February 9, 2019
Brothers and Sisters
At our church camp late last year, Ross talked about the theme we had for last year, the Holy Spirit. I enjoyed his talks on the Saturday and was intending to come for the Sunday service as well, but became ill on the Saturday night and was not able to come.
In one of the morning discussion groups, you may recall, we were looking at the fruits of the Holy Spirit, and we were asking the question, I can’t remember exactly, but it had to do with how do the fruits of the Holy Spirit, show themselves in our church. The fruits of the Spirit of course, from Galatians 5, love, joy, peace,patience, kindness and so on. How well are these fruits exhibited in the life of the church? And in our discussion group, we talked about the fruit of joy,and asked, how joyful are we as a church,and how does it show?
And that is a very important question. There are two parts to that question. Firstly, how joyful are we. And secondly, how does it show. Now the second part is quite easy to answer. We are not very good at showing our joy. I was at another camp a little while ago, and there was a gentleman there from Africa, and in discussion group he was asked about how he saw our worship. And he said something like, I liked the music, I liked the songs, but you all just stand there. I am not used to that.In my culture, we raise our hands and dance around and the worship service is so much more alive. And I suppose we need to cop that on the chin. We are not really a very expressive people, are we? That is our church culture.
I am not saying that’s good or bad. Because you can for example, go to a church which is completely the other extreme, where everyone is dancing and clapping and raising their hands in worship, and if you don’t do it, people sort of look at you – what is wrong with you – and so everyone does it, but it doesn’t necessarily reflect the spiritual reality underneath. That too can just become a culture.
So, my main question, is not just about how we show our joy, (although I wish sometimes,we could be more expressive), but my main question has to do with the reality underneath. How joyful are we? Deep down, how joyful are we? Is our joy like a stream bubbling up in our hearts, that we sometimes find hard to contain?
And so,to look at this, lets look again at this well-known text in Ephesians 5, do not be drunk with wine, but, be filled with the Spirit.
1. Do not be drunk with wine.
A few nights before I wrote this sermon, I was lying in bed late at night, and the house was shaking. No, it wasn’t the earthquake. It was Pink Floyd, at a party 3 doors down. “We don’t need no education, we don’t need no thought control. All in all, it just another, brick in the wall.” We’ve all heard that before. And when we hear it, we know it’s the alcohol talking. People are full of spirit. And Paul in our text uses this, as a powerful illustration of what it means to be filled with The Spirit. Do not be drunk with wine,because when you get drunk with wine, you lose control of what you do, you become exuberant, you become excited, you become really enthusiastic, you sing things which usually make no real sense, you do things you normally wouldn’t do, and in this loss of control connected with alcohol (or drugs) is contained a whole world of evil. So, don’t be drunk with wine, but instead…
2. Be filled with the Spirit.
And whereas drunkenness with wine leads to all manner of loss of self-control, the person who is drunk with the Holy Spirit, also becomes exuberant, and enthusiastic and excited and happy and cheerful, but in a totally different way.
In Acts 2.4, for example, the people were filled with the Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
In Acts 4.8, Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit and preached the Gospel to the Sanhedrin.
At the end of Acts 4, after a prayer meeting, the place where they were meeting was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and spoke the Word of God boldly.
In Acts 7, Stephen was full of the Holy Spirit, and looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and he said, look, I see heaven open at the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.
In Luke 3 and 4, we read that Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit when He was baptised,and it was when He was full of the Spirit that He was ready to be led into the wilderness by the Spirit, to be tempted by the devil.
And in our passage, when people are full of the Holy Spirit, the joy of the Lord fills their hearts, but it doesn’t just fill their hearts, it is a joy which bubbles over. You find people not just addressing each other with Scripture, not just quoting Scripture at each other, but doing this joyfully, addressing one another in Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual songs.
That’s the great thing about something like a church camp, when you break into small groups, and when you get talking to each other, not just about the weather or about the job or the car or the fishing trip but when you talk to each other spiritually, talking of your joy in the Lord, talking of your spiritual struggles, encouraging each other with Scripture.
That’s the joy also of our small groups, our fellowship groups, our Bible studies,when you open your hearts to each other.
But it doesn’t happen often enough does it? So often we are just on the surface with each other. And the mark of a Spirit filled community, is where this joy we have in the Lord, actually bubbles over, continually, in our conversations,where we are speaking to one another, in the overflow of our hearts.
And this joy in our conversations, of course flows from a deeper source. Paul in our text also talks about singing and making melody to the Lord with our hearts.
