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March 19, 2023
In Full Control – Part 1
Pastor Philip De Courcy
Ephesians 5: 18 - 21

Purchase the CD of this sermon.


This powerful series will challenge you to understand your role in the body of Christ. Through the book of Ephesians, Pastor Philip will remind us of the joy and blessings God intends for believers to experience in the church as they live as a united family in Christ.

More From This Series


Well, let’s turn our Bibles to Ephesians 5:18 through 21. We’re going to take a couple of weeks to work through this passage. It’s on the filling of the Holy Spirit. I think it’s a very vital subject that you and I would want to embrace. So, let’s stand in honor of God’s word, a message I’ve called in full control. I hope that God through the Holy Spirit is in full control of your life and my life. We will do more accidentally under his control than we ever do by ourselves. In Ephesians 5:18, “And do not be drunk with wine in which is dissipation, but be filled with the spirit speaking to one another in Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your hearts to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God.”
So, reads God’s word. You may be seated. Keep your Bible open and follow along. In a certain Christian school, a teacher had taught her class to repeat the Apostles’ Creed. Each child was assigned a clause, and each day began with the class reciting the Apostles’ Creed. One morning as the recitation began, the first boy stood up and said, “I believe in God the Father Almighty maker of heaven and earth.” Then the second child stood up and said, “I believe in Jesus Christ, his only son, our Lord.” Then there was a pause, and then there was prolonged silence. While the teacher was scanning the room, a little child spoke up and said, “Teacher, the boy who believes in the Holy Spirit isn’t here today.”
Well, for the church and for the Christian, there can be no days off when it comes to believing in the Holy Spirit. He’s that vital. The reality of his presence is that central. To understand the Holy Spirit, to believe in the Holy Spirit, to live in connection to and communion with the Holy Spirit is vital to any true expression of the Christian life. John 6:63 tells us that indeed life is found in the Holy Spirit. He is the animator of all things Christian. Mark it down. The Christian life is inconceivable. The Christian life is impossible without the presence and power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. I hope you don’t need me to tell you that you might as well try and walk without legs, see without eyes, hear without ears, live without breathing, and try and follow Christ without the spirit of Christ.
Look, you cannot become a Christian without the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. He’s the one that produces new birth. He’s the one that brings about a living relationship with Christ. You and I cannot become a Christian without him, and you and I cannot be a Christian without his indwelling and empowering presence. The Christian life is not hard, right? It’s not hard. It’s impossible without the Holy Spirit’s help. We need the help of the helper. I like what John Stott says. These are memorable words, “Without the Holy Spirit, Christian discipleship would be inconceivable, even impossible. There can be no life without the life giver, no understanding without the spirit of truth, no fellowship without the unity of the spirit. No Christ-likeness of character apart from his fruit, and no effect of witness without his power.”
A body without breath is a corpse, so the church without the spirit is dead. There can be no days off when it comes to believing, relying, and pursuing the Holy Spirit. Given the enemy beneath us, given the sin and fallen flesh within us, given the unbelief and militant secularism surrounding us, we need the Holy Spirit. Unless there is within us that which is above us, we will succumb to that which is around us. That’s why Spurgeon is reported to have said every time he mounted the steps of his pulpit at Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, with every step, he whispered these words, “Prayerfully, I believe in the Holy Spirit. I believe in the Holy Spirit.” So, let’s turn to a tax that’s going to challenge us to expand our knowledge and to deepen our experience of the Holy Spirit who has God brought near.
Here, Paul, commands the Ephesians not to be drunk with wine in which is dissipation, but to be filled with the Spirit. The Holy Spirit who is resident in our lives must be made president. We must give him the full control of all the levers of our lives. Now, this isn’t the first time that Paul has addressed the person the work of the Holy Spirit. There are many references to the work of the Holy Spirit in the letter to the Ephesians. If you go back to chapter one, in verses 13 and 14, believers are sealed with the Holy Spirit until the day of redemption. He’s the down payment on our salvation. In Ephesians 1:17, Paul prays that God would give believers the Spirit, capital S, of wisdom and revelation. Ephesians 2:18, “The Jew and the Gentile alike have access to the Father through Jesus in the one spirit.”
According to chapter 2:22, the church has become a habitation of God through the Holy Spirit. In the Old Testament, God had a temple for his people. In the New Testament, the people are his temple. According to Ephesians 3:16, Paul prays that the Ephesians would be strengthened with power through the Spirit. Chapter four verse three, we are told that it’s the spirit of God that produces unity and oneness in the body of Christ. Here in chapter five, we’re being told to be filled by the Spirit. In chapter 4:32, we’re told not to quench the spirit. Paul has a robust pneumatology in the book of Ephesians, and here’s another layer of it. We need to be filled by the Spirit. The spirit who indwells us needs to take charge of us so that his presence influences all that we are in all that we do.
Let’s put this text in its context. Number one, this is another contrast that’s being drawn. This takes us right back to Ephesians four, “Put off the old man. Put on the new man.” There’s contrasts that have been drawn throughout chapter four and five between lust and love, between light and darkness, wisdom and foolishness, and now between a state of drunkenness where one is under the control of alcohol compared to a state of being controlled and filled by the Holy Spirit. It’s the last of the therefores. We’re about to head into a new section in verses 22 following of chapter five, but this is the last of these direct exhortations. In fact, it is this exhortation that makes all the other exhortations possible.
