This sermon is number 23 in a series of 36
Ephesians - Part 23
"The Fullness Of The Spirit"
by David Legge | Copyright © 2000 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
Ephesians and chapter 5, and this is our twenty-third study in this book. Slowly but surely we're getting near the end of the six chapters, but we're trying not to skip over anything that is of importance that the Lord would have us know. Now let me say, as we begin the study tonight, that it is impossible for me in one night to go into every single detail, and expound every theological truth, that we meet within these verses this evening. I would love to do it, but I'm conscience also that we have to get to the end of the book eventually! So, I want to deal with these subjects, and they're to whet your appetite - and hopefully you will go home to your own quiet place before the Lord with the word of God, and look further to see if these things be so.
Chapter 5 and verse 15, and remember that this is a discourse concerning - we're entering into the middle of it - concerning what it is to be children of light, to walk in the light, not to walk in the darkness that we were born into, dead in our trespasses and in our sins. But now we are quickened, we are made alive by the Spirit of God, and we are now to walk as children of light in the light that God shines upon us. In verse 15 Paul says: "See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. 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; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God".
Our study this evening is entitled: 'The Fullness Of The Spirit' - and that indeed is the central verse of the passage that we have before us. Verse 18: 'Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit' - and all the verses, from verse 15 to 21, surround that one point - the main verse is verse 18. All these other thoughts, all these spiritual precepts and principles that we find around this verse, all add to what it is to walk in the fullness of the Spirit. Before it we get a little indication of ways in which we can begin to know that we are walking in the fullness of the Spirit: by redeeming the time, by knowing the will of God - verse 17 - understanding what it is. Then verse 19, verse 20, and verse 21, we find the results - perhaps not the evidences, but the results of what is to walk in the fullness of the Spirit. We will speak to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs - verse 19: 'singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord'. Verse 20: 'Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ'. Verse 21: 'Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God'.
So, therefore, you see how verse 18 is the crux of this passage this evening. Everything revolves around this great theme of the fullness of the Spirit of God. The first verse that we read asks us to make sure that we walk circumspectly. Dr G. Campbell Morgan, the great British expositor of the word of God, was known to often give an illustration of this verse - what it is to walk circumspectly - and what he used to do was: describe a beautiful flower garden that was surrounded by a high wall. Then he asks the congregation to envisage a little cat walking carefully among the many pieces of broken glass that were embedded in the cement on the top of that wall. He would say, as he depicted this wonderful story, that that cat was surrounded by many dangers and many pieces of glass, but it never cut itself. It walked circumspectly.
That is simply what Paul is bringing to our minds this evening: to walk circumspectly, to be careful as we walk, as children of light, that we make sure that we do not cut ourselves - walk circumspectly. How do we do that? Well Paul tells us - verses 15 to 17, your first point on your sheet - that to walk circumspectly is to walk in wisdom: 'Make sure that you walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise' - verse 15. So to walk circumspectly, to walk so as not to be cut, is to walk in wisdom. Now, you will remember that from this wonderful epistle that we have been studying, that this phrase 'walking' is very common throughout the whole book. We don't have time to go through all of the passages where we read that word, but we find that seven times it's written within this book. It's written within the book of Ephesians to give us, and convey, the concept of an all-round activity that sums up this abundant life in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a phrase, a metaphor, to depict the life that we have now begun in the Lord Jesus - we are now walking in the light, walking in the Spirit of God, walking in His ways, His precepts. It's just simply a phrase to describe the great activities of this life, the life of God.
We are to walk circumspectly. The word 'circumspect' in our English language comes from two Latin words which mean 'looking all around'. Observing as one walks - you've got the picture of that little cat looking all around, he's looking down at the glass embedded in the cement, he's looking over the wall at the flowers that he may fall into if he's not careful, he's looking before him to see where he's going, and behind him to see if anything is coming. It's all encompassing that idea of looking all around - to walk circumspectly - that's what the English word derived from the Latin means. The Greek word within the New Testament used here, it carries further than that the idea of precision. There's a concept of accuracy, of absolute carefulness, in the way that we walk. It means literally this: 'See that you walk carefully with exactness'. It's a wonderful word, isn't it? 'Circumspectly', to encompass all of these ideas and precepts.
