God’s desire for every believer is for us to be like Jesus in every thought, word, and deed. Sound impossible? In our own strength it is.
The power that gives us supernatural enablement to exhibit the character of Christ and to live day by day according to God’s Word is called “the filling of the Spirit” or “the leading of the Spirit.” Believers who are filled with the Spirit are “spiritual” and believers who don’t, or who live according to the impulses of the flesh, are called “carnal,” (1 Corinthians 3:3 KJV).
If we are going to live purposefully, the most important command and priority for every believer each day of our Christian life is Ephesians 5:18, “Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit.” This is the key to living like Christ and for all purposeful living. When we are filled with the Holy Spirit, He produces His fruit in our lives: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22–23).
In Ephesians 5:18 the contrast and comparison to being drunk illustrates the idea that we are to be influenced by the Holy Spirit. When we are under the influence of something, we will say and do things we normally wouldn’t. This is exactly what the filling of the Spirit produces—thoughts, attitudes, and conduct that are not normal—that is, not according to the sinful nature.
This command to be filled is not a once-for-all command, it’s continuous. It is something we are to keep doing. It literally means “keep on being filled.” Being filled with the Spirit is to be repeated again and again throughout our Christian lives.
Living under the influence of the Spirit is essential. And yet we are dependent on the Spirit to fill us. What then is our responsibility?
Have you ever done or said something to a spouse or close friend you knew was wrong and hurt them? Afterward you feel disconnected and the conversation is awkward and artificial. That illustrates how it is in our relationship to the Lord when we sin. Our sinning grieves the indwelling Holy Spirit, squelching His work and presence (Ephesians 4:30). We feel disconnected, joyless, and are powerless. We don’t sense the presence of the Lord like before.
When we sin we need to repent so the power to live like Christ is restored. Repenting of any known sinful thoughts, words, or deeds, as well as any omissions on our part to do the things we know we should have done, is the first requirement to being filled.
We also need to ask the Spirit of the Lord to show us other areas we may be blind to but that are hindering His work in our lives. If He brings things to mind and convicts of sinful things after praying, we need to deal with them by admitting them, repenting of them and, where necessary, make restitution for them.
We need to yield ourselves to the Lord and recommit ourselves to trusting and obeying Him. Going forward we need to deal with our sin right away. To paraphrase Paul from Ephesians 4:26, do not let the sun go down on your sin. It is too easy to put it off and then forget about it and settle into a relationship with the Lord that is carnal, lukewarm, and blasé.
The influence of the Spirit is directly related to our knowledge of the truth of God’s Word. The Spirit uses the Word to transform our beliefs and behaviours and bring us more and more under His influence.
This means we need to get into the Scripture and, more importantly, get the Scripture into us. We need to bathe our minds in Scripture through study, memorization, and meditation so we are transformed.
“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)
Finally, we need to cultivate our relationship to the Lord through prayer so that the influence of the Holy Spirit is increasingly all-pervasive. While all believers have the Spirit of God in them, not all believers are under His influence to the same extent. The more pervasive the Spirit’s influence, the more Jesus shines through.
“For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.” (2 Corinthians 3:17–18)