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Why is there so much confusion (or disharmony) surrounding the Holy Spirit? Who is the Holy Spirit? What does it mean to be filled by the Holy Spirit? What does it mean to be anointed? How can I know if something is of the Holy Spirit? As we continue our series, “The 7,” Todd Wagner answers these five questions surrounding the Holy Spirit.
Contending for the Faith
Hello, Watermark and friends who are jumping online with us. My name is Todd Wagner. A long time ago, I used to teach at a place called Watermark Community Church. It is great to be back with you guys this morning! It has been a really amazing last couple of weeks for me.
I have had my second daughter get engaged. I have had my first son (third child) get married. I have had my fourth child go off to college for the second time, my fifth child go off to college for the first time, and my sixth child go to high school for the first time. I've been kind of busy, and it's been fun. It's been awesome. I am excited to be back here with you this morning.
I will tell you when I took my fifth child, my son, to college… We took him up there last weekend, and then we stayed Saturday night. Then Sunday morning, we got up, and we went to church together. We gathered with a group of believers up in Stillwater. It was awesome. As we walked in, it was actually raining. I was jogging in.
I was running in to the church, and there was a greeter who was kind of there. I was trying to get out of the rain, and he kind of went, "Hey, hey, hey! Hi!" I said, "Hey!" I walked by him. He went, "Hey!" and he grabbed me. He went, "You're the '16 things you have to tell a kid before he is 16' guy!" I went, "Uh, yeah!" He went, "Oh good! You can go now" and let me go.
I thought to myself, "My gosh! I have given hundreds (I don't know, maybe thousands) of messages over the last 30 years." It was just so funny that was the message that guy had kind of locked onto or found and really loved and enjoyed. I've met folks from all over who have gone, "Hey, that message, man, has really been helpful to us."
People love lists, don't they? They love lists! I thought about probably one of the greatest self-help books or business books that's ever been written had a list on it. So The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Covey. I thought about the book that's kind of taken the world by storm with Jordan Peterson right now: 12 Rules for Life. People love lists!
I even looked at Proverbs. I thought about Proverbs 30, Agur, who is a collector of proverbs (probably some Solomon said; maybe some that were just also around at the time). In the book of Proverbs, chapter 30, Agur has one chapter that's kind of his. He spends the whole chapter using lists.
He says in Proverbs 30, verse 7, "Two things I ask of You [God] …before I die…" Now isn't that amazing? You're like, "Just two things?" Don't you want to know, "What are the two things that wise guy is going to ask God for?" Go look at it in Proverbs, chapter 30, verse 7.
A little bit later, he says in verse 18, "There are three things which are too wonderful for me…" One of them is the way a guy hangs out with chicks. That's one of them he really… I'm not kidding! He was like, "And the way of a man with a maid" (not chick, but it's a maid). He said, "I just can't figure it out (this woman/guy thing). It's crazy!"
He says in verse 21, "Under three things the earth quakes…" He says in verse 24, "Four things are small on the earth, but they are exceedingly wise…" He says in verse 29, "There are three things which are stately in their march…" They're stately and full of pride. "The lion… The strutting rooster, the male goat also, and a king when his army is with him."
He just talks and makes comments about them. Lists are really interesting, aren't they? I got a deal from the Huffington Post here. It says, "23 Reasons Why We Love Lists." Isn't that funny? I actually read it, and it's not just some throwaway list. They're actually right. "Lists get right to the point. No fluffy preambles are necessary. Lists simplify. Lists promise instant knowledge. Lists provide choices. Lists make it seem as if the list maker knows something that list readers don't."
People love lists! There are 23 reasons that guy observed. I want to tell you something. When I teach, I don't typically give lists. I'm just kind of like… You know? I mean, grab what you want. I know when I give messages where I give lists, people go, "That was one of my favorite messages!" because you're a bunch of Type A, ADD, left-brained folks who just don't want to sit in the glory of all wisdom. "Give me a list."
I'm going to give you a list today. Are you ready? We're talking about a topic that is massive. We're talking about a topic that is so misunderstood. We're talking about one of The 7. People have said to me, "I love this series." I think you like this series because you're like, "There are seven things I have to know. What are they?"
We're talking about the seven essentials. We're not talking about the gospel. That is the only thing and the only foundation on which you can build your life. That is the only thing that really matters. When we talk about the gospel, we talk about the fact that you need to know this one thing. I'm going to give you a list. There's one sin and only one sin that affects your relationship with God. There's only one sin by which God is bothered. Everything else is a derivative. It's a secondary sin, but there's only one primary sin.
The primary sin is we don't think God is good. We don't think we need God. We think we can live apart from him. We think we're better off without God. That primary sin puts us in a bad place. If God is life, light, and love, you leave life, you get death. You leave light, and you get darkness. You leave love; you get the world today. You get hate. You get war. You get division. You get racism. You get oppression. You get misogyny.
God just says, "I love you, and I don't want you to live thinking you can have life apart from me, because life doesn't exist apart from me." The one thing you have to know and the one thing I deliver to you every week as of first importance is Jesus Christ came into this world to save sinners, to save people who thought they could have life apart from God, and just to reconcile you to God.
There's only way for that to be reconciled. It's for an infinite, perfect, holy sacrifice to appease an infinite, perfect, holy God. It's God himself in the person of Jesus who died on the cross for you and was crucified, dead, buried, and raised on the third day so God could declare with power, "This is the one who can save you."
