Be filled with the Spirit

Part 2 – What does it mean to be alive spiritually?

Be filled with the Spirit.  Eph 5:18

What does it mean to be alive spiritually?  It is a wonderful privilege to know the Lord as Saviour and serve Him every day in our lives.  So how is it possible for us to know the Lord and walk with Him daily as we serve Him?  We get some wonderful principles for living the Christian life to the full from the passage in Ephesians where Paul encourages the believers to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

Fire of the SpiritThe work of the Holy Spirit is mentioned throughout the Scriptures, and it would be wonderful to do a study on what the Bible says about the Holy Spirit as a topic on its own, and gradually work through that.  However, let us look at the work of the Holy Spirit within the context of Ephesians.  At another time we are also going to be looking at Galatians, Colossians and Philippians and looking in each of these different sections, because in each of these different letters Paul is talking about the Holy Spirit in a slightly different way.  Each of the letters was written to real people in real times with real needs.  In the letter to the Ephesians Paul is writing specifically to the Ephesian church.  Ephesians chapter 5, Verses 15-17 is where we are going to start.   Paul says, “Be very careful, then, how you live- not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.  Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is”.

Verse 18-21 is one long paragraph, one complete section in the original Greek.  So what does Paul say in this one complete thought, and what does he want us to see, to learn and apply in each of our lives on a daily basis?  Paul continues by saying, “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”.

There are several little nuggets there. Paul is talking about how we live “Be very careful then, how you live”.  At the beginning of Chapter 5 and verse 1 he says “Be imitators of God therefore and dearly beloved children and live a life of love.” (or walk in love).  Then in Chapter 5 and verse 8 he says “Walk in the light”.  So, walk in love, walk in light and now he is saying he is saying here, he wants us to walk wisely.  “Be very careful then, how you live”.  This phrase “very careful” is the sort of phrase we say to one another.  Once when I get something out of the oven, my wife said to me ‘Be very careful’ but I tripped and it all went everywhere!  And Paul is saying to these Ephesians, we’ve heard how wonderful our relationship with God is, (he shared this in chapters one to three), now BE CAREFUL, day by day, moment by moment, how you live.  He is trying to bring into our daily lives and our daily experience, care.  Are we making use of every opportunity, making use of the time that we have?  We can lose money and perhaps get it back again, we can lose various different things and replace them but we can’t replace time.  Time is irreplaceable.  Paul is saying to these believers – make every opportunity of the time that we have because the days are evil.  We do live in evil days.

Many of us have heard about the splendour of Dubai.  Dubai is supposed to be the best place to live in the world. There they are building things everywhere, huge skyscrapers; they are building this big palm island. Everything appears rosy there.  Not so anymore.  There is redundancy now in Dubai.  What is happening all over the world, is now affecting Dubai.   These are the times that we are living in.  Paul is saying here to these believers in the times that they are living in – Be very careful how you live.

Notice then what Paul he says in verse 17 “don’t be foolish but understand what the Lord’s will is”. Now I remember, a number of years, reading that and thinking “Wow, this is really good! I can now come to a point where I can understand what God’s will is. Wonderful!  I’m really looking forward to this.  I can find out what  God has for me, what God’s will for me is. “I got a real surprise.  I wonder whether you will be as surprised as I was.  This is quite challenging actually.  Paul says here “Don’t be foolish – understand what the will of the Lord is”.  Then in verse 18 he tells us what God’s will is for our lives – “don’t be drunk on wine which leads to debauchery but be filled with the Spirit”.  What does Paul mean here?  Be wise how you live. Live being filled with the Spirit.

Now there are five things here that we can work through to help us understand what Paul is talking about and how it applies to us.

