10 And now, behold, the Lord has kept me alive, as He said, these forty-five years, ever since the Lord spoke this word to Moses while Israel wandered in the wilderness; and now, here I am this day, eighty-five years old. 11 As yet I am as strong this day as on the day that Moses sent me; just as my strength was then, so now is my strength for war, both for going out and for coming in.” (Joshua 14:10–11, NKJV)
Even in old age, faithful Caleb was ready to wage war against the enemies of God’s people. He succeeded in occupying Hebron as his portion of the inheritance (Josh. 15:13-14). Even though our physical strength diminishes with age, there is much older men and women of faith can accomplish for the Lord. The psalmist observed that “the righteous shall flourish like a palm tree,” and “they shall still bear fruit in old age; They shall be fresh and flourishing” (Psa. 92:12-14). As the COVID-19 virus is especially (although not exclusively) attacking the elderly among us, we see a refreshing concern for the elderly among us. Aged men and women are valuable, and aged Christians have work to do in the kingdom (Titus 2:2-5). Instead of discarding the aged as burdensome, Israel was commanded, “You shall rise before the gray headed and honor the presence of an old man, and fear your God: I am the LORD” (Lev. 19:32). They were to learn that showing respect to the older person reflects their reverence for God. If you are older, seize this time of life and be strong in faith, even as your body grows weaker. If you are younger, respect for the older generation, because God willing, you will be in their shoes one day.
5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. 8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:5–8, NKJV)
In yesterday’s Sword Tips, we studied from Ephesians 5:18-21 what it means to “be filled with the Spirit.” Today’s passage amplifies its meaning and its benefits. Today’s passage explains what living under the guidance of the Spirit (His truth) means. It means 1) We set our minds on the things of the Spirit (v. 5). We choose to focus on heavenly things (Col. 3:1-3). 2) We are spiritually minded, which results in life and peace (v. 6). 3) Being spiritually minded means we submit ourselves to the law of God. We yield ourselves to the will of God and obey Him because we are “under law toward Christ” (1 Cor. 9:21). 4) We please God (v. 8). To live “in the flesh” means to set the minds on carnal things and refuse to obey the law of God. The carnal mind is at war against God, and its outcome is death. We must choose to live under the law of God to be filled with the Spirit. This life will bear the fruit of the Spirit, bringing life and peace (Gal. 5:22-23).
18 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, 20 giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another in the fear of God. (Ephesians 5:18–21, NKJV)
Filling oneself with wine (intoxicants) dulls the senses. But, being filled with the Spirit enlivens the heart with thankful songs of praise. Being filled with the Spirit leads Christians 1) To speak to one another in songs of worship. Worshipful singing is not entertainment, but engagement. In it, we communicate teachings and admonitions that are consistent with the word of Christ (Col. 3:16). 2) To sing and make melody in our hearts to the Lord. We pluck the chords of our hearts to produce musical sounds of grace from our lips. Christians cheerfully sing praises to God from the heart (Jas. 5:13; Heb. 2:12). 3) To give thanks for all things. The Spirit of Christ teaches us to find blessings in everything, even in trials of pain and suffering, for they purge and purify our faith (Matt. 6:10-12; 2 Cor. 12:7-10; 1 Pet. 1:6-9). 4) To submit to one another in the fear of God. This submission to each other is not slavery, but service that is activated by a fear of God. Thus, we accentuate the welfare of others before ourselves (Phil. 2:3-4; 1 Pet. 5:5). Being filled with the Spirit is not a miraculous event. It means to put yourself under the Spirit’s guiding influence by following the truth He revealed (Jno. 16:13).