Before I said that in our churches our joy doesn’t always express itself too well. But my main question is at this deeper level, about we being a people who are deep down, singing and making music in our hearts to the Lord. And my main question was, not just how joyful do we show ourselves to be, but, really importantly,how joyful are we, underneath the surface. Or I could put it this way, does this verse describe us? If I scratch under the surface of your life, do I find a person, who in your heart is just so joyful, so glad, so worshipful, that in your hearts you are singing and making music to the Lord? That’s the question isn’t it. Joy is the flag flown high in the castle of my heart, because the king is in residence there. I have the joy joy joy joy deep in my heart,deep in my heart, I have the joy joy joy joy deep in my heart to stay. That joy deep in our hearts, that is the mark of being a Spirit filled person.
And this person also says Paul, is giving thanks always for all things to God our Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.A Spirit filled person is full of gratitude to God, overflowing with gratitude,and this gratitude is also, spilling over in a constant song of thanksgiving to God.
And this being filled with the Holy Spirit, also spills over into the rest of our lives,where Paul also talks about Spirit filled people submitting to one another in reverence for Christ, which I don’t want to go into at length here, except to say, that the joy of the Lord doesn’t just remain contained in our hearts, it can’t just remain in, but it is something that by its very nature, spills over into our relationships with one another.
And that brings me back to my original question. Are we a joyful community? Do we have this inexpressible joy in our hearts, which is uncontainable? Where in our joy before God, we are singing and making music in our hearts to the Lord, where we are just such internally thankful people, whose joy in the Lord can’t contain itself, but bubbles over a speaking to each other, joyfully, with Psalms Hymns and Spiritual Songs?
And that is another way of asking, are we, as a community, Spirit filled? Instead of being exuberantly drunk with wine, are we exuberantly drunk with grace?
And yes,of course, we have the Holy Spirit. We can’t be a church, we can’t be Christians, without the Holy Spirit. This church is, and we individually are,temples of the Holy Spirit.
But, are we, collectively, and individually, Spirit filled? That is the question we need to ponder over.Are we drunk with grace? Does the joy we have in the Lord, make us excited to be here, excited to be in fellowship with one another, excited to be able to minister to each other? Or do we sometimes feel, we are doing the same old thing over and again, without progress, without growth, and without that deep bubbling joy in the Lord? The exuberance has gone, the excitement has gone, the enthusiasm has gone.
Do we as a community or as individuals, need refreshing?
I won’t answer that question. You can answer that for yourself. For myself, I can say,that that refreshing of the Holy Spirit is something I need over and over again. I know what it is to be full of the Spirit, and it is something very wonderful, where your heart is just bubbling over with God. I also know what it is not to be full of the Spirit, where grace has become, stale.
And for myself this text has a wonderful and beautiful message. I don’t need to remain stale in my spiritual walk. Don’t be drunk with wine, Paul tells me, but, Peter, be filled with the Spirit. In other words, when I feel stale, there is a solution. Go and be filled with the Spirit. It is a command. I am told not just to sit back and wait to be slain by the Spirit, to wait for the Spirit to renew me, but I am told to do something.
And that is, to be filled. Not to drink in wine, but to go, and drink in, grace. As I said in our discussion group at camp, we need to drink more. If we want to be filled, we need to drink.
3. Drinking in the River of Life
At the moment, I am preparing a series of sermons on this for 2019. About how to become better drinkers. This year, I want to slow us right down, to bring us to actually feed our souls on the Word of God. God’s Word is real food and real drink. We need to slow down,and learn to feed our souls with it. To nourish our souls on it. And that will be an important series, especially in a day and age, where we are often time poor, where we have so many other things going on in our lives, and where often our own devotions slip by the way side. I am not just going to talk to you about spending hours and hours which you don’t have getting back to Bible reading. But I want to teach you, how to drink it in – even when you are time poor.
The picture of drinking is so very central through the whole Bible. In Psalm 46,for example, we read of a river whose streams make joyful the city of God.
There is a river of life flowing through the Bible, and to be glad, we need to find that stream and put our snouts in the trough.
That saying, snouts in the trough, is something we often see in the public service.The government to many seems to have an endless supply of money, and everyone seems to have their snout in the trough, trying to get more than their share.When government money is being thrown about, people are very greedy.
