The Person of the Holy Spirit: Understanding Who He is and Why That Matters

The Big XII

Ephesians 5:18 tells us to "be filled with the Spirit." But how do you do that? And there are lots of ideas out there about how that should look. Which, if any, are biblical?

Todd WagnerNov 15, 2009John 14:16-21; John 16:5-14; Ephesians 5:18-21

It's a great morning because we are going to talk about one of the most confusing aspects of truth that will radically affect your life if you deny it that we'll probably touch in this entire series. Part of it is a labeling issue, a semantics issue, but let me walk you through and show you how each of these ideas builds on one another.

We're working through a little series where we're talking about 12 essential truths, that if you adjust, compromise, or come up with any alternative to these statements of truth in any way, the implications are enormous, both in this life and in the life to come. We started by talking about the fact that truth is there, and you can know it.

From there we went on and talked about the fact that God is there. He is great, and he is good. We described God further. We said God is three in person. He is one in essence. He is mutually exalting in the context of that relationship, as well as being subject to one another in love in the functionality of the Godhead. We talked about the Trinity.

We talked about the fact thatGod created us, and humans are unique in creation and worthy of the highest care and honor. But there is a problem with the human class. He has been totally flawed by sin and its full affect in our lives and on the creation which we have been given stewardship over. From there we went to God's solution for that, and we talked about Christ. He is the solution to man's problem and is God's perfect revelation and provision for us.

What God has brought to us through Christ is this great and wonderful thing called salvation. We've been saved from ourselves and the wages of our sin. That cannot be earned or deserved, and it must not be ignored. What I've done every week is I've given you an affirmation, an alternative, and then an application. Here is our affirmation of the week. It is specifically related to part of the provision of the gift of salvation.

Having been brought back into relationship with God, the God who is Spirit, we now have relationship with the God who is Spirit, who is Father, and who is Son. Before I unpack this even more, let me just say that one of the reasons we're really uncomfortable with the Holy Spirit is because we don't know what to do with the Spirit. This idea of God being out there and this concept of God, we imagine as something great and glorious. We all default to some perversion of Zeus, probably.

We can get our arms around this supreme being who is benevolent and good, if we want to go there and take him at his word. With the Son, it is certainly the exact representation of his nature. He's the visible image of the invisible God. We can really get our arms around the Jesus idea. But the Holy Spirit? The Holy Ghost? I mean, we don't do well with ghosts. We really kind of just shuffle him off into the corner as the stepchild of the Trinity.

Francis Chan. Some of you guys are Francis Chan fans. I haven't read any of his books, but he has a new book out called Forgotten God. It's all about the Holy Spirit. I am sure it is excellent. When we taught this idea about the Godhead sometimes to high school kids in this little ministry called Young Life (which always pushes it out there on the edge to make it relevant to kids), and we talked about the Father, Son, and the Spirit, we talked about Big Daddy, Junior, and the Spook.

I realize that kind of offends a lot of you, that you would call the Holy Spirit the Spook, but the reason we do is because of this unfortunate label in this thing called the Apostles' Creed, where he's called the Holy Ghost. As I said, we don't do so well with ghosts. Who is this Holy Spirit, and what are supposed to do with him? Let me start there.

He is a him, not an it. The affirmation is that the Spirit of God is personable. He is fully present in the lives of those of us who have a relationship with God, and he is fully necessary. In fact, I did a little series a while back called The Most, where I went through and I talked about the most quoted, the most misquoted, the most important, the most awful, the most joyful, verses in the Bible. When I did the most essential verse in the Bible, I chose a verse that goes deeply with today.

If you don't understand who the Holy Spirit is and how God wants you to live in relationship with him, you're going to miss out on the fullness of his gift of reconciliation to you. In fact, if I told you that you, today, could vote as a body, and that God would grant us one of two wishes, the first one being that Jesus is willing to come and pastor Watermark.

"Skedaddle, Wagner. Let's end on time. Let's get somebody up here who can do what he says he's going to do, and let's get Jesus up here. The guy would sometimes teach four verses and sit down, and then he'd feed everybody. Let's get him as pastor. He'll never embarrass us." If I told you that you could have Jesus…

Better yet, if I told you you'd not just have him as pastor, but he's going to dive in with us to community. We can't really commune together as 7,000, so when we break it off to six couples and four or five singles, he is looking to shepherd a Community Group and practice the one-anothers with you. You don't have to go to Group Link. You can actually have Jesus be in your Community Group. You can be in that Community Group. He would be your shepherd and your Community Group leader.

