In contrast to men’s waffle-like approach, women process life more like a plate of pasta. If you look at a plate of spaghetti, you notice that there are lots of individual noodles that all touch one another. If you attempted to follow one noodle around the plate, you would intersect a lot of other noodles, and you might even switch to another noodle seamlessly. That is how women face life. Every thought and issue is connected to every other thought and issue in some way. Life is much more of a process for women than it is for men.
This is why women are typically better at multitasking than men. She can talk on the phone, prepare a meal, make a shopping list, work on the agenda for tomorrow’s business meeting, give instructions to her children as they are going out to play, and close the door with her foot without skipping a beat. Because all her thoughts, emotions, and convictions are connected, she is able to process more information and keep track of more activities.
As a result, most women are in pursuit of connecting life together. They solve problems but from a much different perspective than men. For women to quickly solve a problem when the issues involved in the discussion are disconnected from each other is an act of denial. And so women consistently sense the need to talk things through. In conversation she can link together the logical, emotional, relational, and spiritual aspects of the issue. The links come to her naturally so the conversation is effortless for her. If she is able to connect all the issues together, the answer to the question at hand bubbles to the surface and is readily accepted.
This often creates significant stress for couples because while she is making all the connections, he is frantically jumping boxes trying to keep up with the conversation. The man’s eyes are rolling back in his head while a tidal wave of information is swallowing him up. When she is done, she feels better and he is overwhelmed. The conversation might look something like this:
Joan gets home and says, “Honey, how was your day? I had a good day today. We just committed to a new educational wing at the university, and I have been asked to oversee the budget. I am so excited that they didn’t rule me out because I am a woman. You know women have been fighting for a place in society for decades, and it is good to see so much progress being made. I think it is neat that you treat the women who work for you with so much respect. Our daughter is so lucky to have you for a dad. Did you remember that Susie has a soccer game tonight? I think it is important we are there because the Johnsons are going to be there, and I really want you to meet them. Susie and Bethany are getting to be good friends, and I think we should get to know her parents as well.”
As Joan is exploring this conversation, Dan is getting lost. He has no idea what the budget at the university has to do with their daughter’s soccer game and their need to have a friendship with the Johnsons. He admires her ability to connect seemingly unrelated thoughts but he just can’t seem to understand how she does it.
One of the characteristics that creates havoc in male/female interaction is the fact that most men have boxes in their waffle that have no words. There are thoughts in these boxes about the past, their work, and pleasant experiences, but these thoughts do not turn into words. A man is able to be quite happy in these wordless boxes because the memories he carries in them have significant meaning to him. The problem is that he cannot communicate these experiences to others, and so his wife may feel left out.
Not all of the wordless boxes have thoughts, however. There are actually boxes in the average man’s waffle that contain no words and no thoughts. These boxes are just as blank as a white sheet of paper. They are EMPTY! To help relieve stress in his life, he will “park” in these boxes to relax. Amazingly, his wife always seems to notice when he is in park. She observes his blank look and the relaxed posture he has taken on the couch. She assumes this is a good time to talk as he is so relaxed, and so she invariably asks, “What are you thinking, sweetheart?”
He immediately panics because he knows if he tells the truth, she will think he is lying. She cannot imagine a moment without words in her mind. If he says, “Nothing,” she thinks he is hiding something and is afraid to talk about it. She becomes instantly curious and mildly suspicious. Not wanting to disappoint his wife, his eyes start darting back and forth hoping to find some box in close proximity that has words in it. If he finds a box of words quickly he will engage his wife in conversation and both will feel good about the relationship. If he is slow in finding words, her suspicion fails to be extinguished, and he feels a sense of failure. He desperately wants to explain to his wife that he sometimes just goes blank. Nothing is wrong, nothing is in denial, and nothing is being hidden. This is the way he has been his whole life, but she cannot imagine it.
These blank boxes have an interesting characteristic that often gets in the way of meaningful conversation. In the middle of conversation a man will periodically be moving from one box to another, and in between two boxes of words he passes through one of these blank boxes. Right in the middle of conversation, he goes silent. He knows he should have something to say, but he is blank. He knows it is awkward to go blank in the middle of a thought, but no amount of effort has ever made it go away. It is an awkwardness he must live with and hope his wife adapts to.
