When I was growing up in the Pentecostal church of my youth, a regular theme of sermons I heard was about being “spirit-filled.” Our emphasis on the Holy Spirit had everything to do with “living a holy life” and experiencing an intimate relationship with God. By the way, both of those are really important!
Of course, the problem came from being disconnected from the continuity of wisdom from the centuries. That meant we didn’t get the benefit of all those centuries the very Holy Spirit we wanted to be filled with, had led the Church in just what that meant! Not a good place to be in!
Our Orthodox Faith gives us the wisdom we need to know what a truly “Spirit-Filled” life is and why you and I MUST be “Spirit-filled” to ever hope to be Orthodox on Purpose. We are all called to be the “home” for the Uncreated God in our everyday lives SO THAT others who are still struggling in chaos and confusion can find their way home, AND, SO THAT being close to God is normal for us!
What a suprise to discover that if I wanted to be truly Pentecostal, I needed to be Orthodox!
Look at our lesson today in Ephesians 5:8-19:
Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is a shame even to speak of the things that they do in secret; but when anything is exposed by the light it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it is said, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.” Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most 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 all your heart.
Here, St. Paul is exhorting (one of my favorite words) the Ephesians to embrace three realities if we are going to be Spirit-filled.
- First, WALK. One of the greatest tricks the devil ever played on humanity was to reduce Christianity to a mere ideology. As much as we may try, we cannot separate what we believe in our heads from what we do with our hands. Children instinctively get this. They think something and then they do it. To be sure, their inexperience may mean they think then do something foolish, or dangerous, or ever wrong. But they act on what they think. They haven’t yet learned how to compartmentalize their lives into what can only become a sort of dysfunction and divorce of saying one thing and doing another. And make sure you are walking in Light so you don’t stumble!
- Second, AWAKE. More and more, I am convinced that this metaphor of awake or asleep is key to embracing an Orthodox lifestyle. And this wakefulness is always attended by Light; the Light of the Person of Jesus Christ. Over and over again the writings of the Fathers in the Orthodox classic of spirituality, The Philokalia, dwell on the importance of wakefulness or awareness of the Light. This Light the Fathers speak about has everything to do with living our lives fully aware of reality, not the delusions that cloud our minds and drive us to darkness. And the command to be AWAKE is never a suggestion, but an imperative.
- Finally, BE FILLED. This childlike Walking; this perpetual AWAKE, is made possible by, paradoxically, an act of RECEIVING. All of my proactive and purposeful actions of living an Orthodox lifestyle flow from my willingness to BE FILLED with the Holy Spirit. It would be “childish” to reduce this filling of the Spirit to some merely emotional state or self-centered and self-righteous notion that this filling is to make me “happy” or “powerful.” The childlike embrace of the Spirit-filled life comes from my humility in receiving from my loving God He Himself so that I may be a “fit habitation” for God.
Today, all the spiritual disciplines of the Orthodox Faith are meant to transform your life into a Walking, AWAKENED, and Spirit-Filled childlike life of joy and peace. This reordering of your priorities, actions, thoughts, and perspective can’t be accomplished any other way than walking the Path of being Orthodox on Purpose.