A Normal Christian Life
“And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.” Ephesians 5:18
Proposition: The filling of the Holy Spirit is designed by God to be the normal Christian experience.
The filling of the Spirit is not something that only a select few can enjoy.
The filling of the Spirit is not something that only the most religious minded can know.
The filling of the Spirit is to be the normal Christian experience.
This truth is taught by Paul in Ephesians 5:18, “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.” From this one passage observe several crucial points.
First, every Christian is to be filled with the Spirit. Paul is not writing to just one or two believers. He is writing a letter to the whole Church of Ephesus, knowing that it will be passed on and read by other assemblies. That is fine, for Paul wants all Christians to be filled with the Spirit. It is an important concept to understand.
Unfortunately, it is easy to believe that the filling of the Holy Spirit is not really for everyone, because the filling of the Spirit is associated with miraculous moments in Church history, such as the Day of Pentecost. Fifty days after Christ was crucified, wind and fire came into a room where 120 disciples were sitting. A supernatural ability was given to preach the gospel in languages never learned before. It was a day of great miracles, for the power of the Lord was present.
But not everyone was impressed. There was much opposition to the Christian community, so much so that the filling of the Spirit became associated with periods of persecution. Why? Because the filling of the Holy Spirit made people bold enough to tell others about Jesus. Peter and Paul, Stephen and Silas were beaten, and bloodied for proclaiming Christ. Yet, they endured their ordeals because they were filled with the Spirit.
While the filling of the Spirit is associated with the miraculous, and the misery of suffering, the filling of the Spirit is also associated in Scripture with the mundane things of life, such as waiting on tables, and helping out the widows in time of distress.
The seven servants of Acts were chosen because it was evident to all that they were filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 6:3,5).
If the lowest servants are to be filled with the Holy Spirit to perform the basic tasks in the Church, then the point is established: the filling of the Spirit is to be the normal Christian life.
A second truth to notice from Ephesians 5:18 is that it is the Holy Spirit we are to be filled with.
Christ and the disciples knew that there are many spirits abroad, and not all of them are good.
There is a spirit of the world. The German word, zeitgeist, means “spirit of the age” or “spirit of the times.” This concept from the 18th century refers to an invisible agent, or force, dominating the characteristic of a given epoch in world history.
The zeitgeist of the present Millennial Generation is that of narcissism to the highest degree. “It is all about me!” This is the #METOO Generation.
The spirit of the age demands that self be served by others, especially the government.
Romans 12:2 tells the Christian not to be “conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
Why does the mind of the Christian have to be guarded and transformed? Because there is the mind, or spirit of the world. Many things, including lawlessness, characterize the spirit of the world.
It is a universal fact that people simply do not like rules and regulations. Young and old alike are by nature rebellious and lawless.
At every opportunity they disregard the rulebooks, tear up the standards, remove the acceptable boundaries of behavior, and pretend that unbridled freedom is the new way to peace and happiness, and the easing of tension.
Time alone will demonstrate how absolutely unworkable this thinking is. The lessons of the past must be learned afresh by every generation. The philosopher was right when he said, “We learn from the past, we learn nothing from the past.”
The Bible tells us about the days of the Judges following the death of Joshua. Every man did that which was right in his own eyes (Judges 21:25).
Were people happier?
Were individuals safer?
Was more respect shown?
Was there a lessening of tension?
Was there more kindness and consideration?
No. There was bloodshed and violence. There was the wanton destruction of property. There was chaos and confusion, as people said to one another:
“Free from the law, O happy condition, behave as you please for there is remission.”
Individuals might dance in delight at the absence of boundaries, but it is the dance of death.
If God is just, those who tear up the rule books will live to rue the day that decision was made.
If anyone thinks that it is hard to live with rules, wait until there are now rules. You will hear a new song being sung.
But if anyone thinks that the reigns of authority can easily be picked up again once they are laid down, that too is a serious mistake.
The spirit of the world has a strength and power of its own that is not easily subdued.
