Our Adversary, Our Armor, Our Obligations
New Relationships with Each Other Because of Our Relationship with Him
God's Will and Way for His Glory and Your Good in Marriage
The Ruling Principle for All Relationships
Be Filled - Not Fooled, part 2
Be Filled - Not Fooled, part 1
How Do You Define Love? The Divine Way or the Deceiver's Way?
Walking in the Light: What it Looks Like and Why We Do It
A New Life Resolution for a New Year
Let me just ask you something. I've told you in the preceding weeks that what you have running in the Scripture is two different tracks of families, if you will, two races…one that is from the old Adam, and we have a new Adam who bears a new race and brings forth a new people. Those two races of individuals are competing with one another. There are people who are talking and teaching deceitful love, and there are people who are preaching and living out divine love.
There is a shimmer to the deceitful love. There is a beauty to it, something that draws us to it that sometimes makes it look more attractive, but I will tell you this: the deceitful love, the shimmer and shine of it, no matter how grossly in contrast to the real truth it is, or even the slightest perversion of divine love… That shimmer you see is the same shimmer you see on the Angel of Darkness when he does what the Scripture says he will often do, which is to disguise himself as an angel of light.
At first glance it looks beautiful, but when you see what is behind that sheen and attractiveness, you see disease, decay, and destruction. There are people out there who are, frankly, dead set against what we, as a people of God, are about. Sometimes, gang, it looks like they are living a life that makes more sense. Sometimes it's more pragmatic. Sometimes it feels better for a moment to respond their way, but behind it is deceit, despair, and destruction.
You will not be effective in doing what we just got through studying in Ephesians 5… It will be impossible for you to live as wise men without Ephesians 5:18. Now if this verse is so significant, and as I've said, if there are two competing camps, how much do you think this verse has been distorted and twisted and mocked and meant to mean something it was never intended to mean? I will tell you, it is a lot.
There are bunches and bunches and bunches of folks who would call themselves people of God, and some who might and probably even are people of God, but who are not living out this verse the way it was meant to be lived out and who have distorted what it means to be filled with the Spirit into some esoteric, ecstatic, once-for-all, second-time blessing experience, and Satan loves it, because he has them sidetracked on something that will eventually and ultimately make them ineffective in the ultimate battle against him. He doesn't care.
Once you become a believer and once you are a child of God, he can no longer take that away from you. It is something that is once done, forever sealed. We'll prove that and talk about that tonight. But if he cannot destroy you, he can make you useless against him, and that is his desire. The way he does it is by taking Ephesians 5:18 and having this verse distorted, perverted, twisted, and eventually lose its zeal and zest. This is a significant text.
Without Ephesians 5:18, what we would have just gotten through studying is a very legalistic passage, because you would be convinced that with all the gumption, with all the might you have, you have to go out and live diligently the way God would have you live, that you must walk by discipline the way God wants you to walk.
Let me just go back through with you. I'm going to read to you a loose translation, my translation of Ephesians 5 where we have been, from verse 15 down to verse 18. Follow along in your Bible. I'll expand a little bit with what I wrote. "Therefore, look carefully at how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the time you live in is an evil time, and if you don't redeem it, it will by its nature stay evil.
These are not neutral days. You must apply yourself with all diligence to godliness and truth, because the natural inclination of the day is toward wickedness and lies. So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Don't just drift along with the flow of society, but swim upstream against it and pursue truth."
Then he gets to Ephesians 5:18, and that's where it says, "Do not be drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but (in contrast to) be filled with the Spirit." If that wasn't there, gang, then we would just have gotten through one of the most legalistic passages in your New Testament. In fact, you're going to find out that all this Paul says we should do and be is sandwiched between two verses which ultimately say the same thing. Let me show you. Turn with me to Ephesians, chapter 3.
You're going to find this little passage we studied and spent an entire week or even two on, that he closed the truth of chapters 1-3 with the same basic idea, and then he starts in chapter 4, verse 1, with "Therefore, do this," and he goes all the way through on what you should do right down through chapter 5, verse 17, and he ends it the same way he entered into it. "Because all this is true, live this way by the power of and yielding to the work of the Spirit of God which is inside of you." Let me show you. Look at what he says in verse 14 of chapter 3.
"For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man; so that Christ may dwell in your hearts…"
Let me remind you what that means. The word there is not oikeo, which is just to live in as a home. In other words, he doesn't want Christ to be renting space in you. It is another Greek word which has the idea that he would deeply settle in. In other words, that he would make himself home in your heart, that Christ would find himself as resident and owner of your heart. That's what that word dwell means. That he would dwell in your inner man.
"…and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fulness of God." Now listen. The Spirit of God, we just found out in verse 17, and we said it in verse 16, that his Spirit in your inner man would dwell in you… It's there, but he says, "I'm praying that you would be filled up to all the fullness that is intended for you to experience." He says, "When you do this…"
By the way, that is the same idea we find in Colossians that is referred to of Christ, where it says that all the fullness of deity dwells in him in bodily form. In other words, God abides in Jesus Christ. He was completely in Christ. There was nothing lacking in Christ that was of God. Christ said, "To see me is to see the Father. To hear me is to hear the Father. To know me is to know the Father."
