“Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 5.18-20
One of the most important ministries I lead are camps and retreat. Some of these are for adults and others for youth and children. All this is the work of The Revive Movement, i.e. “Revive” which can be seen at revivetexas.org. Since 2000 I have been leading these retreats for the church and have been blessed to do so. It dawned on me as I read this passage that what Paul is suggesting, less wine and more singing, is exactly what we are doing at youth camp (and wouldn’t we all hope this was the case!)
Let me explain. At camp I’ve often told people we are better for three reasons — 1) we are together, 2) together we sin less, 3) where two or more are gathered there is Jesus. So if you put that together, it’s a natural recipe for spiritual success. This doesn’t just happen on camps and retreats but on Emmaus and Chrysalis Walks and all manner of spiritual escapes.
But what Paul says is this — instead of getting drunk on wine, sing songs of praise. It doesn’t have to just be wine, fill in the sin of your choice. Instead of doing that particular sin — make “music from your heart to the Lord.” Church also serves this very purpose. Rather than being alone or with people who are sinning, be with others who point their focus toward the Lord. As Paul says, “speak to one another with psalms, hymns and songs.” Instead of being drunk, which leads to debauchery, “be filled with the Spirit,” v. 18.
This truth applies just as much to a first century church as it does to a 21st c congregation seeking to obey Christ. The truth is — we are better together, away from sin, with God in our midst. When we do that for an hour on Sunday, what a blessing. Even more so, when we do this for a weekend retreat or a week long camp, we find ourselves following faithfully after the Master Jesus.
Now I confess, I am in as much need as this type of community as are you. Isolate kills if for to long. But Christ-like community bring Christ and encouragement to our very souls.
“O Lord God, you are good. Even when I find myself tempted, I lean into your Word. When I find myself isolated, I seek friends of faith who can remind me of your goodness. Thank you Lord for loving me. For allowing me to walk in your grace, to experience forgiveness, and to cling to the cross. Come now, Holy Spirit, fill me with your Presence. Eradicate the fear and doubt and help me find help in you. For you are good and your love endures forever.” Amen