Sunday, September 6, 2015

The practical consequences of being filled with the Holy Spirit - Ephesians 5:19-6:20

Ephesians 5:1 "Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children"

Ephesians 5:18 "And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit"

Ephesians 6:18 "With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints"

Lately I have been focusing on the Spirit-filled life. Why? Simply because in so many cases (at least in Baptist circles or Evangelical church circles), Christians rarely think about the kind of experience they are to have with God beyond the baptismal tank. Let me explain. It is probably a fair assessment that too often, the excitement of those first few days or weeks following one's conversion is marked rightly by believer's baptism. The ordinance of believer's baptism is afterall the first major step of Christian obedience. 

However, what is there after water baptism? I know for me growing up as a teenager, after having been converted and water baptized, there was no further instruction. My concept of the Christian life consisted of trying to get by and biding my time until either Jesus returned or when I died. Such a vision of Christianity does not consider the wonderful life of sanctification, and more specifically, the Spirit-led, controlled and filled life. It was not until 17 years of age, nearly six years after my conversion and nearly 5 years after water baptism that I experienced what we have been laboring for in these past several posts - namely the Spirit-filled life. 

Such an experience is entered upon by first of all positioning oneself to imitate God and walk in love, as explained in Ephesians 5:1-2. Next, obedience to God, or at least the desire to do so, is the second step. Thirdly, hatred for sin, or at least the desire to put away from oneself unconfessed sin, is also vital. Such convictions are covered in Ephesians 5:1-14 and comprise the call to the Spirit-filled life. 

As we already saw in yesterday's post, the Spirit-filled life is not optional, but commanded (Ephesians 5:15-18). So then, what about the practical consequences that flow from a Christian who not just once, but repeatedly lives in commitment to being led by and filled by the Holy Spirit? What can be expected in terms of fruit? What difference does it make whether or one is filled with the Holy Spirit?

Such questions will be answered in this final installment of our study of Ephesians 5:1-6:20 as we consider the consequences of being filled with the Holy Spirit. 

The consequences of being filled with the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 5:19-6:20
The Spirit-filled life is as much practical as it is supernatural and doctrinal. Empowerment that derives from increased influence by the Holy Spirit is not just for the self-edification of the Christian. The Spirit-filled life is a ministry granted by the Holy Spirit to be a blessing to others. We saw already the one key theme to Spirit-filled, Spirit-controlled living - namely holiness (Ephesians 5:1-14). We can now add another practical theme - that of submission. Submitting oneself to the Lord Jesus Christ, the authority of the scriptures and the Spirit's leading are pre-requisite to the filling work of the Spirit. How then can one continue to walk in the Spirit - as so commanded in Galatians 5:16 and 5:25? One word - submission. The practical consequences our outcomes of the Spirit-filled life are as follows in Ephesians 5:19-6:20.

1. Spirit-filled worship. Ephesians 5:19-21
Here we see commands given to the entire church body to "speak to one another" and "submit to one another". The songs of praise and worship result in the overflow of the individual Spirit-filled Christians coming together in either a corporate worship setting or smalller groups. Like live coals in a BBQ, as one Spirit-filled Christian fellowships with another Spirit-filled Christian, the worship quickly escalates to that level of worship that can only be described as "other-worldly". A sweetness fills the air and the focus becomes absolutely Christ-centered. Churches benefit from church members who regularly make the Spirit-filled life their priority. 

2. Spirit-filled marriages. Ephesians 5:22-33
In the flesh, the idea of "submission" is viewed negatively. Moreover, the possibility of loving one's wife as Christ loved the church - i.e putting her needs ahead of my own, willing to die if need be, being the spiritual leader - is too-tall of an order in the flesh. Only the Spirit-filled wife and husband can achieve what is expected here in Ephesians 5:22-33. Harmony and unity result when both spouses are regularly led by the Holy Spirit. Just as we saw in the example of the Spirit-filled church, the Spirit-filled marriage will focus on Jesus Christ. 

