 4:00 in the morning.
My wife said to me, “Are you upset because we made that decision?” I said, “No, I’m not upset,” and then I told her something that she knows altogether too well already. I said, “Honey, remember I’m not God.” (laughter) You know, I’ve often thought to myself, “If I were only God, I wouldn’t make such foolish decisions.” Have you ever thought of that? If you knew all the contingencies, if you had all knowledge of things both actual and possible, you wouldn’t have to stand up and tell stories like the one that I’m telling you today. (laughter) But you see, we acted on the basis of the best information we had, and we decided that that’s what we were going to do.
I had an opportunity to read two books, one that I’ll tell you about sometime, and one other. I hope that you catch the humor in the title. The other was entitled A Brief History of Eternity. (laughter) And it was a very interesting book about the fact that the Universe is actually finite and not infinite. And that is also true of American and United Airlines.
Today I’m beginning a series of messages on stewardship – particularly on time today. I want you to imagine that every single day you are given $1,440. You need to spend it because at the end of the day it automatically disappears. If you don’t spend it, it’s gone. You can’t save it. You can’t keep it from one day to another.
How would you spend $1,440? Well, you have several options. You may not spend it at all. You may simply say that you are going to just let it disappear. You could spend it on worthless things. You could just impulse buy. You could buy anything that you see and buy it as quickly as you possibly can so that you can get your money spent before it disappears. That’s another possibility.
The third option, of course, is to say, “In light of the fact that I am given this much money, and I can’t keep it till tomorrow, I’m going to budget it, and I’m going to use it for items that are most important, and I’m going to spend it very wisely.”
I’m sure that you’ve already guessed, but every one of us is given 1,440 minutes every single day, and yet we cannot keep these minutes. We can’t put them together and hold on to them because at the end of the day those minutes are gone forever, and not even God, who can do all things, has promised to ever resurrect them for us. There is nothing that you can possibly do to repeat yesterday. If you did not spend time in prayer this morning before you came to church, you will never have another opportunity to do so on this particular day. It is gone.
Now there are some people who are very disorganized in life. They are lazy disorganized. I won’t discuss them because clearly none of them are present this morning. There are others who are frantically disorganized. They are doing all kinds of things but they are not necessarily always doing the right and the most helpful thing.
One morning a farmer told his wife he was going to plow the south 40. The tractor needed oil so he went to the shop to get some. On the way he noticed that the pigs weren’t fed so he proceeded to the corncrib. The feed sacks in the corner reminded him that his potatoes were sprouting. On the way to the potato pit he passed the woodpile and remembered that his wife wanted firewood. By the time he had picked up a few sticks an ailing chicken passed by. He dropped the wood and reached for the chicken. When evening arrived the frustrated farmer had not even oiled the tractor, let alone plowed the field.
There are some people who are frantically disorganized. And then, of course, there are those who are very, very carefully organized and structured. There are some people who become neurotic if they miss one turn in a revolving door. Their life is so energized and all of us, I think, have within ourselves that kind of anxiety complex.
I don’t know if you do this, but I do it frequently. You are standing at an elevator and you notice that the button has been pushed because it is lit, and yet you go and you push it anyway. There is something within you that says, “Things need to be speeded up,” and we live in this revved up society. And the problem is there are some people who are climbing that ladder of success. They are highly organized but doing essentially things that will not last for eternity, and consequently climbing that ladder only to discover some day that it has been leaning against the wrong wall.
What I’d like to do today is to give you three commands about time. Would you take your Bibles and turn please to Ephesians 5, where the Apostle Paul links the right use of time with spirituality. And I might say today that if you are a time waster, you have a spiritual problem, because it is God who has given us the time to live upon the earth.
I prefer the King James Version here. I didn’t look it up but because I memorized the entire book of Ephesians in the King James Version many, many years ago, I remember how it reads, and I prefer that translation.
In verse 15 it says, “Walk circumspectly, not as unwise, but as wise, redeeming the time because the days are evil.” The reason I like the King James version is because number one, I like the word circumspectly, and number two because it says “Redeem the time,” and that is the first command that I want to give to you today. And I want you to know that that is exactly the Greek word that is used. It is the word redemption. My translation says, “Make most of your time.” Well, of course, if you redeem the time you do make the most of it, but I like the word redeem. Agorazo has to do with buying something. Exagorazo means to buy it out of the marketplace, to take something home with you, to purchase something. “Redeem the time because the days are evil.” Time must be seized. It must be bought out of that 24-hour period.
