The Christian and the Spirit-Filled Life

There is great discussion amongst Christian circles as to what it means to be filled with the Spirit and what that filling involves. This is a doctrine of great significance due to the fact that it affects the daily life of the believer. Understanding of this doctrine is of upmost importance for every believer to grasp. The thesis of this article is to present a clear understanding of what it means to be filled with the Spirit, how an individual can experience a Spirit-filled life, and the results or evidences of a Spirit-filled life.
By way of introduction there are some things that must be clarified, namely two: the role of the Holy Spirit in salvation, and the difference between the indwelling or baptism of the Spirit and the filling of the Spirit. Often times it is not realized the role that the Holy Spirit plays when it comes to the salvation of the one who believes and trusts in Jesus. When it comes to salvation it must be understood that it is a complete act of the divine Godhead and it is not based upon any merit of the one who receives this salvation. Lewis Chafer writes, “The new birth, then, is not a mere remedy for human failures: it is a creation by divine generation, a constituting of believers inherent, innate, legitimate, sons of God. In every feature of it, this is a work of God and is wrought as an expression of His sublime purpose and the satisfying of His infinite love for those He thus saves.” The question thus arisen has to do with what specific role does the Holy Spirit, the third person in the trinity, play in the regeneration or salvation of mankind. The first answer to this question is the most obvious in which it is taken directly from a clear statement in scripture which reads, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him.” This drawing by God the Father is performed by the Holy Spirit of God. It must be understood that one cannot be saved apart from the drawing of the Holy Spirit. In one of Spurgeon’s great sermons on the Holy Spirit he states this fact: “all which has been done by God the Father, and all that has been done by God the Son must be ineffectual to us, unless the Spirit shall reveal these things to our souls.” In other words, salvation is impossible without the convicting power and drawing of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not only involved in the drawing of one to Christ but also in the actual salvation event itself. The moment one receives Christ through the drawing of the Spirit, the individual thus receives the nature of God which includes all of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The bottom line is that you cannot be saved apart from the Holy Spirit.
In order to understand more fully the Christian and the Spirit-filled life, attention must be given to the baptism of the Spirit and the difference between that baptism and the filling of the Spirit. This author believes that the baptism of the Spirit is the same as the indwelling of the Spirit. The two go together. As you are baptized in the Spirit, you are indwelled by the Spirit, and as you are indwelled by the Spirit you are thus baptized in the Spirit. This baptism of the Spirit is a one-time event which takes place at the very moment of regeneration. When one is baptized in the Holy Spirit the entire blessings of salvation is bestowed and the individual is brought into the family of God as a joint-heir with Christ. This baptism in the Spirit constitutes the indwelling of the Holy Spirit which is described by Roy Edgemon: “The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is not an experience apart from salvation; every believer is indwelled by the Spirit at the moment of conversion. This indwelling provides power and direction for life, provides guidance for developing as a disciple of Christ, and results in Christ-like living.” May I add to this statement by Edgemon that the provisions mentioned in the above quote is made possible by the indwelling or baptism of the Holy Spirit but it is actualized by the filling of the Holy Spirit. As mentioned, the baptism of the Spirit brings one into the family of God with all the benefits of being a son of God.