If you don't get that right, it doesn't matter what else we talk about. Once you get that right, what we're doing in this series is telling you there are seven implications of that truth you'd better circle, bold, and embrace. If you get these things wrong, you will not be a healthy, joyful, peace-filled, useful, fruitful follower of Christ. You'll miss out on the life Jesus intends for you that he saved you toward.
What we're walking you through are essential things for people who have come to know God who they must take that next step and understand now, "What are the implications of me saying Jesus is God, he is my Lord, God is good, and all his ways are peace?"
The first week we talked about the fact that you need to know God has chosen in his infinite perfection and kindness to not just leave us here to try and figure it out. He has revealed to us what we otherwise could not know: the infinite, perfect God worked through fallible, imperfect men to give us perfect truth. If God is God, he could do that, couldn't he? This book claims that's what he did.
God didn't just write down a bunch of ideas. He told you a story anchored in history that you could test it. Put it up against archeology. It doesn't contradict science. It's not a science book, which is a good thing because science books change about every six months. There's nothing in here that contradicts science. It's God's revelation to us, and you'd better know the Word of God is your authority, your conscience, and your guide. It is the very revelation of God, and you'd better treat it with holy reverence and drink deeply from it.
Secondly, we talked about you'd better know who God is himself. God is one, and yet he has revealed himself in three persons. We talked last week about the Trinity. We didn't say last week that God is one person yet three persons. That would be a contradiction. We said, "No, God is one, but he has revealed himself in three equally divine, distinct, relating to each other in love, community, and mutual exaltation persons."
The Father is not the Son. The Son is not the Spirit. The Spirit is not the Father. But the Spirit is God, the Son is God, and the Father is God. This week we're going to start to talk about some members of the Godhead. We're going to talk about the one who is the most confusing and the most essential for you and me today.
We're going to talk about the Holy Spirit. The problem with the Holy Spirit is he has a bad marketing campaign. A long time ago, the apostles of the day (those sent forth to talk about God and teach us about God) wrote a little creed. In that creed, he was called the Holy Ghost. Now let me just tell you something. I don't care if you're Casper, and you're a friendly ghost. You're still a ghost, and you wig me out a little bit.
When we think about the Spirit of God and he is called the Holy Ghost, I'm like, "I can't cuddle with a ghost!" I don't sing a song, "What a friend we have in the Ghost." It doesn't go like that, right? What a friend we have in Jesus. I like Jesus. I get along with Jesus. I'm going to tell you today five things you need to know about the Holy Spirit. I could go everywhere, but I'm going to give you a list.
Are you ready? Here we go. Here are five things. I'm going to tell you why there is so much confusion or disharmony surrounding the Holy Spirit. I'm going to tell you who the Holy Spirit is. I'm going to tell you what it means to be filled with the Holy Spirit. I'm going to tell you what it means to be anointed by the Holy Spirit. I'm going to tell you how you can know if something is of the Spirit of God. Off we go.
1._ Why is there so much confusion surrounding the Holy Spirit?_ Part of it is because the role of the Spirit today is so significant. If I told you there was (I'm going to say it this way to start) something… I'm going to tell you what that something is. It's not a something; it's a someone.
If there was something that the role of it was to accomplish the purposes of a loving Father by exalting the only way men could be reconciled to God and to create in them a new life and to sanctify them into all the fullness of life God intended and to unify that group that was sanctified together and you were the enemy of that God, wouldn't you want to confuse people about that thing? I know I would.
Boy, is there anybody who the church is more confused about more than the Holy Spirit? It just makes people uncomfortable. I don't know what you think of when you think of the Holy Spirit. There are a lot of different ideas out there. Is he an impersonal force? Is it kind of like Obi-Wan who is out there whispering to Luke, "Use the Force, Luke"?
Is it like Bruce Willis in The Sixth Sense that he is there but only can be seen by certain people? (Spoiler alert, but shame on you if you haven't seen it. The movie is 20 years old.) Is he the reason certain people do crazy things on TV in a certain kind of worship service? All of those things are out there that people have kind of suggested. So much about what the Holy Spirit does is so misrepresented.
If I was the enemy of God and I didn't want you to have an intimate relationship with him, what I would tell you is the greatest evidence that you had an intimate relationship with him is if you disengaged your mind and you spoke in babble that did not edify your heart or really (frankly) wasn't helpful to anybody around you. I would invent something called a "prayer language" that was no language at all but a bunch of just syllables thrown together that made you feel like you were doing something spiritual.
There's a reason there is so much abuse with the Holy Spirit because the Enemy hates you, and he doesn't want you to understand the saving power of God, the sanctifying work of God, the enabling presence of God, the unifying love of God. In 1 Corinthians, chapter 14, I can tell you where this confusion comes from, and it's not God.
That's why this book is so important. That's why I started with God's Word. We don't need to speculate on who God is. We can just listen to God say, "This is who I am. Test me." Every word of God is tested, and he reproves those who add to it and take from it.
First Corinthians 14 says, though, as you go out there and as you are trying to process what truth is… Now remember to whom the books of 1 and 2 Corinthians were written. When the church gathered in a town called Corinth, the Bible had not yet been assimilated completely. The Bible already existed. The books we have in our Bible were already there, but there were other people who said, "I'm an apostle. I'm sent forth from God. I'm going to tell you what you need to know about God."
