Filled With the Spirit

07102011-filled-with-holy-spirit

We celebrate “Pentecost Sunday” 50 days after Easter. This is the one Sunday of the year that traditional, stodgy, dusty, mainline Christian denominations, that otherwise ignore the Holy Spirit, give Him His due.

In our sermon series on the Holy Spirit, we said that the Holy Spirit, specifically the idea that all believers are to be filled with Him, is a promise. In fact, the infilling of the Holy Spirit is as much a promise as salvation is. In Luke 24:49, Jesus told His disciples that He was going to send the Holy Spirit, all they had to do was wait in Jerusalem until He came to them. That promise was fulfilled in Acts 2, on the Day of Pentecost, a Jewish festival.

Being filled with the Spirit is part and parcel of being a born again Christian. As Christians, we are called to live a “Spirit filled life.” But what does that mean? Let’s look at some aspects of what it means to be “filled with the Spirit.”

1. Filled with the Spirit, Numbers 11:24-29; Acts 2:1-4. 16-17

(a) Elders receive the Spirit of The Lord, Numbers 11:24-29

And the Lord came down in the Cloud and talked with Moses, and the Lord took of the Spirit that was upon Moses and put it upon the seventy elders; and when the Spirit rested upon them, they prophesied for some time. (Numbers 11:25 TLB)

In Numbers, God had enough with the constant complaints of the Israelites. And so had God’s man, Moses.

Moses said to the Lord, “Why pick on me, to give me the burden of a people like this? Are they my children? Am I their father? Is that why you have given me the job of nursing them along like babies until we get to the land you promised their ancestors? (Numbers 11:11, 12 TLB)

It’s interesting that while God got really irritated with Israel’s murmuring, He did not get angry with Moses. Obviously Moses’ heart was right and his “complaining” wasn’t considered a sin by God. In love and compassion, God heard the complaints of Moses and offered a solution. The same Spirit that was on Moses – the Holy Spirit – would be put on the elders of Israel. When they received the Spirit, they began to do the work of The Lord, in this case, they “prophesied.”  The Spirit even fell on two elders who were not present with the others, Eldad and Medad, and they too began to prophesy.  All this new prophesying caused some jealousy among the Israelites, and this caused Moses to say,

I only wish that all of the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his Spirit upon them all! (Numbers 11:29 TLB)

Don’t we all? And the amazing thing is that even though the Holy Spirit was spread out among all these elders, His power did not diminish! And another very telling lesson is that God’s answer to Moses’ problem was MORE of the Holy Spirit!

(b) The coming of the Holy Spirit, Acts 2:1-4, 16-17

The ascent of Jesus and the descent of the Holy Spirit are two events that cannot be disentangled. Jesus went up in spectacular style and the Spirit came down equally spectacularly – in scorching wind and in tongues of fire. These two symbols are significant. Fire and wind are both symbolic of God’s presence and of the Spirit who purifies and sanctifies. When the Holy Spirit fills a believer, He gives that believer power and purity – you can’t have one without the other. This is the purpose of the Holy Spirit and why He is in every single believer: He sanctifies us and He gives us power to live and work for God.

It’s hard not to make the connection between the coming of the Spirit in Acts with the presence of God at Mount Sinai:

On the morning of the third day there was a terrific thunder and lightning storm, and a huge cloud came down upon the mountain…All Mount Sinai was covered with smoke because Jehovah descended upon it in the form of fire; the smoke billowed into the sky as from a furnace, and the whole mountain shook with a violent earthquake. (Exodus 19:16, 18 TLB)

A new epoch was dawning and it was essential that God make His presence known in an undeniable, unforgettable way. And so it was at Pentecost in Acts. The dispensation of the Holy Spirit was beginning; the disciples needed an experience they would never forget.

2. Spirit filled living, Acts 2:41-47; Ephesians 5:18-21; Galatians 5:22-25

The descent of the Holy Spirit, with all it’s accompanying signs and enthusiasm, was not the end, it was just the beginning! It was not some sort of emotional high given by God to make the disciples feel good. There was and is a purpose for the presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer.

(a) Fellowship of believers, Acts 2:41-47

After the Spirit fell, Peter preached one powerful sermon that led 3,000 people to faith in Christ. He preached it in the power of the Spirit. Not long after that sermon, we see a very simple “church structure” being birthed. We can learn a lot about what’s wrong with the modern church by looking at how it was done in the beginning.

They joined with the other believers in regular attendance at the apostles’ teaching sessions and at the Communion services and prayer meetings. (Acts 2:42 TLB)

We can see four things the early did that formed their simple structure:

The studied the apostle’s teaching. They, the 3,000 plus, gathered to listen to preaching and teaching. After reading Peter’s sermon, we can imagine that most of their messages were teachings from and expositions of Scripture, the Old Testament and probably sayings and teachings of Jesus.

