Living in the Fullness
I want to provide a study on what it really means to live by the Spirit. The Scripture that I want to draw attention to is Ephesians 5:18. Here it is in four translations:
[NASB] "And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit."
[Message] "Don't drink too much wine, that cheapens your life. Drink the Spirit of God, huge draughts of Him."
[Analytical-Literal] "And stop getting drunk with wine, in which is reckless behaviour, but continue being filled with the Spirit."
[Contempory English] "Don't destroy yourself by getting drunk, but let the Spirit fill your life."
This is Bible Study DU029 - Living in the Fullness.
In the Greek language there are certain rules that are used to bring out the full meaning of a text. In the case of Ephesians 5:18, we find some of these rules in place. What Paul is saying is measured by these rules of Greek grammar. Let's take a look at what the apostle is teaching.
Where Paul says, "Be filled with the Spirit," the verb 'be filled' is imperative, which means that it is imperative that we desire to live a Spirit-filled life. It is imperative for two reasons. First, because God commands it. And, secondly, because this is God's way of providing divine enablement for the believer to live in continual victory.
The next rule involves the verb tense. In this case we are dealing with a present-tense verb. In the true sense of 'present-tense', it means being filled with the Spirit is not to be an occasional occurrence. We are to continually live under the auspices of the Holy Spirit. It is saying, 'Be, being filled.'
God's norm for the Christian is that we learn to live moment by moment in a yieldedness to the Holy Spirit. This is not a 'seek for a Holy Spirit' experience. It is a walk of awareness and yieldedness.
Paul said it another way in Romans 8:6: "For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace."
The term for flesh speaks of our carnal nature and desires. If we set our mind on our carnal nature, we experience the death side of life. If we set our mind on the Spirit, we continuously experience the life that God gave us in Christ.
There is one other issue to deal with with the verb 'be filled' in Ephesians 5:8. The verb is in the passive voice. Here is where it gets strange.
The passive voice means that our being filled with the Spirit is not a result of our own efforts, or our own praying through, or our own travail. It means that simple trust in Jesus for His fullness will result in the fullness. It is a matter of trusting in the Lord and not in our own efforts.
Living in the fullness of the Spirit revolves around one issue alone; trusting in Jesus Christ. When we are trusting in the Lord, we are living in the life He promises, which means we are living in His divine empowerment. When we are not trusting in the Lord, we enter a world of fear and confusion. (Not to mention the flesh.)
Let's move on to other Scriptures. John 1:16 says, "For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace." This is another of those wonderful Scriptures that our English language doesn't fully translate.
Grace upon grace means that the Lord brings another grace into our life before the former grace is depleted. The literal meaning is 'grace on top of grace.' (Grace is what beautifies the believer's life.)
But the key is in the first part of the verse. Listen again, "For of His fullness we have all received." In verse 14 John had already said that Jesus is "full of grace and truth." (Truth speaks of God's reality.)
Think about it --- If we have all received His fullness, then there is nothing that needs to be added. Our walk with Jesus is not to be filled with condemnation, or with fear, or with some idea of punishments. Having His fullness speaks of the fullness of grace and truth that continues to appear in our lives. We have been made one with Him.
The struggle that every believer faces is the struggle over how 'not' to live by the flesh. The great apostle deals with this issue. He said in Romans 7:15, "For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing that I hate." (Ever been there? I have.)
Paul is speaking as a saved man who is ignorant of how to live in the victory of new covenant life. The apostle was saying that when he allowed his flesh to be in control, he was not submitting himself to the higher law of the new covenant.
The problem is that a believer can actually become a slave to his own flesh, if he is unacquainted with the higher law of the Spirit.
First it is important to recognize that there is a warfare at work in the members of our body. The principle of sin in our flesh wars against the Spirit. (Paul also talks about this in Galatians 5.)
Where we fail without realizing it is when we try to subdue the flesh in our own efforts. This is where Romans 8 enters the picture. This is also where living in the fullness enters the picture.
Paul says that our victory is found on two levels. First he says, "Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death." (v1)
Here the apostle is saying that there is not now, nor can there ever be, damnatory sentence against anyone who belongs to Jesus Christ. The reason is because God has take the whole of our life and has hidden it in Christ Jesus.
The second part of the equation has to do with where the believer sets his trust factor and his mind. When we set our mind on the Spirit, the Spirit empowers us over the flesh. When we set our mind on the flesh, then the flesh is in power. It all comes back to where we set our mind.
However, what a believer needs to understand is that they are not under the power of the flesh. The flesh can only exert power when we give our mind to the flesh. Paul said that we have been freed from the power of the flesh by setting our mind on the Spirit.
Listen again to Paul: "So then, brethren, we are obligated, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh -- for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live." (vv12,13)
It is not hard to live a Spirit-controlled life. It is a matter of attitude, of where we set our mind, and of trust. We are to trust the Lord to accomplish His life in us. In other words, let Jesus be your life.
This is why Paul said, "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life that I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me." (Gal 2:20)
This is also why John said, "You are of God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is of the world." (1Jn 4:4)
Do you see what the real problem is? We've made living a Spirit-filled life a matter of crucifying the flesh, of spending long hours trying to pray ourselves through, and of going from service to service to get our next spiritual fix. And yet none of this is the answer. The apostle said that all this is merely a apperance of self-made religion.
What then is the reality of true spiritual life? Paul said that we have already been crucified in Christ. Paul said that living a Spirit-filled life has to be passive on our part with regard to our own self-efforts. It is a matter of letting ourselves be filled. We are to 'be, being filled.' We are to set our mind on the Spirit.
May I hammer this home one more time? It is a matter of where we set our mind. Have you ever wondered why when you began to read your Bible, a moment comes when you sense such peace and assurance? Think about it.
Its not hard to connect the dots. God gave you a mind to use for His glory. Don't let the devil use your mind for a trash barrel. How hard is it? Not hard at all. It is your mind. Train your mind to think by the aid of the Holy Spirit. Don't allow the devil even one little moment of your thought life. (He will grab for more.)
The apostolic writer said that we can even train our senses to discern good and evil. Our senses are our organs of perception.
Ok -- Let's get in the Holy Spirit's class of learning to train our senses.
"Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission."
This study was originally shared on March 21, 2007. It was written by Pastor Buddy Martin, a former United Pentecostal Church minister, who founded Christian Challenge International. Writings are the copyright of Buddy Martin and reprinted on this site by permission.
Page added March 23, 2007
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