Sleeper, Awake to a New & Better Life

In Ephesians 5:14, we find a line that seems to have belonged to an early Christian hymn: “Sleeper, awake!  Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”  Indeed, some scholars speculate that it may have been part of a baptismal hymn, sung to new followers of Christ as they come up out of the baptismal water, to stress that, in Christ now, they are entering into a new life: “Sleeper, awake!  Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

The city of Ephesus was a port town—arguably the most important port in the province of Asia.  It was a place where sailors came ashore for leave.  Ephesus was well known as a city of self-indulgence, a city for seeking to fulfill one’s most carnal desires.  William Barclay commented that the Ephesian “found his happiness in filling himself with wine and with all the pleasures which are worldly pleasures.”

With a self-indulgent life, we think we are pursuing happiness, but actually we are reaping misery.

Many years ago I performed a funeral for a man (Gerald Richardson) who was a bit of a poet.  One of his poems addresses the limitations of self-indulgence:

“If nobody smiled and nobody cheered,

And nobody helped us along,

If each one looked after himself,

And the good things all went to the strong,

If nobody cared just a little for you,

And nobody cared for me,

And we all stood alone in the battle of life,

What a dreary world it would be.”

But this early Christian hymn called the followers of Christ to a new and better way of living.

This new and better way of living involves seeking not our own self-indulgence but the will of God.  Thus Paul challenges us in Ephesians 5:10, “Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord.”  And thus he challenges us in Ephesians 5:17, “So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”  It turns out that deepest personal fulfillment does not come to us through self-indulgence but by walking in the ways of God. 

And this new and better way of living involves being filled with God’s Spirit rather than being filled with wine.  Thus Paul writes in Ephesians 5:18, “Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit.” 

Charlie Steinmetz has been described as “a deformed dwarf with one of the greatest minds in the field of electricity.”  One day, Henry Ford’s generators in Dearborn, Michigan, broke down, and the plant came to a halt.  Ford brought in various mechanics, but these mechanics were not able to get the generators running again.  Finally, Ford called on Steinmetz.  Steinmetz came, seemed to putter around for a few hours, then threw the switch that put the plant back into operation.  A few days later, Henry Ford received a bill from Steinmetz for $10,000—which was a great amount of money at the time.  Ford returned the bill with a note, “Charlie, isn’t this a little high for just a few hours of tinkering around on those motors?

Steinmetz returned the bill to Ford with some modifications.  This time the bill read, “For tinkering around on the motors: $10.  For knowing where to tinker: $9,990.”

Ford paid the bill.

Paul tells us not to be filled with wine, for wine does not know how to “tinker around” effectively with our soul, but to be filled with the Spirit, for the Spirit of God knows precisely where and how to “tinker” on us so as to bring out the best in us.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: