What Being Filled with the Spirit Isn't

The Low Down on Fillin' Up

The Holy Spirit is the most misunderstood, underestimated and ignored member of the Trinity, with a multitude of misconceptions about who He is and fanaticism associated with His working. This causes too many followers of Christ to avoid the intimate relationship with Him necessary for us to honor Christ. So what does it really mean to be "filled with the Spirit"?

Todd WagnerSep 14, 2003Ephesians 5:18

If we had a chance for Jesus Christ to lead us as a church for three weeks, to come and be our pastor, to be in our midst, to be exclusively available to folks who worshiped with us here at Watermark or to lead us in a group of churches in a community of believers in Dallas or you could have the Holy Spirit, you could have the Spirit of God who would be available to you, which one of those two do you think the Christian community in Dallas or which one of those two do you think we would like?

In this time of great examination and stretching and study and reflection and asking God, "What do you want us to do as a body?" wouldn't it be great to have Christ preach to us these three weeks, to lead our men's stuff, our women's meetings, to meet with our high school and junior high kids, to lead our children over there, just to be here available for counseling and working through stuff in your life? Wouldn't that be great? Wouldn't you love that?

Well, the amazing thing is that Jesus says that's not the best thing that could happen to Watermark. That's not the best thing that could happen to churches in Dallas, churches around the world. There's something better. Listen to what he said in John, chapter 14. It was toward the end of his life. Jesus was addressing the men who were about to be left by him, because he was going away. He was going to be crucified, and these men were going to be left, yet he was going to encourage them and tell them, "Don't give up just because I'm gone."

In John 14:16-17, he says, "When I leave, I'm going to ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, that he may be with you forever, and that Helper is the Spirit of truth." Now, the disciples weren't really encouraged by that or impressed by that or sure that that was such a good thing, because they were still consumed with losing him, but he goes on to say, "When the Helper comes, whom I will send you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, he will talk to you of me."

Then he says in chapter 16, verse 7, these amazing words: "I tell you the truth." Jesus says, "Look. I'm cutting right to it. Do you want to know one thing to hang your hat on, one thing to remember, one thing to believe? I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away." That's an amazing thing, because if you're like me, when I sit here and think, "What an incredible opportunity…"

If God said, "Hey, Watermark, I'll give you anything you want," and we just said, "How about if Jesus was our guest pastor for four weeks?" I think it would discourage him. I know it would, because he tells us he's already giving us something that will enable us to do works that are even beyond what we could do if Christ was here. What is that? Well, I'm going to tell you what it is. It's someone who, because of all the confusion related to the role of this individual, we have a tendency to ignore.

The individual is the third person of the Trinity. A friend and I were talking about this this week, and we were laughing about something that I think was a MAD magazine parody from a long time ago, making fun of individuals like us who love God and say we embrace the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They were talking about it in a way that they felt maybe a different generation of folks could relate to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

They said, "We're going to teach you today about Big Daddy, Junior, and the Spook," which I think is hilarious, if not highly irreverent. "Big Daddy." You can kind of get ahold of that. Right? Father in heaven. "Junior." You've all seen Junior just because you've read enough little children's stories. You've seen the little handouts kids get at different church meetings, and you've watched The Jesus Film, so you have a concept of what Junior is like.

But the Spook… When you start talking about the Spook, this thing that through the Middle Ages was called the Holy Ghost, that's hard to get your arms around, because if he was there you could put your arms right through him. "What does he have to do with me, and what is this supernatural other thing?"

See, Satan, the Enemy of God, who wants to keep us from being effective and wants to keep us from being the people God wants, loves the fact that we have this misconception of who the Holy Spirit is, this part of the Godhead, this infinitely eternal deity that is everything Junior and Big Daddy are, but because he's the Holy Ghost, because he's the Spook, we're like, "It's kind of freaking me out. I can deal with Jesus, and I can pray to Big Daddy, but the Spook, you know, it kind of gets under my skin a little bit."

The Enemy knows he cannot take the Holy Spirit from those folks who believe, but he can fool us into thinking the Holy Spirit is only for extremists, for folks who really don't walk what we would say is the path of normalcy. There has been a lot of abuse and confusion about this, and there's a reason there has been so much attack and distortion there. I'm convinced of it. It's because it is central to us being effective the way God wants us to be.

A number of years ago, I did a series called The Most. I walked through a number of different Scriptures. For instance, the most misunderstood verse in the Bible. I think you find it in Matthew 7, where it says, "Judge not lest you be judged." I think it has silenced Christendom and caused us to not love each other the way God wants us to love one another.

In this idea of not wanting to judge others lest we too be judged, we never sharpen one another in the way God says we should sharpen one another. We avoid conflict like it's the plague when, in fact, God says, "No, conflict is an opportunity to glorify me, grow yourselves, and serve others." That's a win-win-win, people, but because of this distortion, the misunderstanding of what that verse means, we get away from it.

