Holy Living In An Unholy World,

Soaring With Eagles While Surrounded By Turkeys

By Dr. Robert Jeffress

Everyone craves success in life, but how can you experience it? The founder of Primerica Financial Services, Art L. Williams, once said, “You beat 50% of the people in America by working hard; you beat another 40% by being a person of honesty and integrity and standing for something; and the last 10% is a dogfight in the free enterprise system.”

The essence of what Mr. Williams was saying is this: “Success is a choice—a choice to work hard, to maintain your integrity, and to fight for what your dreams or vision.” 

 The Apostle Paul had his own suggestions about how to stand out from the crowd and enjoy the kind of success and fulfillment and life that everyone desires but few ever realize.

In Ephesians 5, we discover “How to Soar with the Eagles While Surrounded by Turkeys.”

To understand this passage, we need to go back to the beginning, where we find the command: “Be Imitators,” mimics of God.  

This week, I stumbled on a story about Robert E. Lee and one of his sons as they were walking the grounds of the Custis-Lee plantation in Arlington, which is now Arlington National Cemetery. It was a snowy day, and the little fellow’s legs had a harder time managing the depths, so he lagged behind. Lee looked over his shoulder and saw his son imitating his every step, keeping his head and shoulder erect and placing his feet in his father’s footprints. “When I saw this,” Lee later recounted, “I said to myself, ‘It behooves me to walk very straight when this fellow is already following in my tracks.’” A child who loves his or her father is going to desire to be like their father.

Paul says as children of God who love and are loved by their Heavenly Father we should imitate him. Now, obviously, we can’t imitate all of God’s attributes, but there are some characteristics of our Heavenly Father that we can mimic.

First, he says in verse 2 we are to walk in love. Specifically, he is referring to forgiveness—there are some of you here who have been wronged by a family member or even someone in this congregation. You have a choice. You can hang on to that wrong or you can choose to be like your Heavenly Father and release it.

Second, he said, walk in light. God is light, and in Him, there is no darkness. In the same way, we are to refuse to allow any hint of immorality, impurity, greed, or foul speech to have any part of our life.

Now, in today’s passage, Paul is going to tell us one more way we can become like God. Look at the command.

1. The Command: Walk in Wisdom (Ephesians 5:15)

How do unwise people live? Remember Psalm14:l? The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” The unwise person is the one who lives as an atheist—that is what the word atheist means—theos means God and the “a” in front of it means “no.” The atheist is one who walks around believing “no God.”

Sadly, there are many of us in this room today or watching on television who are atheists—not theologically, but practically. We make our plans, we set our goals, and we conduct our lives as if there is no God at all. We don’t talk to him about our needs; we don’t consult with Him about our plans; we don’t consider His feelings in our behavior. We are really no different from the atheist who shouts, “No God, no God.”

Paul says don’t conduct your life like the fool who says there is no God. Instead, be careful how you walk. The KJV says, “Walk circumspectly,” which means “looking around.” That stands in stark contrast with verse 14, in which Paul says, “Awake sleeper arise from the dead.” Paul is saying, “Quit sleepwalking” “Stop walking around in a daze. Wake up, smell the coffee, understand what is going on.”

2. The Components of Walking Wisely (Ephesians 5:16-20)

To walk wisely, first of all, means maximizing the single greatest resource God has given us—time. The wise person recognizes that. 

Three Insights About Time

  1. Time is valuable.  
  2. Time is limited.  
  3. Time is uncertain.  

Three Categories of God’s Will

  1. God’s providential will. Sometimes, the Bible speaks of God’s providential will—His secret plan that governs everything that happens in the universe. 
  2. God’s preceptive will. Other times, God’s will refers to his perceptive will—precepts mean commands. This is the part of God’s will that is clearly taught in Scripture: do not lie, marry only another believer, or abstain from immorality. 
  3. God’s personal will. But most of the time, when we speak of God’s will, we are talking about God’s personal will for our life—the individual plan he has for each of us. Does God have such a plan for whom I marry, where I live, and what vocation I choose? And if He does, how can I discover that plan? He does. 

Ways God Reveals His Plan for Our Lives

  1. His Word. (Colossians 1:9–10)
  2. His Spirit Who indwells our lives. (Ephesians 3:15-16
  3. He is working through circumstances in our lives. (Romans 8:28)

1. The mandate is to be “Spirit-filled.” (Ephesians 5:18)

The word “filled” is pleroo in Greek and it means “controlled.” It is a word that refers to the filling of a ship’s sails by the wind. Just as the wind controls the direction of the ship, so the Holy Spirit empowers and controls the direction of our lives. The idea is, that what fills us, controls us, which in turn characterizes us.

It would be easy to get sidetracked here into a debate about the use of alcohol among Christians. But that is not the point of the passage here. As I have pointed out before, although the Bible does not prohibit drinking alcohol, it does forbid being drunk with it. The reason drunkenness is a sin is because it allows something other than God to take control of our lives. 

By the way, anything that controls your life other than God is wrong, whether it be alcohol, smoking, television, the stock market, athletics, or another person.

Paul says don’t allow wine or anything else to control your life, instead, be controlled by the Spirit. Do you realize that the same power of God that flung this universe into existence with a few words, the same power that lifted Jesus Christ out of the grave, this same power is available to every one of us?

Let me just remind you that there is a difference between baptism with the Holy Spirit and the filling of the Holy Spirit. The baptism with the Holy Spirit is a one-time event that occurs the moment we become a Christian, according to I Corinthians 12:13

But the filling of the Spirit is a continuous action. The command is in the present tense—“keep on being filled.” We could translate Ephesians 5:18 like this: “Be constantly and consistently filled with the Spirit—day by day and minute by minute.” The Baptism of the Spirit is something God does for us—there is never a command in the bible to “be baptized with the Spirit.” But being filled or controlled by the spirit is a command for us to surrender to the Spirit’s control in our lives.

2. The measure of being “Spirit-filled.” (Ephesians 5:19)

How can you know if you are filled with the Spirit? By what comes out of your mouth. If God’s power has taken control of your life, bitterness, anger, wrath, sarcasm, and resentment will not spew from your mouth (Ephesians 4:29).

Instead, out of your mouth will come words of praise and thanksgiving to God, words that build up and encourage rather than tear down and dishearten. Or as Paul said elsewhere: “Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt” (Colossians 4:6).

The wise person is the one who refuses to allow anything or anyone other than the Spirit to control his life, and when he does that, his life will be marked by an inexplicable power.

What does it mean to walk wisely? It means to have a longer time horizon than the present, it means to live for a higher purpose than your immediate gratification, and it means to rely on a greater power than your own strength.


Full Passage: Ephesians 5:15-20