In just a little bit, we’re going tobe in Ephesians chapter 5, if you’d like to be turning there in your Bibles.
But first, I heard a story recently abouta henpecked husband who was advised by his counselor to assert himself. He said, “You don’t have to let your wifebully you. You go home and you show her thatyou’re the boss.”
And so, this husband decided to takehis counselor’s advice. When he gothome, he slammed the door, shook his fist and said, “From now on, you’retaking orders from me. I want my supper right now, and when you get it on thetable, go upstairs and lay out my clothes. Tonight I am going out with the boys. You’re going to stay at home where you belong.Another thing, do you know who is goingto put my tie on?”
His wife said very calmly,“I certainly do. The undertakerwill take care of that.” We allwant to be in control, don’t we? But oneof the things that we need to learn as Christians is that we are not in control, that a major part of the Christian life is giving up control.
Our text this morning is Ephesians 5:18 (NIV), where Paul wrote, “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads todebauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.”
If I were to ask you right now toraise your hand if you are filled with the Holy Spirit, I suspect there mightbe a few of you who would be hesitant to raise your hands. And I think the reason for that is thatyou’re not really sure what it means to be filled with theSpirit. And if, for some reason, you’re not filled with the Spirit, you’re not sure what you need to do to get filled with the Spirit.
When it comes tomatters of the Holy Spirit, we’re a little bit uncomfortable. Now, God the Father — we knowabout him. And God the Son, Jesus Christ— we know him even better. But the HolySpirit? Not so much.
We know the Holy Spirit is real. We know that he is at work in the worldtoday. We know that he lives insideevery child of God. Paul said in I Corinthians 6:19, “Do you not know that your body is thetemple of the Holy Spirit who is in you…?”
Furthermore, we knowthat the Holy Spirit is the one who gives us the power that we need to live theChristian life. Paul prayed in Ephesians 3:14, “that [God] would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, tobe strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man.” But most of us don’t really know how theSpirit does that.
In Acts chapter19, we read about Paul’s first visit to Ephesus where he met some disciples ofJohn the Baptist. I find it interestingthat he didn’t ask those people the same question that we tend to askpeople. If someone comes to us and wedon’t really know them, one of the first questions we will ask them is this,“Were you baptized for the remission of your sins?”
But that’snot the question Paul asked. Paul wantedto know, “Did you receive the Holy Spiritwhen you believed?” (Acts 19:2). I wonder what would happen if that’s thequestion we started asking people. Wheneversomebody wants to place membership, the first thing we want to know is, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when youbelieved?”
And I would imagine that somepeople would answer the same way that the disciples in Ephesus did. They told Paul, “We have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” (Acts 19:2). Paul, we don’t even know what you’retalking about. And I’m afraid that some Christians wouldsay the same thing today.
Now thepurpose of my lesson this morning is not to cover everything the Bible teachesabout the Holy Spirit. Rather, I want to focus on one very importantquestion: How can we be filledwith the Holy Spirit?
AndI think this is one of the most important principles of living the Christianlife. If you can learn the answer tothis question, you will find a sourceof power that can help you to live the Christian life every single day.
Let’s take a look again at ourtext — Ephesians5:18.And I want to give it to you in several different translations:
- TheEnglish Standard Version says, “Anddonot get drunk with wine, for that isdebauchery, butbe filled withthe Spirit.”
- The New Century Version says,“Do not be drunk with wine, which will ruinyou, but be filled with the Spirit.
- The New Living Translation gives a slightly differentwording:“Don’t be drunk with wine, because that willruin your life. Instead, let the HolySpirit fill and control you.”
Let me topoint out a few things from the text.
1. First of all, I wantyou to notice the contrast between wine and the Spirit
Thisis important if we are going to understand what Paul is trying to sayhere. Paul is drawing a parallel here between being drunk with wine and beingfilled with the Spirit. To useour modern day language, Paul is saying, “Be filled with the Spirit, not withthe spirits.”
So what isit about wine and the Holy Spirit that makes them similar? The answer hasto do withthe matter of influence or control. In fact, whatdo we call it when someone gets drunk and then drives their car? “Driving under the influence”. Which is really just a shortened way ofsaying “driving under the control” of the alcohol.
Someone whois under the influence of wine experiences altered behavior. He may say or dothings he would not ordinarily do. Emotions may be heightened, causing theperson to experience anger, or elation, or depression. And if a person drinks enough wine, his mentalprocesses will be affected and his decision‑making ability will be radicallyaltered — almost always with a negative result.
