Filled with the Spirit: Sanctification, Assurance and the OMG Life
August 25, 2019
Praise be to our Lord Jesus Christ. We spent several Sundays on this portion of Ephesians - on what it means to be filled with the Spirit. And, in my humble opinion, it has been a good time.
We looked at the sadness and seriousness of getting drunk on wine, and how it is quite contrary to being filled with the Spirit. We were challenged to talk more about Jesus with one another. We were invited to sing and make melody to the Lord, who first sang and made melody to us. We were reminded of how special it is to give thanks to God about Jesus, and how special it is that Jesus gave thanks to God about us. We were called to submit to one another… our of reverence for Christ.
This is a picture of a life that is filled with the Spirit.
But now yet me ask you something. If you take a step back and zoom out and see this picture in its entirely, what impression do you get from it? What comes to your mind when you think about this kind of life that is filled with the Spirit?
I hope that the following two things come to mind.
First, notice how plain and ordinary this picture is. Talking about Jesus? Nothing supernatural about that. Singing to Jesus in worship? Pretty basic stuff. Being thankful? Quite vanilla I must say. Submitting to one another? Not very glamorous. These things seem plain and ordinary, unflashy and unassuming, humble and mundane.
But don’t be fooled by this picture. For this is the true picture of a life that is truly filled with the Spirit. Please do not dismiss or disregard God’s word here. God is glorified when we talk to others about Jesus. Christ is pleased when we sing to him in worship. God is honored when we are thankful to him. Christ is exalted when we submit to one another out of reverence for him.
It is worth noting here that this picture perfectly matches the means, the tools, so to speak, that the Holy Spirit uses to do his work. He works through the written word that is the Bible. He uses the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. We like to call these things the ordinary means of grace. Ordinary - O. Means - M. Grace - G. This is the OMG life.
Do you know anyone who talks quite a bit about Jesus with others? Do you know someone who just likes to sing to Jesus in worship? Do you know anyone who doesn’t complain or struggle with bitterness or discontentment? Do you know someone who doesn’t have an issue with authority or pride? If so, then you are looking at a person who is filled with the Spirit. If so, then you are looking at an OMG person who is growing slowly but surely through the means of grace, through the ministry of God’s word and God’s sacraments.
Here is the second thing that I hope comes to mind if you take a step back and zoom out and see this picture in its entirely - this picture of a life that is filled with the Spirit.
Second, notice how Christ-centered this picture is. Remember the covenant of redemption and the role of the Holy Spirit for our salvation. The main work of the Holy Spirit is this: he bears witness to the Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and he glorifies our King (John 15:26; 16:14).
So being filled with the Spirit actually does not mean that he is the content of the filling. The Holy Spirit is actually not filling you up with himself (besides, you already have him since he dwells in you).
And the reason why he is not filling you up with himself is because he is not the point. Rather, the Holy Spirit is filling you up with all things Christ. Because Jesus is the point.
The Holy Spirit bears witness to him. The Holy Spirit glorifies him. The Holy Spirit is filling you richly with the written word (Colossians 3:16) filling you richly with the Living Word, with the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:13). The Holy Spirit is reminding you about who Jesus is and what he has done for you, and all so that you would grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ. And so all in all, the Holy Spirit does not glorify himself. He does not bring attention to himself.
This is a wonderful mystery. The three persons of the one Triune God are equal in power and in glory. And yet the life that is filled with the Spirit is a life that is centered on Christ. Thus, I am not a S. I am not an S-P. I am not an S-P-I-R-I-T-I-A-N. Because we are not called Spiritians in the Bible. We are called Christians.
This is a picture of a life that is filled with the Spirit.
Let me ask you something else. If you take a step back and zoom out and see this picture in its entirely, do you doubt yourself? Do you feel discouraged that your life does not look like this kind of life that is filled with the Spirit?
If so, I hope that the following two things come to mind.
