Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Back to Basics: How to be Filled With the Holy Spirit

In Back to Basics, Carl Palmer talked his "holy discontent" for church as usual. He and the elders wanted to get back to the root of God's desire for his people. That root is the Great Commandment:

One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, "What commandment is the foremost of all?" Jesus answered, "The foremost is, 'HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD; AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.' "The second is this, `YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.' There is no other commandment greater than these."
Our pastors and elders developed this vision statement for our church:
We want to see God transform our lives and our world as we grow in a daily, practical experience of loving God and loving people.
We need transformation. This is not about knowing more; but about being changed from the inside out from an experience of becoming lovers.

In BtB: We Love Because, Carl explained that we must love like this because "God IS Love" and "God loved us first" - we are greatly loved. This is called Grace. The only right response to God's grace is to love God and love who He loves.

In BtB: The Power to Love we saw that the power to we love the unlovable; our neighbors as ourselves; and God with all of our heart, all our soul, all our mind, and all of our strength came from the power of the Holy Spirit (Christ, God) in us.

* * *
More Love, More Power

More love (more love)
More power (more power)
More of you in my life

More love (more love)
More power (more power)
More of you in my life

And I will worship you with all of my heart
I will worship you with all of my mind
I will worship you with all of my strength
Cause you are the Lord, and I love You

* * *
This week, Carl examined the ministry of the Holy Spirit, and Jesus's promises to His disciples in more detail. Galatians 5 outlines what the Holy Spirit (and its lack) does in our hearts:
16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. 17 For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law . . . 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
[See "An Object Lesson in Love and the Holy Spirit" - when I get it done]

Jesus told His disciples they would receive the Holy Spirit:
John 14:16 "I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; 17 that is the Spirit of truth, 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.

John 16:7 "But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.

Jesus said the Holy Spirit’s power in their lives was essential for them to be able to live the life He intends for them
Luke 24:49 "And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high."

Acts 1:8 "but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth."

We need supernatural power to live the way Jesus wants us to. We can lead a religious life pretty much on our own. If we just want to follow rules and regulations, and be really religious, without the power of the Holy Spirit. [See also Ephesians 1:19; 3:16, 20; 6:10 for more about this power.] We are told in Ephesians 5:18-21:
And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, 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.
So, the next topic is:

How to be Filled With the Holy Spirit
Carl Palmer, Pastor-Teacher; Ephesians 5:18; October 2, 2005

The analogy in Ephesians 5:18 is a good one: liquor and drugs control us. The Bible says do not be controlled by a substance; but be filled with the Holy Spirit. The word "filled" here is translated from the greek word pleroo which Carl believes relates to control - control of your life by the Spirit. This is a command; and in fact the Greek scholars say this is an imperative command: this means not only is this something which you must do - it is also strongly commanded. It was also written in the passive tense, which means it could also mean "be filled by the Holy Spirit": this is something that happens to you, so make sure it happens to you.

As a passive command, it means you cannot fill yourself with the Spirit of God. We can fill ourselves with ourselves, which is in fact our natural state (and something we are good at) - but we are not to do that. So, if we are to be filled, but we cannot fill ourselves, then how are we to be filled? Carl tells us that if we have ever listened to him before listen to him now; because this may be one of the most important messages for our personal lives that we have ever heard.

You have to look at the Word of God to see what it says about how to be filled with the Spirit of God. What does the Word say? Practically nothing. There is no place in the Word of God that says this is the formula: if you do this, and this, and this, etc. you will be filled. Some people have come up with their own theories; but there is no place that outlines how this is to be done.

If this is true, and this is crucial for our lives, then why doesn't Bible spell it out for us point by point? Does God leave us without any resources? He tells us to be filled; but He doesn't tell us how? The answer is no.

What this must mean is, lacking specific guidelines, that God wants us to obey this command the way He wants us to obey all of His commands. Here are those guidelines. It is just really simple [but not easy]:

We must believe we can be filled.

You must BELIEVE this. The Bible, Old Testament and New, says that the just shall live by FAITH. Every single important thing God calls us to do to live the Christian life has to do with faith - believing. How were you saved in the first place?:
Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
We are going to receive the Holy Spirit by the same means by which we received Christ in the first place. We have to believe that it will happen: we are filled by grace through faith. Of course, we must believe in the Holy Spirit. Some of you may not believe in this person of God. Is the Spirit a person? Yes: He can be grieved, we can reject Him, we can receive Him, and we can be filled by Him. If this is an issue, you must go to the Word of God and answer these questions: Is there a Holy Spirit, can I be filled, and do I have the Holy Spirit living inside me? These are all yes or no questions - not maybe questions. All through the Word of God it is clear that when a Christian comes to believe the Holy Spirit comes in them. If you are truly a Christian, the Holy Spirit is in you; indwells you; and stays in you. As Peter said on Pentecost:
Acts 2:37 Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brethren, what shall we do?" 38 Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 "For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself."
You have to BELIEVE this. The reason Carl stressed this so much is that we are in a conservative evangelical church where we do not talk about this much. This is to his shame, and we are going to change that. Many in our church come from conservative backgrounds where talk of the Holy Spirit was devisive.

