What Does It Mean to Be Filled with the Spirit?

The filling of the Holy Spirit has always seemed kind of mystical and remote to me—like finding the end of a rainbow. No matter how hard you try or how fast you run, you never get there. Or perhaps I think of it more like winning the lottery or getting first prize in a drawing . . . like finding a four-leaf clover or losing those last five pounds. There are a few lucky ones who can speak of such grand accomplishments, while the rest of us are left wondering if it will ever be our turn. 

Can you relate? 

Due to the Spirit's mysterious nature, I think it's easy for us to assume there must be a formula for obtaining the Spirit’s filling—a formula only the most dedicated and bold Christians ever unlock. Christians like John the Baptist, John the Apostle, Jonathon Edwards, and John Piper come to mind. (So maybe if your name is John and you love Jesus, the Holy Spirit will fill you?)

But the idea that an authentic filling of the Spirit is as elusive as getting a glimpse at Santa Claus is just not accurate. Being filled with the Holy Spirit is a daily gift available from the Father, not an unattainable aspiration.

Every Believer Has the Holy Spirit

According to 2 Timothy 1:14, the Holy Spirit indwells every person who comes to saving faith in Jesus Christ. And once indwelt, you are always indwelt (1 Cor. 12:13). What does this mean? At the point of salvation, we have all of the Holy Spirit, all at once. He doesn’t build up little by little like a 401(k), as if the longer you work, the more you get. No, God gifts the Spirit fully and without question to every one of His children.

Furthermore, the Spirit is not something God gives when we're good and takes away when we're bad. In John 14:16–17, Jesus says, "And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you." Note the word ”forever.”

So the question for the believer isn't, "Do I have the Holy Spirit?" or even, "Do I have all of the Holy Spirit?" The question for the believer is this: does the Holy Spirit have all of me? We have nothing to do with the Spirit's indwelling or baptizing or sealing for the day of redemption, but we absolutely play a part in the Spirit's daily filling of our heart and mind. 

Sin Suppresses the Work of the Spirit

Every time we sin, we crush the Spirit's work in our lives (1 Thess. 5:19). Sin is like a giant, red stop sign placed in front of the Lord. Due to God's holiness, His Spirit and sin cannot hang out together, leaving us with two options. We are either walking in the Spirit with God or waltzing through life in our sin-filled flesh. 

Ephesians 5:17–18 makes the following comparison, "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."

At first glance, Paul's comparison might seem a little strange (don't get drunk, get God) until we focus on the word ”filled.” In the original Greek language, the word ”filled” implies continuous and complete permeation. Its meaning? Let the Spirit thoroughly saturate and control you at all times. 

In contrast, what does drinking too much alcohol do to a person? It controls them. It fills them, saturating their body and permeating their mind. You just never know what an intoxicated person is going to do or say, right? But the real issue in this verse isn't alcohol consumption; the true issue is control. Is the Holy Spirit in control, or is your flesh? 

One of the easiest ways to determine who's in control is to do a quick inventory of what's inside you. Are you filled with anxiety, anger, fear, pride, jealousy, or bitterness? Is worry consuming you? Or is it peace you feel? The fruit of the Spirit and the works of the flesh exist in opposition to each other. Galatians 5:16 says, "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh."

The Spirit produces life wrapped in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. In contrast, the flesh produces life wrapped in selfish motivation, idolatry, rivalry, hatred, discord, envy, and wickedness, among other life-draining temptations. 

Think about it this way: when people drink alcohol, their inhibitions toward immorality decrease, and sin becomes easier. But when the Spirit fills believers, their inhibitions toward morality decrease, and righteousness becomes easier. God’s kingdom is the goal, along with love instead of hate, and faith is the driving force over fear. 

God's Word Enhances the Work of the Spirit 

A beam of light doesn't have to shine down on my house for the Spirit to fill me. I don't have to jump three times and turn in circles or say the right thing or have the name John to know the power of the Holy Spirit. I simply need to pray, seek to align my heart with God’s, and fill my mind with His Word. 

It isn't complicated, but that doesn’t mean it’s effortless: a daily filling of the Holy Spirit requires a daily filling of the Word of God. In contrast, I firmly believe a lack of Spirit-filled living is due to a lack of enthusiasm for the Bible, along with mediocre attempts to fight sin. But if God's Word is filling us, then the Spirit of God will too.

Here’s the bottom line: we resist the Spirit's filling every time we resist the convictions the Spirit places within us. We resist when we align ourselves with the world instead of our heavenly Father or when we choose to satisfy ourselves with something other than Scripture. It takes little effort to let the flesh lead, but to allow the Spirit to lead requires a conscious surrender. 

Ask God to Fill You with His Spirit 

So how about it? What's filling you right now? Is it God's Word or your own words? Is it the fruit of the Spirit or the works of the flesh? God is so kind to give us the Holy Spirit. His presence within us is a gift like no other, but I don't think we cherish that gift enough. Instead, we don’t give God the credit he deserves, living most of our days as skeptics: Was that the Lord speaking to me, or just a happen-so?

If the nudge you are feeling aligns with God's Word, benefits God's kingdom, serves the Church, and inspires you to be more like Christ, trust and obey to see where the Spirit might lead you. But if you haven't even prayed about the path you're considering, then I encourage you to take a step back and ask the Lord to lead you in His will. The Spirit of God is not self-seeking; the Spirit of God seeks Christ. 

Ask the Lord to fill you with His Spirit and then be expectant. If we, as parents, are pleased when our children ask for good things, how much more is our Heavenly Father pleased when we ask for more of Him?

The Holy Spirit may be a bit of a mystery, but His filling doesn't have to be when we look for His leading through Scripture and choose to live our lives in avid pursuit of Christ. 

Take the time to soak in God’s Word at Revive ’21: Grounded, a conference from Revive Our Hearts. We’d love for you to join us in Indianapolis for the in-person event October 8–9. Visit Revive21.com to register today, and let’s get grounded together!

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About the Author

Stacey Salsbery

Stacey Salsbery

Stacey Salsbery is a farmer’s wife and mother of four. When she isn’t serving a meal on the side of the road, riding in a tractor with her husband, or driving kids to practice, you’ll find her escaping the crazy by writing devotionals at Deeper Devos, where she gives readers a weekly practical and deeper look at God’s Word. Her favorite things in the world (not counting her Savior, husband, and kids) include flipping houses, buying new books, and going for a nice long run. Stacey and her family reside in the cornfields of Indiana.

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