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How are we to reach a world that insists there are no absolutes? In his recently released, Christians: The Urgent Case for Jesus in Our World, Dr. Greg Sheridan comments, ‘Popular culture has turned against God, especially against the Christian churches, and pretty often against Christians themselves, over the last 50 years’ (p.171).
In Ephesians, chapter 5 verse 15, Paul the Apostle says to every generation of God’s people: Be careful how you live, not as unwise but as wise,…
Commenting on these words, FF Bruce notes that Paul’s readers are ‘a small minority, and because of their distinctive ways, their lives will be scrutinized by others: the reputation of the gospel is bound up with their public behavior. Hence the need for care and wisdom, lest the Christian cause should be inadvertently jeopardized by thoughtless speech or action on the part of Christians’ (The Epistles to the Colossians, Philemon and Ephesians, p.378).
Significantly Paul continues in Ephesians chapter 5, verse 15, …making the most of every opportunity because the days are evil. Don’t be foolish. Understand what the Lord’s will is.
We all know how time flies. Paul knew this too: ‘Learn to use it well,’ or ‘Buy up the present opportunity’, he says. We need to understand that although God has opened a door for men and women to enter the new era of his kingdom of light, the present age continues to be shrouded in darkness. The toppling of a democratically elected government in Myanmar and the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan, are just two examples. How much we need to pray for peoples everywhere where there is injustice, and especially for God’s people who face persecution for their faith in Christ.
Our awareness of the injustices around us should prompt us to understand God and his will. He has not simply wound the spring of his creation but is personally and vitally committed to rescue the lost. ‘To buy up the present opportunity’ involves, not only our living a new life as God’s people, but also our witness. For the present time has an end – a terminus ad quem. God will draw together all his people from throughout time to himself and close the great doors of the new era on this present age.
And, if you are beginning to think that all this is heavy and burdensome and rather joyless, it’s time to take in verses 18 through 20. Paul begins: Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit,…
The Spirit of God is not a fluid with which we may be filled up. Rather, as Paul points out in Romans chapter 8 verse 9, when we turn to Christ, the Spirit of Christ takes up residence within us. So, instead of being under the influence of alcohol we are to be under the influence of God’s Spirit, the Spirit of Christ within us.
Paul’s contrast here is striking. Alcohol can lead to drunkenness and debauchery, dehumanizing us. We become the reverse of what we were meant to be — no longer the glory of God’s creation, made in his image, but beasts. On the other hand, Paul is saying, when the Spirit of God fills our lives, he enables us to live and run as God’s people with love and joy in our hearts.
Two interesting exhortations follow – singing and thanksgiving.
Singing. Addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,… singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts… (5:19).
We don’t often think about the reality that the earliest churches expressed their joy in music and singing. The Psalms were their hymn book. FF Bruce also points out that one of the ancient testimonies – Pliny’s report of antiphonal singing ‘to Christ as God’ – has a bearing on two aspects of this verse: the singing is antiphonal, ‘addressing one another’, and is offered ‘to the Lord’.
This tells us that amongst God’s people, from the earliest times, praise has been offered alike to God and to Christ. One of the ways we worship God and build relationships with one another is through singing God’s truth.
Emotions are a very important part of our makeup. When the Spirit of God is at work in us our singing will have the rich sound that comes from people who have that deep joy which comes from knowing their God.
Thanksgiving: Always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (5:20).
Nothing brings about tension and division more than ingratitude. To have a thankful spirit is to accept the situation in which you find yourself in the loving providence of God. A thankful heart trusts God, not just in good times, but also in tough times. Thankful people know that in every situation God is working out his good purposes for them – as we read in Romans 8:28-30. Thankful people are more likely to be happy people, because they know the Lord is in control.
God’s ‘spirit-filled’ people who display a great sense of indebtedness to his grace, are people who know peace, harmony and joy.
Be filled with the Spirit … addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,… singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts; … always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ
Here we have a response to the cacophony of voices of our day – voices of people who know not love and joy and peace, because they have not yet found the God who loves them with a greater love than they ever dreamed.
Don’t be drunk with wine; don’t be afraid. Rather, be filled with the Spirit and sing songs and hymns with gratitude to God in your hearts.
A prayer. Almighty God, we thank you for the gift of your holy word. May it be a lantern to our feet, a light to our paths, and strength to our lives. Take us and use us to love and serve all people in the power of the Holy Spirit and in the name of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.