Monday, August 31, 2015
Filled Up and Under the Influence (A sermon based on Ephesians 5:15-20)
Everyone is full of something. It's just a question of what they're full of. And, of course, what you're full of will directly influence the way you think and act. God, through the Apostle Paul encourages us to be filled up to the point that we're under the influence. But he encourages us to be filled up with the right things. Read or listen to (download) this sermon based on Ephesians 5:15-20 and be encouraged to...
Filled Up and Under the Influence
A sermon based on Ephesians 5:15-20
Sunday, August 23, 2015 – Pentecost 13B
Is this glass full or empty? The answer seems obvious, doesn't it? It seems empty. Ah… but it's a trick question, isn't it? If it were truly empty the pressure of the air outside the glass would crush it. But it's not empty. It's full of air. So the pressure of the air outside the glass is equal to the pressure of the air inside the glass and it's just fine.
The point is that every glass is really full. It's full of something. It's just a question of what. And the same is true of people. We are all full of something. And not just food. People can be full of sorrow or full of joy. They can be full of pride and full of themselves. They can be full of guilt or full of peace. But everyone everywhere is full of something.
And what they're full of influences their thoughts and behavior. You know that's the case when you're filled up with too much food. You get tired and lethargic. Of course, if you're filled up with alcohol, it affects your behavior a lot. But it's not just physical things that affect us. If you're filled with pride you behave differently than when you're full of humility. When you're full of guilt you act differently than when you're full of peace.
This morning we hear the Apostle Paul encourage us to be filled up, and to be filled up so much that we're completely under the influence. But he doesn't encourage us to be filled up with anything at all. He also encourages us to be filled up with the right things. Don't be full of wine, but do be full of the Holy Spirit. Then you'll be under the right influence. Don't be full of foolishness, but do be full of wisdom. Understand what God's will is. Don't be full of selfishness, but do be full of thanksgiving. And be eager to make the most of every opportunity to serve him in thanks.
Our text for consideration this morning is taken from Ephesians 5:15-20…
15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. 19 Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I. Don't be full of wine, but do be full of the Holy Spirit. Then you'll be under the right influence.
Now as we discuss these verses, it's crucial to keep in mind the context of where we're at in this letter. In chapter one Paul pointed out how God chose us to be his own before the world began. In chapter two he highlighted God's grace in making us alive when we were dead and giving us the very faith that clings to his promises. In chapter three he revealed the mystery that God's saving grace was for Gentile as well as for Jew. In chapter four he shifted from justification to sanctification and urged us to live a life worthy of the calling we've received and insisted that we no longer live like the pagans. In five he encouraged us to mimic God and imitate his love for us as we show that love to others. So as we continue in chapter five, we again hear Paul urging us to respond to God's grace by the way that we live. But we miss the point if we forget about the first three chapters that highlight God's grace and both motivate and empower us to live for him.
Now he urges to be filled up and under the influence. But he wants us to be filled up with the right thing and under the influence of the right influencer.
When you're full of wine, you behave a certain way. You're under the influence. When you're full of the Spirit, you behave another way. You're still under the influence, but under a much better influence. Then you'll stay connected to that message of grace and be truly wise: knowing God's love for you in Christ.
So instead of a temporary high that leads to bad things, go get a real spiritual high, Paul urges us—one that will last: be filled by the Spirit—who will guide you in wholesome activities that will benefit you and others eternally.
How do you get filled up with the Spirit? In the Greek, verse 19 isn't really a new sentence. It's really a continuation of the last thought. None of the verbs are the primary verb of the sentence. They're each what linguists call participles. That means they support the main verb of the sentence. So perhaps a better translation of the end of 18 moving into 19 and 20 would be, "Be filled with the Spirit by speaking to another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, by singing and by making music in your heart to the Lord, by always giving thanks to God the Father for everything…"
Spiritual songs could be understood as "songs inspired by the Holy Spirit," that is the songs of the Scriptures. And most of our liturgy is just Scripture set to music. The Gloria is the song the angels sang to announce Jesus' birth. Create In Me is the song David sang after Nathan proclaimed that his sin against Urah, Bathsheba, Israel, and God had all been forgiven. The Nunc Dimitis—the song we sing after we have just held Jesus' body in our hands and in our mouths—is the song Simeon song as he held the Savior in his arms. O Taste and See is based on a Psalm. And most of our hymns are either a paraphrase or an allusion to some Bible passage. Even if our songs aren't taken word for word from the inspired Word of God, they do paraphrase the Scriptures and accurately convey the meaning of the inspired Word. And they fill us with the Spirit.
But of course, that doesn't happen when we just sing with the tongue, but in the heart—that is, when we pay attention to and believe the lyrics. Ponder the Word that you sing. In fact, if the music is too challenging for you to sing, it would be better for you to not even bother trying. Just read the words and think about their meaning. Then you will be making beautiful music in your heart to God.
In other words, God through Paul is saying, "Do you want change in your life? Do you want to have a better influence than alchohol (or TV, or arrogance, or whatever else may otherwise influence you)? Then be filled up with the Word of God at home and in worship, in devotions and in songs. Then, by staying connected to the Word of God we stay full of the Spirit and under his influence.