Some of them were trying to drag people back into a works-based system. Some of them were called Gnostics. They were people who said, "Jesus is fine, but you need Jesus plus something." There were gospels of Thomas, gospels of Philip. There were apocryphal books. That's actually the Real Truth. Real Quick. this week (What is the Apocrypha?).
All the books were around. Just what hadn't happened yet is the church hadn't gotten together and said, "These are the books we all believe are inspired by God and given to us by God. They talk about biblical things, and they don't contradict one another. They all are from an eyewitness of the work of God or from (if you will) a scribe or a personal associate with one of those eyewitnesses."
That's how you got your New Testament. Our Bible has been around for a long time in the Old Testament. The Jews had said, "These are kind of the books." By the way, the apocryphal books that were written really during the 400 years of silence before Jesus came were around. The Jews knew about them. They said, "There's some good history in there. There are some things that are kind of true, but there are other things in there we don't embrace as Holy Scripture." Watch the Real Truth. Real Quick.
You need to look at this book because this is what it says. It says when someone is speaking to you, when the Corinthians had others who came into their town who said, "Thus says the Lord," it says, "Hey, listen. When prophets speak in your midst, let other people pass judgment on what they say." This is important. "But if a revelation is made to another who is seated, the first one must keep silent."
In other words, if somebody is telling you and saying things about what God wants you to know, if he is bringing forth truth from the Scriptures, from the prophets, or as God is working, it says you have to keep silent when one is talking because if you all prophesy at the same time, it's going to be chaos.
"For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted." Now watch what he says here in verse 32. "And the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets." What does that mean? It means Scripture is subject to itself. It means when somebody comes to you and says, "I am speaking by the enabling of God…" That's what prophets do. They either tell you what God is going to do, or (more often today probably) they tell you what God has said, forthtelling. They speak prophetically.
I hope I do that well. I am bringing forth truth for you from God as I pray, "Lord, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight." I am a servant of Christ and a steward of the mystery of God. I'm not making stuff up. I'm not telling you what I think. I am a teacher of the Word of God, and I'm useful to you only in the way that I rightly bring forth that which has already been revealed as God's Word.
This is what it says in 2 Peter, chapter 1, verse 21. It says, "…no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved [carried along] by the Holy Spirit spoke from God." That's what I pray I am every week: carried along by God to share with you what God wants you to know about him.
Now watch. He is saying to the Corinthian people who don't have the church gathered agreeing, "These are the books that are from the Lord" yet, "When they come to you and say, 'This is what the Lord wants you to know,' make sure you subject that to what you have already heard God say. It should never contradict it." Why? "For God is not a God of confusion but of peace…"
Where is the confusion coming from about the Holy Spirit? Answer: not God. It's coming from men who don't subject themselves to the Word of God. It's coming from men who take the things that are in the Scripture (some of which, Peter writes in 2 Peter 3, are difficult to understand) and, in their instability and in their lack of careful study of Scripture, are teaching things that aren't so to their own and others' destruction. That's why there's so much confusion. That's why you have to pay attention to these next four things. Here's the second question.
2._ Who is the Holy Spirit?_ You have to listen carefully when I say this because the Holy Spirit is not a gift from God. The Holy Spirit is the gift of the presence of God today. Now let me say that to you again. Here it is. The Holy Spirit is the gift of the presence of God, not a gift from God. The Holy Spirit is God. He is not a force. He is a he. That's the way he is revealed in Scripture. He is the gift of the presence of God in your life that makes you healthy, joyful, equipped, useful, peace-filled, and fruitful in your service for God.
He is the means through which God is actively present and working in the world. He is the helper, comforter, sustainer, protector, and sanctifying power for you and for me. If I told you I had a special guest for you this morning, and I want you to hear from him, and if you believe he is an excellent pastor/communicator, you can have him as your pastor…
I introduce to you the incarnate Son of God, Jesus Christ, and he came out here today. He spoke, and you go, "We like Todd. Once every 20 years, he uses lists. Then we can follow him. It's awesome. Jesus? That was pretty good. I just watched the way he loved people afterward. It was like he was a true shepherd. I just felt like the Spirit of God was on Jesus. I felt like Jesus would be a great pastor of our church."
I stood up before you afterward, and I said, "Do you guys want Jesus as your pastor?" Jesus would say to you, "Wait. Before you vote on that…" By the way, you should vote yes. Jesus said to you, "I have a deal for you. I'll tell you what. Rather than have me as pastor, you can either have me as pastor, or I could give you the person of the Spirit." What would this church choose?
Jesus could be the pastor of Watermark Community Church, or the Holy Spirit could be present at Watermark Community Church. Well, let me tell you what you should choose. John, chapter 14. Jesus is having a similar conversation with his disciples. He says, "Listen." This is John 14, verse 16. He says, "I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper…"
"I've been a help to you. I've told you what is true. I've rebuked what is wrong. I've shown you I have the ability and the power to reverse the effects of the fall. I'm going to go, and I'm going to pay for the debt of your sin." That's what he is telling them in John 13-16. He tells them, "I'm going to go away." They're like, "You don't go away! You're our helper." He says, "But watch! I'm going to go." "…He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth…"
That's a much better name than Holy Ghost. The Spirit of truth is one of the names of the Holy Spirit. "…whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you." Now wait a minute. How was the Spirit of God already abiding with them? Answer: he was abiding with them in the person of Jesus Christ.