Now that we have clarified the role of the Spirit in salvation and the baptism or indwelling of the Spirit, our attention is thus turned to the thesis of this article which is to present a clear understanding of what it means to be filled with the Spirit, how an individual can experience a Spirit-filled life, and the results or evidences of a Spirit-filled life. May we first direct our attention to what it means to be filled with the Spirit. It needs to be understood that even though an individual is baptized in the Spirit and thus indwelled by the Spirit, does not automatically assure that the individual is filled with the Spirit. The baptism or indwelling has nothing to do with any work of man; it comes only by the free grace of God. However, the filling of the Spirit is dependent upon the actions and attitudes of the believer. This is why we are given the command in scripture to be filled with the Spirit. This command is found in Ephesians 5:18, which read: “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.” Notice this interesting comparison of being filled with the Spirit and being drunk with wine. When an individual is intoxicating he or she loses control of themselves. This is why we often hear stories of people doing things when they are drunk that they normally would not do. Being filled with the Spirit is the same way. It is losing control of oneself and yielding all control over to the Holy Spirit of God. When the believer is filled with the Spirit he or she is completely controlled by the Spirit of God with no interference from the flesh. The Bible Knowledge Commentary speaks as to why we are commanded to be filled with the Spirit: “The negative is to abstain from getting drunk on wine. The positive command is to be filled with the Spirit. Thus, the believer, rather than controlling himself, is controlled by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit’s indwelling, sealing, and baptism occur at the time of regeneration and thus are not commanded. However, believers are commanded to be filled constantly with the Holy Spirit. Each Christian has all the Spirit, but the command here is that the Spirit has all of him.” To be filled with the Spirit is to be controlled by the Spirit. The believer cannot live the Christian life on his own merits. No matter how hard we try, we cannot live the life in our own power. Due to the presence of the sin nature in our lives, as long as we are on this earth, we will never be able to live the life that God has called us to live apart from the filling of the Spirit. Lewis Chafer points out in his great work on Systematic Theology: “Certainly any attempt to live by heavenly standards when depending upon human resources will be a disappointment even though motivated by the greatest sincerity. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to empower the believer not only in choosing an intelligent manner of life which does not attempt to establish union with Christ but rather understands the need to maintain communion with Christ, never attempting other rules of life than that addressed to the heavenly citizen, but also in confronting the vicissitudes of daily life as he commits it all to Him with the consciousness of man’s inability and of His infinite ability. Thus it is set forth the fundamental truth that the faith method of life, which stands wholly apart from human strength, is that alone which secures or realizes the Spirit’s power and achievement.” It is vitally important for the believer to understand his weakness and his need to constantly yield to the Holy Spirit. This filling of the Spirit is unique in that it can come and go. The Spirit may be in control at one moment and not in control the next. The Spirit’s filling can only be realized when the believer is in total submission to Him. This is the struggle of the Christian life. This is why it is said that the Christian life is a journey. It is filled with many twists and turns and ups and downs. The good news is that even though the Christian life may seem like a roller coaster ride, the salvation of the believer is sure and steadfast and can never be taken away or undone. That is why as one unknown author stated: “it is possible to have a saved soul, and a lost life.” In other words, one may have His salvation secure, but may not live as though he is saved due to the lack of the filling of the Spirit. This is why it is so important that we understand what it means to be filled with the Spirit and that we endeavor every moment of every day to live a Spirit-filled life. Thus it is understood that the filling of the Spirit is when the Holy Spirit is in complete and absolute control of the life of the believer.
As we continue to study the Holy Spirit and the Christian it behooves us to direct our attention to how an individual can experience the filling of the Spirit. Now that we have established that the filling of the Spirit is the controlling power of the Spirit in and over an individual’s life, we must now seek to answer the question as to how we can actually live a Spirit-filled life. This is very difficult question to address. It is rather simple to understand what it means to be filled with the Spirit but to put it into practice and make it happen is a far different endeavor. The fundamental truth concerning how one is filled with the Spirit is summed up in one basic word: surrender. In order to be filled with the Spirit, the believer must live in total surrender to the Holy Spirit. In order to achieve this total surrender it begins with our attitude, namely, our attitude toward the Word of God. As Chafer points out, “the attitude of any person toward the Word of God is a certain indication of the innermost character and reality of that person’s spiritual state.” The Holy Spirit can and never will do anything that is outside of the Word of God. Therefore, to be filled with the Spirit the believer must live according to the principles of scripture. In order to live according to the principles of scripture, the believer must be a student of the Word of God and must allow God’s Word to transform his way of thinking, thus, changing the way in which he lives. As the second verse of Romans chapter twelve states: “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of you mind, that ye may prove what is that good and acceptable, and perfect will of God.” Concerning this passage the new American Commentary says, “Rather than allowing the world to ‘squeeze you into its own mold’, Paul told believers to be ‘transformed by the renewing of your minds.’ From without there is a continuing pressure to adapt to the customs and mind-set of the world in which we live. Although that influence must be rejected, that alone will never create the kind of change God has in mind for His followers. Real and lasting change comes from within. We must ‘let ourselves be transformed.” Allowing ourselves to be transformed requires that we study and live the scriptures. Second Timothy 2:15 says, “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” The subject that we are to study is none other than the Word of God. As the psalmist says, we are to delight in God’s Word, meditate on God’s Word, and hide God’s Word in our hearts. In response to our study of God’s Word we are to allow ourselves to be transformed as we become doers of the Word and not hearers only. This study of, obedience to, and transformation from the Word of God will in turn open the door for the Holy Spirit to fill the believer. Not only does surrender to the Word of God bring about the Spirit’s filling but also the surrender of our sin. It is a certain fact that sin in the life of the believer hinders the relationship with Christ though never divorces that relationship. It must be understood that once an individual has been regenerated then that salvation is secured by the Holy Spirit who seals us. However, the relationship we then have with Christ can become strained due to our sins. It is similar to the relationship of a parent and child. A parent/child relationship will become strained when there is disobedience in the life of the child, however, this does not cause the child to no longer be the child. As believers, our relationship with Christ is hindered due to our sin, yet we are still His child. But to be filled with the Spirit, the sin must be dealt with and it must be removed. This is why the scripture commands us to confess our sins, keeping short accounts with God so that the Spirit can freely fill us. When we allow ourselves to live in a way that hinders the filling of the Spirit in our lives we consequently grieve the Spirit. The scriptures command us to not grieve the Spirit. As Ephesians 4:30 says, “And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.” To grieve the Spirit is to hinder His work and power in our lives. When we allow unconfessed sins in our lives, the work of the Spirit in guiding us, convicting us, and teaching us the Word of God is limited. The more we allow sin in our lives the more the Spirit’s working in our life is lessened, thus, causing us to live a carnal life which is totally displeasing to God, which in turn hinders the blessings and approval of God in our lives. Warren Wiersbe says, “……we should not grieve Him by allowing these sins of action and attitude to be in our lives.” In order to assure the continual filling of the Spirit, the believer must put to death his sins on a daily basis. Romans 8:13 says, “For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” The word ‘mortify’ means to ‘put to death’. It is a total removal of sin from our lives. If we are to be filled with the Spirit there must be a daily ‘putting to death’ ourselves and a total transformation into a new creation in Christ that is yielded completely to the Spirit’s control. Romans 6:13 tells us, “Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.” In order to be filled with the Spirit we must not allow sin into our lives. We must not yield to sin by putting ourselves into situations that would cause us to sin. Rather we are to yield to God by submitting to His Word. This continual removal of sin from our lives and the surrendering of ourselves to the Word of God will in fact open the door to the filling of the Spirit. It is in these times in our lives when we surrender to God’s Word and live free of sin that the Spirit’s filling enables us for service. As Chafer points out, “it is the divine ideal for each individual believer to be filled with the Spirit before beginning any Christian service; and as early Christians were refilled in preparation for each mission, in like manner it should be true with believers today.” It should also be pointed out that the filling of the Spirit is based upon our surrender to Him and not on praying to be filled. We can pray to be filled with the Spirit all we want to but if we do not meet the conditions for filling then it will not happen. To conclude this thought, to be filled with the Spirit the believer must surrender to the Word of God and must surrender or ‘put to death’ the sin in his life.
Now that we have established what it means to be filled with the Spirit and how one can experience this filling, we turn our attention to the final investigation in our thesis and that is the results of living a Spirit-filled life. Lewis Chaffer describes reward of the Spirit-filled life is the power to overcome evil and the power to do good. It is on this basis that we address this issue. By way of introduction, Chafer states, “The individual is a Christian when rightly related to Christ; the Christian is spiritual when rightly related to the Spirit.” May I add that the Christian is rightly related to the Spirit when he is filled with the Spirit. It is when the believer is filled that he possesses the power to overcome evil and the power to do good. Chafer outlines three basic enemies of the Christian: the world, the flesh, and the Devil. The fundamental reality is that these three enemies are ever present with the believer until his redemption is complete when he leaves this earth. Even though the believer cannot be rid of these enemies in this life, he can have the power to overcome them through the filling of the Spirit. A brief description of these enemies is necessary at this point in order to indentify more clearly who the enemy is.
