How can I keep my head on straight in 2020? If I turn on the television, I have one channel telling me “X” is true and another channel telling me “X” is MOST DEFINITELY NOT true. If I hop on social media, one group of people is saying “X” is true and another group is saying “X” is MOST DEFINITELY NOT true. Depending on where I look, “X” is either the most important thing or it’s totally irrelevant.
You can fill in the blank with whatever topic you’d like. Surely I’m not alone in my experience.
It can all be so overwhelming. How am I supposed to know what to think? How am I supposed to know what to do? How am I supposed to feel? How can I help from being pulled in 1,000,000 directions at once?
In Ephesians 5:18, we find this admonition from the Apostle Paul. “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.”
This verse comes within the context of Paul’s exhortations to the Ephesian church concerning Christian living. Having set forth the truth of the Gospel, Paul unpacks how Christians ought to walk those truths out day to day.
And one of those consequences, unsurprisingly, is that Christians aren’t to get drunk. Drunkenness leads to “debauchery”. Alcohol is capable of completely overriding your normal way of thinking and acting, potentially leading to lots of terrible—and sinful—decisions. So no, don’t get drunk.
But what does this verse have to do with keeping my head on straight as the “news” swirls around me?
Well, Paul hasn’t simply given a negative command—don’t get drunk. He’s also given a positive command—do be filled with the Spirit. Why does he place drunkenness next to being filled with the Holy Spirit? Well, in the same way that you or I could fall under the influence of alcohol, doing things we’d never do otherwise, we are to be under the influence of the Spirit. It is to override our normal way of thinking and acting. And in so doing, the Holy Spirit will cause us to do things we’d never do otherwise. But where alcohol leads to “debauchery”, the Holy Spirit leads to joy and sanctification and life.
If we’re supposed to be filled with the Holy Spirit, allowing God to exercise an all-consuming control over our lives, then we simply don’t have room for anything else. Which means, yes, we should not be drunkards. But alcohol isn’t the only thing that can fill us and exercise control over us.
Fear can fill us. Pride. Vengeance. Despair. Self-righteousness. Entitlement. I find from my own experience that these are often the emotions stoked by the information I consume. And each one can fill me and steer me and cause me to act out of step with Christ. When “what am I supposed to think?” and “what am I supposed to do?” and “how am I supposed to feel?” begin to be influenced by fear, pride, vengeance and the like, then I’m surely on my way to stumbling down the path of sin.
In order to keep our heads on straight, we must be filled with the Holy Spirit. As we try to wrap our minds around the world as it rattles, the Holy Spirit should give rise to love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22–23). Not because the world is so great and inspiring, but because our God is.