Among the many changes to our lifestyles in this current season, one which probably very few of us have missed is the frequency of trips to the petrol station. The lockdown dramatically reduced our mileage, and suddenly what for many of us was a weekly chore became perhaps every month or even two months. Our cars will always need fuel, we just don’t need to fill them as often.
But this is not the case with the spiritual life. Today’s passage reminds us that we need to be filled with the presence, love and power of God as often as possible. The word ‘be filled’ in v18 is actually in the ‘continuous present’ tense (something in the Greek language we don’t have in quite the same way in English). It is best translated as ‘go on being filled’ or ‘keep being filled’, or even ‘be continuously filled’. Our lives need the constant refreshment of God’s Spirit to live as followers of Jesus. This, Paul says, is the ‘wise’ way to live (v15).
And just as a car needs the right fuel, so Paul also encourages us to put the right fuel into our lives. His caution against excessive drinking (note: the issue is drunkenness, not consumption of alcohol per se) is really all about what controls us. We should beware surrendering our bodies to something that leads us to unwise or unhealthy behaviour. As we observed a few weeks ago, the true test of anything is the fruit it produces. Our lives should be under the influence of the Holy Spirit, so we avoid anything else that controls us and leads us in other directions.
But Paul’s wisdom doesn’t stop there. He actually gives us four ways that we can keep being filled with the Spirit. Verse 18 and 19-21 run together, literally Paul says ‘keep being filled, as you….’ What? Well, here’s four great ways to keep being filled with the Spirit:
Encourage each other, especially in worship.
Make music in your hearts – particularly appropriate in the current season, as singing is banned in church buildings! If you’re enjoying online worship, singing your heart out on the sofa at home, there’s a good reason for that – we are filled with the Spirit as we make music in our hearts to the Lord.
Gratitude in all things – finding things to praise God for fills us with His love, as we gain His perspective on our lives and recognise that all of life is gift.
Practising humility – this is the curveball. Verse 21 is actually part of the same sentence as verses 18-20, even though most modern bibles put it in the next section. We are filled with the Spirit as we submit to each other. There’s a thought! What he means here is not a form of weakness, rather our choice to put others first is a sign of true strength, of security in God’s love. We do it ‘out of reverence for Christ’. And as we do that, we are filled with the presence of Christ by His Spirit.
So today, let us welcome God’s presence again, and be filled with His precious Spirit. And, perhaps, let’s draw alongside at least one of these four ‘spiritual fuel pumps’ to be refuelled with God’s love.