We further understand what it means when Paul puts down for us the backdrop of the opposite, the antithesis to what it is to walk circumspectly. He tells us: 'Walk in wisdom' - verse 15: 'Not as fools, but as wise'. So the opposite of walking circumspectly in wisdom is to walk as a fool. Paul is contrasting foolish footsteps with careful conduct. On the one hand there is walking foolishly, on the other there is walking circumspectly. As we read this passage we realise that it's not a passage of itself, as we know that none of these verses are of themselves, they're in the context of the line of thought that Paul has brought us to. We find if we go back to verse 8, if you look at it, that it's all derived from that little verse: 'For ye were sometimes darkness' - remember not 'in darkness', but you were the personification of darkness itself - 'but now are ye light in the Lord: therefore walk as children of light'. Walk as light.
To walk as fools is to walk on the lower plain of humanity of this world. We could go further to say that it is to walk in carnal Christianity, that most live by. All of this walking is related to verse 14 as well as verse 8, for if you look at that you remember we left off in our last study with: 'Wherefore he saith', in light of the fact that we are to walk as children of light - we are in darkness! That is what Paul is inferring, of course it is - he's saying: 'You've been delivered from the darkness, but what a tragedy to be delivered from the darkness, to be quickened by the Spirit, for the light of God's Son to shine upon your heart, but for you to still walk in the ways of darkness'! That's the point he's making, why else would he say in verse 14: 'Therefore, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light' - why would Christ need to give you light if you were walking in the light? Therefore, from that Paul is telling us: 'Don't walk in your sleep! Walk circumspectly, don't be people who just aimlessly drift through their Christian life - fools!'. Those who are in a trance, like spiritual zombies, out of consciousness - spiritually speaking. Oh, they know where the human, and worldly, direction of their life is going - but spiritually speaking they feel and they are conscious that they are nowhere, they are in spiritual slumber. Paul says: 'Don't be like that! Don't walk in your sleep!'.
We know for a fact that only a fool begins a journey and does not have a recognised destination. Imagine going off on your holidays, and packing your bags and going to the airport, and someone asks you: 'What's your destination, Sir?', and you say: 'Well, I don't know'. It's crazy! The Lord said it Himself, didn't He? A General doesn't go to battle without first looking at the armies that he has - isn't true? Yet so many of us can meander into spiritual conversion, and then from then on wander in a sleep walk, not going to any spiritual goal or destination. We are not walking, perhaps, circumspectly - and in fact, if we are not, the Bible calls us fools. Someone has said, and rightly, that when the pilot does not know what port he is heading for, no wind is the right wind. That means that if you're not consciously realising that you're going towards God's destination, it doesn't matter even if the right thing comes along, it cannot be the right thing for you. You might think that's 'Irish', or a contradiction in terms, but what that writer is simply saying is this: the only way to know that it's the right wind that is directing you in your life, is to walk circumspectly. If you're walking with your spiritual eyes closed, if you're just drifting along from meeting to meeting, from spiritual little experience in a meeting to another experience, you are walking in the dark - and it doesn't matter what happens to you, it's not right if you're walking in the dark!
Do you plan your days for God? Do you plan your life for God? If I was to ask any of you what your goal for your life is for God, what would it be? Have you got a goal, a direction of what you want to be for God, or what you want to do for God, or what you would long to see God create within your life for His glory? Have you a direction? If you don't that means you're walking in the dark, and you're walking as a fool!
How can we walk in wisdom? How can we walk in this wisdom circumspectly? Well, Paul tells us very clearly - it's your first point: by redeeming the time. Verse 16: 'See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise' - one - 'Redeeming the time, because the days are evil'. How can I walk circumspectly? - and that could be asking the question: 'How can I begin to ask God, and to be in a position where He can fill me with the fullness of God?', well, you're going to have to redeem the time. To walk in wisdom requires is, as one translation says, to 'buy up the opportunities'. Buy up the opportunities! Redeem the time! The English word for 'opportunities' comes from the Latin which means 'towards the port' - isn't that a lovely picture? A destination! As you go along life's road, or the spiritual pathway and pilgrimage like Christian in Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, you're not just going along aimlessly drifting by every wind that comes to and fro, but you're going towards a destination - and all the opportunities along that way to bring you nearer and nearer, you're buying up, buying them all up!