He said in John 10:30, "I and the Father are of one essence." That word means we are of the same sort. In other words, he said, "Don't you know who I am?" People who say Jesus never claimed to be God have not read their New Testament. In fact, people of the day knew exactly what he claimed, and that is why they picked up stones to kill him, because they said, "This man, being a man, claims to be God, to be equal with the Eternal One. We've got to kill such a man!" Unless he's who he says he is. Then you can't kill him, because he's eternal.
This is an amazing passage in Ephesians 3. He says that in us all the fullness of God is there. Look at it. It says in verse 20, "Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us…" It says, "Now to God who is able to do exceedingly and abundantly beyond all that we are even able to ask or even consider to ask, according to the power that works within us…"
That is Ephesians 5:18, basically. That better translated is, "According to the power that we make operative within us." See, gang, the power is there, but we don't often yield ourselves to it. God is able to do through you everything he did through Jesus Christ. The difference between you and me and Jesus Christ is that we don't do what he did, which is to make ourselves completely available to the Spirit of God which dwells in us. Gang, this is an amazing claim.
What he just got through telling you to do was to look like God, to be a perfect people, but then he says, "Now listen. I just asked you to do an impossible thing, but guess what: we have an impossible God, and he can do amazing sorts of things if you'll let him." All through your New Testament, you have verses like this: "Apart from me you can do [most things that aren't that difficult]." That's not what it says. "Apart from me you can do [the things you're not especially gifted at that you need some help with]." No. "Apart from me you can do nothing."
What he's saying is you can become all God intends you to be, that we as a church can be what God intended a church to be, which is to set a community, frankly, on its head to where people are going, "What's up with those folks?" and that the community is drawn to them, and with awe they see God adding to their number day after day. I would tell you there is one reason God is not doing that with us, if he's not: because we are not living out Ephesians 5:18.
If you, as an individual Christian, are struggling, if you're defeated by sin, if you are not growing in your life, if God's power is not made evident to you, it's because you're not doing Ephesians 3:20, Ephesians 5:18. He sandwiches all that you are to do with the means by which you would do it. Gang, the reason this verse is so distorted is because it's so significant.
Let me show you what's going on here. Turn with me to Colossians. Look at chapter 1. Pick up with me in verse 21. Do you remember what Paul is doing in Ephesians 5, by the way? He just got through saying, "Listen. You formerly were children of darkness but now are children of light. So don't act like children of darkness, because you've been made new; you're children of light."
By the way, Colossians is the mini-Ephesians. Paul wrote them both in the same prison cell, sent the same letters out by two different guys, and they went to two different places. So you're going to find a lot of what you find in Ephesians in Colossians, just said differently. Look at verse 21. Let's read for a while.
"And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach…" Do you understand that? It is Ephesians, chapter 1, that part I told you is one of my favorite verses in the New Testament now. When God looks at you, the deep, penetrating eyes of a judging and holy God…
He looks through Todd Wagner and the pride and the corruption and the lust and the selfishness that is there, and he sees Jesus, because when he looks deep inside of me he sees his Spirit which abides in me, so he says, "You are holy and blameless." I'm kind of turning around going, "What are you looking at?" He goes, "I'm looking at my Son. I'm looking at my Spirit, which is perfect and pure and eternal, and I love it. And I see that in you."
We can pray with that kind of boldness, not by things we have done but by what he has done in us. We're going to get a good look at it tonight. Look at verse 23. It looks here like that will only happen if you continue. "…if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister."
What does that mean? If I don't continue this way I'm not going to be that? No. It means you will be that now, holy and blameless now, if you continue to hold on to the grace of God which is made available to you. The same means by which we were saved… How much did you have to do with your salvation? You had one thing to do with your salvation: you sinned, and in that you sinned you, therefore, needed a Savior.
God by his grace has chosen us. Ephesians 1 makes that exceedingly clear. So, even as he has been the work that saves us, that justifies us, what you find is he is also the work if you'll hold on to that good news that you don't have to be disciplined to walk wisely. You have to be a dead man and let God live through you to walk wisely. That is the only way, in fact, he says you can do it. Look at what it says now in verse 24.
"Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body (which is the church [the body of Christ]) in filling up that which is lacking in Christ's afflictions." What does that mean? Did Christ's death on the cross not accomplish all God intended it to? Of course it did. What he's saying here is that what is lacking in Christ's afflictions is that he's not here to continue to suffer for you to show you how much he loves you.
So, what God is saying is the way I endure hardship is a continuing example of God's love for you, that he would take me, Todd Wagner, and people would look at me and see the sacrifice I make, that I give out of my means so others might have comfort, that I love those who don't love me, that I hopefully should be out there making personal sacrifice, my family together with me, my body together with me…making sacrifices, giving up of our free time, giving up of our not-so-free time to love other people, that people go, "What is up with you? Why are you suffering for my name's sake?" or "Why are you loving me this way?" and we would say, "This is evidence that God loves you, because it is not in our nature to do this, but he has changed our hearts."
Now look at this. "Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations; but has now been manifested to His saints…" Uh-oh. There is a mystery which was formerly unknown which has now been known.
Verse 27. This is it. "…to whom [these people, you and me] God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." Do you want a good little verse for the church? Therefore, this is what we should do. Verse 28: "And we proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, that we may present every man complete in Christ." That is what our desire is as a body: to present every man complete in Christ.
