There can be no spiritual formation without engagement with the Spirit. To attempt to do otherwise makes for a hard life, a miserable experience where the flesh gets the upper hand and joy eludes us and defeat is our constant companion. The transformed life we are called to cannot come about by the mere application of our will and strength. Spirit fullness is essential. The Spirit-filled, open-to-the-Spirit life, should be the norm of every Christian and church community – it’s all over the New Testament, and nobody, Pentecostal, charismatic, open, or non charismatic, could possibly disagree.
Some believe it all happened at conversion and we live it out by faithful obedience, for others there’s an entering into or a releasing of what was given at conversion, for still others there’s a second experience, a distinct baptism in the Spirit followed by further fillings. It may also be that we have the doctrine but not the experience.
The Bible doesn’t present Spirit fullness as an optional extra for the really enthusiastic ones, those who sit on the front seats, or just for leaders and those involved in ministry, but as an expectation – no, more, a command, to the whole, to everyone, to be filled with the Spirit, to live out our lives in the Spirit.
No matter what our interpretation may be, the question is, is it our experience, are we being filled with the Spirit, are we open to his activity in and through us? And if not, why not? As Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones a famous preacher and pastor of another generation said, “If you’ve got it all, then where is it?” Quite. What evidence is there?
The Christian life was never meant to be an exercise in cold belief/faith carried out by our own will and power, a kind of British stiff upper lip, but a supernatural life led and energised by the Spirit. Too many are living below par Christian lives and seeing little transformation because they are endeavouring to do in the flesh what can only be achieved through the Spirit. Paul says in Galatians the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Some list, some fruit. Fruit is produced not worked up.
It might be helpful to illustrate. There are some varieties of tree that retain dead leaves on them all winter and they only drop off when the sap begins to rise, then they just fall away. If the sale not rising, they are going nowhere, the same can be said for the Christian, if the sap of the Spirit is not rising there’s little hope of change. Yes, you can mask things, but only for a while, when something hits it reveals the reality. Perhaps you have been struggling to overcome something, gain some victory in some area of your life, produce some fruit, but without success, if so you need Holy Spirit.
Paul says, that “The Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 2 Cor. 3:17,18.
Spiritual formation involves our constant filling and engagement with the Spirit. Spirit fullness requires intentionality on our part. We must place ourselves in the way of the Spirit, welcoming and engaging His Presence.
How open to the Spirit are you?
Have you been filled with the Spirit?
Are you being filled with the Spirit?
Are you being transformed by the Spirit?