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What does it mean to “be filled with the Spirit”?

Marriage God's Way author Scott LaPierre - What does it mean to be "filled with the Spirit"?
Let Scripture teach you what it means to “be filled with the Spirit.”

This might be one of the most controversial questions in the church. Ask one hundred people what it means to “be filled with the Spirit” and you’ll probably receive almost as many different responses. Unfortunately, for some people church background determines their answer more than Scripture. I include myself in this category, because for a period of time I believed being Spirit filled looked more like what I’d been told than what the Bible actually taught.

So what does the Bible say it means to be filled with the Spirit?

Being filled with the Spirit means producing the fruit of the Spirit

Galatians 5:22-23 The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

These two verses identify what the Holy Spirit produces in a person’s life. If people claim to be filled with the Spirit, there should be plenty of these fruit evident.

Unfortunately, when some people claim to be filled with the Spirit there are manifestations that look more like the works of the flesh. Disorderly occurrences such as laughing in the Spirit, being slain or drunk in the Spirit, excessive crying, screaming, dancing, or violent shaking are a few of the supposed evidences of the Spirit’s work in a person’s life. What these demonstrations do is make people ask, “Are [they] of [their] mind?” (1 Corinthians 14:23).

Being filled with the Spirit means looking like Jesus

Continue reading What does it mean to “be filled with the Spirit”?

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4 Ways to Determine Your Spiritual Gifts

Marriage-Gods-Way-author-Scott-LaPierre spiritual giftsHi Pastor Scott,
You talked about people having spiritual gifts and using them in the church. Do you have insight into determining your spiritual gifts? Thanks!

Here’s my response…

This is such a common question people have developed surveys to help determine spiritual gifts. Ephesians 4:7-8 says God has given at least one gift to each person, but Scripture doesn’t provide any strategies for determining those gifts. So to be clear, these are my suggestions but I can’t support them with verses.

1. Learn the spiritual gifts in Scripture.

There are two primary passages listing the gifts (Rom 12:6-8 and 1 Cor 12:4-11). Unless you have some familiarity with the gifts, you’ll never know what gifts you have. As you read the passages, pray God reveals how He’s gifted you.

These passages aren’t exhaustive lists so much as they’re palettes helping us understand what the gifts look like. For example, some people are gifted musically, but even though music is prominent in the church it isn’t listed as a gift. We shouldn’t assume that just because something isn’t listed it isn’t a ‘real’ gift.

2. Consider what you enjoy doing.

From my own personal experience and from what I’ve seen in other’s lives, it seems like most people enjoy using their gifts. Similarly, most people are also fairly comfortable using their gifts. They often look forward to it. Continue reading 4 Ways to Determine Your Spiritual Gifts

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God Sees What We Can Become

God sees what we can become
God sees what we can become

The Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Sam 16:7).

Man sees physically, but God sees spiritually.

 

In the letters to the seven churches in Revelation, God couldn’t have seen them more differently than man:

  • Jesus told Smyrna, “I know your works, tribulation, and poverty, but you are rich” (Rev 2:9). A terribly poor and struggling church to man, but Jesus looked at it spiritually and said it was rich.
  • Jesus told Laodicea, “Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked” (Rev 3:17). A rich, thriving church to man, but Jesus saw it spiritually and said it was terrible.

Continue reading God Sees What We Can Become

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Be Filled with the Spirit – Part VI: It means producing "the fruit of the Spirit" and not "the works of the flesh"

Be filled with the spirit - Part VI

On Sunday mornings at WCC we’re in the middle of our Marriage & Family Series looking at the instruction for husbands, wives and children in Ephesians 5:22 to 6:4. All the instruction flows from the command in Ephesians 5:18 to, “Not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.” Considering the importance of this verse I wanted to spend a few weeks talking about what it means…and doesn’t mean…

  • In Part I we saw that it’s not referring to the Holy Spirit indwelling us.
  • In Part II we saw that it doesn’t mean speaking in tongues.
  • In Part III we saw that it doesn’t refer to “being baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
  • In Part IV we saw that it doesn’t mean experiencing something emotionally.
  • In Part V we started discussing what it does mean: it means exhibiting godly speech.

Now we’ll continue discussing what else it means to be “filled with the Spirit”: it means producing the fruit of the Spirit and not producing the works of the flesh.