I mean, how do you be tender and forgiving? How do you walk as children of the light? How do you redeem the time, and understand the will of God? It’s the animating presence of the Holy Spirit within that makes all of that operative in our lives. So, this is the one exhortation that makes all the other exhortations possible. Then thirdly, Paul just talked about the fact that the days are evil, right? Verse 16, “We must be not unwise but understanding what the will of God is.” then he goes on to talk about being filled with the spirit. This is post-Pentecost. At Pentecost, the spirit of God was sent as Jesus was glorified. John 7:37-39, “This is a unique moment in redemptive history. The spirit of God has come to indwell the believer permanently to equip the believer, to empower the believer.”
Now, you and I can draw upon that resource. The days are evil, but it is the age of the spirit, and greater is he that is in us than he that is in the world. We don’t need to become discouraged. We don’t need to bow to the culture. We don’t need to run from the fight, because the spirit of God enlivens us and empowers us for this moment in history. When the enemy comes in like a flood, the spirit of God raises up a standard. Greater is he that is in us than he that is in the world. One of the writers, Tony Merida, who’s actually preached here at Kindred, draws this analogy of a new developing city that’s just been incorporated, and the council sets about building a new water system to meet the needs of this expanding city.
What’s a city without water? What’s a city without that liquid resource? But he says this, “Once that water system has been established, every new home, every new development connects to the water system.” His analogy is this, “That a Pentecost, the spirit of God, came, and he’s living water.” He’s this artesian well of grace and mercy, and he indeed makes Christ real to us, and helps us live Christ really. Every time someone becomes a Christian, they connect into the water system. My friend, it may be evil days, but it is the age of the spirit, and all that is necessary to live a victorious Christian life is ours to have. So, let’s heed this commandment to be filled with the spirit.
The days are evil. Let’s redeem the time. This is the will of God. Someone said this, “If the sin of the world is the rejection of God, the son, the sin of the church is ignorance of God the spirit.” Now, there’s three things we’re going to see here, the caution, the command, the conduct. I don’t know how far we’ll get. Hopefully we’ll cover the first two thoughts, and pick this up next time, but let’s look at the caution, verse 18, “And do not be drunk with wine.” This is an imperative. This is a command, but it is steered in the negative. Do not be drunk with wine in which is dissipation, but be filled with the spirit.”
Here, Paul picks up a general theme in Scripture, namely the use and abuse of alcohol, wine, or spirits. What is condemned here is a state of drunkenness. The word dissipation is the word that means excess or profligate. So, to give oneself to drunkenness is to drink to a state of excess which produces profligate living. Drunkenness is condemned in the Bible roundly. I’m just going to go to the book of Proverbs for a few minutes where we are warned about the dangers of imbibing wine or drinking alcohol. Listen to what it says, Proverbs 20:1. We could do well to heed this. Wine is a mocker. When you give yourself the wine, it’ll make a mockery of you. It’ll make you look like a fool in a state of drunkenness.
Wine is a mocker. Strong drink is a brawler. It produces fights, contentions, makes people argumentative, and whoever is laid astray is not wise. Proverbs 21:17, we read this. “He who loves pleasure will be a pure man. He who loves wine will not be rich,” emphasis on loving it, indulging it, allowing it to have an absorbent place in your life. You go to Proverbs 23:29-31, “Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaints? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes?” Well, we’re told who. Those who linger along at wine, those who go in search of mixed wine, do not look on the wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it swirls around smoothly. At the last, that bites like a serpent, and stings like a viper.
Intoxication is forbidden in God’s word. They have already been told in Ephesians 4:25 and Ephesians 4:28 to stop lying and stop stealing, and now they’re told to stop being drunk. You know what, I think, that had referenced to many of them, because like those in Corinth and those to whom Peter addresses, many Christians come out of a background where their lives were marked by drunkenness, reveling, parties, lewdness. You can read about that in one 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 and 1 Peter 4:3. Now, the reason that drunkenness is forbidden is because it means that something is controlling you other than God. Instead of living out and under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, you’re now being controlled by a substance that dominates and depresses your every faculty.
Alcohol is a depressant for the most part. It controls us, and it produces bad behavior, and it produces bad decisions. Nothing good results from it. The fruit of the spirit is self-control, but the fruit of alcohol is a lack of control. We need to heed that. We need to hear that. Alcoholism is a huge problem in our society. It’s particularly on the rise with teenagers. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 20.7 million 7th through 12th graders in America drink alcohol at least once a week, massive. More than 76 million Americans, that’s 46% of the adult population, have been exposed to or must cope with alcoholism in their family. It’s almost half of the population is being affected by the negative results of those who give themselves to the drinking of alcohol in a manner that shows no restraint or control.
