There are three sermons on this passage...
29/10/06 8 a.m. B.C.P. Trinity 20 Ephesians 5:15-21
Ephesians :5: 15: See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, 16: Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. 17 Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. 18 And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; 19 Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; 20 Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; 21 Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.
Paul writes to the Ephesians Christians to "be filled with the Spirit".
What does this mean?
Continuing process. "Be filled and go on being filled. "
Motive, force, like sails. The Holy Spirit gives us power to live for God.
Permeate everything so the Holy Spirit becomes part of us. Every Christian has the Holy Spirit living within them. We are to be like a sunken ship. Is the ship in the water or the water in the ship?
Controlled, like wine controls. Not ecstatic, out of body experience. One of the fruit of the Spirit is self-control. But it involves walking with the Spirit, verse 1, walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise. Wisdom in the Bible refers to knowing and doing God's will.
Who needs to be filled?
A famous evangelist was once asked why he needed to be filled with the Holy Spirit. He replied, "I leak!"
The Ephesians Christians were normal followers of Jesus. Like them we need God's Holy Spirit to help us again and again and again.
Jesus needed the Holy Spirit. He was anointed with the Holy Spirit at his Baptism to herald the start of his earthly ministry. If Jesus needed the Holy Spirit, how much more do we need the Spirit to help us.
How can we be filled?
We need to ask God in prayer again and again. Jesus told a parable about a persistent neighbour who managed to borrow bread because he was bold enough to ask. Jesus concluded this by saying Luke 11: 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"
We may need to prepare ourselves before asking by confessing our sins, perhaps putting right anything that is wrong in our lives. After all, you can only fill an empty glass and we need to empty ourselves of ourselves and our sin so God can fill us.
The verb is passive so we need to humbly ask God and be prepared to receive.
I find it helpful to open my hands to God in prayer to show my openness to him and my willingness to receive. I then leave it to him to fill me with his Spirit. Sometimes this is accompanied by a tingling feeling, although God doesn't deal with everyone in the same way.
What does this result in?
Paul mentions three things:
Singing in your hearts.
One of the fruit of the Holy Spirit is joy. We can know the joy of God in our harts and this results in us singing in our hearts. This may manifest itself by us singing, but it does not have to. We may not have that gift! But we can have a sing in our heart by God working in us. This can change our lives.
Giving thanks to God all of the time for everything.
God is in control of our lives. He loves us. He has a purpose for us. So we can rejoice in this. It doesn't mean things will be easy. Jesus warned his followers that they would be persecuted. In Acts 16 we read that Paul and Silas were unjustly imprisoned in Philippi. What did they do? The sang and praised God at midnight and the jailer and his family came to trust in Jesus..
21 Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.
We live in a world where a lot is made of people's rights and pinions. But the way of Jesus is to put other people first.
We put other people first for God who, in Jesus, submitted himself to death on a cross so we might be free.
Let us continue to be filled with the Holy Spirit, so we may live lives that bring glory to Him.
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Year B Trinity 9/Proper 15
Eph:5: 15: See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, 16: Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. 17 Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. 18 And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; 19 Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; 20 Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; 21 Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.
In the USA a funeral company has proposed something new to help busy people. For those too busy to come inside the funeral chapel to either view the deceased or to attend the funeral service it is proposed that a drive through viewing window be installed "for people who don't have the time to bid farewell inside". The funeral director stated, "People are too busy these days with work. This is just one way of making it easier for them." When this sort of thing happens then people really are too busy or have their priorities all screwed up about how to use the time allocated to each person every day.
Paul writes in today's Epistle that we are to 'walk circumspectly', to live carefully. 'Redeeming, or buying back, the time'. How can we buy our time back. We certainly cannot turn the clock back like Dr Who. But we can ensure that we seize the opportunity of the time that we are given. Someone once said, "We master our minutes, or we become slaves to them; we use time, or time uses us."
How often have we said, 'I don't have time.' Yet we all have the same amount of time every day. What we need to do is to look at our priorities. Those requiring a drive in funeral clearly need to reassess theirs. Perhaps we need to reassess our by 'understanding what the will of the Lord is'.
This week a report has been in the news that stated that children who are not read to at night are disadvantaged by this. Yet I am sure that many who do not read to their children would list their children top of their priority lost.
It is not enough to say that certain things are important. We need to make time to worship God, to spend time with our families and friends, to relax, to pray, to serve God and others. This is true wisdom, says Paul. The world and the devil will seek to squeeze these things out with demands that appear more urgent, more important. It might be interesting to make a list of what we consider important in our lives, then see how much of our week is devoted to those, and to other things. It may be quite an eye-opener !
