New International Version – Ephesians 5:1-20
3But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. 4Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. 5For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.a 6Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. 7Therefore do not be partners with them.
8For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9(for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10and find out what pleases the Lord. 11Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. 14This is why it is said:
“Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
15Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.18Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord,20always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
This sermon is called “Be Filled”. I chose this phrase because we are about to go into a time of fasting and prayer, and that always makes us think of depriving ourselves of something, being empty and hungry. It gives us a negative attitude toward fasting, because no one likes going without, especially things we like and that comfort us.
I want to make the point today that the focus of fasting is NOT depriving ourselves of things, but to be FILLED with Christ. I’m going to talk about what gets in the way of our being filled, why it gets in the way, and how to be filled while fasting.
We are going to go verse by verse through the scripture we just read to uncover the truths we need to successfully fast.
I. Our Goal for the fast – to walk in love so we and others will be filled with and become like Christ.
Let’s start at the beginning. God is love. He is not the type of love we as humans talk about, which really just means we desire and want something for ourselves – better known as and more accurately termed LUST. He is AGAPE, the type of love that is sacrificial and is willing to offer up what is most important and dear to Him so someone else will benefit from the sacrifice. Agape is the OPPOSITE of lust. Lust takes from others for itself; agape gives of itself for others.
We are to walk in love, being willing to sacrifice ourselves, our possessions, our emotions, our rights, so others will come to know Christ, not only that they may be saved, but that they may be filled with Him and grow into the image of Christ.
So the goal of every Christian, basically, is to be so filled with Christ that our actions, words and life are an expression of self-sacrificing love, which leads to others becoming like Christ. Therefore, the goal of this fast is not to break bad habits or lose weight. It is to be filled with Christ so we walk in love.
So, WHAT GETS IN OUR WAY of being Christ-like and loving as Christ does?
II. The Hindrance – Wanting things that God won’t provide in the way we want them
3But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality
Sexual immorality means indulging our sexual desires outside of the confines of God’s acceptable times and circumstances. Now I want to add something here – we need to remember, when we are tempted to judge others who have fallen into this temptation, that many of us fell into it also. Although we are to be compassionate with others caught in that and any other sin, there is no excuse for it, it is not a sin that is pardoned because of the situation, as much as we would like it to be. If we choose to continue doing it, we have to be willing to take responsibility for the fallout from staying in continual sin. It is not a worse sin than any other, but the continuation of any sin will separate us from our relationship with God.
or of any kind of impurity (lustful, profligate living; uncleanness, such as tenants of a house keeping the house in good condition),
This hits home for 2 reasons – Firstly, Ronnie and I are landlords, and you probably wouldn’t believe how people will trash a house that they don’t value.
Secondly, we are the temple of the Holy Spirit, and when we are unclean in thought, deed or word, we are trashing God’s house. When God saved us, He cleaned up our house, but just like the man who was emptied of demons in Matthew 12:43-45, since He did not FILL HIMSELF with the Lord, the demon found more demons and came back to live in and torment Him.
That should really scare you. If God releases you from strongholds and sin, but you don’t fill yourself with Him, your later state will be worse than the first state. You open yourself up to even more sins that can take over your mind.
or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. (covetousness, desire to have more, often in a wrong manner)
4Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. 5For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.a 6Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. 7Therefore do not be partners with them.
THE THEME HERE is the desire to GET something for ourselves, followed by the insistence of getting what we want in whatever manner we can, because God won’t give them to us when we ask for them.
What is wrong with sexual desires? Nothing, if it is within the bounds of a marriage covenant and according to God’s design.
What is wrong with wanting things? Nothing, if we are willing to go without them if the Lord does not provide them to us according to His will and ways.
1 Cor 6:12 – 12 “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything.
1 Cor 10:23 – 23 “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive.
III. The Results of Being Filled With Him – You live in the light, you bear fruit, and you love like God
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
How does a tree bear fruit? It stays alive, filled with the sap that brings it life. It doesn’t WORK to create fruit. Fruit is a natural development, the expected outcome of a healthy fruit tree having sap flowing through it.
Spiritual Fruit is the natural, expected outcome of Christians living in the Light of Christ, staying full of His Holy Spirit. The fruit of the spirit is nothing more than the life and actions of Jesus showing up on the outside of a person who has Jesus living inside of them, filling them up.