It suggests a ship taking advantage of the wind and the tide to arrive safely in the harbour. It suggests the pilot and the sailor using his skill to make sure that his sails are set, so that he can use the wind in a way that will bring him to his destination. In the light of that word, are we redeeming the time? Have we set our sails in the direction so that we are buying up the opportunities that God brings along to us? If we can work out, and begin to know, where our spiritual goal is that God would have us go to, are we using every opportunity and redeeming them so that we can get there all the quicker? The word 'redeem' or 'buy up', linguistically, is in the middle voice - and that simply means this: Paul is saying this: 'To redeem the time is to buy up for oneself, to buy up for your own advantage'.
Now think of that. I would've thought it was to buy up for God's advantage, wouldn't you? Maybe that sounds a bit selfish, to buy up and redeem the time for your own advantage - but do you know something? I believe that Paul, here, had in view in his spiritual sight the judgement seat of Christ. What he is telling us is that, in contrast to using the time for your own advantage down here, Christians ought to be buying the time, redeeming the time, for your advantage up there when you stand before Christ. Paul is saying we ought to redeem the time in light of the judgement seat. Oh, if we could live in light of the judgement seat! If we could use our opportunities in light of not tomorrow, or not in the light of what other people think, or what I will feel like, or what it will do to my reputation - but in regard to the judgement seat of Christ, and what my Saviour will say there!
He says: 'Redeem the time', and the word for 'time' there is not the word 'chronos' (sp?) in Greek, which is the usual word with simply means 'time as it passes by' - in other words, the time on the clock. But the Greek word that Paul uses here is the word 'charos' (sp?), which refers to a special time, a chosen time, a strategic time of opportunity - do you see what he's saying? He's not simply saying: 'Redeem the minutes, redeem the hours', he is saying: 'The time that you're in, this dispensation, this period within the earth's history, is going by. It will soon be over, suddenly, in a moment, Christ will return, the church will disappear, this old earth will go up in a ball of fire and smoke, and eventually the time will be done - and in the light of that, will you not redeem that time?'. It is a strategic opportunity, it only lasts now.
I believe the idea that Paul has here is, he is saying: 'You've got to be bargain-hunting for time. Get as much time for God as you can'. There's not 'all the time in the world' - that's a lie from Satan - the word of God says there's a specific time period that we are on the earth as the church of Jesus Christ, and we must use all that time bargain-hunting for God! I hope you know that you can't save time, you've got to make it, you've got to buy it. It's expensive to make time for God, but you've got to make every effort to buy up the opportunities, to spend time in relation to the judgement seat, and in view of it, and in light of it - you've got to come before God and no matter what it costs, no matter what the price-tag is, we have to redeem the time!
The motivation for that is found in verse 16, at the end he says we've got to do it because the days are evil. It's the urgency about it, that's the motivation to act in this way, to buy it all up - why? Because of the evil character of the days in which we live. Now, some people believe, scholars believe, that Paul had in his mind 1 Peter 4:12 to 19 - the persecution from the nation of Rome. That might well be what he had in mind - he was telling these Christians: 'There's going to come a day when you'll maybe be locked up, you'll not have the freedom to go out and preach the Gospel, you'll not have the freedom to live for Christ in the way that you can - that period of time, that strategic opportunity, for you may be at the beginning of the end'. I don't know whether we have persecution up ahead, sometimes I believe we will - but one thing is for sure, God says in Genesis chapter 6 and verse 3: 'My spirit shall not always strive with man'. God said that in relation to the flood, and indeed in relation to the fact that the spirit within man - that's your personal spirit that makes you relate to God - will not always be in your body, that's what that verse means.
The Psalmist said in Psalm 90, threescore and ten; and if by [reason] perhaps eighty years of age you might get to, you might even get more - but the fact is this: that we not only have this time period of the strategic opportunity of the specific period of time between the resurrection of the second coming, but we have only individually the time that God has allocated to me! I might be classed as young by many here tonight, but you know I despair at times of how little time I have left, and how little I have done - and that's not false humility. What if God should only give me half of it? Or more than all that, what if my Lord should come tomorrow? You see the impact of what Paul is saying here? That's what it means to redeem the time, to use every moment in the light of the judgement seat, in the light of the fact that the Lord is returning, in the light of the fact we may have only 70 years, 80 years at the most, and that is so short - but not even knowing what today or tomorrow may bring! Your life is a vapour, it appeareth for a little time and then vanishes away - we don't know!