Ina similar way, the filling of the Holy Spirit produces a change in our behavior.In the book of Acts, you have these disciples of Christ who were once verytimid. When Jesus was arrested in theGarden of Gethsemane, they all ran away.When Jesus was crucified, they all went into hiding. But in the book of Acts, you see these boldmen who were willing to stand up to the authorities and preach the gospel. What was it that produced that change? And a big part of the answer is that in Actschapter 2 they were filled with the Holy Spirit. That changed the way they behaved.
And beingfilled with the Holy Spirit will change our attitude and behavior. I think that’s what Paul was talking about in Galatians 5:22-23 where he lists thefruit of the Spirit. He says, “This isthe way the Spirit affects a person’s attitude and behavior.”
If you know someone who drinks a lot,I’m sure you could finish this sentence – “I can always tell when he or she hasbeen drinking a lot because this is what he or she is like.” He’s more belligerent. She’s more talkative. He makes really poor decisions.
And if youknow someone who is filled with the Spirit, you can also finish this sentence –“I tell that he or she is filled with the Spirit, because she’s so loving,because he’s got so much joy, because she’s at peace, because he’s so patientand kind.”
The HolySpirit will alter your behavior just as surely as alcohol will change it. “But the Spirit produces the fruit of love, joy, peace,patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness, self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23).
Paul says,“Don’t let alcohol control the way you behave.Let God’s Spirit control the way you behave.”
2. WhenPaul says, “Be filled with the Spirit”, he’s giving a command.
Inthe Greek language, the verb here is in the imperative mode. Whatthat means is that Paul is not suggesting this as an option; he’s giving it as acommand. And it’s a two-partcommand. The first part is “don’t getdrunk” and we would say, “We would agree with that. If you’re going to be a faithful Christian,you’ve got to pay attention to that command.You can’t get drunk.” But thenPaul follows that with a second command, “Be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
What that means is thatbeing filled with the Spirit is no anoptional part of the Christian life. Every Christian is to befilled with the Spirit. And if you’renot filled with the Spirit, then you’re not being obedient to God.
3. WhenPaul says, “Be filled with the Spirit”, he uses a tense indicating continualaction
Letme exp-lain what I mean by that. Supposeyou tell your children to go out and pick up the pine needles in the yard beforeit starts raining. And maybe they go outside and they pick up a few pineneedles and then come they back in. Whenyou look out in the yard, you see that most of the needles haven’t even beentouched. So you say, “Why didn’t you pickthe needles up?” They say, “We did.” You say, “Why didn’t you pick upallthepine needles?” They say, “You didn’t tell us to.”
So you tellthem, “You go back outside and you pick those needles up, and you pick them upand keep on picking them up until all the pine needles are picked up.” That’s whatthis Greek tense means here in this verse. You keep on doing something. It’snot just a one-time event.
TheInternational Standard Version actually translates this accurately when itsays, “Stop getting drunk with wine,which leads to wild living, but keep on being filled with the Spirit.” It’s not sometimes you do every now andthen. It’s not something you do just onSunday mornings. The filling of theSpirit is supposed to be the normal way of life for a Christian.
4. WhenPaul says, “Be filled with the Spirit”, he uses the passive voice.
Inthe Greek language, just as in English, commands can be either active orpassive. Now, we’re much more familiarwith active commands: “Go to the store and pick up some milk.” That’s an active command. If I say, “Fill that hole with dirt”, that’salso in the active voice.
ButEphesians5:18is in the passive voice. Paul doesn’t say, “Fillyourself with the Spirit.” Rather hesays, “Be filled with the Spirit.” Andthat’s an important distinction. Becausetobe filled with the Spirit meansthat the filling of the Spirit is not something that we do, but ratherit is something that God does.
Pauldoesn’t say, “fill yourself” but rather “be filled.” Now there are a couple of importantimplications that I draw from this:
First of all, the Holy Spirit isready and willing to fill us at any moment.Secondly, we need to make ourselves available to him.
Letme give you a word that’s not really a word. The word is “fillability.” It’s what used to happen many years ago whenyou went to a full-service gas station and you said, “Fill ‘er up.” The person whowas pumping the gas knew that when you said, “Fill ‘er up” that meant that youwere making your car available to be filled with gas. That’s fillability. There is a need plus a desire.When your need to be filled with the Holy Spiritbecomes your great desire, then God will fill ‘er up.