Think for a moment about the word fruit: it refers to something produced. We call apples and oranges fruit, because they’re produced from trees. We call children “fruit of the womb,” because they’re produced from pregnancy. If you work hard for something, it’s called the “fruit of your labor” because it’s produced from your effort. When we talk about the fruit of the Spirit, we’re talking about what the Holy Spirit produces in our lives; therefore, people who are truly filled with the Spirit should produce an abundance of the fruit of the Spirit…

Galatians 5:22-23 The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

If you meet people who say they’re filled with the Spirit, their lives should be filled with these fruit.

Conversely, the flesh is the opposite of the Spirit…

Galatians 5:16-17 Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another.

If you’re walking in the Spirit you’re not walking in the flesh, and if you’re walking in the flesh, you’re not walking in the Spirit; therefore, being filled with the Spirit also means not exhibiting – or not producing – the works of the flesh. If you meet people who say they’re filled with the Spirit, their lives should be largely absent of the works of the flesh…

Galatians 5:19-21 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like.

The opposite of exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit is exhibiting the works of the flesh. If you want to know when you’re filled with the Spirit it’s when you’re producing the fruit of the Spirit, and if you want to know when you’re not filled with the Spirit, it’s when you’re producing the works of the flesh.

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Be Filled with the Spirit – Part V: It means exhibiting godly speech

Be filled with the spirit - Part V

 On Sunday mornings at WCC we’re in the middle of our Marriage & Family Series looking at the instruction for husbands, wives and children in Ephesians 5:22 to 6:4. All the instruction flows from the command in Ephesians 5:18 to, “Not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.” Considering the importance of this verse I wanted to spend a few weeks talking about what it means…and doesn’t mean.

  • In Part I we saw that it’s not referring to the Holy Spirit indwelling us.
  • In Part II we saw that it doesn’t mean speaking in tongues.
  • In Part III we saw that it doesn’t refer to “being baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
  • In Part IV we saw that it doesn’t mean experiencing something emotionally.

In this post we’ll begin talking about what it does mean to be filled with the Spirit. We’re given part of the answer in the next two verses: Ephesians 5:19-20 Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Both verses are about our speech: if you’re filled with the Spirit you’re going to exhibit godly speech. And why is that? In Matthew 5:18 Jesus said, “Those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart.” What we say is a reflection of our hearts. What could be a better indication of whether we’re filled with the Spirit than what we say?

James 3:1-12 discusses the tongue. It says we can tame everything in creation, but we can’t tame our tongues: they’re like wild fires burning out of control destroying everything in sight (vv. 6-8). This is why James says, “If someone could tame his tongue, he would be a perfect man” (v. 2).

What does it look like practically for us to exhibit Spirit-filled speech? Here’s Ephesians 4:29 from the Amplified Bible: Let no foul or polluting language, nor evil word nor unwholesome or worthless talk [ever] come out of your mouth, but only such [speech] as is good and beneficial to the spiritual progress of others, as is fitting to the need and the occasion, that it may be a blessing and give grace (God’s favor) to those who hear it. That’s godly speech!

We’ve already discussed that “being filled with the Spirit” is compared with wine in verse 18, not because it feels like being intoxicated, but because wine has the potential to influence people and so does the Holy Spirit. We are filled with – or influenced by – the Holy Spirit when we submit to Him. When we don’t submit to the Holy Spirit, we’re not being filled with – or influenced – by Him. This is what Paul means when he says not to grieve (Eph 4:30) or quench the Holy Spirit (1 Thes 5:19). Being filled with the Spirit is a day-to-day, even moment-by-moment surrendering of our lives to the Spirit, and nothing reveals whether that’s happening better than what comes out of our mouths.

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Be Filled with the Spirit – Part IV: It doesn't mean experiencing something emotionally

Be filled with the spirit - Part IVOn Sunday mornings at WCC we’re in the middle of our Marriage & Family Series looking at the instruction for husbands, wives and children in Ephesians 5:22 to 6:4. All the instruction flows from the command in Ephesians 5:18 to, “Not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.” Considering the importance of this verse I wanted to spend a few weeks talking about what it means…and doesn’t mean.

  • In Part I we saw that it’s not referring to the Holy Spirit indwelling us.
  • In Part II we saw that it doesn’t mean speaking in tongues.
  • In Part III we saw that it doesn’t refer to “being baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

In this post we’ll talk about what else it doesn’t mean: it doesn’t mean experiencing something emotionally.