We can't boast about tomorrow - therefore it's imploring upon us, for there will come a day when we will no longer be able to lead a soul to Christ. There will come a day when we will not be able to pray in the same capacity as we can pray today. There will come a time when we will not be able to be helped in the situations that we are in today by the word of God, by inwardly digesting it, meditating on it, and studying upon it. You know, John Wesley every day, at the end of the day, sat with a piece of paper and a pen and checked how he spent each hour of his day. F.B. Meyer took up that idea and did it himself - two great men of God. They redeemed the time, they made sure that five-minute by five-minute - you might think it's bondage, I tend to think it's holiness - they redeemed the time. They wanted to make sure that they were buying or using every opportunity, not in a legalistic way, but they were so desirous to praise, to love, to serve the Lord Jesus Christ, to be filled with the Spirit of God, that they wanted to make sure - make sure - they were redeeming the time!
Harry Ironside in his commentary on Ephesians tells a story about how he used to ask, in a congregation like this, how many people had read the Bible through in a year. He used to ask them to put their hand up! Would you put your hand up if you have ever read the Bible through completely, ever? Put your hand up - completely, all the way through? Well, in a company of 500 people there was only two for him - so I'm doing better than Harry Ironside, that's great! He said on that day that he would never ask that question again, and his reason for it was this: he was ashamed to let the devil see it! Are we redeeming the time in prayer? Are we redeeming the time through the word of God?
You know, I believe that the church is choked today with a five-minute 'wink and nod' to God! People say to me: 'It's not quantity that matters, it's quality' - I know that, but if you have the quality you can be sure that you'll have quantity! It's not how long you pray that's important, but you can be reassured that if there's any quality in your prayer life it will be increasing! I'm not going to tell you how long you ought to pray - that's between you and the Lord - but you need to know that if you're growing with God it's got to get more and more, until it's 'prayer without ceasing', until it's 'continuing in prayer', because it takes time to be holy. It takes time.
The problem is, as the problem was in Ephesus, that we don't live in a world that lends itself to holiness. That's the whole point, that's why this kind of talk grates with our flesh! It grates with your everyday scheme and schedule for business, it doesn't fit in! 'I don't have time to do all of that!' - Paul said to these people, who didn't have time to do it either: 'You've got to make the time!'. If it costs you 100 pounds a month, make it! If it costs you your reputation, if it costs you a friendship, if it costs you an hour in bed in the morning, if it costs you a cup of coffee in the evening - whatever it costs you: redeem that time! Buy it back! Sell that old thing for the word of God!
Now in relation to verse 18 - be ye filled with the Holy Spirit - you've got to redeem the time with the word of God, redeem the time in prayer, if you're going to be filled with the Holy Spirit. If there's no Bible in your life, if there's no prayer in your life, forget about the fullness of the Spirit. Secondly: to walk in wisdom, and to be filled with the Spirit, is understanding God's will. Verse 17: 'Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is'. Now that's another step - as well as redeeming the time, in order to redeem the time you need to understand what God wants you to do. By the very nature of the briefness of time and the temptations that we face, as verse 16 says 'Because the days are evil', we've got to know what God wants us to do so that we can do it in the time that we have redeemed for Him.
We've got to know God's will so that we don't fritter away our time on empty activity, whether it be the activity of the world, or our own choice, by leaning on our own understanding. I believe that you could parallel this with what the Lord Jesus said in Mark chapter 4 and verse 19, where He talked about the sower going out to sow - and you know that some of the seed fell on certain ground. The third type of ground is described as thorny ground - and the thorns and thistles came up, and it says it choked the word of God. The explanation in the commentary that the Son of God gives upon that spiritual truth is this: those thorns are the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, the lusts or desire of other things entering in choke the word of God and it becomes unfruitful.
