What Does It Mean to Be Filled with the Spirit
In Ephesians 5:18, Paul tells the Ephesian church to “be filled with the Spirit.” Being filled with the Spirit means being controlled by the Spirit. It’s when we yield ourselves to the Spirit to possess us fully and occupy every part of our lives—guiding us, controlling us, empowering us, shaping us, and leading us to live the way Jesus would have us live.
Notice in verse 18 how being filled with the Spirit is contrasted with being drunk with wine. Paul says, “Do not get drunk with wine…but be filled with the Spirit.” What happens when we’re drunk with wine? Well…bad things happen, that’s what. If you get drunk, there’s a good chance you’re going to say something or do something foolish. It’s as if the alcohol is controlling you. But Paul says, instead of letting alcohol control you, let the Holy Spirit control you. Be filled with the Spirit.
You can also think of it like a canoe being carried along by a river. Wherever the river goes, that’s where the boat goes. If the river turns right, the boat turns right. If the river turns left, the boat turns left. And not only does the river guide the boat and determine the direction of the boat, but it also carries the boat forward. That’s what’s so nice about canoeing on a river rather than a lake. If you’re canoeing on a lake, it’s all on you to paddle and propel that canoe forward. But if you’re on a river, the river does most of the work for you. It carries the boat along, which makes things a whole lot easier on you.
And it works the same way with being filled with the Spirit. The Spirit determines our direction by guiding us, and he carries us forward by empowering us.
And yet, many times, Christians can act as if the Holy Spirit doesn’t even exist. I think we’re all guilty of that to one degree or another. We kind of forget about the Holy Spirit and imagine that it’s just us on our own trying our best to live for Jesus. And then we wonder why we have difficulty.
You know, canoeing doesn’t work very well without water. I went canoeing a lot growing up, and there would be times when the water level was low so that parts of the river were too shallow for our canoe. So we would have to get out of the canoe and drag the canoe past those shallow sections. It really wasn’t that fun. And I think we as Christians often do something very similar to this by ignoring the Holy Spirit.
And I think a good name for this is “Christian Deism.” Technically, a Deist is someone who doesn’t believe God is actively involved with this world in any way. So a true Deist, by definition, can’t be a Christian. Deists believe God is like a cosmic clockmaker who created the universe to work a certain way but then took his hands off of everything and no longer gets involved. No miracles, no judgment, no salvation—nothing.
Christian Deism, however, is what I’m calling it when Christians believe that God saved them but then act as if he leaves them on their own to live the Christian life. They embrace the gospel, but they think it’s all on them to live it out.
However, Jesus told us in John 14:16 that he would not leave us alone but would give us, as he says, “another Helper to be with [us] forever.” And Paul says that we’re supposed to take advantage of that Helper or Spirit’s presence within us and be filled with the Spirit, realizing that he’s central for living the Christian life. He’s just as essential for the Christian life as water is for canoeing.
So stop ignoring the Spirit and start looking to the Spirit for guidance and empowerment and as your source for everything you need. Let him reshape and redirect your affections so that you desire the things God desires and love the things God loves and even hate the things God hates. Let him have complete control over you and carry you along. Be filled with the Spirit.