Filled with the Spirit — Part One
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Filled with the Spirit — Part One

Ephesians 5:18–19  (ID: 3262)

Christians should be characterized by wise living because we have been made completely new in Christ. The world we live in, however, is marked by rebellion against God and disobedience to His law. In this exposition of Ephesians 5:18, Alistair Begg contrasts the wantonness caused by drunkenness with the fruitful life produced by the Spirit of God. Abuse of the good gifts that God provides leads to diminished self-control, but life in the Spirit frees the Christian to enjoy genuine joy, peace, contentment, and freedom.

Series Containing This Sermon

A Study in Ephesians, Volume 8

Love, Light, Wisdom Ephesians 5:1–20 Series ID: 14908

Sermon Transcript: Print

I invite you to turn with me to Colossians chapter 3. And we’re going to read the first sixteen or seventeen verses of Colossians 3, which provides us, at least in part, something of a parallel passage to our verses today in Ephesians 5. So, Colossians 3:1:

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

“Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”


Lord, this is the great longing of our hearts as we turn to the Bible: that our lives, individually and collectively, may be the very place where you come to live by the Holy Spirit. So help us as we look to the Bible now. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Well, I encourage you to turn to Ephesians and to chapter 5. As we pick up our studies there, perhaps it’d be helpful for us just to read from verse 15 through to 21. Paul writes,

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Well, here we are in chapter 5 and moving on towards the end of the book. All of our studies have flowed from essentially the beginning of chapter 4, most recently, where Paul has urged those who are in Christ to make sure that they are walking, or conducting their lives, in a manner that is worthy of the fact that they belong to Jesus. He’s writing to those who are in Christ, who have heard the word of the gospel, who have believed, who have been sealed with the Holy Spirit.[1] And now he says to them, “I want you to make sure that your life and your lifestyle bears testimony to this truth.”

And we’ve tried to say very carefully and consistently all the way through the second half of his letter that the imperatives—all the calls to action to do or to cease from doing—are grounded in the indicatives—in other words, in the things that are true of the believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. He’s not issuing a kind of ethical treatise urging people to try and fix themselves, to try and become something they’re not, but rather, as we’ve tried to say consistently, he wants them to become what they are.

And classically, actually, if you turn back a page or two in your Bible, this comes across so strikingly in 2:4, where, having outlined the state of humanity outside of Christ, he then says, “However, although you were once like this, but now God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,” he says, “even though we were dead men and women, by his grace we’ve been saved.”[2] And triumphantly, there in verse 6: “And he’s raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,” not so that we would just be living in some rarified and obscure atmosphere but “so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace and kindness towards us in Christ Jesus.”[3] A wonderful, terrific picture.

And when we studied that some months ago now, I remember I quoted to you from an old musical by Jimmy and Carol Owens that was around, certainly in the early ’70s, in the United Kingdom, and these words: “You are the children of the kingdom of God.” Here’s our identity in Christ:

You are the children of the kingdom of God,
You’re the chosen ones for whom the Savior came.
You’re his noble new creation by the Spirit and the blood,
You’re the church that he has built to bear his name![4]

And then:

Keep looking down, we’re seated in the heavenlies;
God’s mighty power has raised us over all!
Keep looking down, above all principalities,
For we have died and risen with the Lord![5]

So, it is by virtue of our union with Christ, our identity in Christ. And some of you this morning, hearing me using this phraseology, may find yourselves just scratching your head and saying, “I’m not sure I understand exactly what you mean.” Well, the rest of the congregation would not be happy if I go all the way back to chapter 1 and start again. But I do want to tell you that if you have questions along these lines, we want to give you a Bible to take; we want to offer the chance to pray with you or talk with you so that the message might come across very clearly: Jesus Christ is great, and Jesus Christ is the one who gives us a new heart and makes us new people. And we would love the opportunity to talk that through with you.

Now, it is to such individuals that Paul is writing. And in verse 15, here, of chapter 5, he has given them this exhortation. “Steady as you go,” we might paraphrase it. “Look carefully then how you walk.” He’s been emphasizing this again and again, the walking of the Christian, peripatéō. It’s an expression, it’s a metaphor: our way of life. So, “You should walk in a way that is worthy of your calling.”[6] He comes back to it on various occasions, and now, again, “Be careful in the way you walk.” And then he gives us these three contrasts: “Do not be foolish, but instead, be wise. Don’t waste your time, but instead, make good use of your time.” And now, in verse 18, “And do[n’t] get drunk …, but be filled with the Spirit.”

