Series > Worshiping the Spirit
Life In The Spirit
Ryan Tompkins // May 12, 2019
scripture Passage // Ephesians 5:15–21 (ESV)
“15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
Taste your goodness, I shall not want. When I taste your goodness, I shall not want. There's a certain tension that exists in today's Scripture. On the one hand, we would confess yes, that in experiencing and tasting the goodness of God, I shall not want. It fills me up. I think we recognize that we often don't actually feel very filled. We have a certain hunger, and that hunger might be well represented by considering what is now considered an epidemic in US culture, which is the obesity epidemic.
Our young people are getting bigger, and diabetes is confronting them as a result of consuming the wrong food and too much of the wrong food. Where this is particularly a problem is amongst the poor, which is a little bit counterintuitive. If you thought about someone who's poor, you might think well they don't have money to buy a lot of food so no one should be struggling with obesity. The problem is that the wrong kind of food, food that isn't necessarily very nutritious, is often cheaper and easier to come by than food that is good for you.
So, you can imagine a scenario easily where say a parent is working two jobs trying to make ends meet, and their child is hungry. Now, that parent can run to the grocery store and pick up some very expensive meat or some very expensive vegetables, and run home in exhaust to prepare that while the child complains that they're not really interested in eating kale. Or, they can go through the drive-thru at McDonald's and hit the $4.00 menu. For a fraction of the price they would spend at the grocery store, and with no time expended, the child is satisfied, and the family is happy, and the parent who's already exhausted gets to find a little bit more rest.
It's a very easy thing to do. Now, I think that is very apt to metaphor for our spiritual existence. We are a hungry people. We seek to satiate our hunger, but we so often reach for what is easy, or what is really delightful to the eyes, or to taste, rather than for what is really good for us. As a result, we're not really filled up. This is Paul's concern in heart for the church in Ephesus, saying you are tempted in moving in a direction of filling yourself up with the wrong thing. Really, I'm inviting you to be filled up with the spirit out of which will come great things: joy, and thanksgiving, and praise. But, if you continue to fill yourself up with the wrong thing, that's a road of darkness.
This is the decision that day-by-day, and week-by-week, this is always in front of us. We're always hungry, and how will we meet that hunger? Paul uses a dichotomies and tensions in Ephesians. He talks about light and darkness. He says if you continue to fill yourself with the wrong thing, you live in a world of darkness. This is why he says just before our passage, he says, "Come and be awake." It's the invitation to be filled with the right thing this morning, and to be awake in that process, to know that joy, but we would be foolish if we didn't admit that that's difficult.
So we're going to consider Paul's teaching, and it breaks down very nicely for us this morning because he gives three basic exhortations, or commands. Each exhortation or command is characterized by a good action, and a bad action. Good behavior and bad behavior. We'll take:
1. Wise walking.
2. Knowing the will of the Lord.
3. Being filled with the spirit, upon which the two hang.
So, number one, wise walking. In verse 15 Paul writes, "Look carefully then how you walk. Not as unwise, but is wise." Again, Paul spends a lot of time contrasting wisdom and foolishness. For him, foolishness as it exists in the Ephesian world, is basically pagan culture. If you look outside of the church and see how everyone outside of the church is trying to fill themselves and satisfy their hunger, Paul would call this darkness or foolishness. But, pursuing God in the midst of our hunger, and seeking to walk in wisdom is pursuing God in his own wisdom.
Now we might ask, what does this wisdom look like? Paul says, "Walk in wisdom." All right, that's kind of general, but abstract. Paul, what are you talking about? Well, already in chapter 5 and verse 2, he has said, "Walk in love as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us." In verses 8 and 9 he writes, "Walk as children of light, for the fruit of light in found in all that is good and right, and true." So to summarize what wise walking looks like, it looks like walking in the love of Christ. It means walking in that which is good and acceptable, right and true.
