Sunday, May 04, 2008

Matt's Messages - The Holy Spirit Influences Us to Live the Christian Life

“The Holy Spirit Influences Us to Live the Christian Life”
The Fellowship of the Holy Spirit
May 4, 2008
Ephesians 5:18-21

We’re still in our sermon series on the Holy Spirit. We will be all the way through May and the first Sunday in June, if it goes as I have planned.

Along the way, we’ve learned about Who the Holy Spirit is and many of His awesome ministries to us, through us, and in us.

Two weeks ago, we began emphasizing His power. We encapsulated His person and ministry into three words: God’s Empowering Presence, and we talked about His empowering us to be Jesus’ witnesses.

And last week, we talked about His power incorporating us into the Body of Christ–grafting us into the body of believers called “The Church.”

The chief biblical word for this ministry is “baptism”–the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.

And we learned that this is something that all Real Christians have received, not just some higher-level Christians.

Last week, I said that it is true that some Christians have experienced more of the Holy Spirit than others, but it’s not right to divide up Christians into the Holy-Spirit-Haves and the Holy-Spirit-Have-Nots.

All Real Christians Really Have the Holy Spirit. (That could have been a sermon last Fall, huh?)

All Real Christians Really Have the Holy Spirit. But that does not mean that all have had the same experiences of His power and presence to the same degree.

Which leads us to today’s subject:


The biblical word for this is “filling.”

“The Filling of the Holy Spirit.”

And we are commanded to be filled with Him in Ephesians chapter 5, verse 18.

Let’s read it now down through verse 21. It’s part of a much larger section on living the Christian life. In verse 18, Paul writes: “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

Do you see why I use the word “influence” in our title for today?

The Holy Spirit Influences us to Live the Christian Life.

It’s because Paul contrasts being “filled with the Spirit” to being filled with “spirits,” that is, with being “drunk.” V.18

“Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.”

What we do call it when someone is arrested for driving drunk?

They were driving...what?

“Under the Influence.” Right?

“Under the Influence.” Swayed by the influence of alcohol, controlled by it. Not that alcohol by itself is a bad thing, but taking in too much of it definitely is!

Paul tells us Christians to not be drunk with wine which causes debauchery (“debauchery” is a big word that means “extreme indulgence in sensuality”), but instead to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

To not be unduly influenced by alcohol, but to be rightly and mightily influenced by the Holy Spirit.

This is another reference to the Spirit’s power.

This is the power to influence how we live our lives.

The power to obey His will.
The power to carry out His commands.
The power to live our lives as Christians, under the influence, not of wine but of the Holy Spirit.

It’s the Spirit’s control of our lives, swaying us, shaping us, acting upon us from the inside-out, influencing us to live the Christian life.

This is the third contrast in this paragraph which is part and parcel of a larger section on living as a Christian. Look up at verse 15.

“Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. [Not as unwise but as wise.] Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is. [Not foolish, but understanding. And then our verse 18.] Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.”

Not as unwise but wise.
Not as foolish but understanding.
Not as drunk but Spirit-filled.

In many ways, this is just a description of what it means to live as a Christian.

And it’s empowered by the Holy Spirit.

When Wally was on vacation back in February he sent me this quote from Ravi Zacharias’ book The Grand Weaver: “The most important aspect of the Holy Spirit's presence is the power that He gives us to do God's will.”

And sometimes He does this in extraordinary ways!

In the Old Testament, He came upon people and they did big things for God. Like create Tabernacles and win battles and all kinds of stuff.

In the book of Acts, the Holy Spirit fills the disciples, and they speak the word of God incredibly boldly.

Sometimes when the Spirit is filling someone, extraordinary things happen.

But, more often, this filling influence isn’t showy or outwardly miraculous.

It’s more quiet and not as flashy or ostentatious, and yet, not less powerful.

It’s the serene influence of the Spirit to live the Christian life.

“Be filled with the Spirit.”

That phrase, in the Greek original, is in the present tense.

We could translate it, “Be being filled with the Spirit.”

This isn’t a once-in-a-life-time, once-for-all experience.

“Yeah, I was filled with the Spirit, it happened February 29, 2004.”

Baptism in the Spirit is a once-in-a-life-time, once-for-all experience where we receive the Spirit and are incorporated into the Body of Christ.

But being filled is a repeatable experience and show be continuously repeated.

“Be being filled with the Spirit.”

