As I was reading through the first few chapters of Luke leading up to Christmas, I was struck by how many times Luke uses a version of the description “Filled with the Holy Spirit”.
Gabriel speaking to Zechariah about John: “... for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.” -Luke 1:14-15
Gabriel in conversation with Mary about conceiving and being the mother of Jesus: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you…” -Luke 1:35
When Elizabeth goes to visit Mary after they are both pregnant: “And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit…” -Luke 1:41
After Zechariah writes down that his son’s name will be John, and God restores his ability to speak: “And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying…” -Luke 1:67
And that’s only chapter 1! In chapter 2, it says that “the Holy Spirit was upon” Simeon. In chapter 3, Jesus is baptized “and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove.” In chapter 4, it says “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days.” And later in chapter 4 after Jesus returns for being tempted in the wilderness, it says, “And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee.”
This post isn’t going to be a full theological deep dive into the theology of the Holy Spirit. But like I’ve shared, my journey has been one where I thought I believed in the Holy Spirit but then realized that my actions actually demonstrated that I didn't. I believed it in my head, but it wasn't playing out in my life.
So as I’ve been re-reading through the all of the Gospels, one of the things I’ve been looking for and marking is passages regarding the Holy Spirit. Like I said, I couldn’t believe how many times Luke described people as “filled with” or “full of” the Holy Spirit in the first few chapters.
Then this thought came to me:
“When is the last time I described somebody as full of the Holy Spirit?”
That question then led me to think about myself:
“Would I describe myself as full of the Holy Spirit?”
So how about you? When is the last time you described somebody as “Full of the Holy Spirit”? And if you were going to describe somebody that way, what would that mean? What would cause you to make that observation?
When you think about yourself, would you consider yourself “full of” or “filled with” the Holy Spirit? If so, why? If not, why not?
It’s kind of an intriguing series of questions, don’t you think?
We all believe that the Holy Spirit indwells us, so why don’t we ever describe each other this way?
I know I don’t and I don’t hear my friends using this description, so I think we need to ask two questions:
Why don’t we describe people as full of the Holy Spirit?
And if we did describe people this way, what would we mean?
-- What would we mean?
Have you ever had the thought or feeling when you have just met a stranger, “I think this person follows Jesus?” Jamie has it a lot, and I’ve had that a few times. You can’t really put your finger on it. I would describe it as a gut level discernment. I’ve heard multiple people describe this experience, and many times if the person asks their new acquaintance if they follow Jesus, they find out that they were correct.
I think this would be a time to use the description, “I could tell that person was full of the Holy Spirit.” My explanation of this “sixth sense” kind of example is that you sense the peace and joy that person lives with and you are discerning the “aroma of Christ” that is described in 2 Corinthians 2:14-16.
Similarly, but with people we know and spend a lot of time with, I think we could use the description of “filled with the Holy Spirit” when we really see the “fruit of the Spirit” described in Galatians 5:22-26. When we consistently see love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. As I’m writing this, it’s rekindling my vision that this is the kind of person I want to be and this is how I want to be described.
Finally, I think we could also use the description when we see supernatural results surrounding the activity and life of the person. This is when the person understands their spiritual gifts, lives into those, and accesses the power of the Holy Spirit and resources of the Kingdom. Because they live that way we can observe that the “work of that person’s hands” seem to result in impact “beyond the natural”. Now, if we don’t have the grid or lens to look at people or the world this way, we might just think of this person as “talented” or “experienced”. Talent and experience are not mutually exclusive from being full of the Holy Spirit, and those things might be the reason this person is seeing incredible results. I’m just making the point that it may not be our natural inclination to describe somebody as full of the Spirit if they are really good at something, when in fact, the Holy Spirit might be a contributing factor.
One example of this is my good friend Stephen. He is a surgeon and we were talking about praying for physical healing the other night in our life group. He gave his perspective as one who is trained to bring healing through his skills, training, and expertise. Stephen felt called from God to become a doctor and had a specific moment when he felt like God led him to become a foot surgeon. God showed him the story of Jesus washing the disciples' feet and asked Stephen to serve people by doing the same… just with a scalpel instead of a tunic.
So the other night Stephen said something I found to be very profound, (rough quote) “I am trained to bring healing, but I have patients and cases where I know my skills and expertise can only take me so far. I do all that I can do but I ask God to bring healing beyond what I can bring with my hands… and I see him do it over and over again.” Stephen is a surgeon that is “full of the Holy Spirit”. Isn’t that beautiful?
-- Why don’t we describe people as full of the Holy Spirit?
This is the harder question of the two. I’ll offer three potential answers:
We haven’t experienced it. We believe that the Holy Spirit indwells us. We might even believe that there is supernatural power and “help” that comes with the “Helper”. But we haven’t experienced it, and if we have, we haven’t experienced it very much.
We aren’t looking for it. We live in a very naturalistic culture and society. Even in our faith, we don’t really look for much beyond the natural. It’s not on our radar. It’s not the pair of glasses we wear.
We have a skewed definition. I wrote about this in the first postof this series, but our definition of “full of the Holy Spirit” is often associated with “Charismatics” or “Pentecostals”. I now don’t think of those labels as “bad”, but I once did. My old understanding of those labels would be “sensational”, “weird” , “out there”, or “dangerous”. Continuing with my thinking in the first "S" Word post that we need to alter our definition of the supernatural, I also think we need to alter our definition of “filled/full of the Holy Spirit.”
For me, I’m going to apply this in two ways:
I’m going to be looking for it in others. When I see it, I’m going to use the description where appropriate, I’m going to tell the person and ask them about their journey. I want to know how they’ve become this kind of person.
This could be a whole series of blog posts on “how”, but I’m re-inspired to become the kind of person that is described this way. I want the fruit of the Spirit to flow naturally out of me. Again, this needs a lot of description on “how”, but I will re-commit myself to the Spiritual Disciplines in order to give room for the Holy Spirit to bring about transformation and fruit (read more about the Spiritual Disciplines here). Simply, my role is creating the space. I also am going to ask God to fill me more with his Spirit each day.
Is “filled with” or “full of” the Holy Spirit a description that is used by you and your friends? Why or why not?
What did I miss above? What else would we mean if we used this description and why do you think we don't use this description?
Who do you know that you would describe as “full of the Holy Spirit”? If you know somebody, tell them what you see and ask them how they have become that kind of person.
If this is how you would want to be described, take some time to journal what that would look like. When you've done that, ask God what he thinks about your vision... I think he'll be pumped :)