The economic cost of alcoholism has been estimated to be $20 billion a year, health costs, loss of productivity, crime resulting from it. Drunk driving is responsible for the deaths of well over 10,000 people a year, and injures over 200,000 a year. Do not be drunk with wine in which is dissipation excess, because it produces bad decisions, and produces bad behavior, and it indeed produces bad results. Listen to these words by a member of Alcoholics Anonymous. They’re sobering. Pardon the pun. We drank for happiness, and became unhappy. We drank for joy, and became miserable. We drank for sociability, and became argumentative. We drank for sophistication, and became obnoxious.
We drank for friendship, and made enemies. We drank for sleep and awakened without rest. We drank for strength, and felt weak. We drank medicinally and acquired health problems. We drank for relaxation, and got the shakes. We drank for bravery, and became afraid. We drank to make conversation easier, and slurred our speech. We drank to feel heavenly, and ended up feeling like hell. We drank to forget, and we’re forever haunted. We drank for freedom, and became slaves. We drank to cope with life, and invited death. I think there’s some truth to that. Paul’s picking up this just general theme of the use and abuse of alcohol, and its many negative results within society, let alone the church.
But I think he’s also focused on something particular, not just something general, because at the city of Ephesus, the skyline was dominated. We’ve made reference this by the temple of Artemis or the temple of Diana as was otherwise known. The worship of that God was marked by sexual orgies and states of drunkenness, and Paul’s reminding them to put off the old man, and put on the new man, and no longer walk according to the way of the Gentiles. Now, I want to say this, having fired a shot across your by, having waved a red flag of warning, the Apostle’s not condemning the drinking of wine. He’s condemning the drinking of wine to excess, to a state of dissipation, profligate living, debauched behavior, drinking wine to a point where your mind becomes clouded, your judgment becomes impaired, and your moral restraint becomes weak.
That’s what’s forbidden. Now, I could leave it there, but given the controversy that surrounds this issue, I thought I’d give you just some practical and pastoral pointers when it comes to this issue. It’s a conscience issue. There’ll be those here this morning that drink wine and alcohol, and those here this morning that don’t. June and I have made a decision many years ago not to. It doesn’t make us super spiritual. It’s our decision. We’re comfortable with it. It’s worked well for us, but we’re not going to bind your conscience with that. The Bible doesn’t condemn the drinking of wine. It warns against the abuse of wine and the dangers adherent in it.
I thought I’d just give a few things to think about. Hopefully this is helpful. Number one, the use of wine is not universally condemned. Drunkenness universally roundly condemned, but the use of wine in the Bible is not universally condemned. In fact, if you read Deuteronomy 7:13, “When God was listing the benefits of the Promised Land, wine was one of those benefits, the vineyards and the grapes.” Deuteronomy 7:13, it was a sign of abundance in God’s favor. In fact, if you go to Proverbs 3:10, “A person’s vats full of new wine was a indication of God’s kindness and favor.” Psalm 104:13 tells us that wine gladdens the heart. Wine has put in a positive light there in Psalm 104:15, and it was seen clear that Jesus drank wine.
We can deduce that from the criticism of his enemies. As they told lies about him, and they exaggerated things about him in a negative manner, Jesus tells us in Matthew 11:19, “The son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, “Look, a glutton and a wine-bibber.” He ate food, and they called him a glutton. He drank wine. They called him a wine-bibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners, but wisdom is justified by her children. So, the use of wine is not universally condemned in the Bible. It’s a symbol of God’s kindness. It gladdens the heart, and Jesus drank wine. Reminds me of the story of the episcopal rector and the baptist pastor ended up sitting together on a flight. After they found out each was involved in ministry, a warm and lively conversation ensued until the stewardess came along, and asked for drink orders, and the Baptist, he got his diet Coke.
The nearest thing a Baptist will come to drinking alcohol is [inaudible 00:21:17], but that’s another story. That’s called Baptist liquor in some places. But the Baptist, he orders is diet coke, and the Episcopal rector, he orders a glass of wine. Then things got a little frosty, and the Baptist guy give him the cold shoulder. After a little bit of the silent treatment, the Episcopal rector asked him, “What was the issue?” He says, “Well, I don’t think a man of God should be drinking wine.” To which this brother replied, “My brother, surely you Baptists have read your Bible. Jesus himself drank wine, and he turned water into wine.” Baptist pastor looked at him and said, “Yes, he did, and yes, we do know that. We would’ve thought a lot more of him if he didn’t.”
That’s terrible, right? But here’s the point of that story, some Christians are more spiritual than Jesus. Jesus drank wine. Jesus was in the company of others who drank wine, and the Bible in the one hand warns about the use and abuse of wine, but on the other hand celebrates its place and the gift that it is in the right place at the right proportion. Number two, the use of wine while not condemned is not required. Hence, the position that June and I have taken. I’m told here not to be drunk with wine, but I’m not told to drink wine. I can, but I don’t have to, and it’s a very simple point, but I think it’s worth underscoring. While the Bible does not condemn it, it’s not required. It’s not imperative. It’s not commanded of me.
