JUNE 5, 2016

Rev. Dr. Richard Meyer


 (Play Audio)


            We have been taught to avoid asking certain personal questions. For example, it’s inappropriate to ask anyone, "How much do you weigh?” Likewise, we should never go up to anyone and ask, "Is that a wig?" and we should never ask anyone, "Did your plastic surgery not work out?”  And of course, never, ever walk up to a woman we don’t know very well and ask her, “When are you due?” If she is not pregnant we would be in a world of trouble!

            There are just certain personal questions that one should not ask, but I want to take the risk of asking a very personal question this morning, which I believe is appropriate given our current sermon series on the power of the Holy Spirit. Here’s the question: "Is the Holy Spirit filling you right now?" Now understand I'm not asking you "Do you believe in the filling of the Holy Spirit?" I'm not asking you "Have you been filled with the Holy Spirit?" My question is: "Is the Holy Spirit filling you right now?"

            Now there are only three possible answers that we can give—either “Yes, I am,” “No, I’m not,” or “Gee, I wish I knew.” And hopefully, we can answer, “Yes, I am,” because that is what the Apostle Paul recommends. In our passage for today he makes two comments about being filled by the Holy Spirit. He first commands it and then he commends it.

            First, note how Paul commands us to be filled with the Holy Spirit. He put it this way, “Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit" (v.18).

            The verb translated "be filled" in the Greek language is in the imperative mood meaning it is not a suggestion, nor is it a request, rather it is a command. From Paul’s point of view it is the will of God for every Christian to be filled with the Holy Spirit. In fact, Paul precedes this command by saying in the previous verse, "Understand what the will of the Lord is … do not get drunk with wine … but be filled with the Spirit.” The will of the Lord is to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

            Furthermore, this verb is plural in number. In other words, he’s addressing this command to every person in First Church Ephesus, not just the pastor, not just the staff, not just the deacon, not just the Sunday School teacher, but every Christian in Ephesus.

            This verb “be filled” is also in the present tense which in the Greek language denotes … and this is where my seminary education finally pays off … continuous action. In other words, we are to be filled continuously with the Holy Spirit. The baptism of the Holy Spirit lasts a lifetime. The sealing of the Holy Spirit lasts for all eternity. The filling of the Holy Spirit, however, is a day to day matter.

            When was the last time you stopped to gas up your car? Who filled their automobile gas tank yesterday? How long do you think that filling will last? A couple of days? A few days? A week? More than a week? How many of you will never have fill your car up with gas again? Well, we all know when we leave the gas station and drive around, we will begin to use fuel and eventually, in a day or a week, we will have to stop at a gas station and fill up again. Likewise, no matter how full of the Spirit we are today, that filling will not necessarily last until tomorrow.

            Now the difference between a car being filled with gas and our being filled with the Spirit is this: Unlike our gas tank, where we can run out of gas, God never leaves us completely empty because God never leaves us. There is always a little of the Holy Spirit left in our spiritual gas tank, but when we are running dangerously close to empty we have no power.

            As an aside, I have always found it fascinating that Paul juxtaposes being drunk with being Spirit-filled. It’s always stumped me as to why. Why did Paul link being drunk with wine to being filled with the Spirit? That had stumped me until last Sunday. Last Sunday after worship, I went downstairs for a little coffee and my sister asked me, “Why did you skip over verse thirteen?”

            I said, “Verse thirteen?  What do you mean?”

            She said,“You know, the part about some in the crowd on Pentecost Sunday thinking the newly filled-by-the-Spirit believers were drunk on wine. You love wine so much, why did you leave that out?”

            And she was right. I did skip over verse thirteen because there is never enough time to talk about everything in a passage. One has to pick and choose, but verse thirteen of the second chapter of Acts does come into play this morning. Some in the international crowd at Pentecost mistook the believers new found enthusiasm about communicating the gospel for inebriation. So, in a sense, Paul revisits Acts 2:13 today. Like the international crowd linked the two, being filled with the Holy Spirit and being drunk, Paul does as well.