Remember Jesus was fully God. Jesus never stopped being God. He was always God, even when he was here on earth. We know what Jesus did. In order to identify as man so he could be an appropriate substitute for us in judgment, as he was fully God, he not only clothed the glory of his eternal deity in the flesh but also he chose not to appropriate his deity for his own benefit when he was here.
You and I can't turn stones into bread. You and I can't just wiggle our nose like Bewitched (60s reference) and change things. We have to pray God would do something. Jesus said, "I'm going to do the same thing." That's why Jesus said, "I'm going to be subject to the Father. I don't do anything the Father doesn't want me to do because as the incarnate Son of God, the Father is greater than I am."
We already know the Father is not greater than the Son, but in the incarnation when the Son came and walked as you and I walk and was tempted as you and I are tempted, he said, "The Father is greater than I am. These things I do that are amazing (walking on water, feeding the multitude, raising people from the dead) is not me, Jesus the man. That is God the Spirit who is doing these things. I can't do these things apart from the Spirit."
He is with the disciples, and he is saying, "The Spirit is already abiding with you in the person of me as I yield myself to him." What he is going to say to them is, "I'm about to take off, and I'm not going to leave you as orphans." Once you get a taste of God being present, it's not fun to hear God is checking out. What he says is, "I'm going to stay with you, but it's not going to be in the corporal, physical manifestation the Son was." "For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form…" He is gone. "I'm not going to leave you as orphans."
Now listen. This is a great promise because even Moses… When Moses was around, he was just a Bedouin. He was just wandering around the desert shepherding sheep. God appears to Moses, and he says, "I have surely seen the affliction of My people…and have given heed to their cry…for I am aware of their sufferings."
Man, how comforting is that that God sees the cries and the sufferings of his people! He says to Moses, "Therefore, come now, and I will send you to Pharaoh, so that you may bring My people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt [out of bondage] ." Now Moses is like, "Okay, that's great, but how am I going to do that?"
In verse 11 he says in effect, "Wait a minute! How is this going to all happen? How am I going to go through this?" In verse 12 of Exodus 3, this is what God says: "Certainly I will be with you…" Moses says, "How am I going to do this?" God just says, "I will be with you." Moses is like, "I don't know. What do you mean you're going to be with me? How are you going to be with me?" He just said, "I'm going to be with you." That's the promise.
A little bit later in Joshua, chapter 1, verse 5, he says this to Joshua: "Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you." Now if there are two guys in the Old Testament who shook it up and did some amazing things for people, it was Moses and Joshua. If you're Joshua and you hear you're going to have what Moses had, you're like all about that.
What's so interesting is Moses was uncomfortable with this Holy Spirit idea as well. "What do you mean you're going to be with me? I need more!" God said, "No, Moses. All you need is me. God plus one is a majority. If I am for you, it doesn't matter who is against you," even the greatest power in the history of the world at the time. "You just go."
Moses, like you, said, "I want more! Give me more! Give me more! Give me more!" God just looked around, and he went, "Here. Take this stick." He gave it to him. It's like a baby, "Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!" It's just like stick the pacifier in his mouth. You know, he is just sucking and shut him up. That stick had no power. It was a pacifier for Moses. It wasn't a magic stick, but it sure made Moses feel a little bit better.
We like to hold on to things. Well, Jesus lets you hold on to him in seeking him through the Holy Spirit. Here's what Jesus is saying. "Joshua, Moses, church, I will be with you. Me plus you is a majority. If I'm for you, who cares who is against you? I'm greater than even the prince of the power of the air. You and I can do this thing. We can change the world. We can help you live in a holy way in a wicked and perverse world where your flesh is still wicked and perverse. You have everything you need for godliness."
Verse 5 of John 16. Jesus is continuing in this little message because the disciples' heads were spinning. "What do you mean you're leaving? What do you mean you're leaving?" He says, "But now I am going to Him who sent Me; and none of you asks Me, 'Where are You going?'""Becauseyou're just shell-shocked I told you I was leaving." Verse 6: "But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart." Which it would.
If Jesus were here, he said, "I'm taking off. I'm not going to be your pastor anymore." This is Jesus to us: "But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away." Now in this sense, he is saying, "It's to your advantage that I go away to a cross where I'll bear the sins of the world, because God is going to make me who was rich to become poor, so in my poverty, you might become rich. God is going to make mewho knew no sin to become sin on your behalf that you might become the righteousness of God in him."
He is specifically talking about the fact that he is going to go to a cross. That's why he said, "If I don't go away, if I don't reconcile you to God, then you can't have a relationship with God. I'm going to make the relationship with God possible. When you have a relationship with God, the presence of God in your life is going to be the Helper." Who is the Helper? That's another good name for the Holy Spirit.
Who is the Holy Spirit? He is God. He is a comforter, sustainer, provider, protector, truth helper. He says, "But if I go, I will send Him to you. And He, when He comes…" He will do these three things. He "…will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment."
That's why I don't try and convert people. That's why I don't try and convince people of something. I try and share the truth of God, and the Spirit of God is going to be the one who penetrates your heart the way he penetrated mine and allows you to see sin, allows you to see what true righteousness is, and allows you to understand judgment so you hit your knees and cry out for mercy.