Farrel, B., & Farrel, P. (2007). Men are like waffles— women are like spaghetti: understanding and delighting in your differences. Eugene, OR: Harvest House.
We do not mean that men “waffle” on all decisions and are generally unstable. What we mean is that men process life in boxes. If you look down at a waffle, you see a collection of boxes separated by walls. The boxes are all separate from each other and make convenient holding places. That is typically how a man processes life. Our thinking is divided up into boxes that have room for one issue and one issue only. The first issue of life goes in the first box, the second goes in the second box, and so on. The typical man lives in one box at a time and one box only. When a man is at work, he is at work. When he is in the garage tinkering around, he is in the garage tinkering. When he is watching TV, he is simply watching TV. That is why he looks as though he is in a trance and can ignore everything else going on around him. Social scientists call this “compartmentalizing”—that is, putting life and responsibilities into different compartments.
As a result, men are problem solvers by nature. They enter a box, size up the “problem,” and formulate a solution. In their careers, they consider what it will take to be successful and focus on it. In communication, they look for the bottom line and get there as quickly as possible. In decision-making, they look for an approach they can buy into and apply it as often as possible.
A man will strategically organize his life in boxes and then spend most of his time in the boxes he can succeed in. This is such a strong motivation for him that he will seek out the boxes that work and will ignore the boxes that confuse him or make him feel like a failure. For instance, a man whose career holds the possibility of success will spend more and more time at work at the expense of other priorities. On the other hand, a man who always falls short at work or feels he never meets the expectations around him may find out that he is pretty good at being lazy. He will then develop a commitment to being lazy because he knows he can do that today with the same proficiency as yesterday.
Men also take a “success” approach to communication. If they believe they can successfully talk with their wives and reach a desirable outcome, they will be highly motivated to converse. If, on the other hand, the conversation seems pointless to him or he finds understanding his wife impossible, he loses his motivation to talk and clams up. That is why men come up with profound things to say, such as, “Is there any point to this conversation? Is this conversation leading anywhere? Can you just get to the point?” These are statements a man makes out of frustration because he doesn’t know how to make conversation with his wife work.
The “success” drive is why men find it so easy to develop hobbies that consume their time. If a man finds something he is good at, it makes him feel good about himself and about his life. Because men tend to be good with mechanical and spatial activities, they get emotionally attached to building, fixing, and chasing things. Yard projects become expressions of his personality. The car becomes his signature. Fishing becomes an all-consuming pursuit of the right equipment, the right fishing spot, and the right friends. The computer stops being a tool of work as it transforms into an educational, entertaining, even Intimate friend. It makes predictable moves and gives predictable feedback. Because a man knows what he will get back from his computer, he spends more and more time with this keyboard while he spends less and less time face to face with his wife.
The bottom line with men is: they feel best about themselves when they are solving problems. Therefore, they spend most of their time doing what they are best at while they attempt to ignore the things which cause them to feel deficient.
Farrel, B., & Farrel, P. (2007). Men are like waffles— women are like spaghetti: understanding and delighting in your differences. Eugene, OR: Harvest House.
One of the most thorough research projects on relationships is called the Alameda County Study. Headed by a Harvard social scientist, it tracked the lives of 7,000 people over nine years. Researchers found that the most isolated people were three times more likely to die than those with strong relational connections.
People who had bad health habits (such as smoking, poor eating habits, obesity, or alcohol use) but strong social ties lived significantly longer than people who had great health habits but were isolated. In other words, it is better to eat Twinkies with good friends than to eat broccoli alone. Harvard researcher Robert Putnam notes that if you belong to no groups but decide to join one, “you cut your risk of dying over the next year in half.”
For another study, as reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association, 276 volunteers were infected with a virus that produces the common cold. The study found that people with strong emotional connections did four times better fighting off illness than those who were more isolated. These people were less susceptible to colds, had less virus, and produced significantly less mucous than relationally isolated subjects. (I’m not making this up. They produced less mucous. This means it is literally true: Unfriendly people are snottier than friendly people.)
Ortberg, J. (2009). Everybody’s normal till you get to know them. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Here’s the rub: How do you pursue this beautiful dream of community with actual, real-life people? Weird, not-normal, as-is, dysfunctional people? Your friends, your colleagues, your spouse, your children, your parents, your small group, your church, your coworkers? Can it really happen?