Now, you might say, “Are you filled or aren’t you?”

I mean, a cup is only filled to the top, and then it’s filled, right?

This is another one of those mysterious dimensions of the Holy Spirit.

Remember that we said that the Holy Spirit is mysterious?

I think it’s more like this:

He’s less like water in a cup and more like air in a balloon.

If I blow up a balloon, I can fill it up and it takes its shaped influenced by my hot air.

Is it filled? Yes.

Can I fill it more? Yes.

Now, there’s an upward limit to a balloon. Eventually it will pop.

But what if the capacity of the balloon expanded with the air?

So that it could be filled and more filled and more filled and grow in capacity with each filling? Like a baby’s lung can be filled but as it grows into a man or a woman, it is also filled but even more so.

I think that’s more the idea here, if we’re even supposed to think in spatial categories.

I don’t think that spatial categories are actually the point here.

The point is to be filled with the Spirit and under His influence like being filled with alcohol brings you under its influence: cause and effect.

When we are being filled like that, we don’t lose control.

When you are drunk, you’ve lost control.

But notice, Paul doesn’t say, “Get drunk on the Holy Spirit.”

I think that’s because it would indicate losing self-control.

But mysteriously, the more we are controlled by the Spirit, the more we are also under our own control. Remember, the fruit of the Spirit includes the fruit of self-control!
It’s another one of those mysteries about the Spirit!

And here’s another one.

By now, you’re probably wondering “How?”

Okay, already, Pastor Matt, I understand that I am supposed to not get drunk, but I am supposed to be filled with the Spirit.

How do I go about doing that?

Do you know what? It doesn’t say.

And there is no other passage in Scripture that gives a formula.

Most of the rest of the places where it talks about being filled with the Spirit are descriptions of faithful Christians doing God’s will and not commands like this one to come under His influence.

At my ordination council, I was asked this question, and it was kind of stumper, because it doesn’t say.

And I think that’s because being filled with the Spirit is not a technique.

It’s simply a yieldedness to His influence and a living out the Christian life dependent on His power.

I’m sure it includes the repentance and faith of “putting off” and “putting on” that you find in verses 20-24 of chapter 4.

I’m sure it includes the living differently than we used to that you find in chapter 4, verse 25 through chapter 5, verse 14.

I’m sure it includes the living wisely not unwisely, the living with understanding of God’s will, not foolishly in verses 15, 16, and 17.

I’m sure that includes knowing and believing the Word of God.

In the parallel passage to this one in the book of Colossians, Paul says, to “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.”

Remember, the Spirit wrote the Bible, and I think that being filled with Him would also include being filled with His Words.

It probably includes walking by the Spirit and keeping in the step with the Spirit like we saw back in Galatians chapter 5.

It’s really just yielding to His influence and trusting Him to empower your life.

It’s not very mystical, really.

It’s not “let go and let God.”

It’s “Trust God and get going.”

It’s not how much of Him we have, but how much of us He has.

“Be being filled with the Holy Spirit.”

Now, it doesn’t give a formula or technique for being filled, but it does describe the inevitable results of it.

In verses 19, 20, and 21, there are 4 participles that flow out of verse 18. In the original Greek, this was all one sentence.

“Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak[ing] to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing[ing] and mak[ing] music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, [s]ubmit[ing] to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

You can know that you are filled with the Spirit if these kinds of things are true of you.


“Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.”

Often we think about this as singing. And I think that pretty much, that’s what Paul is getting at. But, notice, it’s singing to one-another. See the word it starts with? Speak. Speak to one-another. A Spirit-filled person sings His Christian songs (that’s what psalms and hymns and spiritual songs are–all of the different kinds of choruses and hymns that we have), a Spirit-filled person sings His Christian songs in such a way that it encourages one-another.

Have you ever wondered why we have Special Music? Like what Amy Jo did for us today? It’s not just for a show, I’ll tell you that! Sometimes we need to sing songs about Jesus to one-another to encourage each-other in our walk with Jesus. We need to use inspiring words like psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to encourage each other along.

We need to listen to each other sing on Sundays! It’s not just “close your eyes and focus on Jesus.” We’re singing together and we really mean it!

If you are under the influence of the Spirit, you want to share it!


Look again at verse 19. It says “Sing and make music in your heart to Lord.”