And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, (Ephesians 5:18, NKJV)
Christians are to fill themselves with the Spirit, not with wine and its riotous excess. We do so by putting His word, the word of Christ, into our hearts and lives (Col. 3:16). Yet, a growing number of Christians justify the moderate consumption of intoxicating beverages. I wonder, do they also advocate for only being moderately filled with the Holy Spirit? If just a little alcohol is okay (as long as you don’t get drunk), then it follows that only a small amount of the Spirit in your life is okay (as long as you are not full of the Holy Spirit). Absurd? Absolutely. But, that is the consistent application of Ephesians 5:18 and the logical extension of the reasoning that promotes moderate alcohol consumption. The apostle contrasts being filled with wine and being filled with the Spirit. The fact that God’s word condemns drunkenness does not mean the drinking that leads to drunkenness is acceptable. The Scriptures must show it to be good, not merely asserted to be good (1 Thess. 5:21-22). Other passages teach us to be sober-minded, to use sound judgment, and to exercise self-control (Gal. 5:23; Titus 2:2, 6, 12). Consuming alcohol deconstructs and destroys these qualities the Spirit teaches us to possess. How can that be good? Drinking alcohol satisfies the desires of the flesh, but it is inconsistent with the mind of Christ and being filled with the Spirit of God (1 Pet. 4:1-4; Rom. 8:9-14).
Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, so that in us you may learn not to exceed what is written, so that no one of you will become arrogant in behalf of one against the other. (1 Corinthians 4:6, NASB95)
The apostle warned the Corinthians “not to exceed what is written.” His warning still applies. What does that mean? How does that happen? Another version translates this phrase, “not to think beyond what is written” (NKJV). We are not to entertain, have a sentiment for, be disposed to, or interested in reaching beyond what the apostles of Christ have written (Strong, G5426). According to today’s verse, this happens when we become arrogant. In his broader context (1 Cor. 1:10-4:21), Paul identified the “message of the cross” (the revealed mind of God) as that which we must not exceed (since it is the power, wisdom, and mind of God). By contrast, the “wisdom of this world” is the thinking that exceeds what is written. Due to pride, the wisdom of this world concludes the message of the cross is foolish. Pride’s deception rejects the apostolic traditions for the traditions that men put in their place (1 Cor. 3:18-20; 2 Thess. 2:15). The “pattern of sound words” is trampled upon as the philosophies, commandments, and doctrines of men advance, plundering the eternal treasures of the gospel in Christ (2 Tim. 1:13; Col. 2:8, 20-23). To guard against this, we must humble ourselves to the gospel of Christ. It is God’s power, wisdom, and mind (1 Cor. 1:23-24; 2:6-13, 16). Thinking that exceeds it takes one into regions of doubt, compromise, and unbelief – places the Father and the Son will never be (2 John 9; Gal. 1:6-9).
103 How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! 104 Through Your precepts I get understanding; Therefore I hate every false way. (Psalm 119:103–104, NKJV)
God’s word is pleasant to the taste of those who meditate on it continually, who rest their understanding in it, and who follow it to avoid evil and do good (Psa. 119:97-102). Possessing a knowledge of truth and an aversion to error equally describe the lover of God’s word. The real test comes when God’s word reproves us and rebukes us. Does God’s word become bitter to us when it exposes our sin and error? It ought to remain just as sweet as when it approves us, for its reproofs identify where we need to correct ourselves and grow in the Lord. Does God’s word become bitter to us when it rebukes our sin? It ought to remain just as sweet as when it approves us, for in its rebukes are pleas to repent and be renewed. Solomon wrote, “The ear that hears the rebukes of life will abide among the wise. He who disdains instruction despises his own soul, but he who heeds rebuke gets understanding” (Prov. 15:31-32). Preaching the word of God includes reproof and rebuke – not to become a judge over others – but to proclaim God’s word of warning and salvation to the lost (2 Tim. 4:2). Whatever message God’s word contains, it will always be pleasant and refreshing to those who accept its wisdom and obey its precepts.
101 I have restrained my feet from every evil way, that I may keep Your word. 102 I have not departed from Your judgments, for You Yourself have taught me. (Psalm 119:101–102, NKJV)
Self-discipline is essential in keeping the word of God. Discipleship requires discipline, both to order one’s life after the Master’s teachings and to refrain from conduct that is against the Master’s instruction (Lk. 6:40; Jno. 13:13-17). Pride is ever ready to puff up our confidence in ourselves. It deceptively assures us we could never deny our Lord (Matt. 26:35; cf. Prov. 16:18). Therefore, since “the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak,” we must continually “watch and pray, lest (we) enter into temptation” (Matt. 26:41). Utter commitment to God’s judgments (determinations) must governor our choices to refrain from evil and pursue good (1 Tim. 6:11; 2 Tim. 2:22; 1 Pet. 3:8-11). When we argue with God’s word to justify our sinful choices and conduct, we have allowed personal judgments to control us instead of the decisions of God. (That’s pride at work.) Jeremiah said, “O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps” (Jer. 10:23). God does not delight in those whose evil (sin) is called good (Mal. 2:17). Self-disciplined faith in God helps us guard against reversing God’s judgments and calling good evil, and evil good (Isa. 5:20-21; Prov. 17:15). God is our teacher, and His word shows us what is evil and what is good. Walking in God’s word is how we “watch” and avoid entering into sin.
