In my house during the winter, we heat practically only with wood. It gives a nice dry warmth during the Canadian winter cold. From about the first of December until mid March, we almost have a continuous fire in order to keep our house at the temperature that we prefer. When I wake up each morning, there are usually some nice hot coals left over from the previous night’s fire. To get the fire started back up, I put a couple of small birch wood pieces, which lights quick and burns fast. Once it gets going, I feed the fire with split maple wood, which gives off a nice, long, hot heat.
Ephesians 5:18 says, «And do not be drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.»
When I ponder upon this verse, I see something similar to my fireplace. I will try to connect the dots for you. See, many are confused when they hear the phrase, «be filled with the Spirit.» Some see it as a magical experience that occurs during a worship gathering, usually involving repetitive phrases during a worship song. Some interpret it as a second baptism of the Spirit, or a «second blessing» that involves speaking in a non-understandable gibberish. But the most important question is, what does Scripture say it means?
When we look at the context of the passage we can see several things that help us understand the simple truth of being filled in the Spirit. When we take a quick glance at Ephesians chapter 5, we can glean several perspectives on being filled with the Spirit.
First of all, it means to imitate God (v.1). To walk in love as Christ loved us (v.2). To live holy lives (v.3). To speak pure words (v.4). To have spiritual discernment (v.6). To not partake in sinful actions (v.7,11). To walk in the light (v.8). Expose unfruitful works of darkness (v.11). To look carefully how we live (v.15). To understand the will of the Lord (v.17). To not get drunk (or high) (v.18). To worship with other believers (v.19). To be thankful to God (v.20). To submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (v.21). For wives to submit to their husbands (v.22). For husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church (v.25).
If we go a little further and take a peek at chapter 6 we see that if refers to children obeying their parents, and fathers bringing their children up in the discipline of the Lord. It refers to how we conduct ourselves at work, and how diligent we are in pursuing our relationship with God.
So, it is easy to see that being filled with the Spirit is not a one-time event that occurs in a euphoric experience in a worship gathering, rather it is a pattern of life that we live. It is a life controlled by God.
But, this pushes me to ask a question. How does one go about being filled with the Spirit? When we look at another passage in the book of Colossians, I believe that we can get some clarity on that question. Colossians 3:16 says that we are, as believers, to let the word of Christ dwell in us richly. The verses that follow are extremely similar to those in Ephesians 5 that follow the verse telling us to be filled in the Spirit. Seeing that close relationship, it seems that Paul is making a direct relationship between being filled in the Spirit and letting the word of Christ dwelling in us richly.
So, what does that mean? That means that we are filled with the Spirit to the level that we are letting Christ’s words dwell in us in all their power. In other words, as the word of God determines our attitude, thoughts, and actions, we are filled with His Spirit. We are letting the word of God direct our lives rather than our sinful desires and the unfruitful works of darkness we see in the world. So, the fruit of letting God’s word control our lives is doing everything in the name of the Lord Jesus (Colossians 3:17). This is being filled in the Spirit. The fruit of this is all what I mentioned above from the context in Ephesians, plus a whole lot more (from what we see in the rest of the Bible).
So, what is the connection with my fireplace? Try to follow my imperfect analogy. If we seek to be filled with the Spirit by looking for spectacular experiences in a worship gathering on Sundays, it is like trying to stay warm by throwing a few small birch pieces of wood in the fireplace once week. The fire may start, and it might burn bright, but it will go out quickly. Unless we are daily and continually placing logs of hardwood into the fire once it gets lit, it will not provide the heat we need to stay warm, especially in the place where I live. Likewise, if our spiritual life is only a weekly spark, and we are not daily and continually pursuing to know God in His word, our flame will die out, until the next Sunday.
Those that live from week to week, looking for a magical moment in their worship gatherings to change their life, yet do not pour over God’s word during the week, often get frustrated and depressed spiritually. Sometimes they even criticize their weekly worship gathering because it is not bringing the joy that thought it would. But, like the small birch wood pieces, the worship gathering is not created to keep one’s heart close to Christ the whole week but give it a boost so that the logs of faith we place on top of it will ignite and burn hot and warm our heart so that we will be a «soul on fire» (the title of a song by Third Day). This comes from pursuing God daily by reading and studying the word of God, praying fervently, and seeking to apply what God’s word says in our personal lives. We can and should do this on our own. Many churches have small groups whose goal is to help believers stay hot for Christ. When God’s word dwells in us on a continual basis, His Spirit will fill our hearts and cause us to walk in His ways. This is where Christian joy comes from. We need our weekly worship gatherings to fan the flame of our spiritual life. That is why Scripture calls us to be a part of a church fellowship, where we can hear the word being taught and where we can encourage and admonish each other in all wisdom which creates thanksgiving in our hearts (Colossians 3:16).
The Spirit of God pushes us toward the church so that the fire for Christ in our hearts can be fanned, and so that as we seek Him daily, the white-hot heat that comes from His Spirit will burn away the sinful desires in our hearts and cause us to walk in obedience to His word so that our joy can erupt into praise and thanksgiving. More often than not, those that have a hard time worshipping on Sundays (or whenever their church gathers), it is not because wood is not being given to start the fire, but because their hearts are coming without any hot coals to get it going. The fire had long gone out by Monday. I can place as many birch pieces in my fireplace, but if there are no hot coals to ignite them, they become only good intentions with no result.
The Spirit does not fill our hearts when the music hits just the right chord, or we chant the same sound repeatedly in order to enter an euphoric state, but when we stand strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might by putting on the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-20). The comes from knowing the truth of God’s word. The church gathering can encourage this and even provide the spark to get it going, but without a daily discipline of placing spiritual hardwood in the fire of our hearts, the fire will go out. We can blame the church for our cold hearts, but the responsibility lies with each believer.
So, I want to encourage you to «be filled with the Spirit» by letting the word of Christ dwell and live in your richly, and watch just how quick your heart will be consumed by the presence of God, and your joy in Him increase.