Or, as opposed to choices one and two, he can send you the Holy Spirit. Now look, I know what I'm after. I'm like, "Give me the one I can shoot hoops with, hang out with, eat pizza, take a walk, talk to, and he'll talk back." I would have made an egregious error. Why? Because Jesus said that would be an egregious error. Let me tell you who the Holy Spirit is. Then I want to walk through, a little bit, some of the truths that are out there related to him, and how it affects us in significant ways.

Just watch this. When you graduate from seminary, you're supposed to be ready to get to work, ready to lead and shepherd people. A number of years ago, they asked individuals who were trained to be shepherds of the church this question: If you could answer any two questions you didn't fully get informed on in seminary, what would the top two questions be that you still have, having been "fully trained and equipped"?

They said, "First, we would like to know how we can discern and know the will of God." Are you kidding me? Well, if that's not bad enough, the second question that the most seminarians said they had was, "How do you live the spiritual life?" That right there explains to you why the American church is in the condition that it is.

If its leaders aren't really sure how to discern the will of God (how to communicate, how to love, how to be his body), and if they don't know how to be spiritual people, then we're not going to be very spiritual people. We're going to be folks giving our best effort, and that best effort is always going to be flawed and depraved.

It pretty much sums up the problem with the American church. Let me say to you again that we affirm that the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, is personable. The alternative to him being personable is that he would be a force, this impersonal entity who is out there whom we need to kind of tap into, kind of Jedi-esque, if you will, and make sure we are availing ourselves to this thing we can then use for some good. That is not what the Scriptures teach.

In fact, if you look at the Scripture, you'll find out the Spirit of God can be resisted, the Spirit of God can be lied to, the Spirit of God can be grieved, the Spirit of God can be outraged, the Spirit of God can be blasphemed, just like the Father can, just like Jesus can. He is a person. How can a Spirit be a person? I can't fully explain that other than to tell you he is a he. Based on his own revelation of himself, it is he who made me, not I making him, as we sang a moment ago.

Jesus says, in John, chapter 14, "I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper…" Even as Jesus helps us, the Father is going to give us another Helper. "…that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth…" There are about 80 to 90 different names of the Spirit of God in Scripture. Some of them are the Spirit of truth, the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God.

If you go through and study the Scripture, you'll see God reveals himself in the person of the Holy Spirit in a number of different ways, with a number of different names, throughout. Some of them are less intimidating than others, but all of them, typically, we kind of go, "Okay, thank you. Give me Jesus."

Jesus says, "Listen. I have come as a revelation of God's love for you. I, the Son, have come to shepherd you out of darkness into light. I am going to be offered as a sacrifice for you. My body will be broken, my blood will be shed, and when my work is done, I will return to the Father." But, chapter 14, verse 18, says, "I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also."

He then says, "In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him." He says, "I will send you the Helper."

Now watch. A little bit later, they're having this conversation, In John 16, Jesus says, "But now I am going to Him who sent Me; and none of you asks Me, 'Where are You going?' But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart [the fact that I'm leaving you] ." But he says, "Listen! Don't get bothered." "But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you."

The Holy Spirit was present in the person of Christ when he was here. He didn't just send the Spirit. The problem was the Spirit was fully manifested through the person of Jesus Christ and had not yet been given as a gift. What is the gift? The gift is universal reconciliation to God for all who respond to this offer of redemption through the broken body of Jesus Christ, who was perfect and, therefore, could perfectly satisfy a perfect God who had been fully offended by our imperfection.

He says, "I'm going to leave, but guess what? The Spirit of God, my Spirit, the Spirit of truth, will be here for those who know me and love me." He wraps this all up there in verses 12 through 14, where it says, "…He will guide you into all the truth…""I don't have time in these three years to teach you all truth, but the Spirit of God has been revealing that I was coming. I am here.

Now when I leave, all that the Father and I and the Spirit want you to know, he will continue to reveal to you. He will glorify me. He will take what is mine and disclose it to you. It is better for you that I leave, so he can come. Right now, if you haven't noticed, James and John are always trying to politic me away from the rest of you, to get from me something. When I'm with James and John and Peter, I'm not with the other nine. When I am in Capernaum, I am not in Galilee.

When I am in Jerusalem, I am not in Samaria, because I am the exact representation of God in bodily form. I'm not going to leave you as orphans when I leave, and it's better for you that I leave. When I leave, you can all enjoy relationship with God, not limited to my corporeal being and revelation. Part of the gift I will give you is abiding relationship with me."

