Being Filled

“Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Ephesians‬ ‭5:18-20‬ ‭NLT

What was in Paul’s mind when he compared an alcohol-induced drunkenness with an infilling of the Holy Spirit? Was he implying that the same “high” could be achieved with the Holy Spirit? Whatever his thoughts, the comparison is striking – the destructive effects of alcohol as against the constructive effects of living a life filled with the Holy Spirit. 

What does it mean to “be filled with the Holy Spirit”. Apparently the original meaning was that we must be continually filled with the Holy Spirit. Just as the effects of alcohol will disappear from our bodies, so too will the impact of the Holy Spirit, as we use His power within our daily lives. But there the analogy must end because there is no real comparison. 

The Bible is rich with verses extolling the benefits of a life filled with the Holy Spirit. For example, Galatians 5:22-23 reads, “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control…“. We need the Holy Spirit to help us in our pilgrimage through life – don’t we just! As we encounter daily interactions with those around us, being filled with the Spirit can make the difference between worldly and Godly responses. As we constantly give of our emotional and spiritual resources to those around us, we need to constantly call upon the Holy Spirit to replenish us with His power.

Jesus taught His disciples much about the Holy Spirit – one such example was in John 14:16-17, “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth…”. “Truth” is something much lacking in life today, as it was in the First Century. During Jesus’ mock trial, Pontius Pilate himself confessed to not knowing what truth was (John 18:38). But through the power of the Holy Spirit we know the Truth that matters. 

Part of my testimony is about the time I saw Christians working together and relating with each other in a community setting. They had something shining through them, that I now know was the outworking of the Holy Spirit, filling their lives. And I have over the years experienced help and love from other Christians, many of whom I hardly knew, but who have ministered to my situation through the power of the Holy Spirit.

So on our life-pilgrimage we too have an obligation to obey Paul’s call to “be filled with the Holy Spirit”. Daily getting on our knees before Him, asking for more of His presence and resources in our lives. Father, fill us afresh today, we pray, and again tomorrow, and again … Amen.

I’m a Tree

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on His law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither – whatever they do prospers. Psalm 1:1-3 NIVUK

Have you ever attended or watched a military parade, particularly of those nations who favour the “goose-step” mode of marching? Hand picked men and women march flawlessly, totally synchronised in their steps. Their polished boots, identical uniforms, marchers all in line, make an impressive spectacle. To someone like me, never good at keeping in step with anything, such a sight I can only watch in amazement. But the Psalmist, right at the start of the first Psalm of the Book of Psalms, straight away declares a counter-cultural way of life. One in which personal blessings can be found only by avoiding the temptation to march in step with the society around us. You see, most of the Western world system in this age is anti-God. Our society and culture is becoming increasingly secular and adopting the Psalmist’s description of being “sinners and mockers”, and keeping in step with such a way of life, doing the same things, thinking the same thoughts, neglecting God and His ways, leads to destruction, as the Psalmist writes in the last verse of this Psalm.

The Psalmist encourages us spend our time in God’s presence, reading His Scriptures, hearing His voice, aligning our thoughts to His thoughts, whenever we have the opportunity. And by doing so we will be “blessed”. God’s blessings are priceless, and they lead to a prosperous and healthy life. The psalmist uses the analogy of the blessed person being like a tree planted next to a stream of water. In his society, desert regions and parched land with stunted tree growth would have been common. But the fortunate tree planted next to a stream never failed to provide all that a tree should – imagine the fruit in season – possibly figs or something similar. The blessed person also produces fruit in the seasons that God has for him or her. Fruit appropriate for God’s Kingdom.

What is this fruit? In the early days of the Charismatic Renewal I once heard a message in a Christian Conference from an international speaker warning against the dangers of being caught up in the excitement of what God was doing in His church, but failing to produce the fruit of a renewed life in God. What is this fruit? What is the spiritual equivalent of a fat, juicy fig? We read about the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” But there is also the fruit of fulfilling Jesus’ command in Matthew 28, of making disciples. So we can see that today’s equivalent of meditating on the Law of the Lord will involve personal renewal, a personal orientation towards the Kingdom of God in a way of life appropriate to being a spiritual tree next to His streams of living water.

This year the Elim Movement in the UK is encouraging people and congregations to do a spiritual reset, where they evaluate their lives to see if they are growing fruit or just a few leaves. But we don’t have to be an Elim member to re-evaluate our spiritual lives, checking out how we measure up against God’s demands. In my morning prayer walk today I observed a dead tree, no longer producing fruit as it decayed to join the detritus on the forest floor, helping fungi to grow as it did so. Around it is a thicket of saplings, growing tall and strong. And I said to God in my prayers that I don’t want to be a dead tree amongst such evidence of God’s grace.

Lord, Please help me always to have my roots deeply embedded in the life-giving streams of Your Spirit, this day and forever. Amen.