Pentecost Sunday, May 23rd 2021

Pentecost Sunday, May 23rd 2021

‘Be filled with the Spirit’, Pentecost, May 23rd 2021

Acts 2:1-21, John 15:26-16:15, Romans 8:22-28 Ephesians 5:15-21

There was an old man who cried Run!

For the end of the world has begun

The one I fear most

Is the old Holy Ghost

I can cope with the Father and the Son!

And we can feel perhaps that way. Jesus was human and we can therefore relate easily to him in our minds. ‘Father’, ‘Son’ are personal terms we can imagine. We may not have had good experiences of our fathers, or our sons, but the words give us help to imagine, connect to God Father and Son. But Spirit. What do we do, how do we relate? The title ‘Holy Ghost’ in our older translations and liturgies, may make it seem even more unclear. We believe he is God, part of the Trinity but that may be all we really feel sure about…

Well the Spirit is given to the believers on Pentecost. In a very dramatic way. And Peter then promises, in his preaching, that the gift of the Spirit is for every believer, in every generation to come.  Paul shared the same promise: If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.’

He is present in each of us.

What does he seek to do? In what Jesus says – one role of the Spirit is to testify about Jesus, to glorify Jesus, to point people towards Jesus, to shed light upon Him. Theologian Jim Packer said: ‘’When flood lighting is well done, the floodlights are so placed that you do not see them; you are not in fact meant to see where the light is coming froml what you are meant to see is just the building on which the floodlights are trained …

This perfectly illustrates the Spirit’s new covenant role. He is, so to speak, the hidden flood light shining on the Saviour.’’

The Spirit points to Jesus. He takes, we heard, things of Jesus – which are the hings of the Father – and give them to us. This is the way he shows us more of God – he reminds us – John 14 – and makes things intelligible, relevant and brings home to us the things of Jesus. M The Spirit does not reveal new things that are utterly unrelated to God’s promiry and final revelation of himself in Jesus.  The Spirit may bring to our attention, a neglected aspect – for us – of how God has revealed himself in Jesus. He may give us new or deeper insights into this anceient self revelation.

In Romans 8, Paul’s great chapter on the Spirit, of which we heard some verses. He  outlines a number of things. Worth reading the whole chapter.

  1. He enables: to fulfil what God requires of us.
  2. He subdues:  our sinful nature, so we can live the life of God. The Holy Spirit brings about liberty and Christian conduct.
  3. He assures: we are assured of our adoption into God’s family.
  4. He guarantees – our final inheritance, of what will be when Christ returns, a promise and foretaste.
  5. He helps:  He helps in our weaknesses especially when we don’t know what to pray. As John Murray said: The children of God has two divine intercessors – Christ is their intercessor in the court of heaven, while the Holy Spirit is their intercessor in the theatre of their own hearts.’’

So those are some of the things he does.

Do we need to do anything? In Ephesians 5 Paul says:  15 Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. 

In his teaching about discipleship, Paul says our role towards the Spirit, is  to ‘be filled with the Spirit’.

There are choices, our attitudes in our Christian walk and how we live wisely. But we do not do this alone or are we intended to do this alone – in our discipleship decisions Paul says also, ‘be filled’. It is in fact, the key to making our discipleship work. There is a charismatic character of Christian daily living. Don’t forget the Spirit, Paul is saying, in fact seek to be filled… this is important as submitting to each other and understanding his will.


Already in his letter, he has told them – they have been sealed with the Spirit – which took place when they believed. He warns them not to grieve the Spirit by how they speak and live – this reminds us again that the Spirit is Divine person.

Be filled, he teaches. The first thing that is seen – in the Greek – is ‘a present imperative’ – so the phrase ‘be filled’ is not about a one time action, but about a regular pattern of life.

2 forms of command – aorist and present. Aorist is a single command. Present is continuous. So when Jesus commanded the servants to fill the jars at the wedding at cana, the command – was aorist – since the jars could only be filled once. Paul says ‘be filled’ using a present imperative – we are to go on being filled.

