As we've looked at being filled and led by the Holy Spirit, we realize we cannot command the Holy Spirit to "fill me up!" Rather He commands us to let My Spirit fill you, let My Holy Spirit influence and lead and impact you.
We've also seen how being filled with the Spirit is more relational than mystical or emotional. It looks more like loving Jesus and loving others, or obeying God in a hard situation, or boldly sharing about Jesus with people far more than it is about ecstatic experiences or falling down "slain in the Spirit."
We are commanded to be filled with the Spirit because God loves us, and He wants to lead us in the way of Christ. His Word informs us of His will, but His Spirit empowers us to walk in His will.
Though He tells us what to do, He never expects us to just go do it on our own. Rather, He's nurturing trust, relationship, intimacy; that's where the power is. Plus, He knows better than us that we can't "just do it."
Simply knowing what to do and even intending to do it is not enough.
Don't put this burden of expectation on you or your spouse, your child, your friend. Paul knew God's Word better than we ever will, yet he confessed that he doesn't do all of the good things he intends and he often catches himself doing the very things he hates.
There's something broken in us (Paul calls it our flesh) that's unwilling to say "no" to the bad things that we like, and which is unable to genuinely love or show self-control, or to be patient or kind when others fail to cooperate with our plans for our own happiness.
Romans 8:7 for the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so.
Addictions, desires, judgments, anxieties. These are inside all of us. But wow, put us in relationships with others, and we all realize loving is hard, being godly, selfless, patient, gentle—just being human is hard. If we're ever to go against our flesh, we need the liberating power of the Holy Spirit to do so.
Galatians 5:16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.
We need the Holy Spirit to help us be true to our best desires. And to manifest Christ's life in us. Again the fruit of the Spirit's influence is love.
Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
So how are we filled? It's often said to be filled with the Spirit we must stop sinning, and surrender to God, and obey God.
But what's wrong with this?
Our flesh NEVER stops sinning, and never surrenders, let alone obeys God!
And if this is what we must do before the Spirit helps us, we're in a heap of trouble. If we must not sin and only obey God in order to be filled by His Spirit, i.e., if we must do what only the Holy Spirit can do before the Holy Spirit fills us, then we are in deep queso. This is not how we are filled…
What does Galatians 3:5 say about being led by the Holy Spirit?
Galatians 3:5 So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?
What does Ephesians 3:16 add?
Ephesians 3:16 [The apostle prays...] that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner self, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may … know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled to all the fullness of God.
So how are we filled with the Spirit and what should we expect?
FIRST, we are filled with the Spirit when we trust and love Jesus Christ.
This is the first and most important matter and goal. This is what Paul prays for, so pray to the Father for this.
This is the Holy Spirit's most vital role, to glorify Jesus, to pour God's love into our heart. Love worships. Love serves. Love wants to obey.
Trusting and loving Jesus is vital to being filled with the Holy Spirit…
SECOND, it's also important that we know God's will,
Ephesians 5:17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, in which there is debauchery [shameful living], but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs…
Notice, don't be a fool but understand God's will in God's Word. And be in a community of grace that speaks the truth to one another. So be in God's Word. Be in a gospel affirming church. For as Colossians 3:16 points out, the Holy Spirit filling in linked to the Word of Christ dwelling richly in us.
So, loving Jesus motivates us to act but we need to understand God's will, what pleases God, what is good and best, and what Jesus is doing so that we know when the Spirit leads, where to follow.
THIRD, the Holy Spirit fills us when we love Jesus, understand God's will, and we value God's will.
This is a huge test. When we love Jesus and we know His will, and the Holy Spirit within us says, "This time, rather than hate let's forgive this person; or let's be kind in this moment; or let's take a moment to listen to our child or to care for this person or help with this need; or let's apologize for hurting her; or let's not write this rude post; or let's share with this person what you love about Jesus," and we listen, and we value what He's saying, and we submit to Him—we are filled with the Spirit.
We may not even realize this conversation is taking place, or this may be something you may wrestle with for years. But as you listen and agree and submit, God is working in your heart, and you are by definition filled with His Spirit. You are being influenced, softened, impacted by God's Spirit…
But here's where many of us stumble the hardest.
It's one thing to know God's Word, but when the Holy Spirit wants to apply it in our lives—love this person, respect that person, share the gospel with your coworker, or do something that your flesh really does not want to do—we need to value God's will or we will not want Him to do it through us.
Put another way, we will not submit to God's will in the moment if we do not love Jesus or value what He wants us to do.
So this is important! Do you trust His wisdom? Yes. Do you trust His love? Yes. Do you trust His why?...
By that I mean, do you understand why our LORD would have you love or forgive this person or be patient when you really just want to get even? Why serve when it's inconvenient? Why give when you naturally want to keep? Why apologize when you think it wasn't so bad what you did? Why not post that meme? If you don't relate to God and know His heart and just think in your flesh you won't care.
But we don't want to be in our flesh and not care about God's Will!
So turning to Jesus we realize the answer to all of these is rooted in God's holy and loving nature. This is God's heart. That's why He wants us to love. And this is the heart and the way of thinking that His Holy Spirit is forming in you. Ultimately, the very things that we love in Jesus are the very things the Spirit wants to produce in us.
This is why God's love for us must come first. You won't let the Spirit cancel out your flesh unless you love Jesus.
Why should I love this person when this person doesn't love me? Why be kind if I am angry? Why forgive if I am hurt? It's not just "do these things because God says so!" But do these because of God's love for you and your trust in Jesus and you want to follow the Way of Jesus that leads to life.
Finally, the Holy Spirit fills us in an evident way when we step out with faith in Jesus relying on the Spirit to work through us.
As you step out because of God, because of His Spirit, because you love Him. As you step out to obey His Word, AS you serve, AS you give, As you patiently love someone that your flesh wants to strangle, the Spirit is acting in you, glorifying Jesus, the Father's smiling.
Granted the magic may or may not be happening, but you are filled—being led by—the Holy Spirit.
But here's the thing, walking by the Spirit implies action. Being filled with the Spirit is often for a task. A challenge to face. A hard person to love. A message to share. It's not easy,
Philippians 2:13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to desire and to work for His good pleasure.
We are not always filled by the Spirit, but how cool to know that He is always ready and willing to lead us, and to enable us to live more in line with Christ and our new hearts. We won't always do so. The apostles didn't. And there's incredible forgiveness and grace and understanding with God.
Yet the Holy Spirit is with and in and personally "there" for you! You are not alone. You're not the one keeping everything together. You're not the one whose got to make it work.
Romans 15:13 Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.