Walter Wilson was a practicing MD and an active Christian in Kansas City. As Wilson was leaving for a medical convention, the office nurse slipped a Christian tract into his briefcase, which he later read in his hotel room. It was called, Whose Body Is Yours? The core of the booklet's message was this: God is a Spirit; He doesn't need a body. Jesus is in heaven; He has a Body. The Holy Spirit is on earth; WE are His body! “. . . 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?” (1 Corinthians 6:19, NAS). The Lord touches no one, except through our hands.
The tract's invitation was to surrender each part of your body to the Spirit, to be His body on earth. Dr. Wilson was convicted and prayed to do just that. Early the next morning, Dr. Wilson asked the hotel desk clerk for a newspaper. The clerk directed him to the corner drug store owned by two single sisters. As he stood at the cash register, Wilson heard inside his spirit: “Tell her about Jesus.” Surprised, he reasoned, “How can I do this? I don't know the woman and it's barely 6 a.m.” The Holy Spirit whispered again, “Didn't you give me your mouth to use as I will?”
Seeing the newspaper headline about a political crisis, Wilson remarked to the lady, “I'm an MD here for the convention. Looks like we have another crisis with little hope.” The cashier responded, “I don't have any hope at all!” “I do have a personal hope in Jesus Christ,” Wilson replied. The lady was so interested that she called her sister out from the back room. In amazement, Dr. Wilson took out his New Testament, and soon the three knelt by the cash register as the ladies prayed to receive Christ. Afterward Dr. Wilson took out his prescription pad and wrote down his seven favorite Bible references, for the ladies to read one a day to help their growth. Walter Wilson experienced quite dramatically what it means to yield oneself to the Holy Spirit.
For a Christian the most important verse in the Bible is this command: “And be not drunk with wine wherein is excess, but be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). 1 Applying this verse will enable you to know Christ deeply. This principle will increase answers to prayer, provide victory over sin, and stimulate witnessing. You will have supernatural power and unction from God.
First of all, one must understand who the Spirit is and how He works. The Holy Spirit is not a liquid to fill a vessel. He is a “Person” to control a person, to reveal Christ translucent through the clay of our lives. He does not work automatically, however; there must be a conscious yielding to Him. Medical doctor and pastor D. Martin Lloyd-Jones writes, “If it were possible to put the Holy Spirit into a text book of pharmacology, I would put him under the stimulants. For that is exactly where He belongs. He stimulates our every faculty.” (Life In The Spirit, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, 1983, p. 20). Let's discover what happens when we are Spirit-filled, and three things that stop the Spirit's work in our lives, and how to be filled with the Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is like wine
“And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess.” Think how alcohol works. You take a drink of wine, then a second and a third. First you take the wine, but eventually the wine takes you. It affects how you think, talk and walk. The wine controls it's vessel. In like manner is the filling of the Spirit. The word “filled” is the Greek word “pleroo”meaning “to make complete, fill, be controlled.” It is imperative, present tense, inactive. As strange as it may sound, just as wine controls a drunk person, so we are commanded to allow the Holy Spirit to control us.
However, notice, too, a stark contrast between wine and the Holy Spirit! Wine causes a loss of control, whereas the Holy Spirit brings a holy control. Wine is a depressant; the Holy Spirit is a stimulant. Drunkenness produces waste; the Holy Spirit makes us productive. Wine can produce misery; the Spirit's fruit is joy, love, peace, self-control (see Galatians 5:22, 23).
What happens when we're Spirit-filled
Wonderful things happen through our lives when we're Spirit-filled! First, our thoughts and reactions are seasoned with these nine “fruit of the Spirit” attitudes of Christ. But there are even more results. Note the verses following Ephesians 5:18. In verse 19 there is the result or mark of adoration. We delight in studying and applying Scripture. The Word of God refreshes our heart so powerfully that we burst out with praise and song, even if we're not qualified for the choir! The first word in Ephesians 5:19 is “speaking.” Multiple verses in Acts link Spirit-fullness with verbalizing the Gospel, just as Walter Wilson did. In Acts 2:4 every believer was filled with the Spirit and then spoke the Gospel in languages of 18 nations. In Acts 4 Peter, and later those praying for him, were empowered by the Spirit to boldly give witness to the Good News of Christ. Because they were filled there was: “great power” and “great grace” (see Acts 4:33).