First, do not ultimately base your assurance of salvation on this picture. When we read this portion of Ephesians, we might feel like we fall way short of a life that is filled with the Spirit. Let’s be honest here. We know that we do not talk about Jesus as much as we ought to. We know that we are not good at singing to the Lord with our hearts. We know that we are not as thankful as we should be. We know that we struggle to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
As a result of this introspective analysis and self-evaluation, believers can conclude with the interpretation that they are not doing well spiritually and therefore become anxious about themselves. This might lead believers into a tailspin, a downward spiral of doubt and discouragement - and perhaps even deep despair.
Now, it is valid for us to be assured of our salvation when we have lives that are filled with the Spirit. But it is not valid for us to base our assurance of salvation ultimately on how we are doing spiritually. And the reason why is because how you are doing spiritually is always changing. Your sanctification in this life is never complete. There are moments in life when you are talking about Jesus with others. And then there are moments in life when you are not. There are moments in life when you are thankful to God and submissive to others. And then there are moments in life when you are not. You still sin as you strive to be holy. You are in the process of taking off the old and putting on the new. This is the real Christian life. There are real ups and there are real downs. So if you base your assurance of salvation on all of this, then you are in for a pretty crazy rollercoaster ride. Sometimes you will be certain about your salvation. And other times you will not be certain about your salvation. And then sin can make the rolleroaster ride even worse. Sometimes you will be certain about your salvation and then you might become prideful, self-righteous, and compare yourself favorably against others. And other times you will not be certain about your salvation and then you might fall into crippling doubt and discouragement and withdraw from others.
Brothers and sisters, do not based your assurance of salvation ultimately on how you do spiritually - on how well you live a life that is filled with the Spirit. Do not base it on what the Spirit is doing TO you or IN you. Instead, base it on what the Son has already done FOR you. Base your assurance of salvation ultimately on the obedience and righteousness of Jesus Christ. His obedience and righteousness is a finished work that doesn’t change. It’s an objective work. There’s nothing rollercoastery about it. Our assurance is first based on the promises of God’s word, promises that are consistently ministered to us in the preaching of the word and the administration of the sacraments. This is the OMG church at its best.
So please do not ultimately feel safe and secure because you think you are a thankful or submissive person. Please do not ultimately feel safe and secure because you talk enough about Jesus and do a decent job of singing with your heart on Sundays. Please do not ultimately feel safe and secure because of your own analysis or evaluation or interpretation of yourself.
Instead, may you ultimately feel safe and secure because of Jesus’ life and death and resurrection for you. Instead, may you ultimately feel safe and secure because you know what God says and thinks about you - because of his analysis and evaluation and interpretation of you.
Here is the second thing that I hope you remember if you ever doubt yourself or feel discouraged that your life does not look like a kind of life that is filled with the Spirit.
Second, remember that sanctification is a gift of God’s grace. It is true that today’s text, Ephesians 5:18-21, is a command. We are to be filled with the Spirit. But what is interesting about this command is that it is a passive command. We don’t technically do the filling. The Holy Spirit technically does the filling.
This means that sanctification is a gift. Just like God’s forgiveness, God’s eternal life and God’s love. Therefore, brothers and sisters, this is such good news for us. You WILL not get drunk on wine. You WILL talk about Jesus with others. You WILL sing to the Lord with your heart. You WILL be thankful and submissive toward others. You WILL be filled with the Spirit. And the reason why is because sanctification is a gift and no one can stop the work of the Spirit. This is so wonderful and encouraging. We don’t deserve any of this. We don’t deserve to receive this life. But the Holy Spirit is pleased to fill us with all things Christ.
Thus, praise God, from whom all blessings flow! Praise Him, all creatures here below! Praise Him above, ye heav’nly host! Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost!
Brothers and sisters, as we wait for the return of Christ our King, let us be filled with the Spirit. And let us remember that one day, sanctification will be complete and the OMG life will be obsolete. Come, Lord Jesus! Come soon!