What does it look like when the Spirit of God is at work in your church?
To answer that question, we’re first going to look at the comparison Paul makes in Ephesians 5:18.
This comparison is basically the setup for the rest of the verse and so if you’re going to understand the rest of the passage, it helps to begin with this comparison. When Paul says “and do not get drunk with wine, which is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit” he’s making a comparison. It’s actually probably better to say he’s making a contrast and it’s a contrast that at first seems a little strange for us.
I understand that we’re not supposed to get drunk with wine and I understand that we’re supposed to be filled with the Spirit but why does Paul mention these two things back-to-back? Why does he say “and do not get drunk with wine” and then in his mind he thinks that is an appropriate contrast to being filled with the Spirit?
The reason Paul mentions these two commands back-to-back as a “put off” and a “put on” is because he’s really describing two radically different kinds of lifestyles. He’s talking about two radically different ways of living. The first way of living, “do not get drunk with wine,” is a foolish lifestyle. If you look down at the text you’ll see how Paul commanded us in verse 15, he says, “Look carefully then how you walk. Not as unwise but as wise.” And then in verse 17 he says, “Therefore do not be foolish.” This way of living that he describes at the beginning of verse 18 is just an expression of how a foolish person lives.
It’s how a person who doesn’t understand the gospel and how it connects to his life lives. He’s consumed with the desire for earthly pleasure. The days are evil, the world is wicked and so how does he respond to the fact that the world is wicked? He is consumed with a desire for pleasure. That’s getting drunk with wine at it’s core. That’s what you’re doing when you get drunk with wine, you’re cramming your face with pleasure. Getting drunk with wine is an expression of a foolish kind of lifestyle where a person’s appetite for earthly pleasure is out of control. It’s where a person’s appetite for earthly pleasure is the thing that controls him. That’s why Paul, the next thing he says, he says “don’t get drunk with wine for that is debauchery.” Do you know what “debauchery” means? It means “wildness.” Paul says, “That’s living like an animal.”
Being controlled by a desire for earthly pleasure is living this life in a foolish way like an animal.They are thirsty, these people, and the thing they look to to satisfy their thirst is earthly pleasure which is why this is such a good place for us to start as a church. When we think about: is the Spirit of God working in this church? here’s the question we need to begin with: where as a church are we looking to for ultimate satisfaction? We’re talking about control.
Is the Spirit of God filling this church? Well, what is it that is really in control of what we do and what we think and the way we live our lives out? Is it the same thing as the world? A desire for pleasure, earthly pleasure? Is our appetite for earthly pleasure what controls us? Is that the center of our lives? Are we controlled by a lust for more? We need to ask that because there’s a lot of religious activity that is trying to use God the same way a drunk uses alcohol. A drunk looks to alcohol and stuffs his face with alcohol because of his passion for pleasure now and that’s the way many people are in terms of their relationship with God. The reason they’re excited about church, the reason they come to church, why they do what they do at church is all about pleasure now. How can I use God to get what I want now?
What happens when we’re controlled by earthly pleasures and not the Spirit, it produces chaos in our lives and in our relationships. Paul says it’s debauchery. It leads to wildness.
It’s kind of like, I think, if you can imagine you enter a room, there’s a lot of people, this is the foolish lifestyle, this is the way many people are living in their life, it’s the opposite of being controlled by the Spirit, but there are many people, and it’s sort of like if you enter a room and you can imagine in this room there are all kinds of instruments, there is a drum, there is a guitar, there is a piano, there is a keyboard, there is a trumpet. And these people enter the room and with the foolish person, the foolish people, it’s like they go into the room and they’re taking these instruments which could make beautiful music but they’re going wild just playing these instruments as loudly as they can with no clue how the instruments are supposed to work and that’s what’s happening in our world. God has filled this world with all sorts of instruments that give him glory and are intended to bring us pleasure but the world doesn’t know how to use them in a way that honors God and so what we hear is chaos, chaos. Loud crazy chaos.
And one of the ways we can tell something is happening in our church is that we are in the process of stopping misusing the instruments God’s placed in this world and as a result that loud crazy chaotic noise is being turned down a bit in our lives and in our relationships. Meaning, more specifically, that the church that is filled with the Spirit has turned and is turning from being controlled by desire for earthly pleasures like alcohol. They’re not foolishly trying to find ultimate satisfaction in things that are not satisfying and instead they’re being driven by a thirst for something that does satisfy, something that does last, something that is more significant than earthly pleasure and that is the gospel, God and the person and work of Jesus Christ.
So, if we want to know if we are filled with the Spirit, the first place to look is at this comparison.
What is controlling you? What is it that controls you?
The days are evil, where do you turn to for satisfaction? Are you stuffing your face with more and more earthly pleasure now, is that what controls you? Well, that’s the opposite of a life that is controlled by the Holy Spirit.