II. Don't be full of foolishness, but do be full of wisdom. Understand what God's will is.
When people are under the influence of wine or alchohol, you know that they often do stupid things. They put a lampshade on their head. They get aggressive in their advances to those they're attracted to. They sing karaoke when they ought to never ever hold a microphone. They act like unwise fools.
And worse than bad accessories, frisky behavior, and bad singing, they sin. Drunkenness leads to debauchery—that is immoral behavior. One sin leads to another. And you know this is true of any influence other than Spirit. Laziness breeds more laziness. Pride breeds condescending words. Lust breeds infidelity. And all of these influences breed unwise fools.
And the fool doesn't just miss opportunities to serve God, but has a more fundamental problem of not even knowing what God's will is. So no wonder he acts like a fool!
But not you! "Be careful!" Paul warns. "Be very careful! …Understand what the Lord's will is!" And, of course, that understanding comes when you understand the Word. For you cannot understand God's will apart from God's Word.
Ever think you were being a good husband or wife, only to discover that you were actually doing the very opposite of what your spouse wanted? I remember when Becky and I were first married and I thought I was doing her a huge favor by leaving the shower curtain open. You see, she was always a bit nervous about people looking in through our windows and always wanted the window curtains shut. I thought I was doing a favor and relieving her paranoia by revealing right away that no one was hiding in the shower ready to attack by leaving the curtain open. I don't think it was until years later that she revealed how much she hated that I was leaving the shower curtain open because it couldn't dry properly and would get moldy more quickly. I thought I was showing love. But I didn't understand what her will was.
Well, it's the same way with God. Sometimes we think we're showing our love to him by being more tolerant of others or by giving generously to a charity. We think our offerings are what make him happy more than our obedience to his Word. But we cannot please God if we don't first find out what he wants. Ask him in prayer, sure. But then read his response in his Word. If you want to know what God wants, you need look no further. He gladly reveals his will there. To assume you're doing God's will without first consulting his Word is to return to being a fool, a lapse back into darkness, a return to the pagan cesspool from which we've been rescued.
So keep studying the word. And not just once or twice assuming you've graduated from understanding God's will. No! Just as staying drunk requires more drinks or, given enough time, you sober up, so too staying under the influence of the Spirit requires not just one BIC Class, but regularly growing in the Word, regularly be filled up with the Spirit. Then you will know what God's will is in every aspect of your life. Then you will know what pleases him. And then, under the influence of the Spirit, you will be eager to thank him and make the most of every opportunity…
III. Don't be full of selfishness, but do be full of thanksgiving. And be eager to make the most of every opportunity to serve him in thanks.
Paul tells us that show our thanks to God for the salvation he's given us in Christ, we ought to make the most of every opportunity. Literally he says, "Redeem (or buy back) the time."
Of course, you can't really buy time. Vitellius was a famous wealthy Roman who threw his money around worse than the prodigal son. He once offered the priests of his province $250M if they would give him 1 minute of time. Of course, they couldn't. The best they could do was to have all the clocks of the province turned back one minute and, ironically, in the process wasted everyone's time. Time can't be reversed. It can't be recovered. "Time is money," or so they say. But you can make more money. You can't make more time. You are only allotted the same 1,440 minutes every day. No more and no less.
So maybe better than "Time is money," would be the expression, "Time is opportunity." Buy that time, dear friends. That means you have to give something for it. You may have to give up time with the TV to come to Bible Class. You may have to give up time to unwind at the end of the day to read a devotion. You may have to give up time with the kids and let them watch TV (heaven forbid!) while you read a few pages of God's Word with the bedroom door shut. But if you want to be wise and not foolish, you will command your time as an employer does his employee or as a master does his servant.
Looking for ways to serve Jesus. Don't just waiting for them to come your way. Don't wait for someone to invite you to join a committee or team, but go seek the chairman out and ask how you can help. Don't just wait for your spouse to ask for your help, but look for ways that you can serve him or her. Don't just sit on the couch playing games until mom or dad insist that you set the table. But offer to do whatever you can to help them out.
Of course, none of these are easy. And you can only do them if you are first filled up and under the influence—that is, filled up with gratitude to Jesus for his life and death and resurrection for you, and under the influence of the Holy Spirit as he fills you with faith and with thanks.
Make no mistake: You are always filled up and under the influence. You can be full of pride and full of yourself. You can be full of guilt and full of shame. You can be under the influence of your wine or alcohol or drugs or under the influence of your sinful nature. Or you can be full of the Word of God, full of peace at knowing your sins are forgiven, full of zeal to serve your God in thanks as you're under the influence of the Holy Spirit.
Yes, you are always under the influence. You still make the choice, but that decision is influenced by what is in you. So be filled up with the right stuff: the Word and the Spirit. Be under his influence. Don't be full of wine, but do be full of the Holy Spirit. Then you'll be under the right influence. Don't be full of foolishness, but do be full of wisdom. Understand what God's will is. Don't be full of selfishness, but do be full of thanksgiving. And be eager to make the most of every opportunity to serve Jesus in thanks. In his name, dear friends, amen.
Pastor Rob Guenther
Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church
47585 Ciechanski Road, Kenai, AK 99611
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