5 Key Understandings for What it Means to be Filled with the Holy Spirit

First Thoughts

The filling of the Holy Spirit is an essential element for us to learn how to defeat temptation and sin in our lives.  We understand this fact as we see Jesus defeating temptation, not by drawing upon His Deity, but by utilizing the resources that the Father made available to all of humanity for living victorious lives.  One of these resources is the Holy Spirit's filling.  Luke tells us that, immediately after the wilderness temptations, Jesus "returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit" (Luke 4:14).  Jesus then attended worship at the synagogue in Nazareth, where He led in the reading of the Haftarah (the reading of the prophets) and chose Isaiah 61 as His passage.   In that reading, He quotes, "The Spirit of the Lord is on Me" (Luke 4:18).  


If the being filled with God's Spirit was essential for the God-man Jesus, how much more is this filling absolutely necessary for us.  But what does that filling mean?

Ephesians 5:18 declares, "And don't get drunk with wine, which leads to reckless actions, but be filled by the Spirit."  Take note of these 5 steps to being filled.

1. Surrender to God's Direction. To be filled is a command word.  This word in the text does not mean an option or a suggestion.  It is commanded of all of us as believers.  To be filled is more than just the idea of a glass filled to the rim with water.  One way that it is understood is in describing a sail that is filled with wind.  Paul actually uses this idea in 2 Peter 1:21.  To be filled means that we surrender to God so deeply that He directs our lives.  Additionally, it means that He fills us - we do not fill ourselves (be filled by the Spirit).  Where is it that God is not controlling your direction?  To be filled with the Spirit's power demands that you so empty your life of yourself that you become like a hanging sail, motionless and powerless, until the wind blows.  God takes control of your life, fills you, and moves you where He desires.  Are you open to letting God take that level of control of your life?  Luke 4:1 says, "Then Jesus returned from the Jordan, full of the Holy Spirit, and was led by the Spirit to the wilderness."  As Jesus surrendered to God's direction, so must we in order to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

2. Surrender to God's Possession. To be filled also carries the idea of infusion.  John MacArthur uses the concept of how salt permeates meat to both preserve and flavor it.  I think of a jelly donut.  The outside of all donuts taste the same, but once jelly is infused into the donut, it literally changes the taste and makes the taste unique.  As God takes control of our lives, He should take possession of us so that He infuses us with His character.  When the world takes a bite out of you, do all they taste is the reaction of your flesh, or do they taste the sweetness of the power of God's Spirit infused in you?  

3. Surrender to God's Control.  To be filled with the Spirit means that God's Spirit dominates our lives.  A huge mistake that Christians make is to give God partial control or lip-service control to certain aspects of our lives.  For example, we make excuses for why we don't forgive each other when those excuses only demonstrate that Christ is not in control of that particular area of our lives.  Added to this one struggle are our emotions, attitudes, behaviors, and actions.  What is it or where is it that God is really not in control?  To be filled demands that we surrender our all to Him.  John 5:19 tells us, "Then Jesus replied, 'I assure you: The Son is not able to do anything on His own, but only what He sees the Father doing.  For whatever the Father does, the Son also does these things in the same way.'"

4. Surrender to the Priority of Worship.  The evidence and response to filling is worship - be filled by the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music (Ephesians 5:18-19).  When Jesus came to Nazareth, Luke says that "on the Sabbath day, He went to the synagogue, AS WAS HIS CUSTOM" (emphasis added).  In today's Christian culture, we are not filled with God's Spirit because we don't prioritize worship.  For many, worship is a "take it or leave it" proposition.  To be filled means that worship is essential to our lives.  Though we don't ascribe to a Christian Sabbath, we understand that the Lord's Day belongs to Him.  Worship becomes a response to God's Spirit that leads us to participate in worship, not just see it from a spectator's view.  It also becomes a lifestyle.  We worship on Sundays, but we recognize the necessity of worship every day.  How does worship play into your life?  Is it an activity that you schedule if it fits within your demands?  Or is it essential to your life and your can't live without it?

5. Surrender through Availability.  To be filled means that we make ourselves available to God. To fill our cars with gas, we have to go to the gas station.  Our cars don't automatically fill themselves when the tank gets low (even you guys who drive electric cars have to take it to a charging station!).  Being filled happens as you continually choose to live under the Spirit's control and filling.  To be filled means that the Spirit gets more of you each day and takes control of you.  Do you make yourself completely available to God or only partly available?  Is the Christian life a matter of convenience or conviction and commitment?  To be filled demands the commitment totally selling out to God (see Romans 12:1-2).  


Jesus serves as an incredible example for us of the perfectly Spirit-filled Man.  He shows us that it is possible for us as believers to have victory over sin.  Don't settle for anything less.  Don't use the excuse that you are just "a sinner saved by grace," meaning that you have resolved to live a life that struggles with sin until you die and go to heaven.  Realize that today you can have that victory - and it comes when you are filled by God's Holy Spirit.  He will empower you to live a victorious Christian life.