Carl believes that one of the biggest tricks the evil one has played on the church of Jesus Christ in the United States is to divide us up over the ministry of the Holy Spirit. In the 1970's and 80's the church in the U.S. split again and again and again over the this issue. These were arguments over what the Holy Spirit did; what gifts it gave; and did all of this pass-away in the time of the Apostles. There were seminars and teachings over all the things the Holy Spirit no longer does - and we divided up - and the evil one just cackled. He cackled because he got Christians to divide up over God's Spirit, which is one of the stupidest things imaginable. Instead of being the source of loving one another, Christians were divided and angry with one another over the Spirit of God. Carl used to get involved in some of those debates - but not again.

The Holy Spirit is the thing that unites us together. We are baptised together into Jesus Christ through the Spirit. The Spirit is what makes the Body of Christ one. We do not need to talk about what the Holy Spirit no longer does. We need figure out what the Holy Spirit does do; and what He does for us; and His purpose for us; and what His gifts are and how we recieve them; and how do we get the filling of God? We need to be powerful, spiritual people the way Jesus intended us to be.

Some people say that this is a special, deluxe edition of Christianity - only for a few. If you buy this you have been decieved by another lie from the pit of hell. The powerful life, the spirit-filled life, is what Jesus wants for you. He wants people to look you and know you are different. Not odd, just different - someone who loves God and loves people. A.W. Tozier said "that in a world where everyone was sick, to be healty would be unusual but not abnormal". Some people think the spirit-filled life is abnormal; but it is just healthy - because we live in a world of sick people, and that includes far too many in the church. So the second thing is:

We must genuinely want to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

This is desire. We are wired for desire (you may have noticed that); and God wants us to truly to desire to be filled with the Holy Spirit. In the church, everyone would want to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Right? No, wrong. Carl notes that some of the people he was talking to in our own congregation didn't want to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Either they are afraid of this strange person called the Holy Spirit; or they know that filled really does entail control. Let's rephrase the question: Do you want to be controlled by a spirit other than your own? Do you want your life controlled by someone other than yourself?

What Carl finds is that he wants the "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control'; but he wants to run his own life too. He wants all the blessings and goodies - but he wants to call his own shots. He wants to go where he wants to go, and do what he wants to do. What if Carl gets filled with the Holy Spirit and He tells Carl to do something else. The Holy Spirit often does tell you to do something else; go somewhere else; give something else. He often tells you to do something hard that you do not want to do. One of the first things is often "Will you please forgive that person". Perhaps: "Will you please open your mouth and talk about Jesus". This is a control issue - it is about who is going to control our lives.

Carl is confident that as we try to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and submit to Him, that some of our congregation is not going to go. They are not ready and do not want to give up control. They want the "fire insurance" to escape hell; but they do not want to be controlled. Let's be honest: we all have a tendency to want to control our own lives and now we are talking about being controlled by someone else.

You have to WANT this - and you do not have to beg or plead. Some people say you do not even have to ask: this is about believing God and depending on Him while moving forward in the faith that His Spirit is there with you. Some say you should not ask to be filled; while others say that of course you have to ask to be filled. What's the answer: Carl doesn't know. Carl does know that he oftens asks - he needs to ask. So he asks, and he doesn't plead or beg. Why doesn't Carl beg? God is worthy of being begged; but God has made it clear that this is His will for us and we do not have to beg for what is already God's will for us. We just have to believe Him and want it. The third thing:

We must choose to submit to His ways and obey Him.

You knew this one was coming didn't you. This isn't just about being filled; but about choosing to submit. God is trying to make you a submissive person.

We have to learn how to become a submissive soul: not to everybody; but to Him. We have to believe He will fill us; want Him to fill us; and then, at the moment of decision, we have to submit to what He says. Life is filled with that: choosing to submit to the will of God. We are going to have to choose that today and this week.

That is how to be filled with the Holy Spirit: Believe, Desire, and Submit. Is it really that simple (again, not easy)? Carl wants to say to you that it is. It has been this simple for generation after generation for 2000, 3000, 4000 years. You have to believe in what God wants; want what God wants; and submit to His ways. You will then find the power in the obedience.
“There is no such thing as a once-for-all fullness [we leak]. It is a continuous appropriation of a continuous supply from the Lord Christ Himself. It is a moment-by-moment faith in a moment-by-moment Savior, for a moment-by-moment cleansing and a moment-by-moment filling. As I trust Him, He fills me; the moment I begin to believe, that moment I begin to receive; and as long as I keep believing, praise the Lord, so long I keep receiving.” Charles Inwood


  1. It's a good topic. But the Bible does offer some guidance on "how it happens". Consider a few examples:

    "The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life." (John 6:63). The words themselves carry the Spirit of God.