Notice even as we begin, we have such a tendency in the West and in culture today, when we start talking about wisdom, what do you think of? The default is to think of knowledge, what I possess in my mind. That's not what Paul is after. Wisdom here in the book of Ephesians is how to engage right living. It's a skill. It's an insight in how to navigate the world and to rightly order your affections. If your first love is Christ in his kingdom, then all your loves will fall into place. But, if that love becomes misplaced then everything falls into disarray. This is what wisdom is for Paul.
What he does is apply wisdom to time, which is a great way to think about are we really walking in wisdom, or do we walk as the unwise? Look at verse 16. Paul writes, "Making the best use of the time because the days are evil." Now, the phrase here, "Make the best use of," is a verb that really carries the idea of buying something back that's in the grasp of another. What Paul is actually saying is listen, if you're going to walk in wisdom, you're going to buy back... What's he talking about? He's talking about time, you're going to redeem time from the grasp of another.
Well, how is time in the grasp of another? According to Paul, he's giving this command because the days are evil. In other words, time is in the grasp of evil days, and the Christians who walk in wisdom must redeem that time out of the hands of the grasp of evil days and live accordingly to the wisdom that God calls us to. Now, we are quick to confess the victory of Jesus and his resurrection and ascension. But, we should not forget that the forces of evil are yet to be defeated in a permanent fashion.
The New Testament talks about the last days, which is how they refer to all days after the ascension of Christ. They typically talk about them as being evil days. Not only that, but Paul earlier in Ephesians, has spoken of the power of the Prince of the Air, and in 6:12 he writes that, "We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness." So, we find ourselves in attention. On the one hand, we confess that this creation is good and is to be celebrated as God's good creation.
On the other hand, we acknowledge that there is a presence of evil that dominates culture, and exercises control, and that we are called to wrestle and fight against it. "Walking as wise people" then means redeeming time from the grasp of evil, and for the glory of God. A couple of examples or ways to think about this, personally I've found prayer receding in my life. I decided that I better make this is a greater priority so that it won't be neglected. I've started beginning every day with prayer so that I make sure that that gets the attention that it deserves before the day expires.
I woke up this morning and my first thought was, I want to be sure to be ready. I'm going to go over the sermon, and I'm going to skip prayer. Now, that really isn't about you, and that you would receive the best that I can give. It's really about me. I want to make sure that I come across a certain and perceived a certain way, and as a result of that what was I willing to do? I was willing to sacrifice praying this morning. That's the opposite of redeeming time from the grasp of evil. That's participating in systems of evil, that I would not tend to what is most important out of a desire to serve my own image.
What does redeeming time from the grasp of evil look like for you? Maybe it means honoring and loving your wife rather than turning on the game. Perhaps it looks like praying rather than looking at a screen. Perhaps it looks like intentionally reaching out to connect with someone rather than just engaging in another project, or tending to something at home, but investing in that relationship. Whatever it looks like, it's imperative. I wish we had more time because in Ephesians there's such an emphasis on renewing one's mind.
The renewal of the mind that comes in the spirit, comes through expression in this way in terms of being intent day by day, and week by week, to redeem time from the grasp of evil. All right? So moving forward, there has to be one question that we're always wrestling with. If I live in evil days, and that predisposes me to participate in the evil and use my time in that fashion, what does it mean to redeem the time from that? That's Paul's first exhortation. His second exhortation comes in verse 17, "Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is."
I have never liked this verse. It always makes me feel kind of stupid. Like, Paul just says, "Don't be foolish. Understand what the will of the Lord is." Have you ever been in a place where you're like, "I'm not really sure what the will of the Lord is." Does that mean I'm foolish? Paul has said just before this in verse 10, a little bit more gently, "Try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord." Now, foolishness is not understanding what the will of the Lord is. Paul's concern in Ephesians has been for the church to really understand God's intention for his people.