I did 2 Timothy 3:16. I called that the most important verse in the Bible. Why did I call it the most important? Because that Scripture says, "All Scripture is inspired by God…" Another translation would say, "All Scripture is God-breathed…" It comes from the very breath of God, which is what makes it so significant. It's God's Word for you and me.

The most read verse in the Bible. What do you think I said that was? Genesis 1:1. Do you know why? Because some of you go, "I'm reading through the Bible this year. I am. Where should I start? Uh, Genesis. Yeah, right there. I'll start there. 'In the beginning God…'" And you're cranking until you get to at least chapter 6, and then you go, "You know what? I need to read through the Bible, so I'm going to start… How about Genesis 1:1? 'In the beginning God…'"

It is the most read verse in the Bible. I'll tell you, it's significant in verse 2 why that verse is there, because if you don't start with God as the beginning and a foundational understanding of all that is, then all of life gets out of whack and is out of sync in the way God intended it. There is a ton in that one little verse that is absolutely essential to the rest of the book, which gets me to another couple of verses.

One was the most quoted. What do you think the most quoted verse in the Bible is? I think it's John 3:16. I did the most misquoted verse in our Bible. "Money is the root of all evil." You hear that all the time. That's not what the Bible says. That's why it's the most misquoted. It says, "The love of money…" Huge distinction.

I did one called the most essential. In other words, if this verse wasn't there, it would change everything about the way we go through life today. The most essential verse in the Bible is the verse we're going to look at as the key to our next three weeks together in this little series we're going to do, The Lowdown on Fillin' Up.

Like I said, the Enemy of God cannot take the Counselor, the Helper, the gift God has intended for us to have. He wouldn't leave us here as orphans, to use his words. He said he would give us the Helper, the Spirit of truth, the Spirit of Christ, and he wants us to live in relationship with this one who's not a spook and not a ghost but a person of the Godhead who loves us, indwells us, fills us, for his glory and our good.

But there has been so much extremism and distortion from this verse and the ideas surrounding it that most of us are like, "Oh man. I don't want to go there. I don't want to mess with that." You don't believe me? Watch what you can get when you just turn on your TV, when you're getting the misinformation about filling up.


Male: Do you know what being filled with the Holy Ghost is?

Female: She's been talking to me about it. I don't know.

Male: What you do, you talk to the Lord from your heart, not your head, because our head doesn't know everything we ought to know, but the Holy Spirit, Paul said, with our spirit man prays the perfect prayer. So you just close your eyes. Say, "Lord, fill me now."

Female: Lord, fill me now…

Male:"…with the Holy Ghost."

Female: …with the Holy Ghost.

Male: Now you just begin to talk to the Lord from your heart. [Speaking in tongues]

Male: A jaw just popped back in place.

Male: Give the Lord a mighty shout of hallelujah!

Male: Praise God! Hallelujah, hallelujah!

Male: This is the Bible. This is God's Word. This is a promise from God to you. Wake up out there! Wake up!

Male: Oh, I feel the presence of God all over me. God wants this program to stay on the air so much. God wants to reach out to our prayer ministers. God doesn't want this thing to go off the air.

Male: God is filling them with the Holy Ghost. Lift your hands and ask God to do the same for you.

Male: If you'll just start using your faith and make a vow of $1,000…

Male: So mail your prayer request today along with your seed faith gift of $77 or whatever amount God lays on your heart to activate your miracle.

Male: Father, in Jesus' name [speaking in tongues]. I know you've been misunderstood.

[End of video]

That is one response, and another one is it's an absolute tragedy, because so many people are missing out on what God intends for them to have, which is the power which enables us to be his witnesses in our Dallas, in our state, in our country, in our world, because the Spook is for freaks, and you have to give $77 or whatever God leads you to give to activate your miracle. I'm telling you, it breaks the Lord's heart. A lot of folks who you invite to come and you want to expose to the truth and want to introduce to the person of Jesus Christ will not even consider it, because when they think of what it means to walk with God, that's what they think.

A guy by the name of Jim Cymbala, who pastors a church in New York City, was interviewed recently, because the Lord has used him significantly to be a part of the salt and light in that city and really transform and do some amazing things by the power and the grace and the goodness of God as he indwells those believers. He talks about how the reason so much ineffectiveness is happening in the local church in America is because we crucify the Holy Spirit. They asked, "What do you mean by that?"

This is what he said: "On one side, people are doing so many weird things that are not in the Bible and blaming it on the Holy Spirit. They are jerking, twitching, [being slayed,] roaring like lions, tweeting like birds, acting like animals. Very few people in those circles have the guts to say, 'Stop! Wait a minute! That is not in the Bible. Can you imagine Jesus doing that, or Paul doing that?' These people are adding to the Word of God. They say he is doing a new thing, so new that it is not even in the Bible. If it is a new thing, I want to see the people in church [being transformed and changed], souls being won…"

Listen to this, because if there is an error that we've embraced, it's about to come at you right here. "On the other side are those who have tossed the Spirit out the window. They have watched that foolishness on television, those showoffs, those shysters, those con men, and don't want any of it. But how are you going to run a church without the Holy Spirit? Trying to do so results in little one-hour packaged 'Protestant masses'…"

Have you ever been to one of those? Lord knows. There are hundreds of thousands of folks in them this week right here around us. "…where there is no spontaneity, no Spirit, no anointing [from God that is consistent with the Scriptures]." Cymbala said people will sit through a three-hour football game, but they'll get itchy if the service goes longer than one hour. I know some of y'all personally.

