I’m currently reading a book called The Spirit-Filled Life by Charles F. Stanley. In this book, Stanley spends some time going over each example in the New Testament where the idea of being filled with the Holy Spirit is spoken of. He notes that this idea found in Ephesians 5:18, which says “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit,” is different than the times it is said in places such as the book of Acts in one very simple way.
In the book of Acts, each time the Greek word for Spirit was translated into English, translators needed to add the word with because the Greek version of the word indicated the idea of content. So they added with to indicate that the Spirit is what believers are filled with rather than Who is doing the filling.
With regard to Ephesians 5:18, though, Stanley says this:
“In Ephesians 5:18, however, the word with does appear in the Greek. Paul inserted a preposition before the word Spirit. Although the preposition is translated with in the sense of content (what the believer is to be filled up with), it carries the idea of agent-who is doing the filling. Paul was admonishing his audience to be filled by the Spirit rather than with the Spirit.”
I share all that as a backdrop for the main content of this post, which is how this applies to sobriety. Today marks 71 days sober. That’s 10 weeks and 1 day. It feels good to be able to say that. But I didn’t get here without God. And any further progress I make, that’ll only be by surrendering to the will of God in my life. Something I discovered about me is that there is very little I can do in my own strength. The more I look, the more I see that it is the Holy Spirit in my life that is the only reason I’ve made any progress at all. Every bit of progress I made in my own strength was ultimately lost because I didn’t have the strength to maintain it. I’m convinced that, whether or not we believe in God, He believes in us – and whatever good things happen to us are a result of His good thoughts toward us.
I don’t think I’m the only one surrendered to a power greater than my own, either. We are all under the influence of something. I am reminded each day to let go a little bit more so that I can be under the complete influence of God, because He knows infinitely more than me and is infinitely more capable than me. For quite some time, though, I was under the influence of alcohol. It wasn’t just that I was drinking it, it was that I was drunk, and being drunk is more than just drinking. As Stanley puts it, “To be drunk is more than to drink. It means more than to fill up. To be drunk is to be under the control of alcohol, to surrender one’s body, mind, and spirit to its influence.”
When I read that, it put words to what I’d been thinking for some time. Getting drunk is equal to surrendering your will to the influence of the poison that is alcohol. It isn’t some magic juice that brings out the real you. It’s a venom that steadily erodes who you were created to be in favor of a much weaker, less capable, and more self-centered person. I’m not trying to hurt your feelings if you’re someone who gets drunk, but it needs to stop. This is how God is bringing me to think about alcohol. It isn’t good and like the thief, it only steals, kills, and destroys. I am ashamed that I ever let it have power over me.
But the Holy Spirit… He’s a different story. It doesn’t even feel right comparing the two, because He is infinitely greater, and I’m only doing so because the Holy Spirit Himself saw fit to direct Paul to make this comparison in the book of Ephesians. In the way that one can surrender to the influence of alcohol, the same can be done with the Holy Spirit. Yes, I’m saying you can be drunk with the presence of God.
“From the contrasting commands, ‘Be not drunk with wine wherein is excess,’ and ‘Be filled with the Spirit,’ we would be justified in concluding that the person who is filled with the Spirit will be dominated and controlled by the Holy Spirit even as a drunkard is dominated and controlled by his intoxicating wine.” -J. Oswald Sanders
It’s kind of wild to think about, but even so, it’s where I’m at… That’s not to say I’m at that point and the journey is over. I mean that I’m in a place where I want nothing more than I want God to lead me – because like I said above, He is infinitely more capable and knowledgeable than I am, and even the least of what He has for me is far better than anything I could get for myself. And I want to live the best possible life I can live. I know now that I will only find that by submitting to His will and to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, to be filled by and with the Spirit of God, just as it was meant to be from the beginning.
Questions? Drop them below.
Until next time,
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3 thoughts on “Sober from Alcohol, Empowered by the Holy Spirit”
Excellent post, Jon. The filling of the spirit is more abstract and less tangible than being filled with alcohol, but it’s just as real and infinitely more powerful. We all surrender to something in life. If that thing isn’t God, we’re always in for a rough ride, no matter how smooth the journey may appear in the beginning.
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I couldn’t agree more man. I fought against the idea of surrender for so long but when I realized I had been surrendering my will to so many things already it was suddenly easier to submit my will to the Father.
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