His intent is for them to pursue a knowledge and intimacy of God that informs their life. Now, this requires energy and commitment on our part. Some of you have older kids. Once you have older kids, you learn that they become somewhat sophisticated in getting what they want, and manipulating a situation. You might have had a situation at some point in your life, or seen someone who comes and... Say you have a high school student, and that high school student is very intent on wanting something. They've got their mind set on wanting to go to a party or wanting to receive some object, so what do they do?
They think to themselves, "Well I'm going to be very intent to know the will of my parents. Then I'm going to meet the will of my parents, and as result of their pleasure in me meeting their will, I'm going to get what I want." Pretty sophisticated, right? That is exactly what we're not talking about when we're reading Paul and seeking to know the will of God. But, it is our default because we constantly think, "Well if I'm obeying, then I will get a certain thing. It will come about. So, I'm going to pursue something in obedience. I'm going to act like I know the will of God, but it's really just to get from God what I want." That is indeed not what we're talking about.
What we're talking about is a real love for God, and a desire to know him in a way that we realize we believe that his will is loving for us, and his will is the best thing for us. About a year ago, I'm not really sure how this came about, but I decided that I was going to know something very deeply. In upstate New York there's a very famous restaurant. It's called Brooks House of Barbecue, if you ever drive through upstate New York. They do a vinegar brined chicken that is really unbelievable. You can eat a quarter of chicken and immediately want to eat another one, it's so good.
What I decided was, I was going to figure out this recipe. Much to the chagrin of my entire family, I started reading books and articles on poultry and brining, and seasoning. I bought more chicken than I would like to admit to you. I'd done at least 70 renditions of different chickens to try to figure out this recipe. In fact, I'm really quite close. I'm almost there. I'm very excited and delighted. But the point is, I focused my mind and my heart on something believing that this would be good, and could be a blessing to others.
Every church in upstate New York has a Brooks Barbecue. So, I pursued it with diligence, for the love of the thing and for the joy that that thing brought. That's the kind of attitude that we should have in desiring to know the will of God. For the joy of it, for the delight that it will bring, that's why we pursue the will of God. That's the second exhortation, and now we come to the third, which is in verse 18, "Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery. But be filled with the Spirit." If you're not familiar with debauchery, debauchery is that place where your inhibitions are lowered and you're more inclined to engage in reckless behavior.
Sin looks a lot more attractive to you, as a result of being drunk. Now, why does Paul choose to make a particular issue of drinking too much wine? Did the Ephesians have an abusive alcohol problem like the Corinthians did? Well, we actually don't get that notion at all in Ephesians. Paul seems to be choosing this because he thinks it's such a good example of what he's talking about, and he wants to run it parallel. He's talking about being filled two different ways. You can be filled with wine, or you can be filled with the spirit.
We desperately need to be filled, or want to be filled, but you're going to be filled with one of two things. Even the ancient world understood the danger of alcohol. In fact, Socrates, a famous Greek writer and philosopher, is famous for penning this sentence, "For when the mind is impaired by wine, it is like chariots which have lost their drivers. The soul stumbles again and again when the intellect is impaired." Paul, having the same concern, and if you want to read a great passage about alcohol, or if that's a personal struggle for you, Proverbs 23 speaks to the danger of alcohol and wisdom, and thinking that through.
Paul chooses this because it's the fork in the road that we're constantly facing. I am hungry inside. I am lonely. I am hurting. I know I need to be saved. I know my guilt and shame need to be dealt with. So, what am I going to look to for salvation? If I take the left, I'm going to be filled with something that is attractive, and I feel like it meets my need right now, but I know that it won't satisfy in the long run. It's the darkness that Paul describes. It's the wine that he describes. But if I take the fork going to the right, I'm not going to be satisfied with anything earthly that might fill me up. Instead, I desperately desire to be filled with the Spirit himself, because that is what ultimately makes me new.
Now, just a couple of notes here. Paul has already spoken in Ephesians about being filled with God, and being filled with Christ. So this notion here, that the Spirit is the one who is given to us as our counselor, as the person who walks with us on our journey of faith. But, it's really the notion that we are filled with the trying God, that the Spirit is imparted to us. We have God and we have Christ filling us. This is a remarkable notion that we participate when God participates in us in that fashion.