Part of understanding the Lord's will is to be filled with God's Holy Spirit. This is contrasted with those who are influenced by alcohol.
'be filled' is a continuous action. e.g. car and petrol. D.L.Moody 'I leak'.
passive verb, not manufactured although it can be helped by being open to the Holy Spirit and not grieving him, may include time of openness and confession of sin.
positive experience, may result in exhilaration, yet the person does not lose control like with alcohol.
Outcome of being filled is threefold :
speaking to one another in Psalms hymns and spiritual songs; making melody in our hearts to God;
Giving thanks always for all things unto God.
All of these involve thanking God for what he has done. Not just on a Sunday, or when we are with fellow Christians but all of the time, in whatever circumstances. In Acts 16 we read that Paul and Silas were singing and praising God at midnight whilst unjustly imprisoned in Philippi.
Part of thanksgiving is to be seen by submitting to other Christians, putting their interest before our own. Why ? Out of respect for God who, in Jesus, submitted himself to death on a cross so we might be free.
Let us be wise, living carefully before God, continually open to his Holy Spirit resulting in praise and thanks in all things.
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The key to today's passage is verses 15-17.
15 Be very careful, then, how you live, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is.
Today's Epistle is about how we live as Christians. We are to be wise which involves knowing and following God's ways. God wants the best for us. Paul outlines what this involves. There are four signs of a fulfilled first-class life, and four fake ways in which people seek fulfilment, and get a second-class life. Paul contrasts one with the other, saying that Christians are called to imitate God in holiness and love. The first of our four ways is...
A life of love, instead of chasing sex. Verses 1-3.
We cannot be certain who Saint Valentine really was. One story is that The Roman Emperor was dismayed because men were not joining the army because they didn't want to leave their wives and families. So he decreed that engagements and marriages were against the law. Saint Valentine was a priest in Rome and continued to marry couples because he believed it was God's way. He was brought before the Prefect of Rome on February 14th 270 and, having refused to change his ways, was executed.
We don't know if this story is true. But there is one story of love that is undeniably true. The love of Jesus who loved humankind so much he was prepared to die on a cross so people could be reconciled to God.
We can be sure that God loves you and has given you a priceless gift. The fact that we are loved so much enables us to show God's love to others. Verse 2 'live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.'
We live in a world where people seek to substitute sex for love. Some people foolishly think this is a modern phenomena. Yet it is clear as we read Paul's letters that the early church lived in a culture where sex was pursued in a way that is contrary to God's perfect will. God invented sex as a thing to be enjoyed by a man and woman within a loving marriage. It is an expression of the giving and acceptance that exist between a loving, married couple.
True love involves giving up something for the good of another. Jesus gave up his life for our good. Yet the world has corrupted sex and turned it into something that is to be received. A quest for sex, in itself, will never bring true fulfilment.
On page two of the Sun newspaper was a story about research carried out by Italian sex expert Andrea Dotti. The research said that men who watch too many porn films are four times as likely to become impotent because they get bored by the images of sex that they see. On the opposite page was a picture of a semi-naked 19 year old woman ! 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words,
Tamasin Day-Lewis, who produced a Channel 4 documentary on adultery said, 'I haven't yet been able to find a happy adulterer'.
A life of thanksgiving, instead of cynicism. Verses 4-7.
Peter Graystone, who writes the SALT material that we follow, recalled a conversation that he had with a friend on a tube train when he was 16. He and his friend were bored and started whispering to one another about people, trying to guess fellow travellers' jobs did from their appearance. As the train drew into the station a middle-aged woman walked the length of the train and, as she passed them said, 'You are wrong. I actually teach deaf and dumb children to lip read.'
Last week we saw how our speech should build others up according to their needs, 4:29. Paul is saying that a Christian who has opted for second best may engage in gossip, coarse talk, and negative cynicism about people. This does not mean that our conversation has to be humourless and weighed down with religious references. But our conversation should reflect thanksgiving to God for what he has done for us, and what he is doing in people's lives today.
Last week we saw that there was falsehood, anger, bitterness and slander in the Ephesian church. We should use our speech to speak truthfully, to thank God and to build others up. A poem summarises how we can test what we are to say,
If you are tempted to reveal
A tale by someone told,
About another, make it pass
Before you speak, three gates of gold.
Three narrow gates: First, is it true ?
Then, Is it needful ? In your mind
Give truthful answer. And the next
Is last and narrowest, Is it kind ?
And if to reach your lips at last,
It passes through these gateways three,
Then you may tell the tale, nor fear
What the result of speech may be.