3. Spirit-filled parenting. Ephesians 6:1-4
I find it interesting that the entire argument for the Spirit-filled life is not only for adult believers, but young Christians too. Parenting in the way God has prescribed can often be an exhausting chore. However when I yield myself to the Spirit's leading by way of daily time in the scripture, praying for my child and denying self - parenting in the name of Jesus becomes a delight. Conversely, whenever a little Christian child is taught to submit themselves to the Lord by practicing daily time in the Word, asking the Lord to lead them and most-importantly of all, mom and dad having Spirit-filled lives, the growing pains of child-hood can be greatly dampened.

I think at this point it is vital to remember that Spirit-filled living must not be conceived of as having immunity from pain, sorrow, difficulty, dissapointments and spiritual warfare. If anything, those negatives only increase due to the fact that Spirit-filled living cuts across the grain of natural human tendency. This is why the Spirit-filled life is a repeated experience post-conversion. Just as your car needs repeated fill-ups, so does the Christian walk. Perhaps this observation is no more realized than in the context of parenting.

4. Spirit-filled employment. Ephesians 6:5-10
Working on the job tests the patience of employees and employers alike. How can either make Godly decisions or treat each other in such a way that honors Christ? In the context of the work-a-day world, where there is often more unbelievers and believers, the Spirit-filled life is an utmost necessity. If an employee finds themselves as the only Christian among dozens (I've been there) or working for a boss who regularly pressures them to attempt things that are contrary to biblical convictions (I've been there as well), then the only way in which successful navigation can occur is the Spirit-filled life. To walk away from temptations, or opportunities to be lazy when the boss is not looking requires a Christian to be daily yielded to the Spirit of God. 

5. Spirit-filled spiritual warfare. Ephesians 6:11-20.
We have seen the practical consequences of the Spirit-filled life, and the need for such a lifestyle, in the areas of worship (Ephesians 5:19-21); marriage (Ephesians 5:22-33); parenting (Ephesians 6:1-4) and the workplace (Ephesians 6:5-10). But now what about spiritual warfare? It becomes quickly appparent that the conflict we have in daily life is ultimately not just with people, but with spiritual forces influencing such people (see 2 Corinthians 10:3-5; Ephesians 6:11-12). Unless Christians are regularly availing themselves of the Holy Spirit's control in their lives, they will find themselves living in regular defeat. The Christian life balances on a razor thin edge between two realities: on the one hand we will sin (not by necessity but by choice) and on the other hand we can overcome any sin. Struggle accompanies the Christian life. I think too many times Christian focus only on this particular point. Struggle exists for the sake of victory, since one cannot overcome something that they first have not had to battle. To conceive of victorious Christian living without struggle and warfare is to live out of one's imagination. On the other hand, to conceive of a Christian life where one is constantly being defeated and with no-way-out is to have an incomplete theology. 

Paul's final section of Ephesians 6:11-20 takes these two sub-themes of struggle and victory and reveals that in the Spirit-filled life, there is going to be a great warfare. However, the sweet fruits of victory can be enjoyed in this life. Though we may never reach the point of sinless perfection in this life, yet the last time the Christian sinned, they didn't have to. Hatred for sin can only come about in direct proportion to my increasing love for Christ and imitation of the Father (sound familiar? see Ephesians 5:1-2).

Closing thoughts
Today we considered the practical consequences of the Spirit-filled life in the following areas: worship (Ephesians 5:19-21); marriage (Ephesians 5:22-33); parenting (Ephesians 6:1-4); the workplace (Ephesians 6:5-10) and spiritual warfare (Ephesians 6:11-20). My prayer is that these series of posts, as well as the previous series, as opened up new vistas of realization for the reader. I close with Paul's prayer in Ephesians 1:18-20 - "I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in thesaints, 19 and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might 20 which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places."

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