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March 22, 2017
The Filling of the Holy Spirit – Is It Getting More of God?
Elder Letter by Gene Mermilliod
In the book of Acts Jesus told His disciples prior to His ascension into heaven that they would receive power when the Holy Spirit had come upon them. This event took place on the day of Pentecost, 50 days after His resurrection. Following Pentecost, the obvious pattern in Scripture was that when salvation came to an individual, so did the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 10:44-48)
But in Ephesians 5:18, the apostle Paul commands us to be filled with the Spirit.
So what is the difference between the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and being filled with the Holy Spirit?
In 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 we are taught that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. In other words, when a person is converted to faith in Jesus Christ, the Spirit of God takes up residence in the life of that new believer.
We are told in Ephesians 1:13-14 that when we put our trust in the person of Jesus Christ to save us from our sin, we are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise who is the guarantee of our inheritance. Think of that guarantee as a deposit. Recently my son Paul put his house on the market for sale. When an offer was submitted, it included a security deposit. That deposit served as a guarantee that the intention of the buyer was sincere. In the same way, we have been given a promise from God of the resurrection, and a home in heaven when we die.
The Holy Spirit is our security deposit of God's sincere intention.
But not only that, we are told in this passage that we are sealed with the Holy Spirit. In ancient times all important transactions were validated with a sealed document. Therefore, the Holy Spirit is God's seal of His transaction that He has made us a new person having removed from us the penalty of sin and provided for us His righteous nature and character. (2 Corinthians 5:17, 21)
The Holy Spirit does not simply desire to be a resident in our lives, He also desire to be the president of our lives. In other words, it is the desire of God for us to be controlled by His Spirit. That is why we are commanded not to be drunk (or controlled) with wine, but to be filled (consumed) with the Holy Spirit. But this language does not give indication that somehow we can receive more of God. No, we receive all of God at the time of our conversion.
Therefore the filling of the Holy Spirit is not about receiving more of Him, but rather about God receiving all of who we are.
The fact is that all true believers are walking through a process of what the Bible calls sanctification – becoming more like Jesus. (Philippians 1:6, 2:13) Think of it this way – the Christian life is a crisis followed by a process.
- The Crisis comes when we finally come to an end of ourselves to receive the grace of God through the person of Jesus Christ. Like salvation, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is a once and for all experience.
- The Process, however, is marked by a pattern of spiritual growth and maturity over the duration of our lives. Like sanctification, the filling of the Holy Spirit is an ongoing process of daily pursuing Christ and surrender to His Lordship.
When a person claims to be a genuine believer, but lives like the devil, he is deceiving himself and does not understand that whatever religious experience he may be trusting in obviously did not change him. Look at the contrast found in 1 John 1:6-10. People who walk in darkness habitually are not saved, because God's Spirit is not alive in them – conforming them to the truth of God's word. However, when we consistently seek to surrender our will to the Lord each day and to give Him control of our entire being, that is evidence that we have been saved and are walking in the power of God's Spirit and not in the flesh.
Here is an exercise that may prove to be helpful to you. It is called Spiritual Breathing. As we go about our daily routine we take thousands of breaths without even thinking about it.
- We breathe in oxygen that is necessary to sustain life – bodily organs and functions. When the oxygen is processed and we expel air from our lungs, we breathe out carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is good for plants, but not for people. In a simplistic way we say that we inhale the good air and exhale the bad air.
- In like fashion we should begin each day by humbling ourselves and confessing our sin to the Lord – like exhaling the bad air. But we shouldn't stop there. We also need to recognize each day how dependent we are upon the Lord in all areas of life, and ask Him to take control of our lives and to help us walk in the power of His Holy Spirit – like breathing in the good air.
It is the hope and prayer of our elders that the Lord will clarify in the minds and hearts of His people what it means to walk daily in the power of God's Holy Spirit, and to endeavor each day to surrender our lives to the Lord Jesus Christ who alone is worthy.
Gene Mermilliod serves as the Stewardship Pastor and Elder of Tri-Cities Baptist Church and has served on staff for over 25 years. He is married to his wife Gayle and they have six children.