There are several words that haunt me in that verse: cares of this world, deceitfulness of riches, lusts of other things - 'I'll do anything but pray, I'll do anything but read the word of God, I'll do anything but go to the meeting'. They enter in, Jesus says, and they choke! Then there's that little word 'unfruitfulness'. If we're unfruitful we have to look, we have to assess ourselves and examine, and the only way to safeguard against becoming choked by these desires for other things, is to discern what the will of God is - and once discerned to act upon it. Imagine the tragedy of a Christian life lived on their own energy, and spent in their own will. Imagine the waste. In fact, I would go as far as to say that, humanly speaking in this life, it is the waste of a redeemed life. I would go stronger and say: many can foolishly waste Christ's redemptive work in this life. You can't waste it ultimately, because He will bring you conformed to Himself eventually - but you could be wasting the grace of God that is given for you now to live this life of circumspect walking in wisdom and full of the Holy Ghost.
The fullness of the Spirit: walk in wisdom by redeeming the time and by understanding what God's will is - don't waste the time doing your will or someone else's. Be filled with the Holy Spirit is our second point - and here we get to the real theme, the real crux of the matter: '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; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God'. Be ye filled with the Holy Spirit!
It's a command, it's in the imperative mood. That tells me many things, first of all it tells me this: that not all Christians are filled with the Spirit. I read commentaries today that told me that Christians are filled with the Spirit when they're born-again - that's nonsense! You are commanded, Christians in Ephesus were commanded: 'Be ye filled with the Holy Spirit'. It is a command, which also tells me this: that although not everybody has this, it's not an option. It's not for the preacher in the pulpit, it's not for the missionary on the field, it's for the Christian in the world - that's what it's for. It's for every believer, every single child of God, this is for them! It's a verb that's in the present tense, and literally means this: 'keep on being filled'. This isn't a once-for-all experience - although it may come at a particular point, it may even come in a crises experience - but it is an experience that means day-by day to be tended, you need to be continually on a daily basis being filled, keep on being filled with the Holy Spirit. As D.L. Moody says: 'Our bucket is full of holes'.
The verb is in the passive. That simply means this: that you don't fill yourself with the Holy Spirit, it is something that is done to you. I've heard some say that because it's a command and it's in the imperative 'Be ye filled with the Holy Spirit', that means, if it's a command, you can do it - you can fill yourself with the word of God, you can pray so much that this will happen to you - that is not it. It's in the passive tense, you can put yourself in the position to be filled, but it must be the sovereign Lord, the Spirit, that does the filling. Indeed one translation of Scripture translates it like this: 'Let the Spirit fill you' - that's the command.
I'm sure many of us would agree here tonight that it's never the Lord's will for a Christian to be drunk. There's a debate goes about Christendom, especially now here in Northern Ireland, whether it's right for a Christian to drink or not. But we would agree on this: it's never right for a Christian to be drunk. In Ephesus it was the countryside of wine, we have looked in other weeks at the fact that there was over indulgence in a sexual realm, but there was also over indulgence in the realm of alcohol - and it was normal to be drunk all of the time on many occasions. Therefore Paul takes this illustration of alcohol intoxication, and it's a strange thing because Paul takes it to contrast - and it's rather shocking that he would use an illustration like drunkenness to illustrate to us what it means to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
Although he compares the two, there are some similarities with it. With the drunk man he is under the power of a spirit, and the power of that spirit is outside of his own personality. Indeed the power of the Holy Spirit is another personality apart from himself - but that is where the comparison ends, that is where it ends. There is no other relation between drunkenness and the fullness of the Spirit, because drunkenness brings riot, as the word of God says it brings excess, debauchery - the Spirit of God does not bring those things. Although the Spirit of God controls the person, just as alcohol controls the person and the self, one of the fruits of the Spirit is self-control, Galatians 5:23. That's absent when we're intoxicated with wine or any other intoxicating influence - so the only comparison between drunkenness and the fullness of the Spirit is this: that as a drunk is controlled by the alcohol, the child of God is controlled by the Holy Spirit, but not at the expense of his self-control.
