3. Filled with the Spirit
Be very careful, then, how you live--not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is.
Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
So far in this series, we have seen how every born again Christian has the HS dwelling within them, this source of power that enables us to live our lives in the way that God would have us live. But we haven't really gotten to the specifics of HOW we can appropriate that power. So that's what I want to try to clarify this morning: How can we experience more of the HS' empowering in our lives?
In order to answer that question, we need to back up a bit & make sure we are clear on a couple of things. This first part may seem a little basic to some of you, but I think it is important if we're going to understand how the spirit of God works in our lives
The book of Ecclesiastes tells us that God has "set eternity in the hearts of men" I believe that what that means is that within the heart of every man, woman or child who has ever lived, there is a part of us that has been made to know our creator intimately. Whether we call that our soul or our spirit, there is in each of us a God-given hunger to experience something beyond just this material existence. We can see that today how even though many people have abandoned the institution of the church, they still sense a need to have some kind of spiritual experience in their lives.
Sometimes that part of us gets pretty deeply buried & boarded up, but it is still there in each of us, waiting to be released. And one day, by the grace of God, the HS comes & awakens that spiritual dimension in our lives. He makes us aware of a great need in our lives for God. He shows us areas of our lives where we have hurt others & ourselves. But most importantly, He opens our eyes to discover the love & forgiveness that JC offers to us
And as we respond to the spirit of God, in repentance & faith, turning our lives over to Christ, the Spirit then infuses new life into us. He makes us children of God, adopts us into God's family. He takes up residence in our spirit, that inner part of us that is able to know & experience God as a reality. This initial work of the spirit in our lives is often called regeneration, which is simply a fancy name for the new birth, we talked about a couple of weeks ago
If you have received Christ into your life, then the indwelling Spirit of God is resident in your heart. Nothing can change that fact.
However, just because he is present in our lives, does not mean that the Spirit has control of everything that we think, do or say. We can, if we choose to, shut down or quench the work of the Spirit.
And so there is an important distinction between the indwelling presence of the Spirit, & what the Bible refers to as the fullness of the Spirit. And here we come to the heart of what I want to focus on this morning. In order for us to experience the supernatural empowering of the Spirit, we must be not just indwelt with the spirit, we must also be filled with the spirit.
The key verse here is Eph 5:18 "Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead be filled with the Spirit" Paul makes an interesting comparison here between the effect of "liquid spirits" & the HS. I guess his point is that both alcohol & the HS can have a profound effect on a person's behaviour. So what he is saying, in effect is: don't lose control of yourself by becoming intoxicated, but rather allow yourself to be controlled by the Spirit of God. In a nutshell that's what it means to be filled with the Spirit: it means that the HS becomes the controlling power & influence in my life. As I surrender myself to Christ, as I yield my life & my will over to him, his Spirit controls, energizes & directs my life in such a way that I am able to obey & serve God in a way that glorifies Christ
But it’s also important for us to understand that being filled with the Spirit is not just a one time experience. It's something that needs to happen over & over again. The meaning of Paul's command here in Eph 5 carries the idea of "being continuously filled" or "keep on being filled". It's like when you buy a new car, you don't just go to the gas station & fill it up once & expect it to keep running forever. You have to keep on filling it up, or it will stop working. And in the same way, we need to filled with the Spirit on an ongoing basis if we are to live the Christian life the way God wants us to
Many years ago when I was a pastor up in Barrie, we lived just a few minutes from Kempenfelt Bay. And in the summer Diane & I liked to go boardsailing, or windsurfing. And sometimes when you're out on the lake, there's this great feeling you get when the wind comes up & you feel the sail suddenly tug, & you lean back & you're off like a shot. Suddenly you feel like you're being carried along by this tremendously powerful force. That's one way of picturing what it means to be filled with the Spirit. We recognize that there is this spiritual power greater than ourselves that is carrying us along. And without it we are dead in the water.
But anyone who has ever sailed knows that it takes more than just a good wind to sail a boat. You can have 2 boats on the same lake, one is just clipping along, & the other's not going anywhere. The difference is in how the sail is positioned with respect to the wind. If the sail is at the correct angle, the wind will fill it & move the boat. But if it is directed the wrong way, it won't do anything. In same way, in order for me to be filled with the spirit, I have to be, in a sense, oriented in the right direction. There has to be an open & yielded attitude in my life, that I am willing to let the spirit move & fill me. But at any time, I can pull in the sail, & quench the spirit's working if I want to
So what can we expect to happen when we are filled with the Spirit?
