Being Filled with the Spirit: A fresh take on the most divisive doctrine in Christianity today

1 John 4:16 “God is love.”

So the logic goes like this:

God is love.

Jesus is God.

Jesus is love.

Holy Spirit is God.

Holy Spirit is love.

God, Jesus, Holy Spirit are all love.

Let me put the logic statements above into another way of demonstrating it.

Son is Keith.

Husband is Son.

Husband is Keith.

Daddy is Son.

Daddy is Keith.

Son, husband, and daddy are all Keith.

So if God is love, then what is the love that God is?  How would we define it?  I don’t believe that we can.  All the different types of love that we know are foreshadows of the ultimate love that God is.  “For now we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, as I am fully known.” 1 Corinthians 13:12

Okay, so my point with this is that there are differences between all sorts of denominations, charismatics, Pentecostals, Protestants, Catholics, nondenominational, etc… regarding doctrine of the Holy Spirit.  Here are some of the ones I am familiar with:

1. You receive the Holy Spirit as soon as you repent and believe in the person and work of Jesus.  It is what assures you of your salvation and empowers you with whatever gift God has given you.

2. You receive the security of the Holy Spirit (assurance of salvation) but not the power of the Holy Spirit until your second baptism – a spiritual baptism.  This gives you whatever gift(s) God has blessed you with (wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, performing miracles, prophecy, distinguishing spirits, different kinds of languages, interpretation of languages – 1 Cor. 12: 8-10).

3. If you are a believer of number 2 then there are deviations in it as well.  Some say the Spirit then stays with you forever and ever and you no longer need to be “filled” with the Spirit.

4. Others say the filling of the Spirit comes and goes.  You have to pray for it to receive it each time but it does not count as another baptism, only the first time you receive it does it count as being baptized in the Spirit.

5. Others deny the gifts of the Spirit as no longer valid and see the role of the Holy Spirit only as a security of salvation, that you cannot be removed from God’s grace (similar to the first one, but without the gift).

6. Fill in here whatever it is you believe or other doctrines that you have heard.

I want to submit to you a different way of viewing all of this based on the logic at the beginning coupled with Paul’s exhortation to the body of believers in Corinth.  Hopefully it will make sense and maybe even bring some freedom with it regarding how we judge other Christians based on our belief of the Holy Spirit’s role.  That goes both ways – those who see Spirit-filled believing people as Christian Harry Potters; and those who are Spirit-filled viewing those who don’t believe in a second baptism as almost non-believers.  Or those in the grey area in between.

Back to square one.  Based on the logic at the beginning the Holy Spirit is love because God is love.  This is a great and amazingly wonderful fact.  Again, the love that we have for our spouse, kids, family, friends, the lost, the dying, the hungry, the needy, etc… is not the fullness of what love really is.  It is only a foreshadow of God’s love.

Love is the key to relationship with God, to include receiving or being filled with the Holy Spirit.

Paul explains the importance of love in 1 Corinthians 13.  You can practice the things of Christianity all day long, but if you DO NOT have love then you DO NOT serve God’s purpose for not only your life, but for reaching others.  Love is the filling of the Spirit into your life.  I want you to stop at this point and actually look up 1 Corinthians 13.  Read it with the presupposition that being filled with the Spirit means being filled with God’s love (the direct result of being in right relationship with God thanks to the redemptive work of Christ on the cross). Seriously, this is intense.  Paul says that without love that prophecy, tongues, faith that moves mountains, donating your entire net worth to feed the poor, and even going so far as to burn your body (not sure about the time period for why this is include) gains you nothing, shows that you have nothing, and means that you are nothing.  That is huge!  Like the one contemporary song goes, “It’s all about love.”  A God filling love that gives meaning and purpose to our lives and that empowers us for ministry.

In John 15 Jesus (Yeshua, Christos, Messiah, whatever you want to use) said that “no one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends.”

So what did Jesus do to demonstrate what this was about? He laid down His life for His friends.

Who are his friends? “You are my friends if you do what I command you.” John 15:14

What did Jesus command? “This is what I command you: love one another.” John 15:17

Holy smackerolly, people.  You mean to tell me that Jesus said to obey what He commands and then actually told us what the command was?  YES!  It is amazing.  LOVE ONE ANOTHER.  Wow!  So simple… yet… so difficult.  Why?

Step back first before we answer that.  Jesus did something better than just give us the command.  “but God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us!” Romans 5:8  Or better yet, go back to John 3:16, “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.”  To tie it in, love is still the central key here.  In John 3 the writer goes on to argue that love is the deciding factor.  Not whether someone has it or not, but what they have chosen to love. “This, then, is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil.”

Okay, so I am feeling pretty confident that you are understanding that this is all about love at this point.  Let’s rehash.  God is love. Jesus and the Holy Spirit are God, therefore, they are also love.  Love that we experience is not complete.  It is a foreshadow of eternity with God.  Jesus commanded us to love each other and said that is how we become His friends.  Jesus also demonstrated the ultimate love for His friends by giving Himself to be crucified on our behalf.