Therefore Paul's chief reason for bringing to us this illustration of drunkenness is not simply to compare, but rather to contrast. He wants to show us the difference, he wants to show us the great superiority of the fullness of the Holy Spirit to alcohol. Indeed, further than that, he wants to show us the great superiority of the fullness of the Spirit to any influence in the life apart from God! That's the point - in other words: if there's anything else controlling our lives apart from the Holy Spirit, we are walking in foolishness. Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones was a Harley Street specialist, medically, before he became the Pastor of Westminster Chapel. He wrote with regards to alcohol - and this is the reason why I don't just believe that it is drunkenness that is spoken of, but it is the influence of alcohol totally - he said this in relation to alcohol, and he knew what he was talking about: 'Drink is not a stimulant, it is a depressant. It depresses, first and foremost, the highest centres of all in the brain - they are very first to be influenced and affected by drink. They control everything that gives a man self-control, wisdom, understanding, discrimination, judgement, balance, the power to assess everything. In other words: everything that makes a man behave at his very best and highest, it affects! The better a man's control, the better the man he is - but drink is something which immediately gets rid of control, that indeed is the first thing that it does'.
Without detouring into that subject: stay clear of drink! If you want to be filled with the Spirit, don't open your life to any influence that will control any of your actions, or any of your mental processes, other than the Spirit of God. Now, here's the point that we're getting to, here is the climax of this whole passage: is there emptiness in your life? That's the point Paul's making. Is there a sense of direction? Is there a void within your soul? Is there an emptiness within the church of Jesus Christ wherever you belong? If there is, Paul is saying it's just like ancient Israel, because they have forsaken the fountain of living waters and have hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water. If there is a spiritual emptiness in your saved life, you need to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
If you are, and we may take time at some other occasion - it's such a large subject - to deal with that. If you are, Paul gives us three ways that we can know, and the results of that. The first is: rejoicing - verse 19: 'Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord'. Several results of being filled, one of them is rejoicing. When the divine in-filling opens your heart, and fills you with all the fullness of God, your mouth will open and you'll begin to praise God, and you'll begin to testify of the Lord - you'll have a passion to speak of Him.
Old W.P. Nicholson lived in Bangor and he got saved, and he felt that emptiness within his soul. He observed from time to time - especially on a Saturday evening - that his local Salvation Army Corps consisted of two scrawny little girls and the town idiot that he called 'Daft Jimmy'. He said in his own way that: 'Daft Jimmy hadn't enough brains to give him a headache', and he wore jumper that said on it: 'Saved From Public Opinion', and he carried a flag in this parade with these two little girls going down the street of Bangor every night. All the country folk, he said, would come and meet their friends and go out for dinner and so forth in Bangor main street. He often cringed, and he thought to himself: 'Lord, I'll go anywhere in the world, but never ask me to do anything like that!'. Well, you know that that's a bad thing to say to God on any occasion - and you know, God dealt with him, and to cut a long story short God filled Nicholson with the Spirit of God and he ended up leading the possession down the street banging a tambourine, delivered from public opinion.
Hallelujah! That the Lord would do that to us all tonight, because the fullness of the Spirit frees your mouth to speak of God. Indeed, I believe that, peculiarly, the fullness of the Spirit is for service. It is for power to witness, power to live for Christ. It's to utter a voice, to emit a sound, to speak, to utter articulate sounds, to use words in order to declare one's mind and to disclose one's thoughts concerning God. Now that is why it says in verse 19: 'Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord' - if you're filled with the Spirit, you will open up your mouth to praise God. It'll not only be spoken, it'll be sung - it'll be a great praise to God! There's a great need today, I believe, for an exploration in the mature theologically accurate and musically excellent development of praise. We need praise today, we need good singing, that's what we need! It's not unspiritual to have good singing, and you find from the word of God indeed, and through history books, that in times of spiritual blessing - the revival - the song was born.
In the Reformation old Luther, he brought the hymn singing back into the church. It had gone, but he brought back! He composed that great hymn: 'A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing'. 'Away in a manger, no crib for a bed' - he wrote it! In the Wesleyan revival Charles Wesley wrote 6000 hymns to his name. His brother John wrote many as well. Moody and Sankey in the late 18th-century and the early 1900s were still singing them, because out of the spiritual awakening they came speaking to themselves in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, making melody to God in their hearts! On one occasion Charles Simeon, who preached in Holy Trinity Cambridge, when there was a great outpouring of the Spirit among his enthusiastic congregation at the beginning of the evangelical movement in the Church of England - as he was seeing and witnessing great things of God, a church down the road who was opposed to it all put a new bell in their tower and made this inscription on it: 'Glory to the church, and damnation to the enthusiasts'! You see, good singing has generally rung the death knell of deadness. If there's good singing, you've a fair idea there's not much deadness. We need to get back to good singing, but you know you'll not do it by any instrument - only the instrument of your heart.
