What is a “Spirit-filled” Christian?

What is a “Spirit-filled” Christian? Is it some emotional frenzy with people barking like dogs, or getting slain in the Spirit, or uncontrollable laughter, or any other weird manifestation exhibited on Christian broadcasting (which by the way I highly recommend NOT watching)? Is it evidenced by ecstatic utterances or some type of “anointing” likened to electricity that jolts a person with supernatural power?

Paul tell us in Ephesians 5:18-21 what it means to be Spirit-filled. He writes, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

Let me address the grammar of the text and then give some hints from the original language to clearly define what it means to be “Spirit-filled”. First of all, this is in the present tense—“keep on” being filled. This is not a one time instantaneous act or experience, but because of the verb tense, it is a condition. It is not to be sought as a blessing or a manifestation or some crisis event. In other words, this is how we should always live—constantly under the influence of the Holy Spirit.

Secondly, it is a command in the imperative mood. We are commanded to be keep on continually being filled. This is not something that just happens to us. We must make the conscious choice to allow the Holy Spirit to have influence in our lives on a continual basis.

Let me give you two illustrations of what this verb “to be filled” means in the original language. First of all, it was used of winds carrying a boat along by blowing in the sails. This image shows that the Holy Spirit blows in your life and carries you along to do the will of Christ. You are guided, influenced, directed by the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Secondly, this verb can also mean, “permeated” like salt permeates food to make it taste good. In other words, the presence of the Holy Spirit permeates your life so that you produce fruit that makes you more like Jesus. But most often it speaks of control. In a sense, one voluntarily keeps on submitting to the Holy Spirit in order to live under His divine control or influence. So the main verb in this text is the command to keep on continually being controlled or influenced by the Holy Spirit.

And yet Paul also expands on this idea of being “Spirit-filled” by giving four evidences or fruits of what a Spirit-controlled person looks like. The first one is that of addressing each other in songs of praise. This is clearly the experiencing of the close fellowship of worshipping together. This is the joy of being together with other Christians for mutual edification and encouragement. A Spirit-controlled person loves to glorify Christ and enjoy Him forever by worshipping with fellow Christians. This is our public praise for the purpose of edification and exhortation and teaching.

Secondly, it means singing to the Lord with all your heart. This is our private devotion to Christ where we sing to Him in our hearts. Whether we sing literally from our mouths or make music in our hearts, it is the overwhelming joy of having Christ as Savior and Lord. There should be no such thing as sour or dour Christians. Nor should there be this “happy-clappy” syrupy sentimentalism. Instead, Spirit-filled Christians have the inner joy of the Lord as their strength and it comes out in a lifestyle of joy to others around them.

Thirdly, it demonstrates itself in giving thanks always and for everything. Often times as Christians, we can be the least thankful of people.  You can truly know a Spirit-controlled person when they exude the joy of the Lord in thankfulness.  What is going on in your life right now whether good or bad that you have not expressed thanksgiving to God for His gracious hand of providence in your life?

Fourthly, a Spirit-filled Christian keeps on submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. This word “submit” is a military term that means to line up in rank underneath.  Paul also tells us this in Philippians 2:3-4: “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”  When a person has a submission problem, often demonstrated by pride or arrogance, it is clear evidence that they are not being Spirit-controlled.

I want you to notice very carefully that clear evidences of being “Spirit-filled” have nothing to do with ecstatic utterances or the “anointing” or any other weird manifestations. No barking like dogs! No falling down and being slain in the Spirit! If there were one place to show these manifestations in Scripture in regards to the role of the Holy Spirit of all places it would show up here. But it doesn’t.

What’s the evidence of being Spirit-filled? Joy, worship, fellowship, encouragement, and mutual edification. In other words, a Spirit-filled Christian consistently displays the fruit of the Spirit. May we ask God in His grace to supply us the power to be Spirit-filled Christians who exude the joy of the Lord as a lifestyle

40 Days in Philippians DAY FORTY

Read Psalm 98


This is a Psalm exhorting us to rejoice! As we close our 40 days in Philippians, I wanted us to end with a word about JOY!!