So the fullness of the Spirit is not a one off experience or one we never lose – but a ‘privilege’ part of God’s provision for us. You could say, it is like your mobile phone reception – there are times you have one bar, other times full bars. We all have the Spirit – we all have reception – the Counsellor has come to each of us – but today, we may not all be filled with the Spirit – full bars – hence Paul’s teaching.

We see this in Acts. ‘’All of them were filled with the Spirit’. Yet weeks later. Peter and John and the believers pray together. ‘After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.’ Yet they have been filled on Pentecost – but now filled again. In fact was also filled separately a third time, as he preached before the Sandherin. Clearly not a one off event, something that happens more than once.

 When Paul used that word ‘filled’ what is in mind? I found it helpful to look at how it is used elsewhere. Pleroo.

Matthew 13:48 – in the parable of the net – the net is laid into the sea, it caught all kind of fish, when it was full, the fishermen pulled it up. Pleroo. A full net.

At the start of Holy Week, Jesus in Bethany, there is a meal. Mary takes pure nard, expensive perfume, she poured it on his feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. Filled… same word Paul uses…

House filled, net full.  Clearly we see it – when Paul says ‘be filled’ he has in mind, a life full of the Spirit, a life filled, filled to the top. A Messianic Jewish writer says: the word filled, speaks of wind as it fills a sail, a perfect picture.

However. The Spirit will not overwhelm us. Paralketos. The word means, the one called alongside. Someone translated it as ‘’one who stands beside us to help, not one who seizes controls and runs our lives without consulting us.’’

Derek Prince helpfully says: ‘’The first point that needs to be emphasized is that, in the life of the believer, the Holy Spirit never plays the dictator. When Jesus promised the gift of the Holy Spirit to his disciples, he spoke of him in terms such as ‘helper’ ‘comforter’ ‘guide’ ‘teacher’. The Holy Spirit always keeps himself within these limits. He never usurps the will or peronaility of the believer. He never in any sense forces or complets the believer to do anything against the believers own will or choice.’ As

So two commands. Paul tells us– part of Christian duty, is to seek the Spirit’s fullness. Then, the way the Greek is phrased, four wonderful results flow from this.

Fellowship –true fellowship, building one another, in this case via songs and hymns and spiritual songs. Songs and hymns not only exalt the Lord, but many build us up.

Worship –‘Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord.’ There is a new love and appreciation for worship. So to be filled, Paul suggests, enables you to enter more fully into the worship of the Lord. The songs are not coming from our lips – lip service – they are coming from deep within, where the Spirit dwells. Heartfelt praise.

Thanksgiving and Gratitude – Spirit reveals more and more what God has done for us so we are filled with thankfulness. For all that God gives us – salvation, hope, his very presence within us.

Relationship – submit to one another. It affects our relationship with others, our marriages, our parenting, our work, as employee or employer. We act increasingly in a Christ like way – for we have the Spirit of Christ within – gentle, humble, servant like.

The Christians need to be filled for their corporate worship. To be full of the Spirit to maintain right relationships in the home and workplace,  to serve one another with the love and approach of Christ.

His aim: be filled, so live in the fullness of the Spirit, walk by the Spirit, that the life and deeds of the Spirit are so obvious, as is someone who has had too much alcholol.

Be filled. How.

Be filled.  A command. It is not a suggestion. We don’t have the liberty to avoid this responsibility Paul says, anymore, than we can avoid the commands about walking wisely or being greedy or impure.  Paul is clear ‘To be filled with the Spirit, is obligatory and not optional.’ So the Lord seeks to fill.

He writes it in a plural form. It is addressed to the whole Christian community. All of us are to be filled. So this isn’t about the elite being filled, or the special ones, or priests or bishops or apostles, or even about being mature enough. It is available for all the people of God. Wonderful.

The Gk is a passive voice. It can be translated – let the Holy Spirit fill you. No technique or special words. No formula to recite. Not manufactured. But you choose. We turn from what grieves him we are open to him, to God, we desire nothing to hinder him from filling us, to surrender to the Holy Spirit…

Simply. He brings liberty, he assures, he guarantees, he helps. He abides with us forever.

We need to be filled with the Spirit and to go on being filled every day every moment of the day. John Stott: ‘Here then is a message both for those who feel defeated and those who are complacent – a message for Christians at opposite ends of the spiritual spectrum and all inbetween.