The North American Common Porcupine is a member of the rodent family that has around 30,000 quills attached to his body. Each quill can be driven into an enemy, and the enemy’s body heat will cause the microscopic barb to expand and become more firmly embedded. The wounds can fester; the more dangerous ones, affecting vital organs, can be fatal.
The porcupine is not generally regarded as a lovable animal. The Latin name (erethizon dorsatum) means “the irritable back,” and they all have one. Books and movies celebrate almost every conceivable animal—not just dogs and cats and horses, but also pigs (Babe; Arnold Ziffel from the old TV show Green Acres), spiders (Charlotte’s Web), dolphins (Flipper), bears (Gentle Ben), and killer whales (Free Willy). Even skunks have Pepe Le Pew. I don’t know of any famous porcupines. I don’t know any child who has one for a pet.
As a general rule, porcupines have two methods for handling relationships: withdrawal and attack. They either head for a tree or stick out their quills. They are generally solitary animals. Wolves run in packs; sheep huddle in flocks; we speak of herds of elephants and gaggles of geese and even a murder of crows. But there is no special name for a group of porcupines. They travel alone.
Porcupines don’t always want to be alone. In the late autumn, a young porcupine’s thoughts turn to love. But love turns out to be a risky business when you’re a porcupine. Females are open to dinner and a movie only once a year; the window of opportunity closes quickly. And a girl porcupine’s “no” is the most widely respected turndown in all the animal kingdom. Fear and anger make them dangerous little creatures to be around.
This is the Porcupine’s Dilemma: How do you get close without getting hurt?
This is our dilemma, too. Every one of us carries our own little arsenal. Our barbs have names like rejection, condemnation, resentment, arrogance, selfishness, envy, contempt. Some people hide them better than others, but get close enough and you will find out they’re there. They burrow under the skin of our enemies; they can wound and fester and even kill. We, too, learn to survive through a combination of withdrawal and attack. We, too, find ourselves hurting (and being hurt by) those we long to be closest to.
Ortberg, J. (2009). Everybody’s normal till you get to know them. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
There is a secret to wearing a vest.It’s a secret every father should tell his son. It’s one of those manly things that has to be passed down from generation to generation. It rates up there with teaching your son to shave and use deodorant. It’s a secret every vest wearer must know. If you own a vest, I hope you know it. If you own a vest and don’t know it, here it is: Button the first button correctly.
Take your time. Don’t be in a rush. Look carefully in the mirror and then match the right button with the right hole.
If you do, if you get the first button buttoned right, then the rest will follow suit (excuse the pun). If, however, you don’t get the first button right, every button thereafter will be buttoned incorrectly. The result will be a lopsided vest. Put the second button in the top hole or slide the second hole over the top button and, well, it just won’t work.
There are certain things in life done only one way. Buttoning a vest is one of them.
Being ready is another.
According to Jesus, being ready for his return is a vest-button principle. According to Jesus, start wrong on this first move and the rest of your life will be cockeyed.
Not everything is a vest-button truth. The church you attend isn’t. The Bible translation you read isn’t. The ministry you select isn’t. But being ready for Jesus’ return is a vest-button truth. Get this right and the rest will fall into place. Miss it and get ready for some wrinkles.
How do we know this is a vest-button principle? Jesus told us. According to Matthew, Jesus told us in the last sermon he ever preached.
It may surprise you that Jesus made preparedness the theme of his last sermon. It did me. I would have preached on love or family or the importance of church. Jesus didn’t. Jesus preached on what many today consider to be old-fashioned. He preached on being ready for heaven and staying out of hell.
It’s his message when he tells of the wise and the foolish servants. The wise one was ready for the return of the master; the foolish one was not.
It’s his message when he tells about the ten bridesmaids. Five were wise and five were foolish. The wise ones were ready when the groom came and the foolish ones were at the corner store looking for more oil.
It’s his message when he tells of the three servants and the bags of gold. Two servants put the money to work and made more money for the master. The third hid his in a hole. The first two were ready and rewarded when the master returned. The third was unprepared and punished.
