As we discovered yesterday, the Bible teaches us that the process of being filled with God’s Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18-21) must begin with our decision to say “no” to the flesh. This was evident, when we read the following verse: “And do not be drunk with wine.” To be drunk with wine is to fall into the sin of dissipation or debauchery, as the verse says, and this is the flesh (all the way). You don’t want to engage in that, if you call yourself a Christian. More than this, by feeding on the lusts of the flesh like this, you will essentially cut off your chance at completing the rest of the passage, which goes on to tell how we can be filled with God’s Holy Spirit.
All of this is very important, if we are to gain all that God wants us to gain in this life. We have an inheritance, you know (did you know that?). In other words, there are plenty of things that God has “stored up for us” (cf. Ephesians 2:10, the “works prepared beforehand, that we might walk in them). So there are works that God has prepared for us to walk in, and God means business in the midst of them. We are to walk in them, but we are to do so in the way that God has prescribed. One of the things we must master, in fact, if we are to walk in them in the way God has called us to, is to walk in the power of the Holy Spirit. All this means is that we are to be enabled and empowered by God to do what we do — we are not to do it from a sense of striving, or, as a result of a desire to satisfy the flesh.
Hence, before even getting into the logistics of how to be filled with the Holy Spirit (so we can carry out God’s work in the power which only He can supply), Paul starts right out by saying (see Ephesians 5:18), “say no to your flesh!” That, in essence, is really what he is saying when he says, “And do not be drunk with wine.” Friends, saying no to your flesh might seem like an awfully hard thing to do at times, but wait for the rest of the passage, will you? Because God will never ask you to give something up except that He might replace that “thing” (whatever it is) with something — oh — so very much better. The great sin and lie and temptation of our day, therefore, is to believe what the devil is saying when he says, “You are number one (etc.),” in an attempt to get you to satisfy your fleshly desires. Follow those desires, and you will follow him right into the pit of hell. But do it God’s way, and you’ll escape. I prefer God’s way (don’t you?).
So then, saying “no” to the flesh is in preparation for saying “yes” to the Holy Spirit and to letting Him fill you. We went over this yesterday (as to how this is accomplished), so I won’t go over it again here. But notice, if you will, after Paul explains to us (quite in-depthly) how to be filled with God’s Holy Spirit, that he ends the passage with this one interesting (aggravating at times?) thought: “And be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.” (Ephesians 5:21). Now how does that all fit in? I thought he was talking about how to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Paul, what are you now doing telling us we are to be in submission to one another? Ah, here is the key to it all. Don’t miss it! If you have a terrible temper, for example, and flare up just at anything at all, you will not be able to retain the infilling of God’s Holy Spirit for long. It will simply be a waste of time! So the flesh will literally kill God’s work in your life. Oh, friend, don’t miss it! Paul has given us a gem! If he had only told us how to get the filling, he would have done us a disservice. Paul — through the power of the Holy Spirit — has gone the extra mile, and, essentially has told us, “Look friends, if you can’t submit to one another, then forget about being filled. It will be of no use to you!” That, in essence, is what the passage is teaching. Let’s look at a typical scenario, to try and get a better understanding of this:
Joe goes to church (or joins in a fellowship group) and has a great time worshipping the Lord through prayer and praise, teaching and preaching. He may even have obtained a “healing” or deliverance of some sort (freed up emotionally, spiritually, physically, mentally, etc.), and he knows it and is a “rejoicing man.” When he comes home, he’s filled with peace and joy, all the while praising God. But, because he is unwilling to submit to his wife in love (when she makes a request of him, like all good wives are entitled to do from time to time), the presence of the Holy Spirit begins to get grieved, and within about an a hour or so, Joe is right back to square one! Oh, sad state, but how often is this scenario repeated in so many Christian homes? It is time to wake up! Your ultimate healing will never ever come until you have learned, my dear friend, to lay down the flesh, and to take up Jesus, one hundred percent.
Wife, husband, dear Christian friend, may I ask you a question? Are you submissive? Do you prefer to hear people out, or do you prefer to be heard? One of the “keys” to being submissive to God’s will, and hence to others, is to simply “wait on God” to hear what He has to say about any particular situation. The next time you come home, try it out. Wait. And wait a bit more, if you don’t mind (before beginning to speak too quickly, and so lose what God wants to do in your particular situation). The wife (or husband, as the case may be) may have had a hard day. You need to be patient. You need to learn to listen to him or her, yes, even before you go blurting out how your own day has been (unless you are genuinely led otherwise). Listen … to what the Holy Spirit is saying! Learn to be submissive, and God will say “yes” to your healing.