99 I have more understanding than all my teachers, for Your testimonies are my meditation. 100 I understand more than the ancients, because I keep Your precepts. (Psalm 119:99–100, NKJV)
I remember a course in school called Reading Comprehension. We learned to read with understanding, retention, and application (the essence of education). Repetition assists comprehension and retention. By repeatedly hearing and using information, we learn and retain knowledge. Over time, the ability to comprehend and retain information educates the child, whose use of that education can produce success. Today’s passage explains the advantage of being educated and trained in the word of God. The student may even surpass the teacher in wisdom and understanding by consistent meditation on God’s word, as well as persistently obeying His mandates (Col. 1:9-10; Phil. 1:9-11). The “uneducated and untrained” apostles had a greater understanding than the religious intellectuals – much like their Master before them (Acts 4:13; John 7:14-15). Age does not necessarily mean greater understanding (Job 32:6-9). God’s word contains the knowledge and understanding we need to wisely “abhor what is evil” and “cling to what is good” (Rom. 12:9). Let us be humble enough to realize wisdom does originate with us, but with Almighty God. Then, may we absorb understanding from His word to live in harmony with Him, even when doing so does not harmonize with the learned ones of this age (1 Tim. 6:20-21).
97 Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day. 98 You, through Your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies; For they are ever with me. (Psalm 119:97–98, NKJV)
It is self-evident from a casual reading of Psalm 119 that this psalmist had a deep relationship with the word of God. He magnifies and extols its virtues and benefits, its blessings and advantages, its supreme authority, and its unwavering reliability. Like the psalmist, we must love God by loving His law (Matt. 7:21-23; Lk. 6:46). At a time when many say “law” and “commandments” are hindrances to grace and liberty, respect for and obedience to the law and commandments of God is the very foundation of loving God and being favored by Him (Jno. 14:15; Acts 10:34-35; 1 John 2:3-6). God’s law is on the mind of the person who loves Him – “all the day.” Let God’s word be your constant companion by reading it, learning it, and pondering it. Without knowing God’s law, we cannot keep it or be made wiser from it. The inspired word of God teaches us, reproves us, corrects us, and instructs us in righteousness, completely furnishing us to do God’s work (2 Tim. 3:16-17). God’s word surpasses the vain wisdom of men, giving insight, discernment, and understanding to withstand sin’s temptations (1 Cor. 1:25). When, O when, will we so love God’s law and commandments that they are our constant meditation? When we do, we will love Jesus the way He says we must, by keeping His commands (John 14:15).
8 Come, behold the works of the Lord, Who has made desolations in the earth. 9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; He burns the chariot in the fire. 10 Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! 11 The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah” (Psalm 46:8–11, NKJV)
The Lord continues to rule over the kingdoms of men, which testifies of His boundless wisdom and power to be our refuge in times of distress (Dan. 4:25-26, 34-35). God uses times of turbulence and warfare to raise nations and bring them down according to His purposes and judgments (Amos 6:14; Hab. 1:5-11; Jer. 50:8-16). Eyes of faith see God’s justice roll “down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream” to execute His will among the nations (Amos 5:24-27). Instead of being anxiously distracted from trusting and obeying the Lord in times of trial, Christians keep their faith set squarely upon God. Eyes of faith see God’s exalted place, power, and providence in all things. So, in reverent humility, let us pause and ponder during the psalmist’s interlude (Selah), and grasp the comfort in knowing God is our stronghold – a mighty fortress in times of trouble (Psa. 9:9; 27:5).