What Does it Mean to be Filled with the Holy Spirit?

What Does it Mean to be Filled with the Holy Spirit?

Bill Bright

To be filled with the Holy Spirit is to be filled with Christ. The Holy Spirit came to glorify Christ. Therefore, if I am filled with the Spirit, I am abiding in Christ. I am walking in the light as He is the light, and the blood of Jesus Christ will cleanse and keep on cleansing me from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:7).

I am controlled by Christ because the word “filling” means to be controlled. And if I am controlled — not as a robot but as one who is led and empowered by the Spirit — the Lord Jesus will walk around in my body and live His resurrection life in and through me.

This amazing fact that Christ lives in you and expresses His love through you is one of the most important truths in the Word of God. The standards of the Christian life are so high and so impossible to achieve, according to the Word of God, that only one person has been able to succeed. That person is Jesus Christ. Now, through His indwelling presence, He wants to enable all who place their trust in Him to live this same supernatural life.

Bearing Spiritual Fruit Because of Christ Living in You

If you are willing for Jesus Christ to live His resurrection life in and through you, you will bear spiritual fruit as naturally as a healthy vine will bear an abundance of fruit.

Jesus said, “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples” (John 15:8, New King James Version). You can be a great preacher, a Christian scholar, a deacon or elder, attend church meetings daily, live a clean, moral life, memorize hundreds of verses of Scripture, direct a church choir, and teach Sunday school, but if you are not bearing fruit in the sense that you are introducing others to Christ, you are not filled and controlled by the Holy Spirit according to the Word of God.

Some people say, “I witness for Christ by living a good life.” But it is not enough to live a good life. Many non-Christians live fine, moral, ethical lives. According to the Lord Jesus, the only way to demonstrate that you are truly following Him is to produce fruit, which includes introducing others to our Savior as well as living holy lives. And the only way you can produce fruit is through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Some time ago I asked one of the leading theologians of our time, the dean of faculty for a famous theological seminary, if he felt that one could be a Spirit-filled person without sharing Christ as a way of life. His answer was an emphatic, “No!”

On what basis could he make such a strong statement? The answer is obvious. Our Savior came to “seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10, New International Versions 1984), and He has “chosen and ordained” you to share the good news of His love and forgiveness with everyone, everywhere (John 15:16, King James Version). To fail to witness for Christ with your lips is to disobey this command just as much as to fail to witness for Him by living a holy life is to disobey His command. In neither case can the disobedient Christian expect God to control and empower his life, nor can he experience the reality of God’s presence and blessing.

A very discouraged student came to me for counsel after one of my messages. For several months, he had spent at least three hours each day reading his Bible, praying and sharing his faith with others. Yet he had never introduced anyone to Christ. After a time of discussion, his problem became apparent — he was not controlled and empowered by the Holy Spirit, although he wanted to be.

So we prayed together, and by faith he appropriated the power of the Holy Spirit on the authority of God’s Word. His life was absolutely transformed. That very day, he had his first experience of introducing a person to Christ. The next day he led another to Christ, and two days later another. He has since introduced hundreds, if not thousands, of people to our Lord.

How the Holy Spirit Changes You From the Inside Out

Not only do you receive a supernatural power for witnessing when you are filled with the Spirit, but your personality also begins to change. As you continue to walk in the control and power of the Holy Spirit, the fruit of the Spirit becomes increasingly obvious in your life.

In Galatians 5:22-23 (Living Bible), Paul explains, “When the Holy Spirit controls our lives He will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.”

The Christian’s relationship with the Holy Spirit is both critical and progressive. It is critical in that one learns that the Christian life is a life of faith rather than a life of works and has no reference to emotions (“The just shall live by faith,” Romans 1:17, KJV). It is progressive in that, as one walks consistently in the power and control of the Holy Spirit, the fruit of the Spirit will be produced in his life.

A word of caution is in order. Do not seek an emotional or mystical experience. Do not depend on mystical impressions. The Word of God must be the basis of your spiritual growth. There is an interesting parallel between Ephesians 5:18, which admonishes us to be constantly and continually directed and empowered by the Holy Spirit, and Colossians 3:16, which admonishes us to “let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly” (NIV 1984).

The end result of both letting the Word of Christ dwell in you and being filled with the Holy Spirit will be that you will talk much about the Lord, quoting psalms and hymns and making music in your heart to the Lord (Ephesians 5:19).

Distinguishing Between God's Word and God's Spirit

It is very important to recognize the importance of the balance between the Word of God and the Spirit of God. The Word of God is closed to our understanding and has little meaning to us apart from the illumination given by the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is hindered in speaking clear and life-changing truth apart from the Word of God.

When the emphasis on the ministry of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God is in proper balance in your life, the result is a life of power and great fruitfulness in which our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, is wonderfully honored and glorified. As you continue to allow the Holy Spirit to control and empower you, and as you meditate upon the Word of God, hiding it in your heart, your life expresses more and more the beauty of Christ and the fruit of the Spirit which Paul lists in Galatians 5:22-23. These attributes of our Lord Jesus Himself, plus fruitful witnessing, indicate that the Lord is actually living His life in and through you!

Being filled with the Spirit results in an abundant and overflowing life. Jesus of Nazareth once cried out to the multitude, “If a man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” John adds, “By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were later to receive” (John 7:38-39, NIV 1984).

Truly, this is the abundant life, yet most Christians are experiencing little of it.

© 1999 Bill Bright, © 2009 Bright Media Foundation and Campus Crusade for Christ International. All rights reserved. Adapted from Bill Bright, “How You Can Be Filled With The Holy Spirit,” Transferable Concept 3 (Peachtree City, GA; Cru).

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