What is it like to be filled with the Spirit? There are several perceptions of that phrase. We may picture people dancing and babbling incoherently and falling to the ground, or we may see it as simply a silent <whoosh> of peace and joy that settles over a believer when he or she accepts the Lord.
Both of those images may be accurate, because this verse in Ephesians tells us that, rather than getting drunk, we should get filled with the Spirit! Do we think of it that way? “Hey, it’s been a rough day…a long week…let’s just unwind and go get filled with the Spirit tonight!”
Think about what happens when a person drinks. When alcohol first hits your system, you find yourself relaxing. All the things that have been causing stress seem to recede. Your muscles relax and you are able to sleep better. But this verse doesn’t compare being Spirit-filled with just a few sips of wine—it compares it to being drunk! So let’s take it a bit further.
As you drink more, you will focus less on yourself. Your insecurity and self-consciousness will melt away. You quit worrying about what you look like or whether your grammar is perfect. You will talk more easily and not be embarrassed.
Another thing that happens with alcohol consumption is that you notice less of the world around you. Things that may have really upset you when completely sober become nothing more than a minor irritation. You not only notice less, but you remember less and you actually feel less. Surprisingly, with all the noise and activity around you diminished, you find you are able to meditate very deeply on the few things that you are still thinking about. You may find surprising new insights in a very simple idea (or at least, you think that you do.)
You also may notice that your world is rocking. You might feel disoriented, and things that you thought were solid and dependable may seem to shift as you lean on them. Eventually, you may actually lose control of what your body is doing.
This is a subject that I’ve never heard a sermon about, but isn’t it amazing to compare these two things? I’ve heard this verse all my life, but never actually grasped that it was saying that being filled with the Holy Spirit is better than getting drunk! And by “better,” I don’t mean that Spirit-filling is more calm and dignified. I think that in our solemn churchiness, we have sometimes distanced ourselves from the fact that this can be a wild ride! Yes, the Spirit-filled life will calm your anxiety, it will quiet down the noise of the world around you, it will block out the insistent screechings of daily life and allow you to focus deeply on the basic questions of life. But it will also make you less concerned about what the people around you think and more determined to do what has been put in your heart. You may talk to strangers more, and you won’t be as upset when you are rebuffed. You will find that hurts of the past become unimportant.
And sometimes it will completely rock your world. You may find that being controlled by the Spirit is disorienting, that you will end up in situations that you never anticipated. You may find yourself doing things you never dreamed of before. The things that you have depended on for stability in the past may begin to totter. That’s not always a comfortable feeling, but no one can deny that it’s exciting! The difference is that, when the Spirit rocks your world and your supports are falling down, there is always a solid Rock underneath.
This verse says not to be drunk, because when you get too much alcohol…there is no doubt that you’re going to be sorry later. On the other hand, being filled with the Spirit will never give you a hangover and regrets. When you are Spirit-controlled, there is no crash when the drug leaves your system, because our Lord has promised, “I will never leave you, neither will I forsake you.”
The high just goes on and on.