Joshua, the courageous commander of Israel, was filled with the Spirit (Deuteronomy 34:9). The powerful prophet Micah was filled with the Spirit (Micah 3:8). John the Baptist—and both of his parents—were filled with the Spirit (Luke 1:15,41,67). The disciples who spoke in different languages on Pentecost were filled with the Spirit (Acts 2:4).
The crowds who heard these disciples speaking in unfamiliar languages accused them of drunken gibberish. Peter refuted quickly and clearly,“These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning” (Acts 2:15)!
To be filled with the Spirit is to be under the influence of God the Holy Spirit, the third person of the divine Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). To be intoxicated with the Holy Spirit so that your impulses, decisions and actions are not totally under your own control anymore.
Get the picture of comparison? The Bible drives it home further, “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18).
“Debauchery” means “wild or uncontrolled living.” Alcohol, which is a depressant, deadens part of the rational brain. It loosens a person’s grasp on realities like common sense, or even fearful circumstances or pain. Basically, the happiness (and the foolishness) a person experiences when they are drunk comes because they are less aware of reality.
The Holy Spirit, however, makes us more aware of reality. The Holy Spirit tightens our grip on what is really true. The happiness (and the “foolishness”) we experience when we are filled with the Spirit is because we are not in control.
The truth is in control. God’s character and his promises are true, but more than true. The become very real to us. “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” (Romans 8:16).
NOTE:I don’t believe drinking alcohol is wrong or a sin. I don’t believe that anyone who drinks alcohol is a drunk or unfaithful to God. Jesus created wine for a wedding reception. But I do believe that alcohol has power in multiple ways, over time, to control anyone. Even Christians. Even those who aren’t clinically addicted.
There is a greater power than alcohol, however, and when that power is being filled with the Spirit, then the need for alcohol will be replaced with the need for the Spirit.
Being filled with the realities of God’s grace, of joyful confidence, of peaceful forgiveness, of strength to say no, and all the other “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22) becomes more important than a drink. When that is real and true and consistent in your life, you can drink responsibly. Be thoughtful, prayer-ful, and careful about those choices. The Spirit is willing and able to help.
PRAYER: Holy Spirit, God and Lord, fill me up with the realities of your grace, power, forgiveness and peace. Whatever threatens these in my life, take away for the good of my soul. Amen.
FURTHER MEDITATION: I recently heard Christian pastor, author and speaker Max Lucado talk about being filled with the Spirit. He compared it to a hand fitting into a glove. The glove takes the shape of the hand, the hand does not take the shape of the glove. So, the Holy Spirit is the hand and you are the glove. Meditate on this. Ask some reflective questions, such as, “What kind of glove do I picture? Where do I need to let the Spirit shape me? How am I trying to be the hand instead of the glove?” Read Galatians 5:22 and rejoice that the Spirit wants to fill you with these.