10and find out what pleases the Lord.
What did we say pleases the Lord in the beginning of this passage? What is the one thing God wants from all of us? To be filled with the Lord, like Him in thought, deed and action, so that others will be filled with the Lord, and become like Him in thought deed and action.
How many of us really go through the day caring whether or not the people around us become filled with and like Christ? Most of us are too wrapped up in whether or not we got what we wanted to care about whether or not God got what HE wanted – someone else filled with Christ.
11Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. 14This is why it is said:
“Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
Getting for ourselves what we want in an ungodly manner, outside of God’s parameters, leads us to fruitlessness. That means a lack of the fruit of the spirit – a lack of love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
IV. The Results of NOT being filled with Him – being a waste case, a bad steward of God’s resources, mistrustful of God, focused on satisfying our own desires.
15Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.18Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery.
Debauchery, reckless actions – unsavedness, profligacy.
Profligate – wastrel
a) a lack of prudence and care by someone in the management of resources;
God tells us that we are stewards who are to oversee and take care of whatever He has entrusted to us, including our body, our time, our possessions, others with whom we have relationships, family members, etc.
b) excess in action and immoderate indulgence of bodily appetites, especially in passion or indulgence. (basically filling ourselves by satiating our physical desires).
Therefore, by being consumed with anything, and consuming more of anything than we should, means we are not being good stewards of our bodies or our lives. We are consumed with GETTING (which is the essence of LUST), instead of GIVING, which is the essence of the definition of LOVE.
Even worse, we are WASTRELS, wasting God’s time and resources, when we focus on ourselves and what we want. Satan is excellent at focusing our attention away from God and onto ourselves and what we don’t have.
A. Satan started with it in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve.
Genesis 3: 1-6 – He (Satan) said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” 2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’” 4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it.
Satan focused Adam and Eve’s attention on the ONLY thing God would not give them, instead of all the other things that He HAS given them. Their determination to have what they wanted outside of God’s will destroyed their life. It was simply an act of faithlessness on their part toward God. Satan got them to distrust God and think that God didn’t want what was best for them, because He was withholding something they wanted. That is what Satan is always trying to get you to believe – that God is NOT for you, but against you, otherwise He would give you everything you ever want. It is a lie.
B. Satan tried it on Jesus when He was tempted in the desert.
Luke 4:1-13 – Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, 2 where for forty days he was tempted[a] by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.
3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”
4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’[b]”
Notice how Satan is tempting him to eat when God has instructed Him to fast. Eating or drinking are not wrong of themselves, but when they take you out of the will of God, they becomes wrong. So it is with other natural fleshly desires – they are not wrong until they take you out of the will of God.
5 The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6 And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. 7 If you worship me, it will all be yours.”
8 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’[c]”
Notice here how Satan tempts Jesus to choose His own destiny and live life His way instead of God’s way. Jesus acknowledged that God’s will was the only right way for His life.
9 The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. 10 For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you
to guard you carefully;
11 they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’[d]”
12 Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’[e]”
13 When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.
In the last temptation, Satan actually tries to get Jesus to commit suicide! He told Jesus to do something that God had not told Him to do, but then promised that God would rescue Him any way. If we are outside of God’s will, God does NOT promise to rescue us from the consequences of our actions.
Satan tempts us in these same ways, telling us to do things our own way, take things we want whenever we see fit, and that God will still watch over and protect us. It is ALL a lie.
V. The Solution – Be filled with the Spirit by seeking God in prayer, the Word and Obedience
Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord,20always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Notice that Jesus was FILLED with the Holy Spirit during His fast, which is why He could withstand the attacks of the enemy. How did He get filled? The same way we must.
A. We must pray in order to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
Luke 3:21 – 21 When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
There is no single word in biblical Hebrew or Greek that signifies “prayer” in general, but rather a whole series of different words with related meanings, such as praise, give thanks, confess, bless, repent, ask, plea, beg, petition, sacrifice, bow down, worship, sing psalms, etc.
The most important thing about prayer is that it is intimate communication between you and God. You express your thoughts, emotions and desires to God, but you must also be ready to listen to and obey Him when He speaks to you.