Think about this. God created man. It says man had fellowship with him in the paradise God created, walking with him in the coolness of the day. We said, "You know what? I don't really think walking with God is where I'm going to find life. I will go my own way. I will listen to the spirit of a deceiver and a liar. I will listen to the spirit of this world. I will follow my eyes. I will follow what I want to make me great, and I will follow my feelings."

When we did that, we separated ourselves from God, which is to say we are out of relationship with him, which is to say there was no oneness of spirit with us anymore. Because he is the Spirit of life, the wages of that separation was death. Not just physically, if it weren't for God's provision in that moment, but certainly soul death. Completely.

God wasn't done with us. He came and sought us through the person of the Son. Having been brought back into relationship with God, through that perfect sacrifice, we can have relationship with him again, which means the Spirit is available to us. God has told us now that we can walk with him. Who is the him? God in the person of the Spirit.

Here's what I want to do. I want to tie together last week and this week and let you know that some of us really struggle with this concept that we have to be saved by grace through faith alone. What's really amazing is there are what I would call legalists and works-oriented BC-ers, folks who, before they come to God, before they come to Christ, believe their Bible reading, their tithing, their good efforts, and their morality are what will make God love them and be acceptable to him.

The Scripture says, "That is offensive to me. There is no good in and of you apart from me." Most of us here get our arms around that, and we go, "Okay. I trust in the person of Jesus Christ as the means through which I can be reconciled to God." Then, after the year of our Lord and we've trusted in him, some of us become works-based people in our sanctification.

We say we've come by grace through faith alone, but now we're going to say, "I love you, God, and I will honor you. Thank you for dying for me. Now I will serve you." Then we go on and, in our own effort, try and defeat the flesh, walk against the current of the world, and resist the Enemy by the power of our flesh. How foolish is that?

When God says, "Hey. Just like you couldn't come to me apart from me, you can't walk with me, honor me, have joy in the midst of a broken world, have hope, be kind, and be loving apart from me. That was what offended me in the first place, that you thought you could glorify me apart from me. Now, having come to me, why would you then leave me again?" Yet that's what we do when we ignore the Holy Spirit, and we don't think he is fully present or fully necessary.

Here's the illustration. I'm going to bring up my friend Jeanie Cox. Jeanie is my good friend and coworker, John Cox's, wife. She teaches one of the studies we have here for women on Thursday nights along with a couple of other gals. Jeanie, when she was teaching on salvation, used an illustration. I said, "We have to do that." I want to do the first part, and then draw that out because it illustrates the problem we often have with the Holy Spirit.

Jeanie, here was the illustration. You're a mama. You have, at that point, four kids. Little Jay had just been born. You've since excelled to still more, and you're up to cinco. Way to go.

Jeanie: I'm trying to catch you, buddy.

Todd: There we go. Keep coming.

Jeanie: Yep.

Todd: You had four at the time. You were at this little Mothers of Preschoolers meeting, and who shows up?

Jeanie: Yes. This trainer named Kimberly Moore came that day. She talked to us about nutrition. She talked to us about getting in shape. It was kind of like the whole Ephesians 4 thing. What you have to put off and what you're deceived by, like the fact that food might make you happy and satisfy you. You need to be transformed by the renewing of your mind, and then you need to put on habits and discipline your body so you can get back into the shape you want to get back in.

A couple of neighbors and I were sitting there together, and we said, "You know what? That sounds great." She gave us a free gift certificate to come work out with her, be assessed by her: do your body fat, do your hydration, do how many push-ups and sit-ups, everything you can do and say "Here's where you are." Then she would come along and design a plan for you, catered to you, to take you where you wanted to be.

Tracey and I were both like, "That sounds great!" We take the gift certificate, and we say, "Hey, that sounds wonderful." She gives us all these nutrition tips. We go home, and we kind of start working it. Not much changes except my kids' diet and John's diet. They start eating a few more vegetables, and I start weeding out the gluten and all the fructose, corn syrup, and stuff like that. For about six months, we just sat on it.

Todd: Let me review. You're at this meeting, and this woman says, "I am offering you an opportunity. You, who don't like your flesh, who looks at yourself and goes 'This is not…'"

Jeanie: Not who I used to be. No. Not who John married. Nope.

Todd: Yeah. "And not what I really want."

Jeanie: Nope.

Todd: You weren't satisfied with your own flesh.

Jeanie: Not at all. No.

Todd: You felt like you needed something outside of you. You go, "I don't know how this is going to change," and somebody came and offered you a free gift.

Jeanie: Yes.

Todd: And said, "Come to me."

Jeanie: Yeah.

