In studying for my class on the Holy Spirit, I read Life in the Spirit by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. This paragraph from the 1st Chapter on Ephesians 5:18 has stayed with me. I think it is a valid and needed critique of many churches.
Another striking contrast is this.The Christian life, unlike the life of drunkenness and excess, does not exhaust a man. That is the tragedy of the other life, is it not? The poor fellow thinks he is being stimulated, actually he is being exhausted because of this prodigal use of his energy and everything else. But the Christian life does not produce exhaustion, indeed it does the exact opposite, thank God.
A great principle emerges at this point. It applies not only to drink but to many other agencies that have the same effect exactly as drink. In simple terms, it tells us the difference between the operation of the Spirit upon us, and any other influence that may appear at first sight to be like the influence of the Spirit is this, that all those other agencies exhaust us, whereas the Spirit always puts power into us.
Let me illustrate what I mean. I remember hearing, a few years ago, that a mission had been held under the auspices of a certain Christian organization during one particular term. And then I remember hearing that the following term was one of the worst terms in a spiritual sense in the history of that particular organization. Fewer people went to the prayer meetings and to the various other meetings. People were not only not turning up to prayer meetings or doing their regular Christian work, they were also not reading their Scriptures as they used to do. Someone enquired as to the cause of this strange phenomenon, and the explanation, the answer, that was given was this, that it was due to what they called ‘the post-campaign exhaustion’. Every participant was tired out and exhausted. Does that not cause one to think furiously?
The Holy Spirit, I say, does not exhaust; He puts power into us. Many other agencies exhaust. If a church or Christian organization is exhausted after an evangelistic campaign I would query very much the basis on which the campaign was conducted. The Spirit does not exhaust, but the energy produced and expended by man does. Alcohol, or any artificial stimulus worked up by man, always leaves us exhausted and tired. Not so the Spirit! Drunkenness exhausts; the Holy Spirit does not exhaust, but energizes.
How much of what we call church leaves us exhausted? Then must we ask how much of what we call church is “artificial stimulus worked up by man”?