How to Be Filled with the Holy Spirit
A Command and Priviledge for Every Christian
I read a story this week about a former missionary named Herbert Jackson. He told a story about his early days on the mission field to a seminary class at which he was asked to speak. When he was a young missionary, Mr. Jackson was assigned a car that didn't start without a push.
So Jackson came up with a plan. He went to a local school to get permission to have several children give him a push. Once he got the car started, as he was making his rounds, he would either leave the car running or park it on a hill. He did this for two years until ill health forced him to leave the mission field.
A replacement missionary came to the field before he left and Jackson started to explain his problem with the car. As he was explaining, the new missionary opened up the hood and inspected the engine. Then he said: "Mr. Jackson, I think the only problem that you have is a loose wire. He tightened the wire, got in the car and, to Jackson's surprise, the car roared to a start. The interesting thing is that he had been dealing with this problem for two years when he didn't have to do it. The power was there all along. The problem was just a loose connection.
That is the problem in many Christian lives today. We have a power that can be accessed in our lives but we aren't using it. We are never asked to live this life on our own power. Once a person is saved, they have God the Holy Spirit living in them (I Corinthians 6:19,20). This is the basis for every other aspect of the Christian life. It is the source of our power. We no longer belong to ourselves. We belong to the Lord. We don't have to be slaves to the old sinful nature. We literally have the power of God at our disposal to become all that the Lord would have us to be.
However, we cannot fully access that power unless we are totally yielded to the Spirit's leading and are controlled by Him. A completely yielded life is said to be one that is filled with the Spirit. Unfortunately, not all Christians are Spirit-filled. And there is a lot of confusion over what it means to be filled, even though certain segments of Christianity emphasize it. We need to clear up some of the confusion and teach God's people that they can have more from their Christian lives then they are, at this moment, presently experiencing.
I. What It Means to be Filled with the Spirit
In Ephesians 5:17, 18 the apostle Paul commands us:
"So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit..."
The issue here is who or what are we going to allow to control us. Paul is comparing the intoxicating influence of alcohol , which leads a person to do something that they would not normally do, to the control of the Spirit. He's telling us not to allow ourselves to be controlled by alcohol, but rather allow the Holy Spirit to take control of our life.
The verb "be filled" is in the imperative mood , which simply means that it is a command. This is not something optional for the person who has accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior. And It is not just for the elite, super saints. It is for all of us.
The verb is also in the passive voice, which is a fancy term that means that we who are being filled are being acted upon by another. The Spirit of God is the one acting on us and taking control. But this doesn't mean that we have nothing to do with it. We have to allow Him to act. He won't do it against our will. Just as we would have to put alcohol to our lips and drink it before it influences us, we need to do some things which allow the Spirit to have free reign in our lives.
We also have to realize that being filled is not just something that we do once and that's it. The verb here is in the present tense, which tells us that it is a continuing action. We could translate the sentence here as: "Keep being filled with the Spirit." Salvation is a one-time event. However, the filling of the Spirit is a continuing routine that must happen on a regular basis.
II. Receiving the Filling
Before a Christian can be filled with the Spirit, he or she must first have the desire to do so. We were created to have free choice. The Spirit will not act against our will. Jesus talks about those who hunger and thirst after righteousness as being blessed because they will be filled with it (Matthew 5:6).
I don't know how many of us have truly been hungry or thirsty, but when we have these necessities unmet there is not much else we can think about until the need for food or water has been satisfied. If we go too long without either of these we will literally starve to death or die of thirst. That is the kind of desire that we have to develop for God. We have to treat time with the Lord in prayer and the study of His Word as we would our needs for daily food and drink.
I wonder how many of us can say with Job:
"I have not departed from the command of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food" (Job 23:12)?
It is that kind of desire that the Lord takes very seriously. And he will reward us with His empowerment in our lives.
And taking God seriously ought to lead us to a confession and repentance of all known sin. A perfect example of this is found in the writings of Paul. In I Corinthians 5, the Apostle talks about a sin that was going on in the Church of Corinth. A man actually was sleeping with his father's wife. And not only that but, though it was apparently well known, the church was tolerating it rather than judging the sin (5:1-8).
