[August 19]--The Spirit at Work: Filling

Eph. 5:18-20; Col. 3:15-17

Yesterday we looked at the baptism of the Spirit and how it’s a present reality for every believer. At the moment of salvation, you were baptized (immersed) by Christ by means of the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ, namely the church. And of course by the church I’m not referring to a local body of professing Christians (like the 1st Christian Church of wherever) but the universal mystical organism which is made up of all people who've truly received Christ. Today we’re going to look at something which is sometimes confused with Spirit-baptism, namely the filling of the Spirit.

My friends, a lot of confusion about the Bible can be cleared up with some simple grammar. Remember when we were discussing soteriology and I brought out the difference between declarative mood and imperative mood? When someone makes a factual statement which is either true or false, that’s in the declarative mood: "Christ died for my sins and rose again," or “As far as God is concerned, when Christ died and rose from the dead, you died and rose with him.” The imperative mood is when someone issues a command or request: “Do not steal,” or “Consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God.”

Why am I harping on this? I promise it’s not to bore you or run you off. This is something that will clarify this issue of Spirit-baptism vs. filling of the Spirit: We're never commanded in Scripture to be baptized by the Spirit. We are commanded to be filled with the Spirit. Whenever baptism by the Spirit is mentioned in Scripture, it's always in the indicative mood. The baptism of the Spirit was something that was settled at the moment of salvation and isn't determined by any further choices you make. But we're commanded (imperative mood) to be filled by the Spirit. To be filled by the Spirit is heavily influenced by your daily—actually your moment-by-moment—decisions. Let’s look at it.

Paul here starts by commanding us not to be drunk with wine. Instead, we’re to be filled with the Spirit. The Greek indicates a continuous--not a once-and-for-all--filling. Think about being drunk for a moment. When you’re smashed, you’re under the control of alcohol. You do things you'd never do while sober. It’s sort of the same thing with the Spirit. By allowing the Spirit to control you, you’ll do things you’d never do if he wasn’t in the driver's seat.

How do you do this? Well, the rest of the passage tells us: 1) Speak to one another, 2) using psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (worship), and 3) giving thanks to God (a grateful attitude). If you look at the verses from Colossians, you’ll see the same parallel phrases, which link being filled with the Spirit with letting Christ rule in our hearts (apparently different terms for the same thing). So to be filled with the Spirit, we also need to be 4) letting God’s word fill our thoughts and hearts, 5) teaching and admonishing each other, and 6) doing everything in the name of the Lord Jesus.

This isn’t some grand mysterious mystical experience on top of a mountain in some monastery. It’s not rocket science or some secret which only the elite know about. Letting the Spirit take control is as simple as doing what you already know you’re supposed to be doing: reading and/or listening to God’s word on a regular basis, praying and asking him to make you more like Christ, confessing and repenting of sin, fellowshipping with other believers for mutual encouragement and accountability, worshiping him in public and in private, and focusing your thoughts on how good God is to you. As you do those things, the Spirit will use those tools to control more and more of you.

The sticky part of this is that none of us do this perfectly. I certainly don’t. But as you do them on a consistent basis, he’ll change you. Not overnight, but gradually.

I can’t take credit for these little clich├ęs, but there’s a lot of truth in them—The Holy Spirit is resident, but is he President? It’s not a question of whether you have the Spirit, but whether the Spirit has you. Does he?

Lord, I get so out of focus sometimes. I desperately need you to fill me to the point there’s no room for anything that doesn’t come from you. Please.

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