In Time and the End of Time: Discourses on Redeeming the Time and Considering Our Latter End (ISBN 978-1-60178-489-6), John Fox looks at Ephesians 5:16, and in the first section of his book, he expounds the doctrine that the best of saints (the redeemed of God) have need to redeem the time.
First, John Fox answers the question of when time must be redeemed: All time. "The whole time of our life must be employed either about our souls in the service of God or in the works of our callings...Particularly, (1) the time of youth; (2) the time of health and strength; (3) the time of affliction; (4) the time of the gospel; (5) the time of the...Lord's Day," (p. 9).
Next, he shows how time must be redeemed, (p. 16):
- "By taking and improving all opportunities for the glorifying of God"
- "By laying hold on the present time, and now a day of grace, for settling and securing your everlasting state"
- "By improving the present means of grace for your speedy growth in grace"
- "By doing all the good you can to others while you may"
- "By laboring to keep up constant communion with God in holy duties"
- "By improving every providence and outward cross for inward and spiritual advantages"
- "By casting up your accounts every day that you may make even with God"
- "By laboring to order every day's work in reference to your last day that, having finished your work, you may be fit to leave this world"
Then, Mr. Fox tells why time must be redeemed: "The reasons why our precious time must be redeemed are (1) because the days are evil [and] (2) because it is a considerable part of our Christian wisdom," (p. 32).
The author gives ten motives to redeem the time, (p. 41):
- "The present time is God's time and must be yours."
- "God the righteous Judge will reckon with you for your times."
- "You have solemnly promised to redeem it."
- "Men take and improve opportunity for other things."
- "Satan, your deadly enemy, is always busy and will lose no time."
- "Saving grace is an active and springing principle."
- "Time once had and lost cannot be recalled."
- "Consider how they prize time that have lost it."
- "God has joined time and duty together."
- "On this moment of time, eternity depends."
Finally, Mr. Fox gives five directions for redeeming time, (p. 52):
- "Take heed and beware of those things which rob you of your time."
- "Labor to convince yourselves of the worth of time and value it accordingly."
- "Set apart a considerable portion of time for the most secret duties."
- "Cast up and compute your time."
- "Maintain a holy fear on your heart of coming to the end of time before your work is done.
I found the author's directions for redeeming time very helpful. He paints a memorable word picture about vain thoughts when he says, "Vain, impertinent, and wicked thoughts, like Pharaoh's frogs, creep and crowd in on us and thrust out good thoughts so that we cannot keep our mind steady and composed," (p. 53). Therefore, he warns, "When we should draw near to God, our hearts, by our thoughts, steal away. And there are but a few awakened tender spirits, truly sensible of this intrinsical, secret, evil, though much of a Christian's duty (and the very inwards of religion) lies in observing the thoughts and in watching the heart," (p. 53).
Mr. Fox also gives good advice when dealing with unnecessary visits: "Let that time that you spend from your callings and families be spent in reading, prayer, or other religious exercises. And, in all your visits, intend and design the doing of good or the receiving of good, not the passing away of this precious time," (p. 54-55).
I was especially encouraged by this exhortation regarding secret duties: "Christians, the time that you spend with God in secret is the sweetest time and best improved. Therefore, if you love your life, be in love with prayer. Resolve to spend some time with God in private every day," (p. 58).
"Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil," (Eph. 5:14-16).