    "Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you becasue you observe the law, or becasue you believe what you heard?" (Galatians 3:5). Again, receiving God's word with trust builds the Spirit in us. Galatians 3 has more on the same subject.

    "Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you ... (snip, you can read it all at your leisure) ... how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him." (Luke 11:9-13). We can pray for the Holy Spirit and God binds himself to that prayer in Scripture.

    There's more than that, but that'll do for an overly long comment.

    Take care & God bless

  2. "The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life." (John 6:63). The words themselves carry the Spirit of God.

    John 6 is an interesting chapter isn't it? The disciples get all confused and rebel against something they can't really understand. After the crazy cannibal stuff (don't get me wrong, I'm quite high church and am, subsequently all about the crazy cannibal stuff) We are presented with an almost Ramboesque portrait of Jesus: "Oh, so you're not really along for the ride? What would you say to a friggin' terrifying mystical vision of the one whom you rebelled against rising up in judgement against you?" The question I have for your citation of 6:63 is, which words of Jesus do you think he means? If we are to look at the chapter contextually, he wants us to eat of his flesh and drink of his blood -- this command is accompanied by the bread of life discourse -- and believe in Jesus as the son of God and his sole messenger. You could also make the argument that we should take Jesus to mean that we must obey all of his utterences over all of the gospels. Perhaps you could make the argument that either way, the correct interpretation of the bread of life discourse results in the demand to obey all of Jesus' commands.

    The issue, as I see it, is "You shall know the tree by its roots." Clearly Jesus doesn't mean simply that you must believe in him, at least explicitly and outwardly at church and before meals and bed, take communion every week, and be a stickler for all the little rules in scripture, (except, of course the one about selling all your possessions, letting women pray out loud in church and a few others) however much these are a part of it. There's empirically verifiable evidence of this -- there are jerks and freeloaders and dunkards in every congregation, of every denomination (and non-denomination). There are people who lack the holy spirit of love in and through their lives everywhere, and none of us, who seek to manifest this spirit, do so perfectly at all times. The key to this constancy is absent from explicit address, at least to my knowledge, in Christ's sayings from the Gospels.

    To continue unabashedly into an already overly long post, it is interesting, my good angel, that you bring up Galatians 3. (Two great references, by the way. One of my all-time favorites and one of the most difficult, for me, of them all.) The immediate authority to which Paul appeals in order to call back the wayward Galatians is described in the first verse of the chapter. Paul exhorts the Galatian Christians "before whose eyes Jesus Christ was vividly portrayed as crucified." There is a specific event in the history of Paul's relationship with the Galatian church to which he appeals. This, to my eyes, is too important a factor to overlook. Paul suggests that an event like this is necessary for the spirit of love to overcome the individual believer.

    John, I'm kinda thinking that your pastor wants this sermon series/church revival thing to be such an event. I think that these sermons are really interesting, but I'm not sure they completely translate over the internet. I think an interesting supplement, again, would be observations on the reactions and progressions of the people of the church. Is Barry the drunk looking sharper? Are the wild, seemingly neglected kids of Betty and Michael better behaved? Do Betty and Michael seem less distant from each other? Are there members of the parish who resent the new direction? How old is this church? Is there an increased awarness of stewardship and the financial needs of the church and of the poor?

  3. "Angler." I meant to write "Angler" and in "weekend fisher." Instead, I write "angel." I wasn't, friend, coming on to you, I promise.

    However, as Michael Hutchence of INXS sang, "we all have wings, some of us don't know why-i-i"

  4. It is hard to know the specific outcome; and maybe too soon.

    It will be interesting to see what the pastor/elder retreat (beginning in a couple of hours) will do about action and direction. It will be interesting to see if they have unity or division.

    At the end of the second sermon, Carl asked everyone to close their eyes; and then stand if they were onboard for this journey. Not all did.

    I do not think you can dip your stick in and stir this way and not piss people off - and eventually scare people off. Carl has literally told those who are not ready to get in the car, and do not want to keep hearing about this, to perhaps find another church home.

    As to translation, I wish my church had an FTP server so I could link the audio. You are right, they lose something in the translation from verbal to written.

  5. Any sense for why people are resisting this new direction? Any kind of change like this is going to provoke resistance, but have you spoken with the people who didn't stand? What are their expressed reasons for wariness? How long has this congregation been around? How long have you been a member? Is Carl a new pastor? How many pastors do you have? Elders? How many people in the congregation?

    Are these questions annoying? I'm as interested in the demographics of a church and its congregation as I am the theology of its leaders. The other aspects of community life are just as important a component in an understanding of how God's work in the world is being visualized and actualized.


How to debate charitably (rules are links to more description of rule):
1. The Golden Rule
2. You cannot read minds
3. People are not evil
4. Debates are not for winning
5. You make mistakes
6. Not everyone cares as much as you
7. Engaging is hard work
8. Differences can be subtle
9. Give up quietly