A Little Background
I was raised in conservative, fundamental, evangelical churches (even though in all those years I had no real idea what any of those words meant). My mother's family was mostly holiness and full gospel. In my years of speaking in different venues I've encountered many forms of worship and many aspects of praise and celebration. Some of them I am more familiar with and more comfortable with than others. But I appreciate all forms of worship that are sincere and meant to bring glory to God. I remember the first time I was leading worship in a faith-based rehabilitation center and while singing and playing guitar a gentleman on the front row started a "praise train" and took a good group of worshippers with him on a trip around the chairs in the chapel. Not understanding exactly what was happening, I ended the song long before the worshippers were ready to end the train. They were still rolling down the tracks of joy and worship, stepping lively to the beat and I stopped the music! Awkward! We all have learning curves. In the body of Christ, we must be willing to dwell in unity through these differences. Country conservative boy was not "jiving" well with the holiness crowd. They had to be patient with me, and I had to be understanding of them.
A Simple Truth
Following the Holy Spirit's leading can appear in many different ways for growing believers. The Bible is very clear that the Holy Spirit indwells all who truly believe on Jesus as the means of their salvation. If you are saved by the grace of God (Ephesians 2:8-10) then the Bible says you also have the Spirit of God dwelling in you (John 14:17; Romans 8:9; 1 Corinthians 3:16). This is not a controversial issue. This is simple and powerful truth. I have taught it many times. I believe and know the very Spirit of God lives within me. In fact each Sunday that I preach the word of God is great evidence of the Spirit's indwelling for me, since I am an introvert and prefer not to be the one everyone is looking to for instruction. The Scriptures teach us to walk by the Spirit (Galatians 5:16), to be taught by the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:14) and to be led by the Spirit (Romans 8:9).
All of this I have woven into dozens of sermons. I have also taught on the passage of being "filled by the Spirit” from Ephesians 5:18-20. You remember this passage, the one that says you shouldn't get drunk. "Don't be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, 19 singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. 20 And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."
We emphasize lots of truth from this passage. We tell all the "good-ole-boys" in church this is why you shouldn't drink heavy every weekend. Some churches say that even partaking of wine is not acceptable based on this verse. They struggle with Jesus making 3,000 cups of wine as His first miracle and Paul telling Timothy to take some wine for his aching stomach.
At times we let these controversial and trite things blind us to what the passage is trying to offer as great life advice. As Christ followers, we are to live our lives filled with the Spirit of God. Some teachers equate filling of the Spirit with indwelling of the Spirit. This may be because they are afraid of being labeled something that does not align with their core denominational values. Regardless of the fears, the filling of Christ followers with the Spirit of God is important.
A Closer Look
But here the Apostle Paul is telling the true Christ followers in Ephesus, who already are indwelt by the Spirit of God to make a definitive effort to be "filled by the Holy Spirit." He knows the Ephesians believers are indwelt. Indwelling and filling are different. If you are a Baptist, indwelling and filling are different. If you are a Pentecostal, indwelling and filling are different. All Christians are indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God, but not all Christians are filled by Spirit of God. In fact, many Christians never seek or try to be filled, they are satisfied with the indwelling. The indwelling gets you safely home to heaven. But don't you want more? Be sure you do not equate the filling as you would think of filling a container here. Many teachers use this "word picture" but it is not at all implied by the original text. The word filling used by Paul means "controlled by," as when someone intoxicated is controlled by the substance. The same word is used when Ananias in Acts 5 is "filled by Satan" or controlled by Satan and lies to spiritual leaders.
Look closely at the text and you will see the results of the filling. There are four behaviors that happen when we are filled. The Bible says we will be continually:
- speaking to others in spiritually uplifting ways (psalm, hymns, spiritual songs)
- singing with a light heart
- giving thanks - Always giving thanks for all things (for and in all things)
- submitting to one another in the fear of Christ
So, rather than be a Christian who speaks discouragingly, we should instead speak encouragingly to and about others. Rather than murmuring and carrying a heavy heart, we should sing to the Lord continually. Rather than complain about what we don't have, and demand or expect more, we should be continually expressing thanks. We should submit to others in our workplace and home rather than be combative or resistant or bossy! This is the filling of the Spirit of God ALIVE in us. And if you know your Scripture, it is also evidence of the fruit of the Spirit, which is Christ-like love. This would be the fifth behavior that is evidenced in someone being filled with the Spirit. The Spirit's filling will bring about the Spirit's fruit. My new friend, Dr. Tom Dooley (pathclearer.com), shared with me at breakfast recently that "manifesting any of the gifts of the Spirit or all of them must be accompanied by the fruit of the Spirit, which is love, or it is of no value in the work of the Kingdom.” May God help us all seek the filling and fruit of the Spirit in our daily lives.
How do I get filled if I am indwelt? Here are some good verses to help you.
- Ask for the filling: Luke 11:13
- Believe in the promises of the Holy Spirit's indwelling: Galatians 3:2
- Surrender yourself daily to God's will and service: Romans 12:1-2
- Obey the instructions of Jesus to enjoy the fullness of the Holy Spirit's work: Acts 5:32
For more study on this you can access the sermon audio library at Northside Bible Church and listen to "The Not So Secret, Secret to the Christian Life." You can also subscribe to Northside's podcast on iTunes. You can also listen to this message on Northside's BuzzSprout profile here.
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