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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at / Published Life BPC 8 am service, 2007-11-18

Text: Ephesians 5:18

If someone were to ask you the question, 'What is God's will for your life?' How would you answer him? Some of you might say, 'I think that His will for my life is to take good care of my family and to be a blessing to all my loved ones and friends.' Some others may say, 'I believe that God's will for my life is to bear a good testimony for Him that will bring souls to the saving knowledge of Christ.' While answers like these are well-meant and good, they do lack one very important thing. They do not address the most important part of God's will for each and every child of His - His will is that all of us will be holy, like Him. This ought to be the basis of all that is God's will - whether it is to care for your family, or to be a blessing to others of bear a good testimony - above all these is God's will for you to be holy. 

This is stated several times in the Scriptures, e.g. 1 Peter 1:14-16 'As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: But as He which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.' (see also Leviticus 11:44, 19:2, 20:7) There are also a few other verses that emphasize God's sovereign will for us to be holy: 1 Thessalonians 4:7 'For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.' Ephesians 4:24 'And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.' 2 Corinthians 7:1 'Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.'

What do all these passages teach? They teach us that God has chosen us and appointed us who believe in Jesus, to be holy. This is His ultimate, eternal purpose for us - that we who were born as sinners, unable to please God, have been specially chosen by Him to be holy! And the process of becoming holy begins at the moment of a salvation - when he becomes a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). He is freed from the tyranny of sin through Jesus Christ. What are some things that will be seen in a life that is freed from the tyranny of sin? The first thing noticeable is a change of attitude towards sin. He no longer loves sin, but hates it. This change is accompanied by a growing love for righteousness in his life. He has a healthy desire to be upright, to live according to God's principles and to do good to others. God's commandments become a delight for him to obey, rather than a duty that he grudgingly fulfills. These changes begin to emerge gradually but steadily after a person is truly saved. They are just like beautiful fruits appearing on a barren tree that has been transplanted into fertile ground and received refreshing rain. 

But these changes do not come automatically or unconsciously, without our involvement. We have a responsibility in becoming holy. It involves constant effort on our part. And the goal of holiness cannot be reached overnight. It is attained progressively and gradually. In Romans 7:19 Paul shows why perfect holiness can never be achieved on earth. Here he describes his own personal struggle with sin in his life 'for the good that I would I do not: but that the evil which I would not, that I do.' 

The Bible shows us the struggles that many godly men had with sin even though they had attained a high degree of holiness: men like Noah, Moses, Elijah, David, the apostle Peter and here in Romans 7, the apostle Paul. But in Romans chapter 8 we see that God has provided the means for us to deal with this remaining root of sin in our lives, and that provision is to 'walk after the Spirit.' Let us read Romans 8:1 'There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.' This then is the means of the process of becoming holy - so that the ultimate goal of our becoming holy as God is holy can be attained. The same means is described in Ephesians 5:18.

II. The Means of Holiness: The Filling of The Holy Spirit

Ephesians 5:18,19 'And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.' This teaching has sometimes been misunderstood. There are some who think that being filled with the Holy Spirit is to be filled merely with some kind of power or force. They reduce the Holy Spirit to an inanimate force such as electricity - powerful but devoid of personality Cf. Star Wars 'May the Force Be With You'. Rodney Howard Brown in the Toronto Blessing, called himself the Holy Spirit bartender and claimed to be able to dispense the Holy Spirit to people like a bartender can dispense drinks! The Bible teaches us that the Holy Spirit is distinctly a Person, that is, that He has personality. As a Person in the godhead, He is to be worshipped together with the Father and the Son.He bears several marks of personalitythat we can see in several passage of the Bible: 

a. Will Power: 1 Corinthians 12:11 'But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as He will.'

b. Intellect: 1 Corinthians 2:11 'For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.'

c. Emotion (Eph 4:30 'And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.' Ananias and Sapphira lied to the Holy Spirit - Acts 5:3). 

Hence the Holy Spirit possesses all the necessary qualities of personhood - intellect, emotion, and will. He is not a force or influence. We should never insult the Holy Spirit by treating Him as if He is not a person. The Holy Spirit should always be referred to as 'He' and not an 'It'. 