Todd:"And I will deal with your flesh."

Jeanie: Exactly.

Todd: You came, and you did what? You…

Jeanie: Well, I sat on it.

Todd: Well, you took the gift, though.

Jeanie: I took the gift, yeah.

Todd: You took that gift.

Jeanie: I got it, yeah.

Todd: Then for six months, from October (I think you told me) to April, nothing changed even though you took that gift.

Jeanie: Nothing changed except my kids' diet. Yep. That was it. I looked at it, and I said, "You know, I know this stuff. Okay? It's not brain surgery. I know I need to work out, and I know I need to eat well. I just couldn't do it. I couldn't go without help.

Todd: So, you agreed you needed transformation and you needed help.

Jeanie: Oh, yeah. I did.

Todd: You took that gift that offered it.

Jeanie: Yeah.

Todd: But you didn't do anything with it.

Jeanie: I didn't do anything with it. I had her number and had her email, and I had to step up. There was one day Tracey and I were walking and talking. We're like, "Look. We're sick of it, and we're sick of being sick of it. We're going to do something about it." We called her and got her to come out and do an assessment. It was wonderful. She was encouraging.

Todd: You acted on the relationship which you had freely been given.

Jeanie: We acted on it, yeah.

Todd: Then what happened?

Jeanie: Well, she started meeting with us every month. She gave us this set of workouts which were catered to us, two workouts we worked through twice a week.

Todd: So, there's no cookie-cutter deal?

Jeanie: No cookie cutter.

Todd: She got to know you personally.

Jeanie: Yes.

Todd: She said, "How can I help you and conform you back into the glorious woman God created you?"

Jeanie: Yes.

Todd: Not the "Have it your way" woman. Right?

Jeanie: Yes. Exactly. Right. Not the "You deserve a break today." No. I got away from that. At first I thought, "There's just no way. This is 20 minutes a day. Thirty minutes of cardio, and then on the alternate days, 20 minutes of working out. No way this is going to work," but it was this slow step-by-step, habit-by-habit changing over time. After about four months of doing her little workouts, we started to change. We were back in the shape we had wanted to be in.

Todd: You saw a difference.

Jeanie: Oh, yeah.

Todd: Your husband saw a difference.

Jeanie: Yeah.

Todd: Thus, the fifth child. See now, that's just mean. That just isn't right.

Jeanie: Every 18 months something like that happens. What was I thinking?

Todd: Could you tell them we talked about this not offending you? They don't need to write me, and I don't need to…

Jeanie: Oh, no.

Todd: Okay, good.

Jeanie: No, no, no, no. This is all me.

Todd: Now look. So anyway, you did see. This is something you wanted to do, and so you moved forward. You said, "Okay, here we go. I'm going to deal with it." You did see a transformation when you didn't just take the offer of the free gift but then acted on the relationship.

Jeanie: Acted on it, yeah. For a year we worked hard with her. We really did her deal, and we put it in motion. After about a year, some transition happened. We moved off the street. Our kids got into elementary school. I kind of lost my Tracey-Angela-Kelly running buddies because I moved to a different neck of the woods. Things changed, and I got out of step.

You know how it talks about, in Scripture, where you have to keep in step with the Spirit? You either offer your body on a daily basis to be slaves: to indulge your flesh or slaves to righteousness. In this instance, I put down the 20-minute workouts and started doing more of the "You deserve a break today."

I catered my little carpools through drive-thrus and all those places where I could get the comfort I was seeking, but not through discipline and obedience. Through more indulgence. I got of the path, to say the least, and my body reflected that. I fell back into the same pit I was in before, and my sinful wicked ways caught up with me.

Todd: Even though you had that relationship still?

Jeanie: Yes.

Todd: And even though she had even given you her word, so when you weren't with her you knew what to put on and what to take off?

Jeanie: Yes.

Todd: All right. In the midst of this, Jeanie, you and I obviously saw an illustration. There are many folks who say, "I come by grace." Then we say, "I got it. I've got the gift." I just put that gift in my pocket, and I never meet with her. She wants a relationship with you.

Jeanie: Yeah.

Todd: She said, "You have to call me. I want to help you. I will cater it to you, and we will conform you into that imagine you want that is a glorious person based on who you are in God's economy and creation."

Jeanie: Yeah.

Todd: Here's the illustration we want to use this morning. What we want to do is offer this to somebody. We want to do the exact same thing, right? We want to say that this same trainer has said to us, "I'll do the same thing for somebody else. If you're sick of your flesh, if you don't like where you're at, if you want to meet with me, I'll get to know you, and I will share with you what will help you be transformed, physically."