What then is the key to being alive spiritually?  It is to be filled (controlled) by the Holy Spirit.  Allowing the Holy Spirit to lead us, to teach us on a daily basis.  It is a daily letting the Lord lead and guide us in all we do.  That is the key to being alive spiritually.  That is the key to serving the Lord effectively.   When we became believers we received the Spirit but Paul is saying we need to be filled with the Spirit on a day to day basis.  So, what does that word “filled” mean and how does it really apply? Being filled with the Spirit is going to be what enables you and me to do everything that we do.

I really enjoy being on home on a Monday and like to spend 6-8 hours in my study.  However, inevitably in the middle of day the phone rings and I need to go somewhere.  How do I react to that?  What goes on inside me?  Something has happened to change my schedule, and as I’m fulfilling that, the Lord is saying – Be filled with the Spirit as you do this.  So- everyday, let’s allow the Spirit to fill us.

Now, lots of people get mixed up with what being filled with the Spirit means.  There’s some confusion here.  It’s not a blessing just for a few.  It’s not a second blessing – something which we receive later.  When a lady has a baby, she doesn’t go home with a leg and the doctor says come back tomorrow and we’ll give you another leg!  The baby goes home complete, normally.  And we are born complete.  The Holy Spirit comes into our lives as a once for all experience.  We can’t have some of the Spirit one day and some another.  Paul is saying that it is a regular, constant, ongoing allowing of the Spirit in your life.  We can’t have more of the Holy Spirit but the Holy Spirit could have more of us, as we allow him in our lives.

One of the ways it is helpful to understand any book is to look at it in context.  Let’s do some background study before we get into this passage.  What does the bible actually say about the work of the Holy Spirit and then we’ll come back to Ephesians.

Firstly, Ephesians Chapter 1 verse 3.  This is what Paul says here about the Holy Spirit.

V13 “and you” – he is talking to the Ephesian believers – “you were included, in Christ” – When?

“When you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. “

A seal or guarantee of the SpiritThat’s when you were included in Christ, when you became a believer.  Then he says, having believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit.  When did you receive the Holy Spirit?  When you believed.  The moment we believed, we were marked, we were sealed with the Holy Spirit, guaranteeing our inheritance which is yet for the future.  So Paul makes it very clear to these Ephesians that when they became a believers, the Holy Spirit came and took up residence in their lives.  That is the same for us.  That’s a powerful experience, a once for all experience, that every one of us received the Holy Spirit the day we were born again.

The next time the phrase “Holy Spirit” comes is in Eph 4 v30 and it is in the context of how we live our daily lives.  In the first 3 chapters Paul is telling us what’s true of us as believers – all the wonderful truths which are true about us. Chapters 1, 2 and 3 he says we have received the Holy Spirit, so now how do we live? In Chapter 4, 5 and 6, he tells us. One of the things he says here in Chapter 4 is – as we live, don’t grieve the Holy Spirit.  Have you ever grieved your husband or wife?  How does it go down?  Not very well?  And what happens when you are grieved?  You see, the Holy Spirit is a real person and Paul reminds us here that we have received the Holy Spirit in our life, so don’t grieve him.  Let’s look at the context here where he says don’t grieve the Holy Spirit.  How do we do it?  Look at verse 27.  “Don’t give the devil a foothold”. When we give the devil a foothold, we grieve the Holy Spirit.  “He who has stolen must steal no longer but must work, doing something useful.”  If we are not being useful, we’re grieving the Holy Spirit.  V29 “Don’t let unwholesome talk come out of your mouth, but only what is helpful for building each other up, according to their need.”  How do we grieve the Holy Spirit?  When we speak in ways that don’t help each other along.

Now look at v30 “in whom you were sealed in the day of redemption” He’s reminding us that we have been sealed.  We are his, we belong to him.  Then he carries on and says “Get rid of bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice”.So very clearly, Paul is saying to these Ephesians – this is true.  You have received the Holy Spirit, this is how you should live -don’t grieve him.