Be ready. It’s a first step, non-negotiable, vest-button principle.
Lucado, M. (1992). And the angels were silent (132–134). Portland, OR: Multnomah.
And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.
The apostle Paul commands in Ephesians 5:18 that we be filled with the Spirit. Therefore, I want to try to answer two questions today. What does it mean to be filled with the Spirit? And, how can we be filled with the Spirit? I think it might help you follow me if I tell you at the outset where I am going. So I’ll start with my conclusions and then give the biblical support. I think being filled with the Spirit means, basically, having great joy in God. And since the Bible teaches that “the joy of the Lord is our strength” (Nehemiah 8:10), it also means there will be power in this joy for overcoming besetting sins and for boldness in witness.
But, basically, it means radiant joy, because the Spirit who fills us is the Spirit of joy that flows between God the Father and God the Son because of the delight they have in each other. Therefore, to be filled with the Spirit means to be caught into the joy that flows among the Holy Trinity and to love God the Father and God the Son with the very love with which they love each other. And then, in answer to the second question, the way to be filled with the Spirit is by trusting that the God of hope really reigns—that not a sparrow falls to the ground apart from his will (Matthew 10:29)—and that he runs the world for you and for all who trust his word. In believing that, you will be filled with the Holy Spirit and with joy.
With the spread of Pentecostalism in this country and in the third world, there has been a lot of discussion about the New Testament phrases “filled with the Spirit” and “baptized with the Spirit.” I feel some obligation, therefore, today not merely to interpret Ephesians 5:18 in its immediate context, but also to orient what I say in the wider New Testament teaching.
What Does “Baptize in the Holy Spirit” Mean?
The phrase “baptize in (or with) the Holy Spirit” was apparently coined by John the Baptist. All four of our gospels record that he said, “I have baptized you with water, but he (i.e., Jesus) will baptize you with the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33). The only two writers in the New Testament who refer elsewhere to the phrase “baptize with the Spirit” are Luke in the book of Acts, and Paul in 1 Corinthians. Luke refers to it twice, quoting John each time (Acts 1:5; 11:16), and Paul refers to it once (1 Corinthians 12:13). But I don’t think Paul and Luke use this phrase to refer to the same thing. For Paul, it is virtually identical to regeneration or new birth (conversion). For Luke, it is essentially the same as being filled with the Spirit and refers to that first introductory experience of this fullness.
I’ll try to show very briefly why I think this. First, we must never assume that a particular phrase means exactly the same thing every place it occurs in Scripture. Good interpretation lets a word or phrase mean whatever the immediate context demands. What really matters in Scripture is not that a phrase everywhere have the same meaning, but that the reality which a phrase describes does not contradict other descriptions of reality in the Bible. So Paul and Luke need not use the phrase “baptized with the Spirit” in the very same sense.
Just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
According to this one reference, Paul conceived of Spirit-baptism as the act by which the Spirit made us members of Christ’s body. Once we were alienated from God, cut off from Christ (Ephesians 2:12), but then the Holy Spirit swept over us and brought us to life by uniting us to the living Christ and thus to his people in one body. This is a once-for-all event. It is never repeated, and nowhere does Paul (or Luke) ever admonish a Christian to be baptized by the Spirit.
But Luke seems to mean something different by the phrase, namely, something essentially the same as being filled with the Spirit, which is not a once-for-all event (for Luke and for Paul) but an ongoing or repeated occurrence. The evidence for this comes from the book of Acts. In Acts 1:4, 5 Luke reports that Jesus, just before he ascended to the Father, told his apostles to stay in Jerusalem and wait for the promise of the Father which “you heard from me, for John baptized with water, but before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” This was a clear reference to Pentecost. But when Pentecost comes in chapter 2, listen to how Luke describes it:
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
Jesus promises in chapter 1 that they will be baptized by the Spirit, and Luke describes the fulfillment of that promise in chapter 2 in terms of the filling of the Holy Spirit. Yet we know from Acts 11:15–17 that Luke does see Pentecost as a baptism with the Spirit. He reports there how Peter described his preaching to the Gentiles, in Cornelius’ house:
As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, “John baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?
