Ephesians 5:18-19 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Be filled with the Spirit. It’s a command. In these two verses we see what the Spirit-filled life is not, and we see a description of what it is. We’ll start the way Paul does, with a note about what the Spirit-filled life is not.
The Spirit-filled life is not a self-centered life.
Ephesians 5:18 says, “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery.” I had a pretty good grasp on the word, “debauchery,” but I went ahead and looked it up anyway. It refers to extreme indulgence in bodily pleasures, especially sexual pleasures and behaviors involving sex, drugs and alcohol. If I would sum it up, I would say a person who is involved in debauchery inappropriately uses people and things for personal pleasure. That person is living for self and the kind of momentary pleasure that comes from focusing on gratifying fleshly desires. To people engaged in debauchery, people are just pawns. They don’t respect them. They use them. Those behaviors may seem fun and gratifying in the moment, but what happens when the moment is over? You have to immediately start planning your next person or substance to use in order to achieve the feeling or experience your flesh craves. That’s the thing…a fleshly appetite, when fed, will just keep growing and will never be satisfied. The person who goes that route has to find bigger, riskier, wilder ways to get the same high, to achieve the same buzz.
In fairness, I suppose that not everyone who indulges their flesh in those ways is just looking for some kind of selfish pleasure. Some are definitely looking to escape the problems, pain and drama that are part of the world. The only trouble with that method of trying to cope is that it doesn’t fix anything. When the high wears off, when the one-night stand or the affair is over, you are left with the hard realization that your problems and pain are still there.
If you are stressed and you get drunk and are then hung over causing you to oversleep and lose your job because you were late for work or because you can’t produce the quality of work that is needed due to an impaired condition, you have just compounded your problems, you know, the very ones you were trying to escape. If you pursue sexual pleasure outside the boundaries of Christian marriage, you set yourself up for a host of physical and psychological complications down the road which will add shame and regret that can take years and sometimes a lifetime to work through. If you go down the path of drug use, you will ruin your health and will wind up burning relational bridges and lose everything you have worked to achieve.
So, Paul says, “Don’t pursue a fleshly life, a sinful life which will cause you to live recklessly. Don’t chase pleasure because it is a dead-end pursuit. He says, “Instead, be filled with the Spirit.” Before I leave this point let me say that Paul is contrasting being drunk with wine to being filled with the Spirit. Many different words could have been used in place of wine here. The point Paul is trying to make, the question he is trying to ask is simply this: What will control your life? The flesh or the Spirit of God?
If you pursue the flesh, it will control you. It will lead you beyond where you ever intended to go. It will dictate how you have to behave in order to satisfy its lustful desires, but if you pursue the Spirit, the Spirit will control you and your behavior. Here’s the thing, the Spirit of God will never lead you to do something you will regret. The Spirit of God will never lead you to do something that compromises your health or integrity. The Spirit of God will never lead you to do something that binds or shames you. You can trust the Spirit of God, but you must never turn your back for a half a second on the flesh. It will trick you and take you down the path of destruction every time.
Paul says don’t be fueled and fooled by the flesh. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.
He goes on to help us understand what the Spirit-filled life looks like: The Spirit-filled life is a life of worship.
Verse 19 says, “19 Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Now obviously, when you saw your friends here this morning and they asked how you were doing, none of you said, “It is well with my soul. Though Satan buffeted me, and trials came, I had a blessed assurance because Christ hath regarded my helpless estate.” When asked how your week was, not one of you responded with, “I was buried beneath my shame, but I ran out of that grave.” Like we don’t walk around sharing song lyrics with one another as the content of our conversation, so what is Paul getting at when he says we are to speak to one another with psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit?
Paul is talking about a way of life that keeps our minds where they belong which is not on the flesh, but on the realities of the Kingdom of God and Jesus’ presence in our lives. Listen, when we worship, we get in alignment with Jesus. When we worship, we feast on the promises of God. When we worship, we become more conscious of our identity in Christ and gain strength to fight life’s battles. When we worship together, we have a recognition that God has united us in a family and that we have a responsibility to one another beyond a Sunday morning handshake. When we worship, we become aware that we are filled with the Spirit of God to represent Jesus on the earth. In that sense, worship keeps us mindful of our mission. What I am trying to articulate is that the mindset of a worshiper is on a different plane from the call of this world to live for an urge or for the favor of our friend group. Those who live to please the flesh, their mind is on earthly things, but Spirit-filled people are always focused on higher ground.
