by Mike Ratliff
1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; 2 and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.
3 But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; 4 and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. 5 For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.
6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not be partakers with them; 8 for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light 9 (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), 10 trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; 12 for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. 13 But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light. 14 For this reason it says,
And arise from the dead,
And Christ will shine on you.”
15 Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, 16 making the most of your time, because the days are evil. 17 So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; 20 always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; 21 and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ. Ephesians 5:1-21 (NASB)
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 series. 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.
1 Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. 3 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.
5 Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. 6 For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, 7 and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, 10 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— 11 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.
12 So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. 14 Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. Colossians 3:1-17 (NASB)
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 Flesh-bound 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 heart.
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 “renewal” in this passage describes the redemptive work of God in making the Born Again individual a qualitatively new person.
God draws each of unto become Spirit-filled, our part is to respond by submitting to Him as He wills, denying self becoming, in reality, a living sacrifice. The following passage is a detail of the process God will draw us into to bring this about.
1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1-2 (NASB)
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 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. 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.
12 So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. 14 Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. Colossians 3:12-17 (NASB)
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 maturing believer 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 have increasing periods of time in which he or she will have 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 becoming newly Spirit-filled and being Spirit-filled as a way of life is that, because of being in close relation to Christ more and more tenderheartedness becomes much more evident. Also, we all struggle with our flesh. John Owen, in his book The Mortification of Sin, made it clear that this struggle will last the rest of our lives. However, this struggle is made much more tolerable if we will submit to our Lord as living sacrifices as a way of life.
Also, the more we walk in repentance as living sacrifices in this walk by faith, the more peace will rule in our hearts. Think about it. Yes, how can we tolerate the fiery trials that come upon all of us without God’s peace and how can we have this peace and His joy without this close walk with Him? If we walk by faith this way will we have undivided hearts? Will we have worshipping hearts? On the other hand, will be bitter or full of hate or full of fear? How can those things live in a heart that is full of the Spirit?
What does “the word of Christ dwelling richly in our hearts” mean? That means 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 maturing Christian’s conscience is pure and undefiled. As we learn to walk by faith, we learn to heed our 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 as we actively learn to mortify our sins. 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.
Soli Deo Gloria!