We spend a lot of time in our lives filling up. Every day, we fill our stomachs with food. Students fill their minds with specific facts and knowledge during class time and doing homework. We fill our hearts spending time with friends and family, people who truly care about us. We fill our hours with entertainment and relaxation. We go to the grocery store in order to fill up our refrigerators and pantries. We go to the convenience store to fill up our gas tanks.
The Scriptures talk about another type of filling that we should pursue—the filling of the Holy Spirit. To the Ephesian Church, Paul says,
Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord,always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 5:18-20)
When we are filled, that is, controlled by the Holy Spirit, we will think and act very differently from the world. Yet, today what is so noticeable about many who claim they are Christians is how similarly they think and act like the world who does not believe.
When we surrender our lives to Jesus and are baptized, we receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). But as Paul notes to the Thessalonians, we can quench the Spirit in our lives. In other words, we can refuse him control. Thus, when we fail to let him be in control of our lives, our lives resemble the world much more than Jesus.
To be filled with the Spirit is much more about our will than what we believe. We can say whatever we want, but it is our will that makes that a reality in our lives, or not. The journey of the spiritual life is one of increasing submission. This is how we are molded into the men and women the Lord created us to be. We cannot make ourselves into that, but we can allow God to do it in us. This is where the will and the Spirit come together, and either the Spirit fills us or we quench his work.
The sense of the Greek which Paul uses means to be continually filled with the Spirit. It is not a one-off exercise, but a daily discipline of submitting our will to his so he can do the work. And what is that work? Paul describes it this way,
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)
Now imagine a church filled with people who are full of love, full of joy, full of peace, of patience, of kindness, of goodness, of faithfulness, of gentleness, and of self-control. Do you think such a church would gain the attention of those who interact with these people? Can anyone name a church filled with people like that? There are likely a few folks like this in many churches, but, likely, they are in the vast minority, because the fruit of the Spirit cannot be produced within you just by attending a church, singing praise songs, and having the right beliefs. It can only be produced with a submissive will. Jesus asked his followers this question, “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46)
To obey Jesus is impossible without the Holy Spirit present and filling us. When we quench the Spirit by refusing to submit our will to him, or by not spending time with the Lord through reading the Scriptures and in prayer, the fruit will not be present in our lives.
As we head into the home stretch of this political season and continue to cope with the fallout of the pandemic, the world desperately needs believers who are filled with the Holy Spirit and producing his fruit. They desperately need people who are loving instead of hateful; people who are joyful rather than complaining; people who are peacemakers rather than arousing anger; people who are patient in times where so many are on edge; people who are kind in a culture of increasing meanness; people who are good in a world of so much evil; people who are steadfast in the Lord in the face of increasing hostility to the faith; people who are gentle in an increasingly harsh world; and people who can exhibit self-control in tense and demanding times.
Jesus said his followers are the “light of the world.” We can truly be that only if we submit our wills to the Lord and allow the Holy Spirit to fill us daily.
© Jim Musser 2020