Jesus is the actual baptizer with the Holy Spirit: John the Baptist said, I indeed baptize you with water…but He who is coming after me…will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matt 3:11). At Pentecost the people were confused asking, “What does this mean?” (Acts 2:12). Peter explained Jesus ascended to heaven and “poured” out the Holy Spirit: “[Jesus] being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear” (Acts 2:33).

Some people believe being “filled with” or “baptized with the Holy Spirit” refers to an emotional or mountaintop experience that takes place at some point in time, or that sort of comes-and-goes throughout the Christian life: you might feel it one day but not the next. This isn’t true and it leads to some serious problems – like most obviously – pursuing something that’s not biblical.

When people’s beliefs are based more on feelings and emotions (than the truth of Scripture), they can be left asking: “Why don’t I feel like I did previously?” When I believed the baptism with the Holy Spirit was an experience taking place after conversion I prayed for it numerous times, had people lay hands on me to receive it, and was left asking, “Was I supposed to feel something? How do I know if I received it? Have I really received it? If not, why not?”

It can lead to discouragement when people feel like they can’t receive something they believe God has for them, and this can be especially painful when people believe they aren’t receiving something God wanted to give to other believers. People are left asking, “Is something wrong with me? Do I not have enough faith?” or even worse questions like, “Does God not love me enough? Maybe I’m not really saved?”

The worst situation  – which took place with a friend of mine – is when people start asking, “Is Christianity real, or is it just made-up stories about people’s supposed experiences?”

The truth is “being filled with the Spirit” is a day-to-day, even moment-by-moment surrendering of our lives to the Spirit, and not something built on experiences and emotions. It’s compared with wine in verse 18, not because it feels like being intoxicated, but because wine has the potential to influence people and so does the Holy Spirit. John MacArthur said, “The filling of the Spirit is not some ecstatic or emotional experience, but a steady controlling of the life by obedience to the truth of God’s Word.”

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Be Filled with the Spirit – Part III: It doesn't mean being baptized with the Holy Spirit

Part III

On Sunday mornings at WCC we’re in the middle of our Marriage & Family Series looking at the instruction for husbands, wives and children in Ephesians 5:22 to 6:4. All the instruction flows from the command in Ephesians 5:18 to, “Not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.” Considering the importance of this verse I wanted to spend a few weeks talking about what it means…and doesn’t mean.

In Part II we saw that it doesn’t mean speaking in tongues, and in this post we’ll talk about what else it doesn’t mean: being “baptized with the Holy Spirit”, some supposed experience that takes place after conversion. The idea is you’re indwelt by the Spirit at conversion, but baptized with Him later.

While the word baptism makes us think of water, it means “immerse” and can refer to being baptized – or immersed – in trials (Mark 10:39), or for the Israelites, even baptized in Moses because of their unity with him (1 Cor 10:2). With that in mind Paul’s crucial words are found in 1 Corinthians 12:12-13:

“For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.”

Paul isn’t referring to being baptized – or immersed – in water, but being baptized by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ – or the church – at the moment of conversion.

Paul’s favorite way of referring to believers’ relationships with Jesus is to say we’re “in Christ”, so when Paul says we’re “baptized into Christ Jesus” in Romans 6:1-4 he means we’re spiritually immersed in Him: Galatians 3:27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. This should make sense because we don’t become part of the body of Christ through water baptism, but through faith in Christ; water baptism is simply a physical demonstration of what has taken place spiritually as we identify with Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection when we go under the water and come back up.

Paul’s emphasis in 1 Corinthians 12:12 and 13 is on oneness (the word one occurring six times), and there can be “one body” because we’re all baptized by the Holy Spirit at the moment of conversion and placed into the body of Christ; however, if there was a later baptism that some received while others hadn’t, there would have to be two bodies: one for believers who have been baptized with the Holy Spirit and one for those who haven’t received that experience. Ephesians 4:4-5 There is one body and one Spirit…one Lord, one faith, one baptism. Paul couldn’t say this if some believers were baptized at conversion, but others were then baptized later. The clear understanding is all believers receive one baptism by the Holy Spirit at the moment of conversion.

