We are filled with the Holy Spirit by faith. How did you become a Christian? By faith. “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9, New International Version 1984). “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him” (Colossians 2:6, NIV 1984).
You receive Christ by faith. You live by faith. Everything you receive from God, from the moment of your spiritual birth until you die, is by faith. Do you want to be filled with the Holy Spirit? You can be filled right now, by faith.
You do not have to beg God to fill you with His Holy Spirit. You do not have to barter with Him by fasting or weeping or begging or pleading. For a long period of time, I fasted and cried out to God for His fullness. Then, one day, I discovered from the Scriptures that the “just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:7, King James Version). You do not earn God’s fullness. You receive it by faith.
Let me illustrate. Suppose that you want to cash a check for a hundred dollars. Would you go to the bank where you have several thousand dollars on deposit, place the check on the counter, get down on your knees, and beg, “Oh, please, Miss Teller, cash my check?” No, that is not the way you cash a check. You simply go in faith, place the check on the counter and wait for the money which is already yours. Then you thank the teller and go on your way.
Millions of Christians are begging God, as I once did, for something which is readily available — just waiting to be appropriated by faith. They are seeking some kind of emotional experience, not realizing that such an attitude on their part is an insult to God — a denial of faith. But faith is the only way you can please God.
Though you are filled with the Holy Spirit by faith and faith alone, it is important to recognize that several factors contribute to preparing your heart for the filling of the Spirit. First, you must desire to live a life that will please the Lord. You have the promise of our Savior: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:6, NIV 1984).
Second, be willing to surrender your life totally and irrevocably to our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul admonishes in Romans 12:1-2 (NIV 1984): “I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — His good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Third, confess every known sin which the Holy Spirit calls to your remembrance and experience the cleansing and forgiveness that God promises in 1 John 1:9 (NIV 1984): “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
I call this process “spiritual breathing.” Just as you exhale and inhale physically, so you also breathe spiritually. You exhale spiritually when you confess your sins.
If you have wronged a brother or have taken that which is not rightfully yours, the Holy Spirit may lead you to make restitution to right your wrong. If so, obey Him, or you will miss His blessing. The blessings of the fullness of God’s Spirit come only to those who willingly obey Him.
Jesus promised, “Whoever has My commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I too will love him and show Myself to him” (John 14:21, NIV 1984).
Again, you are not filled with the Holy Spirit because you desire to be filled nor because you confess your sins or present your body as a living sacrifice — you are filled by faith.
There are two very important words to remember.
The first is “command.” In Ephesians 5:18, God commands you to be filled: “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit” (NIV 1984). Not to be filled, controlled and empowered by the Holy Spirit is disobedience.
The other word is “promise” — a promise that makes the command possible: “This is the assurance we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us — whatever we ask — we know that we have what we asked of Him” (1 John 5:14-15, NIV 1984).
Now, is it God’s will for you to be filled and controlled by Him? Of course it is — for it is His command! Then right now you can ask God to fill you — not because you deserve to be filled, but on the basis of His promise.
If you are a Christian, the Holy Spirit already dwells within you. When you purchase mechanical items that run on battery power, frequently the notice “batteries not included” is printed on the box. The Holy Spirit — your source of power for living — is “included” when you receive Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord. Therefore, you do not need to invite Him to come into your life. He did this when you became a Christian, and Jesus promised that He will never leave you.
The moment you received Christ, the Holy Spirit not only came to indwell you, but He imparted to you spiritual life, causing you to be born anew as a child of God. The Holy Spirit also baptized you into the body of Christ. In 1 Corinthians 12:13 (NIV 1984), Paul explains, “We were all baptized by one Spirit into one body.”
There is but one indwelling of the Holy Spirit, one rebirth of the Holy Spirit, and one baptism of the Holy Spirit — all of which occur when you receive Christ.
Being filled with the Holy Spirit, however, is not a once-and-for-all experience. There are many fillings, as is made clear in Ephesians 5:18. In the Greek language, in which this command was originally written, the meaning is clearer than that in most English translations. This command of God means to be constantly and continually filled, controlled and empowered with the Holy Spirit as a way of life.
I cannot control myself and be controlled by the Holy Spirit at the same time. Christ cannot be in control if I am on the throne. So I must abdicate. This involves faith. As an expression of my will, in prayer, I surrender the throne of my life to Him, and by faith I draw upon His resources to live a holy and fruitful life.
The command of Ephesians 5:18 is given to all believers to be filled, directed and empowered by the Holy Spirit, continually, every day of our lives. And the promise of 1 John 5:14-15 is made to all believers that, when we pray according to God’s will, He hears and answers us. If you claim the fullness of God’s Spirit in prayer, He will hear and answer you. He will fill you. And in the process, you will “inhale” spiritually.
Do not think that you have to have an emotional experience or that something dramatic must happen to you. How did you receive Christ? Was it because of some great emotional pressure brought to bear upon you? Your emotions may have been involved. But ultimately, you became a Christian not because of your emotional experience but because of your faith. For the Bible says, “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith.”
The Holy Spirit is not given to you that you might have a great emotional experience but that you might live a holy life and be a fruitful witness for Christ. So, whether or not you have an emotional experience is not the issue.
There is no place in Scripture where you are told to pray for the filling of the Holy Spirit. You are filled by faith. However, since the object of your faith is God and His Word, I suggest that you pray to Him claiming the fullness of His Spirit as an expression of your faith in God’s command and in His promise.=
Have you met God’s conditions? Do you hunger and thirst after righteousness? Do you sincerely desire to be controlled and empowered by the Holy Spirit? If so, I invite you to bow your head and pray this prayer of faith right now. Expect God to fill you. Without begging or pleading, just say:
“Dear Father, I need You. I hunger and thirst for a more vital relationship with You. I admit that I have been in control of my life. As a result, I have sinned against You.
“Thank You for forgiving my sins through Christ’s death on the cross for me. I now confess and turn from my sins and surrender the control of my life to the Lord Jesus. By faith I invite You to fill me with the Holy Spirit as You commanded me to be filled. You promised to fill me if I ask according to Your will. I pray this in the authority of the name of Jesus Christ.
“To demonstrate my faith, I now thank You for filling me with Your Holy Spirit and for taking control of my life. Amen.”
Now, if you sincerely prayed that prayer, you are filled with the Holy Spirit. You will begin to experience a greater love for God. You will want to spend time with Him in studying His Word and in prayer. You will want to trust and obey God and His Word. You will want to share your love for Christ with others who do not know Him.
© 1999 Bill Bright, © 2009 Bright Media Foundation and Campus Crusade for Christ International. All rights reserved. Adapted from Bill Bright, “How You Can Be Filled With The Holy Spirit,” Transferable Concept 3 (Peachtree City, GA; Cru).
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