Making melody in your heart to the Lord with psalms - the inspired writings of David, Moses, Asaph. Oh, that we would sing the psalms again! Sing the psalms! 'The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want', we sing that one, but there are so many more! 'To the hills I lift up mine eyes, whence cometh my aid? Mine aid cometh from the Lord who heaven and earth hath made'. Spiritual songs, songs to do with anything with regard to the spiritual life - not particularly directed towards God. Such as 'Take time to be holy', and, 'What a friend we have in Jesus', concerning prayer. Then there are hymns which specifically are adoration to God, but the outcome of all these things and the motive for it is rejoicing - that's the point! Rejoicing, joy in the heart, the fruit of the Spirit, Galatians 5:22. The Spirit-filled life will be a fountain bubbling over with joy. Acts - the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Ghost! Are you filled with joy? Another translation puts that verse like this: 'Making melody with all your heart' - not just in your heart, but with all your heart! A reckless abandonment in a manner of praise, praising God, a heart filled with spiritual music! When it's filled with spiritual music, when the spiritual orchestra of the church gets together, there'll be a spiritual symphony to God in praise.
The second result is thanking. You see, where the Spirit reigns there's gratitude to God, there is deep appreciation and spontaneous expression of what God has done. It's not an occasional thing, it's a continual thing - thanking God for Christ and your salvation, and everything that He is and has done. Do we thank Him? Do you know that the words 'think' and 'thank', in the English language at least, come from the same root word? It's interesting that, isn't it? For when we think, we'll thank. G. K. Chesterton said: 'The saddest moment in the life of an atheist is when he realises he has something for which to be thankful, but no-one to thank'. We have someone to thank, don't we? We have an appreciation - or at least we should do - and I want to ask the question here tonight: how Spirit-filled is the church? How Spirit-filled is this church?
You know, there are two exercises that God gave the church, so that they might thank Him and give expression to their gratitude. They are convened as a medium for our thanksgiving, can you think of what they are? The Lord's Supper - what's the other one? The prayer meeting. What are the two least attended meetings in the whole of the church? The prayer meeting and the Lord's Supper. If we think, we will thank.
Finally, as we close: submitting. We don't think of that often, perhaps, because it's submitting to one another, not just God. Our model is Christ, we are to submit to Christ, but by submitting to Christ we will submit to one another. We will submit to the oversight within the assembly, we will submit to the government as they submit to God. Are we submitting to one another in love? Are you filled with the Holy Spirit? I read some authors, and you could disagree with me if you wish, but they say you can't know if you're filled with the Holy Spirit - you can't know. Can you know if you're saved? Of course we can - you can know if you're filled with the Holy Spirit.
Do you want to be filled with the Holy Spirit? Do you? There's no formula you know, there's no quick fix. It's on your face before God, praying, meditating upon the word of God. It's obeying the word of God, it's asking God, it's dealing with your sin and yourself thoroughly and ruthlessly. It's surrendering your will to God, and it's by faith believing that God will fill you with all His fullness. I close with the words of our risen Lord Jesus Christ to any here this meeting that long to know the fullness of God's Spirit: 'The Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely'. Take it, for it's for you.
Our Father, we thank Thee for Thy Holy Spirit - but yet in thanking Thee for Him, Lord, He makes us uncomfortable, for He is the Holy Spirit. If we are to know Him we will be holy. Help us, Lord, to redeem the time, help us, Lord, to understand what Thy will is for us - and we know this without a doubt tonight, that Thy will is that we be filled with the Holy Spirit. So, Lord, for those that really want Thee, we pray that they may find Thee as they search for Thee with all their heart. Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the twenty-third tape in his Ephesians series, titled "The Fullness Of The Spirit" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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