Filled With The Spirit
FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT
As Christians Paul is telling us today that we have two fundamental choices. And these choices are as different as night and day.
- We can grieve the Holy Spirit
- We can be filled with the Holy Spirit
Grieving the Holy Spirit leads to a cycle of shame and death within us. Being filled with the Holy Spirit leads to being more alive than we ever thought we could be.
First, what does it mean to grieve the Holy Spirit?
Grieving the Holy Spirit isn’t a small thing it is serious. The word “to grieve” in the Greek is more than just to make the Holy Spirit sad. It is breaking the Holy Spirit’s heart. This is weird because first, the Holy Spirit is referred to as a person, and we usually think of Him as an impersonal force. And second, because we don’t really think of God as having feelings and God’s feelings getting hurt. God made everything, set everything in place, knows what is going to happen, God is the source of all reason and truth, so feelings seem to be below God. But the text suggests that at least in the person of the Holy Spirit, God has deep feelings, deeper than we can ever imagine. And we can hurt those feelings.
The best analogy of this that I could think of is what happens when a child breaks a parent’s heart. You are grieved when all your love and sacrifice is just ignored and discarded. Even your pastor, a stereotypical good son, has broken my parent’s hearts on occasion. Twice in my life I have lied to my father. Twice in my life have I misused the trust and resources my parents have entrusted in me. And both times I lived in fear that my Father would not welcome me back. And indeed, there are some biological parents who have no idea how to be real parents. They are full of wrath and rejection. But I need you to know that isn’t about you. That is about them. And the Lord will deal with them in time. But most parents, even if they don’t show it, love you with an undying love. They discipline you because they know what is best for you more than you may know what is best for you at the time. And though I feared my Father would not welcome me back he did. Because there is no fear in love for perfect love casts out fear. And as imperfect as many of our parents are, the majority of them love us and want the best for us. And if that is not the case with our biological parents often the Lord will provide for us spiritual parents that care for us far more than those who may have given birth to us but do not know our Spirits. The older I get the more I learn to give thanks for what my parents could give me, not what they couldn’t give me. The older I get the more I ask my heavenly Father to provide for me where my earthly parents could not. Because every parent is only a human being. They are trying to figure out life just like you. They have just been at it longer than you kids and teens. By their very nature there will be things that they cannot not give you in the way you need it. But that doesn’t mean they don’t love you more than their own lives. That doesn’t mean they wouldn’t lay down their lives for you at a moments notice. That doesn’t mean if you have grieved them they won’t welcome you back into their arms if you turn around. Such are our earthly parents. How much more loving, how much more forgiving, then is our Heavenly Father. How then do we grieve the Holy Spirit? Remember the three D’s.
The word debauchery or excess, literally translates as unsavedness. You are saved but you are acting like you are not. You are acting like a Gentile as this text says. The word Gentile is where we get our modern word ethnic and it just means the nations. Everyone who is not Jewish. But it is not a racial meaning here. Instead, it reflects a system of belief. A system of belief that is so open that it doesn’t really believe in anything. It is like having a thousand choices for peanut butter at the grocery store. That many choices paralyze us, they don’t free us. And if you actually tried every type of peanut butter chances are you would get sick and be in a sticky situation to boot. What paganism calls openness the scriptures would call a debased mind. And while many cultures say that more is better I think research shows the law of diminishing returns. The more you have the less it seems to affect you. Money can make you happier. Grinding poverty grinds the soul. But after a certain point the more money you have there is a diminishing return. That is the same with most things in our lives. The scriptures have a term for diminishing returns. The Bible calls it hardness of heart. It is where we get our word petrified from. And indeed we seek thing that we think will make us happy, we fill ourselves up with it, and life becomes dull, it petrifies our heart.
Division. I preached an entire sermon on this. I would refer you back to that sermon. For our purposes today I will only say that if you can hurt God’s feelings and that matters to God then it certainly matters if you hurt other people’s feelings. We may be right, but it may not be the right time, and we may not say the truth in the right way. To quote one marriage counselor I read, “you can be right but wrong at the top of your voice.” Those of you who are married know what I am talking about. If you don’t know what I am talking about ask those who are married.
Disobedence is more than just not obeying the rules of the Bible. There are many, many rules in the Bible, many of which we don’t think apply for today, some of which we have honest disagreements about, and others that we agree on but we don’t always apply well to our circumstances. One can live by the Letter of the Law and that letter can still kill us. But when we walk in the Spirit we are guided into the greater truth of the rules. Disobedence is not doing what the Holy Spirit tells you to do. I don’t believe that folks like Norma and Suzi, who are good at hearing God’s voice hear His voice any louder than the rest of us most of the time. They have just learned to discern the difference between the still small voice and their own inner voice. And they take risks and act on what they are told. If you want to be obedient remember the prayer of Derek Prince, an author I have been reading recently. “Lord help me be in the right place at the right time.”