We need to be like that, not having our snout in the trough of government money, but having our snout in the trough of God’s Word. Like in Psalm 1, having our snouts in the trough, day and night, meditating on the Word day and night,drinking it in, guzzling it in, sort of like, feed me till I want no more, feed me till I want no more.
There is also another picture of the river of life, in Ezekiel chapter 47. This chapter is part of the greater vision of the new temple, given to Ezekiel when he was among the exiles in Babylon. And in this vision God took Ezekiel and in visions brought him to the land of Israel. And then a man appeared to him, whose appearance was like bronze, with a linen cord, and a measuring rod. And Ezekiel is given a vision of the new temple. And towards the end of this vision in chapter 47, the man brought him to the door of the new temple, and he saw water spilling out under the threshold. And this water was flowing to the east, and the man and Ezekiel followed this little stream. And for the first 450 metres, it was ankle deep,but another 450 metres, it was knee deep. And then all of a sudden it became waist deep. And then another 450 metres, and this little stream had become a raging river you couldn’t cross. And Ezekiel looked, and all along the banks of the river on both sides, there were a great number of trees growing, very fruitful trees, bearing fruit in season. And wherever the river went, it brought life. Swarms of living creatures lived in the water. Huge numbers offish. And where the river flowed into the Dead Sea, it made the salt water fresh. And fishermen were all along the banks. It was the river of life, and wherever the river flowed it brought life, but where the river did not flow,there was death.
Now this vision is not only found in Ezekiel, but also in the last chapter of the Bible,Revelation 22. And there we find the origin of the river. Yes, it comes from the temple, but it comes from under the Throne of God and of the Lamb.
It is the river of life flowing from the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the same stream as Psalm 46, the stream that makes glad the city of God. The same water as Psalm 1, where the roots of the trees go down deep into the water of life,that water of life is the stream that makes glad the city of God.
And if we want to be filled with the Spirit, we need to be like animals on the bank of the river, greedily drinking in the water of life. And Jesus Himself said of this water, that it comes from Him. And He said, if anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, whoever drinks Me in, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within Him. And when Jesus said this, he meant the Holy Spirit. When you drink in, when you drink greedily, from this river of life that flows from Jesus, the water of life wells up in you, like a stream. And by properly feeding on the Word, the joy of the Lord in your life, can become so intense, that you just can’t hold it in,it bubbles, it gushes out of your life.
Let me share with you a story which happened in my life a few weeks ago. I spent 8 hours in one day driving up and down to Perth, twice, I won’t tell you now the stupidity of why I had to do two trips in one day, but I did, and as I did, I was using the drive to Perth to meditate on one part of God’s Word, and what it meant to be united with Christ,and the more I thought about that, the more the joy of the Lord just so filled my life, that at a certain point, I prayed a prayer I never thought I would pray, normally I pray over God’s Word, Lord, more light, more light, give me understanding of what this text is saying, but now I found myself praying, Lord,less light, less light. I can’t take it anymore. Its just too wonderful, too beautiful, my soul can’t take anymore.
In a way I am reluctant to tell that story, in case you think that I am something more than I am, a super saint or something,but there is no such person. We are all the same, animals with our noses in the trough. And I am telling you this, just to open your hearts even more, to what is possible, when you start getting your nose into the trough of God’s Word,and drinking it in, feeding your soul with the beautiful nuggets of Gospel truth. This is nothing less than Jesus has promised everyone of us, when we feed our souls on Him, the water of life which flows from God flows into us and becomes a well of water gushing out of us.
So, in summary, I know what it is to be spiritually stale, where grace seems a million miles away. I also know what it is to be so filled with the Spirit that it blows the lid right off my life.
And that is what I want for us as church, to on the one hand, know our staleness, and on the other, to know what it is to be spiritually refreshed once more.
And if today, we need to be refreshed, if we need to be filled, there is only one answer. Be filled. Learn to drink.
Isn’t it fitting, that in the Bible, also in Revelation 22, virtually the very last promise of the Bible, is the voice of the Spirit saying, Come! Whoever is thirsty, let him come. Whoever wishes, WHOEVER WISHES, let him take the free gift of the water of life.
It is there for the taking. Not just for some. For all. For whoever wishes.
Come,drink, be filled again. And again. And again.
Revelation 22 also has this beautiful picture, of the river of life, in the New Creation,flowing down from the Throne right down the main street of the city. Forever and ever, we shall be like trees, drinking the water of life. And the water of grace will never be stale. It will always be fresh. And we shall in Him, before ever fresh and forever fruitful.