Living wrongly comes naturally because of our sin nature. Right living is only possible through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and daily dependence on his Spirit’s power.
Right Living Remembers Time is Limited (vv. 11-12)
God’s original intention may have been for the world and its inhabitants to exist forever, but he knew humans would sin and that sin would corrupt them and his creation. Since the wages of sin are death, our bodies age and die. Sin also brings death to everything else in the form of corruption. Nothing material lasts forever.
Jesus instructs us to store our treasures in heaven where moths will not eat them, rust will not destroy them, and thieves will not steal them. Treasures stored on earth can be affected by all of the above (Matthew 6:19-21). He also instructs his followers to work while it’s day because night is coming when we won’t be able to (John 9:4).
Paul says the night is almost over. He is referencing the night of evil while Jesus is referring to the necessity of doing our work for him quickly. However, the conclusions are the same. We only have a limited time to complete God’s work.
The lateness of the hour should determine our lifestyle. Whether we are alive at Christ’s coming or whether he comes for us at death, the result should be the same. Right living involves personal attention to our spiritual lives and to God’s work as we realize the end may be near. One translation says; “Time is running out.” At death, it will be too late to get our spiritual homes in order or to tell anyone about Christ. The work we do must be done now.
It should be a believer’s desire to live a lifestyle approved by Christ. We don’t want to be ashamed should Christ come and find us with things in our life that don’t fit who we are. We are responsible for being spiritually alert, morally upright, and diligently serving as we await his return.
Since we don’t know when he will come, there will be no last-minute opportunities to get things settled just as there is no guarantee we will know before we die. Just as it is foolish to live wickedly and depend on having a chance before death to change, so it is foolish for the believer to live with known sin in their life and think they may have an opportunity to settle it before Christ comes. Such an attitude is evidence of a heart not right with God.
Paul’s use of the night metaphor also gives encouragement. How often do we tire of living in this sinful world with its disappointments, diseases, and shortcomings? Paul says the day of our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. Our salvation is progressive, though instantaneous in time. We were saved from the penalty of sin, we are being saved from the power of sin, and we will one day be saved from the presence of sin.
Right Living Remembers Some Things Don’t Fit the Believer (vv. 12-13)
Living in darkness doesn’t fit the believer. Jesus was the light of the world, and in his Sermon on the Mount, he tells believers they are salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16). We must shed evil deeds like dirty clothes. All of us have felt the relief of getting out of dirty smelly clothes, taking a shower, and putting on clean clothes.
Just as we don’t enjoy sweat-soaked or dirty clothes, there are certain things we shouldn’t enjoy as believers because we are new creations in Christ. Some things don’t wear well, just as there may be pieces of clothes that fit us in size but just don’t look good or wear well on us.
Paul lists some things believers should put off. Evil deeds are a general statement. He references dishonesty in the positive by saying we should be true in everything we do. Honesty in our behavior will be an enormous witness to others.
Paul also mentions wild parties and drunkenness. We may debate whether the Bible requires believers to totally abstain from alcohol, but even if we don’t think it does, it certainly forbids drunkenness. Our witness is at stake with this action as it is with others we might say are not necessarily wrong but perhaps unwise.
Adultery and immoral living are also included in the inventory. What society defines or allows as moral may not, and often does not, match what God classifies as such. Being familiar with the commandments and the Bible as a whole will clue us in on God’s definition. Paul mentions only adultery, but sexual activity before marriage is wrong as well. We can also include any other immoral sexual lifestyles.
Rounding out the list are fighting and jealousy. Fist fights, brawls, and fighting between God’s children are never good witnesses. Two men fighting in the church parking lot over a sports matter is never a good testimony. Jealousy aligns itself with selfishness and should not be found in our life.
Paul appears to lump bad and not so bad behaviors together which reminds us he is of the same opinion as Jesus. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus reminds us hatred is just as bad as murder and lust as adultery. The inner attitudes make us as guilty as the outward manifestations.
Right Living Remembers the Things That Do Fit (vv. 12-14)
Right living fits. Honesty and decency fit. They are always the best policy. Not thinking of ways to indulge evil desires fits. Believers still do battle with the flesh, but God gives us the power to overcome temptations. Letting Christ control our life fits also. All areas are included. We don’t maintain control of any territory.
The armor needed for right living is detailed in Ephesians 6:10-18. In addition to this, we should exemplify Jesus’ qualities, use our spiritual weapons, and train our minds not to be persuaded by things that gratify the flesh.
It is not our job to see how close we can come to sin without sinning but to stay as far away as possible from anything that would damage our testimony and the name of our Lord.