If you've been around certain aspects of the church, sometimes people like to talk in the language of, "Well, we have the Holy Spirit, but we leak. Then we need to be filled back up." That's really not the language Paul is using. It's more of you can choose to walk one road or the other. This decision confronts you over and over, and over again. So, you must pursue the Spirit in order to be filled in that way. Why is it worth being filled with the Spirit? Of course, you can say well you're actually being filled with Christ. That should have some impressive consequences as a result of being filled with Christ, and indeed it does.
Look what Paul describes as a result of being filled with the Spirit. First, you're going to have a posture of worship, singing psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs. Now, Paul can't mean literally that every Christian goes around dialoguing all the time in song, that we just sing to one another. It's not what Paul means. What Paul does mean is that we as a people will be characterized by a spirit of praise, and both individually and corporately we'll participate in that song and that song unites our hearts and the praise of God, remembering that God did not have to do anything on our behalf, but he has done so in love and mercy.
Second, if the first consequence is praised, the second consequence in verse 20 is giving thanks always, and for everything to God the Father, in the name of our Jesus Christ. Are you filled with a spirit of gratitude? Are you someone who... Some of you would say, "You know what? This person is so annoying because they're always so thankful. They're always so grateful." That's the kind of spirit that Paul is describing as a result of being filled with the spirit, understanding the great gift of God's grace and mercy, reminding ourselves we're a people who so easily defaults to entitlement and thinking I deserve X, Y, and Z. But instead, to take a step back and to remember the God who loves us even as we rebel against him and crucify him. That kindles a spirit of gratitude.
The third consequence of being filled with the spirit is in verse 21, "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ." Those who are filled with the Spirit do not demand their own rights and privileges. They don't come into the household of faith and say, "I'm going to devour whoever I need to in order to have my needs met." They submit and seek to serve their brothers and sisters. That spirit of submission is evidence of being filled with the spirit. Now, how do you want to live?
Do you want to live in a way in which you are not filled with the spirit, but instead are filled with wine or some version of wine, and then as a result of that, you don't know thanks-giving, you don't know praise, and you don't know the joy of a community in which people submit to one another. It's a radical and a beautiful way to live, but to be filled with the spirit is to be able to enjoy all those things.
I was surprised to see that it's been over 10 years since Supersize Me came out. If you're not familiar with Supersize Me, it was a documentary done in 2004 by Morgan Spurlock. Morgan Spurlock was concerned with obesity epidemic in the United States, and decided to demonstrate what would happen if a human being ate nothing but McDonald's for 30 days. That's what he did. If he was asked to supersize it, which is what every McDonald's employee is supposed to ask, he would always have to say yes.
So, he spent 30 days consuming well over 5000 calories a day. His cholesterol intake was remarkable. He gained 24 pounds in 30 days, almost a pound a day. His body mass increased by 13%. He described the struggle he had thinking, how he didn't feel very good, all of these things as a result of consuming so much food that's not healthy. Friends, we live in a culture that constantly presses in upon you to supersize it. So, we choose to go down this road and say, "I'm going to be filled with wine, because it's so hard to be filled with the Spirit, and I don't want to really pursue God because that requires so much time and energy of me. I'm not really sure if he's going to through at the end of the day. Wine is right in front of me. I choose wine."
But if you go down that road, eventually the wine isn't doing it anymore. You need more and more of it, which is what I mean by you supersizing. I'm going to double down on this thing that I think will fill me up, and it just leads to disappointment and despair, and a lack of joy that comes with the spirit. When you come to the table this morning, repent of the ways in which you would choose to be filled with something else, and the ways in which you would choose to supersize it, remember that Jesus desires.
Jesus has laid down his life. He has broken his body and shed his blood. Why? So that you could be filled with him. Come and be filled this morning.