Let me answer a couple of questions. What do we buy the time out of? Well, I’ve already hinted. It’s all the other demands that are put upon us. And we live in a society where never before have we had so many options. Never before have there been so many opportunities to waste time. They are all around us. There is television. There are videos. Some good friends from Moody Church lent to my children over the Christmas holidays a game called Nintendo. Have you ever heard of that? And I played it a couple of times and I thought, “You know, a guy could actually get hooked on this nonsense.” There are all kinds of things in existence today that can waste our time, even things that aren’t bad but they just do not have any long-term eternal consequences.
And I want you to know today that all of these demands that we so easily say yes to can squeeze out of us every drop of spiritual life until our entire life is being taken up by other demands, which we are constantly saying yes to. And when Paul wrote this passage of Scripture He said, “Buy the time out of all of these things that will not last forever.” Seize the time!
You say, “Well, how much does it cost?” If the word redeem means that a price needs to be paid, how much does it cost to redeem the time? Well, it costs plenty because every time you say yes to something good, you are saying no to something that really is second rate. Every time you say yes to one half hour of Bible reading you are saying no to a hundred different options that could press upon your soul.
Every time you are saying yes to the Lord, and saying, “God, I am going to pray and commit myself to You, and I’m going to let my heart be refreshed in Your presence,” you need to say no to all those other demands and to all those other options. You see, that’s why the Bible says, “Redeem the time.” Take the time. Make the time.
Beneath my very calm exterior sometimes I have within myself a restlessness, a sense of anxiety. I think probably all pastors do. Maybe that’s just the way God wired us. And by the way, some of you think possibly that when I am here at the office I spend my whole week studying. I want you to know that is one of the lesser things that are actually scheduled into my regular program simply because of the counseling and the letters and the administration, and I’m not complaining. That’s my responsibility and I enjoy what I am doing. But Friday afternoon I knew that the whole afternoon was going to be just taken up with a lot of little things that needed to be done for the weekend. And one of the members of the staff said to me, “Let’s just get out of here for an hour.” So we left and we took some books with us and we went across the street to the Chicago Historical Society, and went up to the library there, and spent an hour and fifteen minutes just reading. I’m reading a book on the Puritans. It’s an incredibly interesting book. And what a delight it was to just leave everything behind for an hour and fifteen minutes and go to read. And I thought to myself, “That’s what the text is talking about when it says, ‘Redeem the time.’”
There are times when you just have to say no to it all and say, “I’ve got to do what really, really matters,” and just do it. And I say to you today, “Pursue God. Just do it.”
You see, we have this idea somehow that if we’re going to be godly there is going to be time to be godly. And after we’ve done everything else, then God gets the end of the bargain, and that’s sufficient for the Almighty. We think to ourselves that somehow our disciplines of godliness are going to fall in line all by themselves. What a foolish notion that is.
We organize to be successful. We organize to get things done. We need to organize if we want to know God because it takes time.
I told you I like the word circumspectly. It means to walk very, very carefully. That’s what he says in verse 15 – redeeming the time. The best illustration is to think of some cities in the world in which they have huge walls that are built up around compounds and homes, and these are concrete walls built for security. I remember seeing them in Mexico and in Central America. And on top of these walls that are made of concrete they had broken bits of glass that were put into the concrete so that when you walk up sometimes the whole top of the wall is nothing but broken bottles. It’s to discourage people from going over. What’s interesting is to see a cat walking along the top of the wall, picking every step very, very carefully. That’s the image of walking circumspectly, as the Apostle Paul says, because I want you to know that there is broken glass all over the place. There are all kinds of things that lead us into sins and temptations and that draw us away from God. There are a thousand voices clamoring for our attention, saying, “No, no, no,” to the disciplines of godliness and holiness. And if we listen to those voices we soon find that we are spending our time on things that will not last. Redeem the time. Just take it even out of the special moments and use it for God.
That’s the first command. For the second command I want you to turn to Romans 13. You will notice that the Apostle Paul said that we should not only redeem the time, but he said that we should understand our times. Are you a student of our times? I hope you are. It says in verses 11-14, “Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality (and our world is filled – drowning and choking in sensuality), not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”
In the imagery here, what Paul is doing is he is comparing the return of Christ to the day. And he is saying in effect that we are living in the night and we must recognize that the day is coming. Our redemption is drawing near, and because our redemption is drawing near it is time for us to wake up and to realize that we are in a battle for daylight kind of living, namely purity. So the first thing he says is, “Knowing the time, it is high time to wake out of sleep.” He is saying to the people, “Wake up.”