My Christian life won’t miss anything if I don’t drink wine. In fact, think about the Nazarite vow of Samson or the Nazarite vow of John the Baptist. Think about Timothy. It would seem that he did not drink wine, but he has some stomach disorder that may have come from dirty water, and Paul says in 1 Timothy 5, “Why don’t you drink a little wine or some wine for your stomach’s sake?” So, it is a liberty, but it’s not a necessity, just a simple statement, but just understand that. It’s a liberty, and you’re at liberty to pursue it, but you’re at liberty also not to do that. Sinclair Ferguson made a statement at the Master’s University at chapel one day that I wrote down, and it came to mind this week. He said this, “You are at liberty not to exercise your liberty.”
See? People are like, “I think, well, I’ve got the liberties. That means automatically I do it.” No, it can be a good thing. It can be a gift from God, but you don’t have to pursue it, because it’s not commanded. In fact, listen to Paul, wise words. “All things are lawful, but not all things are helpful.” All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. That’s one of the dangers of wine. When it’s used, and then it’s abused, it will take control of your life. It can exercise an influence that impairs your thinking, weakens your moral restraint. Therefore, you need to be cautious, wise. The use of wine is not universally condemned. The use of wine while not condemned is not required. Number three, the use of wine can be habit-forming.
By the way, I put in parenthesis as can anything, not singling wine out. I’m just making a statement about it. Same issue with food. The use of wine can be habit-forming and lead to destructive behavior as shown in the book of Proverbs, right? Wine is a mocker. If you handle wine wrongly, and it gets a place in your life that it should not have, it will make a mockery out of you. Strong drink is a brawler, and people come to harm who are led astray by it. We’ve got a description in Proverbs 23. This word dissipation, as I said, means excess or profligate living or debauched behavior. This is the word that’s used of the behavior of the prodigal son who goes to the far-off country, and wastes his father’s money, and he gets wasted in wasting his father’s money.
There’s danger with this that you need to take into account while you exercise your God-given liberties. Should you choose to exercise your God-given liberty in this area? The fruit of the vine requires the fruit of the spirit in self-control. Talk about habit-forming. 1,825 college students die from alcohol-related unintentional injuries including car accidents and crashes each year. Listen to that. That’s four jumbo jets packed with college students. I got a question. What would happen to the aircraft manufacturer or the airline in a single year if four of their jet liners crashed and killed everybody on board? Oh, there’d be inquiries. There’d be Senate hearings. Issues of safety would be raised, and yet that happens each and every year.
For example, 696,000 students between the age of 18 and 24 are assaulted by another student who’s been drinking. About 97,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 report experiencing alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape. Alcohol clearly has a damaging influence when not controlled. Shakespeare put it this way, “Oh God, that men would put an enemy in their mouth to steal away their brain.” Here’s the fourth thought and final thought. The use of wine requires sensitivity toward other Christians. That’s the fourth thought. Very practical, very pastoral, hopefully helpful, just keeps us live within our boundaries, helps us to love on one another, whatever our position might be.
But if you’re going to exercise that liberty, don’t do it with a blindness to the sensitivity of others. You’re at liberty to drink wine, but not with disregard to the feeling and preferences of other Christians. On the issue of meat that may have been part of meat that was offered to idols, Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 8:9 that those who want to eat that meat, and Paul says you can, because idols are nothing. Nevertheless, he says this, “Beware lest somehow this liberty of yours becomes a stumbling block to those who are weak.” There are those who come out of that background, and in their mind, they associate that meat with idolatry, and they know God forbids and hates idolatry, and so it’s a problem for them. Paul says, “Be sensitive to that.”
Some people come out of a broken background, an alcoholic father, an alcoholic family. They’ve seen the abuse. They’ve been on the receiving end of that abuse, and for them, alcohol in any form associates with that experience. They can’t bring themselves to understand why a Christian would want to drink alcohol. You need to be sensitive to that. That doesn’t mean they get liberty to bind your conscience, or change your behavior since you have liberty to pursue that, but don’t do it recklessly. Do it with sensitivity. Do it with some decorum. Maybe if you’re in public with other believers, you’re not sure where they’re at, and you’re about to order a glass of wine at a restaurant. Maybe the right thing is to ask for permission to do that. Does anybody have any sensitivities there? It’s an expression of love.
I remember reading the story of a blind man who went out at night, and carrying a lighted lantern. When he was asked why he did since he was blind, and it wouldn’t help him prevent tripping over, he said, “I don’t carry the light for my sake. I carry it so that people don’t trip over me.” That’s the caution. A little rabbit trail, hopefully not a rabbit hole, but some good things to think about. Don’t often get to address that issue. Do not be drunk with wine in which is dissipation. That’s the caution. Then have got the command, but be filled with the spirit. We move from the negative to the positive from what you ought not to do or be to what you ought to do and be. There’s a contrast. Don’t be drunk. Be filled with the spirit.
Here’s the interesting thing. When we get to trying to understand the filling of the Holy Spirit, there’s a comparison here, a contrast, but also a comparison. Just as alcohol imbibed to a point of excess where it begins to influence and dominate one’s faculties, one’s behavior, so a life surrendered to and dominated by the living presence of the Holy Spirit, that produces certain behavior, certain emotions which we’ll get to next time, produces speaking, singing, savoring, submitting. I love this comparison. When someone is dominated by alcohol, here’s their behavior. When someone is dominated and filled by the spirit, here’s their behavior. I like what Sinclair Ferguson in his commentary in Ephesians says, “The man who is drunk cannot walk straight. His speech becomes slurred. He sings offkey. He’s out of tune and cannot remember his words, and he also becomes irritable.”
