Be Filled with the Spirit

Be Filled with the SpiritChristians are blessed to have the Holy Spirit within them, and the Holy Spirit is God. Christians might tend to sideline the Holy Spirit, since Jesus focused us on God as Father, and the Spirit points us to Jesus as Saviour and Lord.

However the Holy Spirit is equal to God the Father and God the Son. So we have God within us through the ministry and presence of the Spirit.

We see degrees of engagement with the Spirit throughout the Bible. The Spirit came onto people in the Old Testament. The Spirit fell on people in the New Testament. And we are commanded to “be filled with the Spirit”.

“Do not be drunk on wine, leading to reckless indiscretion. But be filled with the Spirit.” Ephesians 5:18

Apostle Paul instructs us not to become drunk with wine but to keep drinking of the Holy Spirit until we are completed filled with Him. Paul gives some idea of what that would be like.

“Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your hearts to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 5:19,20

Being ‘filled with the Spirit’ resonates with Paul’s instruction to Timothy to stir up the Spirit anointing in him.

“I remind you to stir up the gift of God, which is in you by the laying on of my hands.” 2Timothy 1:6

Paul laid hands on people to receive the Spirit.

“And when Paul had laid hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them; and they spoke with tongues, and prophesied.” Acts 19:6

Similar impartation came through prayer by spiritual leaders.

“Neglect not the gift that is in you, given to you by prophecy, with laying on hands by the presbytery.” 1Timothy 4:14

So we see Paul instructing Christians to actively be ‘filled with the Spirit’ and instructing Timothy, his apprentice, not to neglect the spiritual impartations he received through prayer and the laying on of hands.

So we can access and activate the ministry of the Holy Spirit, or neglect it.

Paul speaks of people actually putting out the Holy Spirit’s flame.

“Do not quench the Spirit.” 1Thessalonians 5:19

The Bible reveals two key experiences of the Holy Spirit in the Church age, these ‘last days’. When people put their faith in Christ they receive the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit they do not belong to God.

“Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.” Romans 8:9

God indwells us when we become a Christian by the Spirit within us.

Then there is the outpouring of the Spirit into a person, which John the Baptist called being baptised with the Holy Spirit.

“After me comes one more powerful than I, whose sandal I am not worthy to undo. I baptise with water, but He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.” Mark 1:7,8

New believers in New Testament times expected the Holy Spirit to fall on them, and when it didn’t happen they were prayed with, with the laying on of hands, to receive the Spirit. That was separate to them having the Spirit within when they became Christians.

See when Peter and John were sent to Samaria to pray for the new believers.

“On arrival, they prayed for them to receive the Holy Spirit. For the Holy Spirit had not yet fallen on them; they had simply been baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus. Peter and John laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.” Acts 8:15-17

Similarly Apostle Paul asked believers if they had received the Spirit yet. To Paul baptism in the Holy Spirit was something all Christians should experience after coming to faith in Christ.

“At Ephesus Paul found some disciples and asked them, Did you receive the Holy Spirit since you believed? No, they answered, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” Acts 19:1,2

“When Paul laid his hands on them the Holy Spirit came on them; and they spoke with tongues, and prophesied.” Acts 19:6

When Paul tells us to be filled with the Spirit he assumes we are believers with the Holy Spirit indwelling us and that we also received and outpouring of the Holy Spirit, either spontaneously with the Spirit falling on us, or by prayer and laying on of hands.

With the outpouring of the Spirit we are able to stir up the Spirit within us and access the anointing we have received. We do this by such things as praying tongues.

“He who speaks in an unknown tongue edifies (builds up) himself” 1Corinthians 14:4

“But you, beloved, build up yourselves in your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keeping yourselves in the love of God as you await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you eternal life.” Jude 1:20,21

We see that singing worshipful songs to God, even if silently in our heart, is part of our spiritual engagement with God.

“Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your hearts to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 5:19,20

Note there that ‘spiritual songs’ includes singing in the unknown language given to you by the Holy Spirit, when you are baptised in the Spirit.

Paul explained contrasted singing and praying with his understanding and also with the Spirit.

“I will pray with my spirit, but also pray with my understanding; I will sing with my spirit, but also sing with my understanding.” 1Corinthians 14:15

If singing with the Spirit was something his mind understood then Paul would not have listed it separately to singing with his understanding. Paul speaks here of singing without knowing what is sung, because it is by the unknown prayer language given by the Holy Spirit.

If you have not yet been baptised in the Spirit you are still commanded to be ‘filled with the Spirit’. If you have been baptised in the Holy Spirit, and given an unknown heavenly language, you are still commanded to be ‘filled with the Spirit’.

Being baptised in the Spirit is not the end experience, but a facility to be employed and stirred up, so we can live as virtually intoxicated by God’s Holy Spirit.

So, my friends, Be Filled With The Spirit!

Humility is a Door

The Bible reveals that humility and pride open various doors for us. Humility is a doorway to being raised up by God. Pride is a doorway to destruction.

Let’s look at what the Bible says about pride and humility.

“When pride comes, disgrace follows, but with humility comes wisdom.” Proverbs 11:2

“Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Proverbs 16:18

“A man’s pride will bring him low, but a humble spirit will obtain honour.” Proverbs 29:23

“Whoever exalts himself will be humbled.” Matthew 23:12

Pride is a doorway to trouble. If you entertain pride you invite pride to escort you through a door into a world of problems: disgrace, destruction, a fall, being brought low and being humbled.

At the same time Humility is a doorway to the opposite things. Note in the verses quoted that humility leads to wisdom and honour.

Look at what else is promised to the humble.

“Humble yourselves under God’s mighty hand and he will exalt you in due time” 1Peter 5:6

“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you.” James 4:10

“He who humbles himself will be exalted.” Matthew 23:12

Humility is a doorway to being exalted by God. Not necessarily immediately, since, as Peter put it, you will be exalted ‘in due time’ – when the time is right. But Humility is a doorway to elevation by God nonetheless.

Imagine someone coming to you who has aspirations of being highly regarded, successful and respected as an achiever. They ask you for advice. Worldly advice would focus on working hard, pleasing people, getting good at some skill or other, maintaining good character, avoiding the wrong company and so on. All that is fine.

But Jesus said that if we humble ourselves we will be exalted.

So, imagine advising that enquirer that the best thing they can do is to bring themselves low, maybe as a servant to others. The lower they can go the higher they can be elevated.

Would they appreciate that? Would you give that advice?

If humility is a door to being elevated then why not make that our advice.

Note the Jesus is a fine example of someone doing exactly that; humbling Himself and then being highly exalted.

“Have the same mind as Christ. He was equal to God – being part of God – yet He HUMBLED Himself like a servant and died on the Cross. So God HIGHLY EXALTED Him, giving Him a name above all names.” Philippians 2:5-9 (paraphrased)

The humbling of Christ is hard for us to imagine. The God of all eternity becoming one of the created beings and then being despised and killed by those beings. It is mind-boggling.

The prophet Isaiah gives us insight into the challenges Jesus faced in humbling Himself to the point of death.

“I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting. Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore I set my face like flint. I know I will not be put to shame.” Isaiah 50:6,7

Jesus had to ‘tough it out’, so to speak, to get through the ordeal of cruel treatment and death. He humbled Himself to a terribly low place of servitude, allowing Himself to be humiliated and then killed, in order to serve us with eternal life as God’s children.

What Jesus received in return was that He was given a name above every name and every knee must bow to the name of Jesus.

“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name above every name, that at Jesus’ name every knee must bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:9-11

Jesus proved the principle of humility. Jesus proved that humility is a doorway to being exalted. It’s not a pleasant door to go through, but it is very powerful.

A joking comment popular about fifty years ago went like this: “I have no talent, no brains, no skills, no education and no experience, but I’m willing to start at the TOP!”

