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Being Filled With the Holy Spirit: Experience the God of Free Refills

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How is being filled with the Holy Spirit like receiving unlimited free refills? Keep reading for biblical insights you can share with teens.

One of my mentors is a British clergyman who loves the Bible and loves the Holy Spirit. When he taught on the Holy Spirit, he told the story of when, on rare occasions, living in England and not making very much as a Vicar, he took his children out to eat. He told them in no uncertain terms that they could get one soda and one soda only. After that it was water.

As you may know, in England there are no free refills. But when the family vacationed in the United States, the pastor said they could order all the sodas they wanted!

His point and his punch line? In this respect only, God is more of an American than an Englishman. God is the God of free refills.

Being Filled With the Holy Spirit

First things first: You don’t come to Jesus apart from the Holy Spirit. Titus 3:4-6 says God “saved us, not because of works done by us… but by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ.” You can’t become a Christian without the Holy Spirit.

And when you become a Christian, you don’t receive two-thirds of God, as if the Holy Spirit comes later. Second Corinthians 1:22 and Ephesians 1:13 say the Holy Spirit seals us and guarantees that we belong to Jesus. When you put your trust in Jesus Christ, the Spirit seals you.

But in Ephesians 5:18, Paul commands the church to “be filled with the Holy Spirit.” The English language doesn’t quite do justice to Paul’s intent. In the Greek, this command is a present imperative. Paul speaks not of a onetime filling but a regular pattern of filling. So “go on being filled with the Holy Spirit” is more like it.

This makes some of us nervous, but it was normal language in the New Testament. In Luke 4:1, Jesus is “full of the Holy Spirit.” In Acts 4:8, Peter is “filled with the Holy Spirit.” In Acts 9:17, Ananias lays his hands on Saul so he can be “filled with the Holy Spirit.” Barnabas is “full of the Holy Spirit and faith” in Acts 11:24.

Lest you argue that those references mention just one person one single time, look at the three separate instances in Acts when the disciples are “filled with the Holy Spirit.” First, in Acts 2:4 they’re “filled…” and begin to speak in tongues. Second, in Acts 4:31 they’re “filled…” again. Then in Acts 13:52 they’re again “filled with the Holy Spirit and with joy.”

Accept God’s Free Refills

Why else would Jesus describe the Holy Spirit as “rivers of living water” (John 7:38) and not a pool? A river is a constant flow, whereas a pool is a dormant supply. God reconciles us to himself through Jesus and by the work of the Holy Spirit. Then he longs to continue to fill us and fill us and fill us again. He really is the God of free refills!

Resistance to this comes from a number of places. Maybe we’ve seen abuses of this. Some churches either imply or explicitly state that converts still must “receive” the Holy Spirit. This isn’t biblical and leads to confusion and abuse.

Or maybe we’ve seen the excesses. Pastors use the Holy Spirit to give license to chaos, disorder, or shaky theology derived from a “revelation.” This runs contrary to Scripture. It leads believers and non-believers alike to the opposite excess of, in essence, turning off the spigot of the Holy Spirit.