“Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
To be filled with the Spirit is closely connected to having the Word of Christ dwell in you richly. Colossians 3.16-25 is a parallel passage that says “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” It lists four behavioral responses that exactly parallel those he gives in Ephesians 5.
In both cases we see that speaking, singing, saying thanks, and submissiveness follow from “being filled with the Spirit” and “letting the word of Christ dwell” in us.
Scripture is teaching us that the filling of the Spirit is not a mystical experience bestowed on the spiritual elite through some secret formula. Rather, it is taking the Word of Christ and letting it indwell and infuse every part of our life.
To be filled with God’s Spirit is to be filled with his Word. As we are filled with God’s Word, it influences and shapes our thinking and action, and we thereby come more and more under the Spirit’s direction.
This makes perfect sense, as the Holy Spirit is the agency of scripture. 2 Peter 1.20-21: “… knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.”
To be filled with the Spirit, then, includes several things on your part:
- Abide in the Word, and let the Word abide in you. Study and meditate on what scripture teaches. Paul said it in Romans 8: “Set your mind on the things of the Spirit.”
- Obey what scripture says. I believe the Holy Spirit empowers you as you step out in obedient faith. The Spirit doesn’t just cause obedience; the Spirit most often responds to obedience. Reading the Bible is studying the things of the Spirit. Obedience is doing the things of the Spirit. “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” (James 1.22)
- Pray. Talk to the Lord. Praise him and thank him. Seek his wisdom. Knock and ask. “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit.” (1 Thessalonians 5.16-19)
- Repent and confess. If you sin, acknowledge it and turn away from it (1 John 1.9). Do not grieve the Spirit.
- Worship. Yes, worship flows from the filling of the Spirit, but it’s also a catalyst for the filling of the Spirit. Have you noticed that when you are in a spirit of worship that your desire to obey God deepens?
Again, being filled with the Spirit is not about how much of the Spirit you have. It’s about how much of yourself have you given to the Spirit. We don’t need more of the Spirit. The Spirit needs more of us. I pray that we hold nothing back from his directing and empowering presence. I pray that we submit to his love and lordship in every dimension of our lives.