Dallas Willard once wrote, “The main thing God gets out of your life is not the achievements you accomplish. It’s the person you become.”
I was reminded of that quote during Sunday’s sermon on the Spirit-Filled life, drawing on Ephesians 5:15-20. It begins with a warning “Be very careful, then, how you live…” It’s easy to live on auto-pilot, constructing our emotional state from the moods of those around us; taking our cues for outrage from news and social media, battered by the daily frustrations and disappointments we face. We have a default toward inattention and imitation which makes living carefully hard. We tend to uncritically match whatever is happening around us, which is especially dangerous during such a dramatic season. You may feel like you’ve regressed in your life, which can feel discouraging and shameful.
Life is hard and mostly out of our control, meaning, we all face lots of pain and disappointment along the way. When we get our knees scraped up, we react reflexively. One of our strongest reflexes is to self-medicate – to treat our pain rather than dealing with the problems themselves. Paul warns the Ephesians against being “drunk on wine,” but being dangerously “under the influence” also comes from being “drunk on news,” “drunk on Netflix,” or “drunk on charcuterie boards” (I may be guilty of a few of these at different points over the past couple months).
Paul gives us the warning to live carefully and wisely because we need the reminder. It takes work to not live reckless and foolish lives. Paul connects wisdom with understanding what God wants and participating in that with God. The careful life is not a life of handwringing but is a life of decisive commitment to the most good, beautiful, and true parts of life. But it’s not a life of self-improvement. Growth comes from our connection to God; we become more like him as we are continually filled with the Holy Spirit. Being filled with the Spirit offers a better alternative to the self-medicated life. Paul describes this life as being full of gratitude from the heart and deep connection with God and those around us.
In short, the Spirit-filled life is the good life we want but will never find on our own.
Some next steps for this week:
Watch out for ways you are tempted to run away from pain in your life
Reflect on this question – “Who will I become if I continue the way I’m going?”
Ask God, “What do you want for me in this season of my life?”
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