How to Be Filled with the Spirit


I promised on Sunday that I would write this STAR article on how to be filled with the Spirit. Ephesians 5:18 says, “Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.”

I argued Sunday morning that verses 19–21 describe the effects of being filled with the Spirit. The effect in verse 19 is very musical. Clearly joy in Christ is the mark of being filled with the Spirit. But not only joy. Also gratitude in verse 20 — perpetual gratitude, gratitude for everything. (Which obviously eliminates grumbling and pouting and self-pity and bitterness and scowling and murmuring and depression and worry and discouragement and gloominess and pessimism!)

But not only musical joy and universal gratitude, but also loving submission to each other’s needs (verse 21). Joy, gratitude, and humble love — these are the marks of being filled with the Spirit. To this should also be added boldness in witness from Acts (see Acts 2:4; 4:8, 31; 13:9). No one can fail to be bold and eager in witness when the Spirit is producing in him overflowing joy, perpetual gratitude, and humble love. O, how we need to be filled with the Spirit! Let’s seek it! Pursue it!

How? Start with the closest parallel: Don’t be drunk with wine; be filled with the Spirit! How do you get drunk with wine? You drink it. Lots of it. The wine of Paul’s day was so weak you would have to drink for hours to get drunk. So how then shall we get drunk (filled) with the Spirit? Drink it! Lots of it. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 12:13, “We were all . . . made to drink of one Spirit.” Jesus said, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Then John writes, “Now this he said about the Spirit.” (John 7:37–39).

How can you drink the Spirit? Paul said, “Those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit” (Romans 8:5). We drink the Spirit by setting our minds on the things of the Spirit. What does “setting the mind on” mean? Colossians 3:1–2 says, “Seek the things that are above. . . . Set your minds on things that are above.” “Setting the mind on” means seeking, directing your attention toward, being very concerned about (Philippians 3:19), being devoted to and taken up with. So drinking the Spirit means seeking the things of the Spirit, directing your attention to the things of the Spirit, being devoted to the things of the Spirit.

What are the “things of the Spirit”? When Paul said in 1 Corinthians 2:14, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit,” he was referring to his own Spirit-inspired teachings (2:13) about the thoughts and ways and plans of God (2:8–10). Therefore, “The things of the Spirit” are the teachings of the apostles about God. Jesus also said, “The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life” (John 6:63). Therefore, the teachings of Jesus are also the “things of the Spirit.”

So drinking the Spirit means setting our minds on the things of the Spirit. And setting our minds on the things of the Spirit means directing our eager attention to the teachings of the apostles about God and to the words of Jesus. If we do this long enough, we will get drunk with the Spirit. In fact we will get addicted to the Spirit. Instead of chemical dependency we will develop a wonderful Spirit-dependency.

One more tip: The Holy Spirit is not like wine because he is a person and is free to come and go where he wills (John 3:8). Therefore Luke 11:13 must be added. Jesus said to his disciples, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” If we want to be filled with the Spirit, we must pray for it. And that is just what Paul does for the Ephesians 3:19. He asks his Father in heaven (verse 14) that the believers might be “filled with all the fullness of God.” Drink and pray. Drink and pray. Drink and pray.