The life of a worshiper is the high life. As we let the Spirit lead us, and as we respond to and cooperate with the Spirit, the playlist of our lives becomes an affirmation of all things Jesus. The soundtrack of our lives becomes Jesus Christ crucified, risen and coming again, and all of the joy and fulfillment and satisfaction that comes from knowing Him puts a song in our spirit that cannot help but make its way to the surface. Jesus, and sharing Jesus, becomes a focal point in our going and our coming every day and underscores all we do because worship isn’t a Sunday morning activity. It is the lifestyle of those who follow Jesus.
Just as the content of our worship music is filled with the truth of the Gospel, the characteristics of our majestic and holy God and our need to be humble and to confess our need for forgiveness, so too, should our conversation with one another exalt Christ and cause us to walk humbly with our fellow man. This is what the Spirit enables us to do. It isn’t just about Spirit-led worship, but it is about a Spirit-led lifestyle!
If you are a Christian and you are up one day and down the next and in one day and out the next, you need to ask yourself how much you are allowing the Holy Spirit to lead your life. Because a lifestyle of worship will keep you living above the pull and pains of this world. I say that because living a lifestyle of worship puts our minds on the victory of Christ. If we dwell on Christ’s victory and begin to internalize that His victory is our victory, we won’t have to run to a substance or a sexual encounter to escape our pain, rather we will be able to exercise spiritual authority as we walk through the trials of life and will be able to do so in victory as we keep our integrity and commitment to Christ intact. We’ll be able to worship instead of worry. We’ll be able to do spiritual warfare as we worship instead of living a “woe as me” existence.
Paul said, “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs FROM THE SPIRIT.” Did you catch that? Let’s dissect that for a second. Psalms and hymns are the result of someone else’s experience with God. Someone else has given us a window into God by writing down the Psalms and others have done so by writing hymns born from their personal experience with God or from truth God has revealed to them about who He is. But the songs from the Spirit? Those are the spontaneous songs that we sing as we are led by the Spirit to acknowledge God. Those are personal worship offerings we give because God’s Spirit prompts us to recognize how God has been working in our lives.
One Wednesday night a few months back, I was talking about how good and faithful God was, how close He comes to those who are brokenhearted, how He gives us what we need just when we need it, how He is a Waymaker and a Miracle Worker, and a Healer, and I was listing several other reasons to give God praise, and then I said this, “Don’t take my praise for it. You exalt the Lord because of His goodness and faithfulness to you.” I think this is what Paul means when he says, “From the Spirit.” Be led by the Spirit of God to open up your mouth and worship.
Listen, there comes a point when Spirit-filled believers are moved to thank and praise God and to sing to God not because a worship pastor says, “Let’s all stand and sing,” but because they recognize God has been good to them. It can even happen on a Tuesday or a Thursday in your car or at your workplace. Someone who is Spirit-filled recognizes that worship happens every day when we let the Holy Spirit lead our hearts and minds to be responsive to the God-happenings all around us.
In John 4 when Jesus had an in-depth conversation with the Woman at the Well, they got into what worship is all about. Listen to the encounter beginning in verse 19: 19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the SPIRIT AND IN TRUTH, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
Spirit and Truth. There is no way you can divorce Christian worship from the Person of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit’s job to reveal the truth about Jesus. When we talk about Spirit and truth worship, we aren’t talking about two separate things, but one.
In John 15:26-27 Jesus said, 26“When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me. 27And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.
I believe another way to say that God is looking for Spirit and truth worshipers is to say that God is looking for Spirit-filled worshipers. Too often, however, we like the Woman at the Well, get caught up in the traditions and rituals of worship that we forget what worship is. Worship it is about being moved by the Spirit of God to testify to the truth of who Jesus is and what God has done for us in sending Jesus to die on the cross for us. It isn’t about having to be in a certain location. Jesus told the Woman at the Well, the worship of God isn’t constrained by or limited to a location or any aesthetic. You don’t have to be in a sanctuary to worship. If you are filled with the Spirit of God, YOU are a sanctuary. The Word of God says you are a temple of the living God. (I Corinthians 6:19) Worship isn’t something you go somewhere to do, but it is something you do when you are on the go, wherever you find yourself.
