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Is the Spirit of God at Work in Your Church? part 2

23 Feb

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.

Is the Spirit of God at Work in Your Church?

19 Feb

I’ve found that people ask all sorts of different questions when you talk to them about church.

Sometimes the questions they ask seem like funny questions. Sometimes they’ll ask you questions that seem like good questions. And sometimes they’ll ask you questions that at first seem like funny questions but in reality are pretty good questions.

Like, sometimes people ask, “Is the Spirit of God at work at your church?”

Now, that can seem a little bit like a funny question because what pastor is ever going to say that the Spirit of God is not at work at his church? Certainly not a pastor who’s concerned about what the Bible has to teach.

On the other hand, though, it can be a good question. It’s not just a funny question. It can be a good question for a whole lot of reasons. For starters, we are desperately dependent on the Spirit’s work. We, as a church, desperately need the Spirit of God to be at work.

We cannot accomplish anything that matters as a church apart from the Spirit of God’s work.

The Bible would be an incredible burden to us as a church if we came week after week after week and the Spirit of God was not at work in this church.

Take a book like Ephesians.

Ephesians would be an incredible burden on our back because all throughout this book Paul’s been describing God’s great goal for us as a church and how God is calling on us to live as a church and it’s huge, really.

Think in your mind throughout the book of Ephesians.

Paul has told us things like, “God has a great plan of presenting us to himself holy and blameless and above reproach.” He’s told us even in chapter 5 that we are to be imitators of God which is a shocking command.The Apostle Paul has told us as a church that we need to be like God and he’s exhorted us in chapter 5 as we’ve studied this chapter, to be radically different than the people around us, specifically, you remember, he’s called us to be sexually pure. He says there shouldn’t even be a hint of sexual immorality in the church and he’s told us to turn from greed and he’s told us that our conversation needs to be different. Then he goes on to say in verses 15-17 of chapter 5 that we are to make the most of every opportunity. He acknowledges that the days in which we live are evil, we know that, and Paul says, “In evil days, because the days are evil, we need to grab hold of every single opportunity we have as a church to glorify God and to do people good.” He tells us we are to understand what the will of the Lord is, understand what God wants for our lives and all of this is very exciting: to be holy and blameless, to be like God, to be different than the world, to know what God wants for my life, to make the most of every opportunity.

It’s all very exciting but it is kind of overwhelming when you start to think about it because how in the world are we ever going to be able to do all of that?

I know me and I know a little bit of what God’s like, how am I going to be like God? I know us and I know a little bit of what the world is like, how are we going to be sexually pure? How are we going to stand before God holy and blameless and above reproach? How are we going to accomplish all these different commands that Paul describes for us in the book of Ephesians?

An important part of Paul’s answer is found in the work of the Spirit in terms of our everyday holiness. It’s found in what Paul talks about when he describes in verse 18 the importance of being filled with the Spirit. An important part of the way, as one man puts it, that “we fulfill God’s great purpose for our lives and for our church is by being filled with the Spirit continually” which is why this is a pretty good question.

Is the Spirit of God at work?

Because if the Spirit of God is not at work doing this in us, the whole rest of the book of Ephesians cannot be fulfilled. If the Spirit is not at work in this way, if as someone has said, if you could somehow delete verse 18 from Ephesians 5 about the Spirit filling believers, then everything else in this book would become legalistic and actually pretty much impossible.

The problem is not with people asking you, “Is the Spirit of God at work?”

The problem instead is sometimes with the way they try to go about answering it because they’re often looking to things as proof of the Spirit of God’s work that are very different than what Paul described as evidence of the Spirit of God’s work.

This is one of those questions there can be a whole lot of confusion about.

What does it mean for the Spirit of God to fill a church? What does it look like in a church, in a community, when the Spirit of God is really at work?

There are a lot of people who are answering that question in a way that’s very different than how the Apostle Paul does. In the next several posts, I want us to look at Ephesians 5, and what we will see is that one of the primary proofs that the Spirit of God is really at work in a church is when the lifestyle of believers in that church and the relationship of the members of that church are being radically transformed from what they were before they were saved, to something that looks a whole lot more like Jesus Christ.

In other words, as we look at our church and we ask, “Are we being filled with the Spirit of God the way we should?” what we’re going to see we need to look for, what we need to look at, is if we as a people are delighting more and more in Christ and experiencing more and more joy in Christ and becoming more and more like Christ Sunday after Sunday after Sunday.