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Be Filled with the Spirit – Part II: It doesn't mean speaking in tongues

Part IIOn Sunday mornings at WCC we’re in the middle of our Marriage & Family Series looking at the instruction for husbands, wives and children in Ephesians 5:22 to 6:4. All the instruction flows from the command in Ephesians 5:18 to, “Not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.” Considering the importance of this verse I wanted to spend a few weeks talking about what it means…and doesn’t mean.

In Part I we saw that it doesn’t refer to the Holy Spirit indwelling us at the moment of conversion. We considered the four individuals in Luke 1 who were “filled with the Spirit” (John in v. 15, Mary in v. 35, Elizabeth in v. 41 and Zacharias in v. 67), and there’s no record of any of them speaking in tongues. The fifth Person in Luke “filled with the Spirit” is Jesus Himself in Luke 4:1, but while the first four were “filled with the Spirit”, Jesus was “FULL OF the Holy Spirit”. Colossians 1:19 and 2:9 say “in [Jesus] dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” Nobody would argue with Jesus being the most Spirit-filled Person to walk the earth, but there’s no instance of Him ever speaking in tongues. Some would say there’s no verse saying He didn’t speak in tongues, but that’s called “arguing from silence”, and for reasons that go beyond this post, let me simply say: arguing from silence is very dangerous. We stand on what God’s Word says, not on what it doesn’t say.

Others think “being filled with the Spirit” means you can have more or less of Him, but the truth is you can never have more or less of the Holy Spirit than you have at the moment of conversion. When you’re saved the Holy Spirit indwells you and you receive all of Him: 1 Corinthians 6:19 Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you. You either have the Holy Spirit or you don’t, but you can’t have part of Him without having all of Him.

But – and this is very important – you can have more or less of the Holy Spirit’s influence over you. This is why the beginning of Ephesians 5:18 mentions wine: it has the potential to influence people, and so does the Holy Spirit. We are filled with, or influenced by, the Holy Spirit when we submit to, or yield to Him, allowing Him to help us live holier lives:

  • Eddie Rasnake says, “There is no place in Scripture that indicates we can receive more of the Holy Spirit. The real issue is the release of the already present Spirit to have free reign in our hearts. It isn’t about us having more of Him, but of Him having more of us.”
  • John Napier said, The goal of the Christian life is not to gain the Spirit-filled experience; rather, the goal is to remain Spirit-filled. That should be the normal Christian life.”
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Be Filled with the Spirit – Part I: It doesn't mean the Holy Spirit indwelling us.

Part IWe’re in the middle of our Marriage & Family Series at WCC and all the instruction for husbands, wives, and children in Ephesians 5:22 to 6:4 flows from the command in Ephesians 5:18 Do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit. Considering the importance of this verse, I’m going to discuss what it means – and doesn’t mean – over the next few weeks.

First, we’ll talk about what it doesn’t mean…

Paul is not talking about the Holy Spirit indwelling us, as that happens at the moment of conversion: that is a one-time, instantaneous event when we put our faith in Christ and are regenerated, or born again, or brought to life spiritually. Paul is talking about something else in verse 18 though: the Greek would actually be better understood as: “keep on being filled” or “stay filled with the Spirit”, because Paul is describing something that should be ongoing our lives. And what is that? Interestingly, the beginning of the verse is how we understand what he’s saying, and when you catch the contrast it makes perfect sense: alcohol has the potential to influence people – when people are driving drunk, we say they’re “driving under the influence” – and just like wine has the potential to influence people, so does the Holy Spirit have the potential to influence people.

This begs the question, “How are we filled with, or influenced by, the Spirit?” The answer is actually simple to understand, but difficult to live out: by submitting to or yielding to Him. When we don’t submit to or yield to the Holy Spirit, we’re not being filled with – or influenced – by Him. This is what Paul’s talking about when he says:

  • Ephesians 4:30 Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:19 Do not quench the Spirit.

Some people will say you’re grieving or quenching the Spirit if you don’t do certain things, usually speaking in tongues, but that’s not what these verses mean.

Consider the theme in Luke 1 of four different people being filled with the Spirit (John the Baptist in v. 15, Mary in v. 35, Elizabeth in v. 41, and Zacharias in v. 67), but there’s no record of any of them speaking in tongues. Were they grieving or quenching the Holy Spirit? Of course not, and even though two of them were moved to make dramatic declarations (Mary’s Magnificat in vv. 46-55 and Zacharias’ prophecy in vv. 68-79), they weren’t spoken in tongues.

More in Part II on the 5th Person filled with the Spirit: Jesus!