            And there is a real sense in which the result of being Spirit-filled can be compared to being intoxicated with alcohol. By that I mean, when we are under the influence of alcohol, the alcohol sometimes makes us do things we would never otherwise think of doing.

            I read about a man in a bar who got incredibly drunk, staggered up to the bartender and said, "Where is the men’s toilet?"

            The bartender said, "Go down the hallway and it will be your first door on the left."

            Well, the man went down the hallway, but instead of taking the door on the left, he took the door on the right, and he fell thirty feet down an elevator shaft! When the people in the bar heard the commotion, they ran to the elevator shaft, and there was the drunk lying at the bottom of it. They yelled down at him and said, "Are you all right?"

            He yelled back at them and said, "Yes I am, but whatever you do, don't flush it!"

            If we are going to be under the influence of something, let it be the Spirit, not alcohol.

            And just to be clear Paul is not slamming alcohol here. He’s slamming being drunk on alcohol. The Psalmist said, “God made wine to make us glad” (Psalm 104:5) Jesus turned water into wine at wedding reception (John 2). Paul encouraged his protege Timothy to take a little wine to calm down his chronically upset tummy (I Timothy 5:23). Alcohol consumption is not the problem. Too much consumption of alcohol is the problem.

            So if we are going to be under the influence of something, let it be the influence of the Holy Spirit.

            So Paul commands us to be filled with the Spirit. He also commends the positive effects of a Spirit-filled life. According to Paul, there is something magnetic and attractive about a Spirit-filled Christian. For one thing there will be a gladness about such a person. Note verse 19.  Well, I’ll begin with verse 18, but pay particular attention to verse 19. 


            Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, (Now listen to what comes next) as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts.


            Note one of the manifestations of a Spirit-filled life. It is a heart that sings!

            Let me ask you a question. "Do you like to sing?" I did not ask you, "Can you sing?" I asked you, "Do you like to sing?"

            Now we might not be a good singer, but we will have a melody to the Lord in our hearts. We may be like the man who was standing on a street corner singing, hoping that people would give him money. Well, one man walked by, listened to him for a few moments, walked up to him and said, "I want you to sing at my funeral. I'm a very wealthy man. I'm not going to live very long and I'm going to go ahead and write you a check for $500. Will you sing at my funeral?"

            The man said, "Sir, I would assure you that I would be honored to sing at your funeral, but why do you want me?”

            The man said, "Because I want everybody to be genuinely sorry I'm dead."

            We may not sing very well, but we will have a melody to the Lord in our hearts. In the Greek that phrase about making melody to the Lord in your hearts,” literally says, "to strum your heart like a musical instrument."

            I want to say something to those of us who cannot sing. We don't have to audition to sing in God's choir. That’s because we listen to the voice, but God listens to the heart, and God wants to hear every heart singing praise to Him.

            Paul mentions another manifestation of a Spirit-filled life.  Note, verse 20 this time, but again I will start with verse 18 to give it context.


            Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit (then skipping to verse 20), giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.


            A Spirit-filled life is a thankful life. The only way we can be thankful to God in difficult circumstances is to be filled with the Holy Spirit, but it is possible.

            I heard of a pastor who had been facing repeated withering attacks from a very negative and critical woman. Every time he saw this woman she would come up to him and give him a tongue lashing about something she didn't like in the church, or about him.

            She was making his life miserable, and his job practically unbearable. So he called his preacher dad and asked him for some advice. His dad's remedy to the problem was very simple. He said, "Son, the next time that lady starts criticizing you, making you miserable, you just ask her to get down on her knees with you and pray with her." He said, "When she does you simply say this prayer: ‘Dear God, I want to thank you that this woman is not my wife.'"

            Sometimes it's hard to give thanks in difficult situations, but we can if we are filled with the Holy Spirit.

            The great preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, once made this observation: "If there were only one prayer which I might pray before I died it would be this: ‘Lord, send your church men and women filled with the Holy Spirit and with fire.'" I don't know about you, but I think that's a great happen. May that happen in our lives.


[1] Much of message borrowed from the sermon “Fill ‘Er Up, Lord” by James Merritt.