There is a mystery that has been revealed. What is it? It is that Christ is in you, the hope of glory. Let me show you something else. Turn back to Ephesians. Read with me the very end of chapter 2. There's a mystery going on, those who were formerly alienated, the Jews and the Gentiles, the holy and the not-so-holy. Look at verse 19 of Ephesians, chapter 2.
"So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God's household, having been built upon the foundation of the apostles…" New Testament revelation. You've been built upon, specifically, Jesus Christ, who himself is the cornerstone. He's the one who brings us together. Verse 21: "…in whom the whole building, being fitted together is growing into a holy temple in the Lord…"
Let me ask you this. In the Old Testament when you wanted to go and be near the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, where would you have to go? There was one place. It was the law of the central tabernacle. It was in Jerusalem. You would go to Jerusalem for one reason: to be reconciled to the one God who reigns over all the universe who revealed himself as the Creator. When you would go to Jerusalem, it was the place through which men might find peace with God.
You'd go to the temple to find enlightenment for what is really true and reconciliation with God. Guess where men go today to find enlightenment for what is true and reconciliation with God. I'll give you a hint: it's the same place, but it isn't in Jerusalem. You go to his temple. Where is his temple today? It isn't Mecca. It's right here. You're looking at it. It's right there and right there and right there and right there and every place a person by faith, according to the grace of God, has become a believer.
The Spirit of God dwells in you. Can you imagine that? I used to have to go all the way to Jerusalem to get to know God, to find out what truth was. I used to have to go all the way over there to be reconciled to him. Now I can go over there to 6221 Woodcrest. I can go to 8505 Douglas. I can go over there in Coppell and see Scotty Polk. I can go over there in Lake Highlands and see Kurt Neale. I can go to Garland. I can go out to Plano.
How come none of us live by each other, by the way? We're all over the place. He has us all over. We never see each other, but we're everywhere. He says simply that that is an amazing thing, that the Spirit of God, through which enlightenment and reconciliation come, is in you. Now let me show you something else. The prophets talked about this, but it was a mystery how he was going to pull it off. Turn in your Old Testament to Jeremiah, chapter 31, verse 33.
This is an amazing fact, and he said that some things were going to happen. It's a mystery. It's the amazing hope of the New Testament. By the way, there is a word you're going to hear put out at different times. It's a word called dispensation. A dispensation is a way in which God acts at a revealed time. It is the same God who is accomplishing his purpose from the very first time he spoke and decreed to the very last time he'll speak and deal with this earth.
He reveals himself and works in different ways, and one of the ways he is working differently now than he worked in the Old Testament… The greatest truth of the dispensation of today is that Jesus Christ, God himself, no longer abides in one place, but he abides in the lives of his people. He does not, as in the Old Testament sense, come on people for a moment.
Did the Holy Spirit ever dwell with people in the Old Testament? Absolutely. It rested mightily on Moses, on Elijah, on Samson, on Deborah. It rested on a donkey. It rested on numerous kings, on King David, but it left. It rested on Samson, but it would come and go. Never in the Old Testament was there a promise that the Holy Spirit would go and stay.
Thus, when you read Psalm 51 and David sings, "Lord, take not thy Holy Spirit from me…" That's why when we sing Psalm 51, we don't sing, "Take not thy Holy Spirit from me." In the New Testament sense, what you would say is, "God, take not your hand of blessing from me." In other words, "God, as I confess my sin, I don't want to see myself drift farther and farther away from you. Woo me back. Take me back one more time, that I might live in obedience to you and experience what a Christian was intended to experience."
We don't need to say, "God, take not your Holy Spirit from me." I'm going to tell you why. Because Ephesians 5:18 does not say, "Be sealed in the Spirit of Christ." It does not say, "Be baptized in the Spirit of Christ." It does not say, "Be indwelt by the Spirit of Christ." It doesn't say any of those things, because you're going to find out they've been done. It says, "Be filled with the Spirit." Look at Jeremiah 31:33.
"'But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,' declares the Lord …" **There's going to be a day when he's going to do exactly what he says. The entire house of Israel."I will put My law within them, and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people."** Look at verse 34.
"'And they shall not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, "Know the Lord** ," for they shall all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,' declares the **** Lord ***, 'for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.'"* Can you imagine that day? Is there a group of people, not Israel, but who exist today who God is dealing with in that way? You bet there is, and a bunch of us are sitting in this room.
Now, I happen to believe God meant it when he said he was going to do it with Israel. I happen to believe the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable. I'm in good company. Paul thought the same thing. He expresses it in Romans 11. I think what we're going to see is, one day, what we're experiencing now as a church, they're going to experience as a nation, and God will do through that nation what he always said he would.
The gifts and calling of God are irrevocable, and the gifts and calling of God on your life are irrevocable. "What shall we say, then? If God is for us, who can be against us?" If God decreed it, it shall be done. Turn with me to Joel, chapter 2, verse 28. Gang, what you're going to find out right here is this is a mystery which God had foreshadowed. I'm just going to show you two places that are most famous, Jeremiah and Joel. Look at what it says in verse 28.
"And it will come about after this [after judgment, after a long period of sickness and horror in the land of Israel] that I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions." Verse 29: "And even on the male and female servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days."
As it said in Jeremiah 31, he says, "There will be a day when I will make with Israel a new covenant." Do you remember what Jesus Christ said before he went to the cross when he took the bread and the wine? He said, "This is my body which is broken for you." We celebrated it last week. "As often as you eat it, do it in remembrance of me."
