SERMON: HOW TO BE FILLED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT (9.12.21)
We are one week away from Revival Sunday, and we continue our preparation for an extraordinary work of the Holy Spirit. Today, let’s explore some excellent guidance on HOW to be filled with the Holy Spirit. I’ll be referencing some of A.W. Tozer’s writings for today’s message, and I hope as you have been personally preparing for the Holy Spirit, these ideas are becoming familiar to you. We are preparing ourselves and our church body to be overwhelmed by His grace and response!
2 Corinthians 3:12 and 17-18
How much are you willing to let the Holy Spirit fill you? This is an individual decision, and it can be a hard decision because fully accepting the Holy Spirit means you will have to give some earthly things up. Last Sunday we talked about the metaphor of an hourglass, and the more we are willing to let sin and our priorities drain away, the more room we make for the Holy Spirit.
There is no personal guidance other than this—the more you prepare and ask, the more the Lord will grant your prayer. Even so, the Lord decides how much of the Holy Spirit you might receive, and when it might happen. Praying diligently for the Holy Spirit does not always guarantee that he shows up, and it doesn’t affect God’s timing on when he might show up. Those decisions are part of God’s plan for each of us, and we know that God’s plan is always better than the plans we make.
AW Tozer offers three starting points for our individual preparation:
-Read the Word
-Meditate on the Scriptures
-Listen to what the Lord is speaking to you.
These three actions all work together to accomplish one thing: before we can be filled with the Holy Spirit, we must be sure that we can be.
Then, you must search your heart to be sure that having more of the Holy Spirit is something you really desire. Tozer says, “a lot of people desire to be full, but not many desire to be filled.” He is stating the threshold where many people stop—being willing to fully grant the Holy Spirit the power to take control. We know how hard it can be to fully grant control to someone else.
When we are fully possessed by the Holy Spirit, the Spirit who enters us is like that of Jesus. A gentle, sane, wise and loving Spirit. The same Holy Spirit that Jesus asked to strengthen him is the one we are asking for. It makes sense that the more of the Spirit we accept, the more we can become like Jesus. We can’t become Jesus, because Jesus is God, but we can accept the wisdom and the truth that comes from him.
Tozer was fond of nautical examples, and he says this: “The Spirit wants to possess you, so you are no longer in command of the little vessel in which you sail. You are a member of the crew, but you are not the captain.” Does that picture make you think twice about receiving the full measure of Holy Spirit? It’s something I’ve been thinking and praying about. The internal tension comes from wanting something we know is good, but also transformational. One cannot accept the Holy Spirit, either more fully or even totally filled, without giving something up.
Tozer makes this point over and over. Everybody is as full as they want to be. Everybody has as much of God as he or she desires to have. We desire more but are we ready to meet the conditions that are part of being more filled? Are we willing to be obedient to the Lord’s plans?
Are we willing to eliminate “self-sins,” such as too much self-love or self-righteousness? The Holy Spirit brings humility to our hearts, and if we cannot accept that and behave in a consistent way, the Spirit may be quenched or grieved. Let’s recall that having the Holy Spirit is not a condition which can be reversed. The Holy Spirit can leave us and move on when he realizes that he is not wanted. Tozer says that the Holy Spirit is a gentleman and doesn’t force himself on us if he is not wanted. The Lord’s desire for us is to be filled and accepting of His presence, but if we are not ready for that, he isn’t going to force you to love him.
Tozer makes a point that the church today tries to conform to the world, instead of praying and asking the Lord to help us make the world conform to the church. The bible makes it clear that you cannot have a life of ease and follow the Lord too. The young rich man who confronted Jesus went away very disappointed when he realized that to become a follower of Jesus meant giving away his wealth.
We can be as full of the Spirit as we want to be. We are as good followers of Jesus as we really want to be.
The desire to be filled with the Holy Spirit is an individual one first, and a community one second. Communities are made from believers who are all desiring the Holy Spirit, but the Holy Spirit fills individuals first. We can support and encourage each other, and we can pray for each other, but each person needs to ask the two questions I started with:
-Do you want to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and
-Can you be filed with the Holy Spirit.
Have you made room for him, and made this your priority? We can anticipate a period of disturbance and anxiety as we think and pray about this decision. That is pretty universal. But the Lord wants to love on us and make us happy, and He cannot do that without our permission, our consent, and our obedience.
Father, we thank you for this world, for your light, and for your grace and faithfulness in us. We try to show you how much we love you, and we await with prayer and urgent anticipation the visit of the Holy Spirit as we pray for the spiritual revival of our community.
Please consider this thought as you pray this week:
-- Lord, help us to be ready to accept the Holy Spirit in our lives. Prepare our way!