Besides this there is another wrong concept of the Holy Spirit's filling that claims that Ephesians 5:18 means to be saturated with the Word of Christ. Those who teach this, compare this verse with Colossians 3:16 'Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.' They conclude that to be filled with the Spirit only means to be saturated with the Word of God, which is also the same as desiring the Lordship of Christ in your life. So to them, the command, 'Be filled with the Spirit,' is just another way of saying, 'make Jesus Lord,' or 'obey the commands of your Lord.' Therefore there is no specific ministry of the Holy Spirit taught in this verse!

A. It Is God's Provision for Overcoming Sinful Desires

But a comparison with other passages of Scripture shows that this is not the case. There is a continuing ministry of the Holy Spirit in your life which empowers you to overcome your sinful desires. Romans 8:12-14 tells us 'Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.' Here we are told that Christian living means choosing constantly to be led by the Spirit of God, to mortify the deeds of the body. If you do not make this choice then you will end up living after the flesh.

This same means of sanctification is also expressed in Galatians 5:16-18 'This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.' Here we see the same term used in Romans 8 'led by the Spirit' which is now described as 'walking in the Spirit'

'Walking in the Spirit' is given here as the means that God has given us to overcome the lust of the flesh. When we walk in the Spirit, we are able to mortify the deeds of the flesh. So the key to victorious Christian living, is to ensure that we keep walking in the Holy Spirit. Such spiritual power for living has actually been promised to us by the Lord in Acts 1:8 'But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto Me' You see, the power that the Holy Spirit gives us to witness for Christ, is not only power to share the gospel with others, but the power to live an exemplary life that matches that gospel. 

Hence, as we walk in the Spirit we receive power from Him to live changed lives, lives that are not controlled by sin and lust - such lives become a powerful witness that will draw men to salvation in Christ, when the Gospel is preached to them.This has actually been the personal experience of many believers. There are inmates from Christian halfway houses who said that before they were saved, they tried many times to give up some vice - like gambling, drugs, smoking, lying, fighting but could not. No matter what they tried, from resolution-making to rigorous enforced self-discipline, they still went back to their vice and remained helplessly under its control. But when they became Christians indwelt by the Spirit, they found the power they needed to change. For some, the change was faster than in others, but there was change, nonetheless. This power to change came from yielding their lives to the control of God the Holy Spirit.

II. It Should Be a Daily Habit in the Christian Life

In the light of all these, we now understand the command to be 'Filled with the Spirit' in Ephesians 5:18 is another way of saying 'Be led by the Spirit' or 'Walk in the Spirit'. The verb 'be filled' means 'to fill up a deficiency; to fully possess; to fully influence; to fill with a certain quality.' The form of the verb here indicates continuous or repeated action. This means that we must be living the Spirit-filled life all the time. It should become our daily habit to yield ourselves to the Spirit's control. 

This yielding can take the form of a simple sincere prayer that we make at the beginning of each day, 'Lord, I need Thee to lead me through this day. Please fill me now with the Holy Spirit as I yield myself to Thee. Amen.' And the Lord welcomes such a prayer from us, because He said in Luke 11:13 'If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?' One verse that shows how prayer is the means to be filled with the Spirit is Acts 4:31 'And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.'

We shall take a closer look now at Ephesians 5:18 'And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit' Perhaps you may have wondered why of all things is the filling of the Holy Spirit compared with something like drunkenness? It is because there is something that they share in common. Both are habits. There is a contrast between two habits here - the habit of drinking wine, and the habit of being filled with the Spirit. When a person drinks wine, his behaviour comes under the influence of alcohol and it begins to change - he loses his inhibitions and does things that he would not normally do. And yet he is still conscious of his actions. When a person is filled with the Holy Spirit, his behaviour comes under the influence of God and begins to change - he will then produce behaviour which shows he is filled with the Spirit. What kind of behaviour is this? There are some who say that the ability to speak in tongues is evidence of being filled with the Spirit. But there is nothing mentioned in any of these passages about tongues. 

