What does it mean to be filled with the Spirit? Do you ever wonder how to unleash the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in your life? In Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus, he writes, “… be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18, NIV). The original Greek phrase “be filled” is grammatically a present imperative—we don’t have a smooth English translation for this except “be filled.” To really get at the idea of the original Greek, you would need to read this verse as “be being filled” or “keep on being filled.” Further, it’s in the passive voice, meaning it’s not “fill yourself up with the Spirit,” but rather “let yourself be filled” or “let the Holy Spirit fill you.”
Filled With the Spirit
The Bible teaches that an individual is filled with the Holy Spirit by involving himself or herself in the process that leads to an ongoing, day-in, day-out filling. It’s not a once-for-all experience, but rather an ongoing process. It’s a way of doing life. Whenever we talk of something being filled, we usually have an image of something like a glass being filled with water. Whenever the Bible talks about being filled with the Holy Spirit, that’s not what is means. We are not vessels into which God pours a certain amount of Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a Person, so being filled is a relational issue.
So how do we experience “being filled with the Spirit”? Well, it’s not about levitating or foaming at the mouth. To be filled with the Holy Spirit means that we allow Him to occupy, guide and control ever-increasing areas of our life. It’s a simple idea, but a profound one. The more you follow the Holy Spirit, the more you are filled. And the more you are filled, the more you are led. And the more you follow that lead, the more you are filled again. The entire dynamic is that you live in and by and through the Spirit, being led by the Spirit, keeping in step with the Spirit, surrendering daily to His leadership and promptings.
When we listen to the words of the Bible and the inner promptings of our own spirit as it is nudged and guided by the Holy Spirit, we are being led to become that which we naturally aren’t—increasingly like Christ. We are led to make choices; to say yes to things or no to things; to do this, but not do that. To feel certain ways, think certain ways, act certain ways.
How does this work in day-in, day-out life?
I was taking an international flight out of the airport, and it was delayed late into the night. People were irritable and tired, and I was especially frustrated because I was going to be missing a connecting flight that I had to make that was going to throw my whole itinerary in to disarray. Then it was announced that the flight was overbooked and they had to try to bring in another plane, and everyone began jockeying for position to try to get a seat and get on the first plane.
My own mood and spirit were no different than anyone else’s. Maybe worse. It didn’t help that, as I was trying to maneuver my way through the group to ensure I had a seat on the first plane, there was this one guy who was just in my space. He was bumping against me, trying to get ahead and elbow his way to get in front of me. Feeling Jesusy, I was bumping him right back, holding my ground and place in the makeshift line. He glared at me, and I glared right back.
In truth, there was nowhere for any of us to go.
Then he said, “Look, you keep bumping into me.”
I said: “Well I don’t have anywhere to move! People are bumping me!”
Then I glared again, almost daring him to say anything else. It was a very pastoral moment.