A life of light, instead of darkness. Verses 8-14.
8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth)
Darkness is associated with evil, being hidden, fear, cold, being lost. Some things that are done under the cover of darkness happen then because people are ashamed of what they are doing. Perhaps we need to ask ourselves, 'Is there any thing in my life that I would not want discovered ? ' If there is anything that we would be ashamed of others finding out then we need to repent of it. To ask God's forgiveness and resolve to change.
Light is linked to revealing, giving life and warmth, security, knowing where we are and where we are going. Jesus said, 'I am the light of the world.' Verse 8 tells us we are to be 'light in the Lord'. He is the source of our light. Our lives should be full of light, visible, without us fearing what people may see. Our lives should also shine into dark areas, exposing them.
11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.
Each one of us should be like a lighthouse. Visible from a distance, shining out in a dark world. Our beams of light should reveal the rocks waiting to wreck someone's life.
The deeds of darkness are fruitless, verse 11. They produce nothing of any worth. This contrasts with the fruit of the light.
8 Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth)
I might buy a plant from a nursery. The label on the plant could claim that it is a raspberry bush. Yet when it starts to grow the fruit is a bit greener than I expected because it is a gooseberry bush ! The real proof about what type of bush I have got is in the fruit that it produces, not the label that is on it.
Paul is saying this is true of the Christian life. It is no use us having the right label. Using the right language, knowing the creed off by heart, coming to church and professing to be a Christian unless we live lives that back these other things up by producing the right fruit.
Paul is quite clear that those who claim to be Christians but don't live it have no place with God.
5, No immoral, impure or greedy person, such a man is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God's wrath comes on those who are disobedient.
This is not talking about people who make a mistake and then come back to God in penitence and faith, but those who habitually live an immoral life.
A life in the Spirit, instead of dulled by spirits. Verses 18-20.
A Baptist church in West London publicised a charismatic service, but made a printing mistake on the flier. 'The service will be Spirit-led. It will be gin with prayer.'
It is good to have a drink sometimes. Jesus turned water into wine to help the celebrations at a wedding. Paul tells Timothy it will help his stomach. But there is a danger of misusing God's gifts. We have already seen this regarding sex. Here we are looking at too much alcohol. Whilst this may initially lead to a feeling of euphoria it will also lead to a loss of self-control, temporary illness, and, in some cases, permanent physical damage to the person drinking, or to the person that they hit when they are driving.
Getting drunk is not God's perfect will for his people. Firstly because we shouldn't need stimulants make us cope with life. Our faith should help us to deal with life's difficulties. Also it results in a lack of self-control which can lead to the humiliation of a person and the dishonour this brings to God.
There is an alternative. Being filled with the Spirit, verse 18. This produces an exhilarating life. Rather than diminished consciousness the Holy Spirit actually produces self-control. Unlike alcohol, being filled with the Spirit produces no hangover, only positive results. The tense of the verb, 'be filled' verse 18 is the present continuous. Be filled and go on being filled. We don't expect our cars to keep running all the time on one tank of petrol It needs topping up again and again. So we need filling with the Holy Spirit again and again to keep going in God's strength and power.
A lady was having a series of prayer meetings at her house in Ballymena, Northern Ireland. She invited her Roman Catholic neighbour who felt that she couldn't come. However, after the first meeting she enquired how it had gone. The woman replied, 'Oh wonderful. We had thirty five in my little cottage and it was full.' A week later they had a similar conversation. 'We had fifty one in my little cottage and it was full. The final meeting is next week. You would be welcome to come.' The Roman Catholic neighbour did not come, but still enquired how the final meeting had gone. 'Marvellous. We had sixty-two and my little cottage was full'.
'Impossible. How can you have had 35 the first week and it was full. 51 the next week and it was full. And 62 yesterday and it was full again.'
'Oh its quite simple. We simply got rid of every piece of furniture and put them in the garden. We emptied the house of everything that cluttered it up, and it was filled with people.'
If we are going to be filled with the Holy Spirit sometimes we need to move some of the clutter from our lives to let him in. Once we have been filled with the Holy Spirit he will fill us with the love of God, fill us with the light of Jesus, and fill us with praise and thanksgiving.
This will build us up as individuals and as God's people, and will bring glory to His name.
Now have a few moments to reflect upon our lives.
Maybe to confess to God the darker things we have done and to turn from them. To remove the clutter from our lives. To say sorry for the times we have gone on in our own strength rather than seeking His Spirit.
Then we will ask God to fill us again with His Holy Spirit.
You may find it helpful to have your hands open, palms up, to show that you are opening yourself to be filled with the Holy Spirit of God