Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit. —Ephesians 5:15-18
Why do people turn to alcohol? For a happy hour. We all want to be happy, but there is a problem: “The days are evil” (v. 16).
Where do you turn when the days are evil, when you are frightened or discouraged or depressed or anxious? Paul pleads with us: “Don’t turn to alcohol; turn to the Spirit. Anything of value that alcohol can bring you, God the Holy Spirit can bring more.”
There are people who can’t begin to whistle a happy tune or sing a song at work because they are so tense and anxious about life. But later in the evening at the tavern with a few drinks under their belt they can put their arms around each other and sing and laugh.
All of us long to be carefree, uninhibited, and happy. And the mounting tragedy of our own day, as in Paul’s, is that increasing numbers of people (even Christians) believe that the only way they can find this child-like freedom is by drugging themselves with alcohol. Such behavior dishonors God, and so Paul says: There is a better way to cope with the evil days—be filled with the Spirit, and you will know unmatched joy that sings and makes melody to the Lord.
So, what does it mean to be filled with the Spirit?
The Spirit who fills us is the Spirit of joy that ever flows between God the Father and God the Son because of the delight they have in each other. Therefore, to be filled with the Spirit means to be caught into the joy that flows among the Holy Trinity and to love God the Father and God the Son with the very love with which they love each other.
The pathway that the Spirit cuts through the jungle of our anxieties into the clearing of joy is the pathway of faith. According to Paul, the way to be filled with the Spirit is by trusting that the God of hope really reigns—that not a sparrow falls to the ground apart from his will (Matthew 10:29)—and that he runs the world for you and for all who trust his word. In believing that, you will be filled with the Holy Spirit and with joy.
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