Worship isn’t about having to sing a certain particular style of songs or about moving through a prescribed order of activities. Spirit and truth worship is about investing your heart. If your heart is right, if your heart is in it, you will be in the right location to worship wherever you are. A person who is Spirit-led in worship will worship on multiple levels. You will engage your soul. You will engage your mind. You will engage your body. It is multidimensional. Fleshly pleasure is one-dimensional. Spirit and truth worship is a God-connection on several levels.
A Spirit-filled worshiper is all-in. Romans 12:1-2 says, Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
As you present your entire being to God through a lifestyle of worship, He will reveal His will for your life. If you live conflicted about what God wants from you and what He wants for you, examine how much of your life is spent as a sacrifice of worship to Him. We make it a lot harder than it is, folks. If you want to know what God dreams for you, seek Him in worship. God promises as you present yourself to Him, He will present His will to you.
Present your whole self to God in worship! A Spirit-led worshiper won’t be afraid to weep when God moves them to praise Him with their tears. A Spirit-led worshiper won’t hesitate to shout when their soul is stirred by the majesty of God. A Spirit-led worshiper won’t resist raising their hands when the Spirit has invited them to surrender something. A Spirit-led worshiper will move to bow and get low when the holiness of God is manifested in some place.
Paul finished Ephesians 5:19 by saying, “Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord.” From your heart. This isn’t surface-level stuff, here. This isn’t just having K-Love playing in the background while you fix dinner. This isn’t about just being in the sanctuary and watching everyone else participate. It’s not about thoroughly enjoying the worship team. This is intensely personal. Spirit-filled worship is about what YOU offer to God from all that you are and all that you know of Him. It isn’t about an emotional high, but Spirit-led worship will engage your emotional capacities. In that sense, it becomes a cleansing action through which we release anxiety and stress, worry and fear, as well as being a vehicle through which we take God in. Don’t be afraid to be emotional in the presence of God as He has created us to pour out our hearts to Him. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord. When we receive Him, it ought to create an internal, heart response. You can’t pour out your heart and not feel something.
Finally, I would say that Paul says here in Ephesians 5:19 that the Spirit-filled worship is a life of thanksgiving. Look at the end of verse 19: “…always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
People who are filled with the Spirit are sensitive to the ways God works. When favor is given, when healing comes, when something shifts to open a door for you, when God brings people into your life in ways that bless you, if you are filled with the Spirit, you have an immediate recognition that God has done something for you, and it causes thanksgiving to overflow. A person who is thankful doesn’t stay incognito.
Notice that Paul says we are to give thanks for EVERYTHING. Giving thanks for everything can be tough, unless you are filled with the Spirit. It’s not natural to worship when life is beating us down. It’s not our inclination to shout praises to God when we are struggling to make it through each day. I Corinthians 2:14 helps us understand that people without the Spirit struggle to see things God’s way, but the person with the Spirit of God can discern and be thankful for God’s activity in their lives in the darkest of times.
You have a decision to make today. Will you be filled with self and worship the flesh, or will you be filled with the Spirit and worship the Lord? How you answer that question will determine what controls your life, and what controls your life will determine your destiny. Do you want to be controlled by the flesh or do you want to be led by the Spirit of God?
Maybe you are eager to answer that question today. Maybe you want to be controlled by the Holy Spirit, but you don’t know how to go about being filled as the Scripture commands. Luke 11 tells us how. Look at verse 9:
Luke 11 9 “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.11 “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for[f] a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
Just ask. Ask to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Ask for the power to turn away from the flesh. Ask for the heart of a worshiper. God will not turn a deaf ear to that prayer. He will bless you with the Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, the Spirit of Peace, the Spirit of Joy, the Spirit to understand more and more about who God is and what He has done and when He does, He will transform you into someone who can’t help but God give praise.