Growing up, I sincerely yet shallowly gave my life to Jesus. That superficiality caused enough spiritual struggles to leave me feeling guilty, so in college I left faith. Four years of searching and studying brought me back to Jesus, much more deeply, but some struggles remained. Then Wayne, the custodian at the Christian junior high where I taught, encouraged me to study about the Holy Spirit. Understand that in reaction to some overemphasis on charismatic gifts and some weird stuff going on, the church I grew up in minimized talk about the Holy Spirit.
My study revealed one reason for my struggles—I pretty much left the Spirit out of my life. That had cost me. I found the ‘secret” to my struggles, and it changed my life. Yes, struggles remain, and I don’t speak in tongues or roll in an aisle. But I can say the key to following Jesus is being filled with the Spirit. Here’s a quick summary of what I found.
1. All Christians receive the Spirit, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). Pretty clear, and ironclad. When we come to Jesus the Spirit comes to us.
2. All Christians should be filled with the Spirit, according to both command and the described normative Christian life. In talking to the entire church in Ephesus, Paul commanded, “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). That command seems to have been lived out by all early church leaders. Please read the brief descriptions of followers being filled.
1) John the Baptist and his parents (Luke 1:15, 41, 67-80).
2) Jesus (Luke 4:1).
3) The church (Acts 2:4, 16-17, also 4:31).
4) Peter (Acts 4:8).
5) Waiters (Acts 6:3).
6) Stephen (Acts 7:1-55, especially 55).
7) Paul (Acts 9:17).
8) Barnabas (Acts 11:24))
9) The first missionaries (Acts 13:52).
3. You can be filled without speaking in tongues. A misconception here kept me from being filled for some time, but the New Testament says that while all followers should be filled, not all will speak in tongues or practice the charismatic gifts, “Are we all apostles? Are we all prophets? Are we all teachers? Do we all have the power to do miracles? Do we all have the gift of healing? Do we all have the ability to speak in unknown languages? Do we all have the ability to interpret unknown languages? Of course not!” (1 Corinthians 12:29-30, NLT). Do some today practice these gifts? Yes, but not all do.
4. How do we get filled? Pretty simple. We ask, daily or hourly or each moment, and practice the acts of being filled. Remember the command back in Ephesians 5:18 to be filled? Paul follows that with five participles (they end in ‘ing”) that describe how to do it. Very simple, really. “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God” (Ephesians 5:19-21).
Or, we fill our conversation with God talk, language that includes and honors him. We sing praises-out loud, despite our vocal quality. We rejoice in our hearts. We thank God for all things. We yield to one another.
And, as we do these, we’ll see God’s Spirit fill our lives. Not a bad deal. And, it’s normal.
Kick Starting the Application
What attitude did you have before about being filled with the Spirit? Has it changed? If so, how? Out of those five areas, which is easiest to practice? Which is the most difficult? Why? How can you cooperate with God in that area? Will you?