Then when he took the cup, do you remember what he said? "This is the new covenant in my blood. As often as you drink it, do it in remembrance of me." Whenever you would make a new covenant, there would always have to be a sacrifice and a priest for that covenant. Guess what. We have a better sacrifice and a better priest and a better covenant.
Ours is not a high priest who must cleanse himself for his own sin. Ours is not a sacrifice that must be repeatedly offered. Why? Because we have a perfect High Priest who offered a perfect sacrifice and gave us an unbelievable covenant. That High Priest is Jesus Christ, Hebrews says. That perfect sacrifice is Jesus Christ, and that new covenant is what we're experiencing today.
What is going on in that new covenant? I will tell you what. The Spirit of God dwells in men and women, in servants and free men. It dwells in black and white, in Hispanic and Jew, and the temple of God abides among us. What we don't often do is yield ourselves to that incredible power which the New Testament says works in us. It takes depraved men and can make them live like the Holy One of Israel, Jesus Christ.
It scares me to death to preach this passage, because I'm accountable for what I know, and you're accountable for what you're hearing. Do you realize what this book Ephesians is saying? It is saying that the fullness of God is in you and is available for you to live, even as holy as Jesus lived, to be used as mightily as Jesus was used.
Turn with me to John 14. Amazing verse here. Verse 12: "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go to the Father." That's an amazing thing. I always read that and go, "What do you mean greater works than he shall I do?"
I've been fishing out there before and a storm kind of scurried up, and I stood up and went, "Be still!" and nothing happened. I told my buddy, "Hey, you aren't catching anything? Throw your line over here." The brother still didn't catch any fish. I've been to a few funerals. I wasn't quite so bold as to stand up and say, "Get out of that coffin and come forth!" but I thought about this verse, and I go, "Why can't I do that?"
Let me just tell you this. He's not talking about greater things than these shall you do in kind but in extent, the fact that we're going to do things Christ never did. His ministry was roughly localized in a 70-square-mile area. His ministry was roughly focused on 12 men. He said, "You guys shall go, and you're going to preach my Word all over the earth. You're going to start in Jerusalem, then Judea, then Samaria, and then the outermost regions of the world, and greater things than these shall you do," not in kind but in extent.
He goes through and talks about how you're going to do it. Here's how: "And whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it. If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper [paraklete, one who comes alongside to help] , that He may be with you forever…" That literally means to the end of the age in the Greek.
Let me tell you why that's significant. There's going to be a day when the Holy Spirit won't have to be with us, because at the end of the age, the one that Holy Spirit is a proxy representative of will be here with us. If you will, the Holy Spirit is somebody who is a proxy representative of Jesus Christ who always votes the way Jesus would vote.
If you want to know if somebody is full of the Holy Spirit, here's the best way to do it: Is everything they do glorifying to Jesus Christ? If so, you know that person is being directed and led and filled by the Holy Spirit. Look at this. "I'm going to send you this Helper." Verse 17: "…that is the Spirit of…" They don't do a good job here. They do it in the margin but not in the text. "…that is the Spirit of [the] truth [who is Jesus] , whom the world cannot receive, because it does not behold Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you, and will be in you." Verse 18: "I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you."
He says, "I'm not going to leave you there alone. You're not going to be commanded to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you've been called by discipline. You're going to do it not by power, not by might, but by my Spirit," says Jesus Christ, "which I will give you to enable you to be all God intended you to be."
Gang, do you understand the significance of this passage? It is the means through which you will experience all the blessing. It is the only means through which you will experience all the victory. It is the only way we don't become a disciplined, stoic, lock-jawed people who are out there to live like God told us to live. In fact, this is God's program for you. He has not come to curb your flesh, to tell you to pull back and restrict yourself.
Nowhere does the New Testament tell you to curb your flesh. It tells you to crucify your flesh, die to your flesh, consider yourself dead. John said it this way in John 3:30. When he saw that Jesus was here, he said, "He must increase, but I must decrease." Thus is the testimony of a believer. You should say, "As he must increase, I must decrease." In other words, if he's going to do what he must do, I must not oppose him. I must die to self-will and selfishness.
You go down to Baylor University, and there are some wonderful hands that are down there. At the very place you walk in, you see these famous hands of men from every walk of life. I think Mickey Mantle's hands are down there. You see great surgeons' hands. You see great composers' and musicians' hands. They take a plaster imprint of those hands and put them up there.
If science enabled those hands to somehow be grafted on to my body and for me to have those hands any one of those guys had, I could not do what any one of those hands did when they were attached to the body those hands were attached to. The thing that makes those hands so magnificent is not their shape. It is not their appearance.
What makes those hands so magnificent is that they were driven, directed, and empowered by the spirit they were connected to, the body they were connected to; specifically, the head they were connected to. Look at it this way. There are some incredible gloves that are out there. I brought with me a few gloves. These are my work gloves.
If these were John Henry's… John Henry was that great worker who went through and made more progress in the laying of the railroad and pounding out the mine than anybody. Old John Henry went down, but he had some work gloves that if you looked at those work gloves, you'd go, "John Henry's work gloves are unbelievable. That's a pretty serious set of work gloves."
You could put John Henry's work gloves on Todd Wagner, and that lawn still isn't going to get raked, because the power isn't in the gloves; it's what's in the glove. There's a guy up in St. Louis. They call him the "Wizard of Oz." Ozzie Smith. He's right-handed. I'm left-handed. I have a baseball glove that I always dreamed that when I put it on I would be Ozzie Smith.
