“And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit,” Ephesians 5:18
I do not know what your view is regarding whether or not a Christian should drink alcohol, but as I was talking about this very thing with a friend last night I ended my part of the conversation by saying that the most important thing we need to remember in contemplating any act we are to take part in is whether or not the Holy Spirit voices approval or disapproval. Furthermore, I added, as an obedient servant we are to obey the direction those instructions take us and not compare what we have heard to what others have heard.
As I see it, there are many commands in the bible that are clear as to what is evil and what is good, yet the use of alcohol in general is not dealt with on this level. Rather, the bible gives us some clear guidelines for its use and some clear warnings about its misuse. Today’s verse addresses the misuse of alcohol but in context there is an even greater contrasting element being addressed that I am excited to share with you.
Again, I have taken the liberty to expand out the underlined parts of the verse above and here how they can be described:
- “drunk with wine” is an example of being in a drunk state which was brought about by drinking too much wine. The state of being drunk in general is one in which a person’s judgment is clearly impaired. Alcohol is not the only substance which can put a person in the state of drunkenness though. In reality, anything that is not of God and is taken to an unhealthy level can cause our spirit to be drunk and self-satisfied. That in turn brings this drunk person to a state of “dissipation”. And, “dissipation” in direct translation, is the state of being unsaved. Salvation is for those who trust in the Lord, but how can a life filled with something not of God belong to God?
- “filled with the Spirit” is a wonderful short phrase that means so much more when looked at from its original Greek connotation. The words used here mean to “be crammed to the top” with no more room to shove anything else into the container. The picture you get when thinking about this phrase is a cup filled so full that if you tried to put any more liquid in, the contents would spill over the sides and onto the floor and everything around it. Likewise, if you are the container which is so filled with the Spirit, then He takes up so much of you that there is no more room for you/your will in your life.
A.W. Tozer writes about the conflict many Christian have in this area of allowing the Holy Spirit to fill their lives until they are crammed to the top with Him. He states: “…are you sure you want to be possessed by a spirit other than your own? Even though that spirit be the pure Spirit of God? Even though He be the very gentle essence of the gentle Jesus? Even though He be sane and pure and free? Even though He be wisdom personified, wisdom Himself, even though He have a healing, precious ointment to distill? Even though He be loving as the heart of God? That Spirit, if He ever possesses you, will be the Lord of your Life!”
Whether the lack of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer has to do with fear (as expressed by Tozer) or just failure to understand the need for Him, the human need to be filled with something will drive an individual to pursue other avenues to find that content and filled existence, whether that be in the form of alcohol, drugs, work, status, power, ministry, etc. The list goes on and on. In the end though, true peace, real contentment, and an effective life comes only from being filled by One thing and that is the Spirit of God.
Our duck in the pond allows me to share a very compelling illustration with you in regards to this truth. Think about the Holy Spirit as the water in the pond. By nature, water is a wonderful conductor of electricity. And, just like a light bulb needs to have electricity in it to shine so does our duck need to be connected to the Big Daddy duck (by staying in the pond) so she can shine and be an inspiration to other ducks who have yet to experience the pond. In other words, when our duck who choose to get out of the pond and on her own tried to be a witness in the puddles, but utterly failed. She was completely ineffective in influencing the puddle ducks and came off as some crazy, wildly flapping duck because she was trying to manufacture her own light apart from the source that gave her the light within her while she was in the pond.
This type of thinking is completely contrary to the worldly notion that if you just go and do something you can make things happen. Instead what God wants us to understand is that we are only effective when the Holy Spirit, our direct connection to God, is at work in us. Also, it is the work of the Holy Spirit to change the hearts of the people we speak to need in order to prepare them for the work He desires to do around them through us.
The other day I was having a refreshing conversation with a woman who started coming to our church just a few months ago. I was so delighted to hear a believer driven to proclaim the works of the Lord in complete understanding of the phrase “trust in the Lord”. In conveying her story to me about how God moved her from inner city Chicago to our little town in Minnesota she shared with me many stories about God’s miraculous provision for her. One of her stories she shared had to do with her need for a bed. She stated that one morning she woke up and realized the air mattress she had been sleeping on had sprung a leak and it was not going to hold her one more night. So she said, “I prayed to Jesus to send me a bed.” Within a few short hours her nephew told her there was a knock at the door. The woman standing outside the door promptly asked her if she was in need of a bed. She told me that she could not contain her worship for the Lord’s provision and burst out saying, “Praise You Jesus!” She quickly said to the woman at the door, “Don’t mind me I am just so grateful to the Lord for providing for my needs I just need to praise Him.”
This woman is the exact picture of what Paul was getting at when he states that a believer should be “crammed full” of the Spirit. Living in that sort of manner is so encouraging and so inspiring to others who see your life that they can’t ignore it. That’s what being an influencer who shines the light of God looks like. It is living in a state where we can speak, pray, sing, and give thanks not because of our surrounding conditions, but rather because of the God who is orchestrating the purposes behind those conditions.
May God show you today how you can shine for Him and be filled by Him so that those around you are drawn to Him and His eternal light of life.