We read in Ephesians 5:18, “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit.” What does it mean to be filled with the Spirit? It means to be controlled by the Spirit of God. God wants us to enjoy our relationship with Him. When the Lord Jesus was going back to the Father, He promised not to leave us as orphans, but to send One like Him, the Holy Spirit (Jn. 14:16; 16:7), to come alongside us as our Advocate (1 Jn. 2:1), to guide us into all truth (Jn. 14:17; 16:13), and to teach us all things (1 Jn. 2:20, 27). Since this Helper knows what is best for us, we should yield to His control. We are to neither grieve Him nor quench Him, but to be filled with Him! Romans 8 is one of the most Spirit-centered chapters in the Bible. It begins with no condemnation, ends with no separation, and, in between, teaches us that we are under no obligation to live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. He is the third person of the godhead, and no one is closer to us than He. God the Father is for us; God the Son is with us; and God the Spirit is in us. This chapter teaches us seven aspects in which the Holy Spirit guides us along in our lives.
Seven Spiritual Steps
We begin by walking in the Spirit. The principle in Romans 8:1-4 clearly teaches us that “what the Law could not do…God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” Walking in the Spirit is the evidence of being Spirit-filled. It is like taking the high road over self and sin and is the only way that we will not fulfill the lust of the flesh (Gal. 5:16).
Secondly, the wonderful truth of being Spirit-filled is more than a pastime: it is a way of life. It is not just what we do on certain days or around certain people, but how we think and how we live. Romans 8:5-8 declares that the mind set on the flesh is death and the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace. We are talking about a matter of life and death. The Lord Jesus said that our new birth was carried out by the Spirit (Jn. 3:6, 8). Therefore, we are to live in the Spirit and not according to the flesh. We are alive, wonderfully walking and living in the Spirit.
Thirdly, being Spirit-filled is only possible for believers, because they alone have been indwelt by the Spirit of God. Romans 8:9-11 states that everyone who has received Christ as their Savior has been indwelt by the Holy Spirit. This began on Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came to dwell in us (Jn. 14:17). He is the earnest of our inheritance and has sealed us for the day of redemption (Eph. 1:13; 4:30). He dwells in us and will never leave us nor forsake us. He is our surety and security. We cannot have more of the Spirit of God than what we have been given. If a believer desires to be Spirit-filled, he must ask himself, “Does the Spirit have all of me?”
Fourth, it stands to reason that with such a blessed person dwelling in us, we should let Him lead. The Spirit-filled believer is led by the Spirit. God is not our co-pilot. Hand over the controls to Him! This is how Romans 8:12-14 identifies believers: “As many as are led by the Spirit, these are the sons of God.” We are debtors, but not to the flesh to live according to the flesh. We are no longer under any obligation to fulfill the lusts of the flesh. We are free. Not free to sin, but free to serve the One who has broken sin’s dominion over us. We follow Him and are led on into victory.
Fifthly, being born of the Spirit, we have been brought into the family of God. Romans 8:15-17 tells us of the family privileges into which we have been brought. These family privileges are made manifest in three areas: caring, bearing, and sharing. By the Spirit of God we cry, “Abba, Father.” Abba is the Greek word for father, but there is a shorter version. It is simply Ab, and it is the first word in the Hebrew dictionary. Who is the first person you go to for help? As sons of God, we go to our heavenly Father who cares for us. The Spirit also bears witness that we are the children of God. To bear witness is not just a feeling but agreement with the Word of God. I’m saved by what Christ did on the cross; I’m sure by what God wrote in His Word. To this Word, the Spirit bears witness saying, “It is true, you are a child of God!” Our family privileges also include sharing. If we are children by birth and sons by adoption, then we are heirs by right. God has declared that we are His heirs and joint heirs with Christ. He will share all things with us, all because we are born of the Spirit into God’s wonderful family. The hymn writer, John W. Peterson, wrote:
Born of the Spirit with life from above
Into God’s family divine;
Justified fully through Calvary’s love,
O what a standing is mine!
Sixth, we hope in the Spirit. Romans 8:18-25 describes a yearning in the Spirit-filled believer that is true hope —a definite expectation of glory. At the present, the whole creation groans, longing to be set free from the futility into which it was subjected in hope by the Creator—hope that one day God will restore and renew this weary creation. We are assured in Romans 8:18, “that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Suffering in the present and then glory in the future is indeed the order. The Lord Jesus said, “Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” Not only the creation groans awaiting redemption, “but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.” It is this hope in the Spirit that gives us the right perspective.
Lastly, praying in the Spirit. The things we have discussed are bigger than we are. How would we even know what to pray? For help, we turn in this great chapter to verses 26-27. The words, “Likewise the Spirit,” tie the Spirit to the groaning of the creation and our groaning as He “prays for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” He helps our weaknesses for we do not know how to pray as we ought. How? First, God knows our hearts, and, second, He knows the mind of the Spirit. Therefore, He knows what to pray for us, even when we do not. Since it is the Spirit doing the praying and not us, how should Spirit-filled believers pray? We should pray in the Spirit, as Paul and Jude both exhort. John clarifies, writing that we should pray “according to His will” (1 Jn. 5:14). Thank God for His Spirit who seals us and fills us. May we never get over the wonder of it all as we live in the fullness of His Spirit.
Originally appeared in Uplook 2009