I took this glove when I first got it, and it was a stiff glove. It didn't conform to my hand very well. I had to beat that glove. I had to bring it into submission so it did what my hand wanted it to do. I had to say, "Glove, you have to die to your self-will. I know you came from a stubborn old cow that ate too much food that made it stiff, but I'm going to make you learn to be flexible. I'm going to rub you with oil.
I'm going to put you in my hand. I'm going to keep telling you what my hand wants you to do. I'm not going to fold you like this, like that right-fielder always folds his glove. I'm going to do it the way the Wizard of Oz does, where it's going to come over, and we're going to put a little softball in there and strap it down. You're going to learn to do what I want you to do."
Mark this: a glove that does not do what the hand wants it to do is not a help; it is a hindrance. We'll come back to that. If you go and take these gloves, a surgeon's gloves, and strap these gloves to Kyle Fagin's hands and you go into his dentist's office, he'll fix your teeth. He'll get rid of those nasty cavities, and he'll make your smile look good.
You put these gloves on a master surgeon, and what do they become? They become life-giving. They become healing. They become a source of hope, but you take those same gloves and fill them with some hot air… How stupid is that? Is there anything that looks more ridiculous than a blown-up surgeon's glove? It looks like it ought to be on the bottom of a cow. Somebody going, "Come on. Give, Bessie, give. The kids have got to live. We've got to do it."
The glove itself, though it can be a means of healing and life and hope, if it's filled with the wrong thing, it's silly, it's stupid-looking, and it's a hindrance, not a help. First Timothy says, basically, "You must cleanse yourself from these things." In other words, "Get rid of what your flesh is about. Die to self, that you might become a vessel of honor, useful to the master, prepared for every good work."
I have to tell you, I looked at some of those hands down there, and some of them were prettier than others. Some of these gloves are prettier than others, but every single one of them… When you put Ozzie Smith's hand inside of a leather glove, it is an unbelievable instrument. When you strap a brilliant doctor's hands into some surgical gloves, I look at those gloves, and I rise up and call them blessed.
They fix my knee. They heal my cavities. They set my bones. They eliminate cancer from my body, and I go, "That is an unbelievable glove." But I don't worship the glove. I'm grateful for the body that's in it. The glove never would ask the hands, "Hey, what's the work I need to do?" and then go out to do it.
How stupid would that be, if spring break the glove got with Ozzie and said, "Hey, Ozzie, what do you want me to do this year in the field?" And then he goes out there, and Ozzie throws the glove out in the field on opening day. Ridiculous! There's not a single ball that glove would stop. But if that glove says, "Ozzie, I know what you want to do, and I'm going to make myself completely useful to you, my master," that glove becomes a thing of beauty.
The glove, if it's wise, will never take an ounce of credit for that which it has done or boast about that which it is doing, because it knows it is empowered by something which makes it great. Gang, that is testimony of what the Christian should be. The glove that is not filled with the hand is useless. In fact, if it fights the hand, it is not something which helps; it becomes a hindrance.
Christians, we are the last people in the world who ought to be prideful. We have some pretty gloves out there. We have a few of you that if we took a cast of you, people would look at that and go, "That is an unbelievably attractive glove." There are a few others of us that people would walk by and go, "Son," and just keep walking. But God doesn't care.
He looks at every single one of us, and he says, "You let me use what's inside of you, and every single one of you can become a glove of a Hall of Famer. Every single one of you can be a surgeon's glove strapped on the hands of the Divine Physician. Every single one of you can be the workman's gloves which accomplishes all that a workman's glove should have done, but only if you live out Ephesians 5:18."
What does Ephesians 5:18 say? The best way to define what Ephesians 5:18 says is to tell you what it does not say. It does not say you should look for some special, dramatic, esoteric (a word which means something reserved only for a small portion of society), energizing experience which happens subsequent to salvation, which evidence of it will mean that you will begin to talk in some ecstatic language or laugh hilariously. It doesn't say that.
In fact, I'll show you what Ephesians 5:18 says you should look like if you are a person who is indeed filled with the Spirit, but it is not some special event reserved for some special people. I'll tell you what it is not. I've kind of covered this. It is not a commitment to be disciplined to do all we just read in verses 1-17. It is not a commitment to be lock-jawed and stoic about our efforts. I don't say to Ozzie, "Ozzie, how do you want me to live?" and out there I go.
Here's one I really want you to write down and turn some places with me. It is not a command. It does not say, "But be regenerated by the Spirit." Titus 3:5 says, "We have been saved not according to deeds which we have done in righteousness, but we have been saved according to his mercy, by the washing of his blood by the regeneration of his Spirit." Past perfect tense, which, if you remember your English, simply means it is something that has been done in the past and completed.
Regenerated means you have been made new; if you will, born again. It does not say, "Be regenerated by his Spirit," because that's something that has been done. It doesn't say that, because John 1:12 says, "But as many as received him, even to those who believed in his name, he gave the power…" A done deal. "…to be called children of God." You have been regenerated from children of darkness, instruments of wrath, to become children of God. To be filled with the Spirit doesn't mean "Be regenerated. Become a child of God." That's a done deal.
