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New Year's Resolution: Redeem the Time

  • Paul Dean Pastor, Counselor, Professor, Columnist and Radio Talk Show Host
  • 2006 3 Jan
New Year's Resolution: Redeem the Time

Bob Dylan sang passionately, "The times they are a-changin'." He was right socially, and this year, he was right literally as there was a leap second this past New Year's Eve. Atomic clocks that keep the world's time were held back to allow for an extra second this year to adjust for irregularities in the earth's rotation. It is not often that we get time back, even if only a second, and even if only in our minds. That is why the Scriptures tell us to redeem the time. While that phrase has many applications, in the Colossian context, it meant something very specific. We would do well to heed Paul's words here and make this a primary New Year's resolution.


In Col. 4:5, Paul transitions to exhortation in regard to foundational principles concerning how Christians are to act toward those outside the faith. He is no doubt thinking of such by virtue of his previous prayer request (2-4) with particular reference to his speaking the gospel as he ought. Thus, Christians are to "Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time."


The word "walk" refers to lifestyle and/or action. Christians are to live their lives in a certain way according to Paul. "Wisdom" refers to the proper application of biblical and theological knowledge to the heart and/or to the everyday affairs of life. "Those who are outside," as noted, refers to those who are outside of Christ. Thus, Christians are to live their lives in such a way that they are acting wisely toward those who don't know Christ. They are to conduct themselves wisely toward the lost.


Those who are outside of Christ often misunderstand Christians, the true nature of the gospel message, and the Christian stance concerning morality, social issues, and a myriad of other dynamics. In the early church for example, Christians were viewed as being disrespectful to the state because they would not worship Caesar; as homosexuals because they loved the brethren; as cannibals because they ate and drank the body and blood of Christ; as social elitists because they would not go to sporting events; and immoral because they often met behind closed doors.


No doubt Christians are misunderstood today in that they are viewed as bigoted because they say that homosexuality is sin; as judgmental because they condemn sin and love holiness; oppressive because they oppose abortion among other things; and intolerant because they claim that Christ is the sole, sufficient Savior. Christians must therefore understand the culture in which they find themselves and act wisely toward those who are saturated in that culture and its concomitant ideas. Knowing how pagans think, to what they object in Christianity, and responding accordingly, is walking wisely toward those who are outside.


At the same time, Christians are often obnoxious or insensitive when they witness. Such should not be the case. The gospel in itself, if given accurately, is offensive. Christians must never add to that offense with the offense of their personality or sin. Such sin could include arrogance, hypocrisy, impatience, or failure to explain the gospel adequately. Individuals who simply drop gospel or biblical bombshells, especially with a pejorative attitude, do more harm than good for the kingdom, gospel advance, and the Name of Christ. Calling people names, throwing out radical statements with no consideration for the knowledge of one's audience, or attempting to win religious argument at all cost are some of the things that Christians must avoid if they are to live in accordance with what Paul lays down here.    


Acting wisely toward outsiders will serve as a defense against slander and misunderstanding as well as serve as a positive force to reach people for Christ. Our Lord said, "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another (Jn. 13:35)." If we are loving and kind to one another, we are acting wisely and being attractive for the cause of Christ.


The commands in Scripture regarding submission to the state have this ultimate goal in mind: that outsiders may see our good works and glorify our Father who is in heaven. Peter makes this issue plain: "Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation. Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men--as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king (1 Pet. 2:11-17)."


Paul says that Christians, in connection to walking with wisdom toward those who don't know Christ, must be "redeeming the time." To redeem something means to buy it back. Paul refers to buying back time. In this context, he refers to making wise use of one's time in regard to the mission that each Christian has been given: the mission of making disciples. More specifically, Paul refers to making the most of every opportunity one is given to be a witness for Christ. Christians must be intentional in looking for opportunities to share Christ and influence the world for Christ. They may not simply sit around waiting for God to bring people their way, though He does. They must be ever alert for opportunity in their everyday affairs as God providentially directs their path. We must avail ourselves of every opportunity to bring Christ to bear upon the culture in which we find ourselves.


Paul further has in mind the fact that time is running out. The day of the Lord is approaching and the opportunity for witness will be gone. This dynamic has many applications in terms of the brevity of life, the window of opportunity for witness in terms of the transient nature of most relationships or the relative hardness of an individual's heart. The point is that time is running out for all of us. Let us make the most of it. The writer to the Hebrews put it this way: "...exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching (Heb. 10:25)."


Dylan wrote these words:


The line it is drawn, The curse it is cast

The slow one now, Will later be fast

As the present now, Will later be past

The order is Rapidly fadin'.

And the first one now, Will later be last

For the times they are a-changin'.


One thing is certain. Dylan did not mean these words in a biblical, eschatological sense. But, another thing is certain as well. They are true in that sense. The order is indeed rapidly fadin'. Therefore, let us redeem the time that people might be saved and that Christ might be exalted. Let us redeem the time, for the times they are a-changin'.


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