The Filling of the Spirit
God counts you as being in Christ if you are a Christian. Because you are viewed by God as in Christ (and therefore completely accepted by Him) you can call on God for the help of the Spirit and He will give you that help. There is no reason for Him not to answer you!
There is a benevolence of God that extends to all of His creatures, even those who are presently rebelling against Him, but the special help of the Spirit is not given to His enemies. It is the Spirit whose help we need to overcome our sin nature and live in freedom.
“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).
We do not live the Christian life merely by our own will-power. Our wills are indeed involved, but are not the source of our ability. Our ability comes from God Himself – in the Person of the Holy Spirit. Notice how it is that we can put our sinful acts away – “…if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Romans 8:13).
In our desire to live the Christian life by the empowering of the Holy Spirit we take notice of the command in Ephesians 5:18, “Do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.”
This command is somewhat unique because it requires a passive response. Paul does not say, “Fill yourself with the Spirit.” Instead, he says, “Be filled with the Spirit.” How can we actively obey something that requires us to be passive?
When the grass at my house gets high, I say to my son, “Cut the grass!” That is an active command. He is to go and mow the lawn. I don’t say, “Let the grass be cut!” If I said that, my son would probably look at his sisters, wondering when they were going to do it! “Be filled” is a passive command. How do we obey this passive command?
First, eliminate the obstacles. I am reminded of our water system, which we built when we were missionaries. We installed a water tank higher than the roofline of our house, and got water up to it with a little solar-powered pump. There was a pipe that came down from that tank to the kitchen. To stop the flow of water, I merely turned the faucet handle, which plugged the pipe. To get water, all I had to do was unplug the pipe and gravity caused the water to flow. I didn’t have to get on the roof and push the water down. Likewise, you don’t have to make yourself be filled with the Spirit. You just have to remove the obstacles. The filling of the Spirit is the normal operating procedure of God in us.
What are the obstacles? In Ephesians 4:30, Paul talks about the Spirit and gives us another command: “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God.” In that same passage Paul runs through a list of wrong behaviors and replaces them with right behaviors. He tells us that our sin of living in willful disobedience to God grieves the Spirit who lives within us. If the Spirit of God is grieved because of sin in our life, He is not filling us. There is a plug in the pipe.
Before I go on, I would like to ask a question. Are you tolerating sin in your life that you know is wrong, but, week after week, you refuse to repent? If so, you are grieving the Spirit. If that is the case, don’t wonder why God isn’t helping you with your problems. The One who will help you through your problems is the One you have grieved. Repent. Remove the sin from your life and move on with the Lord. Eliminate the obstacles.
Second, saturate your life with the Bible. Colossians 3:15-16 is parallel to Ephesians 5:18-22. Although the passages are very much alike, in Colossians, Paul says to “let the word of Christ richly dwell in you” instead of “be filled with the Spirit.” Thus, being filled with the Spirit is almost equated with saturating yourself with the Word of God.
When the obstacles are out of your life and you take in the Word of God, the Spirit influences you through it. You are under the influence of the Spirit.
By the way, it is rather vain of us to plead with God for the filling of the Spirit all the while we are neglecting to read His Word. Are you in the Word regularly? Do you have a plan for Bible reading? Is the Word of Christ richly dwelling in you?
Third (this is so simple that many people miss it), you ask Him to fill you. John 7:37 says, “Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink’…. But this He spoke of the Spirit.” In this passage, Jesus is not talking about water, He is talking about the Spirit. Jesus is saying that if you sense a need in your life, ask Him. He will give you the Spirit’s help. It is really that simple – ask Him!
When God wants you to do something that needs to be done but you don’t feel like you can do it, ask the Lord to fill you with the Holy Spirit. When there is someone you must talk to and it is going to be an uncomfortable conversation, ask for the filling of the Spirit. When you have a chance to witness at work but are nervous, ask for the filling of the Holy Spirit.
Ask Him and believe! Don’t expect lightning bolts. Don’t expect anything that you can feel. Just believe that when you ask the Lord to fill you with His Spirit that He will make you equal to whatever task is before you. Then, obey and walk on in faith, regardless of what you feel like. When the task is finished and you are on the other side looking back, you will smile and know that it was God who did it!
This is the filling of the Holy Spirit, the dynamic of God Himself influencing your thinking, your emotions, your will and empowering you to obey.
We obey the command to be filled by removing the obstacles, saturating ourselves in the Bible, and asking in faith when we sense our need. May God teach us each to experience His filling.
Copyright © 2015 Cliff Boone. All rights reserved.
Cliff Boone has served for the last 12 years as the senior pastor of Cedar Crest Bible Fellowship Church in Allentown, Pennsylvania. During the previous 11 years he led a missionary team in rural East Africa and rejoiced to see the beginning of six churches among a people group which was previously unreached with the Gospel. He travels each year to Tanzania to teach in the Bible and Ministry Institute and in the MAPANA Missionary Training College. He holds a Ph.D. in Theology from University of Wales, Lampeter, and a B.S. in Wildlife Management from West Virginia University. (The wildlife management training came in handy during the five years he was a youth pastor!) He is the author of Puritan Evangelism (Paternoster Press) and has translated several books into Swahili – including a small theological series consisting of sermons of the 17th Century Puritan John Flavel. He and his wife Becky have been married 32 years and survived raising their children amidst cobras, leopards, lions, and hyenas. Their three adult children are now a pilot, a budding linguist, and an organic farm manager – and all three serve the Lord with their lives. His Twitter username is @shugalabugala.