Then through the provision of God, you're comforted that provision has been provided. So I'm not trying to emotionally manipulate you. I'm not trying to work up a sense so you'll come forward and convince you that you should agree with me. I just want to be a person who shares with you the truth of God. The Spirit will do the work in your life he needs to do and wants to do.
What you should do right now is go, "Lord, don't let me miss your truth if I'm hearing it now. Lord, help me be discerning that the truth I'm hearing is from your Word." This is one of the things that really frustrates me. It frustrates me when people go, "Well, there's a real movement of God over there. God is at work in that church."
"Because they are actively using the gifts of the Spirit."
"Really? What are they doing?"
"Well, they have this thing where they pray. They don't really know what it means, and no one else knows what it means, but they think it makes them spiritual."
"They have people who speak. You know, they're prophets, and they're telling you things we don't really get here."
Let me just tell you something. It should concern you if you get excited to hear from God when somebody closes their Bible. That should concern you, if you get more excited to hear when somebody says, "We're going to now move to a prophetic ministry," and you're like, "Oh good. Pay attention here because we're about to get something."
That's Gnosticism, that Jesus is good, the Word is good, but there's more. I believe if God wants to, he can do whatever he wants to today. He can still speak. He can allow me to speak in a tongue I don't have that is a known language to other people. I believe God can do that. I believe if God wants to, he can heal you of any disease. I pray he would, but when I pray, I pray consistent with the Word.
Jesus says to his disciples, "When you pray, pray this way." This is not a model prayer. It's not a magic prayer, but when you pray, pray this way: to your Father you have an intimate relationship with who is in heaven who is holy. You're not holy, so acknowledge the fact he is not like you, and apart from the grace of Christ, you could never know him.
"Oh, our Father who art in heaven whose name is holy." Then he says, "When you pray, pray this way: 'Not my will, but your will be done,'" which means I believe all the time… I pray for my friends who are sick that God would heal them.
I don't mind telling God, "God, if I were you, I think I'd heal everybody of cancer. God, if I were you, I don't think anybody would get a broken arm that would stick out of their flesh. God, if I were you, I'd never have a baby who wouldn't make it to term. But I know you're God, and I'm not. I know you're good. I know you're infinite in your wisdom, and I'm not. I know you're working out your kingdom program on this earth that I don't really fully understand yet. I just know you don't make mistakes. So I trust you."
I'm going to pray God does even maybe a greater miracle. You live in a world ravaged by sin, but you do it by such sustaining power of God in your life that you have hope even in the midst of hopelessness, that you have joy even in the midst of bad circumstances by the enabling of God, that you still praise him and sing to him even though you can't really see how it's going to fall out yet and break down yet.
People go, "Who are you people? What do you know that I don't know?" Answer: God is not done yet in revealing himself. The reason he lets his people here get cancer, lose children, and be betrayed by a spouse is they live in a world still ravaged by sin, but they themselves have been delivered from sin.
"Though they're still in a body of death in a world defined by death, they know me. So they sing of my lovingkindness and justice. They praise my name forever because they know something you don't know because they've been convicted by the Spirit of sin, righteousness, and judgment. They are a holy people who live among you. You ought to know what they know." Jesus says in John 16, verse 12,
"I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you."
Just like it said in 2 Peter, chapter 1, verse 21, the Holy Spirit came, and men moved by God spoke for God. The Holy Spirit brought to remembrance of John and of Matthew the things he wanted recorded in Scripture. He gave to Paul and to Peter the things he wanted recorded in Scripture so we could know the things that are true.
Peter himself said, "You think it's an amazing thing to be on the Mount of Transfiguration? I'll tell you what's even better: having the surer Word of God, not some experience." The Spirit of God is personable, fully present, and fully necessary. Who is the Spirit? He is the one apart from whom we can do nothing. This is the reason most of you are not experiencing the abundant Christian life.
You need to know something. We don't teach behavior modification here. We don't give you pep talks on the weekend. I'm not here to fire you up so in your flesh you can modify your flesh for the next seven days. I'm not here even to help you be filled with the Holy Spirit. I am here to remind you why you want to continually be being filled with the Spirit. Ahh! Let's go to the third question.
3._ What does it mean to be filled with the Holy Spirit?_ It means (among other things) you have the power necessary to do everything God wants you to do: to live holy and pure lives, to bring life to dead people, to "…proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me."
What it means to be filled with the Holy Spirit is you can have victory over sin. It doesn't mean you aren't still going to be subject to temptation. It means you aren't a slave to sin, and you have everything you need to not sin. Now because you and I are not like Jesus and will not perfectly yield to the Holy Spirit, we are not going to be sinless while we are here.
The more we learn of God, are reminded of the goodness of God, and see the glory of God worked out in the lives of others, we will seek him more and cling to him more. We will sin less and less. That's called sanctification. What does it mean to be filled with the Spirit? Let me just start with this. It doesn't mean you won't be tempted.
Well, let me just show you. Luke, chapter 4. "Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led around by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil." This is why it just saddens me when I see people who go, "I'm not going to really tell other people where I'm being sordidly tempted." Man, that's the first thing you should do. When Jesus was tempted by the Devil… Again if you follow down that Luke passage a little bit longer, when it gets to verse 13, it says the Devil "…left Him until an opportune time."