Somebody said, "Look. Here's a gift certificate to meet with me." All you have to do is say you want it and come and get it. It's freely offered to anybody in this room. Is there anybody who wants this, who would like that opportunity? Come on, sister. Come on up here. You get it. Now look, this whole room had that opportunity, just like in that room with Jeanie, but somebody has to say, "That's not just a free gift offer that's out there, and I can go, 'Yeah, I believe it's there.'" You have to personally come and get it.

Sweetie, tell me your first name. Carrie, I'll have you meet up with Jeanie afterwards. Thank you, Jeanie. Carrie, God bless you. That is your gift. As you can tell, that is Carrie's. No one can take it away from her. They can tear it up, they can stomp on it, but we know it's Carrie's. We meant what we gave to Carrie. What Carrie has to do now is she has to then act on that gift.

She has to say, "I need to meet with the one whom that gift brought me into relationship with. I need to walk with that helper." That paraclete: one who comes alongside to help. One of the names of the Holy Spirit. It does her no good to have that free gift in her pocket and to walk around saying, "I have a relationship with a personal trainer."

People will look, and if I would say that, they might go, "Really? Does he want you telling others that?" See also the church. "We have a relationship with the God of heaven." The world goes, "Really? That's why I don't want to know him. That's why I'm looking somewhere else for life because, frankly, not only do you look a lot like me, you look in ways I am sure I don't want to look."

Here's the deal, gang. The only way you become transformed is by walking in the Spirit, walking in the light, abiding with him, meditating on his Word day and night, leaning not on your own understanding, but in all your ways acknowledging him. Those are all metaphors for this command in Scripture to be filled with the Spirit.

Let me tell you, I did a message called Be Filled – Not Fooled when I taught through Ephesians, available to you free online or at cost back there. I did a three-week series called The Low Down on Filling Up. In that, I unpacked who the Spirit is, both why he is necessary and how you enjoy him. You don't just tell people you have a gym membership and that somebody paid an exorbitant price so you can have your lifetime Bally's membership. It tells you how to appropriate your relationship with that thing that can transform you. Except here it's not a thing; it is the person of God. You must avail yourself to him.

Look at the humility of God. You're married to him by his grace. You are in perfect relationship with him. You leave that and rebel against him, in the persons of Adam and Eve. Then God isn't done with you. He says, "Okay, lover who has scorned me, I'm going to show you what kind of lover I am. I'm going to seek you. I'll make provision for your rebellion. I will bring you back into a relationship with me if you'll just acknowledge the pain of being separated from me and the death that is on you and on my creation."

Then we come back to him by faith and accept his own sacrifice of his own body, his own eternal community for us, so that we can be brought back into that community. Then we're married to him again. Even then, the humility of God, that he would let you grieve him still. That he would gently lead you still when you quench his presence and leadership in your life. The marriage has been restored, but the relationship is not thriving if you don't walk with him.

In this little series I did, The Low Down on Filling Up, I go through and talk about what being filled with the Spirit is not. I'm going to tell you what it is in a minute. Being filled with the Holy Spirit is not being regenerated by the Spirit. That's what happened at the moment you believe. Titus 3:5 and many other passages talk about that.

It's not being indwelt by the Spirit. That's what happens at the moment you believe. There's no longer a spirit of rebellion, a spirit of error. There is a spirit of humility and "I need God." That is a new operating system. There is a new foundational orientation of your heart. You fundamentally acknowledge, "My way is the way of death, even when it seems right to me. God's way is the right way." You can say the question is, "Are you going to walk in it, or are you going to sit on it in your pocket like Jeanie and her friends did and there's no real change?" People go, "You've got a relationship with a trainer, a nutritionist? Really? Interesting."

It's not being sealed in the Spirit. That's what happens to us at the moment we believe. God puts a deposit in us. That Spirit loves us. He is with us. He says, "That's my child." You are covered in Christ, and his Spirit says, "That is my boy." He'll never reject himself, so you are secure with him.

You are baptized in the Spirit. It means at that moment you are identified with the kindness and goodness of God. It's not something you seek a little bit later. I teach this in the series. One of the errors is that the Spirit of God is not fully present in your life when you become a believer. That is what Christ came to do.

It is the blessing of the new covenant, that having trusted in God's provision, you are brought back into relationship with whom? John 4:24, "The God who is Spirit," so you can then have his Spirit. It is better that he leaves so we can have relationship with him because he will send the Helper. What you are doing with the Helper? Are you freaked out by the Holy Ghost, the forgotten God?