Let’s go back a little bit further, and see what the Lord Jesus said about the coming of the Holy Spirit.  Look at John Chapter 14 and some of the verses to bring us back to where we started in Ephesians

V15.  If you love me, you will obey what I command.  I will ask the Father and he will give you another counsellor to be with you forever, the Spirit of truth.  The world cannot accept him because it neither sees nor knows him, but you know him because he lives with you and he is with you.  I won’t leave you as orphans, I will come to you.  Before long the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me because I live you will live also.  On that day you will realise that I am in my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him”.

V25 all this I have spoken while still with you.  But the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things”.

What does the Spirit of God do -teaches us.  He uses the word to teach us.  “And I will remind you …… Don’t be afraid.”

The Holy Spirit is going to come.  He’s going to be with you.  He’s going to be in you.

Look at Romans.  Chapter 8v6.  Again it’s an amazing passage which tells us where we are now.  Let’s be aware in this passage here, of the word ‘Controlled’.

V6 “The mind of the sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace” Isn’t that wonderful? The mind controlled by the Spirit, as we allow the Spirit to control us, is life and peace.

V9 you, however, are controlled, not by the sinful nature, but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you”.

Now, notice this… “If anyone does not have the spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ”.

How do we respond in difficult situations?  Paul is saying that we can, in all of our circumstances, allow God to control us.  And he’s going to tell us some of the results of that in a moment.   What about this idea of control? It’s not being filled, like a cup being full of water.  The actual idea here is like that of the wind.  Allowing the wind of God to blow you.  The Spirit of God will blow you.  As we see in the Christmas story, Simeon was led by the Spirit into the temple.  Day by day, allow the spirit to move you where he wants you to be.  Another idea here is the idea of salt permeating meat to preserve it.   Paul is saying, allow the Spirit to lead you in every way that you go.

2 Peter 1:21 is another verse where it says all the scriptures were written by godly men who were moved by the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit caused them to write what he wanted them to write.  So that tomorrow, next week, whatever we do, we can be allowing the Holy Spirit to cause us to be where He wants us to be.  To do the things that He wants us to do.  Jesus, when talking to some of the disciples said that “sorrow has filled your hearts”.  It controlled them.  Another verse “fear had filled their heart”.  It’s amazing that we can be filled with our own emotions but God wants us to be filled with the Spirit.

So, if we are allowing the Holy Spirit to lead us on a day to day basis, to blow us (lead us), and we are being sensitive to him,  how does being controlled by the Holy Spirit work in daily life?  It’s interesting in these passages that Paul doesn’t say what you do to be controlled by the Spirit but he does give us 5 examples of what will be true in our lives if we are filled with the Spirit.  Some people might talk about their ecstatic experiences, wonderful experiences, wonderful understanding of the Word, the ability to preach and lots of other different things.  But here Paul is saying – the evidence of someone who is being controlled by the spirit is fivefold.  Every so often, I need to stop in my own life and ask ‘Lord, where am I in these things?”  Am I allowing the Holy Spirit to lead me and where am I in these 5 areas?  Can we say we are controlled by Spirit?  Are we allowing the Holy Spirit to fill us, because if we do, there are 5 amazing results of it?  Lets look at these:

  • Speak to one another…. it’s interesting that he makes these 5 statements but doesn’t explain them.  Now this phrase “Speak to one another” is better rendered, speak among one another.  It has the idea of the desire to speak with my brother, my sister, my friend about the Word.  One of the evidences that I am allowing the Lord in my life, is that day by day I have the desire to speak with others about the scriptures.  In Col 3 v16, Paul says in a slightly different way, “Let the word of God dwell in you richly in all wisdom and admonish one another……..”  The word admonish means, to encourage.  So the person who is filled with the Spirit is someone who wants to share with other people what God has made real to them.  Perhaps on the phone, in church, after church, in the bible study meeting, when we speak to each other, let’s enjoy being in the word together.  That’s the evidence.  Do you enjoy the Word of God?  Do you look forward to sharing with others what God has shown you?
  • Singing to one another in Psalms and spiritual songs“Sing”.  Psalm 40 says the Lord has taken me out of the miry clay and put a new song in my mouth.  A song.  Psalm 96 “sing to the Lord a new song.”  We communicate with each other and we sing.  The early believers in 1 Corinthians encouraged each other with the hymns.  How wonderful it is to share a word with each other and be able to sing. Do you  have a song in your heart?
  • “Make music in your heart to the Lord” The phrase here has the idea of “have a melody”.  Do you have a melody in your life? What steals your melody?  My melody can go out of the window when the computer doesn’t work or the car doesn’t go.  When things go wrong I can lose that melody and it’s gone.  Paul says in Philippians “Do everything without moaning and complaining”.  If you murmur and complain, the melody is gone, you are not being filled with the Spirit.  This is so practical.  Paul is saying here “Have you lost your melody?”  We can have all the wonderful gifts, we can speak, and we can stand up and preach or teach.  But it’s the way that I speak that’s important. If the way that I speak to you is unkind, if I murmur or complain, it doesn’t matter whether I can lead a bible study or stand up and preach, I’ve lost my melody.  I encourage you -Go back to where you lost it.

Paul says in Phil 4 that we don’t need to be anxious, but we do sometimes get anxious.  Come back to the Lord and share it with him.  That’s how you deal with that melody.  I love the thought in 2 Kings Ch6 v5 where a man comes to Elijah and says can you help me?  I borrowed an axe and the head came off and it dropped in the river and I lost it.  Elijah says to the man, go back to the river, throw the stick in where you lost it, and the axe head will float.  That’s been a tremendous encouragement to me when I’ve thought about losing my melody.  Go back to where you lost it.  Go back to your husband, or your wife or your friend and apologise, make things right.  You can speak in tongues if you want to, you can have all the wonderful gifts, but you are not filled with the Spirit.  The evidence of being filled with the Spirit is practicing these principles.  Now there are different gifts that God gives us and these are varied but the control of the Spirit is always here.

  • “Always giving thanks to God the Father for everything”.  ALWAYS for EVERYTHING.  I heard someone speak once about a gratitude attitude.  Do you have a gratitude attitude?  I read a book once and it says that for example, if you’ve got a bad leg, praise the Lord for a bad leg.  That is not what Paul is saying here.  I don’t think God wants me to praise Him for a bad leg but we can praise him in spite of the bad leg.  Paul is saying that one of the evidences of being filled with the Spirit is being thankful.  In 2 Chronicles Chapter 20, Jehoshaphat had a problem.  The enemy were coming and were going to capture Jerusalem.  Jehoshaphat didn’t know what to do about it so he went into the temple and laid his problem before the Lord and said “Lord, this is my problem.” God told him to go out and face the enemy and as he went forward to sing and praise the Lord.  Jehoshaphat must have thought “There are such great difficulties outside that door and you want me to go out there are praise the Lord?”  But he did, and the Lord delivered him from the enemy.  Now, the enemy won’t always go away but the Spirit does give us a calm heart in the midst of our trouble.
  • “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ”.  The word submit means abide under.  It means me listening to each other.  Fitting in with each other.  We’ve got roles and responsibilities but as a fellowship, as a body, we should be submitting one to each other.  Listening to each other, being humble with each other, working together under each other.  Paul says submission is one of the evidences of being controlled by the Spirit.  I think it’s really interesting that these other three thoughts here take 3 verses but v21 takes the next 2 chapters.  What is that possibly teaching?  The others are perhaps easier but submission is a lot harder.  In Chapter 5 v22, he talks about wives submitting to their husbands, Chp6 6 children to parents, slaves to masters.

Paul is saying here, be wise, understand what God’s will is.  Allow God’s spirit to control you.  Are you being controlled by the Spirit?  That’s the key to being spiritually alive.

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Colin Lamb.