Don’t you see what is happening in today’s world? Don’t you understand that we are in serious spiritual need? And I’d like to just share that with you this morning. Do you realize that we are in serious spiritual need, and I don’t just mean simply our nation? I don’t mean the city of Chicago or the United States of America. I mean even we here at the church. We are in great spiritual need. There are marriages that struggle with all kinds of friction and difficulty. There are children who are struggling with temptation. There are homes that are being torn apart. There are people who are going through emotional turmoil, and there are many who are living in carnality and finding it satisfying with no heart whatever for God. We need to wake up. God’s alarm is ringing, and how many times does it has to ring before we say, “Yes, wake up?”
Secondly he says, “Dress up.” He says, “This is the hour for you to awaken from sleep, for now our salvation is nearer to us than when we believed.” He says, “Let us therefore lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.” He says, “Get dressed for the battle. Don’t you know we don’t have forever?” And I want you to know, by the way, that we do not have forever.
Jesus chided the religious leaders of His day for being able to anticipate the weather, and knowing what a red sky in the evening would mean the next day. He said, “You don’t have any sense of the times. You don’t understand the times.” And could I say as a parenthesis what incredible times we live in today?
You know John and Joy Hayward were telling us about what is happening in Europe. I’m not sure if they are with us this morning, but they are missionaries of ours in France and they have been worshiping here. You can get a little card, like our credit card, and you can use that card at tollbooths. You can use it to make telephone calls. You can use it to make purchases in stores and in grocery stores and all over. This can be your card that takes care of all your financial transactions. And when they showed it to us I said, “Now this card is very important. What if you lost it?” They said, “Well, that would be very serious.” I asked, “What is the next step?” Well, the next step is to tattoo the number either on your head or your hand so that you wouldn’t be able to lose it. And by the way, if we had a cashless society, you realize, of course, that it would cut out all this drug nonsense. We could take care of the drug problem today because there would be no money that could possibly change hands between people under the table, so to speak. All financial transactions would have to go through a giant computer, which then could be traced. And all of the drug problems in the United States, and the hidden crime and all of that, could pretty well be looked after if we went that direction. And that is happening now. That’s the direction in which Europe is moving precisely, as the Bible has predicted 3,000 years ago through the prophet, Daniel, and through other predictions in the book of Revelation 2,000 years ago. God says that this is going to happen and it is happening.
And very gently and very lovingly and speaking first of all to my own heart, and secondly to yours, could I say to you, “Wake up?” Wake up! Our salvation is nearer than when we believed. Even if we live a normal life our salvation is nearer than when we believed because soon we are going to be standing before God, and we’re going to have to give an account for the way in which we lived. And what a pity it would be to have to tell Him that basically we spent our life earning a living, and that’s it.
What an awful thing to have to look into the face of Jesus who gave Himself for us and say, “Well, all that I can tell You is that I earned a living, and You were not number one on my list of priorities, and the time that You gave me was frittered away with things that burn at the judgment seat of Christ.” And it’s all over and you can’t relive it, and not one minute will be given to you to relive by God.
The first command is redeem the time. The second command clearly is to understand the time. Thirdly, I want to say that the command is to use the time. What is it that is essential? I mentioned to you a few moments ago that there are some people who plan to be successful. They plan their lives in all kinds of educational pursuits and careers goals, and they think that godliness is going to happen by itself without any planning.
I’d like to give you something to ponder. Did you know that I think it is true to say that your love for God and my love for God should be measured by the amount of time that we give Him? That’s fair enough, isn’t it? Isn’t your love for your wife, your love for your boyfriend or girlfriend determined essentially by the amount of time invested in that relationship? If you, this past week, did not spend some quality time with God to have your soul refreshed, how do you think that makes Him feel, to think that He could be so unimportant in your schedule? The Bible says, “Thou shall love the Lord thy God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind.” And there’s no way to love Him unless you give Him time.
Secondly, I’d like to say that the love for God is not only measured by the length of time, but also our love for God is measured by the quality of the time that we give Him. You know, psychologists are always telling us parents to spend quality time with our children. What they’re saying is, “Don’t just give your kids a few tired moments at the end of the day. Give your children moments that are important, moments when you are at your best, moments when you are able to function at peak performance, moments that are special to you.” Make some tough choices for your children. You know that’s what God wants us to do for Him – to make some tough choices for Him? We are not to just give Him some tired moments before we go to bed, but to take out some very important moments when we could be doing others things, and to say, “These moments belong to God, and I could be doing 20 other things.” And it means so much to God because He knows I could be doing 20 other things, but just think that I chose Him above all of these other responsibilities that have fallen upon my lap.