Are you saying, "I love you, God, and I'm going to impress you today," or do you go shopping with God? Before you put something in your mouth, do you say, "God, should I eat this?" Before you do something with your day, do you go, "God, is this the right thing for me to do, to sit in this world and be a world potato, or do I need to get up and live in a way that people will see my good works and glorify my trainer, who is in heaven? He loves me, not because I am ripped and cut but because he is a loving Father who wants to help me move toward Christ, the most cut-up, bowed-up Man in all of history."

You have to lose the physical, because it says Jesus did not have a manner that we looked at him and thought, "Man, that guy has it going on. He ought to be in Gladiator not The Passion of the Christ." You looked at Jesus, and you said, "There is somebody who goes to war with something more ferocious than a lion, but he goes to war with a lion who is seeking to devour the hearts of men. He slays him. He is victorious over him day in and day out."

Gang, being filled with the Spirit is not being disciplined in your spirit. This is what most of us do. We tell God, "I'm going to, now, be an AD legalist. I will give you my works now that I have come by grace." Look what Paul says in Galatians, chapter 2, verse 20. He says, "I have been crucified with Christ…"

Was I physically crucified with Christ? No. By faith I said, "He died for me. I have been crucified by faith with Christ. "…and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.** I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly."** If I can just give God my resume, then Christ didn't need to die.

Watch where this goes next. "You foolish Watermarkians! Who has bewitched you, in whose eyes I talked about Jesus continually? I publicly portrayed him before you as the one who was crucified so you could have a relationship with God, and you need Jesus. You need a relationship with God. Not just to come to God, but to walk with God."

Paul says this: "This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law…?" In other words, "Did you live your life so well that God said, 'I want to give you a gift. Me. You're back in relationship with me because you're so good already.'" No. We had to say, "There's no goodness in me. I'm a rebel. There's a spirit of error and rebellion. I need a Savior. Jesus is that Savior. That Savior is the bridge that brings me back into relationship with God."

Having been brought back to God, how foolish then to say, "Now that I'm back in relationship with you, I don't need you to please you." That's what you do with the Holy Spirit if you, so foolishly, having begun by the work of the Spirit through Jesus Christ's death on the cross, are now being perfected by, "I'm going to look good for you, Jesus. I'm going to read my Bible. I'm going to give. I'm going to hate sin, and I'm going to do good. I'm going to live with hope. I'm going to have joy."

The Spirit of God is all the time saying, "How? Humbly with me? Every step of the way, you are walking with me?" "What should I eat? What should I say? What should I do?" You see, the Spirit of God gave Jeanie, "This is how you do it." Even when it wasn't that 20 minutes, it was, "This is how you live throughout the day." It's not just someplace you go for a moment. It's how you live. This is a change for a lifestyle not a diet. A transformed life. It's not being disciplined in the Spirit.

Here's the last thing it isn't. It is not an esoteric, dramatic, mystical experience which sends you into a state of advanced or permanent spirituality marked by miraculous utterings. If you don't believe the Spirit of God is a person, if you don't believe he's fully present when you come into a relationship Christ and that he is necessary for you to live a full life, you will be prone to the error that many false teachers are out there saying: "The reason, Christian, you're not living the powerful life…" Is not what I'm saying: "…is that you don't walk with him."

They're going to tell you it's because you have been baptized into a relationship with Jesus, but you haven't been baptized into a relationship with the Holy Spirit, like they are two different people. It is called the doctrine of subsequence, which means subsequent to your faith in Jesus Christ, you need to ask the Holy Spirit of God to come to you.

No. When you have faith in Christ and his provision, it's what brings you into relationship with God who is Spirit, who sends his Spirit, that you would walk with him and not grieve him or quench him. It is not evidence that he has come that you speak in ecstatic utterances and unknown languages, and you're slain in the Spirit or struck with hilarity or prosperity. That is error, and it will screw you up. It's a big deal.

In fact, the truth is that the mark of being filled with the Holy Spirit is not that you speak in a tongue no one can understand. It's that you control the one you have. Now that's impressive. Now watch this. Ephesians, chapter 5, verses 18 through 21. I'm going to show you what being filled is. I have two weeks on it and three more after that, but I also have five minutes for you. Here we go.

"And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation…" What that means is when a guy goes… We call them spirit shops for a reason because when Ed goes into Bill's Liquor Barn and imbibes, he changes. He is less of a man, less of a father, less of a driver, less of an employee. It dissipates him. It makes him less glorious. "…but be filled with the Spirit."

