Filled with the Spirit
This post is the final part of a series on the Holy Spirit. I have decided to keep this
message a bit shorter, but I’d surely advice you to take the 3-minutes to read it!
The Difference the Spirit Makes
When we talk about all the work the Holy Spirit does in the believer, do you feel like this also applies to you? Because, if you don’t, you are not the only one. For a long time I felt like all these things didn’t apply to me either. It felt like they were true for someone else, but not for me.
I talked about the Spirit sets us free from the burden of the law and the slavery to sin, but instead of freedom you may feel bound and restricted. I also talked about how the Spirit is guiding us in life. But instead of guided you may feel lost and confused.
And when I talked about how the Spirit empowers us for mission and calls us to be His partners in sharing the Good News of Jesus, did you feel like that was the reality for you? Or do you feel more scared than empowered to share your testimony?
Last week I taught about the supernatural gifts of the Spirit which are available to every single believer. But maybe, instead of gifted by the Spirit, you feel like God is never using you for anything and have no idea what the voice of the Spirit even might sound like.
Good news & bad news
The bad news is that this is a process. We are learning to live in the new spiritual reality of the Kingdom of God, and that takes time. You could compare this to coming to the Netherlands and being immersed in a new culture with different social rules and expectations. In the same way, you may feel like you don’t fit in, even though you are part of God’s Kingdom.
What I want to say is this: learning to live under the constant influence of the Spirit is a life-long journey. Allow yourself the time to discover how to do this and learn to listen to the voice of the Spirit. Learn actively – stretch out, be eager and receptive, but don’t give up too easily.
Sometimes the Holy Spirit just doesn't care about the process and decides to break in and break through.
So, the bad news is that it is a process, but the good news is that sometimes, the Holy Spirit doesn’t care about the process and He decides to powerfully break through this process. This is something that happens when people are "filled with the Spirit". When people are filled with the Spirit, they are able to make a jump forward in their process of growth. This is what happened to the apostles at Pentecost.
The Apostles at Pentecost
Before Pentecost, it is so clear that the disciples are going through an incredible learning curve. They gradually come to grips with who Jesus is. But even after the resurrection, and spending 40 days with Jesus talking about the Kingdom of God, they still didn’t completely get it, and they must have felt so ill-prepared for the mission they were sent out on. Then, 10 days after Jesus Ascension, when they are spending time in prayer, together with some of Jesus’ other close followers, this happens.
Acts 2:1-4, 17 (NIV)
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
After this, they went outside and start prophesying and preaching in the streets in these new languages. They testify that the baptism in the Holy Spirit they have received is not just for them, but that
“‘In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
The fulfilment of the Holy Spirit that they experienced, is a gift that is available to all Christians of all time!
A couple of incredible things happened on that day. First of all, the disciples of Jesus were filled with the Holy Spirit and started evangelizing in the streets of Jerusalem. Secondly, it is recorded that 3000 people believed their message and formed the first Christian community, and all of these people were baptized.
In this event, and everything that follows in the book of Acts, we see that the fulfilment of the Holy Spirit makes all the difference for the disciples. In fact, I’d argue that this is the day when the disciples actually become the apostles. They are moving forward from merely followers, to be ‘sent ones’.
Suddenly, they find themselves actually living out the perplexing things Jesus had been teaching about all along. All those things that seemed impossible before – like it could never be true for them – all those boundaries suddenly disappear because of this Pentecost experience.
Just think about all those outrages things that Jesus said to the disciples: “if you have faith, you can tell this mountain to through itself into the sea, and it will happen”, or, “go and make disciples of all nations”, or, “love your enemy”. And what do you think about this one: “even greater things than these you will do in my name”. What!?!?
Through the infilling of the Holy Spirit, everything that Jesus promises suddenly become actual possibilities, instead of 'too good to be true'.
When the apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit though, they suddenly understood that these things are not impossible but possible! And throughout the book of Acts, as the disciples start living lives filled with the Holy Spirit, they see these things become reality. This is what the infilling of the Holy Spirit does in you and me as well. It gives a faith and power that suddenly makes everything that the Bible promises actual possibilities.
Continually be filled
Now, back to the theme verse of this message series.
Ephesians 5:18-21 (NIV)
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.
The Greek text here clearly indicates that the infilling of the Holy Spirit is not a one-time event. It says “continually be filled” or, “go on being filled”.
Without going into this too deeply on a theological level, I’d argue that what this means two things.
1) Stay in tune with the Spirit
Paul is pointing to a life where we continually live as the Spirit directs. That means that we way that we live our lives, the choices that we make, the way that we speak, and habits that we form are healthy and in tune with His guidance.
'In tune with the Spirit' means that you are always aware that He might have something to say about what you are doing right now.
This means more than just walking away from sin and living in the fruit of the Spirit, but also that we make room to listen to Him. Being in tune with the Spirit means that we are always aware that He might have something to say about what we are doing right now.
2) Long for a fresh infilling
Without becoming experience hunters that make our faith all about themselves, please do keep on seeking intimacy with God always and pray for a fresh infilling of the Spirit regularly. Sometimes God just needs to shake us up a bit.
I know that it’s Summer right now, but think for a moment about a snow globe. The snow is always in the snow globe, but only when you shake it you can see it twirling in the globe. This may be a way to understand the infilling of the Holy Spirit. You already have the Spirit. He lives in you. But sometimes, you need to be shaken up a bit to experience His activity.
You already have the Spirit, but sometimes you just need to be shaken up a bit!
Ask the Spirit to do again what He has done before in your life, but then in a new and fresh way. There will be times that we may experience as 'dry seasons' etc. In those times God is inviting us to become even more desperate. Longing for the Spirit really is understanding that what God is calling you to do, you cannot do without the power of the Spirit.