Monday, August 11, 2008

Spirit Filled or Spirit Full?

Gas prices are so bad these days that AAA has reported a record number of calls to tow the cars of their members that have run out of gas. People are trying to travel on the bare minimum, but a sputtering car in the middle of nowhere is not a good experience.

Christians also try to go far on an empty or near empty tank these days. I am speaking of being full of the Holy Spirit or lack thereof. There is nothing new in this, but over the years a certain lingo has developed among Christians to describe just how full they think they really are. The phrase most often used is “being Spirit-filled.”

I for one embrace the Spirit-filled life, but I must say that there is an often misleading usage of that phrase. The Bible only uses “Spirit-filled” in the very recent past tense. This means the person or group in question had just experienced a fresh filling of the Holy Spirit. They subsequently moved in great power because of this recent encounter with God. However, calling oneself Spirit-filled does not always indicate the last time you were actually filled with the Spirit. If I plan to take a long trip in my car my wife does not ask me, “Was the tank filled when you bought that car?”, as if once filled always filled. She will ask, “Is the tank full?”

So why am I splitting hairs here? So often I hear someone say, “He is a Spirit-filled brother, so how could he have done such a stupid thing?” What they are really saying is, “This man was once filled with the Holy Spirit with some evidence following, and he has now done something that indicates that he is not Spirit-filled.”

Unfortunately, "Spirit-filled" has become a phrase that is a bit worn out with misuse. Instead of asking if someone is Spirit-filled we should ask a more probing question. “Are you, and I mean right now, FULL of the Holy Spirit?” This is a question that lays us bare. It is not a historical question, and it does not concern our various spiritual gifts. “Am I full of the Holy Spirit?” What is even more telling than asking ourselves is whether or not others think we are full of the Holy Spirit just based on everyday observations and fellowship? Here are a few examples from Scripture that use God’s vocabulary instead of ours:

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led around by the Spirit in the wilderness Luke 4:1

Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task. Acts 6:3

But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. Acts 7:55

When we examine ourselves concerning being full of the Holy Spirit we should quickly know the result if we are indeed Christians. It is a question that we should ask ourselves every day, and we should endeavor to do whatever is necessary to be full of the Holy Spirit. What can we do?

  • Don’t lean on the nostalgia of past experiences. Seek God for more of His presense and power in your life. Acts 4:31
  • Repent of any known sins. Acts 2:37-39; Acts 3:19
  • Spend time with God every day talking with Him – aka prayer – and meditating on His words. Jn 15:1-11
  • Put yourself in a position where you need His presence and His power by serving and reaching others. Acts 1:8
  • All this makes us fillable. Now just ask! Jn 7:37-39

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Gal 5:22,23