1. The Spirit will give us a deeper assurance & experience of God's love for us. Little children need to know that their parents really love them. They need to be hugged & hear them say “I love you.” That's what God wants to do thru his HS. "The Spirit testifies with our spirit that we are indeed God's children." (Rom 8:16) Paul prays that as we are filled with the fullness of God, that we might "grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge" (Eph 3:18)
2. The Spirit will produce fruit in our lives. He works in us to make us become more like Jesus. And so those Christ-like character qualities of "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control." These will become more & more evident in our life as the Spirit fills us & controls us (Gal 5:22)
3. The Spirit will motivate & empower us to serve God, using the gifts & abilities he has given to us. (Pastor Laurie is teaching in his series on Spiritual Gifts) Because each of us are uniquely different, the HS works in many different ways in our lives. "There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. To each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good." (1 Cor 12:4-7)
For eg, while all of us should seek to share our faith with others as we have opportunity, there are some Christians who have been especially gifted in the area of evangelism, and have an unusual ability to lead people to the Lord. Others may be more gifted in the area of administration, others with hospitality or compassion. If you want to know more about spiritual gifts I would encourage you to come out to Laurie’s course on Sunday nights.
So then, what has to happen, what must I do, in order to filled with the Spirit? 4 things we need to do:
1. I must recognize my need for the Spirit to empower me. God doesn't just suggest we be filled with the Spirit, he commands it. Every Christian needs to be filled with the Spirit. As long as I think I am doing OK, & can live the Christian life thru my own goodness & ability, I will never know what it means to be filled & empowered by the Spirit. Jesus said "Blessed are those who hunger & thirst for righteousness, for they shall be… filled" Is it my heart's desire that God would fill me & use me far more than he is presently, or am I content with just going along as I always have? I need to acknowledge that unless God fills me with his Spirit, I will never be all that he wants me to be
2. I must confess any known sin in my life to God. I need to honestly acknowledge to God those areas of my life where I know I am not walking in obedience to him: In my relationships with people, In my family, in my thought life, in my prayer life. You see, unconfessed sin is like spiritual cholesterol, which clogs the arteries of our heart, & prevents the Spirit from flowing freely thru our lives. The only thing that can remove that blockage is God's forgiveness & cleansing as we confess our sins openly & honestly to him
3. I must surrender my will over to God. Jesus' prayer in Gethsemane should be our prayer as well: "Yet not as I will, but as you will" As long as my priorities, my goals, my desires take first place, there is no room for the Christ on the throne of my life. Jesus said "You cannot serve two masters". As long as I am Lord of my own life, then Jesus cannot be. But as I yield to his Lordship, as I say "Lord I am willing to let you be in control", then an amazing thing happens. Then the Spirit of God comes & directs & empowers my life. This surrender must be a definite & concious act of the will, not just once for all, but something that we need to do every day.
4. Finally I need to ask. Ask the Holy Spirit to come & fill & control & empower my life. What is Jesus’ promise to us?
"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you… If you know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" (Luke 11:9-13)
So remember those 4 things: "Recognize our need, Confess our sins, Surrender our will, Ask him to fill us". No magic formula, but some simple, basic steps that you & I can work on as we seek to experience the ongoing filling of the Spirit.
In closing, let me just say one thing that may be helpful here. Being filled with the spirit is not necessarily accompanied by any particular emotional feeling or physical manifestation. I think sometimes we presume that unless something sensational or dramatic happens, that the Spirit isn't really working. But that is not necessarily the case. There have been those times in my life, when I have experienced an overwhelming sense of the HS's presence & power. But there also times when I don’t really feel anything at all.
Does that mean I’m not filled with the Spirit?
Sometimes we will simply have the quiet assurance that the Spirit of God is directing & empowering us. Sometimes I have felt that most clearly when I have been called on to serve in a particularly difficult situation. I find myself saying, Lord, "I just don't know how to handle this on my own. If something is going to happen, then you have to do it." And often it is those times when we feel the weakest & most inadequate, that the HS comes & fills us & empowers us. That's really what we're talking about: Allowing God's power to flow thru us as we yield ourselves to him.
So if that is the desire of your heart, would you pray with me, and invite the HS to come and fill you with his enabling power ...
“Heavenly father, this morning I recognize that without the HS in my life I can never even begin to live my life in a way that is pleasing to you…
Lord, I confess my sin before you, that there are patterns of behavior and thinking in my life that are not honouring to you…
Lord, today I yield myself to you. I am all yours. Would you control my thoughts, my words and my actions so that they are your thoughts… Would you fill me & empower me today so that I can do whatever it is you want me to do. Would you take away my stubbornness, my pride, my self-centeredness, so that I will be willing to obey you"