“And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Ephesians 5:18-21
I recently watched an episode of a teenage drama that was a fairly popular television series when I was in high school. Not an incredibly proud moment for me, I admit, but nonetheless, I walked away with a very clear picture of where I want to take us today in this lesson. Two of the main characters in this show got drunk, and their subsequent behavior was nothing short of what you would expect. They made fools of themselves in front of their family and friends, said things that they completely regretted, and ended the evening worshiping the porcelain goddess, if you know what I mean.
Perhaps, you can relate to this unfortunate scene, remembering the folly of your own youth and the poor decisions you may have made when under the influence. While my intention today is not to induce any kind of shame or guilt, when I saw the above scene unfold, it made me think. When we are under the influence of such a substance, we will say and do things that we normally would not. No doubt, this is why God gives us clear instruction in His Word against drunkenness. On the contrary, He tells us that the only thing we should be “filled” with is the Spirit. Instead of allowing ourselves to be filled with alcohol, drugs, or any other substance that would control us under its influence, we are commanded to continually be under the influence of the Spirit, because it is only under His influence that our lives will be pleasing to the Lord.
The phrase “be filled with the Spirit” in verse 18 is not referring to the Spirit’s indwelling or even baptism by the Spirit, because every Christian is indwelt by the Spirit at the moment of salvation. What Paul is telling us here is to consistently live our lives under the influence of the Spirit by allowing God’s Word to control us, and its truth to determine our course. What exactly would this look like for the believer? A pursuit of righteous and pure living, a posture of repentance over all known sin, a dying to self and its desires, a surrender to God’s will, and a full reliance on Christ’s power in all things. This is what it would look like to consistently live under the influence of the Spirit.
If we were to position ourselves under this influence, we would say and do things that we normally would not. We would forgive when the wounds seem to deep to ever heal. We would love in the face of hate. We would be patient and kind even though we live in a world that isn’t. We would speak the truth and be honest even when society tells us to exaggerate to cover our tracks or to cut corners to get ahead. We would know the joy of the Lord, and it would gush from our veins and pour out through our words, even in the midst of heartache, disappointment, frustration, or despair.
If we would live our lives under the influence of the Spirit, the immediate personal consequences that we would know are listed for us in Ephesians 5:19-21. We would sing songs. We would give thanks. We would humbly and willingly submit to one another in Christ. Can you fathom what a different place this world would be? Can you even comprehend what the church would look like? For the body of Christ to be one that rejoices. For His bride to be thankful. For the church to be humble. For believers to be reverent.
Breathe that in for just a moment. Ponder this. A life lived under the influence of the Spirit is the life that we are all called to. There is not one exception. To position yourself under the control and leading of God, His Spirit, and His Word is to walk in obedience to this command. I long for the day when the church as a whole awakens to this call and rises to this obedience. I am eager to see the day when every follower of Christ desires to live in the conscious presence of Jesus Christ, allowing our minds and our hearts to be dominated by God’s Word in all things. I want to be filled with the Spirit. I want to live under the influence.