What Does It Mean to Be Filled with the Spirit?

JP: I found this helpful resource from John MacArthur on “The Filling of the Spirit”. Since this will be our topic (from Ephesians 5:18-21) this Wednesday night, I thought I would share the booklet with you.

John MacArthur: What Does It Mean to Be Filled with the Spirit?

Sometimes an easy conversation between friends can have ramifications far beyond what either person expects. Such was the case in the summer of 1872 near Dublin , Ireland , when two prominent evangelists were discussing ministry. The two men were the British evangelist Henry Varley and the renowned American evangelist Dwight L. Moody. Their conversation contains one of the best-remembered quotes attributed to the life and times of Moody. The remark affected him for the rest of his life.

The morning after an all-night prayer meeting, as the two men strolled around the grounds of the mansion where the meeting had been held, Varley uttered a brief but thought-provoking statement to Moody. This is how Moody recorded it in one of his diaries:

“The world has yet to see what God can do with and for and through a man who is fully and wholly consecrated to Him.” . . . A man! Varley meant any man. Varley didn’t say he had to be educated, or brilliant, or anything else. Just a man. Well, by the Holy Spirit in me I’ll be that man (quoted in John Pollock, Moody: The Biography [ Chicago : Moody, 1963, 1983], 115, author’s italics).

Henry Varley’s words became indelibly fixed in Dwight Moody’s heart and mind and were a tremendous motivation for the gifted American evangelist’s final quarter century of ministry. A short while after his walk with Varley, Moody was further impressed by the need to be completely obedient to the Lord:

Back in London , in the gallery of the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Varley’s remark and Spurgeon’s preaching focused Moody’s attention on “something I had never realized before. It was not Spurgeon who was doing the work: it was God. And if God could use Spurgeon, why should He not use me?” (Moody: The Biography, 115).

If one Christian’s informal remarks to another believer–especially to one who was already a prominent leader–could stir that individual’s thinking so much regarding sanctification and effective service, the words ought also to stir believers like us. This episode from the life of Moody encourages us to wrestle with the issue of what it means to be empowered by the Holy Spirit.

The key to rightly living the Christian life is being controlled by the Holy Spirit, who provides energy for walking “worthy of the calling with which you have been called” (Eph. 4:1). Unless you are controlled by the Spirit of God, you can never walk in humility, love, unity, light, and wisdom. The life of God in the soul of man is the only way anyone can live a righteous life. To walk without the Spirit is to walk without wisdom (cf. Eph. 5:15 -17).

The filling or controlling of the Holy Spirit is a profound reality in the believer’s life, and understanding it can change your life.

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