When people try to help or reprimand, he will not have anyone control him. In fact, he cannot even control himself. The man or woman who is filled with the spirit shows contrary graces. They walk in wisdom. They sing with melody in their hearts. They’re devoted to the Lordship of Christ. They serve others with a concern for the needs of others, and they’re thankful, not irritable. Love that. Yes, there’s a contrast, but there’s a comparison. Being filled with drink, that produces one thing. Being filled with the living water of the Holy Spirit, that produces another thing. Now, we’ll get into the product and outcome next week, but let’s look at the meaning and the means for the time we’ve left. What does it mean to be filled by the Holy Spirit, and what are the means by which we can increase our experience of his leadership and Lordship?
Let’s look at the meaning. Number one, the word at the heart of our verb is pleuro in the Greek. It carries the idea of being filled or better controlled by someone or something. In fact, it was used of wind. If you’re a sailor, and you like the seas, this is your word. It’s used of wind that fills the sails of a ship, and carries it forward across the waves. It’s used in John 16:16 of a sad mood that grips the disciples. They’ve just heard that Jesus is leaving, and it says, “And they were filled with sorrow.” That’s our word. So, it’s actually used of a state or an emotion or a mood where you’re characterized by something, by sadness, by joy. I think that’s very helpful.
They were dominated by the emotion of sadness. I mean, maybe in a little analogy, if you’ve got the cold and a bad case of the cold, you’ve got the sniffles. You’ve got a little bit of fever, aches and pains. You’ve got a headache. Your whole body just doesn’t feel good. What do we say? That person’s full of the cold, full of the cold, filled with the cold. That means that from head to toe, they feel the effects of the flu or the cold. That’s what we’ve got here. To be filled by the spirit is to have him influence every aspect of our life and every faculty of our body. He informs our thinking. He manages our emotions. He directs our will. He points where our feet ought to go. He gives our hands things to do.
That’s what it means to be filled by the spirit of God, not some mystical, esoterical experience. It just simply means that as you live each day from head to toe, you’re under his leadership and under his Lordship. He’s resident, but is he president? That’s the issue. We have been indwelt by him and sealed by him. We saw that earlier. He’s in our lives. We have got all… We’re ever going to have of the Holy Spirit. We don’t need to pray for more of the Holy Spirit, but we need to pray that we would submit to his influence, control, and domination so that he’s got more of our thought time, more of our time in general, more of our lives in particular. It’s the hand and the glove, right? It’s the hand filling the glove and using the glove.
James Emery White gives an interesting analogy. He says that when he’s teaching on the filling of the Holy Spirit, he likes to come into his seminary class with two glasses of water and two packets of Alka-Seltzer. In one glass, he’ll drop an unwrapped packet of Alka-Seltzer into the glass. He said to the students, “That represents the presence of the Holy Spirit within you. The Alka-Seltzer is present, but it hasn’t filled the glass.” But in the other glass, he unwraps the Alka-Seltzer, and it begins to fizz and bubble and fill the glass. He says, “That’s the filling of the Holy Spirit.” See? He can be present in our lives without filling our lives, and we’ve got to unwrap the package around the presence and part of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
It’s important that we do that. As I’ve said, we have all of the Holy Spirit, but does he have all of us? Is he filling us, controlling us like alcohol controls a body? Does the Holy Spirit control us, mind and heart and well? There’s a good story about D.L. Moody many, many years ago was invited by a bunch of ministers to preach in that city, but there’s a bit of a back story, a bit of a controversy. When the ministers met to choose who the evangelist should be, many of the older men spoke highly of D.L. Moody and his effectiveness and the fact that he was filled by the Spirit, and been used by God in a unique way in his generation. So, they voted as a majority to bring him. But one young guy stood up and said, “Why all this talk about D.L Moody? Are there no other options? I mean, does D.L. Moody have a monopoly of the Holy Spirit?”
One old pastor stood up and said, “Of course, he doesn’t have a monopoly of the Holy Spirit. From what I see, what I hear and what I read, the Holy Spirit has a monopoly of D.L. Moody. He’s yielded and surrendered. He’s been taken up as a wonderful instrument in God’s hand.” Now, that’s the meaning. It means that the spirit of God directs us, influences our every action and reaction, dominates our faculties toward the glory of God in Christian living. But before I leave it, there are a couple of things about the grammar. We need to just get down into some things that jump out and shout for our attention. Number one, this is passive in voice, passive in voice, which means in the Greek that this is an action that’s done to us.
We’re passive in this. This isn’t a human achievement. The Greek would be rendered, and be not drunk with wine in which is excess, but let God fill you with the spirit. Let it happen. It’s another spiritual blessing, one for us by Christ, and given to us by the Father. Come back to Ephesians 1:3 following. But again, fundamentally, it’s not something we do. It’s something done for us in us by God, right? It would be Ephesians 2:12-13. We are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling for it is God who works in you. God wants to do this work in you where you are dominated by the Holy Spirit, where the supernatural becomes natural, where you begin to take on the likeness of Christ, where you think thoughts after God, where you’re empowered for Christian service.