This is very important. What does that mean? The word filled is a problem for us because we think of filling as what you do to a gas tank. It's empty, so I need to get it filled. Thus, false teachers who take some Scriptures which are difficult to understand and easily distort it to their own and others' destruction will come and say, "Well, see, what you need is to invite the Holy Spirit to come."

Entire praise services are worked around this. We whip you up into an emotional frenzy where you feel a need, and we ask him to come. Then something comes or we experience something together, and we go, "That's the Spirit of God." No. The Spirit of God doesn't come because we whipped ourselves up into a frenzy. The Spirit of God comes because he has drawn us back into a relationship with him through Jesus Christ.

The question is…What are we going to do with that relationship we have with him? We are to be filled with him. The word filled can mean take what is empty and put something into it, but it also means something else. See also the context. Look at Ephesians 5:18. "Don't be filled with wine." The problem here is not that you put alcohol in you. The problem is when alcohol is in you, it begins to control you.

How many of you drink anger? How many of you drink rage? How many of you drink lust? But I'm filled with lust all the time. I'm filled with anger a lot. What this is talking about here is be controlled by, willingly humble yourself before, God and let God inform Todd, not Todd's flesh inform Todd. "You foolish Wagnerian. Having been saved by the Spirit, will you now complete the work of the Spirit by the work of Todd?"

No. Be filled with the Word of God, the way of God, the truth of God, the Spirit of God, and let him tell you how to be a daddy, how to be a husband, how to be a pastor, how to be a friend, how to be a coach, how to be a person on Highway 75, how to be an employer, how to handle resources, how to handle a lack of resources, how to handle illness, how to handle health. Don't ask yourself. Ask him. "What do I do, Lord?" He has given you his Word. Listen to him.

This is what those words be filled with mean. "…be filled with the Spirit." Grammar matters because God has given us revelation in word, so you need to know the rules of word communication so you can get the fullness of it. "…be filled with the Spirit." It could mean, if you want to, that you take something outside of you and put it into you, but it doesn't always mean that. We know in English sometimes it means be controlled by.

Here's what it means. Be is an imperative. It's a command. It's also a plural command. So, "Be, all of you… I, the apostle Paul sent forth from Christ, command you, all of you, be filled." Now that is what is called a passive verb. A passive verb is when you receive an action to you. It is not something you do. I didn't run to the store; I was run over. That's a passive verb.

When it tells you to be filled in the language, it is, "You, all of you, be (let this happen to you) controlled by…" Then it's what is called a perfect presentplural passive imperative, which means, "You, all of you, continually allow the Spirit of God to, in the present and forever forward, control you."

Guess when we become glorious? When I continually let the Spirit of God inform my thoughts, my actions, my fathering, my daddy-ing, my loving, my preaching, my driving, my giving, my disease, my prosperity. When you see people who walk with God, the world looks at you and goes, "You are cut up. You are different than others. You are ripped. You are glorious. Who is your trainer?"

"I'm glad you asked. He is called the paraclete. The Spirit of God. The Holy Ghost." I wouldn't recommend that response, but I do recommend you walk with him. That's why you're in the Word, so the Word of God richly dwells within you, so that in that moment you go, "How should I respond? In anger here? Should I meet anger with anger? Or does a gentle answer turn away wrath?"

Let me show you a little vignette and see if you might recognize yourself in my friends as they make their way out here. I want to show you what happens when you are filled with the Spirit. Ephesians 5:19-21. You're going to see it. If you're filled with the Spirit, you're not drunk with wine, but you (all of you) are continually yielded to the Spirit, so you do this: "…speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord."

In other words, when you are filled with the Spirit, your communication is transformed. You are "…always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father." In other words, your attitude is transformed. Even in the midst of loss and coming death, you can rejoice because you know death is not the end. It's an eternally-fixed beginning.

Even your want is something to be transformed by because God is weaning you off a love for the things of this world and their fleetingness. Your attitude is transformed when you are filled with the Spirit, "…and [you become] subject to one another…" Which is to say your relationships are transformed.

It's really interesting, because right after this is that passage women just flip over, and I understand why. It says, "Women, by subject to your husbands," but guess what happens right before that verse? "Hey, Spirit-filled bozo men, be subject to one another." In other words, you love her the way the Father loves the Son, the way the Spirit loves the Son, always exalts the Son, and glorifies the Son. You love your wife. Glorify your wife. Cherish your wife. Honor your wife."