He essentially said, "Can you imagine Paul telling Peter he only has 18 minutes to preach because the chariot races are about to start and people need to get home to watch? Something is wrong with the church today. Divorce rates and the percentage of people who are taking drugs for depression are the same for believers in and outside the church, people who attend church and don't attend church." He says, "Don't tell me it's the culture, the environment. It is the lack of the presence of the Holy Spirit and his power in our lives." And he's right.

There are a lot of folks who embrace the name Christian who don't know what it means to walk with Christ and have a relationship with him through this one called the Helper, the Counselor, the Spirit of truth, the Spirit who hovers over the waters, who through the Middle Ages we called the Holy Ghost, who MAD magazine called the Spook, who we know as part of the Trinity.

There's so much confusion related to who he is, so we have to teach on it for three weeks, because if we're going to discern anything as a body, if we're going to be the kinds of people we want to be as a body, whether we do anything with property or not, we have to walk with God in the fullness he intended for us to walk with. So I want to walk you through what that looks like today and debunk some of the myths associated with this mystery that is the Holy Spirit.

We're going to give you the lowdown on fillin' up, and the verse we're going to use to focus on that comes from Ephesians, chapter 5. I'm going to give you a grammar lesson at the very beginning. You might think, "Oh, great. I came to church and you're going to throw grammar at me." Well, I'm going to tell you why I'm going to teach you some grammar: because God has given us his Word in language. In order to understand that language correctly, you have to understand certain tools God gave us to interpret language.

This verse comes at the end of Paul talking about the transformed life we ought to all have. If this verse wasn't there, this would be a very legalistic book. Ephesians would be a place where Paul gives you a bunch of dos and don'ts and you just get with it. In fact, a number of years ago, there was a missionary to the Batak tribesmen. He showed up, and he was asked by this chief to live with them for six months and observe their beliefs.

So for six months, this man watched their beliefs. At the end of the six months, the leader of that tribe came to him and said, "Have you seen anything that you have that we don't have? We, too, are a moral people. We believe you should not steal, should not covet your neighbor's wife. We believe you should not say things that are inappropriate, just like your Scriptures say. What does your religion or faith have to offer us?" The missionary responded very wisely.

He said, "The difference between what you believe and what I believe is that my God gives us the power to do what your god has told you to do." The chief said, "Would you stay here with us and teach us that power?" He said, "I can't give you that power, but I can tell you about the God who through relationship with him the power exists." This day now, there are hundreds of thousands of Batak tribesmen in their church who have come to know the God who has brought a relationship and a living presence with them that is the power of the Holy Spirit.

What this verse is saying right here… He starts, and it best illustrates what he's trying to communicate by showing you with a negative illustration at the very beginning, where he says, "And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation…" In other words, that waters you down. That makes you less of what God intended you to be. You become less of the man or woman God wants when you're filled with this thing which controls you.

When you go to a spirit shop, what do you go there to buy? You go there to buy different forms of alcohol. There's a reason that's called a spirit, because when men get it in them, they act as a different man. We used to laugh that guys who would drink a lot would think they're 10 feet tall and bulletproof. We'd say they had liquid courage running through their veins. They're full of beer guts. Typically, there was somebody who was around them to sober them up and show them that that spirit was an illusion.

What Paul is saying is, "Don't put the spirit, this thing in you which makes you act otherworldly in a way that brings destruction to your family," that in our world today causes incredible destruction and foolishness and disintegration of family and addiction and death. Paul says, "You put a different Spirit in you, and you let that Spirit which is in you by the grace of God through relationship with him do its work in you."

He gives you it this way. He says, "I want you…" And he commands you. It's in the second person. What's second person? Well, it's not first person or third person. First person is I, me, we, our. Third person is he, she, them. Second person is you or your. What he's saying right here in second person is "You…all of you…you be…" It's an imperative. It's a command. He wants you to do something that there's no negotiating. It's an order.

It's like if I said, "Get out of here! There's a fire!" That is an imperative that you need to respond to. If you're about to walk in front of traffic, I go, "Stop!" It's an imperative command, something you must do. Then it's plural. It's not addressed to one person but to a group of individuals. "You be…all of you" is what he's saying. Then he uses what's called the passive tense. Now what's the passive tense? What's it there for?

Let me just say it this way. An active tense is when A does B. The passive is when A does to B. Does that make sense? Politicians love to speak in the passive tense. Let me give you an example. They like to talk about things that happen, and they stand up and go, "Mistakes were made." That is passive tense. How would you say that in the active voice? "I, as your leader, an elected official who is relying on your support, made a mistake."