Here's an opportune time. It's the moment where he is about to be betrayed, the moment when he is about to be stripped, beaten, mocked, nailed to a cross, humiliated, have his followers abandon him, and people think he was a madman. That's when the Devil shows up again and says, "Your Father doesn't love you. You're a fool to trust him. If he was good, there would be another way."
What did Jesus do in that moment? I'll tell you what he did. He went to his brothers and said, "Pray for me. I am struggling to trust the Father." Is that a model for you? I think it is. When you're filled with the Spirit, it doesn't mean you're not tempted. It just drives me crazy when people don't act like they still have some area of their life that they're not sordidly prone to wander in. Jesus tells us what to do. He tells us to share our burdens with one another and say, "This is kind of where my flesh defaults."
I tell my guys in my community all the time, "It's high tide in this area. My flesh is pulling me in this area." What does it mean to be filled with the Holy Spirit? It doesn't mean you're not tempted. It does mean you make war against sin. It should concern you if you are a person who has a relationship with God at which moment you are fully identified with God and his Spirit. You're baptized in the Spirit the moment you believe, the Scripture says in 1 Corinthians 12.
Because you're identified with the Spirit, you should then walk in the Spirit, and you should be continually being controlled by the Spirit. When you're controlled by the Spirit, you don't sin. When you are in relationship with the Spirit, you don't sin easily. Let me say it to you again. People who at any given moment are filled with the Spirit are not sinning. People who have a relationship with God (as all true believers do) should not sin easily.
It's why it really bothers me when entire churches are formed, and they say something like, "It's okay if you come here and you embrace this sin because God made you this way. He loves you just the way you are, so it's okay if you keep doing the things you're doing and you say you're a holy one of God."
I'm going to tell you something. No, it's not. God didn't make you that way. The fall made you that way. Sin makes you that way. The Holy Spirit wants to woo you out of sin to life indeed. It's also why we don't teach reparative therapy here. I'm not trying to repair your flesh. The Bible has no program to curb your flesh, to make your flesh less alive except death. Okay? When you die, God will take this body of death and will give you a new, glorious body that will not be racked with and permeated by sin.
Now listen to me. I have seen no improvement in my flesh in 30 years of knowing Christ. I'm still a lust bucket. I'm still prone to anger. I'm still controlling. I'm still petty. Todd Wagner is not a good guy. Todd Wagner in relationship with Jesus Christ yielded to the Spirit of Christ is God's man.
My flesh hasn't changed. My life and character have changed because I am subject now not to the spirit which seems right to Todd but the Spirit of Christ who is the gift of God who I have embraced and been given when I understood the kindness of God revealed to me that he would die for a wretch like me.
What does it mean to be filled with the Spirit? It doesn't mean your flesh won't want to have multiple heterosexual relationships like mine does. It doesn't mean your flesh maybe doesn't want to have homosexual relationships like yours might.
It does mean you go, "I am not to be a polygamist. I am not to be adulterous. I'm not to be same-sex active because it's not holy. It's not good for me. God loves me, and I'm going to walk in his way. I'm not going to lean on my own understanding, but in all my ways, I'm going to acknowledge him. I'm going to be filled with the Spirit."
Now what does it mean to be filled with the Spirit? Here we go. Ephesians 5:18. It says there, "And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation…" In other words, when you drink wine… There's a reason we call liquor stores "spirit shops" because when people pop a top and they start pounding it, it's like they're controlled by something else. When you're controlled by alcohol, you don't become a better driver, a better husband, a better wife, a better son, a better citizen. You become a danger to yourself and to others.
Don't be controlled by alcohol, but instead (watch this) "…be filled with the Spirit…" Now when you're filled with the Spirit, watch what happens. There are three things. You are "…speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord."
What does that mean? It means the Spirit of God will transform the way you communicate and the way you speak. It doesn't mean you'll speak in a tongue no one can understand. It means the tongue you have will change, and you'll speak the truth of God. Kindness will be on your tongue, and words of life will be on your tongue, not self-advancing, destructive, biting words, but building-up, edifying words, life-giving words.
Secondly, "…always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father." It means your attitude is transformed. It means when things aren't going the way you want them to go, you don't get bitter. You don't say, "God, you don't love me."
You go, "God, I don't really know what you're doing, but I know you're good. I know you make even the cross work out for my greatest benefit, which was probably the greatest act of horror in human history. If you can turn that for my greatest benefit, even this loss of child, thiscancer, this betrayal by a spouse, I'm not going to curse you. I know you're up to something, Lord, even if it's just glorifying yourself in the way I continue to worship you in the midst of a world that is still racked by sin."
Your heart is strengthened. Your tongue is changed. Your attitude is changed. Then watch this. You are "…subject to one another…" and relationships are transformed. Your life changes relationally. That's why your marriage is different. It's why right after this, he says, "Hey, husbands you're going to be the head of your wife, just like Christ is the head of the church. Wives, you're going to be subject to your husbands."
The truth is you're going to be subject to one another. There are still roles and distinction just like there are roles and distinction in the Trinity. There's mutual admiration and exaltation, and the Father says, "The Son is greater than I. The Son will have the name above all names." The Son says, "I don't do anything except if it's the Father's will." The Spirit says, "Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life." Jesus says, "I can't do anything apart from the Spirit."
It's what marriage should be. It's two who become one in mutual subjection, even though there is clear distinction and roles. Women are subject to whom? A guy who does nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind, considers her as more important than himself, who does nothing but exalt her. He has in himself the same attitude which was in Christ Jesus. It's glorious. It changes your relationships.
