Friday, March 16, 2012

Ephesians 5:18-20

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,

I waited tables in high school, college, and seminary. I saw my share of “regulars” who came in to sit at the bar several nights a week. Many seemed to be looking for escape, friendship, joy, and comfort. But peace can’t be found at the bottom of a bottle of Southern Comfort; it is found when you are filled with the Comforter!

The Greek here implies uncontrolled drunkenness (dissipation). At the time drunkenness would have been associated with pagan religion in Ephesus. Alcoholic beverages would not be as strong as today’s drinks, and pagan worshippers would drink heavily in order to reach an ecstatic phase of frenzied communication with the gods. Drunkenness can be defined as any point in which the alcohol takes over any part of your faculties. Whether Christians should completely abstain from alcohol can be debated, but drunkenness is clearly prohibited if for no other reason than keeping a clear head and focus on God. The word Paul used for drinking in excess is asotia, which originally meant to be hopelessly or incurably sick. Rather than escaping pain through numbing beverages or drugs, we should face our problems and see what God is teaching us through them.

Instead we should find our joy, comfort, and meaning in the Spirit. From the moment we believe we are indwelt fully by the Holy Spirit. Not only are we indwelt by Him, but “filled” can indicate being filled to the top, abouning in, or being directed by – as a sail filled with wind and directed in the right direction. Living as a man on earth, Jesus lived a life fully directed by the Spirit. He was never at a loss of where to go, what person to visit or heal, the right words to speak, or what to do. As believers we empty ourselves and are filled by the Holy Spirit. Only then do we have peace and direction in our lives.

As the daughter of a Music Minister I grew up surrounded by the songs of the faith. My children carry on the tradition and regularly break into song and dance. When we begin our day with songs like “This is the Day” or “Rejoice in the Lord Always” it is amazing how our day is flavored and started on the right foot. When joy fills our hearts it is natural to sing a song to the Lord! The melody need not be on pitch as long as it is in tune with the Father’s heart.

Paul’s life as an apostle was fraught with trials and difficulties. You too may not have a life of ease. But no matter what the day brings we are instructed to give thanks always and for everything. Not “in” every circumstance like in 1 Thess. 5:18, but “for” everything. All things can work for our good, and we are called to be thankful for the bad times as well as the good!

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