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

The Glory of God’s Love

The “John 3:16” of the Old Testament comes in a repeated credo that the LORD gives concerning His character and it first shows up in Exodus 34:6-7. This wonderful passage states this:The Lord passed before Moses and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin…”

This powerful assertion by God about His character is repeated in Nehemiah 9:17-19, Psalm 86:15, Psalm 103:8, Psalm 111:4, Joel 2:12-13, and Jonah 4:2.  As we think about our sovereign God, let us explore what these descriptions mean.

The LORD is “merciful”—this really means a mother’s love toward her nursing baby. It conveys this idea of mercy for the helpless. It can also mean the love of a father. So in essence, this means that God is a loving, gracious parent who looks with mercy upon us as helpless and hopeless sinners. God is tenderhearted toward us. He relates to us as a Father, not a judge if we are in Christ.

The LORD is “gracious”—the imagery of this word means, “to bend or incline or come down”. It carries that idea that a superior or sovereign is bending down to a helpless rebel who in no way deserves love or mercy. We are in debt to God because of our sin and are hopeless without His intervention in our lives. As a holy God, He doesn’t owe us anything except for punishment due our sin, but He acts liberally and graciously toward us knowing all along we can never pay Him back. He simply rescues and saves us through Jesus because He loves us.

The LORD is “slow to anger”—literally it means that God is longsuffering or patient in snorting his nose in anger. God does not execute immediate justice or discipline at times, but is patient with our disobedience. He has a high threshold of tolerance for our stubbornness. Praise the Lord that He is patient with us through Christ!

The LORD is abounding in “steadfast love”—this is probably the most important word in this passage. The word is “hesed” in Hebrews and it is God’s tenacious fidelity and resolve to maintain a relationship with sinful people. It means that God obligates and swears upon Himself that He will be true to His covenant and promise to love His people whom He has chosen. He doesn’t break His promises toward us in Christ, but maintains this loyal, powerful, gripping love upon us in where He will never leave nor forsake us.

The LORD abounds in “faithfulness”—this means that God is trustworthy. He is firm. He can be counted upon. The imagery here shows us that God holds us in His strong arms the way a parent would hold a helpless infant. He takes care of our needs through Christ.

The LORD is a “forgiving” God—Through Christ’s death on the cross, He cancels the debt of sin against us. He wipes the slate clean. He tosses our sins and rebellious actions to the bottom of the sea. Our sins are forgiven as far as the east meets the west.

After God appears to Moses with this powerful statement about Himself, in Exodus 34:8, he “quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshipped.” The ultimate response to the character and Person of our great God is immediate worship. The more we know about God, the more we worship Him. I pray that you spend time this week meditating upon the glorious love of our gracious God through His Son Jesus Christ.

Day ONE of 50 Day Spiritual Journey


Yesterday, we started a new sermon series entitled “Identity…Being Who we are in Christ”.   I invited you on this 50-day spiritual journey of prayer, fasting, and seeking the face of the Lord for the future of our church and for your own personal spiritual growth.   There are two key verses that will serve as the foundation for the next 50 day spiritual journey—Romans 8:29 and 2 Corinthians 3:18.

Today, we will explore Romans 8:29.

Read Romans 8:29

Everything starts with the glory of God. God in His infinite majesty is the self-existent, all-sufficient, glorious Creator who in no way ever needs humans to somehow satisfy Himself. God is completely satisfied in being God.  He doesn’t need anything.  God was not lonely up in heaven and then decided to create humans as a way to fill some eternal void.  No, we serve a God who is absolutely sovereign and wonderful.

Yet, in His great mercy, He decided to create you and me in His image and for a very specific purpose. The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever. God created us for His glory and He will not share that glory with anyone or anything else.

In Romans 8:29, Paul tells us that God has planned from the very beginning that we as His people be conformed to the image of His Son Jesus.  In other words, our ultimate purpose in life is to continually look more and more like Jesus.  God has a plan for us to grow to be more like His Son.

The word “conformed” in the Greek means to “morph to be like” or to “be similar” to Jesus.  Over the next 50 days, my prayer is that you experience this transformation and grow to look more like Jesus.

You may look at your spiritual life today and really question whether this is or can be a reality in your situation. You may be struggling in your walk with Christ. You may be frustrated with where you are right now.  You may feel an internal angst and frustration that you are not growing to look more like Jesus.

Here’s the good news!! This passage tells us that God has made it His priority to do this in your life. He has planned it in eternity past.

Now this process may be long, painful, and grueling, but it will be exciting, joyful, adventurous and well worth it.  Our goal is to find our ultimate satisfaction in knowing Christ more deeply.

Spend some time in prayer this morning thanking God that He predestined you to be conformed to Jesus and what He started, He will complete.

Read Philippians 1:6

Dear Father,

Your love is immense and almost hard to understand. Why in the world would you predestine me to look more and more like Jesus?  I know that you do all things for your great pleasure and for your own glory.  Grant me the desire to grow in Christ and please do a powerful work in me over the next 50 days to transform me more and more in the image of Christ.

In Christ’s powerful name,


Continuing to Confront Idolatry

What is the greatest sin in the entire Bible? Is it murder? Adultery? Homosexuality? Theft? Lying? Disobeying parents? Which is most condemned throughout both the Old and New Testament? The amazing answer is that none of these are the greatest and most heinous sin in the entire Bible. The answer: IDOLATRY.

From Genesis to Revelation, idolatry is the one overarching sin that is condemned more than any other. We see it most fully expressed in the first of the Ten Commandments.  In Exodus 20:3 God emphatically says, “You shall have no other gods before me.” In the very last verse of John’s First Epistle we find these words: “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.”

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Summer Reading List

I am an avid reader and cannot get enough of consuming good books. As a pastor who has a seminary education, I have read my fair share of books. We can be profoundly influenced and mentored by Christian authors that the Lord has used to advance His kingdom. With so many choices out there in the evangelical sub-culture, how does a Christian discern truth from error—especially when it is in print?

Part of our spiritual growth as believers is to build a good library of doctrinally sound and theologically solid books that will encourage, challenge, motivate and stimulate us to love and good works. As evangelicals, we adhere to Sola Scriptura which means that Scripture alone is our sole rule of faith and practice. There is no other authority above the Holy Bible and we are to measure every teaching of man against God’s revelation in Scripture. Yet, God in His providence, has given gifts to His church through godly men and women who have written books for the growth of God’s people.  We should realize that all humans are fallible and no one author or pastor or theologian is above reproof or correction and can at times be wrong.

As we begin the summer of 2012, I want to recommend to you my reading audience “Sean Cole’s Top Seven Summer Reading List”. These are books that have profoundly influenced me and I believe that every Christian should own. Some are more accessible and readable that others.

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