To the defeated Paul would say: Be filled with the Spirit, and he will give you a new love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness faithfulness, gentleness and self control.’

 To the complacent. Paul would say: ‘go on being filled with the Spirit. Thank God for what he has given you so far. But do not say you have arrived. For there is much more, yet to come.’’ Stott, Ephesians.

When we consider Paul’s command, we think of Acts we read of people described as ‘full of the Spirit’. Now this is important. Acts 6. Seven men as to take on the task of the feeding of the widows. The description is key – ‘choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom.’ Wisdom = needs skill clearly. But known to be full of the Spirit. Their lives were – when people say, that is Philip, he’s full of the Spirit. It is a lifestyle, a life shaped full, sails being blown. When Stephen is described –‘’ a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit.’’ And he is not the only one.

One of my favourite biblical characters – Barnabas. He is sent to Antioch and he is described – great preacher, evangelist, in fact, young, education, …. No, he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith…’ His life was this. Not a moment was this. For me, I feel this is a key part of Pentecost, it is not seeking some one off experience, or we have this moment in the year. Rather, be filled – the aim – your life, people will say ‘Grant, Jolanda, Callum, Thirza, he she is full of the Spirit’ – it is who they are… That is what Paul is getting at.

A boat must go wherever its sail captures the wind – instead of a one time action, the filling of the Spirit must be a continuous daily event. Those of us who trust in Jesus must continuously seek to walk in the power that already resides within us  – as someone said, ‘we don’t need more of the Spirit, the Spirit needs more of us’.

So how do we do this?

A story. Corrie ten Boom tells this. A lady planned a house meeting, although her brother did not believe it would be successful. The next day, she proudly told him her room had been filled with women. The next report she reported that her room had been fuller still, and the third week, even fuller. ‘Impossible’ her brother said, ‘When a room is full, it cannot be fuller still.’ ‘Yes’, she said with a smile, ‘but every week, I took out more of my furniture!’. We can be filled, and be still filled more. Perhaps some furniture needs to be moved out of your heart.

So the how. When I reflected upon this, I think Rev 3, Jesus knocking at the door is helpful. You know the passage. ‘Here I am, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice, and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him’. This is often used for evangelism. A beautiful image. Yet the words are to a church – to Christians who listen to this letter. It is to invite Jesus – by his Spirit, to come afresh into their lives, to no longer keep him outside, to come more fully.

To perhaps no longer be in the garden or conservatory – in fact outside any room you keep him out of – to invite him in.

It is to ask the Lord. In Luke 11, Jesus taught on prayer and encouraged the Spirit to be prayed for.  He says, ask and it will be given. He challenges our doubts. But Jesus says, you too can ask. It is possible we fear asking him to fill our lives – what does it all mean. He is not a dictator as we said. Jesus said – the Father only gives good gifts to his children. Perhaps we feel inadequate or unworthy. But Jesus does not say – the Father will only give the Spirit to advanced believers, but to all. Paul’s words are to every believer who heard his letter to the Ephesians – young old, new Christians, mature Christian etc…

To pray. Daily.  Lord can you fill me with your Spirit, can you fill me as a net is full, as a sail is full, can you come afresh fully into my life…

How to pray…

-Ask God to forgive you anything that could be a barrier.  ‘Lord, show me if you need more room in my heart for your Holy Spirit. It is a joy to remove that which could stand in the way.’

– Turn from any area of your life you know is wrong

Ask God to fill you with his Spirit. We trust the promise of Jesus the Father wants to give, we believe as Paul teaches the Spirit seeks to fill us. And we continue this each day. Whether we feel anything or not, but I believe over time we will see a difference…

Shall we pray/…

  • Lord, as we gather in our homes
  • All fill us with your Spirit.
  • As we listen to your word,
  • All fill us with your Spirit.
  • As we worship you in majesty,
  • All fill us with your Spirit.
  • As we long for your refreshing,
  • All fill us with your Spirit.
  • As we long for your renewing,
  • All fill us with your Spirit.
  • As we long for your equipping,
  • All fill us with your Spirit.
  • As we long for your empowering,
  • All fill us with your Spirit. Amen.