Incidentally and in passing, for those of us who are tempted to keep telling people, you know, “The Christian life is not about dos and don’ts”—you have to be very, very careful about what we’re saying when we say that. Because the Christian life has a tremendous amount about dos and don’ts. It’s not that the dos and the don’ts are up front, in order that we might find ourselves accepted with God on the strength of that, but that once we are in Christ, in order for us to manifest the change that is ours in Christ, it has to do with making sure that we do what we’re supposed to do and that we refrain from doing what we’re tempted to do: tempted to be foolish instead of wise, tempted just to waste our time. But the Christian employer and employee, they don’t waste their time. They realize that time is a gift. They don’t trivialize the passage of time; they seize it, and in the same way as we consider now in this matter of the influence on our lives.

Now, there is a little phrase there that I want to pause on, because I didn’t when we looked at verse 16. But I want just for a moment to recognize what Paul is saying there when he says, “The days are evil.” “The days are evil.” It’s a quite striking statement, I think you would agree. And what Paul is not saying is that these are peculiarly evil days in Ephesus. They may well have been. But it is a comment on the fact that the world in which we live is a world in which evil is present—that the world in which we live is a fallen world.

And the reason I want to pause on it is because I’ve noted—and perhaps you would have identified this too—that the word “evil” or the notion of evil is seldom a part of people’s vocabulary in our day. I think we could see, certainly in Western culture at this point in history, and definitely here in America, almost a fixed desire to make sure that we move ourselves away from any notion of evil or badness or wrongness at all.

Now, you can test this out by just thinking and by considering the literature and the statements that are made in the media. I wonder if you agree with me that moral categories—moral categories, right/wrong categories—have been replaced largely in our culture with psychological categories, so that the problem with the child in kindergarten or the student in the halls of the university will not, then, be determined in relationship to right and wrong as much as it will be determined in relationship to, for example, “Were they somehow or another misguided? Were they unfortunate? Were they victimized? Were they all of these different things?”—which they may well have been—as if somehow or another these symptoms are actually the issue. But if you think about our culture as it endeavors to address these things all symptomatically without any awareness of the underlying condition, then it’s virtually programmed for futility.

Since the fall, men and women by nature defy God’s authority, disobey God’s law, reject God’s Word, and refuse God’s Son.

So, for example, you go to the average parent-teacher conference, and the teacher is explaining to you about your children, and, “She seems to be a little bit this way, and a little bit that way, and a little rambunctious,” and this and that and the next thing.

And you just cut through it and you say, “Yes, I understand. She’s bad.”

“Oh no,” says the teacher, “she’s not bad. No, no, no. She’s not bad.”

“Oh no, she’s worse than bad. She’s evil.”

“Oh no, you can’t say ‘evil.’ We can’t have this in the school, any conversation like this at all. No!”

But that’s what the Bible actually says, you see.

Now, people say, “Well, this is a dreadful thing for the Bible to say.” No. Follow with me. Follow with me. You see, unless there is a proper diagnosis, then there is no possibility of cure. So, symptomatically, we’re trying to deal with the fact that everything is messed up.

Now, what the Bible says is that we live in a fallen world, so that “the days are evil”—all the days are evil. They weren’t evil in the garden, before Adam sinned. There was perfection. There was no contradistinction to God there at all. Perfection. The world we know it today is not the world as God made it but is the world as man by sin has spoiled it. And as a result of that, since the fall, men and women by nature defy God’s authority, disobey God’s law, reject God’s Word, and refuse God’s Son.

You’re sensible people. Think it out! People say, “Well, I’m not going to obey the law of God and what it has to say about marriage,” for example. “I don’t have to submit to that kind of authority. I’m on my own authority. And what are you talking about about that Bible of yours? There are many possible ways to think about God and his revelation and so on. I reject the notion of an authoritative and sufficient Word of God. And I at the same time, I’m prepared to give some credence to Jesus of Nazareth, but I refuse to accept him as a Savior and a Lord and as a King.”

Man, consequently, is hard-pressed to explain why we are as we are. Man qua man recognizes that our world is dark, it is broken, and it is full of hatreds. You say, “Well, it’s a beautiful world, and it’s Thanksgiving. Why do we have to be so gloomy?” I agree with all of that. Into all of the brightness and gladness and joyfulness of it all—the achievements and the advancements and the programs and the progress—the fact of the matter is that in the heart of man there is a deep, deep shadow; there is a deep darkness that shines into or overshadows even our greatest achievements. And man has great difficulty in trying to make sense of it.

