Redeem the Time

I recently watched this message from Dallas Willard delivered to an audience at Westmont College in 2011.  Most of what Willard has to say in all of his books and talks rivets my attention.  But this one particularly grabbed me.  It is definitely worth submitting it to careful review, particularly as we commemorate this Easter week.

He starts out by essentially challenging the traditional Christian understanding of salvation as that thing that happens to believers in Christ when they die.  However, he says, that’s not the entirety of God’s plan for those who believe.  Here he cites Rom 5:

Rom 5:8-10 [8] but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. [9] Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath [of God]. [10] For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.

Willard notes that modern translations of the Bible have added the words “of God” after the word “wrath” in v9.  The reason for this seems to be that the Greek “3709. ὀργή órgē” was (incorrectly) translated “wrath” in the first place!  The word’s primary meaning is “desire” or “excitement of the mind”.  Paul began this section of his address to the Romans by saying “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  So here in v9 he’s simply reaffirming this message; that those in Christ won’t be overcome by worldly desires for things of the world, but they will have peace – contentment, assurance, satisfaction because Christ has saved us from such desires.

Willard then explains that salvation means deliverance, from all kinds of things; in this case deliverance from worthless desires.  And, he points out, Paul assures the Romans that we “much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His life.”  Wait.  I thought we were “saved” by his death and resurrection.  We’re saved by His life?  Having set the stage by showing one example of what we’ve been delivered from (“desire”), Willard then goes on to articulate what we’ve been delivered “to”.  In other words, what does it look like to live “in Christ”?

Paul has lots to say about this.  The principle point Willard wants to draw out Paul mentions in Eph 5.

Eph 5:8-9 (ESV) [8] for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light [9] (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), [10] and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.

Eph 5:15-17 (ESV) [15] Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, [16] [making the best use of the time (ESV)]/[redeeming the time (KJV)], because the days are evil. [17] Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

Here Paul exhorts his listeners to walk as children of the light, because the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true.  Everything that is good and right and true is a fruit of the light, Christ.  So it stands to reason that we should walk carefully, persistently focusing our minds on these things where Christ is.

OK, fine.  But how do you do that, practically speaking?  Willard says you must exert effort to see the fruit of the light in your common, everyday experiences.  He says a good starting place is simply to give thanks, whatever your circumstance.  Why?  Because whatever is before you is there at God’s direction.  He is in it.  It’s our job to transform our minds (with the aid of the Holy Spirit) to see Him in it.  As Paul taught in Rom 12:2

[2]  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Paul himself was perhaps the poster child for this transformation as he was able to write, when he wasn’t singing hymns of praise, from his stinking, rotting jail cell in Rome to the Philippians:

Phil 4:8 (ESV) [8] Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Willard implores us to fill our lives with God by constantly submitting where you are to love; to joy; to peace.  That’s how you redeem (buy back) your time from being wasted apart from God to being for the things of God, and see His glory, His goodness, His truth in the things all around you in your life.

The world is designed to waste your time – to distract you and pull your attention away from Him.  When you don’t let it, you redeem your time so that you live in God’s Kingdom and display the fruit of His spirit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control (Gal 5:22-23)

The saved life is a life devoted to beauty, truth and goodness, in the power of the risen Christ who is with you in all you do.  Oh yeah, and going to heaven when you die.