In Austin, Texas in November 2020, the Governor of the state finally insisted the homeless be removed from public squatting under bridges, and the areas cleaned up. One homeless man being interviewed said, “We will be back. People will continue to give us free stuff. It is as simple as that.”
As there is a spirit of the world, so there is a spirit of the flesh. The spirit of the flesh is focused upon sensuality. Paul calls this carnality. The Church at Corinth was one of the most carnal, or fleshly churches of the New Testament.
People were committed to being cruel to visitors.
People were determined to be unkind to those deemed to be their social inferiors.
People were inflated with their own self-importance, for some spoke in tongues.
The hatred and hostility that was manifested in the Church of Corinth did not come from lack of spiritual gifts.
The carnality came because individuals wanted to get up in public and show off.
They wanted to be applauded, and praised for a form of spirituality that had more things in common with the worship of Diana, than with the Living Lord.
The result of the self-centered personal life of individuals in the Church of Corinth was division in the body of Christ, and a superficial form of spirituality that despised correction and instruction in righteousness.
Experiences took precedence over objective truth.
Things became so bad at Corinth that some of the people decided they were more apostolic than the apostle Paul.
What did immodesty in worship matter?
What did irrational speech matter?
What did irresponsible behavior matter?
As long as self was happy, truth and doctrine could be disregarded. The spirit of the flesh is the spirit of sensuality.
As there is a spirit of the world, characterized by lawlessness, and a spirit of the flesh, manifested in sensual and self-centered behavior, so there is a demonic spirit. 2 Corinthians 11:14-15 explains. “And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore, it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.”
Since time began, a satanic spirit has been trying to assert itself in the affairs of the universe.
In heaven the satanic spirit said,
“I will be like God.”
In the Garden of Eden, the satanic spirit said to man,
“You can be like God.”
Today, the satanic spirit says to man,
“You are God.
You can create health and wealth.
You can bind evil spirits.
You can perform signs and wonders.
What the mind of man can conceive, the ability of man can achieve.
Just like God.”
Once more Satan is whispering to religious and non-religious people, “Follow me and I will give you spiritual power.”
The message of Satan is mouthed constantly by his Ministers of Light, as well as by his rulers of darkness.
The irony of the situation is that while warnings against satanic practices are proclaimed, it is still possible for Christians to embrace a satanic, or pagan, philosophy.
The embracing of a satanic, or pagan philosophy can happen in such a subtle matter that the soul can be deceived, and the heart can stop caring about true truth.
\However, for those who still care, the pagan philosophy consists of two basic thoughts.
First, there is the belief that the mind can be separated from the spirit, and thus have access to the deity. Paul understood how it was possible for Christians to be carried away with the philosophy of paganism according to 1 Corinthians 12:1-2 which is why he said, “I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with the understanding” (1 Cor. 14:15). The pagan philosophy says, “I will separate my mind from my spirit.” How do we know that the separation of the mind from the spirit is a pagan philosophy?
There are two ways
First, there is the testimony of their own practitioner, and second, there is the plain teaching of Jesus Christ Himself on this matter in Matthew 6:7. Concerning the testimony of pagan practitioners, any number of examples could be given.
One of the most ancient testimonies comes from 1100 BC from the city of Byblos on the coast of Syro-Palestine.
A report has been found in Byblos of a young worshipper of Amon who became possessed by a god, and spoke in an ecstatic language. The text reads: “Now, when he sacrificed to his god…the god seized one of his noble youths, making him frenzied, so that he said: ‘Bring the god hither! Bring the messenger of Amon who hath him. Send him and let him go.”
People who allow their spirit to be separated from their understanding in order to have access to the deity, think that they will be heard for their much speaking. They won’t. Jesus said they would not be heard in Matthew 6:7.
“But when ye pray, said Christ, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do; for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.”
We say again. There is a spirit of the world characterized by lawlessness.
There is a spirit of the flesh manifested in self-centeredness.
There is a satanic spirit proclaimed in the pagan philosophy that the mind can be separated from the spirit in order to have access with the deity.
But praise God, there is also the Holy Spirit. And He is HOLY. The Holy Spirit does not cause people to be immodest so that white bath towels are needed to cover up indecent behavior during a worship service.