War in our world is simply the expression of the war in our hearts. We have the capacity to be jealous of one another, to be spiteful, to be hateful. No one ever taught us this. We never went to a course—I’m sure you never went to a course—on how to be an absolute pest: “Chapter 1: Being a Complete Royal Nuisance in Your Family.” No, you’re a natural at it! And if you’re not, my wife says I am! It is just there. It is endemic in us. And so, when nations go to war, nations are the collective expression of individuals. So why would you be surprised that nations fight nations, since husbands fight wives, since parents fight children, since employers fight employees, since the brokenness is there?

I came across an interesting quote, as I was thinking along these lines this week, by the fellow who was the founder of Twitter, Ev Williams. Because one of the things about social media in the last quarter of a century or so has been, with the expansiveness of it all, a kind of optimism that this is probably gonna really fix a lot of things for us—the fact that we can all communicate like this, we can all be in touch with one another. And there is tremendous joy in that, isn’t there? I mean, who would ever have thought that you could FaceTime across the world with your friends and your loved ones? It’s fantastic! But this is Ev Williams: “I thought once everybody could speak freely and exchange information and ideas, the world is automatically going to be a better place. I was wrong about that.”[7] “I was wrong about that.” Because what do we know? We know that all of the benefits that are represented in this are counterbalanced by all of the other stuff, which is dark and undermining and broken and hateful and evil.

You see, the only way that we’ll ever get to this is from our Bibles. And that’s why when we’ve gone through Ephesians and we’ve had to wrestle with these statements by Paul—“You were dead, you were sinful, you were accountable” and so on—it comes across with just arresting, chilling engagement, doesn’t it? And we go back to Paul as he writes his great treatise in Romans chapter 1 and how he explains there—and we’ve said it again and again—that the fact that although God has made himself known in his world, that man, men and women, have chosen to disregard that. They knew God. They didn’t honor him as God. They didn’t give thanks to him. “They became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” “Darkened.” And claiming to be really wise, they became fools, and they exchanged the glory of an immortal God for things that creep and crawl and fly.[8]

So, in other words, they said, “Well, we’re not going to have a God to whom we are accountable and who created the universe and sustains it by the word of his power.[9] If we’re going to have any kind of god, we’ll have a little god—a little god that will answer our questions and deal with our dilemmas and fulfill the obligations that we present to them.” That’s no god at all. That’s an idol. And the implications of it, he says: “Since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.”[10] How did that work out?

They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice … full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to [their] parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but [they] give approval to those who practice them.[11]

It’s a devastating critique of life without God, isn’t it?

And the word of God through the prophet Jeremiah, in brevity, is straightforward: “The heart” of a man or a woman “is deceitful above all things.”[12] “Deceitful.” So, we tell lies to ourselves about ourselves. We tell lies about the real predicament of our world—about our marriage, about our home, about our addictions, about our conjectures.

First, I need to recognize what the predicament is: I live in an evil world. Why? Because I myself am evil.

And so, what possible hope is there? Well, God speaks through the prophet Jeremiah and says, “The heart is deceitful above all things,” and through the prophet Ezekiel, and he says, “And I will give you a new heart.”[13] “I will give you a new heart.” You see, here’s what’s needed, isn’t it? And here we are at the center of heart surgery in the entire United States. Tomorrow, as every day, there will be those who are the beneficiaries of the transforming power of heart surgery. They will go in breathless and impoverished, and in the goodness of God, they will come out breathing and enriched. It’s not enough to give them a little cream, not enough to give them a little tune. They need a new heart. And that’s what the Bible says.

So, you see, the bad news is more than impacted by the good news. First, I need to recognize what the predicament is: I live in an evil world. Why? Because I myself am evil. Even on my best days, that’s who I am. “Well, what possibility is there for me? I’ve tried this and I’ve tried that, and I tried to fix a number of things in my life, but I’ve really taken one step forward and two steps back. What did you say? That he’ll give you a new heart? You get a heart transplant?” Yes! That’s the gospel. That’s why Nicodemus was stunned by it when Jesus said to him, “You know, I want to tell you, Nicodemus: unless you’re born again, you will never see or enter the kingdom of heaven.”[14] The word that is used there is for regeneration: “in order that you might be reborn.” That’s what it takes. And only in the gospel is it provided.