“Sing” is the first part. A Spirit-filled person uses his or her voice to sing to the Lord. My friend, Byron Harvey says, “If God has given you a great singing voice then sing loud and lead people! But if God has not gifted you with a great voice, then sing loud anyways and get even with Him!” Make a joyful noise! Spirit-filled song!

The second part is “make music in your heart to the Lord.” Even more important than what your voice does is what your heart does. You can sing with all your lungs and not be worshiping! Make music in your heart to the Lord. That’s what the Spirit does to you when He has control of your life. He plays a concerto of praise in your heart!

When we sing, “Jesus, Thank You!” do you feel it?


“...always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

If you are under the Holy Spirit’s influence, then you know the reality of Romans 8:28. All things are working to your good. Even THE bad things!

If you are under His influence, then you know the reality of Romans 8:32, God is graciously giving you all things with Jesus. Even trials, hardships, suffering!

If you are under His influence, then you can see life with God’s sovereign rule triumphing over everything and all the time you can find something to give thanks for.

I don’t mean to just grin and bear it and pretend that evil is not there. It is, and it is awful! Cancer is an enemy. Famines and earthquakes and evil are a reality. But God is on the throne, and if He is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)

Today’s my birthday and my favorite present so far has been a worship CD called, “Come Weary Saints” by Sovereign Grace Music. The whole theme of the album is songs for people who are going through hard things.

Listen to the words of the Song “Every Day:”

In Your grace, You know where I walk
You know when I fall
You know all my ways
In Your love, I know You allow
What I cannot grasp
To bring You praise

Thank You for the trials
For the fire, for the pain
Thank You for the strength
Knowing You have ordained
Every day

Your great power is shown when I’m weak
You help me to see
Your love in this place
Perfect peace is filling my mind
And drawing my heart
To praise You again

In my uncertainty, Your Word is all I need
To know You’re with me every day

[© 2008 Sovereign Grace Worship (ASCAP)/Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI)]

Can your heart sing something like that? If so, you’re under the influence of the Spirit.


Do you notice how communal this is?

Like we saw last week, the Spirit really as interested in giving us lots of isolated individualistic private experiences, as He is knitting us together so that we living in Spirit-influenced community!

Engaging in Encouraging Talk
Singing in Our Hearts
Giving Thanks for Everything
And Submiting to Others in the Proper Relationships. V.21

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

Submission is simply putting ourselves under someone else’s authority. In the next passage, Paul applies that to wives, children, and slaves.

But verse 21 makes it clear that it’s for all of us. We all have relationships that should be characterized by submission.

And we should all have hearts that are willing to submit to others when appropriate.

To humble ourselves.
To not demand our rights.

When we do, it’s because we’re under the influence of the Holy Spirit.

He empowers Christians to live like only Christians can live.

How are you going to apply this teaching to your life this week?

My prayer is that you and I will be more keenly aware that the Third Person of the Trinity is not only living inside of us, but present to empower us to live out the Christian life.

He wants to influence us, to sway us, to control us, to act upon us from inside out sot that we grow in doing God’s will.

Sometimes, in extraordinary ways. But often, just in simple joyful obedience and wise-living characterized by encouraging talk, joyful song, pervasive thankfulness, and humble submission.

Is there an area of your life that you’ve been holding back?

Yield it and yourself to the influence of the Holy Spirit.


Worship at the Lord’s Table

One of the reasons why the Bible must tell us to be filled with the Holy Spirit is because we will not always be filled in the way we should be.

We are sinners.

And our sin deserves to be punished by God.

I imagine that if our first parents, Adam and Eve, had never sinned, they would have experienced the filling of the Spirit in ways unimaginable to us today.

But they sinned, and so do we. We all fall short of what we were made to be.

But God, in His grace and mercy, God in His love, sent One to live and to die in our place–His own Son, Jesus Christ.

And, the Bible tells us that He was given “the Spirit without measure!”

Think about that phrase in light of what we’ve just been learning about.

“The Spirit without measure” was given to Jesus.

No one in all of history was more influenced by the Holy Spirit!

His miracles were done in the power of the Holy Spirit!

“The Spirit without measure” was given to Jesus.

No one in all of history was more influenced by the Holy Spirit!

And that led Him to some strange places, didn’t it?

The Spirit led Him out in the wilderness to be tempted.

And the Spirit led Him to the Cross to die for our sins, in our place.

And then, on the third day, the Spirit brought Him back to life again!

1 Peter 3:18 says, “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit...”