That is what it means to grieve the Holy Spirit. What does Paul mean by being filled with the Holy Spirit? This term is used a lot in the book of Acts. The Word suggests a container that is filled to the brim with water till it is about to overflow. Some Pentecostal churches have called this the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and they say this must always be accompanied by speaking in tongues. But Paul says we can also quench the Spirit in 1 Thessalonians 5:9. The Word there suggests the image of trying to start a camp fire. Maybe you have got the kindling burning but then someone throws water on it before the real fuel can catch on fire. Quenching the Holy Spirit is basically telling the Holy Spirit what He should or should not do. The Holy Spirit is God. He does what He wants. And when we let Him do what He wants often we can be filled with the Holy Spirit. We can’t control the Holy Spirit even if we get everything right and have a great worship service. Paul’s command to be “filled with the Spirit” could be better translated, “let yourself be filled with the Spirit.” It is like someone is standing above you with a water hose and you are waiting for the person to turn it on so you can drink. You can open your mouth but you don’t control the hose. That is how it is with being filled with the Spirit. We can make ourselves receptive to this experience but we can’t force God to create this experience for us. So what are the circumstances that might result in us being filled with the Spirit and what are some signs of being filled with the Spirit?
Paul lists five behaviors that if done with an honest and contrite heart can result with being filled with the Spirit.
All of these actions Paul talks about are taking place in the gathered worship of believers which tends to be the place where the Holy Spirit moves in the most powerful ways. Speaking, probably refers to the reciting of liturgy, the preaching of the word of God, the giving of testimony, prophecy, and tongues if an interpretation is provided. Speaking holds an important place in the Bible. Paul tells us that if we confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead we shall be saved (Romans 10:9). It is almost as if our speaking completes what is going on in our hearts. In a romantic relationship people take some time getting to know each other and building up their feelings. They may think that they love the other person. But when you speak out what you feel and the other person does it changes the spiritual reality of the relationship. Because we are not just vibrating air when we speak words. We are releasing something spiritual that changes us and others.
Singing is also essential. Music is a way to communicate emotions, to communicate our spirit, in a way that words alone cannot. Music, may it be with instruments, or just accapella, can lead us into deeper spiritual experiences. I mean I met a barista once who had the name of the band “The Beatles” tattooed on her arm. I asked her about it and for her The Beatles were almost a religious experience, that is why she tattooed the name of the band on her arm. That’s why people spend so much time and money on music. Because it helps us move past just words to sighs that are too deep for words. It helps us cry out to God as deep cries out to deep, as the scriptures put it. But it also can become an idol. We can have the best organist, the best choir, the best contemporary worship band, the best whatever, and merely be performing. When we fight over what time of music we are playing, whether we like it or not, instead of whether we are welcoming different generations into the presence of God, we are grieving the Spirit.
Giving thanks is essential to our relationship with God. Paul commands us to give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thess 5:8). Notice that the Bible does not command us to give thanks for all circumstances. God does not want us to call evil circumstances good. Instead, he wants us to acknowledge our pain, he wants us to grieve and lament, but in the midst of suffering he wants us to look for something to give thanks for. If we don’t give thanks in our relationship to God and our relationships with others very quickly bitterness can set in. Hebrews 12 talks about a bitter root that defiles many. I know that reality in my own life. I know how bitterness can set in and defile my ministry and my relationships. Let us acknowledge our pain to God but beware of bitterness. We fight bitterness by giving thanks in all things while not giving thanks for all things.
Finally, we are filled with the Holy Spirit when we submit ourselves to God and to each other. The word here means to voluntarily place oneself under. There is a place for struggle in the Christian life. I mean Jesus sweated blood as he prayed in the Garden of Gestheneme that the cup of wrath, the burden of the cross, might pass from Him. Submission requires struggle because our submission must be authentic. Discerning the Lord’s Will is a constant process of learning how to sense in our Spirits the Holy Spirit teaching us the difference between good and evil because in this mixed up world the difference is not always clear. But as we struggle with the Lord’ Will over time saying “Thy will be done” will come more quickly and easier for us. Though submission has been abused by abusers and tyrants it can also free us from a great tyranny. To quote Richard Foster, author of Celebration of Discipline submission, “ is the ability to lay down the horrible burden of always having to get our own way.” (Foster, 111). Jesus tells us if you are going to fight a battle know the cost and be willing to pay that cost. If we have not mastered the discipline of submission then our lives will be a series of battles that we simply did not have to fight. We will end up banging our head against the closed doors of life instead of going through the doors God has opened to us. One of my favorite Proverbs is Proverbs 16:9 which says, “ a man plans his way but the Lord guides his steps.” I don’t know how our choice works into God’s Will but I think this is the best description I can find. If I just lock myself in my room, am afraid of the world, and put of making any decisions, waiting for a voice to boom down from the sky and tell me what to do, I will probably be disappointed. But if I make plans and keep moving, my plans may not work out the way I planned, but God can work with those plans. It also helps if we, “trust in the Lord with all our heart and lean not on our own understanding”. It helps in all our ways that we submit it to the Lord and he will make straight our path. Does the Lord have an opinion on what serial you buy or what color the carpet is in church? Probably not. But He has a right to overrule you. So in all your decision give God veto power. And when we take that attitude maybe we will find that life isn’t as confusing as it was before. Maybe we will find the path is clearer. The way straighter. Maybe God will speak a specific word for us. Maybe He will let us make decisions with our minds that have been shaped to think like Jesus. Derek Prince, a writer who writes a lot on being led by the Spirit sums up a simple prayer to pray if you want to be led by the Spirit. “Lord help me be in the right place at the right time.”
