“Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Sprit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart.” Ephesians 5:18-19
At certain times in life, such as the birth of a new child or a cross-country move, a lot seems to happen all at once. The beginning of a new life in Christ is perhaps the greatest example. When we believe in Jesus, a number of changes occur simultaneously: we are justified by faith, we are adopted into God’s family, we’re given a new status as His sons and daughters, and – as this verse highlights – we’re indwelt by the Holy Spirit.
When someone believes in Jesus, The Holy Spirit begins residing in them, providing them with the desire and the power to do what God desires. This fullness of the Spirit is fundamental to the reality of Christian experience. It is the birthright of all who have come to trust in Christ. And yet the truth is that even as believers we do not always live in the fullness of God’s Spirit. It remains possible to grieve the Spirit who lives in us by our disobedience (Ephesians 4:30). It remains possible for us to be more influenced by something other than Him – which is why, here, Paul underlines that we cannot be under the influence both of alcohol and of the Spirit.
We must understand that if we are God’s children, we can never remove ourselves from the fatherhood of God; however, living in disobedience can remove us from the sense of His fatherly blessing, presence, and enjoyment of us. A child who flat-out disobeys his mom and dad may still sit at the breakfast table, knowing that they are still his parents and he is still their son, but the enjoyment of the relationship will be diminished. So it is with us: we cannot live in disobedience – we cannot allow some other considerations, priority, or substance to guide us – and simultaneously live in the fullness of the Spirit.
This is not a problem we can remedy ourselves. We do not fill ourselves with the Holy Spirit. We not only receive the Spirit’s fullness from God; our very enjoyment of His fullness is because of God. We cannot fill ourselves, but we can and must open ourselves to being filled. The expectation for every Christian life is that this evidence of being filled – what Paul calls “the fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22) – will gradually become more and more apparent.
The great need of your life, and of every gathered church, is to be filled with the Spirit – to be directed by Him rather than by anything else. That is what brings true transformation, and joy and peace and love. That is what overflows into songs which praise Christ in our hearts as well as with our lips when we gather together. So, pray for Him to fill you anew:
Spirit of God, descend upon my heart;
Wean it from earth; through all its pulses move;
Stoop to my weakness, mighty as Thou art,
And make me love Thee as I ought to love.