So, I’ve paused on this purposefully. I reckon that some will want to interact with it as you follow it up. But let’s be very clear: in light of this, the reason Jesus came wasn’t to show us how to live. He didn’t come as an example. Jesus did not come and offer himself as your life coach. Jesus came to bear our sin in his body on the cross in order that we, then, might die to sin in Christ and live unto righteousness.[15] In other words, that in discovering that Jesus took the penalty that I deserve, bore the punishment which is mine to face, and grants to me all the benefits of his perfect life and his sufficient atonement, then the word comes: “So be careful how you walk. Don’t waste your time; use your time. Don’t be foolish; be wise.” And now, “Don’t get drunk; be filled with the Spirit.”

You see, here’s one of the classic illustrations of folly. Folly! Drunkenness. And he highlights it. He points it out to them.

Now, when you think about it, this is not a hard thing to understand. The context of Ephesus was such that not only was the skyline dominated by the Temple of Artemis, the goddess of love, but it was also engaged with frequency in festivals related to Bacchus, who was the god of wine. And so the Ephesians were very familiar with these occasions when one of the expressions of what it meant to be engaged in this wonderful festival was to get completely blasted, to be completely intoxicated. And so the context of Ephesus would have been that many of these people, before they had found a new life in Jesus, were all part and parcel of that. They were the ones who were intoxicated, running through the fields and the vineyards and just enjoying themselves immensely and yet falling over in a dead heap.

And so Paul is writing to people for whom this is not sort of arms-length theology. Some of them, that was probably a big part of their life, and so he issues a warning. He says, “You know, that was the old stuff. You don’t want to start that again.” And then for others for whom that had never been a part of things but who had now discovered that they had a freedom in the Lord Jesus Christ, some of them might then be tempted to take that freedom and to abuse it to the point where they actually fall foul of enjoying the things that God has provided for them.

In other words, that some needed to hear the exhortation of Paul which he gives in 1 Corinthians [10], where he’s talking about how “‘all things are lawful,’ but not all things are [beneficial].”[16] And in light of that, he says, “Here’s my general rule of thumb: I will not be mastered by anything other than my Lord and Master Jesus Christ. So, I’m not going to allow anything to take control over my life.” And one of the areas where there is a peculiar potential for doing so—which is why Paul addresses it here—is in the realm of alcohol.

Now, you see, what Paul is doing is, he’s not giving a sermon here on temperance, as it were. He’s continuing his pattern: “Don’t be foolish; be wise. Don’t waste your time; make good use of your time. Don’t get drunk; be filled with the Spirit.” So his emphasis is actually on life in the Spirit. It’s positive. The negative sets up the positive. And what he’s going to show is that when life is lived in the Spirit, it makes an impact on what it means to be a husband and a wife, in marriage. It impacts the nature of home life, in terms of parents and children, if you just follow the text. It will have an implication on employers and employees, which is down there in the beginning of chapter 6. And it has an impact on how the church then lives in a world in which the Evil One opposes it.

So, make sure that you have that clearly in your mind. He introduces the importance of life in the Spirit in this way because of comparison and contrast. You remember those essays at school where you turned the paper over and it said, “Compare and contrast.” And oh, I can still feel the chills on my back! But “Compare and contrast the leadership style of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan.” And you have to make two columns (the compare column, the contrast column), ’cause if you start thinking you’re on compare and you’ve moved already to contrast, it’s a dilemma. I mean, because the time is going, and… Anyway, that’s fine. I don’t have to share all my fears publicly with everybody, and I don’t have to do any of them anymore.

But I’ve thought about it now, because the comparison is fairly superficial, and the contrast is radical. The comparison is straightforward: when you’re drunk, you’re under the influence of alcohol. When you’re filled with the Spirit, you’re under the influence of God’s Spirit. In that sense, it is comparable. But really, that’s where the comparison stops. Because the contrast is far more significant. Because in drunkenness, the issue is a loss of control, whereas in being filled with the Spirit, the issue is being brought under control and living under the control of God’s Spirit.

Now, the word that is used here for drunkenness—and it is drunkenness that he’s addressing—is a word that is also used to depict what happened in this time frame in the curing of the skins of animals for the creation of product. And they would often take the skin and they would soak it. They would soak it in creams or in substances in order to be able to expand it, in order to make it supple, in order to make it pliable. So that word there is… They plunged it in there, and it was immersed in there, and it was soaked in there. That’s the word here. He’s not talking about somebody who is having a glass of wine at their Aunt Mary’s graduation party or something. He says, “Do not get soaked in this stuff.” If we want to put it in common parlance, he would have said, if he’d been around today, with his street cred, “Don’t get sauced.” “Don’t get sauced.” That’s what he’s saying: “Do not get sauced.” To be sauced—and I looked it up—is to experience an altered state of mind that occurs after drinking exorbitant amounts of alcohol. That’s what he’s saying. All right?