Joy is a deep-seated sense of peace, contentment, and satisfaction in Christ alone that does not depend upon circumstances, but rests in the unchanging grace of God.


Let me break this down for you again. Joy is deep-seated. It is not surface. It is something that God produces deep in our hearts and minds that flows from His Holy Spirit to us. It involves having a sense of peace that passes understanding.


It involves a godly contentment. It involves a satisfaction that finds ultimate purpose and hope in Christ alone. Joy is not dependent upon our circumstances.  Things can be very bad and we could be experiencing trials and tribulations, but in the midst of these, we can have that deep-seated joy. Joy comes in resting in the unchanging grace of God for us in Christ.


Joy starts deep in our hearts as we think about and meditate upon the goodness of God. Joy can be an internal reality, but more often than not, when you see joy being discussed in the Scriptures, it is something that must COME OUT!! It comes out in talking, or singing, or shouting, or clapping, or praising and it is usually done in corporate worship.


Notice that the Psalms say, “Make a joyful noise”, not make a joyful thought. Or think joyful thoughts. Now, obviously, we think joyful thoughts and we have joy in our hearts, but I believe joy was meant to expressed.


This Psalm gives us three primary reasons to express this joy:


First of all, we are to be joyful for what God has done. We see this in verses 1-3

The Psalmist commands us to sing to the LORD a new song for he has done marvelous things.


What marvelous things has God done in your life in the past 40 days? Can you express this joy back to Him and to others this week?


Secondly, we are to be joyful for who God is as evidenced in verses 4-6.


Literally, the Hebrew word means to “shout a war cry of victory or to give great applause to God.”  Do you see the intensity of this?  It’s not just thinking joyous thoughts, but it is an outward expression of joy that just can’t be kept in! You need to shout and to burst forth!


In verse 6, we find that He is the KING, the LORD! Jesus is King!


Knowing that Jesus is the sovereign ruler over all creation and the absolute monarch of the universe should bring us a great sense of peace, contentment, and satisfaction in Him alone. He is the King.


No matter what happens in our lives, Jesus still rules. It doesn’t matter who the President is, or who is in Congress or what Wall Street does or if cancer infects your body, or you have a difficult relationship, or you lost your job, or whatever else you are going through that may cause you fear or disappointment—you can rest in the wonderful arms of our Savior who is the King of kings.


But thirdly, we are to be joyful for what God WILL do in the future.


We find this in verses 7-9.


In the future, God will judge the world with righteousness and equity.


On the final day, when Jesus comes to judge the world, He will judge with absolute integrity and justice. Those who have not bowed the knee to Him in repentance and faith will face the fires of hell. Those whom He has saved by grace will be ushered into eternal life.


Knowing that your sins have been forgiven and you’ve been acquitted of all guilt and that you stand innocent before God on account of Christ should be cause for great joy. You should have joy that all the evils in this world will be dealt with fully and finally by a sovereign King who will come and rule the world in righteousness and judge the earth.

If there were not a final judgment, then the holiness of God would be a mockery. He must punish sin.


Do you have a deep-seated sense of peace, contentment, and satisfaction in Christ alone regardless of circumstances as you rest in God’s unchanging grace as you think about the Second Coming of Christ to rule and judge the earth?


As we close this 40 Days in Philippians, I want you to meditate on a few verses from Philippians that I pray will give you joy!


Philippians 1:6


Philippians 1:21


Philippians 2:9-11


Philippians 4:13



40 Days in Philippians DAY THIRTY NINE

The challenge for today is to go back in one sitting and reread the entire book of Philippians and think about the key themes that show up.


  • The Gospel
  • Our attitudes
  • Joy


As you’ve read the letter again, what really sticks out to you this time around? Do your read it differently than you did when we started almost 40 days ago?


Praise God that your understanding of this book has grown.


Dear Lord,

Thank You so much for this journey You’ve taken me through in the book of Philippians. I am so thankful Holy Spirit that you sovereignly inspired Paul to write it. I have learned so much about what it means to have joy, to advance the gospel, and to have the same attitude as Christ!  I want to continue to saturate myself in Your word!

