Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit. (Ephesians 5:18)
What does it mean to be ‘filled with the Holy Spirit?’ The clearest explanation of this is can be found in the way Paul originally wrote it. “Do be drunk on wine – Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit.” In other words, do not be under the influence of alcohol. Instead, be under the influence of the Holy Spirit.
Have you ever heard of someone receiving a ‘DUI?’ What do the initials DUI stand for? “Driving Under the Influence.” Whenever someone reaches a certain level of alcoholic content in their bloodstream, they are considered to be legally drunk and therefore too dangerous to drive. The reason they are too dangerous is because alcohol has the power to have a negative influence upon how they think and act. Someone who is under the influence of alcohol will do things that they would not normally do.
Paul uses this example to help illustrate the work of the Spirit in the life of a believer. Whereas alcohol can have a negative influence upon us and cause us to do foolish things, the Holy Spirit can have a positive influence upon us and help us to do things that will please God. To be filled with the Spirit means to be under His influence and control. In addition, we should note that Paul wrote this as a Present Tense Imperative. In other words, “I am commanding you to continuously be under the influence of the Spirit.” Being filled with the Spirit is not something we should expect to experience only once or twice in our lives. It’s not even something that we should expect to experience only on Sundays. Being under the influence of the Spirit is something that we should strive for every moment of every day. Many see it as the same thing as what Paul meant when he wrote, “walk in the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:16, 18) In other words, constantly live your life under the control of the Holy Spirit.
That seems simple enough, and it would be if not for two other possibilities. Paul also warns us about “grieving” the Spirit and “quenching” the Spirit. First, let’s consider what it means to ‘grieve’ the Spirit.
With the Lord’s authority, I say this: Live no longer as the Gentiles do, for they are hopelessly confused. Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against him. They have no sense of shame. They live for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity. But that isn’t what you learned about Christ. Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy. So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body. And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil. If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need. Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. And do not bring sorrow (grief)to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:17-32)
From this passage, it is quite easy to see that grieving the Spirit is associated with sin. Whenever we allow sin to influence and control of us, we will grieve God’s Holy Spirit.
What does it mean to ‘quench’ the Spirit?
But let us who live in the light be clearheaded, protected by the armor of faith and love, and wearing as our helmet the confidence of our salvation. So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing. Dear brothers and sisters, honor those who are your leaders in the Lord’s work. They work hard among you and give you spiritual guidance. Show them great respect and wholehearted love because of their work. And live peacefully with each other. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone. See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people. Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. Do not stifle (quench) the Holy Spirit. Do not scoff at prophecies, but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. Stay away from every kind of evil. (1 Thessalonians 5:8, 11-22)
Here the emphasis seems to be more on doing what is right. The Holy Spirit is constantly doing one of two things in our lives:
a. He is warning us concerning sin
b. Or He is encouraging us concerning righteousness
Victorious Christian living comes from being obedient to the Holy Spirit’s guidance. Or, in other words, victorious Christian living comes from constantly being under His influence.
Recently I had a conversation with a man who used to be in the ministry. As we were discussing the various aspects of the Christian life, the subject came around to the importance of the Holy Spirit. Both of us agreed that the number one problem in the church today is that so many believers seem to know so little about the important work of the Holy Spirit. Our churches are filled with well-meaning people who are struggling to live the Christian life because they lack a proper understanding of living under the control and influence of the Spirit. I pray that these devotionals this week will help make the matter a little clearer.