B. We must read and speak and sing the Word of God to ourselves and others.
Romans 10:17 – 17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. [Reading the Word is how Christ comes to live in our hearts by faith.]
John 6:63 – 63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit[a] and life. [Through reading and trusting in God’s Words, you are filled with the Spirit of God.]
C. We must obey God’s will for our lives.
John 17:17 – 17 Sanctify them to live in accordance with] the truth; your word is truth.
To sanctify someone or something is to set that person or thing apart for the use intended by its designer. A pen is sanctified when it is utilized by a writer. A Christian is sanctified when he or she is being obedient to act according to God’s purpose for that particular person.
Hebrews 4:12 – For the word of God [is] quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and [is] a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
Reading God’s Word helps us know God’s individual plan for each of our lives, pointing out our weaknesses and our strengths, giving us instructions on how to be closer to and more like Him, and empowering us to obey Him.
Deuteronomy 12:32 – 32 See that you do all I command you; do not add to it or take away from it.
It is very tempting to twist God’s word around so that it doesn’t apply to our situation. There is always a reason why we don’t have to obey His Word or His direct command to us. I’m tired, I’m angry, they did something to me, I didn’t deserve that… But God says to do what He commands – don’t add conditions or more rules and regulations to it, making it harder, and don’t take away from it, making it easier.
Therefore, we must be filled with prayer, God’s Word, and obedience to God’s will.
VI. How fasting helps us be filled with the Spirit – we break off the chains of self-centered thoughts and actions, and spend more time in communion with God so we can become Christ-centered and loving.
Whatever we think about will determine what we do. Whatever we obsess on, that is what we will desire. If we are focused on getting what we want when we want it however we want it, or are focused on what we don’t have and being angry or resentful about it, we will remain self-centered and selfish. It is IMPOSSIBLE for us to be filled with Christ and be obedient when we are CONSUMED with getting things our own way.
What do we do when we can’t get what we want? We self-soothe. We eat, drink, do drugs, shop, have sex, retreat into fantasy life with books and movies, obsess on hobbies or work. Or we argue and fight, like it says in James 4.
We don’t understand why God won’t give us what we want, and we stop trusting Him, and start doing things our own way. We start ignoring him, like we do with a person who has angered us. We give Him the cold shoulder. We don’t talk to Him, we don’t seek Him. We are angry that we can’t have what we want. And we also try to get what we want apart from Him.
One point of fasting is removing the things which we are using to avoid God and self-soothe, the things that get in the way between us and God. It is forcing ourselves to come face to face with the issues we are actually avoiding, because we are angry or resentful or mistrusting of God. It means stopping yourself from FILLING YOURSELF with things other than God, and focusing on BEING FILLED with God.
The other point of fasting is disciplining our body as well as our spirit. When our body is controlling our lives, when our desires and flesh determine what we do, where we go, who we hang out with, how we spend our time, we have to reign it in. We have to take it to obedience school, put it on a leash, and teach it new habits. When we are saved, we become a new creation, but we are still stuck with our old mindsets and habits. Fasting allows us to break off the old and train our body to respond to the Spirit instead of the flesh.
Ephesians 3:16-21 – 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
A. W. Tozer said, “Pentecost means that the Deity came to mankind to give Himself to man, that man might breathe Him in as he breathes in the air, that He might fill men. … “Being filled with the fullness of God is like a bottle in the ocean. You take the cork out of the bottle and sink it in the ocean, and you have the bottle completely full of ocean. The bottle is in the ocean, and the ocean is in the bottle. The ocean contains the bottle, but the bottle contains only a little bit of the ocean. So it is with the Christian.”
We are filled unto the fullness of God, but, of course, we cannot contain all of God because God contains us; but we can have all of God that we can contain. If we only knew it, we could enlarge our vessel. The vessel gets bigger as we go on with God.
So, as we move forward over the next however many weeks that God calls you to fast, focus on being FILLED with His Spirit by prayer, reading and singing the Word, and obeying Him as He speaks to you. Remove anything from your life that is not good for you or is mastering you, so you are not wasting the resources that God has given to you. Focus on giving instead of getting, and as you remove the unnecessary, disobedient and unhelpful things in your life, pray this:
“Enlarge my vessel, Lord, and fill me with more and more of the fullness of God. Amen.”