You know what women would say if I asked them, "What if I gave you a man who loved you, adored you, cherished you, honored you, did nothing from selfishness and conceit, but with humility of mind always considered you as more important than himself?" They'd go, "Give me that man, and I will serve him." That's what they'd say, but they don't know that kind of man. Which means, men, we're not walking with the Spirit. Watch this.


Ted: We're late.

Deb: Really?

Ted: Yeah. Really.

Deb: Are you mad?

Ted: No. I love sitting in the balcony at church.

Deb: Sorry.

Ted: I bet you are. You know what else I love? I love parking in Uganda and having to hike in for service.

Deb: I'm sorry, Ted. I did my best.

Ted: Yeah. Well, you know what? We're 15 minutes late. I said be in the car at 8:20, not start thinking about leaving at 8:20.

Deb: The kids are covering their ears. If you would help get them dressed for once…

Ted: Yeah. I was up. I'm ready, and I'm dressed. Now you want me to Mom up as well?

Deb: Pull over at the light.

Ted: Why?

Deb: The kids and I are going to go to IHOP. Enjoy your worship time, Ted.

[End of video]

All right. Been there, done that. Not exactly filled with the Spirit, was it? Let's try that again.


Ted: We are late again.

Deb: Are you sure?

Ted: Look at the clock, Deb.

Deb: Sorry.

Ted: We said we'd be in the car at 8:15.

Deb: Well, what…? I mean…

Ted: In the car at 8:15, so we didn't have to park in Uganda and hike in.

Deb: You know what? I'm so tired. I don't even want to go to church with you.

Ted: I'm sorry, Deb.

Deb: For what? For my inability to be on time or for marrying me?

Ted: No, no, no. For putting being on time in front of you.

Deb: Don't say you're sorry just so you can move on.

Ted: Look, I'm not. In fact, this week I read that I am supposed to love you like Christ loved the church.

Deb: What does that even look like for us?

Ted: Not like this. You know what? I could have been helping with the kids. I know that, but instead I hurt the one I love the most.

Deb: I was late. I'm…

Ted: That is no excuse. You're my wife. It was my moment to cherish you.

Deb: Thank you, Ted. Thank you for owning that. I know you want to love me like Christ does. I know.

Ted: I do, but I can't do this alone. Hold on. Look. Come here. God, thank you so much for loving us. Thank you for opening my heart. Thank you for allowing Deb to see that I am wanting to change my heart. I want nothing more than to be her encourager and her best friend, but I can't do this alone, Father. I need you. I need you, Lord. Amen.

Deb: Amen. You were right. We are going to have to hike from Uganda. The parking lot is packed. By the time we get the kids to class, we are going to be so late. I'm really sorry.

Ted: You know what? It's okay. Who wants to go on a hike?

Deb: I do. I love you, Ted.

Ted: I love you, too.

[End of video]

All right! I want to be in that car. My kids want to be in that car. God is in that car. The question is: Are you going to let him be sovereign in that car? You have been brought back into relationship with him. You know there is a place to gather with other believers who can spur you on in that direction. Are you going to be continually filled with, controlled by, the Spirit of God who loves you, cares for you, and wants to make you that man, that daddy, that husband, that leader?

You have to walk with him. You can't just have him in your pocket and say, "I'm saved by grace." You are. You are, but walk with him. When you grieve or quench the Spirit of God, you grieve or quench the Spirit of God who is in you. The question is not, "Do you need more of the Spirit?" but "Are you going to yield to the Spirit who has been given to you as a result of the work of Christ you have trusted in?"

If you mess up on this…that he's a person, that he's fully present, and that he's necessary…then it's going to really affect people's view of your trainer. If you walk with him, it is glorious, church, and they love our King. May we serve him this week as we worship him. If you don't know Christ and the fact that your spirit is depraved and there's a spirit of error and rebellion in you, would you come?

You have to come just like our sweet friend did and say, "I need that gift. I need somebody to deal with my flesh. I need a Savior. I can't afford what it costs me to get that kind of Savior." You're right; you can't. It's an infinite debt, but if you come, you can have that gift. Having had it, you have to walk with him, or all you have is really a gift certificate which brings shame to who he is. May it never be, church. May it never be. Come, and go walk with him. Have a great week of worship.

About 'The Big XII'

"This series will cover twelve truths that if you don?t get exactly right, the ramifications and the impact on your life will be enormous. They matter today and eternally. If you want to call yourself an orthodox follower of Christ, these are truths that you cannot miss. These are twelve central, non-negotiable principles of theology and we will discuss what it means to embrace them, the alternatives to them, as well as the application of them. In other words, what it should look like when devoted, orthodox followers of Christ live them out." Todd Wagner