God Breathes When We Are Thirsty & Longing to Be Filled

Dr. Don Green - 6/14/2020

In his message last week Jon reminded us that God breathes when our world needs big solutions. It was a much-needed reminder of how the Holy Spirit unites, equips and empowers the Body of Christ to meet the challenges of our world. It prompted me to ask if I am ready, or if the 21st century church is ready, to face those challenges as the 1st century church did. Jess Moody in his book, A Drink at Joel's Place, (you know where that’s from--reference to Acts 2, the text Jon read last week where apostles accused of being drunk with wine and Peter reminds them that what was happening as the apostles spoke languages they had not learned, was what the prophet Joel said would happen in the last days as God pours out His Spirit on all flesh) observes that the church has been concerned that the world isn't impressed with us and will not sit up and take notice. He further explains that the reason is because "we haven't sat up and taken notice of that which makes the world sit up and take notice." 

What will it take to have that kind of impact with the big solutions the world needs? It will take nothing less than for God to breathe through His Spirit to quench our deepest thirst, to fill our deepest longing and to overflow through us to others as a Spirit-filled church. In this “Second Breath” series Jon has referenced several places where water and Spirit are joined together— 

· in creation— “the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:2, ESV)—He brought order out of chaos. 

· in the new birth— "unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5, ESV)—He was speaking of a second birth, spiritual birth. 

· in baptism— "For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:13, ESV) 

At the end of this message we will look at perhaps the most important invitation and greatest promise Jesus gives—a promise to quench our thirst and for us to be filled to overflowing. 

Even though it took place more than 40 years ago, I remember the encounter as though it were yesterday. I was teaching a class on New Testament Greek for Milligan College at the Purdue Christian Campus House in West Lafayette, IN. Ten of the fourteen students enrolled were active in a charismatic fellowship on campus. The Campus Minister at the time, Doug Dickey, alerted me to what might be coming. He told me of a conversation with the guys who said they couldn’t figure me out. There were times they thought I was Spirit-filled but then times they were not sure. One evening after class, what I anticipated might sometime happen, did happen—three lingered after class and asked if they could pray for me. I said “Sure, I always need prayer.” One of them said, “We want to pray for you to receive the gift.” So, I asked, “What gift?” “The filling of the Holy Spirit evidenced in speaking in tongues.” I was certain that at some point this encounter would occur and my prayer had been for the Spirit to fill me so know how to respond. My perceived Spirit-filled response (perhaps it was more sinister or snarky than Spirit-filled) was to ask my brothers “Why is your acceptance of me as a Spirit-filled brother dependent upon my speaking in tongues in your presence?” “How do you know I don’t have the gift?” Their response was “You don’t do you?” To which I replied “I am not going to tell you. But I am going to invite you to observe my life and decide whether I manifest the fruit of the Spirit and am Spirit-filled.” They prayed and that was the end of the conversation and they never brought it up again. We continued for the rest of the year in our study of New Testament Greek together and enjoyed great fellowship as Christian brothers. 

That experience drove me to explore the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer more diligently than I ever did in college or seminary. During that year I read much on subject and I gained a profound appreciation for three books—John R.W. Stott’s Baptism and Fullness: The Work of the Holy Spirit Today, Bernard Ramm’s Rapping about the Spirit, and the Bible. The Bible was most important as I engaged in a year-long process of studying every passage in the Bible that mentioned the Holy Spirit (before computerized Bible software). 

I studied every text that mentions people being filled with the Holy Spirit (nine times in the New Testament) and every text that commands Christians to be filled with the Spirit (that didn’t take long—only one—Ephesians 5:18-21). Let’s look at this text together: 

18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:18-21, ESV) 

If we were to study that text as students would in a Greek class, perhaps you would understand why I translate the main idea of the text this way: 

“All, y’all keep on continuously being filled with the Spirit!” 

Several lessons about the meaning and the blessing of being Spirit-filled are evident in the carefully chosen, precise words Paul uses. 

Being filled with the Spirit is not: 

· not a personal, private mystical experience but a corporate, public mutual expression (verb is plural in form—for entire Christian community, not for select few but for all Christians). No good way in English to tell whether the pronoun “you” is intended for one person or for a group of persons so I translated it the way my friend and colleague Steve Collins would. He’s from Kentucky and now lives in Texas so he speaks southern naturally. He would say that “All, y’all” means all of you not just one of you or some of you. 

· not optional but rather an obligation, an expectation (verb is an imperative—a command, not suggestion, or a recommendation, or bit of advice or a good idea). The force is urgent and emphatic—"Do this!” 

· not a once-for-all experience but a recurring every day, every moment ongoing, experience (verb is present tense—it stresses activity that is continuous and habitual thus “keep on continuously”). This idea is in contrast to what Paul said earlier in Ephesians about these Christians who were “sealed with the Spirit” in Eph 1:13 and 4:30. That action or event occurred once and for all and is not to be repeated. 

· not accomplished by my initiative but is result of God’s initiative (the verb is passive in voice—my active part is to drink of Jesus and to receive the filling of God’s Spirit. As is true in baptism, it is true with being filled with the Spirit, I am a willing participant for something to be done for me and to me. It is no coincidence that in a parallel text (Colossians 3:16-17) Paul writes: “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and counsel one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Our part in being filled with the Spirit is to saturate ourselves with Scripture. The ongoing expectation is this: If you will feed your spirit on the Word of Christ, you will drink freely of the Spirit of Christ. 