Because remember, there is a wonderful balance in Scripture—and this is not the subject matter for today—but there is a wonderful balance of Scripture, even in Proverbs itself, where it is clear that wine is the staple drink, if you like, that is described in the Bible: grain and wine and so on.[17] It’s the principal drink. It’s regarded as being among some of God’s good gifts. It’s regarded as a natural part of food and drink; that’s how it’s addressed in Scripture. It is acknowledged, too, that it has the ability, in measure, to “gladden the heart.”[18] But then it makes it perfectly clear that it does not provide what is often suggested—namely, enjoyment and contentment and happiness.

Paul recognizes that it has a medicinal value, remember? When he says to Timothy, “Take a little wine for your stomach’s sake”?[19] I’ve heard some people believe that that was to be applied externally—that Paul was talking about “Rub it on your tummy,” which is an interesting approach to biblical exegesis. But nevertheless, the balance is there. And in the same section of Proverbs you have the warning that accompanies it.

You see, remember Screwtape Letters? Remember in Screwtape Letters, the devil says to his nephew, Wormwood, says, “What we want to try and do is get our enemies”—that is, the followers of Jesus—“what we’re gonna try and do is get our enemies to take good things that God has given them at the wrong time, with the wrong people, in the wrong quantity. And if we can do that, then we really manage to make some significant headway.”[20] So, for example, the gift of food may become the occasion of gluttony. The gift of sex may become the occasion of fornication. The gift of wine may become the occasion of debauchery. Don’t be naive: “The days are evil.” Do you see what he’s saying?

Now, listen to this in Proverbs. Here’s Solomon, and he’s saying to his son, saying, “Now, look, you should really listen to what your folks are telling you.”[21] And he says,

Who has woe? Who has sorrow?
Who has strife? Who has complaining?
Who has wounds without cause?
Who has redness of eyes?
Those who tarry long over wine;
those who go to try mixed wine.
Do[n’t] look at wine when it[’s] red,
when it sparkles in the cup
and goes down smoothly.
[Because] in the end it bites like a serpent
[it] stings like an adder.
Your eyes will see strange things,
and your heart utter perverse things.
You will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea,
like one who lies on the top of a mast.
“They struck me,” you will say, “but I was[n’t] hurt;
they beat me, but I did[n’t] feel it.
When shall I awake?
I must have another drink.”[22]

And what Paul is saying to the believers in Ephesus is, “Look, the culture in which you live is this kind of culture. Therefore, if you are going to shine as lights in a dark place, if you’re going to be shining examples amidst a crooked and a perverse generation,[23] then don’t do this. Just don’t do this.”

The Bible is here in order to guard us and to guide us and to keep us—not to restrict us but to show us where true joy is found, where true happiness is found, where genuine singing is to be found.

Because, you see, alcohol is ultimately a depressant. It’s offered on the advertising to us as a stimulant. It may free you up a little bit at the party—you talk to your boss or whatever it might be—but at the end, pharmacologically, it is a depressant. It depresses the higher centers of the brain. And that is why the cop says, “Can you walk?” And you say, “Yeah, of course I can walk, yeah.” Yeah, but you can’t walk straight. Why can’t you walk straight? Because of what it has done to your brain. It has affected the realm of self-control, of judgment, of understanding, of balance, of speech, and the power to discriminate in what I’m saying or in what I’m doing. And, says Paul, the reason it’s so significant is because it leads to “wantonness,”[24] or it leads to “excess,”[25] or it leads to “debauchery.”

Again, you don’t have to be a genius on this. Just read the newspaper. Face things. Listen to what the Bible has to say. The Bible is here in order to guard us and to guide us and to keep us—not to restrict us but to show us where true joy is found, where true happiness is found, where genuine singing is to be found. We come back tonight, all being well, and we deal with the whole singing aspect of it. One of the things about the Bacchus festivals was all the singing. The people got intoxicated, and then they sang. And as I told you before, when you go on the rugby bus and they’ve had a few beers after the rugby match, the songs get filthier the more the beer takes hold. Why? Because it has depressed the sensibilities of the brain. And the teacher, who hasn’t been doing any, stands up and says, “Boys, I think that’s quite enough.” And a few answers will come from the back, and they won’t be anything that they’re proud of either, because of what happens.