It also does not say, "Be indwelt by the Spirit of God." Romans 8:9 says, "The Spirit of God indwells you," and basically, if the Spirit of God does not indwell you, then you are not a part of Christ. So he would not be saying, "Be indwelt by the Spirit." To say to somebody, "Be indwelt by the Spirit" is to say, "Believe in Jesus Christ and be saved."
In 1 Corinthians 3:16 he says, "Do you not know that your body is the temple of God and the Spirit of God rests in you?" He's saying, "It's in you. He indwells you." So it's not a command for you to be regenerated. It's not a command for you to be indwelt. The temple of God is in you, Ephesians 2:17-20 says. That's where people go now to get reconciled to God and enlightened. It is in you.
Let me tell you what else it doesn't say. It does not say, "Be growing into the fullness of what you have received in the Spirit." Let me say that again, because this one is kind of tricky. It does not say to be more full of the Holy Spirit. There's a difference. You are as full of the Holy Spirit as you can be. Turn with me to Ephesians and look at Ephesians 1:3.
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ…" Do you see that? He has given you everything you need. Second Peter 1:3-6. I'll give you a loose paraphrase of it. He says that he has given us everything pertaining to and necessary for godliness. You are lacking in nothing, is what it says. You've been given every spiritual blessing.
In John 3:34, John the Baptist, speaking of Jesus Christ, said, "He whom the Father has sent gives Christ's Spirit without measure." So, gang, you don't need more. You have it all. It doesn't say to be more full of the Holy Spirit. Okay? Kind of tricky. It doesn't say, "Be indwelt by." It doesn't say, "Be regenerated by." It doesn't say, "Get more of the Holy Spirit," because you have him all.
It does not say, "Be sealed by the Holy Spirit." What does it mean to be sealed? It is a stamp which is put on something that could not be opened in the New Testament times unless the person who sealed it said it could be opened. Nobody could get in there and mess with it unless that person whose seal was stamped upon it said, "It can be opened now."
That's why it was such a big deal when the stone was rolled away at Christ's tomb, because the Romans had put their seal on that grave. In other words, if anybody opens that grave, they do it in a way that will be punishable by death. God says, "I'm really not too concerned about your threats, Rome," and out the stone went, and the seal was broken.
God said, "I want to tell you something. I'm going to put another seal someplace, and it's on the lives of those who by grace through faith come into a right relationship with me." Look at Ephesians 1:13. Let's read it.
"In Him [Christ] , you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed [in that very same gospel] , you were sealed…" Past perfect. Done deal. "…you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God's own possession, to the praise of His glory."
In other words, he gave you a promise and he gave you a pledge of what was to come, that one day you're going to know you can have more of this, because God put himself inside of you to show you what one day you'll experience in fullness. The point is you are not commanded to be sealed in the Holy Spirit. It is a done deal.
Finally, listen. Please listen. This is a distorted, twisted text. It does not say, "Be baptized in the Holy Spirit." You have to turn there with me. Turn to 1 Corinthians, chapter 12. The gift of the Spirit is equal to the baptism of the Spirit biblically. I can show you that time in and time out again. It says you receive that gift at the initial time you trust Christ. It is an initial blessing. That means it doesn't need to be a subsequent one.
It says that all who trust in Jesus Christ receive that initial blessing. That means it's a universal blessing, not an individual one for folks who want to become varsity Christians. It doesn't say, "Be baptized in the Spirit." It says in the Scriptures that it was done. Read 1 Corinthians 12:13. "For by one Spirit we were all baptized…" Past perfect tense. "…we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit." It's a done deal.
Christian, do you need to be baptized in the Spirit? No. You are baptized, indwelt, sealed, regenerated, given all of him when you believe. So Paul is not going to command you to do what God has already done, but he's going to tell you to do what he just said in Ephesians, chapter 3, and that is access what is yours. Don't be a hindrance to it; be a help to it.
It says in Ephesians, chapter 4, that we were all baptized into one Spirit and one body. I am convinced that Satan loves to get us all out of whack, that he would just get us so excited that we would receive some special gift so we could go into our closets and babble some language no one else could understand and we could go, "Look! I'm full of the Spirit of God."
Jesus says that is not what makes you full of the Spirit of God, when you can go have some special private prayer language or that you can go and speak in a way no one else can understand. It is the Spirit of God in your life when you, gang, love the way Jesus loved, when you vote every single time the way Jesus Christ would vote, when everything you do is done to the glory of Jesus Christ. That's what it means to be filled with the Spirit.
When Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, one of the most perverted churches you could ever find in New Testament times… They were struggling with things left and right. Do you remember what he told them to do? He did not tell them they should seek more of the Holy Spirit. Paul reminded them that they were baptized in the Spirit. In 1 Corinthians 3:16 he reminded them that they were indwelt by the Spirit.
In 1 Corinthians 6:19 he said, "You have been fully given the Spirit, and God's Spirit is in you." He says, "The problem is not that you are sinning because the Holy Spirit is absent." He says, "You are sinning in spite of the Holy Spirit's presence, and that is crazy. You're acting like a glove that Todd Wagner is in the middle of and not a glove that Ozzie Smith is in the middle of." That's what he's saying.
He says, "You're drilling for cavities like Wagner drills for cavities and not Kyle Fagin." He says, "You're down there, and you're swinging a bat with your batting glove like Wagner is swinging it and not like Mickey Mantle is swinging it, and you guys are filled with Mickey Mantle." All right. Terrible illustration. You're filled with one who can do great things with you if you'll let him. So he didn't tell them to get more. He said to let it be done in you. That is who you are: a people God indwells. Don't fight it.