When we do these things the Bible tells us that often the Holy Spirit will fill us. Now I believe scripture teaches that we receive the Holy Spirit into our hearts when we come to believe in Jesus as our Lord and Savior and often this can be a quiet experience. But when we talk about the Holy Spirit coming into your heart we are not saying that the Spirit comes into the physical organ of your heart. Instead, we are saying that the Holy Spirit takes up residence in the center of our being, in the center of our life force. And I think what happens when we are filled with the Holy Spirit is He gets so excited that he escapes from our Spirit and fills our bodies. When the Holy Spirit fills us He affects each believer in unpredictable and different ways. In my case I often feel physical effects. I physically sense the presence of the Holy Spirit. I often joke that I either have brain damage or I feel God. Some of you at this point in the sermon might be siding with the brain damage explanation but I will donate my brain to science when I die and perhaps they will be able figure it out. Often I will feel a pressure, a current, a tingling. When the Spirit fills me in sermons you might note that my personal presence is bigger than it usually is. It is like there is another person around me. I have listened to some recordings of my preaching when this happens. My cadence changes, there is a flow of words, I am in control but also not in control. I am not boasting. I am honestly surprised that is me speaking. And I feel really strong and powerful. But afterwards, it is like something is leaking out of my body, and I feel exhausted. That is my experience. But there are many more. The scriptures record that sometimes people are given great courage when they are filled with the Spirit. Perhaps you gain courage to deal with a crisis or you have sudden courage to give a witness to the Lord. Sometimes people experience a profound peace when they are filled with the Spirit. Perhaps you have had to make a really hard decision in your life or something really hard happens to you. And despite your circumstances you just feel overcome with this peace that everything is going to be alright. Sometimes people are given the gift of faith. They have this assurance that if they pray this prayer or do this action something will happen and they know it for sure which enables them to pray crazy prayers or do crazy things. Sometimes people become very quiet and contemplative when they are filled with the Spirit. Sometimes they cry out in praise and joy. Sometimes they break down crying. Sometimes your body will start to shake or tremble. Sometimes people will be filled with joy and they will start dancing and laughing. Sometimes people will be given an insight from the Lord to help another person, something that only the Lord could know, something that speaks deep to the person’s heart. Sometimes people may speak a language they do not know or a heavenly language that is more about their heart praying than the words coming out of their mouth. Sometimes people will be used to heal people when the Spirit fills them. Sometimes they will be used to comfort people. These are just some descriptions that can be found in the scriptures. Last week, I believe the Spirit was poured out. But it was different when I preached the sermon called Spiritual Strength. That sermon several weeks ago the Lord gave you all a revelation of God’s power. Probably, many of you left the service feeling strengthened. What I preached on came to pass because the Holy Spirit made it so. different. So think about how the Spirit has filled you in your life. Maybe you haven’t known what to call it before now. But that is what it is. When the Spirit fills me the Lord is magnified through the lens of Will. No other person magnifies the Lord in the way I do. Likewise, when the Spirit fills you no one magnifies the Lord in the way you do. Each of you has a testimony.
The scriptures tell us that we walk by faith. Indeed, I walked for thirteen years, before I came to this place, and during much of that time I did not feel God. I just kept walking by faith. But we are told that faith works through love and we show we love Jesus by obeying him. And sometimes when we obey the Lord we walk into an experience of being filled with the Spirit. This experience is not for us it is to witness to others.Being filled with the Spirit is like a spiritual adrenaline. In a marathon you need to exercise the muscles of your faith to run the long race. But the last stretch you need an extra boost. And the Holy Spirit can give us that boost when we need it, sometimes when we don’t expect it. I am not asking you all to do anything you don’t want to do. I am not asking you that your faith be exactly like my faith. I am just asking you to let the Holy Spirit do what He wants to do in your life. Don’t grieve the Spirit. He has promised that He has come to pour out His Spirit on all flesh, that the world may know that our God is not silent. He is not silent because in suffering and tribulation our lives speak of Him. He is not silent because we are filled with the Spirit.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.