Thursday, September 26, 2013

A Spirit-filled Life


A young boy asked his father, “How can I believe in the Holy Spirit when I never see Him?” The father, who was an electrician, said, “I will show you.” The boy went with his father down to a power plant in their town. There, he showed his son the generators. “This is where the power comes from to heat our stove and give us light. We cannot see the power, but it is in that machine, and in the power lines.” “I believe in electricity,” said the son. “Of course you do, but you don’t believe in it because you can see it. You believe in it, because you can see what it can do. In a similar way, this is what takes place with the Holy Spirit. We may not see Him, but we see what He can do.” Jesus says a similar thing to Nicodemus in John 3, when he tells him, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit." (3:8)

We come to a memorable section of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians (5:18-20). Some might argue that it is the most important message in the letter, especially as it relates to Christian living. I would be remiss if I did not mention what it is not first, and that is -- an argument for acapella singing in assembly. I have heard the argument…and have made it myself...and I am not necessarily saying it is wrong to do so. But, I believe that this does not respect the context in which it is written, as this passage (along with v.21) describes five ways that we should be filled with the Spirit of God. Paul also shares in Romans 8:16ff that the Spirit helps us, and works with our spirits to help us know we are God’s children and to empower us. It is only by His power that we are able to live in harmony with one another. Paul shares a very important message for believers that are seeking to live as spiritual people.

Paul’s imperative is “to be filled with the Spirit” plural, meaning “Y’all.” This is something that is able to take place for all Christians, and not just a select few. And this is opposed to being “filled with the spirits” (alcohol), which Paul calls dissipation. Dissipation literally means a loss of self-control, which is just the opposite of the Spirit, who offers “the fruit of self-control.” God’s desire is for Him to be “in control”…Satan’s way is to be “out of control.” The drunk makes a fool of himself and calls attention to himself, whereas the Christian glorifies God and is a witness for Christ.

Referencing the John 3 passage once again, Christians experience a “water and Spirit birth” (3:5). We are baptized, cleansed in order to walk in a newness of life…a life filled with God’s personal power at work in our lives…a life filled with His Spirit. As John mentions, we are baptized once, whereas we are able to be “continually cleansed” when we ask for forgiveness (1 John 1:7). This is closely related to the fact that we are able to be continually filled with the Spirit. When we are cleansed, the Spirit is able to fill that void where sin once was residing. For any English enthusiasts, this is a present tense verb – “keep on being filled with the Spirit.” And passive voice, as we do not fill ourselves, but it is God who “fills us.” Once again, this is to be controlled by God’s power…our mind, our emotions, our will under His guidance. When our lives are made full by the Spirit, we are able to experience His fruit – love, joy, peace, etc. (Galatians 5:22-23). We Christians are able to experience contentment, confidence in spite of circumstances around us. Instead of rising and falling with the temperature of the issues around us like a thermometer, when we are “filled with the Spirit”, He…like a thermostat…helps to determine the spiritual temperature of the circumstances. There is a significant difference between these two.

Spirit-filled people have songs in their hearts and on their lips. Through singing or listening to Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs from our hearts, we give glory to God and exemplify Christ. The Spirit is revealed in our eyes, smiles…in our lives. A famous preacher once said, “When speaking of heaven, let your face light up, let it be radiated with a heavenly gleam, let your eyes shine with a reflected glory…but, when you speak of hell, then your ordinary face will do.”

We must remember that Paul is a prisoner when he writes these things. Yet, he is thankful for what God is doing in him and for him. It is not so ironic that the words “gratitude” and “grace” have the same word root. As Paul indicates, if we have experienced the grace of God, then we ought to be grateful for what God brings to us. As the saying goes, “if God brings you to it, He can bring you through it.” When Spirit-filled people find themselves in difficult situations, they give thanks to the Father, in the name of Jesus, and by the power of the Spirit to resolve any fears, anxieties, or worries that seek to undermine their spirits. Being thankful to God is a great secret to a happy home and good relationships.

I want to finish with this – “standing on the deck of a ship in mid-ocean, you can see the sun reflected from its depths. From a little boat on a mountain lake, you can see the sun reflected from its shallow waters. Looking into a small mountain spring, you can see the same great sun. Look into the dew drops of the morning, and there it is again. The sun has a way of adapting itself to its reflection. The ocean is not too large to hold it, nor is the dew drop too small. So, God’s Spirit can fill any person, whether their capacity is like the ocean or the dew drop. Whatever be the capacity, there is opened up the possibility of being filled up with the fullness of God.” Perhaps, you are feeling empty -- being filled is just humble submission away…all we have to do is ask. We are not going to be able to put aside the distractions and difficulties of this life by tackling them on our own, but inasmuch as we allow God to fill us and battle for us are we going to be able to find success in the spiritual battle, and greater faith.

Blessings, Don

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