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Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Work of the Holy Spirit - Filling

The final study in our look at the Holy Spirit is the filling of the Spirit. This is another greatly misunderstood aspect of the work of the Spirit. I believe the misunderstanding stems from an emphasis on the work "filling" and focusing in on the idea of quantity. The idea, wrong though it is, is if something is filled then there is more than there was before. Thus, there are some believers who have more of the Spirit than others, and there are those believers who do not have as much of the Spirit as another. This is not only a gross misinterpretation of Scripture, it also produces within the body of Christ different "classes" and thus a type of elitism. It places terrible burdens on those who have not displayed some type of evidence of filling which, in turn, brings many to produce these evidences falsely or to give up on Christianity all together (I have heard many friends give personal testimony to this effect). The idea of filling of the Spirit must be understood for one to be a healthy Christian.

The outline I used for this sermon is as follows:
I. What is filling of the Holy Spirit? (Eph 5:18)
          A. Filling is not maturity
          B. Filling is control

II. What are the conditions in which we can be filled?
          A. Do not quench the Holy Spirit (1 Thes. 5:19)
          B. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30)
          C. Walk in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16)

III. What happens when we are filled?
          A. We will display Christian character (Gal. 5:22-25)
          B. We will truly worship (Eph 5:19-20)
          C. We will engage in service (Eph. 5:21)

I think the crux of this topic is found in (Ephesian 5:18. In short, this verse indicates that filling of the Spirit is not about maturity but it is about control. The picture used in this verse is the similarity between alcohol and the Spirit. When alcohol is in control of people they are no longer in control but the alcohol is. Inebriated people will say things they would not normally say, they will do things they would not normally do, think in ways they would not normally think. The alcohol controls that person while they are drunk. THIS IS THE POINT!

The filling of the Spirit means that someone is not allowing alcohol to control them but instead the Spirit is in complete control. A person, full of the Spirit, will say things he would not normally say, he will do things he would not normally do, he thinks in ways he would not normally thing. The Spirit is in control. Filling of the Spirit is not about acting drunk in front of a crowd, it is not about having more of the Holy Spirit than the guy sitting next to, it is not about how spiritually mature a person is. It is not about quantity. It is about control. It is not how much of the Spirit you have but how much the Spirit has you (I know...a cliché but it speaks the truth).

When a person accepts Christ, they receive the Holy Spirit and they get ALL of the Holy Spirit. However, the person must yield more and more control of their life to the Spirit. It is this process of yielding which can be characterized as filling of the Spirit.

So, if filling is yielding our lives to the Holy Spirit, then there must be some conditions which more easily allows that yielding. This is my second point: what are the conditions which allow the Spirit to have more control of our lives. First, we must not quench the Spirit. In 1 Thessalonians 5:19 the Holy Spirit is pictured as a fire and we are told to not put that fire out in our lives. When we do not allow the Spirit to work in our lives, we are quenching the Holy Spirit. Second, we are not to grieve the Holy Spirit. We grieve the Holy Spirit when we sin. The Spirit wants to work in us but that is prevented when we live in rebellion. This grieves Him and He cannot be in control if we are willing to allow sin to control us. Finally, we are to walk in the Spirit. The point here is that our lifestyle, our habits, our though process, all need to be more and more under the control of the Spirit. Walking in the Spirit does not mean that we will obtain sinless perfection on earth, but it means we are making that our goal.

So if we understand that filling is control of the Spirit in the believer's life, and that there are conditions which allow the believer to yield to the Spirit, then what does that look like? What happens when someone is filled with the Spirit? While there are many characteristics which could be mentioned, I focused on three. First, the person filled with the Spirit will display the fruit of the Spirit. You cannot be an apple tree and not produce apples. A Christian yielded to the Spirit will display Chist-like character. Secondly, Paul tells us in the Ephesians passage that when one is controlled by the Spirit, a godly worship will be produced. Finally, Paul goes on to say that the yielded believer will be subject to others. In short, the person will serve others much like Christ came to serve.

The filling of the Spirit is simply a metaphor for the control of the Spirit in the life of a believer. To the extent one is allowing the Spirit to work and direct one's life, the results are far-reaching.

My denomination does not seem to have historically spent a lot of time preaching on the Holy Spirit, although that seems to be changing. It is good to spend some time and think about the Spirit's work in our salvation, our life, and our eternity. It is amazing thing to think of the incredible gifts God has given those who have trusted in Christ's work on the Cross and have the Spirit of God working within them.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Work of the Holy Spirit - Sealing

Another work of the Holy Spirit, and one that may get overlooked sometimes, is the sealing of the Holy Spirit. This work is one which should bring great hope and encouragement to the believer.

Here is the outline I used in this sermon:
I. We are sealed by the Holy Spirit (Est 8:8, Eph 1:13-14)
          A. The seal of the Spirit shows ownership (1 Cor 6:19-20)
          B. The seal of the Spirit gives security (John 10:27-29)
          C. The seal of the Spirit is irrevocable.

II. We are given a guarantee by the Spirit of God (Eph 1:13-14)
          A. The inheritance is kept for us (1 Pet 1:3-5)
          B. We are kept for the inheritance (Phil 1:6)

III. We are marked by the Spirit of God
          A. We have the mark of holiness on us (1 John 3:9)
          B. We have the mark of resemblance on us (1 John 2:6)

To help in understanding what the Ancient Near Easterner heard when the author used the picture of sealing I went to Esther 8:8. We see in this text that the owner of the seal determines how secure that seal is and if it is the king's seal then that seal is irrevocable. This is the picture of what sealing of the Spirit is. When a believer accepts Christ at that moment he or she is regenerated by the Spirit, indwelt by the Spirit, baptized by the Spirit, and at that moment the believer is sealed by the Spirit. That seal shows the ownership of that person. Like the king's signet ring, our heart, our lives, are stamped to show they are God's and God's alone. The Spirit's sealing also gives believers the security that no one will take that mark from them. This is because that seal is irrevocable. Once God stamps the believer with Him mark, the mark can never be removed.

In the Ephesians passage, Paul show a connection with the seal and the guarantee of our hope. This is my second point about the Spirit's sealing. When the Spirit seal us that sealing is a down-payment, so to speak, on eternity. It teaches us that His sealing preserves an inheritance for us. It also teaches us that He will preserve us for that inheritance.

Finally, while I touched on in my first point, I finished this study by focusing on what it means to be marked by God. The seal of God means that there is a mark on His followers. People should look at His people and know they are His people because of His mark on their lives. While there may be many "marks" which one could identify as showing God's ownership, I chose two. First, there should be a mark of holiness on those who have the seal of the Spirit. I am not advocating entire sanctification but I do believe that if someone is truly sealed by the Spirit, if they truly are a believer, their lives should not be characterized by sin. The Spirit working in our lives will result in increased holiness, from God's work and to His glory. Second, there will be a resemblance of believers to Christ. Much like some parents could never disown their children because the children look like little clones of the parents, a believer should have a walk that resembles Christ.

The sealing of the Spirit is usually not spoke of as a dramatic, dynamic work of the Spirit. This might be because 1) people would rather talk about the controversial aspects of the work of the Spirit like baptism or 2) the sealing of the Spirit seems to be mostly internal. The sealing begins as a work of God which He alone sees as a mark of His children. The results of this are more visible, like someone turning from a sinful life and living and loving more like Christ. Nevertheless, the sealing of the Spirit is an incredibly amazing work of God in the live of believers. We are marked as His and that mark is permanent and can never be removed. Because of that, we can know we will be with Him for eternity and eternity will be there for us. All of this should produce in us a desire to live more and more like the One who died for us. What a great God we serve!