For Jesus’ Sake,


40 Days in Philippians DAY THIRTY EIGHT

Read Philippians 4:21-23


This is Paul’s conclusion to the letter and as we saw yesterday, he closes with the theme of grace.


As your pastor, my prayer for you is the same as Paul’s. My prayer is that the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ would be with your spirit. In the core of your being, I want us all to experience the depth of God’s amazing grace for us in Christ.


One of the primary ways we can be reminded of God’s grace is to preach the gospel to ourselves on a daily basis. I’ve spoken about this over the years, but many may be new to this way of reminding ourselves of the gospel.
What does it mean to preach the gospel to yourself every day?


Listen to Jerry Bridges who has influenced me greatly in this area. There is probably no other living person who has influenced my view of the gospel and spiritual growth than Jerry Bridges. This quote comes from his chapter “Preach the Gospel to Yourself” in his excellent book “The Discipline of Grace”.


He writes, “I believe that part of our problem is our tendency to give an unbeliever just enough of the gospel to get him or her to pray a prayer to receive Christ. Then we immediately put the gospel on the shelf, so to speak, and go on to the duties of discipleship. As a result, Christians are not instructed in the gospel. And because they do not fully understand the riches and glory of the gospel, they cannot preach it to themselves, nor live by it in their daily lives.”


Here’s how Jerry Bridges defines preaching the gospel to yourself and I wholeheartedly agree with him: “To preach the gospel to yourself means that you continually face up to your own sinfulness and then flee to Jesus through faith in His shed blood and righteous life. It means that you appropriate again by faith, the fact that Jesus fully satisfied the law of God, that He is your propitiation, and that God’s holy wrath is no longer directed toward you.”


Let’s take a quick journey through Romans.


Read Romans 3:21-26


This section of Romans may probably be THE MOST important section of the Bible because it clearly sets forth for us the gospel of our salvation.


Here’s a summary:

  • You and I can’t be right with God by being a good person or obeying the Ten Commandments because we fall short of God’s glory
  • Justification by faith is the only way we can be right with God and this means that our unholy record of sin is credited to Jesus’s account and His perfect righteousness is credited to our account.
  • Through the cross of Christ where He bore God’s wrath against us, we can be totally forgiven
  • This free gift of grace is appropriated by personal faith in Christ alone
  • God is just in that He punished sin through Jesus and yet at the same time He is the justifier in that that we are accepted in His sight by Christ’s work alone on our behalf.

Read Romans 4:7-8


There is a great book of prayers by the Puritans called “Valley of Vision”.  I encourage you to find this book and meditate on the prayers.


Listen to one of the prayers: “Holy Trinity, continue to teach me that Christ’s righteousness satisfies justice and evidences your love; help me to make use of it by faith as the ground of my peace and of your favor and acceptance of me, so that I may live always near the cross.”


That’s what we want to do. To always live near the cross by faith so that the gospel permeates our thinking and it affects every aspect of our lives.


Milton Vincent in his book “A Gospel Primer for Christians” writes these very encouraging words: “There is simply no other way to compete with the forebodings of my conscience, the condemning of my heart, and the lies of the world and the devil than to overwhelm such things with daily rehearsings of the gospel.”


That’s what we need. A daily rehearsing of the gospel in our hearts and minds. We need to be saturated in the gospel so that we can overwhelm the temptations of this world with the glory and majesty of Christ.


Emmanuel, let’s be a people who preach the gospel to ourselves daily!


Dear Father in Heaven,

I am in awe that You would dare send Jesus to die and rise again for a wretch like me. I am blown away by the power of the gospel. Help me to preach the gospel to myself daily as I keep my affections near the cross.  As I’m overwhelmed by the world, the flesh, and the devil, one of the ways I can remain steadfast in obedience is to daily remind myself of who I am in You and what You’ve done for me in the gospel. May I never get over the wonder of the gospel.

In Christ’s Name,