By the way, it's not just politicians; it's husbands who are in trouble with their wives. "Honey, mistakes were made." The woman goes, "I know mistakes were made. I want to talk to the bozo who made them and have him take ownership and ask forgiveness." Active voice, active repentance. What Paul is saying here… The passive voice is appropriate, because he's saying, "This isn't something you do; this is something you let happen to you." You let God do this to you.

"You…all of you…be continually…" That is the perfect present, which means an act that is happening completely and fully, continually, in the present, not that happened in the past or not that you anticipate in the future. There's a little grammar lesson this morning. It's an imperative, second voice, plural, present perfect structure. If you will, what he's saying here is "You…all of you…be continuously, consciously committed to being filled with, controlled by, the Spirit." That's how he implores you.

His idea here is separate and apart from doing that, you won't be the people God wants you to be. You'll miss out on what God intended to give you that would enable you to be what you want, to experience what you want. How many of us have said, "Yeah, I've trusted Christ. I've come to relationship with him, but there's no transformation in my life. Where is this abundant life? Where's the self-control? Where's the change? Where's the power? Where's the presence? Where's the joy?"

I'm going to tell you, it's not there because you have not gotten the lowdown on fillin' up, and it's killing the church. We've crucified the Holy Spirit. We've avoided him because he's a spook, because he's crazy, because people who are associated with him do all of these nonsensical, non-biblical things. Just like a wise Enemy, he convinces you that God's greatest gift is something you don't need; in fact, you ought to stay away from if you have any sense, and it's killing us individually and corporately in this world.

The Holy Spirit is God. He's the most active part of the Godhead involved in your and my life today, and if you don't know him personally and invite him into your life continually…all of you…then there is going to be a choking out that will be evident to the whole world that watches, and the church will be assigned tags like this: irrelevant (Have you ever heard that one?), indifferent, dead, and hypocritical.

Those are adjectives assigned to churches that don't know the lowdown on fillin' up. So, what I want to do this week is I'm going to teach you what it is by teaching you what it's not. Next week, I'm going to teach you what it is by teaching you what it is and how to experience it more fully, and the third week what it does. That's what we're going to do together. Let's start right now. This is what being filled with the Holy Spirit is not.

It is not "Be regenerated by the Spirit." What do we mean by "be regenerated"? Genesis, the book of beginnings. When you go to the beginning or the start of something, when something is new or starting, it is a genesis. We are regenerated by the Spirit. We must be. This is what Jesus said when he was talking to a young man who came to him by night in order to understand more of what it meant: "Jesus answered, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.'"

A lot of times, folks ask me this. One of the first questions folks ask about Watermark is "Is Watermark a Spirit-filled church?" I never answer that question "Yes." What I want to scream is "I sure hope so!" but I typically know what they mean by that. So when they ask, "Is Watermark a Spirit-filled church?" I go, "Well, describe to me what you mean." Often, what they mean is something that has to do with what you just saw behind me.

What they really mean is "Are you a church that, separate and subsequent to your confidence that Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior who died on the cross for your sins, has earnestly sought a baptism of the Holy Spirit that then came on your life in order that you might then manifest its power and presence in your life, typically through the speaking of tongues?" That's what they typically mean when they ask, "Are you a Spirit-filled church?" which is an unbiblical representation of how you define a Spirit-filled church. I'll show you before today is over what a Spirit-filled church looks like.

It's the same reason I don't answer the question when somebody says to me, "Todd, are you born again?" It's not a phrase that's used as much today as it used to be. When somebody asks, "Are you born again?" I go, "What do you mean by 'born again'?" If they say something along the lines of, "Well, you know, are you a homophobic, ultra-conservative, 'blow up abortion clinics,' holier-than-thou, right-wing extremist?" I go, "No. No. That's not me."

If, on the other hand, they say, "Are you somebody who has come to understand that you can never earn your salvation, who believes Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life and no one comes to the Father except through him, and do you believe that by nothing but a faith relationship with the person of God in Jesus Christ you can have a right relationship with God?" I say, "Yes, I do believe that."

"Okay. Then you're born again."

"Okay, great. I'm born again."

When folks ask, "Are you a Spirit-filled church?" I say, "What do you mean by that?" What Jesus is saying here is, "Do you want to know what 'born again' means? 'Born again' means that you are regenerated, born again of the Spirit." Let me show it to you another place. In Ephesians 2:1-5 it says, "And you were dead…" Watch this. This is who you were in the past. You were dead.

" [If you don't want to stay dead] in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest."

In fact, when folks ask you, "Who are you? Are you a Christian?" a better way to introduce yourself is, "No, I am somebody who was formerly known as a child of wrath by nature, who by the grace of God has become something else." What? You ought to say, "But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved [me and others] , even when [I was] dead in [my] transgressions, made [me] alive together with Christ…"

Which is to say, "I have been made new. I was dead (get that), but I have been made new. I was a child of wrath, but I have now become a child of God." Look at Ephesians 5. He says it this way. This is the regenerating work of the Spirit. He says, "…you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light…" It's a regeneration. Instead of being folks who were full of darkness and death, you're now full of light and life. That is a brand-new thing.

