“So don’t be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. And don’t get drunk with wine, which leads to reckless living, but be filled by the Spirit: speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music with your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of Christ” (Ephesians 5:17-21).
If you took a random poll today and simply asked people on the street what they think of when they hear the phrase, “filled with the Spirit,” you’d probably get a lot of answers:
- Ecstatic shouting and jumping around.
- Playing with snakes.
- Deep voiced preachers with a sing-songy cadence.
Interestingly, though, if you take a look at the passage above, the effects of being filled with the Spirit aren’t quite so sensational. In fact, we might look at the effects of being filled with the Spirit that are articulated in this passage and be even a little bit disappointed. I mean, we are talking about the Spirit of God here – surely He can make a bigger splash than this.
And yet when you begin to look at these effects, there is something about them. True enough, they are not spectacular, or at least not spectacular in the sense we usually think of things being spectacular. But these evidences of a Spirit-filled life are quite counter-cultural. If we embodied these things, we would clearly stand apart from the world around us. In this sense, there is indeed a spectacular quality to these seemingly unspectacular effects.
So what are these unspectacular, spectacular effects?
1. Speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.
When we are filled with the Spirit, we are readily surrendering ourselves to the revealed truth of God in His word. What’s more, we are actually willing to measure and order our lives around this truth and lovingly call each other to do the same. This trait – of living life according to a greater truth than what we perceive within ourselves – is very counter cultural.
In so doing, we are saying to those around us that each of us, in fact, do not have the truth inside of us. Indeed, our own hearts and feelings are liars. That’s why we center our lives around God’s word – it’s because we are trusting God to do for us what we can’t even do for ourselves – tell us the truth.
2. Singing and making music with your heart to the Lord.
When we are filled with the Spirit, we sing. We sing loudly and proudly. We sing because God has made us to praise that which is truly praiseworthy, and so the music of God bubbles up from inside of us. That’s not to say the music is always happy – it might actually be a lament on occasion. And yet even in those moments, our willingness to sing testifies to the greatness of a God whose decisions are always right.
Our singing sets us apart from the world around us because, well, it’s weird. Think about it – here are adults that once a week stand around in a room and sing. Clearly the people willing to do this live apart from the cultural notion that we should not do anything that would cause someone to think less of us. The people willing to sing in public have found something greater than public opinion to live for.
3. Giving thanks always for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
When we are filled with the spirit, one of the steady and unmistakable marks of that filling is a sense of gratitude. And not just the occasional thank you, but instead a live characterized by gratitude. Which makes complete sense, for when we are filled with the Spirit, we recognize who we once were – sinners condemned to the just judgment of God, and yet rescued from eternal death through Jesus. We give thanks, no matter what else happens, because we are the favored children of God.
Oh how gratitude sets us apart from the culture. For gratitude walks hand in hand with contentment. We are thankful for who we are, for what we have, and most of all for what God is done. And instead of, as our culture does, constantly pursuing the ever elusive “more” of everything, we look at the death and resurrection of Jesus and our subsequent adoption as His brothers and sisters and with our thanksgiving we declare, “enough.”
4. Submitting to one another in the fear of Christ.
When we are filled with the Spirit, we serve. It’s that simple. Because we are surrendered to the will of God, we are joyously willing to think of the needs of others more than ourselves. We are dying to our thirst for self-actualization and self-fulfillment for we know that true joy comes in serving as Jesus did. We are marked, then, by our willingness to give over our desires, our needs, and our wants in the most practical of ways in order to life others up.
In this, too, we stand apart from a culture that is bent on self-preservation. We live in a world where we have come to believe that we must, at all costs, protect ourselves, and in that frame of mind, other people are not to be submitted to. They are mean to be used for our own ends. It is not so with those filled with the Spirit, and our willingness to actually not do what we feel like in a given moment is one of the things that causes people to take a look again and again at the Jesus whose name we claim.
Scripture. Singing. Gratitude. Service. Not very spectacular. And yet set against the culture of today, fairly spectacular indeed.