So this later outpouring of the Spirit on the Gentiles (in Acts 10:44ff.) is equated with the first Pentecostal outpouring, and both are explained as a baptism with the Spirit. Therefore, Luke sees what happened at Pentecost as both a baptism with the Spirit and a filling with the Spirit. Since Luke refers later on to the disciples being filled again (Acts 4:8, 31; 13:4), but never refers to them as being baptized again with the Spirit, it seems to me that for Luke “baptism with the Spirit” refers to that initial filling by the Spirit after a person trusts in Christ. I don’t think Luke equates “baptism by the Spirit” with regeneration like Paul does. That would mean that all the apostles, who, with God’s help, had confessed Jesus to be the Christ (Luke 9:20; Matthew 16:17) and had seen him alive after his resurrection and had their minds opened by him to understand the Scriptures (Luke 24:45), were in fact dead in trespasses and sins and enslaved to the flesh during all their time with Jesus and up till Pentecost morning.
If we asked Luke, “Is that what you mean?” I think he would say, “O no, they had already been born of the Spirit, just like all the great saints of the Old Testament, but they hadn’t yet experienced to the full what God could do through them by his Spirit. But now that Christ has come and through his death and resurrection purchased all the blessings of God, it is God’s purpose to call all his people to experience the fullness of the Holy Spirit.” When a person first experiences this fullness of the Spirit, that is what Luke means by being baptized with the Spirit. And that is different from Paul who, I think, uses the phrase to refer to regeneration (new birth or moment of conversion).
Interacting with Pentecostal Theology
Now we are right at the heart of the charismatic controversy, and I want to try to sort out some things and let you know where I stand and why I think this stance is biblical. What is clear so far is at least this: if anyone ever asks you, “Have you been baptized with the Holy Spirit?” your first response should be to say, “What do you mean by baptism with the Holy Spirit?” So many of our arguments could be avoided if we just started off defining our terms. Suppose the definition they gave was this: “Baptism with the Holy Spirit is an experience you have with God after conversion in which the Holy Spirit falls upon you in such a way that your heart bursts forth in the utterance of tongues (some ecstatic speech or unknown language).”
What would our answer be, then? Some of us would say, “Yes, I have experienced that.” Others would say, “No, I never have spoken in tongues.” But both of us should then say, “But, you know, that definition of baptism with the Spirit is not a biblical one.” There is no way to argue rightly from the book of Acts that God intends for baptism with the Spirit always to be accompanied by speaking in tongues. And Paul teaches plainly in 1 Corinthians 12:10 that God does not give the gift of tongues to everyone. Being baptized with the Holy Spirit may or may not result in glossalalia (tongues-speaking) and, therefore, speaking in tongues is not a necessary part of either Luke’s or Paul’s definition of baptism with the Spirit.
I want to stress here, though, that I do not reject the validity of the gift of tongues for our own day. It is wrong to insist that they are a necessary part of the baptism of the Spirit; it is not wrong to insist that they are a possible part of that experience today. When I was in high school, I listened to Mr. DeHaan on the radio. I was standing in my bedroom one morning, listening to him try to argue from the New Testament that the so-called sign gifts, like tongues and miracles and healing, were intended by God to come to an end at the close of the apostolic age, so that they are no longer valid today. And I can remember even in those early years saying to myself, “Mr. DeHaan, those arguments are not valid. All you are able to show is that if there are no tongues today, you can see some possible reasons for it. But nothing that you have said proves that God intends for these gifts to end before this age closes.” And now after 20 years of Bible study and friendships with charismatic believers I will say with even more assurance: Let us not reject or despise any of God’s gifts, including tongues.
But now back to the person who is asking if you have been baptized with the Spirit. If he uses Paul’s definition and means, “Have you been united to Christ by the Spirit so that you are part of His body (1 Corinthians 12:12)?”—then the answer of all believers should be, “Yes, I have indeed been baptized with the Spirit.” If he uses Luke’s definition and means, “Have you ever once been so filled by the Holy Spirit that you overflowed with joy, had victory over besetting sins, and were made bold to witness?”—then the answer should be and could be, “Yes,” for all Christians, but probably won’t be. The apostle Paul taught that there is such a thing as a babe in Christ, and he contrasted with the babe in Christ the person who is spiritual (1 Corinthians 3:1). Now, both Luke and Paul would have agreed that what this new, faltering babe in Christ needs is a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit into his life. Paul would have called this experience “being filled” with the Spirit. And Luke would have agreed, but then would have also called this first experience of the Spirit’s fullness the “baptism of the Holy Spirit.” So while the phrase “baptized with the Spirit” is used differently by Paul and Luke, they view man’s need and God’s action as basically the same.