Number two, it’s plural in form. In the Greek, this is plural. It’s not singular. What is the implication? It’s a vast implication. This is for every Christian. This is for every Christian, not just pastors and missionaries. This is normative. The filling of the spirit is not some top tier category of Christian. The filling of the spirit ought to be true of every mother, every father, every man, every woman, every young person here today. We all need to be filled by the spirit, because you can’t be a Christian without the Holy Spirit, and you can’t be a Christian in conduct without his empowerment. The Christian life is not hard. It’s impossible. We need the help of the helper, all of us. When you are not filled by the spirit, you hurt this church’s witness and effectiveness. You drain its power. We all ought to be filled by the spirit.
It’s also present in tense. We are to be filled and filled and filled by the Holy Spirit. It’s an ongoing continuous thing. There’s one baptism, but many fillings. When you get saved, the moment you put your faith in Jesus Christ, according to 1 Corinthians 12, you were baptized into the body. We don’t embrace second blessing, second baptism, theology around Kindred. We believe in many blessings, many fillings. We are baptized once. We are indwelt and sealed once, but the Spirit who’s now present in our yieldedness and obedience is made president, and his power is unleashed in our lives. It’s an ongoing thing. It’s not a moment when we arrive at a state of abiding victory over the flesh, the world and the devil. This is a daily, hourly, expansive, dynamic experience of God within.
In fact, in Ephesians 1:23, Ephesians 3:19, Ephesians 4:13, we’re being told of the God who wants to fill us. The God who fills all things wants to fill us, influence us, dominate us, where then supernatural becomes natural. What I mean by supernatural, I’m talking about miracles speaking in tongues or healings. I’m just talking about taking on the character of God, forgiving one’s enemies, saying no to the flesh, the world and the devil. That’s all supernatural. That’s all a night working of the end working presence of God. When you go to the Book of Acts, Acts 2:1-4, 4:8, you’ll find that Peter was filled by the spirit of God on the day of Pentecost, and sometime later, he was filled again by the spirit of God, and sometime later, he was filled again by the spirit of God. One baptism, many fillings.
This is something that ought to go on every day and every hour of our lives, where we yield ourselves to the influence and control of the Holy Spirit. Lord, help me as I go into this meeting. Lord, give me grace to love him or her. Lord, I need help to forgive that hurt. The spirit of God will fill us and control us and enable us. That’s a day-to-day thing, and it’s expansive. It’s not static. Back to D.L. Moody, D.L. Moody was once asked by someone, “Are you filled with the Holy Spirit?” To which he replied, “Yes, but I leak.” I think we all leak, right? The world cries in, and the flesh. The old man raises his head, and so we need to seek the abiding help of the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit within. In his book, Believe in Miracles, but Trust in Jesus, Adrian Rogers says this, “Sometimes people ask me, “Adrian, have you received the second blessing?”
“I say, yes.” Then they say, “Well, tell me about it.” He says, “The second blessing is discovering what I got in the first blessing.” Not only that. He says, “But I’ve received a third blessing after the second blessing, and the third and second blessing is discovering what I didn’t learn in the second blessing.” It’s just this ever-increasing knowledge of God and deepening of our intimacy with him. What about the means, the means? Now ,we’ve answered the why question. Why be filled with the spirit? Because it’s the exhortation that helps you fill all the other exhortations. Who? We’ve answered that question. Who ought to be filled by the spirit? Every Christian. It’s in the plural. What? What is the filling of the spirit?
It’s not accompanied by tongues. It’s accompanied by holy character. It’s accompanied by effectiveness and witnessing, so on and so forth. What it is is you and I submitting to the control of the Holy Spirit and his sweet influence in all that we are and all that we do every day in all things. That’s what the filling of the Holy Spirit is, so that husbands can love their wives like Christ loves the church, so that women could submit to their husbands as the church submits to Christ, so that children can obey their parents. So, we’ve answered all the who, the why, the what, but we’ve not answered the how. How? You know what, our tax in some ways doesn’t help us, because there are no conditions led down in the tax for you and I to be filled by the spirit.
So, what do we do? In fact, it’s in the passive voice. It’s fundamentally something done to us, but I think we can draw implications from our text and our context and using the analogy of faith. What’s that? The analogy of faith principle is comparing scripture with scripture. I think we can come up with some suggestions, at least putting ourselves in the way of being blessed and filled and controlled by the Holy Spirit. I’m going to go through these quickly. They all start with the letter S. Number one, seek. The key to being filled with the spirit is to look to Jesus. Again, that’s an implication. That’s an analogy of faith principle, and I get it from John 16:14. The spirit of God comes to lead us into all things true about Jesus, and all things true spoken by Jesus.