So, here's what it says. Do you want to know what Ephesians 5:18 says? It means simply, "Be constantly being filled." When it says, "Be filled with the Spirit," it means you should be in a state of constant, intentional, conscious, and increasing filling of Christ, that you should in your mind and in your being go, "For me to live is Christ," Paul said. "I'm going to access what is available to me: the full measure of the Spirit which is operative within me," Ephesians 3 says.
It is an imperative. It is plural. It is present. It is passive. That means it's not something you do; it's something you let done to you. It is imperative: be. It is plural: all of you be. It is passive: all of you be people this is happening to. It is present perfect, which means all of you be people this is happening to all the time.
It means three things. First, that you are people who are experiencing the full movement, if you will. You're being moved by the Holy Spirit. This same word is used of a sail in a boat that is filled by the wind, that you are moved by the wind if you're a boat because you have made yourself available to the wind to motivate you. You are empowered by it. Be filled continually by something else, like a boat is moved by the wind. You be moved by the Spirit of God.
So it's to be moved by. Here's another M. It is also to be meshed with. When it says you are filled with, it is the same word for when they took a piece of meat and marinated it and put salt on it. That salt or the marinade was absorbed by the meat. The meat became one with the salt or the marinade. It tells you to be, all of you, continually, empowered by and permeated by the Holy Spirit.
Then, finally, this is the last one of the three things it means to be filled by the Spirit. It means to be moved by, it means to be enmeshed with, and it means to be mastered by. Have you ever had anybody say this? "I didn't mean to hit him, but I was so filled with rage." "I would have loved to have gotten up and answered the door, but I was filled with fear. I didn't know who was going to be there." It's the same word: pleroo. It just simply means that you are controlled by.
That is why Paul, by the way, says, "Don't be controlled by…" What do they call wine? What do they call alcohol? Spirits. Don't be controlled by these spirits; be controlled by this Spirit. Don't be filled, possessed by, motivated by, don't have your body be permeated with alcohol where you'll act this way. Have your body be permeated and filled with the Holy Spirit when you'll look like this.
Is a drunk controlled by alcohol? Yes. Is a drunk's body saturated with alcohol? You bet. Is he moved by it? Yes. Is he mastered by it? Yes. And so should you be with the Holy Spirit. Do you catch what he's saying here? It is not something you do; it is something you let be done. Now how do you do that? It's such a confusing thing. When you say, "How can I be filled with the Spirit? How can I let Christ live in me? If I'm going to do this, if I'm going to experience all that God wants me to experience…" He says, "The way I do this is to die to self." That is no easy road.
We close by turning to Colossians 3, because I think sometimes it's easier when you hear it said a different way. I told you Colossians is a parallel book to Ephesians. Sometimes we're so scared of the Holy Spirit. Gang, we aren't scared of the Holy Spirit at this church. We need the Holy Spirit. I am absolutely convinced that apart from him we can do nothing. If the Holy Spirit doesn't speak through me, then you guys are getting nothing. If the Holy Spirit doesn't empower you to love, then people aren't getting loved by anything.
If we are a people who are filled with the Holy Spirit, moved, meshed with, mastered by, if we say, "As we must decrease, Christ must increase," if we say we want to be filled with the Holy Spirit, God will do something with us, because we are a glove that no matter how ugly, he can make us a gold glove. No matter how butchered and popped, he can make us the gloves a divine physician slips into and brings healing and hope and rids disease, disease which leads to death.
That's an awesome thing to be a glove and to think that somebody is going to come inside of you and make you great. It's not up to you to be beautiful. It's not up to you to be anything other than available. God does not call the qualified; he qualifies those he calls. He says his eyes go to and for throughout the earth looking for those whose hearts are completely his, that he may strongly support them.
Do you know what he's saying? He's looking for a broken glove that realizes it cannot do much on its own, that has been beaten, that realizes it must die to self so it can become great. That's you and me. It's so hard, though, when you think, "What does it mean to be filled with the Spirit?" He's going to say it differently with a synonymous meaning in Colossians 3:16. Look at what it says. This will make it have a little bit more sense to you.
"Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you…" See also Ephesians 5:18. The Spirit of Christ is the proxy present of Jesus Christ he has sent to help us in the absence of Jesus Christ himself being here. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We beheld his glory in the person of Jesus Christ. Well, the Word of God now continues to dwell in you in the person of the Holy Spirit.
"…with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father." Then it goes through. Look at verse 18. Skip the "wives" for a second. "…be subject to [each other] , as is fitting in the Lord."
You're going to find out he's going to talk about husband/wife relationships, slave/master relationships, and parent/children relationships. Turn to Ephesians, chapter 5. Look at what it says. To be filled with the Spirit is to let the Word of God richly dwell within you. It's to be filled with God's Word. What does Romans 12:1-2 say? It says to renew yourself. "Transform yourself by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect."
What is God's will? Well, you just heard it in Colossians 3. Let's see what Ephesians says. In verse 18 it says, "…be filled with the Spirit…" How should you act when you're filled with the Spirit? Sound familiar? "…speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord…" You should be filled with joy. That's exactly what he said in Colossians. If the Word of Christ richly dwells within you.
