Summary: A Spirit-filled Christian chooses to be under the influence of God.

I love idioms. Idioms are local or cultural words or phrases that have dual meanings. If, for example, someone says that you are cool or hot, they’re not talking about your body temperature. Cool means unaffected by pressure or it describes a certain winsome personality or just means good. Hot, of course, means extremely handsome or beautiful. The idioms I enjoy the most are those with an interesting origin behind them which gives them a deeper meaning. Let me give you some examples:

Pushing the envelope. What does this mean? To us it means going beyond your ability or pushing something too far. “This expression comes out of the US Air Force test pilot program of the late1940’s. The envelope refers to a plane’s performance capabilities. The limits of the plane’s ability to fly at speeds and altitudes and under certain stresses define what is known as its performance envelope. It’s an ‘envelope’ in the sense that it contains the ranges of the plane’s abilities. ‘Pushing the envelope’ originally meant flying an aircraft at, or even beyond, its known or recommended limits.

“‘That’s all she wrote!’ was said after a soldier finished reading a ‘Dear John’ kiss-off letter from his girlfriend. So the term came to mean, ‘It’s over.’”

“What does hand over fist mean? The original expression was hand over hand, which was chiefly nautical and referred literally to rope work: climbing a rope, or pulling something in with a rope, would be ‘climbing it hand over hand,’ that is, with each hand brought over the other. This was then extended figuratively to mean ‘with continuous progress; with regular advances’, especially as used of a ship chasing and gaining on another ship. From here it’s a very small step to ‘speedily increasingly’, the sense in ‘making money hand over fist,’ which is about the only way the phrase is found nowadays.

"Fly off the handle - If you’ve ever seen a person ‘fly off the handle,’ you may have been impressed at the energy and speed involved with that eruption of anger. Frontiersmen found it hard to control their tempers when tools suddenly failed them. A common cause of such a turn of events was the shrinkage of wood - universally used as tool handles. After having hung in a shed for months, the handle of a hoe or a rake was likely to come off after a few strokes. In the case of an ax, badly worn or shrunken wood is positively dangerous because the head of the tool can come loose at the first lick. When the blade of an ax flies off the handle, it endangers the user and everyone standing nearby. That makes it almost as great a source of danger as a violent explosion of temper.”

This morning I want to explore a phrase that has become something of an idiom. Although the Bible speaks clearly about it, Christians, over the years have assigned it a somewhat different meaning. The phrase is “Spirit-filled.” If I said, “Who wants to be Spirit-filled?” I’m certain there’d be at least three responses. Some of you would be excited and want to know more. Some of you would be spooked because imagines of worship services out of control with people speaking in tongues, falling down on the ground, praising God loudly, and raising their hands come to mind. Some of you would be bored out of your minds because it’s just a churchy phrase that has no relevance to your life.

Being filled with the Spirit of God does matter. A Spirit-filled Christian lives a wise life as opposed to a foolish, wasteful one. It is the only kind of life that pleases God. And, best of all, being a Spirit-filled Christian has benefits for the believer who goes after it. It is the kind of life where there’s joy, and peace, and purpose because when you’re Spirit-filled you’re at the center of God’s will.

Some Christians have overly mystified the meaning of Spirit-filled. They have made it into a one-time, supernatural experience that somehow makes you a “Christian-plus.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Paul wrote to the Ephesians believers:

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Ephesians 5:18

The wording explains what being Spirit-filled means. First we see that it’s more about influence than empowering. It is not so much a supernatural zap as a yielding to the presence of God that is already within the believer. If you’re drunk on wine it’s not giving you superhuman power. You’ve simply placed yourself under its influence and the result is misspent, directionless, wasted time that makes you feel bad the next morning due to a hangover and regret at your actions. The original language tells us that being filled with the Spirit is not a one-time event. In the Greek it’s literally “be being continuously filled.” The verb is an imperative, making it a command for all Christians, but also passive which means you can’t make it happen yourself. It seems contradictory, but it’s not. When you put your faith in Jesus Christ, that is to say, the moment you believed that He sacrificed His perfect life for your sinful life on the cross and that He rose from the dead after 3 days, you were forgiven completely, made right in God’s sight, promised eternal life, and the Holy Spirit took up residence within you. Every follower of Jesus Christ is a vessel of the Spirit of God. That’s a work of God, not of man. Your part is coming under the Spirit’s influence. You have the choice moment by moment to resist Him or to be filled with Him. Being Spirit-filled is a continuous daily choice all believers are commanded to make which is an outworking of our salvation.

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