How does that happen? By the invasion of the grace of God into your life. That's how it happens. The classic verse for this regenerating work comes in Titus 3:5. Now watch how it happens. Do you want to know, if you're here today, what it means to have a relationship with God? You need to know this. "…He saved us, not [according to] deeds which we have done in righteousness…" We haven't given enough, done enough, served enough, avoided enough evil things that we would ever present to God our résumé.

His holiness is so far beyond our imperfection that we could never in any way submit to him anything other than our need for his gracious provision for us. "…He saved us, not [according to] deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit…" Being filled with the Spirit is not being regenerated by the Spirit. It's something else that he wants us to be continually, consciously submitting to and controlled by and filled by. Let me walk you through something else it's not.

Being filled with the Spirit is not the same as being indwelt by the Spirit. Look at Romans 8:9, a key passage. He says, "However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit…" Who's he talking to there? Believers who have come by grace to Christ and humbled themselves, accepting his provision for their sin. He says, "However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him."

Let me make this very clear to you. There is no label you can give yourself that makes you right with God. There are no magic words you can say that make you right with God. What makes you right with God that allows you to be regenerated and then indwelt is when you do confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, but you do it with integrity.

Walking into this building today no more makes you a Christian than walking into a garage makes you a car. You are right with God not because of where you are or what you say but because by faith you have availed yourself to him. He says, "When you do that, the Spirit of God indwells you." If the Spirit is not there, you're not his. If you continue in unrepentant sin, in cycles where, time after time, you find yourself running hard without repentance and regret…

Let me say that again. If you find yourself living consistently in anger or rebellion or embracing sin without conviction, repentance, or regret, it ought to cause you great pause no matter what you call yourself or what you did on that summer camp evening. You're saved not by what you do but by what Christ has done, but if Christ has done what he says he's going to do, he will dwell in you, and you will begin to love what your Father loves, do what he does increasingly.

One of the greatest assurances I have that by the grace of God I am regenerated is now when I sin I hate it. I used to hate it when I sinned and got caught or it cost me something, just like you, but now if no one even sees it, if no one even knows it, it disturbs me. It is contrary to what God has made in my heart. It troubles me, and I confess it. I agree it's ugly and wrong, and I run to him and accept his gracious continual provision, and I restore and renew my relationship with him…restore it not salvifically but relationally.

You are not a follower of Christ because of what you have professed. Do you understand what I'm saying? You are a follower of Christ because of who you possess. There's a big difference between a said faith and a saving faith. A saving faith has the presence of the Spirit of God inside of you. Look at 1 Corinthians 3:16, just to give you a few more verses that show you this.

He says, "Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?" Look at 1 Corinthians 6:19, a verse I'll come back to again later. "Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?" Paul is making a case here. You're being filled with the Spirit, so what are you doing acting like you're not?

Being filled with the Spirit is not being sealed by the Spirit. What does that mean? In Ephesians 1:13-14 it says, "In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed [in that message which you were given] , you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance…"

What does that mean? It means that when you came to Christ truly by faith, not because of what you said but because of who God allowed you to be by grace, as he taught you to hate sin and to love him and to see your need and to see the separation of who you and I were from a holy God, and he drew us to himself with his call of mercy and the work of the Spirit before we became known to him individually by the convicting of sin, righteousness, and judgment…

When we come to him in response to that conviction, he makes us new, he indwells us, and he seals us. He gives us a pledge, a down deposit, if you will, of some kind. He stamps his signature on us that he will recognize us because we are his. He is there, and he is there so thoroughly, the Scripture says, that when the deep, penetrating gaze of God confronts us at some point, it says we will appear holy and blameless before him.

Why? Because what he sees in us ultimately is no longer the wrath our works deserve, but what he sees in us is the deposit of holiness that is in our lives that ought to be bearing fruit with increasing righteousness in our lives, that at the very core of who we are by declaration of God are people consistent with, transformed by, indwelt by, sealed with his Spirit.

You are not commanded to be regenerated; you're commanded to confess your sins and come. You're not commanded to be indwelt (that happens when you come), and you're not commanded to be sealed (that's what he does for you).

Being filled with the Spirit is not (this is the most often misused phrase, so I want you to listen carefully) "Bebaptized in the Spirit." This is what typically happens. Folks will say, "Are you missing out on the power God wants for you? Do you feel like you don't have the victory over sin that you want? Are you not experiencing the presence of God in an awesome experiential way, that you would know he's there in your regular life? I'll tell you why. I don't think it's because you don't know Jesus. You've received Jesus. You just now need to receive the Holy Spirit."

These men who teach this take Scriptures which are very difficult at times to understand, as Peter wrote, which the untaught and unstable distort to their own and others' destruction, and they will tell you that Jesus isn't enough. The gnostics of our day will tell you you're a JV believer, that what you need is what you saw one of those gentlemen behind us telling that woman she needed.