In fact, we’re told in John 7:37-39 by Jesus that the Holy Spirit won’t come until Jesus has ascended and is glorified, and when the spirit comes, his job is to glorify the glorified Jesus. He’s the spotlight on Jesus. The Holy Spirit loves all things Jesus. J.I. Packer has that illustration where he says, “If you’re in a business area or in downtown city at night, you’ll often find a spotlight or a few spotlights that are pointing upwards, and they’re either highlighting the name of the company, or just giving you a sense of the beauty of the building.” That’s the role of the Holy Spirit. He’s the spotlight on Jesus. So, I take an implication from that. I think it’s a simple deduction. The key to being filled with the spirit is to look to Jesus. When I love Jesus, when I pursue Jesus, when I seek to obey Jesus, when I seek to look like Jesus, the spirit of God will fill me with power to do that.
Spurgeon said this, “I looked to Christ, and the dove of the Holy Spirit flew into my heart. And when I looked into my heart to see if he was there, he flew away.” Number two, study, clear correlation here between an obedient Bible intake and the fullness of the Holy Spirit. We’ve made reference to this, but in the book of Colossians, we have a corresponding truth to the book of Ephesians. In 3:16, notice this. Let the word of Christ find a home in your heart in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. That sound familiar? Yeah, we just read that in Ephesians 5:19, 20, and 21. So, here’s the interesting thing, just do the comparison. Set them side by side.
If you’re filled by the Spirit, you’ll speak to one another in Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, and you’ll make melody in your heart to the Lord. Then look in this column, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly speaking and admonishing and teaching one another in Psalms, in hymns and spiritual songs making melody in your heart.” The result is the same. So, you and I need to join those thoughts. Being filled with the spirit is akin to letting the word of Christ dwell in you richly. When you and I love the word of God, read it, understand it, comprehend it, and then apply it particularly in our lives, the author of the book, the Holy Spirit himself, will fill us with power. He will use the word of God to direct us, to fill us.
Listen to what Acts 5:32 says, “And we are his witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit.” Notice this whom God has given to those who obey him. You want to enjoy the fullness and the filling and the favor of the Holy Spirit in your life, and obey the word he has written. We need the word on the spirit. With the word alone, we dry up. With the spirit alone, we blow up. With the word on the spirit, we grow up. Seek, study, three, surrender. Remember, this is in the passive voice. Let God fill you with his spirit. That’s not let go and let God. You and I are to seek and study, and we’re to surrender. We’re to yield the right of way. We’re not to get in the way. We’re not to impede what God wants to do in our life.
We’re to give him the right of way. We’re to surrender our minds, and our hearts, and our lives, and our gifts, and our children, and our home, and our marriage, and our businesses to God, to use and control, and be a means of a gospel platform. We need to empty ourselves of self-will if we’re to be filled by the Holy Spirit. We won’t go there, but Acts 9:6 and Acts 9:17-19 is the story of the Apostle Paul’s conversion. When he’s first stopped right on the road to Damascus, he looks up as the light shines on him. He says, “Lord, what do you want me to do?” You know what, he’s told to go to the city and to a street called street. Then God directs one of his servants, Ananias, to meet Paul there. Paul’s blind still.
It says, “Ananias prayed with him, and Paul was filled with the spirit of God.” I don’t think it’s a stretch. I don’t think it’s a twisting of the text to join those two ideas. When Paul utters those words, “Lord, what do you want me to do?” God says, “I want you to go there and wait.” Paul does what God tells him to do, and he’s filled with the spirit. When you and I say that to God each and every day or in each and every situation or in the midst of each and every problem, “Lord, what do you want me to do?” The spirit of God will come flooding in for our lives, and help us and enable us to do that. A.W. Tozer said, “Throw your heart open to the Holy Spirit, and invite him to fill you. Every man is as full of the spirit as he wants to be.”
Make your heart a vacuum, and the spirit of God will rush in and fill it. See, when it’s filled with you and me and mine and self-ambition, there’s not as much room for the filling of the Holy Spirit. Over the years here at Kindred, we’ve had some young people in our congregation who have been either lifetime lifeguards, or have just done it as a summer job. They’ve told me on a couple of occasions that part of their training reminds them that they’re swimming out to a drowning man. The first thing they’re to do is just wait till the thrashing stops, because to do otherwise would be to commit suicide, because the person that doesn’t stop and receive the help, but is thrashing in the water will bring the lifeguard down with them.
So as long as a drowning man thinks he can help himself, he’s a danger to himself and anyone else trying to help him. But once that thrashing is over, once he surrenders himself to the help that’s available, help takes place. I think that’s a wonderful analogy. You and I and marriage and life go thrashing around, just trying to keep her head above water in our own strength, and the spirit of God within is waiting for us to stop the thrashing, and surrender our circumstances and our problems to him for his wisdom and his empowerment and his help. Amen. A couple more and we’re done. Separate, the Holy Spirit is holy and not profound. The Holy Spirit is holy. By nature, he’s holy. He’s righteous. He does what’s right, and he seeks to establish that which is right.