Sadly that is the attitude of many today who want instant success and to occupy the best places, even when they don’t deserve it. Another adage says, “Fake it until you make it”. The idea is to get promoted and then learn the job once you have it.

That’s not Christ’s way. The way to true promotion and elevation is to get it from God, not from vanity and human foolery. God’s way is the doorway of humility.

He who would be great must be the servant of all.

“And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” Mark 9:35

“Whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be the slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Mark 10:43-45

Many people will miss the doorway to true greatness. They will want a short-cut or an easy promotion, having others make the way for them. Those who will be exalted by God are those who learned to humble themselves and serve others – those who went through the Doorway of Humility.

Spiritual Doors

It might seem strange that the spiritual world has some form of structure, including such things as doors and windows, yet the Bible speaks of these things.

“I place before you an open door that no one can shut.” Revelation 3:8

“God opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.” Acts 14:27

Since there are such things as spiritual ‘doors’ let’s take a look at what the Bible reveals and how that might be of value to us.

We notice from references to these ‘doors’ that it is God who opens and shuts them.

“He who has the key of David, who opens and no man shuts; and shuts, and no man opens” Revelation 3:7

“When I came to Troas to preach Christ’s gospel the Lord opened a door for me.” 2Corinthians 2:12

Natural doors allow us to go from one place to another. If a door is closed or locked, then whatever that door leads to is shut off from us. When a door is opened then the things on the other side are accessible to us.

If God gives us an open door that no-one can shut, then we have access to something in the spirit realm (the heavenly realm – the place where God does spiritual business) that cannot be taken from us.

If God opened the door of faith to the Gentiles then God has allowed the Gentiles into His Kingdom by faith in Christ.

If Jesus has the Key of David and can open things that can’t be shut and can lock things that can no longer be opened, then very powerful spiritual transactions can take place that open or remove access to spiritual blessings.

Paul found in Troas that God opened a door of effectiveness to him and he was able to see great fruitfulness.

What would happen if God locked the gospel away from a group of people? 

They would not be able to come to faith. The Gospel would be of no interest to them. If God were then to open that door we would expect people’s hearts to be open and receptive to the Gospel.

The most wonderful doors are those that open Heaven to us. We might even call those windows, but whichever you choose, they open access to heavenly things.

“You will see heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” John 1:51

“The heavens opened and he saw the Spirit of God descend like a dove and rest on Jesus.” Matthew 3:16

God wants us to have eyes to see and ears to hear things outside our natural world, where we can experience heavenly blessings in our natural life. That includes an open heart to God’s Word and the Gospel. It includes us being led by the Holy Spirit, seeing things with the eyes of faith and much more.

In Old Testament times people went to God’s Prophets to find out what God was saying and what was going on. Men and women of God were an effective open window to heaven through which people could be in touch with God and God’s realm.

Old Testament prophets were effectively a ‘portal’ connecting heaven and earth. The prophet could reach heaven and hear from God, even when the people couldn’t. So the people would go to the prophet to access heavenly insight.

We don’t have Old Testament prophets today. Instead all Christians are given the privilege of being a ‘portal’ to heaven and God’s Kingdom. We are Christ’s ambassadors, with the ministry of reconciliation.

“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” 2Corinthians 5:20

With the anointing of the Holy Spirit on us, through the Gifts of the Spirit and the power of the Spirit in our lives, we are connected to God, Heaven and Spiritual wisdom. We can bring that into our own lives and the lives of others.

“In the last days I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams.” Acts 2:17

Note the heavenly portals of prophesy, visions and dreams, revealing things that would otherwise not be known. And these things are not made up, since they are given by the Holy Spirit. These are not highly developed human talents, but supernatural workings by God’s Holy Spirit, revealing spiritual reality.

So believers become Spiritual Portals, opening heaven to those who otherwise could not access it.

