Written Word

How Can We Be Filled With The Holy Spirit?

When you read of the spiritual vibrancy in the life of the early church do you wonder, “Why is my life not like that? How can I live under the Spirit’s influence?”

Conversion to Christ is something amazing: We receive the gracious gift of forgiveness and the Holy Spirit as a gift from God. It is the Holy Spirit who then identifies us as God’s children and is the deposit guaranteeing our future inheritance in heaven. Without the Holy Spirit, we cannot belong to God. His is an essential ministry to all God’s people. (Acts 2:38; Galatians 3:14; Ephesians 1:14; Romans 8:9)

Though every believer has been given the Holy Spirit, not every believer lives a Spirit-filled life. The instruction to “be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18) was written to those who already had received the Holy Spirit. Now, however, they were being instructed to display the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives. Several points need to be noted. First, the instruction to be filled with the Spirit is not optional; it is not something we can take or leave. It is imperative! Second, unlike our conversion, which is unrepeatable (we cannot be born again and again and again), being filled with the Spirit is a continuous process throughout our lives. We are literally to keep on being filled with the Holy Spirit. Third, being filled with the Spirit is not something that automatically happens to us; it is something we are responsible for appropriating as we co-operate with God, who is working in us.

How Can We Be Filled With The Spirit?

We become filled with the Spirit in the same way one becomes filled with wine – by continually drinking. How this spiritual “drinking” is done can be seen in two examples given by our Lord. He said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Matthew 5:6) How do we hunger and thirst for righteousness? Let me explain: We all experience hunger and thirst and, even when we are exhausted we will not rest until we have satisfied our cravings for food and drink. The point Jesus is making is this: We are to pursue righteousness – the doing of the will of God – with the determination of a person pursuing food and drink. Only in the holy pursuit of God’s will can we be satisfied. This is why an appetite must be acquired for spiritual things. This is achieved by exposing ourselves to the will of God through our personal reading of his word, Bible study and prayer.

Satisfying Our Thirst

The Lord discusses the Spirit-filled life in the gospel of John: “On the last and greatest day of the feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.’ By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believe in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.” (John 7:37-39)

Jesus invites the thirsty to come to him and drink. But who are the thirsty and how do they drink? The thirsty are those who desire to live for Jesus; they want his will done in their life. They desire to do the will of God on earth as it is done in heaven. They come to Jesus to “drink” and from within them flows “streams of living water”. This refers to the power of the Holy Spirit at work in their lives. And though their intake is small, their output is like streams of living water flowing from them. This is the Spirit giving a super-abundant display of his presence in their lives.

We are filled with the Spirit to the extent that we allow the Spirit to influence our lives. We yield to the Spirit’s gentle movement in our heart: We “live by the Spirit”, we are “led by the Spirit”, we bear “the fruit of the Spirit” and we “keep in step with the Spirit”. (Galatians 5:16, 18, 22, 25) When we read what the Spirit wrote, hear what the Spirit says and do what the Spirit reveals we are being filled with the Spirit. (Revelation 1:11, 2:7; Colossians 3:16)

The Holy Evidence of a Spirit-Filled Life

How would you know if a person is filled with the Spirit? What would there be about his or her life that would provide confirmation? The answer is not hard to find. The early church needed to implement a programme to ensure that the material needs of the saints were being met. Seven men were appointed to oversee this work; they were men “full of the Spirit”. (Acts 6:3-4) How did the church know which seven to pick? They looked at their manner of life and saw the undeniable evidence of the Spirit’s influence in their lives. The Spirit-filled life cannot be concealed. When you live a Spirit-filled life, “Christ [will] dwell in your hearts.” (Ephesians 3:17) The word “dwell” refers to a place of permanent abode as opposed to temporary accommodation. Jesus speaks on the same theme: “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (John 14:23) The living Christ in our lives is Spirit-filled living.

The Spirit-filled life is not an ordinary life; it bears all the marks of something extraordinary, something supernatural. It is beyond natural explanation. Every believer should be actively pursuing the Spirit-filled life.