Life In The Spirit
a series of essays on the Spirit-filled life
"My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power . . ."
Proposition: The filling of the Holy Spirit enables us to move in His power.
Power is often associated with the Holy Spirit in the Bible. This is but one reference. To be truly moving in the Spirit is to have supernatural power. When we speak of "moving in the Spirit" we are referring to being in step with Him, being carried along by Him and being supported by Him.
We need to ask the question, "What is power?" Perhaps we think of it as some kind of force or energy but it is really "the ability to do" something. I had a roommate in college, who unfortunately was killed in an accident a couple of years ago, who was a big strong farm boy. He had a little tiny girl friend. She had the power to get him to do almost anything she wanted. When we hear about the power of the Holy Spirit we are to think of Him enabling us to do what needs to be done. Back in my days as a logger I was one time falling a tree. Suddenly something hit me on the hard hat. I thought it was probably a cone. Then something else hit me. I looked around as best I could be could see nothing. Soon something else hit my hat. When the tree finally began to fall I stepped back and shut off the saw. Then I heard some laughter. Looking up the mouton side I saw two men on the hill above me. They had been throwing cones at me. They were building a road further up the mountain and the bulldozer driver, in trying to break a big windfall had driver the tractor over a stump and was high-centered on it. He had tried to pull it off with the winch but had only broken the one-inch steel cable. I went with them, crawled under the machine and cut the stump off. At was at that time the largest bulldozer made. It had great raw power but not the ability to deal with the stump. The little chain saw had the ability to do something the big piece of equipment couldn't.
In our setting the question is "what needs to be done?" The answer is, of course, "things I can't do!" Power is needed for us to accomplish our mission, "To know Jesus Christ; exalt Him as Saviour, Sanctifier, Healer and coming King; and complete His great commission." That means change in the lives of people. Do you and I have the ability put conviction into the heart of another person? Is conversion something we can accomplish for someone else? Can we make a person repent? Can we make that person believer on Jesus? What about transformation? Can we get inside of another person and change them from the inside out? Do we have the power to make them obey God? Is the ability to create spiritual hunger in another person something that any of us have? Can we open the eyes of the heart in someone? Do we have the ability to reveal God to another person? What about revival? Do any of us have the power to produce it? If we did there would be much revival because many of us want it very much. There are many things that need to be done that is beyond our human ability. A. W. Tozer writes that "only the Eternal Spirit can do eternal deeds."
We need the power of the Holy Spirit so that these things happen. That power is at work in and through us when we are filled with the Spirit. What is that fullness? It is contrasted with emptiness. Peter writes that we have been bought back from an empty way of life that has been handed down from generation to generation. The fullness of the Holy Spirit is God's answer to that emptiness.
To understand that fullness we must remember some basic facts. One is that the Holy Spirit is a person a divine person, to be sure, but a person. How is one person filled with another person? It is a relationship that He can have with us. This is of tremendous significance but can be easily overlooked. He is like wind, but He is a person. He is like water, but He is a person. He is like fire, but He is a person. He is not a force to yield to. He is not a substance to take in. He is a person to relate to! What happens when we are filled with another human person? I am filled with my wife. She controls my life. I do what pleases her, most of the time! What is best for her is what I try to do. She is never far from my thoughts. Often the first question that comes on the screen is, "What will she think about this? How will she feel about it?" It is not because she demands it but because I love her. That love relationship controls my life. In many ways it runs my life. To be filled with the Holy Spirit is to have His personality control our personality.
This relationship comes in at least three dimensions. There is the initial filling of the Holy Spirit where He is allowed to take full control of our life. That relationship must begin somewhere. It has to be initiated. When was it initiated in your life? Then there is a renewed filling. Why is it necessary? Because that relationship can be lost. Tozer wrote that "our real danger is that we may grieve the blessed Spirit into silence and so be left to the mercy of our intellect . . . We'll have the bush, pruned and trimmed and properly cultivated but in the bush there will be no fire." A third dimension is an expanded filling. In II Corinthians 3:18 is speaks about "ever-increasing glory." That should picture our marriage relationship. It should also picture our relationship with this beautiful, heavenly person! Take a balloon as an example. It can be blown up until it is full of air. There are no wrinkles left. But it can be blown bigger. Its capacity to receive is expanded, stretched. Our capacity to relate to the Holy Spirit can always be expanded. We can be full of the Holy Spirit but there will be always the possibility of that relationship getting greater and better!
The whole Trinity wants this. The Holy Spirit wants to be received by faith Galatians 3:2. It is by faith that we invite Him to fill us in any one of those dimensions. The Father wants to give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Luke 11:13. We can ask for that fullness in which ever dimension it is needed. Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit Acts 11:16. That means He wants to immerse us in the Holy Spirit. That is a beautiful word picture of us being filled, permeated, saturated and immersed in the Holy Spirit until we overflow with His personality. Back in the days before the thermos bottles and jugs were around we used to have water bags. We had them when we worked in the logging and when we worked on the farm. They were made of canvass. We would take them to the water trough, push them down in and let the tap pour into them. They would be filled with water and the outside would be saturated. The outside water kept the inside water cool.
There are many pictures of this relationship in the Scriptures. We can have the Spirit come on us (Acts 19:6), fall on us (Acts 11:15), anoint us Acts 10:38). God has put it in many ways so that none of us should fail to understand what this relationship with the Holy Spirit is. Being filled with Him is probably the most common but it happens when we are pushed down into His presence so that He permeates, saturates and controls us.
