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His Spirit In Us

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Happy Pentecost!

Pentecost was originally a festival and celebration for the Jews. It was a celebration for the harvest. “Pente” means five. “Pentecost” means 50. Pentecost came 50 days after Passover.

After Jesus rose from the dead and before he ascended to his Father he told the disciples to hangout in Jerusalem and wait, and they will be clothed with power from on high.

That happened on the day of Pentecost when the Spirit of God came like a mighty wind upon the disciples. They spoke in other languages about the mighty works of God and people who heard turned to God, were baptized, and the church began.

The Holy Spirit is the presence of God in us. Jesus told his disciples before he died and rose that he would ask the Father to give someone who he called “the Advocate” to help them and be with them forever. Furthermore, Jesus said that this Advocate would not only be with them but he would live in them. He was speaking of the Holy Spirit.

Some Bibles have another word for “advocate.” Your Bible might read “helper,” or “comforter,” or “counselor.” Different Bibles read differently because there is no perfect word in our English. The meaning of the word Jesus used to describe the Holy Spirit is “one who comes alongside.”

Jesus called the Holy Spirit “the one who comes alongside” because he gives us help, he gives us guidance, he comforts, and he advocates for us. And he lives in every believer who surrenders their life to Christ.

We were never meant to live the Christian life on our own power. We were never meant to live for Jesus by ourselves. I know I can’t. The Holy Spirit is given to us so that we can live for Jesus and like Jesus.

The Spirit is not for the privileged few who happen to be more holy and spiritual than the rest of us. The Spirit-led life is not the deluxe, special edition of being a Christian. A life guided by the Holy Spirit is the normal life for any man, woman or child who have handed over their life to Jesus Christ, and who seek to follow him.

The Holy Spirit is the one who comes alongside us because we need that if we are going to be the people God wants us to be and do the things God wants us to do. Again, we can’t do it alone.

In Ephesians 5, Paul writes to the believers in the city of Ephesus, telling them to “be filled with the Spirit.” If we are to be filled with the Spirit then the Spirit needs to be inside of us. And that is where he is.

What does it mean to be filled with the Spirit?

First, the way Paul wrote this is to suggest continual action. Being filled with the Spirit is not some onetime experience and that’s it. No, we are continually being filled with the Holy Spirit. Just like our lungs are continually being filled with air as we breathe in and out, so our Christian lives are continually being filled with the Spirit as we live.

Just like a fire burns hotter and grows as it gets oxygen, so the Spirit burns in our lives as we feed the life of the Spirit in us. Coming to worship, regular prayer and reading of the Bible, reading or listening to things that feed our faith, practicing our faith with works of love and compassion, these all pour fuel on the fire of the Spirit in our lives.

Second, this is somewhat of a command. Paul doesn’t offer it as a suggestion. Being filled with the Spirit is not something on a spiritual buffet that you may or may not take for yourself if Jesus is your Lord. Every believer is to be filled with the Spirit.

Thirdly, Paul writes this in the passive voice, which is to say this is something that is done to us. We don’t fill ourselves. God does this. Something or someone from outside of us must fill us. We can read it like this: “allow yourselves to be filled by the Spirit”. Allow yourselves to be acted upon. Put yourselves in a place where the Spirit can fill you.

The word “filled” really means “to be controlled by”. To be filled means the Holy Spirit controls our decision making. He controls the rational and emotional parts of our life. He brings us into obedience to the things of the Lord. He shapes our lives according to how God wants us to live.

When you are controlled by something it takes whole possession of you. If we are controlled/filled with love for our children, we will do anything for them and pay complete attention to them.

If we are controlled/filled by anger we will speak harsh words and do hurtful actions to other people.

If we are controlled/filled by alcohol we will act in a very uncontrolled way. In fact, Paul contrasts being filled with the Spirit with being filled with alcohol. Another meaning of “filled” is “to be under the influence of”. In Acts 2, when the disciples are filled with the Spirit and are speaking in other languages, people in the streets see and hear them and accuse them of being under the influence of wine. Not because they were unruly or disorderly, but they didn’t seem to be quite right.