"You have to invite him to come. You have to, separate and subsequent to belief in Jesus, seek earnestly the Holy Spirit, and when he comes, it will be most obviously evidenced by your ability to speak in tongues," they will often tell you. I'm here to tell you that is a distortion of Scripture which has brought about all sorts of foolishness and fanaticism that makes people want to shove the Spook out of the church. It's killing the body of Christ.

When you receive Christ, you are baptized into his body. That's what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 12:13. "For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks [it doesn't matter] , whether slaves or free [it doesn't matter] , and we were all made to drink of one Spirit." At that moment when you believe.

He says the same thing in Ephesians 4:4-6. "There is one body and one Spirit…" Not the Spirit of Christ and the Spirit of God, so you get the one but you have to, subsequent to that, get the other one. "…as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all."

When you know Christ, you have the regenerating power of the Spirit in your life actively working, which indwells you with his Spirit, which seals you with the Spirit, and you are baptized into his body, and it is there. It's there so fully that being filled with the Spirit is not "Be growing in the fullness of the Spirit." What do I mean by that? In other words, you don't need to get more of that which God has already given you.

Watch this. In John, Jesus says, "For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God; for He gives the Spirit without measure." In other words, he doesn't give it to you a little bit at a time so that as you get to know him better he'll give you a little bit more. When you come to Christ, you're like a corked bottle floating on the ocean, and when you confess your need for Christ and the poverty and debauchery and rebellion and emptiness and self-centeredness that's in your life and you pop that cork in confession, that bottle fills up, and it goes into the ocean.

Let me just explain this to you. All the ocean is not in that bottle, but that bottle is completely full of the ocean. In other words, God doesn't and can't download all of himself into me, and I'm not God embodied, and you're not God embodied, but the Spirit and fullness of God indwells in me and indwells in you as a believer at that moment, and everything we need pertaining to life and godliness is given to us at that moment.

Now, at different times, if you're like me, I get kicked back up, and I try to dump some of that out and get some of my own self back in and my own air back in, and God keeps trying to say, "Todd, no. You need to allow me to fill you up continually on an ongoing basis and let me completely define who you are by your surrendering to me."

See, filling is an unfortunate word, because when we think of something needing to be filled, we think it needs to be filled because it is empty, but we've already been given the fullness of that which God intends for us to have. What we have to do is learn to appropriate it on a regular basis. Thus the command of Ephesians 5:18.

Let me say that one more time. When you grieve or quench the Holy Spirit, you grieve, if you're a believer, and quench, if you're a believer, the Holy Spirit who is in you, not who you are holding off from the outside. This is what Paul wrote in Ephesians 1:3: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us [already] with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ…" You have it. Appropriate it.

Peter wrote the same thing in 2 Peter, chapter 1. "Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness…" You have it. You're lacking in nothing. Why not use it? I'll tell you why we don't use it: because it freaks us out, because foolishness and fanaticism have been identified with people who walk in the Spirit.

God wants to reclaim it. He doesn't want to let those guys who are doing those crazy things that Christ never would do and never did define what it means to walk with him. Because we push him out, we are losing what he has told us apart from him we can do nothing that he has given us that we might be his people.

Being filled with the Spirit (this is important) is not a commitment to a stoic effort to accomplish what God wants in our own power. Being filled with the Spirit is not "Be disciplined in the Spirit." This is where most of us err when we err. We make the mistake of being spiritual Pharisees. We say stuff like, "I pray. I read my Bible. I don't act like them. I serve. I do."

You don't need to call upon God on a continual basis to do something for you, much like the Pharisees used to say, "I'm so glad I'm not like this guy. I'm so glad my life isn't corrupt like him. I'm glad I haven't done the things that tax gatherer and sinner did. God, aren't you lucky you have me?" That is arrogance and spiritual pride, BC, before you come to Christ.

AD, after we come to Christ, we say, "God, aren't you lucky that I'm a disciplined, moral, ethical, hardworking, stoic, good person?" and he goes, "No. I want you to be a broken, humble, dependent person, because, Todd, now that you've come to know me by grace, to think that you can live apart from grace is foolishness."

This is what Paul writes about in Galatians 2:20 all the way through 3:5. He makes it very clear. "The life which we now live in the flesh we live by faith in the Son of God," and to live it apart from that is going to get us in all kinds of trouble. Some of us go to a church or a conference, and we get so motivated. We hear a message. We go to a time of worship, and we're so moved by it that we get filled with some great religious fervor where we could live great lives for 30 to 60 minutes in a row sometimes.

When you leave here and are tempted the first time to get angry or frustrated, don't be frustrated that your body is corrupted toward evil and self-dependency and self-will. That's when you need to go, "Lord, of course I am. My nature, my flesh is always going to pull me that direction, but it's not about me anymore.

Christ was crucified with me. The life that I now live I live by faith, so it doesn't matter what I feel like. What does Jesus want me to do right now? I'm his. He died for me. I live for him. So right now, I'm either going to do what feels right to me in response to my wife or my kids or this moment or I'm going to do what you want to do."

