Summary: God wants us to live deliberately and to yield all control to God. Anything else is a cheap substitute. Nothing else fulfills us. When we are "high on God" (filled with the Spirit), all kinds of special things happen.
High on God
We just came from a state that has legalized marijuana use. And you see it everywhere, particularly on the only road to the beach where we used to live. Cannabis Center. The Weed Shack. It’s there for the buying. (Sorry, I didn’t bring home any souvenirs!)
Why do people like to get high? Why do people like to get drunk? I know sometimes there are medical reasons. But for recreational use, it’s an escape of sorts, isn’t it? If I don’t feel good about my present life, maybe for a little while I can escape to a better life, where everything is happy, where everything feels good ... at least for a little while.
But what if we could be high on God? What if we could find our greatest fulfillment in our Heavenly Father? What if we could lose control to THE Spirit instead of to spirits? And if we could, what would that look like? How would it benefit us? That’s the gist of today’s passage. Two big thoughts today: live deliberately, and yield control to God. Let’s consider both:
1. Live deliberately
The King James Version says to “walk circumspectly.” The idea is to navigate life with great care, the way you might walk through a thorny path. While in the Northwest, I took advantage of some of the wild blackberries that grow alongside the road practically everywhere. But when you pick blackberries, you have to walk circumspectly. You need to move deliberately. Because as good as those fresh berries are, there are a lot of thorns between you and the ripened ones. All the ones closest to the trail have already been eaten. So you have to lean over and stretch your arm, and move your leg carefully between briars. You have to move circumspectly, deliberately.
For some of you who have been in combat, consider walking through a minefield. Same idea, with greater consequences. One false step and you’re gone, or at the very least, part of you is gone. You must tread carefully.
In the passage, Paul gives some ways to walk carefully. He says to make the most of every opportunity. The word is “kairos” in the Greek. It’s talking about “the appointed time.” In fact, some translations use the phrase, “redeeming the time.” Think of carpe diem, or “seizing the day.” Take advantage of each opportunity God gives you. Watch for what God may be doing around you. Don’t waste a moment. Live on purpose.
And in so doing, Paul says you will understand what the Lord’s will is. You will see the hand of God at work. You deliberately build a relationship with your neighbor, and God will show you what may come from that relationship, how you may be there in a time of need, to convey the love of God to a not-yet-believer, or to someone who has drifted away from the faith. And now that person experiences the love of God through you, and their life is forever changed.
Live deliberately. Watch for what God wants to do in and through your life. And secondly,
2. Yield control to God
Verses 18-20 contrast two very different forces to which a person may yield control. You can get drunk on spirits, or you can get drunk on the Holy Spirit. When it comes to spirits, several Bible verses speak against drunkenness; not the use of alcohol, but the misuse of alcohol. Since Paul mentioned wine specifically, some scholars think he was referring to the cult worship of Dionysius, which included drunkenness with wine as part of the worship service. I’m sorry to disappoint you, but we have no plans to initiate such a practice here anytime soon! Paul actually says elsewhere that a glass of wine is good for your stomach. But if you’re one of those types who cannot stop with a glass, stay away completely. Guard against letting other things take control of your life.
Now you might expect the Bible to say, “Don’t get drunk on wine; rather, abstain! Just stay away from the stuff!” But instead, he says, “Here’s something you can get drunk on: get drunk on God’s Spirit. Fill yourself with God! Get high on God!”
Consider two actions the Holy Spirit takes in our lives: He “seals” us the moment we believe in Christ, the moment we enter the family of God, the moment we turn away from our sin and throw ourselves at God’s mercy. God’s Spirit seals us into the family of God for all time. It happens at salvation. We have no role, no choice in it. God does it. God brands us as his children for all eternity.
Then, daily, hourly, minutely, we are to be “filled” with the Spirit. Elsewhere, Paul calls this “walking in the Spirit.” Note it is a command, so we have a say in it. Yet, notice it is passive, meaning it is something done TO us, not BY us. We choose to yield to it. It is ongoing, and it is repetitive. We need to keep being filled with the Spirit. The literal translation might be, “Go on being filled.” We need to keep yielding to Holy Spirit control every day of our lives. You are sealed, then you are filled.