Now we must face the questions, "How does this happen?" There are at least five ingredients that go into this relationship for an initial, renewed or expanded filling of the Holy Spirit. Probably the number one ingredient is desire. Jesus said in John 7:37-39 that there must be thirst. He is no doubt speaking of desire. Apathetic people don't enter into this relationship. Apathy is a great killer of relationships. They must be nurtured. If you don't want a relationship with me we will not have one. Many slow, dimwitted young men have lost out on a relationship because of apathy. For us to be filled with the Spirit there must be a great desire to know Him. We must be very hungry for His fruit. There must be a craving for His friendship. We must have deep longings to know His life and power. If we are content to remain what we are we will not be filled. If we are satisfied to have a low level of love, joy, peace, etc. we will not be filled. It if is OK for us to be fruitless that complacency will be a barrier to that relationship which the Bible pictures. If we are content to live without that relationship we will not enter into it.
You may be asking what to do if that describes your heart, your present attitude. The Scriptures would tell us to open our hearts in honesty to God and confess that indifference. Ask Him to make us hungry. Ask Him to give us an urgency. Ask Him to give us a burning desire to know that relationship with the Holy Spirit that can only be described as being full of Him!
A second ingredient is surrender. This concept is all through the Bible and is an inseparable aspect of control. If the Holy Spirit is to control us then we must surrender to Him. Romans 12:1-2 provides a vivid description of us presenting our bodies to God as living sacrifices. We humans are born as rebels. It is so deeply ingrained in the human race that it is accepted as normal. Rebellion comes in a wide range of expressions: anarchy, stubbornness, individualism, independence and indifference. The person who lives in indifference to the Holy Spirit is just as much a rebel as the person who shakes is fist and defies God the Spirit. Submission is such a deep problem that we fail to recognize it in the every day details of life. If a person consciously and consistently breaks the laws hunting, tax, or driving laws that person has a submission problem. Recently a man told me that he was driving 80 miles an hour where the speed limit was 75 and passed two policemen but neither of them stopped him. The issue is not whether we are stopped or caught but one of submission. Recently I have noticed that Albertson's has a continual hassel with people parking in "no parking" zones. These people are saying that no one is going to tell them how to drive or where to park. Drive down the interstate at 75 and see how many people pass you! Some of them may have a pregnant women in the car or a man who is having a heart attack but generally we can say, "That person has a submission problem." I say all of this to emphasize that the Holy Spirit must be in control. He is Lord. He is Adonai. He is Kurios. He is Lord of Lords. For us to think we can have His life and power without giving Him control is a huge mistake. Whether it is an initial, renewal or expanded filling of the Holy Spirit, there must be a full surrender to Him. That ingredient must be clearly understood. Are there areas of rebellion in your life?
A third ingredient is repentance. John 14:15-16 and Acts 5:32 make it very clear that the Holy Spirit is given to those who obey. Repentance is turning from all disobedience. It is dealing with all known sin. Tozer says that "where sin is not cured, power cannot flow." How do we deal with sin, biblically. There are many directives given: admit it, confess it, repent of it, put if out of our lives, die to it, put it to death, throw it away. A little "I'm sorry, Lord," does not fit the full Bible picture. Whenever we seek the filling of the Holy Spirit in any dimension we must deal with all sin in the full biblical way. You may ask how you can do that if it takes the power of the Spirit to overcome sin. The answer is in the will. We set our will against sin in all the ways the Bible tells us to and He comes to our rescue. But if we try to ignore, hide, minimize, defend, explain, excuse, justify, make an alibi for and blame our sin on someone or something else we will not be filled with the Holy Spirit. I think we can stand strong on that with all of Scripture to back us. Is there sin in your life that you have not faced in the Bible way? Come clean before God and with others if you want to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
The fourth ingredient is a simple one found in Luke 11:13. It is that we simply ask. The Holy Spirit is a gift, as clearly stated in Acts 2:38. His fullness is a gift. We can ask for a gift. Him and His fullness come out of God's grace. That means He and all His fullness have been bought and provided for in Jesus. He is unearned, undeserved and unachieved. If we can pray enough to pay for His fullness then it is a purchase not a gift. If we can do enough good things to deserve His fullness then it is a wage, not a gift. When we have put the other ingredients into our lives we simply have to ask. Asking will do no good if we see Him as some force to yield to rather than a person with whom to have a relationship. Asking will do no good if there isn't surrender. Asking will do no good if there is sin we are unwilling to leave behind. That asking is for the initial, renewal or expanded filling of the Holy Spirit!
The fifth ingredient in receiving Galatians 3:2. It is receiving by faith, to be sure. It is never receiving by works or righteousness. But it is receiving. It is important that we believe that God wants to do what we are asking Him to do. Let me picture it this way. You invite us to your home for a meal. When we ring the doorbell you greet us and stand and talk with us. That goes on for ten, fifteen and twenty minutes but you never receive us into your home. You never say, "Come in." There must be a point at which we say to the Holy Spirit, "Come, in all of your fullness. Admit our unbelief, if it is there. Trust Him fully. Put our lives in His control. Biederwolf puts it this way, "This is the faith that appropriates: Having met the condition, reckon the thing done; wait not for any sound or coronet or flame, but go forth to live and work not trying to feel filled, but daring to believe that you are filled and that filling will become to you an experience more real than which there is none in all the universe."
There is a counterfeit power. We must discern it and stay away from it. Perhaps its most common manifestation is in us trying to help God out. We do such things as declaring "demon free" areas. By going through motions. By trying to fix something. Reading the book SORTING OUT THE SUPERNATURAL may be helpful. Tozer says that "gullibility is not synonymous with spirituality. Faith is not a mental habit leading its possessor to open his mouth and swallow everything that has about it the color of the supernatural. But there is the true power of God. It is available for anyone who will be filled with the Holy Spirit.
When were you first filled with the Spirit? When were you last filled with the Spirit? Do you want to be filled today?