5. WhenPaul says, “Be filled with the Spirit”, it is a plural command
OurEnglish language can sometimes be a bit confusing because the word “you” caneither mean “just you” (singular) or it can mean “all of you” (plural). But, in Greek, as in most foreign languages,there is a difference between the singular “you” and the plural “you”. And here, Paul uses the plural.
Now, one ofthe great benefits of living in the South is that we are able to distinguishbetween the singular and plural “you” in a way that those Yankees can’t. We use the word y’all for the plural. And so if I need for one of you to help outat the church building, I would say, “Can you help me?” And if I need a whole bunch of you to helpout at the church building, I would say, “Can y’all help me out?”
Well, thecommand that Paul gives here in this verse is in the plural. It’s as if Paul is saying, “Y’all be filledwith the Spirit.” “Let each and everyone of you be filled with the Spirit.” On one hand, this means the command isfor every Christian. God intends—anddesires—that all of his children be filled with the Holy Spirit.
Butthere’s also a sense in which this is acorporatecommand. The church as a wholeis to be filled with the Holy Spirit. The fillingof the Spirit is not something for my own personal edification. God’s Spirittransforms the church from a social club or a religious gathering into a livingbody of Christ. We see that in theverses that follow:
Verse 19 — Speakingto one anotherin psalms andhymns and spiritual songs
Verse 21 — Submittingtoone anotherout of reverence for Christ
God wants me to be filledwith the Spirit — but he doesn’t want me to be filled alone. When the HolySpirit fills us all, our corporate life is transformed. And I think this is one of the factors thataccounts for the difference between a church that is “alive” and a church thatis “dead.” Both churches may have thesame Bible, the same rituals, they may sing the same songs, they may even havethe same programs and the same schedule of services.
Outwardlythey may look very much alike. But oneis alive and the other is dead. Whatmakes the difference is the filling of the Holy Spirit! We need the filling of the Spirit not justfor our own personal spiritual life but for the life of the church.
Let meexplain why this matter of being filled with the Spirit is so important. I know of a lot of Christians who strugglewith sin, and they want to know, “How do I get rid of this anger? How do I get rid of this lust? How do I get rid of my filthy language?”
Years ago, D.L.Moody was speaking to a large audience.He held up a glass and he asked the question, “How can I get theair out of this glass?” One man shouted, “Suck it out with apump!” Moody replied, “That would create a vacuum and shatter theglass.”
Afternumerous other suggestions, Moody smiled, he picked up a pitcher of water, and hefilled the glass with the water. He said, “There, all the air is nowremoved.” He went on to explainthat victory in the Christian life is not accomplished by “sucking out asin here and there,” but by being filled with the Holy Spirit.Because once we are filled with the Spirit, there isn’t room for anything else.
Letme close by pointing out three things that we need to think about related tothe filling of the Holy Spirit.
1. The Issueof Control
As I pointed out in the beginning ofthis lesson, we all want to be in control in every situation. But a major part of the Christian life isgiving up control.
Here’smy definition of the filling of the Spirit. It’s what happens when youallow the Holy Spirit to control your life. Go back to the contrast between wine and the Spirit. Drunken people and Spirit-filled people haveone thing in common. They are controlled by something other thanthemselves. Their lives and their behavior are radically changed by thatwhich fills them.
When you arefilled with something, you are controlled by it. When Jesus told his disciples that he wouldsoon be leaving them, he said: “Because I have said these things, you arefilled with grief.” (John 16:6, NIV). Their grief was so overwhelming that itdominated their thoughts. In other words, it controlled them.
In Actschapter 5, “Peter said, “Ananias,how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the HolySpirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land?” (Acts 5:3, NIV). Satan filled his heart. Ananias let him take control.
- If a man is filled with anger, then anger will control hislife.
- If a man is filled with greed, then greed will dominate hislife.
- If a man is filled with love, then love will influence everythinghe does.
Andwhen the Holy Spiritfills you, he will influence everything you do. Somehas put it this way – “Being filled with the Holy Spirit doesn’tmean I have more of the Spirit, it means the Spirit has more of me.”
And itdoesn’t happen all at once any more than you get drunk all at once. Being filled with the Spirit happens as youcontinually choose to live under his influence.
