Thursday, November 24, 2005

How Can I Tell When I'm Spirit Filled?


Some people say that the way you can know you are filled with the Holy Spirit is to speak in tongues or to just "feel it." A lady called one of the counselors at Radio Bible Class, for example, to say that she had times when she was so filled with the Holy Spirit that she couldn't speak a word of English. She said that anybody who doesn't speak in tongues is not Spirit-filled.

When Paul described the results of being filled with the Holy Spirit, however, he didn't mention tongues-speaking or a tingling feeling. But he did mention "speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God" (Ephesians 5:19-21; cp. Colossians 3:16). He also listed nine fruit of the Spirit as evidence in Galatians 5:22,23.


According to Ephesians 5:19-21, a person who is filled with the Holy Spirit will know it because of four evidences in his life: joyful fellowship, heartfelt praise, abounding gratitude, and reverent submission. Let's look briefly at each of these.

1. Joyful Fellowship. The first evidence of being Spirit-filled is joyful fellowship with other Christians. Paul described it as "speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs" (v.19). The texts of these songs often take the form of mutual exhortation.

Singing, with God's s people had its roots in Hebrew worship. Psalms 29, 33, 37, 40, 95, 96, and 100 are only a few of the songs in which the Israelites encouraged one another to join together in praise, gratitude, and obedience.

Spirit-filled Christians love to sing with one another. For example, in our hymns we call on one another to praise the Lord: "Come we that love the Lord, and let our joys be known." We comfort one another: "God will take care of you." We challenge one another: "Must I go, and empty-handed?"

2. Heartfelt Praise. The second result of being filled with the Holy Spirit is heartfelt praise to God: ". . . singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord" (v.19). The term "in your heart" is sometimes taken as referring to singing on the inside, singing that isn't expressed outwardly. But that is unlikely. It probably means singing from a sincere heart, as expressed in Colossians 3:16, ". . . singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord."

3. Abounding Gratitude. The third evidence of being Spirit-filled is abounding gratitude: "Giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" (v.20). In his letters, Paul repeatedly gave thanks to God, and he encouraged his readers to follow his example (Philippians 1:3; 4:6; Colossians 1:3,12; 2:7; 3:15,17; 4:2; 1 Thessalonians 1:2; 2:13; 5:18; 1 Timothy 1:12; 2:1; 4:3,4). He told us to give thanks to God in everything and for everything.

4. Reverent Submission. The fourth way we can know we are filled with the Holy Spirit is reverent submission: "Submitting to one another in the fear of God" (v.21). A Spirit-filled person is humble, gentle, and meek. He is not proud, aggressive, or self-assertive. His reverence for Christ is the source of his humility. As a servant of Christ, he possesses a servant's spirit. Therefore, he does not find it difficult to submit to his fellow believers.

In his letter to the Galatians, the apostle Paul pointed out that the life of a Spirit-filled person will be marked by nine moral qualities that he called "the fruit of the Spirit." When they are present, it is further evidence that a person is filled with the Holy Spirit. He wrote, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law" (Galatians 5:22,23). Let's look at each of these spiritual qualities individually.

1. Love--an attitude that moves us to put God and others ahead of ourselves. A spirit that impels us to give, to serve, and to forgive.

2. Joy--a spirit of gladness rooted in our faith, expressed through song, and accompanied by an optimistic spirit.

3. Peace--inner serenity derived from God and based on the reality of our peace with God through Christ's sacrifice.

4. Longsuffering--patience in the midst of difficult circumstances and in our relationships with difficult people.

5. Kindness--practicing the golden rule of treating others as we expect them to treat us.

6. Goodness--open, honest, pure, and generous behavior.

7. Faithfulness--we can be trusted and depended on in all our relationships.

8. Gentleness--a tenderness of spirit that enables us to discipline others properly, to endure persecution graciously, and to witness to others sensitively.

9. Self-control--the quality that gives us control over our desires, especially those that relate to the body.

If the Holy Spirit is producing these nine moral qualities in your life, you are Spirit-filled. Paul's comment, "Against such there is no law" (v.23), means that nothing in the Mosaic law or any other law opposes these virtues or is needed to restrain them. In fact, when a person's life is marked by the four evidences of Ephesians 5:18-21 and the nine moral qualities of Galatians 5:22,23, the demands of the law are being fulfilled. When they are present, they provide evidence that you are filled with the Holy Spirit.

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