Alcohol influences us in one way. But the Spirit influences us with holiness, love, joy, peace and many other things of the Lord.

It is interesting that Paul writes to “be filled”/”be controlled by”/”be under the influence of” the Spirit in his letter to the Ephesians. One of the prominent religious movements in ancient Ephesus was the worship of Dionysus. Dionysus was the god of wine. Periodic worship festivals were held for him, and as you might guess, they involved drinking wine. People felt united and controlled by Dionysus as they did this and believed that he gave them special powers and abilities. They would drink until they became ecstatic and wild.

Paul is contrasting what the disciples in Ephesus saw around them with the life filled with the Holy Spirit of God. Paul writes, “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery (wasteful living). Instead, be filled with the Spirit.”[1]

“Don’t be filled with/controlled by/under the influence of wine like you used to do. You see some at those Dionysus festivals. No, be filled with the Holy Spirit of God, who makes you drunk with love, joy, peace, thanksgiving, and boldness to speak of God.”

“Be filled with God’s Spirit. Let him influence your thinking, feeling, and living.”

In The Message, a version of the Bible in contemporary English, it reads, “Drink the Spirit of God, huge draughts of him.”

Every believer is filled with the Spirit. But why is it that some people live so fully for Jesus and others seem to be rather apathetic? Think of two physical bodies. One is a baby, new-born and weighing 7 pounds. She has just begun to breathe. The other is a full-grown man, 6 feet and 190 pounds.

Both bodies are fit and healthy. Both are breathing properly. Both are filled with air. But the difference between them is in the capacity of their lungs. Both are filled but one is more filled than the other because the capacity of the lungs is greater.

This is true of our spiritual-life and its growth. A new Christian, or someone who believes but hasn’t spent much attention to their growth in faith is filled with the Spirit. But the mature Christian who has spent many years seeking and growing in God will have a greater spiritual lung capacity. That person will have a greater sense of God’s purpose, grace, and movement in their lives.[2]

But how does that happen? How can I know I am filled? And how do I know the Spirit is in me?

We don’t see the Spirit anymore than we see our breath, but, just like breath, he is in us. The Spirit is part of God. Jesus said he would go away but that he would send the Advocate – the one who would come alongside us – to be in us. The Spirit is how God is with all of us, all of the time.

Last year at Pentecost I said some of these same things I am about to say, so if they sound familiar that is why:

We may not be able to see the Holy Spirit, but we can feel and sense him. We can learn the signs of his presence.

When we read Scripture and it speaks to us, and we sense God communicating something to us, that is the Holy Spirit.

When the words of Jesus come to our mind in some situation or circumstance, that is the Holy Spirit.

When we sing a song or hymn and chills go through us or our heart is stirred, that is the Holy Spirit.

When we are convicted about something wrong in our life and sense God’s displeasure, and we are moved to turn around and go a different direction, that is the Holy Spirit.

When we sense the forgiveness and grace of God, and feel unburdened of guilt, that is the Holy Spirit.

When we should be breaking under certain stressful and painful circumstances, but we are not, that is the Holy Spirit giving us strength.

When we are moved to pray, or find new and fresh words with which to pray for someone, or when we find a power in praying, that is the Holy Spirit.

When we are coming alive to God that is the Spirit working in our heart and mind.

When we think about, thirst for, or are attracted to God in anyway, that is the Holy Spirit.

When we experience love, joy, peace, patience, kindness – what Paul calls the fruit of the Spirit - within us and we are able to show that to others, that is the Holy Spirit.

When we sense strength to do something that seems so beyond us, and it’s like we are being lifted up on invisible arms, that is the Holy Spirit.

When our life is changing for the better and moving in a Godward direction, that is the Holy Spirit.

Even the smallest thought or movement toward God is evidence of the Holy Spirit doing something in us.