2. TheIssue of Cooperation
EveryChristian receives the Holy Spirit the moment they are baptized. Peter said in Acts 2:38 to “Repent and bebaptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of yoursins and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit”.
So, the question for us is not, doesthe Holy Spirit live within me? Hedoes. The question now becomes one ofcooperation. Am I going to cooperatewith the Holy Spirit and let him lead me or I am going to keep on trying to dothings my own way?
Andthis is where so many of us struggle. We fight the Lord because we want to dothings our way. And God says, “You cando it your way if you want to, but you need to know it’s it’s not going towork.” If wewon’t cooperate with God, he will let us do things in our own strength and byour own will. But then when wefail and we cry out to the Lord, he wants to know, “Are you ready to cooperatewith me yet?”
3. TheIssue of Contact
Inone of his books F. B. Meyer explains the Spirit’s filling this way. He says that most people think of the Spiritas a substance to fill us, like gas filling up a tank. So we run out of the Spirit and God fills us backagain. But he says that’s reallynot the best image to use.
Think aboutthe elevated trains that you find in many large cities. Maybe more familiar toyou is the monorail that you may have ridden at Disney World. All of those trains actually run on threerails — two for the wheels and one for the electricity. The electricity is always there, but the traindoesn’t move unless there is contact with that third rail. Touch the rail andthe train moves; pull away from that rail and it stops.
Meyersays that third rail is like the Holy Spirit. His power is always available. Butsometimes we don’t maintain contact. Wedon’t pray. We don’t study God’sWord. We separate ourselves from God,and the power’s gone. It’s important tomaintain that contact.
So,here’s my definition of the filling of the Spirit: It is when we allow the Holy Spirit to do whathe wants to do in our lives. The filling of the Spirit isnot an emotional experience, and it’s certainly not reserved for a fewsuper-Christians. It’s nothing more thanthe normal Christian life when the Holy Spirit is in control.
And that’swhy the command is in the present continual tense: We are continually to be controlled by theSpirit, cooperating with the Spirit, and in contact with the Spirit.
Letme close with this thought — God isready, willing, and able to fill you right now. He is more willing to fill you than you are willingto be filled. So, if for some reason youaren’t filled with the Holy Spirit, it is not because of God’s reluctance. We don’t have to beg God to get him to do whathe has already promised he would do. Rather, God is the one begging us to giveup the control of our lives so he can do what he wants to do!
Theproblem is, Godcan’t fill whatis already full. If I’m in arestaurant and I’ve got a glass full of lemonade and I stop the waitress andask her to fill my glass with sweet tea, she’s going to be very confused. Because she can’t fill me glass with anythinguntil I first empty it.
You alsocan’t fill something that’s not open.Suppose I come to you with an empty jar, but the lid is screwed ontight. You can’t fill that jar either.
Thepoint is, some Christians are so full, they have no room for the Holy Spirit. They are full of their stuff, full of theirfamily, full of their job, full of themselves.And there are other Christians who have simply closed their heart to thework of the Holy Spirit.
Iheard one woman describe her husband by saying, “He is so full of himselfthat he is closed to anything that God might want to do in his life.” She didn’t say that with anger but with tears.And I wonder if perhaps that describes someof us, that we are so full of ourselves that we are closed to anything that Godmight want to do in our lives.
Remember that the filling of theSpirit is passive. We can’t fillourselves with the Holy Spirit. Only God can fill us. But we need two things — emptiness andopenness. You can’t fill a jar that’s already full, and you can’t fill a jarthat is not open.
Theremust be a sense of need — “Lord, I’m empty and I need to be filled with yourSpirit.” And there must also be a willingness — “Lord, I want you totake control. I want you to lead me whereyou want me to go. I want you to use meto do what you want me to do.”
Thefilling of the Spirit really is as simple as that. As long as we are conscious of our need and as longas we are willing to yield to the Lord, we will be filled with the Spiritbecause that power is constantly available to us.
Ihear a lot of people say that we need to see a revival in America. And I thinkwe do. But may I remind you of theChinese prayer that goes like this: “O Lord, change the world. Begin, I pray, with me.” Because it’s not just the people “outthere” that need to be revived by God’s Spirit. It’s you and me.
Ournation will be better when our churches are better. Our churches will be better when we arebetter people. And we will be betterpeople when we are filled with the Holy Spirit, when we allow God to takecontrol of our lives.