Look at what it says in verse 20. "…always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father…" You should be thankful people. Look at what it says in verse 21. You should be servants of one another. "…be subject to one another in the fear of Christ." Out of respect for Christ, whose Spirit you're commanded in Philippians 2 to have inside of you.
It says, "Have this attitude in yourself which was also in Christ Jesus, who although he existed in the form of God did not regard equality with God as a thing to be grasped, but humbled himself." And it goes on. It says, basically, "Be like Christ." What does Ephesians 5:1 say? Read it. "Be imitators of God." How can you do that? By having the Spirit of Christ in you, and not just in you, Christian. It's in you, but by yielding yourself to it.
When it says, "Be filled with the Spirit," it is saying, "Die to yourself that God might live." It is saying you have to make a conscious and increasing decision to say, "God, not by my strength, not by my might, but by your Spirit." Not how I feel like I should react, not how I want to react, but to not be consumed with selfish conceit, but with humility of mind, let each of you regard one another as more important than himself (Ephesians 5:21).
Serve each other. Be subject to one another in the Lord. In everything give thanks. In everything give thanks. You should be a joyful people. You should speak to one another… It's important it says speak. It doesn't say sing. Some of y'all can't sing. You're like me. Thankfully, it says, "Speak to one another in psalms, hymns, and joyful sound." I want to look at some Christians sometimes and go, "Hey, if your heart is joyful, please notify your face, would you?"
What you have to literally do… It's not an easy thing. It says to be filled with the Spirit is to let the Word of God richly dwell in you and that you yield to it. If you don't yield to it, you will be a glove that's telling the hand how it can go be successful. The glove that does not move where the hand wants it to move is not a help; it is a hindrance.
So, what you are going to do is you say with your mind not "What do I think is truth?" but "What does God's Word say is truth?" Not "What are my thoughts?" but "What are his thoughts?" Not "What are my ways?" but "What are his ways?" Not "What is my will?" but "What is his will?" I die to self. I don't like that. In fact, it is the bane of my life that I love me. It is the bane of my life that I trust in my flesh. It is the bane of my life that I react according to how I feel, when it's good to strike out in anger, when it's good to dwell on a lustful thought.
Every time I do, somebody goes, "You know what? That doesn't look very much like God, if he exists. He must not exist, because Wagner says he knows him and Wagner says he dwells in him and Wagner says that's his Lord." I don't become a beacon for him. I'll tell you something. I'm his child, and there's nothing Satan can do to me to have that seal go off, but he can sure make me useless to the Master, not prepared for every good work. Do you want to be useful to the Master? Die, Christian. It is the way of the cross. Society doesn't like to preach it.
I'm not here to give you a pep talk tonight. I'm not here to move you to be more excited to go live for Jesus. I am here to call you to die and to let yourself be taken over by one whose desire is to take you, to have your body suffer for his name's sake. I am here to have you have your life be led by one who, frankly, has no regard even for himself, because he loves people. Will you give yourself to such a one? There is joy in that journey and only in that journey. Let's pray.
Father, we just come to you tonight. We spent much time in your Scripture because it is such a perverted text. To be filled with the Spirit, Lord, we often don't know what it means, and we confess that, frankly, now that we know what it means we aren't pleased to find ourselves accountable to die. Lord, we just confess to you that though we have been attracted to the gospel of Jesus Christ and we have been drawn to the fact that he is our Savior, we now, having found that he is our Savior, struggle with the fact that as he died for us, we must then let him live for us as well.
Even though we are now your children, we are often children who don't like to listen to our wise parent and who fight for our own self-will to be seen fleshed out. Lord, we know when we do that not only is it a mockery to your family, but it ends and leads to our own destruction. So, Father, we just do repent tonight, and we just say that we don't want the fruits of our flesh, but we want the fruit of your Spirit.
We want love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, self-control, yet we don't want what we must do to receive it. I pray that we would, out of reverence for Christ, respond even as he did, who certainly did not want his cross but who went to one, that we might know you and be indwelt, baptized, sealed, regenerated by that gracious and perfect and holy and blameless Spirit.
So, Lord, we come to you tonight, and may we do what you have called all who follow in your name to do: to deny ourselves, to take up our cross daily and follow him, so that we, too, may find joy in the journey on the lowly road of the Lamb, that we might find on our back a cross that crucifies our flesh, doesn't curb it, but that we might die that you might live, that we might prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
Most people are desperately looking for answers to such age-old human dilemmas as violence, greed and racism; not to mention personal pain and disappointment with our own duplicity and lack of fulfillment. In this series on the book of Ephesians, Todd Wagner challenges us to open our eyes to the truth that Christ has called us to be part of a completely new society called the Church. Our highest calling then is to be men and women whose lives have been regenerated and empowered through faith in Christ. Our 21st century challenges are not unlike those faced by followers of Christ in first century Ephesus. The Apostle Paul, author of this letter to the Ephesians, emphasizes that the problem with the Church then and today is not that God hasn't given it everything necessary to be successful in its mission. Rather, our problem is like that of a wealthy miser who dies of starvation rather than dip into the abundance of resources at his disposal. Allow yourself to be challenged and encouraged by this ancient letter that adroitly analyzes the plight of Christ's bride, the Church, and then paints a vivid portrait of what we can - and indeed do - look like as His redeemed people. This volume covers Ephesians 5 and 6.