“Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior.” (Ephesians 4:31 NLT)
It may be helpful to think of being filled by the Spirit more like being a funnel than a jar. It’s not God’s intent simply to be ‘stored’ in us, waiting for us to remove the “lid” and let Him out. It’s more like He’s being poured, constantly flowing, through a funnel, always on His way to accomplish something, not only in us, but through us. In us as He seeks to develop the fruit of His presence, enabling us to grow in Christ’s likeness. And through us as He puts on display the work He is accomplishing to enable others to be drawn to Him through our lives.
The plot thickens when we consider the ways we can “block” the flow of the Spirit’s efforts. Paul writes in Ephesians 4:30: “And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live.” (NLT) It’s in this context Paul speaks of bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, slander, sexual immorality, impurity, greed, all of which address issues over which the Holy Spirit can give us victory if we’ll let Him.
When we take our focus off of Jesus and give authority to our carnal nature to seek our will rather than His, we clog the Spirit’s flow and not only cause stagnation in our own lives, but prevent the Spirit from being able to put Jesus on display in and through us. Being filled with the Spirit is a grace gift, that when seen in proper perspective can liberate us to be all we were originally designed to be.
Justification is the legal term whereby God through Christ treats us “just-as-if-I’d” never sinned. It’s the miracle of new birth, made possible by the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross in our place. Sanctification, which is the life-long process of becoming more like Jesus, is made possible by the Holy Spirit’s constant flow in and through us.
Once we’ve yielded our hearts and lives to the Lord, been forgiven and set free to be a brand new creation in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17), the Holy Spirit begins the process of conforming us to the likeness of our Savior. That’s the goal of being filled with the Spirit.
What that looks like can vary from person to person, but for me a significant turning point came when I was going through my divorce. I’d literally lost most of my worldly possessions – job, house, car – and my heart was aching with the weight of the loss of my wife and my inability to provide for my two children.
In my heart and mind I’d lost everything, but the Lord, in His grace and mercy, assured me I hadn’t lost Him, and He was all I really needed. Though I’d followed the Lord for many years, He came to life in me in a new and fresh way as we walked together through that valley of despair. I was no longer afraid of all the uncertainties of life that Satan uses to cause us to worry and fret. In those moments of desperation and need I gave myself to the Lord in full surrender, entrusting my future to Him without reservation and He gave me freedom and victory I’d never known before.
The infilling of God’s Holy Spirit flows most freely and powerfully in and through a fully surrendered heart. Because of the Holy Spirit’s work in me, my heart’s desire is Jesus. I no longer crave the trinkets of the world, but have found my Treasure in Jesus.