Thursday, January 28, 2021

To "Be Filled" with the Spirit

 

In his book Baptism and Fullness: The Work of the Holy Spirit Today, author John Stott provides his readers with insight on what it means to “be filled” with the Spirit, a verb that Paul speaks of in his letter to the Ephesians (5:17-20). While Stott’s list of four points is meant to be understood in the general sense of practicing Christianity, today let us view each of them through the lens of our small group ministries and how we as small group leaders can interpret the concept within our group experience.

The Command to “Be Filled”
First, Stott explains that to “be filled” with the Spirit is written in the imperative mood. According to Paul, we Christians are marked in the Lord with the seal of the Holy Spirit. This same Holy Spirit acts as a deposit who guarantees our inheritance that God has promised to us (Ephesians 1:13-14). Another way to look at it can be that the Holy Spirit opens a bank account in our hearts and makes a minimum deposit (salvation) when we give our lives to Christ. This bank account can never be closed and God will continue to conduct His spiritual banking in our hearts until we depart from this earth. Paul commanding us to “be filled” with the Spirit can be considered as a call for us to acknowledge that the Holy Spirit is indeed a partner with us as we lead our groups. We must not ignore His presence or His vital role when we are ministering to others.

All of us are to “Be Filled”
Second, Stott explains that to “be filled” with the Spirit is in the plural form. Just as we saw from Ephesians 1:13-14, all Christians are marked in Christ with the seal of the Holy Spirit. As small group leaders, we are called to shepherd our flock and to help them realize this spiritual truth. While the evil one may try his hardest to make us forget the fact that the Holy Spirit resides in each of our hearts, we small group leaders have the opportunity to help those within our groups to remember that they too have the indwelling presence of the Spirit. As we minister to our group members, we can pray with them and ask the Lord for more opportunities to invite Him in and to recognize the Holy Spirit’s work throughout our lives.

Our Faith in God’s Grace to “Be Filled”
Third, Stott explains that to “be filled” with the Spirit is in the passive voice. For some, understanding the grace of God may be one of the largest hurdles to overcome as a believer. Whether it is a tendency to practice the extremes of "legalistic Christianity" (where individuals feel we have to earn God’s grace) or "watered down Christianity" (where individuals feel they are covered by God’s grace even if they continuously and intentionally sin with egregiousness), we leaders serve our group members well by periodically revisiting the nuts and bolts of the Christian faith. Should any our members begin to wander and operate within the realm of one of the aforementioned extremes, our prompting for them to consider the Spirit’s involvement in their lives may help them in maintaining a more balanced approach between accepting the grace of God and operating out of joyful obedience to Him.

To “Be Filled” on an Ongoing Basis
Finally, Stott explains that to “be filled” with the Spirit is in the present tense. Instead of thinking that we only need to “be filled” with the Spirit once during a single event, Paul’s message is better to be understood for us to continue being filled with Spirit on an ongoing basis. If we revisit the banking metaphor again, the Holy Spirit is the one who makes the deposits and does the “filling” (we merely have to open the door to let Him in). However, what is important for us to understand is that the deposit frequency of the Holy Spirit may be heavily influenced by our willingness to keep our doors open for Him to conduct His spiritual business. If we begrudgingly open our doors for only one or two hours a week during church service, then we may be making it more difficult for God to actively transform our lives in an impactful manner. As small group leaders, we have the ability to help our members “open the doors” more often during the week and to keep God on their hearts by consistently hosting our mid-week group meeting and then initiating quick catch-ups during the week via emails, text messages and brief phone calls.

 

 


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