When the Spirit Comes Down
18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
When the Holy Spirit comes down, he changes our culture. We go from selfishness to selflessness, from pride to humility, from fear to courage.
There’s an entry from the journal of John Wesley that proves the truth of Ephesians 5:18-21. Wesley was one of the key men God used in the 18th century revival known as the Great Awakening. He was aboard a ship to America with a group of Moravian Christians when a strong storm arose. The difference between his reaction and that of the Moravians changed him. Here’s what he said.
At seven I went to the Germans [Moravians]. I had long before observed the great seriousness of their behavior. Of their humility they had given a continual proof, by performing those servile offices for the other passengers, which none of the English would undertake; for which they desired, and would receive no pay, saying, “it was good for their proud hearts,” and “their loving Saviour had done more for them.” And every day had given them occasion of showing a meekness which no injury could move. If they were pushed, struck, or thrown down, they rose again and went away; but no complaint was found in their mouth. There was now an opportunity of trying whether they were delivered from the Spirit of fear, as well as from that of pride, anger, and revenge. In the midst of the psalm wherewith their service began, the sea broke over, split the main-sail in pieces, covered the ship, and poured in between the decks, as if the great deep had already swallowed us up. A terrible screaming began among the English. The Germans [Moravians] calmly sung on. I asked one of them afterwards, “Was you not afraid?” He answered, “I thank God, no.” I asked, “But were not your women and children afraid?” He replied, mildly, “No; our women and children are not afraid to die.”
From them I went to their crying, trembling neighbors, and pointed out to them the difference in the hour of trial, between him that fears God, and him that fears him not. At twelve the wind fell. This was the most glorious day which I have hitherto seen.
Do you see the wise culture the Spirit created? The Moravians stood in the storm as Wesley shrank away. They praised as the waves crashed. Why? Because they lived with wise urgency. Because they were filled with the Spirit. They were there to worship God! They didn’t do it out of a desire to be loved. They did it because they were loved. There was no difference in their faith in the sunshine vs. their faith in the storm. We often think wise urgency matters only when the storm comes, but these Christians show us wise urgency matters in the sunshine before it matters in the storms. It was their way of life in the mundane that struck Wesley at first. And when the storm came, what he saw only confirmed the strength of their faith. If you don’t have wise urgency in the sunshine, the storms won’t bring it out. Who you are in secret proves the wisdom or foolishness in which you’re walking.
The Moravians stood to sing before the storm came. When it came and threated life, they sang on. Their singing addressed Wesley, as verse 19 commands. As their voices rang out to God, they made melody in their hearts, as verse 19 commands. And they gave thanks always and for everything, as verse 20 commands. The Spirit flowed from them and filled Wesley’s heart.
Now, some would say they’re stupid for singing in that kind of storm, but it was the will of God. Don’t be surprised if your walk with God looks stupid to the world. The wisdom of God was death on a cross!
Be filled with the Spirit, look carefully how you walk, and see what God will do. Your faith today will lead to singing in a storm. And God might use you to encourage the next John Wesley and spur the next Great Awakening!
The Moravians humbled themselves. They served where others wouldn’t. They were filled with the Spirit. And through them, the Spirit filled Wesley. And what was his response? It was to submit himself to them, as verse 21 commands. He saw their faith and it cut him to the heart, and he went to his English brethren and pointed out the difference between him that fears God and him that fears him not.
Do you see the kind of wise culture the Spirit creates? He brought heaven down to that ship. But it wasn’t easy, was it? There was a storm. There was danger. But God was in it!
When God gets involved, it doesn’t mean everything will be safe. It just means everything will matter.
In C.S. Lewis's book The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, Mr. Beaver talks with Susan about their troubles with the evil White Witch. It’s rumored Aslan, the Jesus-figure, is on the move. Mr. Beaver assures Aslan can help, but when Susan realizes Aslan is a lion, she says,
"Oh. I'd thought he was a man. Is he quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion"
"Safe?" said Mr. Beaver. "Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you.”
When King Jesus comes, of course he isn’t safe. How can holiness be safe to our sinfulness? But the wonder of the gospel is that this King puts himself on the cross instead of us. This King gives his holiness to sinners. This King destroys evil by redeeming us. It’ll be painful. It’ll be trying. But it’ll be glorious because this King is good. And when the King comes, I tell you, he creates something beautiful.
This is an excerpt from my sermon on Ephesians 5:15-21. You can read the full sermon or listen to it here.