Summary: Living under the influence of the Holy Spirit means living as light.
In 2013, a South Dakota man received his 16th DUI conviction. That means he was found guilty 16 times of driving a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol—the first conviction was way back in 1977. But from the little research that I did, he isn’t the record holder for DUI arrests and/or convictions in the US. There apparently is another South Dakotan who racked up an astonishing 30+ DUI arrests. It makes you wonder why more wasn’t done to keep those drivers off the streets. Those under the influence of alcohol are not able to react like they should when driving a car. They’ll be slow to brake and avoid other vehicles so that they are a danger to everyone on the road.
Long before there were laws against driving under the influence, the Apostle Paul spoke about the dangers of living under the influence of alcohol. He instead urged every Christian to live under the influence of another kind of spirit—the Holy Spirit. Let’s see why this is what we’ll want to do as we continue our sermon series on the New Testament book of Ephesians and take in a God’s-eye view of someone under a good kind of influence.
Paul wrote in our text, “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 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:15-20).
Paul shouldn’t have to remind us that the days are evil. The morning headlines do that just as well. So how are we going to handle these evil days in which we live? We could simply close our eyes to all the bad stuff and pretend that it doesn’t exist. We could say that shootings and threats of violence at schools only happen in other communities…but they don’t do they? Even St. Albert, which was rated last year as the best place to live in Canada, has had its shootings and threats of violence at schools. Instead of burying your head in the sand, or drowning it in a bottle of booze Paul says that we need to put our heads in the book, that is the Bible. In this way we will be filled with the Holy Spirit and understand what God’s will is in our lives.
We will come to understand for example that even though there is evil all around us, God’s angels walk with us every step of the way. We’ll also understand that even if God allows bad things to happen to us, we know that he will keep us from eternal harm. For the Christian, not even death is evil. One of my favorite passages is this one from Isaiah: “The righteous perish, and no one takes it to heart; the devout are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil. 2 Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death” (Isaiah 57:1, 2).
It’s no wonder that Paul urges his readers to give thanks for everything. That would include giving thanks for even the hard things in life. Why can we give thanks for them? Because in Christ Jesus we know that God will turn those difficulties into blessings. Through faith in Jesus we have the confidence that our sins have been taken away, therefore we truly are God’s friends. More than that, we are part of God’s family! So even if a hardship like cancer should end in death, that hardship will turn to eternal joy because we’ll be in heaven where we’ll be forever free of all pain.
Being able to give thanks under any circumstance “in Christ” is like being able to whistle a happy tune as you transplant a prickly cactus. Normally that’s a job that wouldn’t be so fun, but it’s pretty easy to do if you’re wearing a sturdy pair of gloves. Jesus is like a pair of sturdy gloves. No, he might not insulate you from every ache and pain, but he will limit the harm they can do.
Those who are under the influence of the Holy Spirit not only know that God is with them through difficult times, they also know that God wants them to live a certain way to his glory and for their own benefit. We often forget that though don’t we? We think that this Christianity thing is something we do on Sunday mornings. We forget that God’s Word is to permeate every second of our lives. Paul knew that was might especially be a challenge for his original readers who lived in Ephesus. The ancient city of Ephesus was famous for a huge temple dedicated to the goddess Artemis. She was a fertility goddess and so one of the ways they worshipped her was by engaging in sexual immorality in her name and at her temple! Therefore attitudes about sexuality were a lot like they are today: anything goes as long as it makes you happy. But Paul wrote: “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. 4 Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. 5 For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. 7 Therefore do not be partners with them. 8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth)… 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them” (Ephesians 5:3-10, 11).