by Mike Ratliff
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not associate with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 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 all 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. (Ephesians 5:1-21 Emphasis Mine)
There is much confusion about what it means to be Spirit-filled. Some will say the filling of the Spirit is the culmination of “Baptism of the Holy Spirit.” Others will say it is a miraculous work of God to empower believers to do miracles. Unfortunately, there is a great deal of false teaching about this. The truth, however, is right in front of us. It is in the word of God, the Bible, in plain sight. Before we take a closer look at what the term Spirit-filled, means let us remember what we are studying. We are attempting to learn all about becoming Mature Christians. We are trying to learn our role in this process. Let us not stray down any unfruitful bunny trails.
My coffee cup is not full. I have been drinking coffee from it for the last half-hour or so. It is not as full as it once was. In a few more minutes, I will drink what is left then will refill it from my carafe. The decision to fill it or not is mine. The carafe, which is about half-full of coffee, cannot force my cup to refill itself. The choice is mine. I have to go through the process it will take to get a full cup of hot coffee again which I just did . In this very imperfect analogy, the cup is my heart. The carafe is the will and purpose of God. The coffee is the essence of the Holy Spirit. The act of filling my cup is God extending His grace to me to seek Him and obey Him.
For a believer to be Spirit-filled, to have a Spirit-filled heart, he or she must obediently go through the processes that will bring that about. God is the one drawing the believer to do this and empowering them to do so. Then he or she must proceed to do so. What processes? Actually, we have been looking at these processes all through this book. Walking the Walk by Faith and Possessing the Treasure deal with these processes as well. What is our goal? We are to become Spirit-led, mature in grace, and submit to the will of God in all things. Why? The Genuine Christian lives for the glory of God. This is how we do it. Christ becomes our life. The following scripture passage (Colossians 3:1-17) is a great word picture of how we live a life that is fully lined up with Christ’s Lordship. This passage parallels Ephesians 5:1-21 that I placed at the beginning of this chapter.
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:1-17 Emphasis Mine)
I firmly believe this passage describes precisely how we choose to become all God wills for us to be. It will be the outcome for us when we follow through. The bold portion of the passage describes what the Spirit-filled heart is like. Let us look at the process it will take to make this a reality for us.
Where do we start? We must keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God We start by continually seeking to fill our hearts with godly things. How do we do that? Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. There you have it. This is the key requirement for the move from Soul-led behavior to Spirit-led behavior. We focus our hearts on godly things and shun worldly, fleshly things. We have to do these things ourselves. God will draw us into this and empower us to do it, but the choice is ours through obedience via our regenerated Free Will.
Okay, we have our hearts focused upward. We are following hard after Christ and are denying what our flesh wants. Now what? We die to self. How? Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. Do not lie to one another Dying to self is dying to the pursuit or desire for these things. How do we do this? It is impossible in our strength and abilities. We need help. since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him–a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all We must be renewed as we replace our old self with our new self. The Greek word translated renewed in this passage describes the redemptive work of God in making the Born Again individual a qualitatively new person.
We have the power to choose to be Spirit-filled, by exercising our Free Will, then follow through totally by and through the will of God. The following passage is a detail of the process God will draw us into to bring this about.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2)
Our decision to pursue God with our whole being in response to His calling and drawing us is a wonderful moment. When we follow through and submit to His cleansing and burning fires it is a defining moment. The Greek grammar structure of these verses shows us a process of continued and repeated actions. These verses describe a process that repeats over and over again.
We enter the process by God drawing us. We decide to do it by exercising Free Will. Then by His mercy, His power, and grace, we present our bodies as living and holy sacrifices. That is the dying to self, our submission to Christ’s Lordship. We decide to live our lives, daily, as an act of worship of our Lord. We live for His glory.
We die to our fleshly desires. We put them to death. That means we quit being conformed to the world and its ways. Instead, we place our focus on Christ and godly things. This is the renewing of our minds. We fast from the things of this world and feast on God and godly things. This will renovate our minds. This emptying of self, this dying of self clears out everything in our hearts that is not of God. We feast on Him which results in our becoming Spirit-filled.
What will we be like when we have a Spirit-filled heart? Carefully read the following passage. It contains one of the most detailed definitions of Christ-likeness I know of.
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:12-17)
The Spirit-filled heart is one that has put on Christ. It is continually submitted to the Lordship of Christ. It presents itself continually to God as a living sacrifice. It shuns the things and ways of the world. Instead, it feasts on God as it fasts from fleshly pursuits. In response, God renovates it with his burning, cleansing fires. When precious metals are refined, the waste produced is a scum, dross that floats to the top of the molten mass. The master refiner, God, removes the dross from our hearts.
The Adult Christian is Spirit-led. As this believer matures, he or she will submit to this process continuously. It is all according to the will of God. God controls this process not the believer. The believer willingly submits to it, but God does the cleansing. As the focus of the cleansing becomes more refined, there will be a point where this believer will transition into the Mature Christian stage. When will that be? That is according to the will of God, but I can share this truth. The Adult Christian becomes Spirit-filled more and more over time, but the Mature Christian has a Spirit-filled heart most of the time.
Don’t think of being Spirit-filled as having more of the Holy Spirit. Instead having a Spirit-filled heart means, the Holy Spirit has more of the believer. The Spirit-filled heart is one that has died to self and lives for God’s glory. It is focused on Christ continuously and is an alien in this world.
The biggest difference between the Adult Christian and the Mature Christian is the Adult Christian is being refined into tenderheartedness while the Mature Christian is tenderhearted. The Adult Christian is still struggling with focus while the Mature Christian repents very quickly with every stumble back into self-focus. The Adult Christian has not completely died to self while the Mature Christian has learned to live for God’s glory in all parts of his or her life.
Two very important markers in our growth through the Adult Christian stage into the Mature Christian stage is how much Christ’s peace rules in our hearts and how richly God’s word dwells there. As Christ’s peace rules more and more in our hearts, God changes us. In what way will God change us? With that peace RULING in our hearts, we will not be double minded. In other words, we will have an undivided heart. That means the Spirit-filled heart is full of His peace and that drives out fear, worry and any lack of contentment.
What does “the word of Christ dwelling richly in our hearts” mean? That means we move from solid Bible knowledge as an Adult Christian to deep Bible knowledge as a Mature Christian. We learn God’s word, we live in God’s word, and we live by God’s word. The Bible becomes our source of God’s wisdom. The Lord speaks to us in most cases through His word. When God’s word indwells richly in our hearts He uses the truths and power within to cut through the hardness separating our Soul from our conscience. The circumcision of our hearts becomes more and more open as the Lord cuts and burns away our fleshliness. This makes God’s value system more and more apparent to our hearts. The Mature Christian’s conscience is pure and undefiled. The Adult Christian’s conscience is being purified and cleansed. The Mature Christian lives by heeding their conscience. The Adult Christian is learning to heed their conscience.
With a pure and clear conscience, our behavior becomes radically different. Why? We now have the capacity to have a Spirit-filled heart. We can now walk before our Lord in obedience as we live entirely for His glory. Why? We are no longer self-focused. We are now Spirit-led and Spirit-filled. Do the processes stop because we have become Spirit-filled? No, there will be cleansing and maturing as long as we live in these bodies. There will never be a point in this life where we arrive. We can mature to unimaginable levels of spirituality, but we will never be perfect.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™ Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.