If that’s true, then I think this idea of separate is important. If you want to be filled by the Holy Spirit, you need to confess and repent of any known sin, because that’s a hindrance to the filling of the Holy Spirit. 2 Timothy 2:21, “We need to be vessels fit for the master’s use.” He won’t fill that which is unclean. There’s a sense in which we’re never fully clean until glorification. There’s always this indwelling sin nature, but that’s different from you, and I consciously give an expression to that sin nature, and then remaining in an unconfessed state. But if you and I are knowingly pursuing a path, if you and I have embraced behavior in speech or conduct or action, that’s unbecoming and unholy. We need to repent of that if you want to know the filling of the Holy Spirit.
In fact, in Ephesians 4:30-32, we’re told not to grieve the Holy Spirit, and then we’re told about behavior that grieves him. That’s got to stop if you and I are going to enjoy his favor. You know I like a little bit of golf. If you’re in a good course in a nice cart, it’s got a GPS. That’s wonderful for giving you yardage and distance, but the interesting thing about a GPS-controlled vehicle is it can be controlled. If you drive too near the green, or you drive into ground under repair, or you drive into an area that’s forbidden, all of a sudden, the cart just stops. You’re just driving forward, and it stops, and you have to turn the thing into reverse, and you’ve got to reverse the whole way back before the par will be restored. You get out onto the path of obedience, so to speak.
I think that’s a wonderful analogy. Remember that one day that happened, and I was thinking about that and go, “Man, that happens to me. There’s these par cuts in my life when I just stop, and things aren’t moving forward spiritually the way they should be, and as easily as they could be because I’m in forbidden territory. I’m not doing what I’m told. I’m skirting the edges of things.” I thought I could drive up to the green without… No, get into reverse, and get out of there. See him with the Holy Spirit. Finally, serve. Serve. The spirit of God equips and fills us for Christian service. So if that’s why he’s being given, he’s the gift who gives us gifts so that we might be a gift to the body. We saw that in Ephesians 4, right?
If the Spirit of God comes to indwell me, to equip me, to empower me, to fill me, to control me for the benefit of the body, then I better be benefiting the body if I’m going to enjoy that filling. To put it another way, you want to be filled by the Holy Spirit, then empty yourself out in Christian service. You know what Paul says in Philippians 2:17 where he says, “I’m being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice of your faith,” but he’s being poured out in martyrdom possibly. In 4:13, he says, “But I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” That’s present tense. Again, that’s through Christ who keeps on pouring his strength into me.
I hope you’re not a dead sea Christian. For those of us that will be in Israel later this year, we’re going to see two seas. Well, we’ll see three. We’ll see the Mediterranean Sea, but we’ll see the sea of Galilee, and we’ll see the Dead Sea. Now, the sea of Galilee is teeming with life and fish, but the Dead Sea, it’s dead. It’s just stagnant. It just evaporates except there’s no life, except some microbiology stuff. The reason, well, both seas are serviced by the river Jordan, but here’s the difference. The Sea of Galilee has an inlet, and it has an outlet, so it stays fresh. It’s constantly being refreshed and renewed. The Dead Sea has no outlet. Water comes in, sits there, stagnates, becomes lifeless and evaporates.
There are some Dead Sea Christians. They come to church, but they just take and take and take. Serve me. Bless me. Help me. Give me, but they don’t serve. That kind of Christian will not enjoy the fullness of the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit comes to fill us that we might fill others with mercy and grace and help. As the team gets ready to come up, let’s just reflect on all of that. Maybe just take a moment to yield ourselves afresh to the influence and control and dominance of the Holy Spirit. Maybe we can admit this morning we’ve been trying to do things on our own, in our own strength, in our own wisdom. Just this week, I listened to a message by Robert Morgan. He was speaking at a men’s conference at a friend’s church, and he said in this message that at 35, he was halfway through his life.
He calculated right three score and 10. At 35, in the city of Chicago, he got on his knees, and he dedicated the rest of his life to Jesus Christ. It was halfway through, and he wanted to make sure he was still on track. At this men’s conference last week, he admitted he was 70, and his commitment had expired, and so he needed to rededicate himself afresh to Jesus Christ. He said that in a hotel room over recent days, he wrote out this prayer, and he knelt on his knees and prayed it. May it be true of us as it was true of him. “May all there is of me belong to all there is of you, so that all there is of you may possess and empower all there is of me.” It’s a beautiful prayer. Paul would put a stamp of approval on it.
Don’t be drunk with wine. Don’t be controlled by things outside your body that you put into your body. Your body belongs to the Lord. Let your faculties, your dreams, your ambitions, your activity be animated by the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit within. As you yield to him, may all there is of you belong to all there is of him so that all there is of you may be possessed and empowered by all there is of him. Father, we have slowed down, because we want to hear this passage for a couple of weeks challenging us as the church to be a Spirit-filled church. Help us not to shy away from the doctrine and person of the Holy Spirit. Help us not to allow the accesses of some charismatic brethren to cause us to not embrace our inheritance in the gospel.
The Christian life’s not hard. It’s impossible, and we need the daily strengthening and wisdom and presence of the Holy Spirit. May we enjoy it. It’s ours to enjoy. Help us to move to making him president, not just resident. Help us to surrender each and every day, consciously each and every hour to his influence, to his sweet strengthening, to his marvelous insights, to his power and enablement. For we pray in us these things, in Jesus’ name, amen.