Many scholars would say that, while only two remain, there is every indication that Paul wrote as many as four letters to the Corinthians. One before this one (I Corinthians 5:9). And a later letter just before II Corinthians that has become known as the "sorrowful letter" because of the effect that it had on the believers (II Corinthians 7:8-16). The letter lead the believers at the church in Corinth to experience what Paul called godly-sorrow (10-11), which caused them to repent of allowing sin in their midst. This prompted them to discipline the man who had his father's wife, which in turn, lead to his repentance and restoration (II Corinthians 2:1-10).
Sin in our lives grieves the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30) and quenches his activity in us (I Thessalonians 5:19). When we confess sin we say what God says about its evil which leads to repentance or remorse for the sin and a turning away from it back to the Lord, just as it did in Corinth.
After confession and repentance, we ask God to fill us with His Spirit. We know from Ephesians 5:18 that this is something that God commands us to do. Since that is the case, He will give us the power to do it if we ask Him. As stated earlier, this is a continual thing. Every day we must ask God to fill us and lead us by His Spirit, showing us what He wants us to do that day for Him.
Not only are confession and repentance of sin important but a positive obedience to the Word of God is crucial. We must do what it tells us to do. The Spirit brings to mind the Scriptures that He wants us to remember as we encounter various situations to which they apply in our day. He shows us and we are to listen to His leading.
Finally, we need to claim the promise found in I John 5:14,15. If we pray for anything according to His will then He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, we also know that He has given us the request. The key here is asking according to His will. And, as we just said, the filling of the Spirit is definitely the will of God.
III. Results of Being Filled with the Spirit
The results of being filled with the Spirit of God include a Christ-like character as opposed to the character that we had when under the influence of the old nature. We have the fruit of the Spirit which includes love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22,23).
A Spirit-filled believer is a person who desires to worship and praise the Lord in all he or she does. Ephesians 5:18-20 talks about an outer expression of praise. It says that we speak to one another in psalms and hymns and spirtual songs. We have an inner expression in that we sing and make melody in our hearts to the Lord. And we have a thankful heart. An unthankful heart is evidence that we haven't been filled.
We see in Ephesians 5:21- 6:9 that being filled with the Spirit of God also leads to a submissive attitude. Paul teaches us to be submissive to one another. And he tells us that God has arranged an order for His Body, the Church. Wives are to be submissive to husbands, and husbands are to love their wives as Christ did the Church. Children are to obey their parents, and parents should not exasperate their children. Slaves are to obey their masters and masters must respect and honor their slaves and not threaten them. This, of course, today is like the employer, employee relationship.
And we learn in Romans 13:1-7 that a Spirit-filled believer is also one who is subject to the government because it is an agent of God to do us good. It is there to protect us and punish the evil persons who would seek to harm us.
Last but not least, a Spirit-filled believer is one who lives a life of service to God and to others. We are even given Spiritual gifts in order to build up the Church and help other members of the Body to grow. And we learn from I Corinthians 12 that the gifts of every believer are necessary for that growth. None of us is expendable.
Jesus said that without Him we can do nothing (John 15:5). And having Jesus Christ also means that we have the Spirit of the Living God dwelling inside us. We are His temple. It is He who empowers us to live the Christian life. The Spirit in us produces the Fruit that brings glory to God. We simply cannot do it with our own power alone.
But in order for us to become all that God would have us to be, we must allow Him to take complete control of us. We have to give Him free reign in our lives. That is what the filling of the Holy Spirit is all about.
I wonder how many Christians have lived and died and not fully understood the power which they have in Jesus Christ to live a victorious fruit-filled life. Like Herbert Jackson's car, they try to push start their lives and do all kinds of things to keep themselves running when there is actually a disconnection between them and God the Holy Spirit, the true source of power. It is my prayer that all who read these words will connect to the real source of power and allow the Spirit to fill you today. You will never regret it.
© 2012 Jeff Shirley