Instead, v.19 shows us that there may be a spontaneous desire to praise and sing to the Lord. V.20 shows that thanksgiving is another product of breing Spirit-filled. V.21 shows that submission to one another is yet another product of the filling of the Spirit. This list is not exhaustive, because Galatians 5:22,23 mentions that the fruit of the Spirit is 'love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance' The fruit of the Spirit is also mentioned in Ephesians, in 5:9 'For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth'. It is not wrong to say that nothing good can be produced in the Christian's life, apart from the filling of the Holy Spirit.

C. It Is the Responsibility of Every Christian

Now the habit of being filled with the Spirit must be learned and cultivated by all Christians. That is our responsibility. Sometimes, when a Christian fails in this responsibility, his life regresses under the control of the flesh. He falls into sin and begins to manifest the works of the flesh. This was the situation among the Galatian Christians. They were fighting and quarelling with one another, provoking one another, envying one another (Galatians 5:15,26). Whenever you see problems like these erupting among Christians in any fellowship or church and particularly in Christians who in better times had exhibited much evidence of their salvation, it is probably because they have lapsed in their responsibility to be filled with the Spirit. What they should do is to confess their sins, and get back to the Spirit-filled life. At any point in our lives we might take ourselves out of fellowship through personal sin. Sin grieves the Holy Spirit and causes a breach in our fellowship with God. 

But the Lord promises in 1 John 1:9 that if we confess our sins, He will forgive us and cleanse us from unrighteousness. This mens that upon the condition of our confession, He will heal the breach that sin has caused. This will clear the way to resume the Spirit-filled life. As we go on in our Christian life, we should become more sensitive to our spiritual state, knowing when we have lost the filling of the Spirit. We should also be improving more and more in living the Spirit-filled life, so that our periods of lapses (when we are not filled with the Spirit) become shorter and less frequent. 

Now, the Holy Spirit does not work in a vacuum. He uses the Word of God. And so we must keep on feeding on God's Word. Let us look at 2 Cor 3:18 'But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.' According to the earlier part of this verse it is only as we behold the glory of the Lord as in a glass that the Holy Spirit can change us. What is this referring to? The context of this verse gives us the answer: vv.14 and 15 is about the reading of the Old Testament by the Jews and how this does not benefit them because of the veil that is upon their hearts. Then in contrast to these Jews, the apostle Paul says in v.18 that we all behold the glory of the Lord. This means that it is only when we read the Scriptures, that we behold the glory of the Lord. 

The Word of God is like a mirror in which we can see ourselves as we really are, revealing all the blemishes we had that we are not aware of. But not only that, it's like a magic mirror, because if used properly, we will see not only ourselves, but the glorious image of Christ in it, and the more time we spend looking into it, the more we are transformed into the image of Christ.

Therefore we need to keep on reading and studying the Bible. The Word of God is the divinely ordained means to make us like Christ. Jesus prayed, 'Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy word is truth.' (John 17:17). And so we now have a complete picture of the process of sanctification. God the Father has willed that we should be holy. We on our part must make use of the means of sanctification - which is to be filled with the Holy Spirit. But we also need to feed on God's Word to provide the Holy Spirit with the image of Christ to stamp on our lives.

Let me give you an analogy. God the Father is like the General Manager of manufacturing corporation, and He gives the directive: 'Be thou holy as I am holy.' In order for this directive to be carried out, a prototype or pattern is first needed. For no man since Adam and Eve fell was ever holy as God is holy. Where can such a pattern be found? This is where God the Son came and provided one, by living as a man on earth, His human life became the perfect working model of one that fulfils the divine directive. His life on earth was truly holy as God is holy. Now with the directive and the pattern provided, the next important question is the means of production. 

Who will now work with the raw material of saved people to produce out of them, copies of the pattern? This is where God the Holy Spirit came and took on this role, by actually dwelling in our lives from the moment we are saved and gradually transforming us by His Word until we are fully conformed to the pattern of Jesus Christ.

All three things are therefore in place: the divine directive, the divine pattern and the divine means of production. And this means that everything that is needed for our sanctification is already in place. When God tells us to be holy as He is holy, He does not leave us to figure out for ourselves how this will be done. What we have to do then, is to yield ourselves constantly to the whole process. And if we do that, at the end of it all we shall be holy as He is holy.

 

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

October 15 & 22 - The Cost of Discipleship

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 16:25