By the way, a lot of folks sometimes… I'm not going to tell you never to pray like this, but the better way to pray… Have you ever been somewhere and been so frustrated you went, "Lord, I need more patience; please give me patience"? Have you ever prayed that? Yeah. Some of you guys know we have this little thing around here called farkling, which leads to all kinds of fun hilarity.

One time we had a group of guys who were outside a Christian bookstore, and we farkled. The guy had to go in there and ask the lady for the book he'd ordered last week on patience. We walk in there, and the guy who lost had to go in and say, "Where's that book on patience I ordered last week? I really need it. No, I mean I really do. Where is that book on patience?! Gah, I need patience!" Until finally they look at you like, "Are you kidding?" and we usually let them in on it at that point.

The idea is that so many times we say, "God, give me more patience. Give me more self-control." Do you know this? That is really an unbiblical prayer, not because patience is a bad thing or self-control is a bad thing, but this is what it says in Galatians 5. He says if the Spirit of God is there, you won't do the works of the flesh, but you will bear the fruit (singular) of the Spirit. It's not fruits; it's fruit. When God is there, love is there, joy is there, peace is there, patience is there, gentleness is there, goodness is there, self-control is there, faithfulness is there.

Do you know what happens when I'm someplace and I want to just let my anger get the better of me or lust get the better of me or frustration get the better of me? I don't go, "O God, give me self-control" or "God, give me patience." I go, "You know what's going on here right now, God? I have enthroned myself in the center of my universe, and the world is not rotating around me the way I want it to rotate around me. I don't like the way things are, and as king, I will now wreak destruction and havoc and teach the paupers in my world to not jack with me."

Have you ever felt like that? All the time. It starts in my toes, and it comes up here. I have to go, "Wait a minute. What we need right now is to have a conversation that'll take a nanosecond where I'm either going to crucify the Spirit, grieve the Spirit, quench the Spirit, and then there are going to be all kinds of deeds of the flesh in my family member's or friend's life that's right here near me, or I will be filled with the Spirit, which says, 'It's not my will, Lord, but your will. I must decrease; you must increase. The life which I live now in the flesh I must live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and delivered himself up for me.'"

In a moment, those verses come rushing through my life, and God says, "Todd, are you going to take what I've given you? You don't need more patience; you need to let me live in you right now. I have all the patience in the world. When I'm there, patience is there. Love is there. Self-control is there." See, it's the difference between when some guys look at porn, they see that which defeats them…that temptation. Other guys see the power of God for deliverance in that moment. That's the difference.

Let me tell you something. You put a magazine there with a beautiful body on it, and everything in Todd Wagner, probably until the day he dies, is going to want to look at it, but Jesus doesn't want to see that which he created, which is very good, exploited in a way that hurts her and hurts others and creates in me things which are going to bring destruction into this world. He says, "Todd, don't go there. I don't want to go there. That's a distortion of the reality that I created that is beautiful."

"But I want to."

"I know you want to, but since when has it been about you? I died for you, so this is my life now. Live for me. Come on over here."

It feels like I'm completely denying who I am in that moment. Guess what: I am. I'm formerly a child of wrath, formerly filled with the deeds of darkness, but now, by the grace of God, filled with light and life. Let me tell you, when I walk away, when I choke anger, when I choke frustration, when I choke lust, I never regret it. There is life there, but when I let it seep out a little bit through those cracks, man, there are some messes to clean up.

Being filled with the Holy Spirit is not an esoteric, dramatic, mystical experience which sends you into a state of advanced or permanent spirituality. Let me just say it this way again: being filled with the Spirit is not evidenced by speaking in an unknown tongue; being filled with the Spirit is best evidenced by controlling the tongue you have. When God is there, we have words that are like apples of gold and settings of silver. That's how you know the Spirit is there.

How do I know I'm being filled with the Spirit? Well, is what you're saying edifying others or is it one who speaks with a tongue that is like the thrust of a sword or do you have the words of knowledge that give life (Proverbs 12)? Do you see the difference? When we look at the Word, we are not commanded to be baptized, indwelt, sealed, and regenerated by the Spirit; we are commanded to be filled with the Spirit.

I want to show you again. Look at 1 Corinthians 6. After Paul was just berating this church for living in sin, look at what he says. There's a church that's a classic example of a church that wasn't doing something. He says, "Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body." Then he says, "Therefore, be baptized with the Spirit, that you might have power." Right? No.

You have an immoral life, an immoral church. He says, "Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is [already] in you…" You're quenching and grieving the Spirit that is in you. Appropriate that Spirit. In Ephesians, Paul shows us. Right after verse 18, guess what Paul did. He wrote verses 19-21. He didn't label them that way. We did that hundreds of years later, but he went through and said:

"…but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ."

That's what a Spirit-filled church looks like. That's what a Spirit-filled person looks like. Your tongue is transformed. It's an overflowing of your heart. You're filled with gratitude, and you are subject to one another in love. Let me bullet-point them out for you. Here we go.