When we find ourself being drawn into the community of God - the church, his people - that is the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is like a magnet for Jesus Christ. Just as a magnet attracts things to it and holds them, so the Spirit attracts us to God and holds us to him.

Don’t worry about trying to get a hold of or controlling the Holy Spirit, and don’t fret about “getting” him. You have all the Holy Spirit you will ever have and need. He is God’s gift to every believer. The question isn’t how much of the Holy Spirit you have. The question is how much does the Holy Spirit have of you?

Dwight L. Moody was a great evangelist in the late 19th century. He was scheduled to have a campaign in England. An elderly pastor at one of the churches scheduled to host him protested, “Why do we need this ‘Mr. Moody’? He’s uneducated, inexperienced, etc. Who does he think he is anyway? Does he think he has a monopoly on the Holy Spirit?”

A younger, wiser pastor rose and responded, “No, but the Holy Spirit has a monopoly on Mr. Moody.”

Who or what has a monopoly on you? Does the Spirit of Christ have a monopoly on you? If so, he will control our mind, our heart, our tongue, marriage, parenting, business-thinking, spending, social involvements, everything.

It has been my experience that one of the hindrances to being full of God’s Spirit is the self. The “me, myself, and I” is so alive and full of itself that there can be very little room for the Holy Spirit to speak, move, and work.

Lilias Trotter, who was a missionary to the Arab world, said this,

“…into the (person) that is ready to let the self-life go, God the Holy Ghost can come and dwell and work unfettered; and by that indwelling He will manifest within us His wonderful divine power of communicating vitality - of reproducing the image of Jesus in souls around.”[3]

That’s what I need to happen to me. I need the Spirit to reproduce Jesus in me. The less there is of me, the more there can be of God’s Spirit. He will take us, move us, and control us.

The Spirit is the presence of God in us. That presence doesn’t mean we are going to do crazy religious things. Some of us might be intimidated or have misunderstandings about the Holy Spirit because we have been in places where people were talking about the Spirit and they got out of hand. The Spirit is not about chaos. And having him doesn’t mean we will become wild people.

The Holy Spirit will be the presence of the Lord for us to do the everyday, faithful things that Jesus wants us to do in his name.

He will give us power to speak words of God to someone. And we’ll say, “Where did that come from? I had no idea I could say that.”

He is the One in us to love someone who is very hard to love.

He is the One to help us forgive when we have been severely hurt

The Spirit is the presence to make us more peaceable. He is the presence that gives us strength to serve. He is the presence to make us more generous, more giving, more compassionate.

He is the presence to get over our bitterness and self-pity and walk on for the Lord.

There is a part of the Christian family called Pentecostals. Have you heard of them? Pentecostal’s get their name from Pentecost. They place a heavy emphasis on the Holy Spirit. If you have had experiences with Pentecostal churches it may have been quite lively and demonstrative.

We may not belong to a Pentecostal denomination, but in a sense we are all Pentecostals. I am a Pentecostal in that I believe that the Holy Spirit who was given to the disciples at Pentecost is still moving, working and necessary for the life of the follower of Jesus Christ. And that I must be filled with him every day.

James Forbes was the preacher for many years at Riverside Church in New York City. He said,

“To be Pentecostal means that you have to give evidence that you are willing to let the Holy Spirit come into your life, seize the nerve centers of consent, and provide guidance for your life, both your life of worship and your life in the work-a-day world.”

Maybe I am a Presbycostal. Let’s allow the Spirit to take control of our will, provide guidance for our life, not just our church life but our common daily life. For he is with us and lives in us.

Prayer: Holy Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on us. Fill us. Surround us. Flow through us. Thank you that you come along side us with the presence, voice, and touch of Jesus. Awaken our hearts to you being in us, closer than we know. We open ourselves to you as we continue to worship you today. Amen.

[1] V.18 [2] Baptism and Fullness, John Stott, pp.61,62 [3] From Parables of the Cross

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