Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.Ephesians 5:15-21
A Biblical Christian life is a Spirit-filled life. I found a new word that I will probably over-use, but hey, who cares? The word is pneumatocracy. Pneuma is the Greek word for spirit. The “tocracy” part has to do with ruling. We use it in words like Theocracy and democracy. So, a pneumatocracy means to be ruled by the Spirit. That is what we all should strive for. Paul commands it.
I don’t care what your doctrine of the Holy Spirit says about how we become related to the Holy Spirit. The command is to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
Classic Pentecostal doctrine and most Charismatic teaching teach that we have two experiences with the Holy Spirit. Our life of the Spirit is initiated when we are born again, and the Spirit indwells us. There is a separate experience, which may happen simultaneously, called the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, which is intended to empower the believer to be a supernatural witness of the resurrection of Jesus.
Non-Pentecostal or Charismatic teaching denies a second experience called the Baptism of the Spirit. This classic evangelical position says that one is baptized in the Spirit when they are born-again.
My point today is that whether you fall into the classic evangelical camp or the Pentecostal/Charismatic camp, you are commanded to be filled with the Holy Spirit in the present tense.
In our text, Ephesians 5, Paul commands us to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Let me sound smart for a second and talk grammar. This verb (an action word) “filled” is in the present tense, which means be filled “right now.” Both Evangelical and Pentecostal/Charismatic camps look back to an initial experience with the Holy Spirit when we were born again and/or Baptized in the Holy Spirit. That was a past tense experience. It happened once upon a time and isn’t a present-tense experience. It is a massive error for any of us to look back to a past experience with God and say to ourselves, “I’ve got it.”
The Holy Spirit is a person just like Jesus and the Father. We understand having a personal relationship with Jesus and with the Father because we see them as persons. Lots of Christians refer to the Holy Spirit as “it.” The Holy Spirit is not an “it,” he is a “he,” a person. Persons want relationships, and good relationships are current, not just historic.
The Passion Translation gets this one right. At least, I believe it carries the thought better than most translations.
And don’t get drunk with wine, which is rebellion; instead, be filled continually with the Holy Spirit.Ephesians 5:18 The Passion Translation
Continually be filled with the Holy Spirit because we are leaky buckets. We may be filled with the Spirit today, but will we be filled with the Spirit next week? Not if we aren’t continually being filled with the Holy Spirit.
Jesus spoke several times about “abiding” in him. I believe that is another way to speak of being filled with the Holy Spirit, or at least, a requisite relationship.
How can I evaluate my own life to answer the question, “Am I living my life filled with the Holy Spirit?” One specific reason Jesus commanded us to be filled with the Spirit is power.
So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”Acts 1:6-8
I find it telling that when asked about the inauguration of the kingdom, Jesus sidestepped their question and pointed to the coming power. Don’t worry about the timing of the kingdom; wait for the power of the Holy Spirit, then go and take the gospel to the world.
The Spirit-filled life is characterized by two categories of evidence; the power of the Spirit and the fruit of the Spirit. A truly Spirit-filled life will be characterized by both categories. The fruit of the Spirit manifests the character of God. The gifts of the Spirit manifest the power of God.
Some streams of Christianity emphasize the fruit of the Spirit, and other streams emphasize the power of the Spirit. Truthfully, we need a balanced emphasis on both. Some are entirely missing out on the power. Others are completely missing out on the character. An accurate representation of Jesus is saturated with both.
Evaluate your own life and ask if you are missing out on either category. If you are, then seek to be filled with the Holy Spirit. He answers our weaknesses, whether they be a lack of character or a lack of power. Both should be abundantly evident in the Spirit-filled life.
Be being filled with the Spirit. It is a constant. In his excellent book, Spirit Walk, Steve Smith recommends a weekly prayer time focused on being filled with and led by the Spirit. He also recognizes how leaky our buckets are and recommends a monthly time when we set aside as much of a full day as possible to seek the Lord for his fullness. Living the Spirit Walk, as Smith calls it, takes a constant intentional time of fellowship with God.
Smith has a good reminder tool of what it takes to walk in the Spirit; he uses the acrostic SWAP, which stands for Submit yourself to God and to his will, Wait on the Lord, Avoid sin and confess sin, and finally Pursue the promptings of the Spirit. This is a helpful little tool to keep us focused on the Spirit-filled walk.
Be intentional, walk a Spirit-filled life and make disciples in Jesus’ name.