Under the influence

How do you know when someone is drunk?  I actually found some answers to that question on wiki-how.  It was pretty standard stuff glassy or bloodshot eyes, smell alcohol on their breath or clothes, inability to walk a straight line, or handle simple motor function, like fumbling with their keys, spilling a drink, etc., slurred speech.  Changed behavior like fewer inhibitions, more talkative, mood swings, difficulty in pronouncing words, speaking overly loud or soft, things like that.

Now you may be thinking what kind of opening illustration is this?  Why are we talking about identifying drunk people?  Well believe it or not, this has pertinent information for what we are going to be talking about today.

So as we arrive in Ephesians 5 we find Paul talking about our walk with God.  He speaks of walking in love, and walking as children of the light rather than walking in darkness.  Actually there are some similarities between what we see here and the Galatians 5 passage we looked at a couple of weeks ago.  Paul even speaks of fruit of the light compared to unfruitful works of darkness.

But we are going to pick things up after that, in Ephesians 5 beginning with verse 15: “15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

So there is a lot in this little passage, but you are probably noticing that there is actually not much mention of the Holy Spirit here.  That’s true, but I believe this is an important passage in our understanding of the Hoy Spirit in relation to our lives.  So let’s begin by making sure we understand the overall context of what Paul is talking about here.

Let’s start with verses 15 and 16: “15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.  17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”

The word here translated as walk is the Greek verb peripateo and it speaks of how we live our lives.  Paul has used it four other times between the last chapter and this chapter.  He has talked about walking in light rather than darkness, and about walking in love, and about not walking as the Gentiles do, and about walking in a manner worthy of our calling, but here he compares the idea of walking in wisdom rather than foolishness.  He is saying to pay careful attention to how we are living our lives.

Notice he talks about wise and unwise in verse 15 and then follows it up with not being foolish in verse 17. In proverbs we read about how the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.  And the fool is spoken of as the one who says in their heart there is no God.  So how does that help us understand what it looks like to walk as wise rather than as unwise? Basically our walk through this life is made up of a multitude of choices.  As we walk through this life we have the opportunity to live in ways that are not in step with God’s plan for our lives or we can walk in our own ways. Here we are reminded that we need to be walking in the ways God wants us to walk. Notice also that Paul says making the best use of the time.  When Paul uses the word time here he could have used the word chronos, which has to do with clock time, like hours, minutes, seconds.  But instead he used the word kairos, which speaks instead of like a fixed period of time, like an era or period. Our lives themselves are a fixed period.  We have a beginning and an end on this world, which means that we have only have x amount of time in our lives.  We have already used up as much as however old we are and we don’t know how much we have left.  When we think back over our lives to this point I am sure we can all think of things we have done with our time that was a waste.  We can’t do anything about the time that is already gone.  But we can make the most of the time we have left. When Paul speaks of making the best use of time, that phrase carries with it the idea of buying back or ransoming the time.  We only have so much time left, are we going to waste that time, or are we going to make the most of it?

Lets take a look at the rest of this passage: “18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

So what are the different things that Paul is calling us to do and not do here?  Don’t get drunk, be filled with the Spirit, address one another with psalms, etc., give thanks, and submit to one another.

Okay so first he mentions to not get drunk. This can be a touchy topic in the church today.  Some churches condemn drinking completely.  Some people won’t be part of a church or a denomination that suggests that drinking is wrong. The Bible clearly condemns drunkenness, but does not do the same with drinking . However, Scripture suggests being careful with alcohol and recognizing the dangers.  Just because it is permissible does not mean it is the best choice for us. Here Paul talks about drunkenness leading to debauchery.  What does he mean by that?   The word actually refers to a life devoid of virtue.  It actually speaks of wastefulness, like a wasted life.  It is the word used in the parable of the prodigal son and how he squandered all he had on reckless living. When we get drunk, we wind up under the influence of the alcohol and we end up doing things that we probably should not be doing.  This fits in well with the earlier verses about not wasting the time that we have. Instead we are to be filled with the Holy Spirit.  But what does it mean to be filled with the Holy Spirit?

So this is a big theological question.  That we could answer very theologically, but I love the simple analogy Paul is making here as he compares being filled with the Spirit, to drunkenness. It seems that he is suggesting that being filled with the Spirit has some similarity to getting drunk.When we are drunk, it changes the way we walk, talk, think, and act.  And Paul uses that for an analogy of being filled with the Spirit.  So what do you think of being filled with the Spirit based on that analogy? Basically we can look at it as being under the influence of the Spirit.  Letting him have control.  Doing what he wants us to do.  Letting the Holy Spirit change the way we walk, talk, think and act. Now does this mean that the Holy Spirit is in us sometimes and then he overtime leaks out or goes away when we sin or something like that, and the filling of the spirit refers to like a constant refilling?