Now here's what you need to know about this (the "be filled"). I'm going to put this up there. This is what this means. God gave us his Word in the context of language, so you have to understand rules of language. When you see the phrase "be filled," it's kind of confusing because you think you fill something that's empty. My car just ran out of gas. It was empty. I went to Costco, and I filled it up. That's not the use of the word filled here in Ephesians 5:18.
Even in English, we use the word filled two ways. We have an empty glass. We fill it with water. We also say, "On the way to fill your car up with gas, Todd, when you changed lanes without using your blinker and that gentleman got angry at you, tried to run you off the road (this didn't happen; it could've), made interesting hand gestures at you, his face got red, he pulled out a gun, and he tapped it on the window, you would say he was filled with rage."
That guy who just raped some women, we'd say he was filled with lust. Now we don't think he went and drank a bottle of lust. We're just saying there was an emotion that controlled him. What is going on here in Ephesians 5:18 is he is saying, "You should be continually being controlled by the Spirit." That's the way the word is used here. Watch. It's be. It's an imperative. It's a command. It's a plural command, which means all of you all the time be being controlled by. That's what it means here with filled.
It's an imperative plural. It is a passive, which means it's something that happens to you. It's not something you do. It's not behavior modification. You go, "Not my will but your will be done." It is "bodily mortification" to use a term from John Owen. You die to yourself. That's what Jesus said. "If anyone wants to be my disciple, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me." It's hard to continually die to your flesh, because your flesh is like, "Me! Me! Me! Me! Do! Do! Do! Do! Do! Do! Get! Get! Get!"
I go, "I know there's a better way. It's God's way, not my way, which seems right but leads to death." I am going to trust the Lord with all my heart and lean not on my own understanding, but in all my ways, acknowledge him. Synonym: be filled with the Spirit. See, here's the thing. You don't come to church to get filled up. You don't go to get this feeling and that you're filled up. Like, "Okay, I'm filled up." That's bad theology.
You come here that I might remind you of the kindness and the glory of God that you would be filled continually. You would want to continually be yielded to the kindness of God that wants you to walk in all the glory he intends for you. Do you understand that?
We're here. We're like, "Yes! Yes! Yes! God's way is the good way! Yes! I want to meditate on his Word. Yes, I want to be obedient to him, not so he'll love me because but he loves me and he is good. He died for me. I want to live for him, so I'm going to continually ask myself all the time every day in this moment, 'Jesus, how do you want me to love? How do you want me to respond? How do you want me to steward this money? How do you want me to handle my flesh, which says, "Do this"?'"
Well, he would tell you to wage war against your fleshly lusts or to abstain from fleshly lusts, which wage war against your soul. "You're not just defined by your desires. You're defined by your love for me and my redemption of you. Walk in the redemption." That's what it means. It's passive. It's something that happens to you. Let God and your understanding of God change your life.
Then it says right there it's not just an imperative and passive. It's perfect present, which means it's an action that happened in the past that should continually have effect in the present. When it says, "Be filled with the Spirit," it's really saying, "You…all of you…be continually being controlled by, in the present, the past consequence of your understanding the kindness of God." Are you with me?
People just say all the time, "Well, man, I just wish I had more of the Spirit." You can't get more of the Spirit! Once you come to know Christ, you have all of the Spirit. The question is does the Spirit have all of you? At any given moment, you're like, "No, right now my flesh has me. Right now this is Todd at work and not the Spirit of God." That is when we confess, repent, and make amends.
4._ What does it mean to be anointed?_ Now I'm just going to tell you guys this. I am anointed of God. I don't want to say that to you without explaining it. I'm purposefully pausing because you're like, "Whoa!" First of all, Jesus was anointed of God. "Is he just saying he is like Jesus?" Watch this. Jesus says this in Luke, chapter 4, verse 14. He says, "And Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit…" There it is again. "And as was His custom, He entered the synagogue…"
He asked for the book of the prophet Isaiah. Verse 17 and then verse 18 says, "And He opened the book…" He read from chapter 61. He says, "The Spirit of the Lord** is upon Me, because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the **** Lord ***."*
He shut the Isaiah scroll and said, "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." That is a messianic text. Jesus is saying, "The Messiah is here." Now I said I'm anointed. I am not telling you the Messiah is here. I am telling you the Spirit of God is, because Jesus went to a cross for me, reconciled me to God. When he reconciled me to God, he gave me his Spirit. Let me prove it to you. Watch this.
Actually, in Acts, chapter 2, Peter is doing what people who are filled with the Spirit do: giving glory to God and testifying about the favorable year of the Lord. They're going, "Man, you guys are drunk." Peter goes, "These guys aren't drunk. This is what Joel prophesied about!" This is Acts 2:17 and following.
He says, "…I will pour forth of My Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and your daughter shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Even on My bondslaves, both men and women, I will in those days pour forth of My Spirit…" In John, chapter 3, verse 34, John the Baptist is talking. He says, "For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God; for…" Why? "…He gives the Spirit without measure."
In John, chapter 17, verse 18, Jesus is talking to the Father, and he says to the Father, "As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world." The ones the Father sends in the world, he gives his Spirit. When he gives you his Spirit, you are what is called anointed. I am anointed of God.