By contrast… Incidentally, the word here, asōtía, for “excess” or for “debauchery” is also the word that is used as an adjective in the story of the prodigal son in Luke chapter 15, where it says that he “wasted,” or squandered, “his substance with riotous living.”[26] “Riotous living.” So, he was completely overwhelmed by it.

Now, in direct contrast to that, the believer is to be “filled with the Spirit,” so that in heart and in mind and in will it is brought under the control and direction of God.

Now, unfortunately, as in the first service, I have utilized all of my time. And I feel bad about it, but it’s too late now to feel bad about it, and so I will pick it up here this evening, and we’ll come to the positive side of things.

Do not go out the door and say, “The talk this morning was about how if you don’t get drunk, you can go to heaven.” The Bible is saying this to those who are in Christ: “You were once this way, but you’re not that way anymore. Therefore, live in the power of the Holy Spirit by the enabling of the grace of God. Bring your mind under the jurisdiction of its truth, settle your heart in the fullness of his provision, and bring your will underneath the authority of God’s plan and purpose.” And that, then, allows the Christian to speak to a generation not in terms of dos and don’ts but to be able to say, “I once was this way, and I’m tempted still to be this way, but you know, I have in Jesus a wonderful Savior.”

Because some of you have a peculiar background in this, and this is difficult for you, isn’t it? And not everybody who has wrestled with this has had a instantaneous transformation. Some of my best friends in Scotland who wrestle with alcohol in their lives, they would be going along steadily for a while, and then bam! Then I wouldn’t hear from them for a week or two weeks. Guy would go out for lunch, go to a business lunch, and he’d never come home. Ten days later he’d be found somewhere in the south of England. After lunch, he’d got on a train, and he’d gone somewhere. He didn’t know where he was, and when he got off, he didn’t care. He was like a man trying to sleep “on the top of a mast.”

Some of these things, although in Christ we are removed from the dominion of sin instantaneously, once and for all, we are not removed from the presence of sin. And we are not removed, either, from the promptings and the urgings that want to take us back to where we once were. And that, incidentally, loved ones, is why we’re supposed to exhort and care for one another and watch out for one another. And we’ll come back to more of that later on.

Father, thank you that your Word is sufficient for us. It just covers everything. It shows us what we really are without you. It tells us of the wonder of what you’ve done in Jesus. It speaks with such clarity to the challenges and privileges of living the Christian life. And so we pray that you will so come and invade our hearts and transform our minds and subjugate our wills that we might be on the receiving end of this exhortation with great joy, and that when we come to sing, that we might sing out of the fullness of your love for us and to us in Jesus. We want to say together and as individuals, “Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord, to thee.”[27] “Take my heart, take my mind, my will.” We pray in Christ’s name. Amen.

[1] See Ephesians 1:13.

[2] Ephesians 2:4–5 (paraphrased).

[3] Ephesians 2:6–7 (paraphrased).

[4] Jimmy Owens and Carol Owens, “Children of the Kingdom” (1974).

[5] Owens and Owens, “Keep Looking Down” (1974).

[6] Ephesians 4:1 (paraphrased).

[7] Evan Williams, quoted in David Streitfeld, “‘The Internet Is Broken’: @ev Is Trying to Salvage It,” New York Times, May 20, 2017,

[8] See Romans 1:18–23.

[9] See Hebrews 1:2–3.

[10] Romans 1:28 (ESV).

[11] Romans 1:29–32 (ESV).

[12] Jeremiah 17:9 (ESV).

[13] Ezekiel 36:26 (ESV).

[14] John 3:3 (paraphrased).

[15] See 1 Peter 2:24.

[16] 1 Corinthians 10:23 (ESV).

[17] See Proverbs 3:10.

[18] Psalm 104:15 (ESV).

[19] 1 Timothy 5:23 (paraphrased).

[20] C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (1942), chap. 9. Paraphrased.

[21] Proverbs 23:22 (paraphrased).

[22] Proverbs 23:29–35 (ESV).

[23] See Philippians 2:15.

[24] Romans 13:13 (KJV).

[25] Ephesians 5:18 (KJV).

[26] Luke 15:13 (KJV).

[27] Frances Ridley Havergal, “Take My Life and Let It Be” (1874).

Copyright © 2024, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.