The Holy Spirit does not cause people to lose control of their faculties according to 1 Corinthians 14: 32-33.
The Holy Spirit does not call undue attention to Himself. Rather, the Holy Spirit has been given to exalt Christ, and enable the Christian to live a normal Spirit filled life under His influence.
There is abundant Scriptural evidence for this, beginning at the Day of Pentecost.
Peter, filled with the Spirit, preached to a large group of people. According to Divine promise, Peter told them that if they would repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, they too would receive forgiveness of sins, and the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).
At least 3,000 people repented. They were baptized in the name of Jesus. They received forgiveness of sin and, the gift of the Holy Spirit. Later, in 1 Corinthians 12:13, it would be explained that being saved was the same thing as being baptized with the Holy Spirit.
Turn now to Acts 9 and notice verse 17.
In context, the story is told of Saul of Tarsus who is a seeking sinner. He has had a spiritual awakening on the road to Damascus, but he is not yet fully converted. He has not finally closed with Christ.
Saul has asked,
“Who are you, Lord?”
Saul has asked,
“Lord, what will you have me to do?”
Saul has obeyed the outward steps of gospel obedience. But he is not yet fully converted. How do we know?
First of all because Saul has not yet called upon Jesus Christ as Saviour from his sins. He has submitted to the Lordship of Christ, but Jesus is both Lord and Saviour. Saul has taken the first step. He has submitted to the Sovereign. But he must receive Christ as Saviour. That this did not happen on the road to Damascus but three days later is suggested from Acts 22:16.
According to Acts 22, Ananias has come to see Saul. He knows that Saul is going to be wholly converted and so, in anticipation, he calls him his brother. But Saul must still do two things: he must tarry no longer. He must be baptized. “Saul, why do you wait? Be baptized and (2) wash away your sins calling on the name of the Lord. Saul was willing to be obedient to the faith and three things happened:
he received physical sight,
he received the gift of the Holy Spirit
and he was filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:17).
I hope you understand.
The conversion experience of Saul was designed by God to be the pattern for all others who come to faith. This truth is taught in 1 Timothy 1:16. “Howbeit for this cause, I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hear-after believe on him to life everlasting.”
If Paul is the pattern of normal salvation and Christian living, then we see immediately that the filling of the Holy Spirit is designed by God, right from the start of the new birth, to be how every Christian should live out life. Of course, it is possible to not enjoy, or no longer experience, the filling of the Holy Spirit. There are many ways to avoid allowing the Holy Spirit to manifest His presence. There are specific sins which can be committed against the Spirit.
The Holy Spirit can be lied to (Acts 5:1-9).
The Holy Spirit can be grieved (Eph. 4:30).
The Holy Spirit can be quenched (1 Thess. 5:19).
The Holy Spirit can be blasphemed (Mark 3:29)
The Holy Spirit can be resisted (Acts 7:51)
The Holy Spirit can be tempted (Acts 5)
But the Holy Spirit can also be released so that all of the Christian life is imbued, influenced, and supplied by Him. The Scriptures show us how in both a negative and positive way. The negative why is found in Ephesians 4:20-31. The positive way that the Spirit fills the Christian is found in Ephesians 4:32. Whenever the Spirit fills the life of the Christian there is evidence. The Spirit filled life produces the fruit of the Spirit as per Galatians 5:22-26. The Spirit filled life is also characterized by the singing of psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, a measure of thanksgiving to God, and a submission to legitimate authority (Eph. 5:19-21).
If any Christian wants to live out the Spirit filled life then two things must happen. First, the mind must be put into operation. The Bible says, “be ye transformed by the renewing of the mind.” There is a serious side to salvation, and it involves the use of the mind and the spirit.
Second, there must be a willingness to allow the Holy Spirit to control the life apart from worldliness, carnality, and the attractiveness of pagan philosophy.
If you desire to be filled with the Spirit, then go and walk in the Spirit.
If you desire to be filled with the Spirit,
then simply live out a normal Christian life conscious of His presence, and thankful to God for His wonderful Gift.