Perhaps one other clarification of some Pentecostal teaching should be mentioned. We are sometimes urged to seek a “second blessing” or second experience of the Spirit after our initial conversion experience. Two things need to be said. First: the blessing of the fullness (or baptism) of the Holy Spirit may occur at the moment of conversion and leave nothing to be sought but its preservation and growth or repetition. Second: even if one does not experience the fullness of the Spirit at conversion, the thing to be sought is not “the second blessing,” as if that experience would be the end of our spiritual quest. What we should seek (and this applies to all Christians) is that God pour his Spirit out upon us so completely that we are filled with joy, victorious over sin, and bold to witness. And the ways he brings us to that fullness are probably as varied as people are. It may come in a tumultuous experience of ecstasy and tongues. It may come through a tumultuous experience of ecstasy and no tongues. It may come through a crisis of suffering when you abandon yourself totally to God. Or it may come gradually through a steady diet of God’s Word and prayer and fellowship and worship and service. However it comes, our first experience of the fullness of the Spirit is only the beginning of a life-long battle to stay filled with the Spirit.
Don’t Turn to Alcohol, Turn to the Spirit
And that brings us to Ephesians 5:18 where the present tense of the verb in Greek means just that: “Keep on being filled with the Spirit.” Let’s look at the context to see more specifically what this means (5:15–18).
Look carefully how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, redeeming the time because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 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 in your heart to the Lord, always and for everything giving thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.
The contrast with drunkenness is the key here. What do people go to alcohol for? For a happy hour. We all want to be happy, but there is a problem: “The days are evil.” Notice the logic of verses 16–18:
The days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk . . . but be filled with the Spirit.
Where do you turn when the days are evil, when you are frightened or discouraged or depressed or anxious? Paul pleads with us: “Don’t turn to alcohol; turn to the Spirit. Anything of value that alcohol can bring you, God the Holy Spirit can bring more.”
There are people who can’t begin to whistle a happy tune or sing a song at work because they are so tense and anxious about life. But later in the evening at the tavern with a few drinks under their belt they can put their arms around each other and sing and laugh. All of us long to be carefree, uninhibited, happy. And the mounting tragedy of our own day, as in Paul’s, is that increasing numbers of people (even Christians) believe that the only way they can find this child-like freedom is by drugging themselves with alcohol or other mind-benders. Such behavior dishonors God, and so Paul says: There is a better way to cope with the evil days—be filled with the Spirit, stay filled with the Spirit. And you will know unmatched joy that sings and makes melody to the Lord.
The fundamental meaning of being filled with the Spirit is being filled with joy that comes from God and overflows in song. And Luke would agree with that, too, because he says inActs 13:52, “The disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.” To be sure, one of the marks of a person filled with the Spirit is that he is made strong to witness in the face of opposition (Acts 4:8, 31; 7:55; 13:9). But the reason for this is that “the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). When you are happy in God, you are a strong and brave witness to his grace. So I repeat, whatever joy or peace you find in alcohol, the Spirit of God can give you more. Even the psalmist of the Old Testament had experienced this. He says in Psalm 4:7– 8:
You (O Lord) have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound. In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.
How to Do What Can Only Be Done for Us
And that psalm leads us now to our final, all-important question of how we can obey this command to be filled with the Spirit. We are in the same predicament we were in last week. We are commanded to be full, and yet we are not the filler; the Spirit is. The answer to this predicament in the New Testament is that God has ordained to move into our lives with fullness through faith. The pathway that the Spirit cuts through the jungle of our anxieties into the clearing of joy is the pathway of faith. Luke says of Stephen in Acts 6:5, that he was “a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit,” and he says of Barnabas in Acts 11:24 that he was “a good man full of the Holy Spirit and of faith,” The two go together. If a person is filled with faith, he will be filled with the Spirit, the Spirit of joy and peace.