They fellowshipped. From verse 44, we understand that these early members took fellowship very seriously. Koinonia is the Greek word they used for their times of fellowship, and it refers to an intimate sharing with others.

They took communion often. They did this so they wouldn’t forget what Jesus did for them. They were also being obedient to Jesus’ instructions during the Last Supper.

They prayed a lot. Part of this was probably a carry-over from their former religion, Judaism, which had a heavy emphasis on prayer. But there was more going on here than just “Christianizing” old practices. They continued to meet and pray in the Temple, but they also to prayed in their homes and other gathering places.

This is a pretty simple structure, and in some ways it could never be repeated today. But the “spirit” or the attitude of that early church NEEDS to be assumed by the modern church!

(b) The Spirit-filled life, Ephesians 5:18-21

Don’t drink too much wine, for many evils lie along that path; be filled instead with the Holy Spirit and controlled by him. (Ephesians 5:18 TLB)

The day-to-day experience of the Christian must be that of being filled with the Spirit. This group of verses teaches us a very important truth. Living the Spirit-filled life depends on what we DO. The Spirit is in us, but He won’t force us to live correctly. That’s why Paul gave his Ephesian friends these (obvious) “rules for living in the Spirit.”

Paul wrote, “be filled instead with the Holy Spirit.” The verb “filled” is in the present imperative, meaning we could translate it like this: be continually filled with the Spirit. Being filled with the Holy Spirit is not a transitory experience; it is ongoing and that Spirit within must influence how we live each day.

The Holy Spirit is our great Sealer and He is also our Sanctifier; He makes holy living possible, but we must co-operate with him. So the Spirit-filled life is, on one had, as simple as thinking twice before we say a certain thing or behave in a certain way. We must strive to live to please Him. And the good news is that the Holy Spirit gives us the power (the ability) to do just that!

(c) Life in the Spirit, Galatians 5:22-25

This is the famous list of the the “Fruit of the Spirit.” It’s a powerful list, especially when we read it in contrast to the the works of the flesh, which precedes it. It’s natural for the unsaved to be attracted to the “works of the flesh,” but the Christian should be attracted to the fruit of the Spirit.

These are not “gifts,” rather “fruit.” If a person is born again, they should exhibit the fruit of the Spirit. There are many “works” of the flesh, but the “fruit” of the Spirit is one. Paul wrote that way on purpose. For believers, it actually takes MORE effort to live after the flesh than to live in the Spirit. It’s really just a matter of letting the Spirit live through you; it’s a matter of living to please Him.

3. Spirit-filled unity and service, Acts 4:31-35; 2 Corinthians 3:5-6

Looking at how the disciples changed after the coming of the Holy Spirit is evidence of how He changes a life. Remember how frightened the disciples were during and immediately following the Crucifixion? Remember how lonely and dejected the two nameless disciples were as they walked along that road to Emmaus? Now compare the way those disciples were then to how they were after the descent of the Holy Spirit! They were different people; no longer fearful, they lived and functioned as a community of faith, no longer afraid to share that faith.

(a) Believers share their possessions, (Acts 4:31-35)

All the believers were of one heart and mind, and no one felt that what he owned was his own; everyone was sharing. And the apostles preached powerful sermons about the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and there was warm fellowship among all the believers… (Acts 4:32, 33 TLB)

The point of these verses, and the similar ones in 2:44-47, is not that the early church was communist or socialist in nature. Nor is the Bible teaching that this is how the modern church should behave. What we learn here is that there was an intense spiritual unity in the early church, so much so that they made sure all the members’ needs were met by other members. This unity resulted in two things: (1) “warm fellowship.” No longer were the followers of Jesus cowering in a locked room, they were welcoming in a steady flow of new members and that fellowship was not hidden. (2) “powerful sermons” were preached about the Resurrection of Jesus.

(b) Ministers of the New Covenant, 2 Corinthians 3:5, 6

Our only power and success comes from God. He is the one who has helped us tell others about his new agreement to save them. We do not tell them that they must obey every law of God or die; but we tell them there is life for them from the Holy Spirit. The old way, trying to be saved by keeping the Ten Commandments, ends in death; in the new way, the Holy Spirit gives them life. (2 Corinthians 3:5, 6 TLB)

In Acts, we see the role the Holy Spirit played in the everyday life and ministry of the early church. In these two verses, Paul made sure his Corinthian friends understood that his authority and even his competence were from God, via the Holy Spirit. The thing is, this power that was at work in Paul is the same power that is at work in all believers. The old way – the Old Covenant – was obsessed with the “letter of the Jewish law.” It left no room for individual. But the new way – the New Covenant – is all about freedom from man’s ways (even the Law as it had been perverted by religious leaders) in favor of a new life made possible by the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit gives life to the one He indwells. It’s a new life based on a brand new Covenant. The Old Covenant was all external, written on stone tablets. The New Covenant is written on the heart and it is administered by the Holy Spirit. That is, the Holy Spirit makes you alive to the New Covenant.

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