Understanding Being Filled

While “being filled” is a common expression, when it refers to the Holy Spirit, the co-equal, co-eternal third member of the triune Godhead (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), it has some very far-reaching implications for our lives.

We fill our vehicle tanks with fuel, our glasses with water, our stomachs with food. The point? The time God gives us is filled with all kinds of choices, some to which we give little or no thought. Some things we choose are good (e.g., to love, to serve, to be productive, and to attend church). But some are not so good.

In short, we have free will, which essentially means, we decide who and how our lives will be filled. Following Jesus is an act of our will. The gift of grace that allows us to be forgiven and restored to a right relationship with God is extended to us. But as with every gift we’re offered, we have to choose to accept it.

Being Filled Through Acceptance

When we choose, by an act of faith, to receive Jesus as Savior (Redeemer/Rescuer) and Lord (Master/Owner), we’re essentially relinquishing the rights to our own life. Our lives, which were once filled with ourselves (i.e., our pride, our lusts for the things of this world, and our carnal nature), are now filled with God Himself in the person of the Holy Spirit.

Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20: “Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.”

Being Filled with the Holy Spirit

But what does it mean to be filled with the Holy Spirit? According to Jesus, shortly before He ascended back to heaven, in Acts 1:8: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.”

But why? He continues, “And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Since before the beginning of time, it has been God’s plan and desire that we would reflect His majestic splendor in and through our lives. Genesis 1:26 reminds us: “Then God said, ‘Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us…'”

Paul echoes that thought in Romans 8:29 when he writes, “For those whom whom He foreknew—of whom He was aware and loved beforehand—He also destined from the beginning…to be molded into the image of His Son (and share inwardly His likeness).”

But how is that possible? Through the ministry of the Holy Spirit!

That’s why we need God’s powerful Spirit to live in us. Jesus said that apart from Him, we could do nothing (John 15:5), but with Him, nothing is impossible (Luke 1:37).

Being filled with the Holy Spirit means we’re no longer dependent on our own resources and ingenuity but are energized and empowered to do anything and everything the Lord equips, enables, and asks us to do.

It may be helpful to think of being filled by the Spirit more like being a funnel than a jar. It’s not God’s intent simply to be “stored” in us, waiting for us to remove the “lid” and let Him out.

It’s more like He’s being poured, constantly flowing through a funnel, always on His way to accomplish something, not only in us, but through us. In us as He seeks to develop the fruit of His presence, enabling us to grow in Christ’s likeness. And through us as He puts on display the work He is accomplishing to enable others to be drawn to Him through our lives.

Living the Spirit-Filled Life

The plot thickens when we consider the ways we can “block” the flow of the Spirit’s efforts. Paul writes in Ephesians 4:30: “And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live.”

In this context, Paul speaks of bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, slander, sexual immorality, impurity, and greed—all of which address issues over which the Holy Spirit can give us victory if we let Him.

When we take our focus off of Jesus and give authority to our carnal nature to seek our will rather than His, we clog the Spirit’s flow and not only cause stagnation in our own lives, but we prevent the Spirit from being able to put Jesus on display in and through us.

Being filled with the Spirit is a grace gift, that when seen in proper perspective can liberate us to be all we were originally designed to be.

Justification is the legal term whereby God through Christ treats us “just-as-if-I’d” never sinned. It’s the miracle of new birth, made possible by the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross in our place. Sanctification, which is essentially the lifelong process of becoming more like Jesus, is made possible by the Holy Spirit’s constant flow in and through us.

Being Filled by Surrendering

Once we’ve yielded our hearts and lives to the Lord and have been forgiven and set free to be a brand-new creation in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17), the Holy Spirit begins the process of conforming us to the likeness of our Savior. That’s the goal of being filled with the Spirit.

What that looks like can vary from person to person, but for me, a significant turning point came when I was going through my divorce. I’d literally lost most of my worldly possessions—job, house, car—and my heart was aching with the weight of the loss of my wife and my inability to provide for my two children.

In my heart and mind, I’d lost everything. But in His grace and mercy, the Lord assured me I hadn’t lost Him and He was all I really needed. Though I’d followed the Lord for many years, He came to life in me in a new and fresh way as we walked together through that valley of despair.

I was no longer afraid of all the uncertainties of life that Satan uses to cause us to worry and fret. In those moments of desperation and need, I gave myself to the Lord in full surrender, entrusting my future to Him without reservation. And He gave me freedom and victory I’d never known before.

I love the words of the old hymn written by Helen Howarth Lemmel: “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.”

The filling of God’s Holy Spirit flows most freely and powerfully in and through a fully surrendered heart. Because of the Holy Spirit’s work in me, my heart’s desire is Jesus. I no longer crave the trinkets of the world but have found my Treasure in Jesus.

To understand more about what it means to be filled with the Holy Spirit, check out our “Fully Charged” sermon series where we explore how we can live a life of passion and power in the Holy Spirit.