The most important text in Paul’s writings to show this is Romans 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Notice that it is in or by believing that we are filled with joy and peace. And it is by the Spirit that we abound in hope. When we put those two halves of the verse together, what we see is that through our faith (our believing) the Spirit fills us with his hope and thus with his joy and peace. And, of course since hope is such an essential part of being filled with joy by the Spirit, what we have to believe is that God is, as Paul says, the God of hope. We have to rivet our faith on all that he has done and said to give us hope.
Nobody stays full of the Spirit all the time—no one is always totally joyful and submissive to God and empowered for service. But this should still be our aim, our goal, our great longing. “As a hart pants for the flowing streams, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (Psalm 42:1, 2). But in order to slake that thirst, we must fight the fight of faith. We must preach to our souls a sermon of hope:
We must set before our own soul the banquet of promises that God has made to us and feed our faith to the full. Then it may be said of us as it was of Stephen and Barnabas: “They were filled with faith and with the Holy Spirit.”
I promised on Sunday that I would write this STAR article on how to be filled with the Spirit.Ephesians 5:18 says, “Do not be drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit.” I argued Sunday morning that verses 19-21 describe the effects of being filled with the Spirit. The effect in verse 19 is very musical. Clearly joy in Christ is the mark of being filled with the Spirit. But not only joy. Also gratitude in verse 20—perpetual gratitude, gratitude for everything. (Which obviously eliminates grumbling and pouting and self-pity and bitterness and scowling and murmuring and depression and worry and discouragement and gloominess and pessimism!) But not only musical joy and universal gratitude, but also loving submission to each other’s needs (v. 21). Joy, gratitude and humble love—these are the marks of being filled with the Spirit. To this should also be added boldness in witness from Acts (see Acts 2:4; 4:8, 31; 13:9). No one can fail to be bold and eager in witness when the Spirit is producing in him overflowing joy, perpetual gratitude and humble love. O how we need to be filled with the Spirit! Let’s seek it! Pursue it!
How? Start with the closest parallel: “Don’t be drunk with wine, be filled with the Spirit!” How do you get drunk with wine? You drink it. Lots of it. The wine of Paul’s day was so weak you would have to drink for hours to get drunk. So how then shall we get drunk (filled) with the Spirit? Drink it! Lots of it. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 12:13, “We were all made to drink of one Spirit.” Jesus said, “If anyone thirst let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.’ Now this he said about the Spirit.” (John 7:37f).
How can you drink the Spirit? Paul said, “Those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit” (Romans 8:5). We drink the Spirit by setting our minds on the things of the Spirit. What does “setting the mind on” mean? Colossians 3:1, 2 says, “Seek the things that are above…set your minds on things that are above.” “Setting the mind on” means seeking, directing your attention toward, being very concerned about (Philippians 3:19), being devoted to and taken up with. So drinking the Spirit means seeking the things of the Spirit, directing your attention to the things of the Spirit, being devoted to the things of the Spirit.
What are the “things of the Spirit”? When Paul said in 1 Corinthians 2:14, “The natural man does not welcome the things of the Spirit,” he was referring to his own Spirit-inspiredteachings (2:13) about the thoughts and ways and plans of God (2:8-10). Therefore, “The things of the Spirit” are the teachings of the apostles about God. Jesus also said, “The wordsthat I have spoken to you are Spirit and life” (John 6:63). Therefore, the teachings of Jesus are also the “things of the Spirit.”
So drinking the Spirit means setting our minds on the things of the spirit. And setting our minds on the things of the Spirit means directing our eager attention to the teachings of the apostles about God and to the words of Jesus. If we do this long enough we will get drunk with the Spirit. In fact we will get addicted to the Spirit. Instead of chemical dependency we will develop a wonderful Spirit-dependency.
One more tip: the Holy Spirit is not like wine because he is a person and is free to come and go where he wills (John 3:8). Therefore Luke 11:13 must be added. Jesus said to his disciples, “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!” If we want to be filled with the Spirit we must pray for it. And that is just what Paul does for the Ephesians in chapter 3, verse 19. He asks his Father in heaven (v.14) that the believers “might be filled with all the fullness of God.” Drink and pray. Drink and pray. Drink and pray.
Besotted by the Spirit,