Verse 20 reveals the mark of appreciation. Our attitude changes to “accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, latch on to the affirmative, and don't mess with Mr. In-Between,” as lyricist Johnny Mercer wisely wrote. We will grow to see the good, to lift others with honor and words of encouragement. Our conversation is impregnated with “Thanksgiving” throughout the year. Verse 21 reveals the mark of accommodation. We delight in serving others, and have a life seasoned by faith.
Saying and doing the miraculous!
To be filled with the Spirit is living in His presence, next to Christ. It is a walk of joyous self-denial — taking up our Cross daily, following Jesus as Lord. By himself, Simon Peter was a “big-mouth” who often fell flat on his face. Before Simon was filled with the Spirit and while apart from Christ's physical presence, he ran from the accusations of a servant girl and denied Christ three times.
However, as he followed Jesus, he experienced a great change! With Jesus, Simon said the miraculous, affirming Jesus as the Messiah (see Matthew 16:16, 17). Simon did the miraculous, walking on water (see Matthew 14:28, 29). Simon had miraculous courage, cutting off the ear of a Roman soldier (see John 18:10, 11). And after the resurrection and filled with the Spirit, Peter says the miraculous — 3,000 people are saved (see Acts 2:41). Peter does the miraculous — a man who had never walked, dances on new ankles and feet (see Acts 3:6). Peter speaks with miraculous courage, boldly testifying to the same religious leaders who plotted the murder of Jesus (see Acts 4:8-13, 18-21). Filled with the Spirit we have a new attitude, coupled with a new boldness to share Christ.
Living in the fullness of the Spirit is so critical for everything in the Christian's life that Revivalist Charles G. Finney speaks of the three-fold guilt of not being Spirit-filled, measured by:
- the paramount authority of Him who commands us;
- the evil which we have done by not being filled; and
- the good which we might have done if filled.
How to be Spirit-filled
First, negatively, we get “out of reverse” by confessing our sins to God. Because the Holy Spirit is a Person, He can be “grieved” (see Ephesians 4:30-32) and can be lied to (see Acts 5:3). We are commanded: “quench not the Spirit.” 2 Don't put out the Spirit's fire in your life! How do you quench the Spirit? In the context, by not being thankful and by rejecting the Word of God. We must name the sin in confession to God. One lady asked her preacher, “Do we confess them as we do them; or do we bunch 'em?” Fuzzy confession keeps us in defeat. Therefore, name each sin specifically and repent; then realize that it's covered by Christ's blood and walk on. Watch out — Satan is the great Discourager, bringing up a past now under the blood of Christ. The Holy Spirit is the great encourager. Instant confession; instant forgiveness. “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper, but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.” 3
Positively, we enter fullness claiming by faith the Spirit's control. Yield all that you know of yourself, to all that you know of Him. “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” 4 Often I name each part of my body, giving it to Jesus. In prayer I sometimes put on each piece of the spiritual armor from Ephesians 6. I am now equipped for the battle of intercession.
Conviction by the Spirit can become acute. After a time of prayer while a seminary student, I was convicted that I'd lied to a professor. I had turned in a reading assignment as being done, when it wasn't. I lacked some 50 pages, which I completed the day after the report was turned in. God wouldn't let me rest! “Confess lying to your professor,” I heard Him whisper in my heart. How could I? I'd confessed this as sin to God. Wasn't that enough? Also, my grade wasn't high in that course; I could fail it! I argued, pleaded with God, without success.
In fear I went to the seminary professor and confessed my sin of lying. The professor asked if I had anything else to say, and I told him how I'd been convicted about not being holy and not being filled with the Spirit. He thanked me, and I went out of his office. I was free, forgiven, and obedient to the Holy One who lives in my life. Sometimes in order to complete the repentance, we must make reconciliation. It may involve sharing with the person whom we've offended what we have done.
Walter Wilson's life was radically changed through his experience of surrender. He began to witness using stories, objects in a room, and even newspaper headlines as links to share Christ. The Holy Spirit had to be smiling as he fashioned a starchy physician into a best-selling writer and revered pastor — a man of God who personally won hundreds to Christ. Whose body is yours? Are you now filled with the Spirit? Get completely out of reverse; allow the Spirit to remind you of any and all sins; then by faith, claim His control over every part of your body, your goals, your life!
1 Three parallel verses are: Romans 13:14; John 7:38; Galatians 5:16.
2 1 Thessalonians 5:19.
3 Proverbs 28:13.
4 Romans 13:14.