Drunk in the Spirit? The danger of unholy association

Drunk in the “spirit”?

Words matter – a lot. Used accurately and sensitively they can convey the very power of God. Used sloppily they can convey serious error – even unintentionally. That’s why I do not think it is wise to combine words like, “drunk in the Spirit”. This very easily can create an unholy, unbiblical marriage of terms.

Take the word “drunk”. What does this mean to most people? It means drinking alcohol to an excess and losing the ability or even desire to think and act clearly and soberly. The Bible unequivocally denounces drunkenness. It is a work of the flesh that if not repented of is characteristic of a life headed to hell. A life of drunkenness is the polar opposite of a Spirit-led, Christ-glorifying life.

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord. (Eph 5:18-19)

People in the world are looking for temporary relief from their anxieties and boredom and often seek a time-wasting, reality-denying, sensually-pleasing escape through alcohol, drugs and empty entertainment. But the sincere Christian, who desires to deeply follow Christ and be empowered to serve, should not be distracted by pursuing experiences with the conscious or unconscious goal of temporary sensual relief.

On the contrary, Paul shows us that the purpose of the Spirit’s very real and powerful enfilling is to enable believers to glorify the Lord in their lives and to impart life-giving, God-glorifying truth and ministry to others. These enfilling(s) may be initially or temporarily accompanied by pleasant feelings and emotions and even physical manifestations (or not). But any manifestations that do occur should never be the goal or focus – or the most talked about aspect. Otherwise, we may unwittingly feed into the cultural idolatrous pursuit of temporary soulish self-indulgence.

On the Day of Pentecost when the Spirit was given, the disciples were mightily filled with the Spirit and began glorifying God in languages they had not learned. The bystanders were confounded by this and said, “We hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues.” And because they knew that the disciples were uneducated Galileans, they had no idea how this could be! So someone suggested,”They must be drunk.” Note, it was not the disciples who used the derogatory comparison but those who did not submit to Jesus as Lord and who did not know the Holy Spirit in Person or power.

Peter stood up and immediately corrected this faulty conclusion: “These men are NOT drunk, as you are supposing, for it is only 9 a.m..” Peter, like Paul, averted the danger of unholy association. What fellowship have light and darkness? The danger is not only that “outsiders” can get the wrong impression. An even more serious concern is that untaught believers could be led into error by such associations.

When an unholy worldly concept or experience is mistakenly associated with a holy Biblical one, even sincere (but untaught) God-pursuing people can come to faulty conclusions or expectations. This should be carefully avoided.

This could unfortunately result in people confusing the intended work of the Spirit with the more common and profane counterfeits that the world, the flesh, and the devil are too quick to provide. The way to know what is truly of God is not by focusing on immediate manifestations, or even amazing esoteric insight, but by the fruit of humility, purity, and real love for God and man. Indeed these should be the goal and the acknowledged proof of the Spirit’s authentic activity.

I can almost hear the thoughts of some of my readers who may be from non-charismatic backgrounds. You may feel vindicated in your anti-charismatic bias by what I’ve been sharing today. But just because Christians in your circles are avoiding certain charismatic excesses does NOT mean that they are in a more God-pleasing condition of heart!

The frozen chosen can be just as (or more) deceived than the fanatic fringe. (Though I sincerely doubt they’re having as much fun in the process.) But I suspect Satan is equally satisfied by either extreme.

Don’t forget that the same apostle who warned and instructed the Corinthians about the charismatic excesses in their meetings, also made it very clear that he was NOT selling away the dynamic of the Spirit’s operation among them:

“Therefore, my brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak in tongues.  But all things must be done properly and in an orderly way.” (1 Cor 14:39-40)

Finally, my advice is this: As much as possible use biblical (or at least wholesome) terms to describe holy experiences. Don’t fear  spiritual manifestations. Just don’t contribute to error by employing careless terms and unbiblical practices. Otherwise you may unintentionally contribute to people pursuing and settling for cheap imitations, when they could have the Christ-exalting, sin-destroying, bondage-breaking, world-changing power of the Holy Spirit!

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