Be very careful, then, how you live--not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
There is a big difference between “living the good life” and living a good life. Pretty much everything we see and hear today is holding out the carrot of living the good life. The poster child for this quest has been “the most interesting man in the world” who promoted Dos Equis beer. On scene, he was portrayed as having everything anyone would want. The problem with this quest is that it is always just beyond our grasp.
“Living the good life” is a quest for self-indulgence, self-fulfillment, and self-satisfaction. It is based on money, power, and prestige. In many ways, it has become part of the fabric of American society. Our constitution says that we have inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Today, people read this as life, liberty, and guaranteed happiness.
The Bible gives us a vastly different picture of what it means to live a good life. First, and foremost, a good life is not self-centered, it is God centered. As Jesus said in Matthew 16:24-26, the only way to really gain life is to let go of it for him. When we hold onto the enticements of the world, they pull us down, and we sink further into a very selfish world. When we let go of those enticements, we are free to achieve the purposes for which God created us.
In Ephesians 5, Paul gives us some specific steps to living a good life. First, we must live intentionally and wisely. There are many pitfalls and sidetracks along the way. We need to be careful about the choices that we make. The wise person doesn’t just look at the choice before him, but looks beyond that choice to the eventual outcomes. We live in evil days. If we live only for today, as the world calls us to do, we will forfeit our future.
Second, Paul tells us to seek the Lord’s will. This is the point where many Christians get stuck, because they think of God’s will in very specific, individualistic terms. Who should I marry? What school should I attend? What career path should I take? These are not unimportant questions, but they are secondary to seeking God’s will. God has clearly defined His will in scripture. Jesus summarized it for us Mark 12:30-31. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these."
The rest of the New Testament fleshes this command out for us in practical terms. For example, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. If you would take the time to look up the “one another” passages in the New Testament, you would comply an extensive list of practical examples of God’s will for you. It is as we strive to obey these things that God makes secondary choices more clear.
Paul goes on to tell us that living a good life is the opposite of “living the good life” as defined by the world. Instead of being controlled by the value system of the world, we are to be controlled by the Holy Spirit. As followers of Christ, we have become new creations, with a new life within us. That life comes through the presence of the Holy Spirit. We can choose to resist the Holy Spirit and we will live with the internal conflict. Or we can willingly comply with the Holy Spirit and find the peace and joy that God has promised.
Finally, Paul reminds us that living a good life means living well with others. “Living the good life” is most often about what I can gain. If a particular person adds nothing of value to my life, then I am free to turn away from them to someone who can give me what I want. Living a good life is discovering that we need one another. It is not so much about what I can get from another person as what can I give to them. It is living an others-centered life, just as Christ did. Jesus said that living for others is what will set us apart from the rest of the world. "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." John 13:34-35
I come back to where Paul begins in Ephesians 5:15. Be very careful, then, how you live--not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. How we live each day of our lives is an investment in eternity. We can choose to chase “the good life” and at the end we will discover our bank account is empty. Our we can choose to live a good life in Christ, and when the end comes we will discover the eternal blessings He has stored up for us.