Look at it like this.  He did it for everyone, but only those who believe in it will be able to become His friends.  Because remember, we are His friends when we obey His command to love one another.  He was not talking about everyone and their mother, but within the circle of shared faith – love one another.  If the body of believers does not have love for each other then we are no different from the rest of the world.  That is our distinguishing characteristic, not the gifts of the Spirit.  There are plenty of tribal groups and religions practicing healing, speaking in languages they don’t understand, and doing all other kinds of spiritual things.  Love is the key dividing factor.

“Okay, bucko, so how do I get this love?”  This is where I submit that it is there for any and every believer to tap into throughout their walk of faith.  All of the various doctrinal viewpoints in the beginning are shades of what I see as the truth.

You know if you have ever tapped into Holy Love.  It is powerful.  On my recent “28 miles in one day hike” through the beautiful backwoods of Kentucky/Tennessee, I was able to tap into it and find amazing strength and nourishment all the way to my bones – literally.  I could feel it.  It was beautiful and it is what I would label as being “filled with the Spirit”.  I would not have seemed strange to anyone and would have been able to express this love of my God to them in such a way that would have caused them to believe even if they were the most staunch atheist or devout Muslim.  My God was real out there and I love getting that feeling that brings extreme peace, patience, and enrichment.
But it does not last…

Why not?

Because I am a sinner living in a sinful world.  I cannot serve two masters.  I cannot love God, being filled with His love, AND hang-out in known sin willingly.  When I fall back into sinful thinking, reasoning, actions, etc… I cannot walk in the fullness of God’s love.  Nor do I believe that anyone else on the face of the earth can either.  For my Spirit-filled believers out there, surely you will agree with me on this.  Do you honestly believe that you have some kind of Spiritual relationship with God that your Protestant counterparts do not even in the midst of sin?  I have to say it is impossible.  For my staunch Protestant deniers of all things Spirit-filled, can you really deny that extreme feeling of love that you experienced when you became a believer for the first time or have experienced sporadically throughout your walk sense then?  You can get that back again.  You don’t have to be miserable in your faith walk.  To both I plead with you, don’t condemn each other based on wording of what is taking place.

Recognize that GOD IS LOVE and be filled with that love.

How?  Lots of different ways.

1. Seriously spend some alone time or with people you can truly be honest in front of and P-R-A-I-S-E God.  Use Pslam 103 as a starting point.  Personalize it.  Stop after each little bit and express those words in a personal way.  Own it.  Praise is so powerful and you will come away refreshed, renewed, and ready to love the person who cuts you off in traffic or the lady at church whose kids are out of control or the pastor who failed to visit you in your time of need.  Love truly does cover a multitude of sins.

2. Did I mention praise?

3. Pray.  Pray using scripture as your guide.  Without it you will likely deviate into selfish desires.  You want to pray in accordance with God’s purpose.  Again, make it personal and be honest with your God.

4. Repent.  Spend 15 minutes or more focusing on things you need to repent of.  Let God show you.  Guess what the Torah is good for?  Revealing sin.  Paul said so too – “I would not have known sin if not for the law.” Romans 7:7  And he earlier even said that “Gentiles, who do not have the law, instinctively do what the law demands, they are a law to themselves even though they do not have the law.” Romans 2:14   And because the law is written on their hearts it is what either accuses or excuses them on God’s judgment day.

What am I trying to say?  Use the book of Leviticus to see if you are in sin in some area that you never even realized.  When God says, “You are to rise in the presence of the elderly and honor the old” (Leviticus 19:32) but you kept your seat at church or on the bus or at the business meeting or at the restaurant then repent from that and remember it next time. Wow, there is so much in the book of Leviticus to blow your mind with regarding how we fail to live ethically and righteously each day.  It will not take long to recognize our need for the person and work of Jesus.  So use the law to help you see your sins and repent from them.  You will find yourself praising God before too long and then guess what?  Yep, you will end up filled with this amazingly wonderful love that is unlike anything you can describe, taste, touch, or otherwise experience and express to others.

5. But once you are full then live it out.  It is so awesome to see someone who is filled with love express it to someone else.  You know what I am talking about, hopefully.  The youth at church who gives the old folks hugs every time they see them.  The man who makes sure to hit up as many new folks at church as possible to make them feel welcome, and he even does his best to remember their names.  Or what about the lady who has played the piano or organ for ages but always seems to be lost in her own world in praise to her Lover?  There is also the lady at work who knows when each person is down and makes sure to do something to brighten that person’s day.  She is always singing worship songs and saying things like, “Praise you, Jesus” or “Glory hallelujah”.  We find it odd but we know its genuine.  There is also the preacher who is coming down hard on his congregation but it is not coming down without being poured out in love and it is contagious.

So there you have it.  That is my take on being filled with the Spirit.  We still won’t all agree without our various denominations on what it looks like entirely, because some folks don’t believe in speaking in different languages, apostleship today, and prophecy for today either.  I am not going to tell you where I fall within the crowds, however, Instead of judging each other on this issue each person should focus on themself and be filled with LOVE.  Let that be what unites the body of the Living God.

Easier said than done, but at least it is said, now we can start trying to do it.

Grateful for My Savior,

Keith

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