Sometimes I hear men use this in a manipulative way. They go, "Hey, somebody came up and blew on me." Or, "Somebody came up and said something to me." Can I tell you a true story? In 2003, 2004, we were at Lake Highlands. There were several hundred folks at Watermark, maybe trickling now up over a thousand. We're at 20-something thousand plus today.
There was like a thousand-something folks who were there, and a guy walked up to me. I had just gotten up and just pleaded with people to walk with God and to continually yield to him. I said there was so much more we can do for the glory of Christ. I went, and I sat back down. During the closing song, a guy I had never seen before came up to me. I've never seen him again. I don't know. He still might be at Watermark. He was an African-American guy. At the time, there weren't a whole lot of African Americans who were hanging out at Watermark.
Out of nowhere, this guy shows up. It's down front. It's kind of dark. I just felt this hand on my shoulder while we were singing. He just says, "God wants you to know he is pleased with you. God wants you to know he wants to pour out his power on and through you, that this is going to be a great work for him. You should continue in this work, and his blessing will come."
I remember when he did, I kind of turned and went, "Man, well, thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you." He kind of walked away. He didn't talk to me again. I've never seen him again. Maybe you're here. I don't know. Come talk to me again. Can I just tell you something? I don't really care. It might have been an angel, an angel I was unaware of, right?
Do you know what? He didn't tell me anything I didn't already know. The reason God has continued to work in this place is not because I was anointed by some angel. It's because when you know Jesus, you are baptized into his Spirit, and you should be continually yielded to his Spirit.
You should glorify him, and God is pleased with people who seek to live in a relationship with him. You don't need anointed ones of God. You don't need somebody to blow on you or speak prophetically over you because I have a prophetic Word made surer that says you're already the anointed of God. Amen!
Can I just say this about anointed men of God? The more anointed a man is, the less he makes you think he needs him. You don't need some anointed guy to come through your town who is not usually in your town. You need people who have been reminded that it's good to walk with God in your presence. You go to war with them, and you love them. They encourage you and speak words of truth to you.
5._ How do you know if it's the work of the Spirit?_ The answer is just simply this. You test it. Right? First John, chapter 4, verse 1, says, "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world." Chapter 5, verse 20, of 1 Thessalonians: "Do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully."
The prophets are tested by the prophets. If you get more excited when a prophet speaks than when somebody opens their Bible and tells you what God has already said, that's a problem. I have no problem with prophet-speak. Just speak it, not some general metaphor, not some horoscope that could apply to anybody.
Second Corinthians 11:13 through 14: "For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light." Acts 17:11: "…examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so." John 16: " [The Spirit of God] will guide you into all the truth." That's how you know.
If something is marked by Christ's exalting work that brings life to others, it's of the Spirit. How do you know the Spirit is present? Because love is active. Love is acting for another's greatest benefit without a regard for self. That's how you know the Spirit is present. How do you know the Spirit is present? Then all the glory of the Spirit is there. Love is there. Joy is there. Peace is there. Patience is there. Goodness is there. Faithfulness is there.
Can I just tell you something? I'll close with this. You have to learn to pray correctly. Last week there was a prayer request. We get these all the time. It was submitted on Click & Pray. I know what they meant, but I'm going to teach you how to pray. Stop praying for patience. Stop praying your flesh would be dead in the sense that you would no longer be sordidly tempted in your flesh. Your flesh is always going to be tempted.
What you want to pray is that you would abstain from fleshly lusts. Here was the prayer request. It was submitted. "Please pray God would change my heart," as if your flesh would no longer… This is not probably what they meant, but if you're praying, "God, make it so I no longer want to sin in the way I feel, in the way my flesh or my human emotion wants to," your human flesh and emotion is always going to want to.
What she is saying, though (if it's biblical), is, "Lord, I desire to continually be controlled by your Spirit and your way of peace." When she says, "God, I pray you would heal me as I battle anxiety," if she is saying, "Lord, don't let me be anxious again," that's not a good prayer. You're going to be anxious again. What you do in your anxiety determines whether it's sin or not.
What you do in your compulsion to look at porn determines whether it's sin or not. A temptation to look at porn is not sin. Saying, "It's so powerful, I have to be a slave to it" is blasphemous. Greater is he who is in you than your flesh and the god who is in this world. The Spirit of God is how you're healthy, joyful, useful, fruitful, and peaceful. What a friend we have in the Spirit. May you continually be controlled by him.
Father, I thank you for this list and this truth. Would you help us now to go out of here not with any different power if we knew you coming in than we have going out. We now maybe know more that what I need to do is to follow you, which means deny myself, this body of death. Thanks be to God that you go with us, and you remind us that you're good, and all your ways are peace.
Lord, we want to go, "Not my will, but your will be done." Not, "How do I want to respond to my wife now?" Not, "How do I want to respond to my insecurity about finances now?" Lord, how would you have me live in this moment? What does your Word say? Let me be subject to it. May you, Lord, sustain us, enable us, empower us to abstain from fleshly lusts, which wage war against our soul.
May our soul forever be conformed into the beauty you intend for us so the world says, "Who are you people? Who is your Daddy?" We can do what the Spirit always does: lift up Jesus and his saving, redemptive grace. Would you do that? Make us a Spirit-filled church, people (all of us) who are continually putting to work the Spirit of God, which we have come to know is your work in us and through us in this world. We love you, and we thank you. In Jesus' name, amen.