Every time a believer shares the Gospel, or prays for someone, spiritual doors are opened. People will experience God when they meet a Christian operating in the power of the Holy Spirit.

At the same time, we believers come across situations that seem closed to us, as if a door has been blocked. Our Lord has the Keys to open things. Jesus can open the hearts of a hard-hearted family, closed to the Gospel. Christ can open streams of blessing where previously there was only desert. The Holy Spirit can open wisdom and revelation that we would otherwise not have access to. God’s Word can provide keys and insights that guide us through impassable places.

And Christ can lock things out. Would you like Christ to lock out some evil that has been working against you or your loved ones? What Christ locks can’t be opened again.

I encourage you to ponder the wonder of Spiritual Doors and to look to God to release in and through you the ministry of the Holy Spirit described in the Bible. May you be a wonderful Open Door to the things of God to all you meet.

Building a House

There are two main distractions in people’s lives: gaining more and protecting what we have. The ‘desire for gain’ and ‘fear of loss’ are seen as the two main drivers of human activity, especially in such things as trading and doing business.

God speaks to these two impulses in Psalms.

“Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders work in vain. Unless the Lord protects the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.” Psalm 127:1

Notice there the dual ideas of building a house, as in making progress, becoming better off, and the other idea of protecting a city, as in being safe.

Most people without a home of their own aspire to buy a home. Those with an unreliable vehicle aspire to get a better one. Those without a job seek one. Most of us spend most of our lives attempting to make some progress or other, with growth, skills development, getting an education, getting a job, building a career, making money, buying things to enhance our life, starting a family, providing well for the family, getting a bigger house, better car, nicer things, and so on.

Most of us also become quite uncomfortable when the things we have appear to be threatened or put at risk. Some people spend a lot on security devices and jealously guard and protect what they have. Many people avoid risks, preferring to protect what they have than risk it to get more gain.

The tension between our desire for gain and our fear of losing what we have is an interesting one and the balance tends to change with our mood and our experience.

While people might risk smaller amounts of their money they don’t like to lose the more basic elements of life. When law and order break down, or when electricity, water or internet services break down, people become quite uncomfortable.

Imagine, then, what it would be like to have your whole culture, you city, at risk of invasion and the complete loss of all you know.

In both those competing aspirations, to gain and to protect, God declares His interest. God declares that our true source of blessing and our true security is not in what we can do, but in God’s blessing in our lives.

If you are going to build a house, you need to know that God is building it with you.

What does that mean? If you are seeking God and walking with Him, being led by the Holy Spirit, then you can find God’s direction, peace and provision for the things He wants you to do. You can move into a project knowing God is with you in that enterprise.

You and God are then building together.

I have heard some lovely testimonies over the years of people who felt confident God had led them into some project or other. They regarded God as one of the business partners in their enterprise and were careful to seek God in all the important decisions. I recall one chap telling me that he had left some aspects of the business to his brother while the chap went overseas. On return his brother had made some unwise decisions and the chap rebuked his brother and they both got on their knees and apologised to God.

That example shows their level of commitment that they were not building something of their own, but God was building and they were building with Him, and had to regard God’s presence in the process at every step along the way.

Of course, as a disclaimer, there are many people with religious delusions who will tell you their crazy adventure is a ‘mission from God’. Just because someone spouts religious sounding zeal doesn’t mean God is building anything at all or that they are doing anything God approves of.

The key for us ordinary folk is that we need to move with God, build with God, rely on God, look to God, humbly wait on God and let God be the one placing blessing in our lives.

We want God to be building our house.

Oh, and by the way, ‘house’ means more than a physical building. In the Bible it relates to a dynasty, of generational blessings down your family line. God wants to build your house both as a material structure and as a generational heritage enjoyed by your children’s children’s children.

Do you want to build anything at all? Are there things you want to add to your life? Then connect with God and ensure that He is building and working with you. Otherwise you will work, scrape and save and have nothing to show for it. Your life’s efforts will be in vain.

