7 Jul 2014
“Therefore be careful how you walk,” says Paul to those in the region of Ephesus, “not as unwise but as wise.” The word translated unwise is actually the same word for wise with an “a” in front where the “a” is a negative, as in atypical. Adding not with not-wise Paul uses a double negative, producing a powerful admonition two times to be wise. A dictionary description of the word translated wise: “not necessarily implying brilliance or scholastic training, but rather the ability to apply with skill what one knows, in the New Testament, particularly used of applying spiritual truth in one’s life.”
Paul is strongly urging us to carefully apply spiritual truth to our lives with great skill. This seems to be a very comprehensive and thus somewhat complex to observe. But Paul leaves us in the middle of somewhat impossible instruction for only an instant. He then gives us for a third time encouragement to act in a wise manner. Using a different word he instructs us not to be foolish, mindless, or ignorant, but to understand what the will of the Lord is. This seems of only a little help until we see he that he continues with the caution, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit,”
I hope that you will agree that this instruction is clearly crafted such that we should understand that to be filled with the Spirit is our choice. Just as we can choose to get drunk with wine or to avoid drunkenness, we can choose to be filled with the Spirit or fail to so choose.
Our choices are too numerous to name, but of all the choices that we have as believers every one is inferior to the choice of being filled with the Holy Spirit. Jesus died in part that every true believer might have the Holy Spirit as an indwelling presence in their lives. God’s plan was for all of His children to have the Holy Spirit as their internal Guide and Comforter and Source of unspeakable power. But God does not force all of the resources of the Holy Spirit even upon His children. Much like our personal salvation, we must by faith appropriate God’s gift in order to experience some aspects of the power and inspiration of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
It is not God’s purpose that we ignore His indwelling Holy Spirit. He does not desire that we squander our time walking in the flesh. God’s purpose for His gift of the indwelling Spirit is that we walk filled and empowered, directed by His Spirit. But He has restrained Himself to only provide the opportunity, not the obligation. While God has provided the freedom that we can choose to be foolish and walk in the flesh; this is indeed a very poor choice.
John 6:63a (NASB95)
63 "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing;
Galatians 5:17 (AMP)
17 For the desires of the flesh are opposed to the [Holy] Spirit, and the [desires of the] Spirit are opposed to the flesh (godless human nature); for these are antagonistic to each other [continually withstanding and in conflict with each other], so that you are not free but are prevented from doing what you desire to do.
Our spiritual forefathers have clearly communicated that our primary purpose in life as children of God is to bring God glory. We can bring little genuine glory to God except by the power of the Spirit. The flesh will not glorify God. It refuses to do so! It is too busy seeking glory for itself. But of course we do not control the Holy Spirit. He started His work in our lives long before we came into the Family. There are innumerable things that the Holy Spirit can and will do without our choosing, but He will not fill and control and empower our lives unless we humbly submit ourselves to His control.
Therefore, what is likely the foremost underlying issue? Could it be impossibilities?
Luke 18:27 (AMP)
27 But He said, What is impossible with men is possible with God.
Some have said that to live the Christian life is impossible, and this is without doubt true. However God has provided Himself in the person of His Spirit to indwell every believer in order that many things impossible for mankind are perfectly possible for those who depend on His Spirit. But since it is a bit difficult to conceive of the entire Christian life as it relates to this specific application, perhaps it would be helpful to examine this matter further by focusing on three” impossible” examples.
First for husbands: Ephesians 5:25 (ASV)
25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself up for it; As a husband have you read this passage and seriously attempted to obey it in spirit and truth? If you have you have found as many others in our own strength it is impossible. Arguably the more frequent response to this passage is to put it on the top shelf labeled impossible commands and wink at it from time to time. But the Holy Spirit can empower you to do the impossible. While it may not look like a light switch, persistent pursuit of the filling of the Spirit while praying for insight and power to obey will yield amazing results over time. There is no lack on the part of the Spirit but on our side, not unlike a baby, it seems we need time to learn to walk.
Of course we should give equal time to wives: Ephesians 5:33 (AMP)
33 However, let each man of you [without exception] love his wife as [being in a sense] his very own self; and let the wife see that she respects and reverences her husband [that she notices him, regards him, honors him, prefers him, venerates, and esteems him; and that she defers to him, praises him, and loves and admires him exceedingly]. Most wives naturally believe as most of us that respect must be earned. But there is no mention of earned respect or earned reverence in this passage. Unconditional respect while it sounds like to most an oxymoron it is actually a powerful antidote to many of the problems of marriage. However unconditional respect is impossible, except under the powerful influence and inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
When a husband and wife are completely committed to obeying the above commands guided and inspired by the power of the Holy Spirit the results are exactly what God had in mind when He created man and woman and marriage in the beginning. The Spirit desires to inspire and empower self-less unconditional love which is part of the very nature of God. A marriage powered by self-less unconditional love from the Spirit will bring glory to God and the power of love into a family and a community. It will make an amazing impact in many spheres while founding a heritage that will continue for generations to come.
Our final example is the command by Jesus to all those who make up His body: Matthew 28:18-20 (NASB95) 18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
Making disciples is spiritual work. It is dying to self work. The flesh will not do it. It seems that to obey this command is impossible short of regularly walking by the power and direction of the Spirit.
Galatians 5:16 (NASB95)
16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.
If we could draw a graph of someone’s spiritual life with the vertical direction describing the intensity of their faith, obedience and righteousness and the horizontal representing time, and we assign God’s design for His children at vertical level 100. Upon careful unbiased evaluation we might find that our personal expectations are somewhere about level 5. Sub-consciously at level 5 we are reasonably comfortable and able to do what we want most of the time. Level 5 does not require a strong consistent effort to seek the leading and guiding and empowerment of the Spirit, but it feels very normal. In time many of us settle in to a lower intensity spiritual life believing it to be normal, though it is may fall short of the”normal” intended design of God.
Could it be that God’s plan for your life has a higher trajectory than the one you are currently experiencing? Does God have in His plan some impossible things that He desires to accomplish in and through you? Has God already placed an impossible task on your heart? God specializes in the impossible both in His callings and in His ability to make the impossible a reality. For God impossible is simply normal.
Father, guide us and help us each to make whatever changes in our lives that are needed in order that we might wisely consistently choose to ask and submit to the leadership and power of Your Spirit.