a series of essays on the Spirit-filled life
by Del McKenzie
The Bible clearly teaches that people can be filled with the Holy Spirit. It also clearly teaches that it is God’s plan and desire for each of His children. Equally clear in Scripture is that this filling is with a Person, not a power, substance or influence. It is a relationship of two people who are deeply connected. We can be consumed with another human but the filling of the Holy Spirit is different and unique because He is a divine Person. It is possible to have a relationship with God that is deep enough to say that we are filled with Him. When we say we are in love with another person it means that that person fills our thoughts and is the object of our focus. We wish to fulfill their desires and will sacrifice to care for them.
The filling of the Holy Spirit is an event and relationship beyond that with any other person because He is God. The biblical evidence for His deity is overwhelming. All of the attributes of God are assigned to Him. He is identified as the eternal Spirit. He is not a created personality, nor a temporary influence. He is eternal God. He is also declared to be omniscient. Only God knows everything. He is presented as omnipotent. Everyone and everything else has limited ability but He, as God, is unrestricted in His ability to do. All of the other attributes of God the Father and Son are revealed in the Holy Spirit. In addition to that He is presented as the Creator, the giver of spiritual life and the One who inspired the Scriptures. He is ascribed equal status with the Father and the Son in the baptismal formula of Matthew 28:19, the Apostolic Benediction of II Corinthians 13:14 and in the administration of the church in I Corinthians 12:4. He is called God in Acts 5:3-4 and II Corinthians 3:17-18. Historic Christianity, down through the centuries, has declared Him to be God. We can deny His deity, because God allows us to believe whatever we want, but to follow the truth revealed in Scripture is to embrace Him as fully God.
To get filled and stay filled with the Holy Spirit demands that we respond to Him as God. To be filled with another person in a love relationship requires respect for that person. It is even more so in our relationship to the Holy Spirit. We must respect Him as God. We are not to worship another human being, no matter how much we adore them, but we are to worship the Holy Spirit. Our respect will cause us to do what He desires and not do what will displease Him. The Holy Spirit fills people who obey with a willing obedience coming from a relationship of love. To have this relationship it must be settled in our hearts that we will respect Him and then we follow in a journey of learning how to do that. One of the great evidences for the Holy Spirit being a person is that He can be grieved. One of the great evidences that He is God is what grieves Him. In the context of the statement not to grieve Him (Ephesians 4:30), we find that He is hurt when people who testify to a relationship with Him are untruthful, get angry, steal, use unwholesome language, have bitterness, rage, anger or are involved in brawling, slander or any kind of malice. They hurt Him because He is the holy God and cannot relate in favor and intimacy with a person who indulges in them. Respect is an inner quality that is reflected in awe, reverence and esteem. We can choose to respect or not respect the Holy Spirit but we cannot be filled with Him without this respect. Charles Spurgeon said, “As you welcome Him when He comes, so be fit for Him to come. Be clean, for He is pure. Do not expect the Holy Spirit to dwell in a foul chamber.” We learn to show Him our respect with a clean life, clean tongue, clean hands, clean ears, clean eyes and a clean heart. He is God!
The relationship with this divine person, called the filling of the Holy Spirit, is also built on transparency. The Psalmist understood this when he prayed for God to search him and know his thoughts. The human heart is deceitful. Deception is always present when someone in a marriage is having an affair. This divine person who fills us knows every detail of our lives. Still it is human nature to attempt to hide things and not be fully open with Him. For this filling to begin and continue we cannot ignore our flaws, failures, struggles and needs. Absolute honesty and complete openness are required for us to have this “filling” relationship. Why would we not be willing and ready to talk to the Holy Spirit about everything? Perhaps it is because we fear rejection. Human relationships teach us that can happen. But it is different with the Holy Spirit. He has immense love for us. Paul writes about the love of the Spirit and assures us that God pours His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit. One of the great hindrances to having a relationship with this divine person that is described as a “filling” is to not be honest with Him about every aspect of our lives. He will heal a broken life but he must have all of the pieces.
Still another ingredient in this relationship is submission to the divine person. In human relationships it is submitting to each other as appropriate. In our relationship with the Holy Spirit it is always us doing the submitting because it is creature to Creator, servant to Master, subject to Lord. The human heart is a rebellious heart. We have all gone our own way and it is only when we submit to His way that He can so penetrate and permeate our being that we are filled with Him. But it must be a submission of love, not of duty or fear. We yield to Him because we choose to love Him. Does it mean that we never ask questions? No, He delights in our questions and is thrilled when we seek to know His ways. It is only when we reject His ways that He cannot affirm us and pour His life into us.
How do we keep this relationship growing? And we must, is the thrust of the biblical teaching. A continual and growing hunger for God is at the heart of it. A. W. Tozer writes that “this desire to be filled must become all-absorbing in your life. If there is anything in your life bigger than your desire to be a Spirit-filled Christian, you will never be a Spirit-filled Christian until that is cured. . . I have met Christians who have been wanting to be filled in a vague sort of way, for many years. The reason they have not been filled with the Spirit is because they have other things they want more. God does not come rushing into a human heart unless He knows that He is the answer and fulfillment to the greatest, most overwhelming desire of that life.” There must develop such a hunger for God that we come to the place where we would still be happy if we only had Him. This hunger for God is nurtured when a sense or wave of loneliness is used to push us toward God. We seek Him instead of looking for other people to fill up the empty space. We must want Him so much that we will pay the price. Some of us may want a Hummer but don’t want it enough to pay for it and so we keep driving a Chevy 4X4.
Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would be in us. This divine person fills us. We have a personal and intimate relationship with God. It is mysterious, miraculous and wonderful! Should not our hearts cry out to know Him in all His beauty and power? And we can, is the promise.