The world referred to is this world-system which, as we know, is cursed with sin. Often times the believer will fall prey to the world in order to fulfill emptiness in his life. Chafer states, “The world and ‘worldly’ Christians turn to so-called ‘worldly’ things because they discover in them an anesthetic to deaden the pain of an empty heart and life.” This ‘anesthetic’, however, is a trap that ensnares the believer and prevents the filling of the Spirit, thus limiting the believer’s ability to overcome the world. This is why a Spirit-filled life is so important. To prevent from being ensnared by the world and falling prey to this world’s system, it is imperative that the believer is Spirit-filled. It is only through a Spirit-filled life that the believer can overcome the world. When the believer is Spirit-filled he is surrendered the fighting of the battle over to the Spirit and it is the Spirit that fights the battle and overcomes the world for the believer. When the believer does what is necessary (surrender to God’s Word, and surrender of sin) to be Spirit-filled, the Holy Spirit is no free to do His work in overcoming the world in behalf of the believer. It is accomplished only through the power of the Spirit, leaving no glory for man but giving all glory to God.
Another enemy that the believer faces is the flesh. Chafer says, “The Adamic nature is the dominating factor in all that enters into the flesh. That nature remains undiminished and unimpaired in each believer after he is saved and becomes one of the three great foes of the spiritual life.” Just like the world, the believer is not free from the flesh until he no longer abides in this world and in current sinful flesh. This is the great struggle for the believer. It is often said that man’s worst enemy is himself. The greatest hindrance to living a Spirit-filled life is the believer himself. This battle with the flesh is only won when the Spirit is in full control. The Spirit-filled life is the only way the believer can overcome the flesh.
The final enemy that the believer faces is the Devil himself. Satan is involved in constant warfare against the believer. A study of Satan is not necessary here, but it must be understood that Satan is very powerful, and no believer can overcome the power and the attacks of Satan apart from the Spirit-filled life. Evil is ever present with the believer. This evil is seen through three enemies: the world, the flesh, and the Devil. The believer is powerless against these forces. The only way to overcome evil is through living a Spirit-filled life. When the believer is Spirit-filled these enemies are defeated through the work and power of the Spirit Himself and not by any merit of the believer. The key is to do what is required to be Spirit-filled so that the evil can be overcome.
Not only is the result of living the Spirit-filled life the power to overcome evil, but also the result of the Spirit-filled life is the power to do good. In order to realize this power to do good, it first must be pointed out that there is no good in man. Even in the believer, there is no good in him. Scripture clearly teaches that even the righteous deeds of man do not even come close to the righteousness of God. The only good that the believer has is through the Holy Spirit that lives within him, and even then it is not that the believer becomes good or is good, it is that the Holy Spirit is the one that is good and that is doing the good through the submissive agent of the believer. The Spirit-filled life is made manifest through what is known as the ‘fruits of the Spirit.’ These fruits of the Spirit are listed in Galatians Chapter five and are thus quoted here: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance, against such there is no law.” These fruits of the Spirit are made evident in the life of the believer when the believer is filled with the Spirit. These fruits are the outward signs of the inward filling of the Spirit. We know whether or not one is Spirit-filled by the fruit they bear. This fruit comes not from our own strength or merit but by the Spirit who fills us. Dr. David Jeremiah writes, “The answer lies in the source of our energy. Anything we do on our own, by ourselves, is bound to be more difficult than if we rely on the energy of God. His strength is boundless. His resources are limitless, and they are ours for the asking. When we ask God to fill us with His Spirit and allow the Spirit to be the one in control of our lives, our effort is fueled by the Almighty, and we begin to produce fruit born of the Spirit.” The key here is not in the asking of God but in the yielding to the Spirit through surrender to God’s Word and surrender of sin, which in turn causes us to be filled with the Spirit which produces the fruits of the Spirit in our lives. The Spirit-filled life may be difficult to achieve, but once it is realized the love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance of God is realized in the life of the believer. The Spirit-filled life produces a sweet communion with God and a joy that is beyond description.
The Christian and the Spirit-filled life are to be the focus of the life of the believer. It should be the desire of every believer to be Spirit-filled. The filling of the Spirit is made possible only by a complete surrender of sin and a complete surrender to the Word of God. As the believer surrenders, the Spirit-filled life is made possible and the believer takes on superhuman qualities known only to God Himself.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s