Paul’s advice for having a great life is: Let the Spirit fill your life. I can’t think of a better idea. But the challenge, how do we do that. Life is crazy and busy, so what can we do to make our rather boring pedestrian lives into ones filled with the Spirit?
Well, Paul it turns out offers three suggestions.
First, he says, when you meet, sing as you praise the Lord with all your heart. He even suggests three categories of songs:
Psalms, that is the traditional singing of the Jewish people, like the Psalms of Ascent, the words and tunes the people of Israel sang as they went from Jericho to Jerusalem (uphill by-the-way, how they became “Psalms of ascent”) getting people ready for worship.
One person noted that maybe we should follow that thinking and make sure that everyone sings some great worship music on the way to worship every Sunday. Christian radio has made that possible. And there is the slightly newer technology of CD’s. Even easier are the digital music apps that can stream great music into your car. Or you could go full out and sing your way to church, especially effective if you can’t hold a tune in a bucket and there are teenagers in your car to embarrass!
You won’t get the same feel as walking up to worship at the Temple in Jerusalem singing with thousands of others of God’s faithful people, which would have energized some of Paul’s readers as they remembered their experience, and as they imagined the day when the people of God gathered in the new heavens and new earth singing with full hearts.
But it might just get you ready for a great worship experience anyway. “Just a Closer Walk with Thee” is not a psalm, but it always puts me in the mood to worship!
Paul then says that God’s people ought to sing hymns. While the Psalms are the writings of King David and others about the experience of a Holy God and about living a life in service to the God of Israel and of course are scripture, holy and inspired by God, hymns are different animal altogether!
They are a testimony to our understanding of our relationship to God, a theological statement about what we believe and what difference it makes that we have been justified, redeemed, and sanctified by a loving, yet holy other God who has made the ultimate sacrifice in order to be reconciled to his creation and in particular to us mortals.
They are statements of faith, pure and simple and remind us of some very important things we are to remember and believe as we live our lives in him.
And then there are spiritual songs, songs of great emotion and energy that move people in new and different ways in each generation. ‘I Love you Lord, and I life you up…” Words that convey where our hearts are at more than our heads like in the bold statements of the hymns.
But that isn’t all, Paul secondly invites us to give thanks.
It sounds simple, but it isn’t. Why. Because as the Law of Moses makes clear, the fall has wired us not to be thankful. The law tells us to worship God. Why? Because we would rather worship ourselves. The law tells us to honor our fathers and mothers. Why? Because we think we are the center of the universe and we did all this by ourselves. As the child says, “I do it!”
The law reminds us not to murder each other, steal each other’s stuff, get sexy with each other’s partners, and covet, covet, covet. Why? Because we believe all of it should be ours – when all of it belongs to God who has given it to us as a stewardship to care for and use to God’s glory!
Say “thank you”! You’re welcome!
It’s really not that hard, but you’d be amazing at how little time we spend doing it.
In the Celtic version of the church that grew up in Ireland there was a practice of praying for everything, and prayers for all occasions.
It was fun reading some of the prayers. They were all Trinitarian, that is they all invoke the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. But even more fun was the fact there was a prayer for baking bread, giving thanks for the flour, butter, milk, eggs, the fire, and even teeth to chew the bread.
And a prayer for doing the laundry, lighting a fire, and for every other task. Praise and worship, and more importantly to us at the moment, always a prayer of thanksgiving for God’s provision. Not a prayer just at dinner. Prayers all the time, seeing God’s handiwork in everything.
Imagine praying a prayer that you made enough money last year that you have to pay income tax. Try it; it will rock your world! But that is Paul’s advice for Spirit-filled life! Learn to say “thank you” early and often, all day long as you remember who and whose you are!
And then third, for a spirit-filled life, you need to honor Christ, by putting others first. It’s not about you – it’s about Jesus, about living to honor the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Don’t think of service to others as an optional choice, but rather think of it as why you are even here.
We are to “make a difference”. And when we do, as Paul makes clear, we will be filled with the spirit!
Sing. Give Thanks. Put others first.
And then watch and listen as our praise and worship rises to the very throne room of Him who is Lord and Christ forever and ever.