Build your life and your future with God – going His way, doing His will, following His wisdom. And what you build will stand the test of time.

Good Success

When Joshua was established by God as the replacement for Moses God gave specific instructions that would lead to good success.

“This Book of the Law is not to depart from your mouth, but meditate on it day and night, so you may be careful to do all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” Joshua 1:8

Success was not automatic for Joshua. He had to do what God instructed. The instruction was for Joshua to pay constant attention to the Book of the Law, which is the first five books of the Bible, written by Moses, by God’s inspiration.

If we were to give people advice about being successful today we would probably want to instruct them about being skilful and diligent, having good people skills, good negotiation skills, maintaining good character and honest dealings, and so on. I doubt that many people today are advised to make constant diligent study of the first five books of the Bible in order to be successful.

In past centuries is was much more likely that people were advised to study the Bible. Early American homes always had a copy of the Bible and most of also of John Bunyan’s book, Pilgrim’s Progress. Those homes often made it a practice to read a portion of the Bible as a family each day.

In Parliaments based on English law a copy of the Bible is always on hand and it is regarded as a legal document to be drawn upon if desired.

Captain Cook, who discovered Australia, was given a copy of the Bible by his wife before he set sail into unknown waters. Australian explorer, Edward John Eyre (1815-1901), nearly died under very difficult conditions and eventually had to choose whether to abandon his lantern or his Bible. He kept the Bible with him.

It might seem hard to believe to today’s young westerners how much more consideration was given to the Bible and reading from it daily just a short while ago.

Devotion to God’s Word may be less popular today, but that does not make it less important or fruitful in our lives. There are many benefits of daily reading of the Bible but let me just point out a few from Psalm 119.

“I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” Psalm 119:11

“I understand more than the ancients, because I keep your precepts.” Psalm 119:100

“The entrance of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.” Psalm 119:130

In Joshua’s case God Himself promised Joshua a prosperous life and success if he meditated on God’s Word. 

“you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” Joshua 1:8

It would seem silly not to take such a promise quite seriously, especially in a highly competitive world.

However, note that quality of success God promises. It is “good success”, as opposed to the kind of success that eats you up and spits you out.

I recently heard that James Packer, one of the world’s leading businessmen, is divesting himself of many of his roles, so he can enjoy his life. It is one thing to be important and powerful, but being in such a position gobbles up much of your life as well. I have heard of famous people, in movies, media and sport, who have looked forward to getting out of the rat race and grind of their career and it demands, so they can get their life back. Some well known people have had to resort to disguises to go and do normal things others readily enjoy.

In many of those situations the success would not be called ‘good success’ but maybe even costly success.

God’s promise is not just that there will be success, but that it will be good for us. It will turn out good in the short term and the long run. It won’t eat us up or burn us up, or burden us with so many concerns that we can’t enjoy the life God has given us.

If you are questing for success take a moment to consider what cost you might have to pay for it. What are you prepared to lose in order to be able to say you are successful?

Would you like ‘good success’? Are you willing to take God’s advice and meditate on God’s Word as a key strategy for that success?

God is not against success. God’s blessings include riches.

“The blessing of the LORD makes people rich, And He adds no sorrow to it.” Proverbs 10:22

God’s blessings don’t come with a whole bunch of downsides, or ‘sorrow’ built into the package. Good success, from God’s blessings, is not tainted with horrible prices you have to pay and ugly downsides.

God’s desire is for you to prosper and be in health, so don’t go chasing success in the wrong places that will lead you to pain and loss or a heavy price for your successes.

“Beloved, I wish above all things that you may prosper and be in health, even as your soul prospers.” 3John 1:2

I wish you every success in all you do. And to achieve that I urge you to turn to God’s Word and begin reading it and letting it soak into your life, even when you don’t understand it. Do it as a daily discipline, confident that as you pay attention to God’s Word, the Bible, God will give you success that has no downside, ‘good success’.