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Under the Influence


And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the spirit…"
Ephesians 5:18

Billy Graham's brother-in-law, Leighton Ford, tells of a time when Billy visited a large, and influential church. The host informed Dr. Graham of a rather sad, and sordid situation the church had recently addressed. It centered on one of the church officers who was found to be drunk on several occasions. This was behavior unbecoming of a church leader, and so the church had disciplined the man out of fellowship. In response Dr. Graham asked the man, "How long has it been since you put someone out of your church for not being filled by the Spirit?" His guide stood silent, and startled! Dr. Graham continued, "The Bible says, ‘Don't get drunk with wine,' but the very same verse says, ‘Be filled with the Spirit.'" The point that Dr. Graham was making was that the positive injunction to be filled with the Spirit is just as binding as the negative injunction not to be drunk with wine. It is a sin to be drunk, but it is also a sin not to be filled with the Spirit.

The message that we want to take from this story is that God calls all Christians to a life directed, and dominated by the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18). It is commanded of us. This text is in the imperative mood. The filling of the Spirit is not a blessing to be sought as much as it is an imperative to be obeyed. Ephesians 5:18 presents us with a choice in that we either live in the Spirit or live in sin (Gal. 5:16-26). Paul wants us to know that is not enough that the Spirit of God be present in our lives, He must be president.  He must be present for us to be a Christian (Rom. 8:9). But He must be president for us to live as a Christian, and fulfill God's will (Eph. 5:15-18). Therefore we must come under the Spirit's influence. Just as a drunken man is influenced, and controlled by alcohol so the believer experiences a spiritual inebriation as he or she yields their lives to the leading of the Holy Spirit through Holy Scripture (cp. Eph. 5:18; Col. 3:16). It is interesting that when the Apostles were filled by the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, those looking on accused them of being full of wine (Acts 2:4, 13). 

Just as the drunken man acts out of character, so the man or woman dominated by the Spirit acts out of character. They look more and more like Jesus, and less and less like themselves. Listen! It is only the continual filling of the Spirit that will prevent a husband from becoming a tyrant, and a wife from becoming a rebel (Eph. 5:22-32). It is only the continual filling of the Spirit that will prevent a father from becoming a bad tempered schoolmaster within his home (Eph. 6:1-4). It is only the continual filling of the Spirit that will allow a slave to work with the mindset of a freeman (Eph. 6:5-9). Given all of that, it is hardly something we can afford to do without. The Spirit filled life is normative, and necessary for all Christians.

To that end, let me suggest a few things that will increase the influence of the Holy Spirit in all of our lives. First, seek to love Christ more since the Spirit has come to show us Jesus (John 16:14-15). Second, do not grieve the Holy Spirit by unholy attitudes, and actions (Eph. 4:25-32). Third, yield in daily obedience to the Scriptures, which He authored (2 Pet. 1:19-21).  If you want to be a fulfilled Christian be a filled Christian!