No. When we come to faith in Christ, part of that is the baptism of the Spirit.  He must work in our lives to accomplish the rebirthing process so we can be born again and he comes and lives in us as we talked about a few weeks ago. So he is already in our lives.  But while he is living in us, there are still some parts of our lives that are not yet full surrendered to him.  And that is what is suggested here. Being filled with the Spirit means yielding every area of our lives to him and his authority.  It means giving up the right to lead my own life and placing myself under him, submitting to him and his will and plan for my life.  Letting all of me be under his influence. And only as we do that, will we be able to live the kind of life that is described here.  So let’s continue on.

What does it look like to address one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs and making melody to the Lord with our hearts?   Does this mean that we should sing everything we say rather than speaking to each other? No, that would be silly.   Not to mention embarrassing.  It is talking about what is going on in our hearts, thankfulness and praise to God, overflowing out of our lives, as we come together to worship and praise the Lord with our eyes focused on him and lifting each other’s eyes toward the Lord. It means having thankful hearts and submitting to one another.  Every time we open our mouths we have opportunities to praise the Lord or curse him, to lift others up or tear them down, to build unity or to create division, to give thanks or to complain.  Unfortunately, our default is to tear down rather than to build up. Complaining, arguing, gossip, slander, and other forms of degrading conversation have become so prevalent, that we don’t even notice we are doing it so much anymore.  But that is not beautiful music to the Lord’s ears.  It is not worship and praise and thanksgiving.

Every time we gather together as the church we have the opportunity to be like this in each other’s lives.  Our worship is not just the songs we sing while looking at the screen, and it is not like it is just me who has a message, or word that needs to be heard.  God is at work in all of our lives and when we come together there should be this melody of praise and thanksgiving as we remind each other of whom God is.

Now understand these verse are talking about what our lives should look like.  But this is not so much a challenge for things we should put on our to do list but rather things that should be exemplified in our lives. Overall these verses are giving us this picture of walking with God and what it looks like to be filled with the Spirit.

Lets focus on verse 18 as we close “18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,”

Ultimately I don’t think that the main emphasis of this verse is about alcohol. That is a part of it.  Scripture seems to indicate pretty clearly that while drinking is okay, being drunk is not.  But I think the main reason that Paul is talking about drunkenness here is to give us this powerful analogy to being filled with Spirit.  As he talks about walking over and over again and living our lives for God this idea of the filling of the Spirit is critical. We need to realize that we have been given a precious gift of having the Holy Spirit live in our lives.  Our response should be to yield every area of our lives to him and walk in the ways that God has planned for us.  That is walking in wisdom and not wasting our lives.

But I want to really dig down into this beautiful analogy.  I want you to think about drunkenness for a moment and how people look when they are drunk.  How they are so intoxicated with alcohol that it is changing how they walk, and talk, and act.  And you can see the effects of the alcohol in their lives.  Their attitude and behavior are different, their inhibitions are gone. With that image in mind, I want to take you to a time when Christ has just recently left for heaven and all the believers were gathered together, and for the first time they received the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost.  Jesus had promised he would send his Holy Spirit to live in them and finally he comes and they are filled for the first time with the Holy Spirit.  They began speaking in different tongues and some people were passing by who were from other areas of the world, and they heard these people speaking in their own native languages and they were amazed and astonished.  They couldn’t figure it out. It was an amazing time that led to thousands of people getting saved.  And some of the crowd mocked the believers who were filled with the Holy Spirit.  They said, they are filled with wine.  They thought these Christians who were filled with the spirit, were drunk. But they were not drunk on alcohol; they were filled with the Holy Spirit.  They were so intoxicated with him, so filled up with him that he was bubbling up, overflowing their lives to the point that other people could see.  The Holy Spirit was changing the way they walked, talked and acted.  It was evident that they were under the influence of the Holy Spirit.

That is my challenge for us, to be so filled with the Holy Spirit, so completely inebriated with him in every facet of our lives, that we are like drunk people, living our lives, moment by moment, completely intoxicated with God in such a way that everyone around us see Christ in the way we walk.

 

 

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