From my reading of that text I have concluded that being filled with the Spirit is a not a self-focused inward experience but an other-focused, outward/upward experience that results in being filled “to the measure of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13). In a chapter entitled, No Son, No Spirit! in Rapping about the Spirit Bernard Ramm writes, “One is most filled with the Spirit when one is most conscious of Christ and least conscious of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit glorifies Christ, not himself. This is the humiliation of the Spirit which parallels the humiliation of Christ in the incarnation." Christlikeness is an evidence of the Spirit’s filling. 

Or as John Stott observes, “There can be no doubt that the chief evidence is moral not miraculous and lies in the Spirit’s fruit not the Spirit’s gifts.” 

Someone has summarized the rest of this text as the 4 Habits of Spirit-filled Christians because Paul uses four phrases, all present tense, plural forms (all of us continuing to do this) to show how Spirit-filled believers habitually act revealing what being filled with the Spirit looks like in practical terms. It may surprise you that Paul describes our Spirit-filled life using the words of worship. 

Being filled with the Spirit is speaking to one another in edifying worship (5:19) 

Paul says that being Spirit-filled is evidenced by “19addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” It is a picture of believer-edifying, body-building worship. 

John Stott who comes out of the Anglican tradition notes that a good example of this is when worshippers sing Psalm 95 in public worship. Listen as believers exhort other believers to worship the Lord: 

“Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before Him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.” (Psalm 95:1-2, NIV) Take time as a family to read Psalm 95 and Psalm 96 to each other and others of the numerous psalms which are intended to be spoken or chanted or sung to one another. 

The other words “hymns and spiritual songs” describe other means of communicating Scripture, theological truths and gospel content to one another. This may be the best case for building up one another in the Body of Christ through different types of songs and expressions of worship, even across generational lines. Without our gatherings, we have missed this. 

Being filled with the Spirit is singing and making music to the Lord in heartfelt worship (5:19) 

Paul says that being Spirit-filled is evidenced by “19…singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart.” As we have observed, the Holy Spirit loves to glorify the Lord Jesus and desires nothing more than for His Spirit-filled people to sing praises to the Lord. Our worship response of singing is not merely to one another but primarily to God. As is true of every aspect of our worship he knows our hearts and thoughts 

The phrase “with your heart” suggests the manner in which we sing not merely the sphere in which sing (“in your heart”). I am convinced that the worship of Spirit-filled Christians is heartfelt. That’s where my generation has something to learn from younger generations. I often tell our students at LCU that I love their heart-felt worship. I have missed that. 

One author described our singing here on earth as choir practice for heaven. We see heartfelt worship in John’s vision of heavenly worship in the book of Revelation. 

“And they sang a new song: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.’” (Rev 5:9-10, NIV): 

Being filled with the Spirit is giving thanks to God in grateful worship (5:20) 

Paul says that being Spirit-filled is evidenced by “20giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” As a Spirit-filled community our grumbling and griping is to be replaced with grace-filled gratitude. Paul says it like this in Philippians 4:6: “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” 

Always—at all times and in all circumstances focus your attention, fix your gaze, and fill your heart and your mind with thanksgiving. Not sure what to be thankful for? Try these truths: 

“Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor 15:57) 

“Thanks be to God who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him.” (2 Cor 2:14) 

“Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” (2 Cor 9:15) 

Being filled with the Spirit is submitting to one another in reverent worship (5:21) 

Paul says that being Spirit-filled is evidenced by “21submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” It is often overlooked that submission and service to one another are also acts of worship. Serving is another primary word for worship in Scripture. Worship that edifies believers and glorifies God, that is grace-filled and grateful, also serves others. 

What does Christ-revering, God-honoring worship look like? It looks like submitting ourselves in order to serve others. A lesson I learned long ago is that we are no more committed to Jesus Christ than we are to a Christian brother or sister who has some need. Paul uses several everyday situations to illustrate this point—the way to show reverence to Christ is not in high church liturgy or in a free-flowing frenzy, but in lowly, humble service. We show reverence to Christ when we show respect to one another in submissive service. Paul goes on to discuss submissive service or reverent worship in Ephesians chapters 5 and 6—wives submit to husbands and husbands to wives; children submit to parents and parents to children; slaves submit to masters and masters to slaves. 

Here is my point: When the church, gathered or scattered, is a Spirit-filled, seven-days-a-week, 24/7 worshipping and one-anothering Christian community, the world will sit up and take notice. How is that possible? How can we experience that? It is because God breathes. Hear again these words of Jesus, not merely as an invitation to drink but as a promise to deliver: 

"37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” (John 7:37–39, ESV) 

Following His resurrection and ascension, Jesus has been glorified; since the Day of Pentecost the Spirit has been given. He is available to all; so come, drink, be filled, be overflowing, and be fruitful for the glory of God.

Scripture Verses

Ephesians 5:18-21, Colossians 3:16-17, Psalm 95:1-2, Revelation 5:9-10

Worship Playlist

Great Are You Lord by All Sons & Daughters

Another in the Fire by Hillsong

Do It Again by Elevation Worship

Run to the Father by Cody Carnes

Study Questions

1. Read Psalm 42:1-2 and Revelation 7:16-17. How is your hunger and thirst for God and the things of God? Why should we be thirsty? What if we aren’t all that thirsty?

2. What are the things people in our culture are thirsty for right now? Why do we often choose to soothe our thirst in futile ways? 

3. What evidence is there in your life that you are Spirit filled?

4. Read Psalm 119. Choose one of the eight-verse sections to read aloud to your group. Read that section aloud each day in the coming week.


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