First, you know you're filled with the Spirit when you're letting others know the joy of your salvation. You can't help but sing of the goodness of Christ, the redemptive power he gives you. Why? You're at your computer. You have an opportunity to go to that website. Do you want to go to that website? Absolutely. Does that mean you're not saved? No. Your flesh is still corrupt. But what are you going to do in that moment?

Are you going to be filled with lust, which is dissipation, or are you going to be filled with the Spirit, which is life? When you can walk away from that by the grace of God according to the power which dwells immeasurably in you, you can tell others, "Let me tell you how I overcame that: not by my own effort and disciplined life, not because I have a sponsor but because I have a Spirit who lives in me that is infinite and supernatural in his presence."

Secondly, you will be constantly filled with gratitude because you know you're walking in the Lord's will, and you know that even in difficult times he's going to give you the ability to serve him and that all things will work together for his goodness. Then, lastly, you will be subject to one another in love. We love to quote Ephesians 5:22, men, where it says, "Women, submit to your husbands. Be subject to your husbands in the Lord." We forget verse 21 where it says, "Be subject to one another in love," which is what informs the woman's role and the man's role.

Men, as you would take your position as leader of your family in the context of a man who is filled with the Spirit; who does nothing from selfish or empty conceit but with humility of mind considers others as more important than himself; who doesn't merely look out for his own personal interests but also for the interests of his wife; who has in himself the same attitude (see also spirit) which is in Christ Jesus, your wife is going to love exhorting you, submitting to you, because all you do is honor her.

Do you see how we take this verse in 5:22 and leave it out from being filled with the Spirit in 5:21? All right. Here's the application. Three things just to close today down. First of all, in the midst of this, every believer has all the Spirit. Do you understand that? If you know Christ, you have all the Spirit. The command is to let the Spirit have all of you. That's it. This is the lowdown on fillin' up.

In that moment when you think you need more patience, when you think you need more self-control, when you think you need more goodness, more discipline to file your tax return right, to be an ethical businessman, to make a good and earnest hard day's work, is it going to be because you don't have enough of God in you? No. If you know Christ, the issue is if you are going to let the Spirit have all of you.

Secondly, believers don't sin because of the Spirit's absence; we sin in spite of the Spirit's presence. That is why, the Scripture says, if you continually live a life of debauchery and sin without repentance and say it's not sin to do sin, then he says the Spirit of God is not in you. It is impossible for God to continue to be in the presence of sin and for there not to be conviction. It is the Spirit's job to convict of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16).

If you continually participate in any sin without conviction, the Spirit of God is not in you, which would tell you that you are not his child. Now, it's not my job to see through you to know if the Spirit is there; it's my job to see you through to faithfulness and spur you on with God's Word. You can tell me all day long how you responded to his declaration of grace. My question is…How can you continue to do this without having a sense that it's contrary to the God you say dwells in you?

Do Christians sin? You bet. We grieve the Spirit that is in us. We quench the Spirit that is in us, but we then confess it. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness and be restored in relationship. Not salvifically (that's done) but in power.

Lastly, for us to be the people God created us to be, we must continually appropriate the power he gave us to do it. Now, we talked on the lowdown on fillin' up today by teaching you what it is not, gave you some of what it is, and next week I'm going to spend our entire time talking about what it means. How do you be filled with the Spirit on a regular basis…all of you, continually, consciously, for his glory and your good? Join us. Let's pray.

Father, I ask that as we sing this last song we make it our prayer in a more informed way than ever before, that when we ask for your Spirit to reign in us we are not asking for something freaky or foolish to happen. What we're saying is, "Would you accomplish your will in us?" which is that we would be conformed to the image of Christ, that increasingly, we would not be conformed to the world but we would be transformed by the renewing of our minds so that we might prove what the will of God is, that which is good and that which is acceptable and that which is perfect.

Would you do that as we avail ourselves through your Spirit, the Counselor, the gift you have given us, that we aren't left here as orphans. Father, we want to take your Word at face value today. It is better that you're not our pastor so that you can be our power, our presence, our hope, our counselor. Every one of us gets to go home with you today with a full measure of what we need to be salt and light in this community.

Would you reign in us so the world might know that you are a powerful God and be irresistibly drawn to you? As we sing this, Father, I pray for friends who might be here today who need to be convicted of sin and that there's a consequence and judgment to that sin but that there's righteousness available in the Son, who lived a perfect life and paid a debt he did not owe so that those of us who deserve that wrath have become children of light. Reign in us for your glory.

About 'The Low Down on Fillin' Up'

The Holy Spirit is the most misunderstood, misrepresented and ignored member of the Trinity. Because of the many misconceptions about who He and is, along with the fanaticism and foolishness too often associated with His ministry, too many followers of Christ avoid the constant relationship with Him necessary to honor the Lord. So what does it really mean to be 'filled with the Spirit'? In this three-part series, Todd Wagner takes a look at Ephesians 5:18, 'Do not be drunk with wine...but be filled with the Spirit.' If you wonder what it means or what it looks like to be continually filled with the Spirit, then this series is for you.