What I am saying to you today is, “Please give God quality time.” Are you into CADVAD? Last fall we talked about a chapter a day, a verse a day. I have this little booklet that I think incidentally is for sale in our bookstore. And I am just so gratified at the number of people who have said that it has changed their devotional life and answers the questions on various sections of Scripture. And every single day you begin to do that until it becomes so much a part of you, you say to yourself, “There’s no way I could live a day without fellowship with God.” That’s what He’s after. Love is measured by the quality of your time.
You remember Mary and Martha. One day Martha was encumbered with much serving. My wife always says that Martha gets a bad deal because we do need the Martha’s, and that’s true. But Mary was sitting at the feet of Jesus. And Jesus said, “Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” The implication is that what Martha was doing would be taken away from her. Notice it says that Martha was cumbered about with many things, and she became very critical. And people who are busy for God, but don’t have the heart of God, are going to be very critical people. They are going to be miserable people. They are going to be looking at other people with all kinds of criticisms because their own heart isn’t right.
And then you’ll notice it says, “Mary chose the one thing.” And Jesus said, “There is only one thing that is needful.” There is really only one. You’ve heard me say before that we make life far too complicated. There’s only one thing that is important and that is our walk with the Almighty. And it’s amazing how everything else fits into place.
My dear friend, it is time. It’s time. It’s always time to pray. It’s always time to be reconciled with some brother or sister with whom you are out of fellowship. Some of you are avoiding problems in your life, problems of reconciliation, because they are so painful. There are people to whom you should go and ask forgiveness. There are letters that should be written. There are phone calls that should be made, and you are not making them because you know it makes you uneasy. Well it is time. It is time to be cleansed. Some of you are, perhaps, letting sin stack up in your life and you are saying, “I’m not going to get right with God until I know I can really live for Him.” If that’s the case you may never ask him for forgiveness because you can never be assured that finally you are going to live victoriously. It is time to be cleansed and forgiven and washed through the blood of Jesus Christ. It’s time to do that.
You know also it is time to be saved. The Apostle Paul said, “Now is the accepted time. Behold now is the day of salvation.” Some of you here today have never believed on Christ. Personally you have never received Him into your heart. You’ve never been converted and changed by God. That has not happened. It’s time to do it. Today is the time to do it. And I want you to know that it is never too late to do what is right. Some of you say, “Oh, but I have blown it so badly.” There’s only one way to give God your time and that is to give God yourself, to be so yielded to God to simply say, “Lord, this year, I’m going to give You time. I want to make a list of priorities. I’m going to decide what I am going to do, and I’m going to make some tough decisions to prove to God that my time is His time. That’s what God wants. All the clutter that messes things up has to go. Of course, the day will come when you won’t have any time on planet earth.
The clock of time (life) is wound but once,
And no man has the power
To say just when the hands will stop
At late or early hour.
Now is the only time we own
to do His precious will.
Do not wait until tomorrow,
for the clock may then be still.
This is what I found on the Internet._
The present only is our own,
So live, love, toil with a will,
Place no faith in "Tomorrow,"
For the Clock may then be still.”
It’s going to be all over. There will be no more time. It’s gone.
What I want to do in these four messages on stewardship, beginning with time (and then we’ll talk about talents and treasures and all the other things that God has given us), is to give you an opportunity to give yourself to God, to say, “Lord, forgive me for wasting time. Forgive me for all the things, the disorganization, the fruitless things that I am doing. Lord, today, I give You myself, and I give You my time.”
Let’s pray together.
Our Father, today, we know that if the truth were known in the minds and hearts of many people, and all of us (even in my life), we so often give You little time. We give You the leftovers. We give You what’s left after television, sports and our own workload. And then if there’s anything left we say finally, “God gets His moment.”
Lord Jesus, break into our hearts with such a sense of dedication today that we might see the urgency of the hour, and that we might understand that we are in incredible days. It may very well be that very soon it’s all going to be over, and oh the regret because we just blew it. Lord, we are so needy. We’ve wasted so much time. I’ve wasted so much time. Would You help us, Lord, in this hour, to say, “God, let me give You the first fruits of my time, the best of my time?”
And now I want you in the congregation to pray to God. Some of you who have never believed on Christ can be saved even in this moment if you understand the Gospel and trust Him. For some of you the Spirit of God has pointed out that you need to make things right in your life. Today’s the day to do it. Today is the time. You need to be cleansed and forgiven. Today is the time and not tomorrow. Today! You need to reorganize your life and get your act together. You’ve got to begin today. You talk to God.
Father, please forgive our foolishness. May we walk as wise people, seizing the time. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.