The Bible says on several occasions to be ‘filled with the Spirit,’ but what does that mean? Yesterday at Mt Vernon I used the illustration of the wind filling the sails of an ancient sailing vessel. When the wind fills the sail, the boat has power (Acts 1:8) to move in the direction that the wind is blowing. It’s not our job to determine which way we want the wind to blow, but to adjust our sails to the direction in which the wind of the Holy Spirit is already blowing. Here are four ways to practically adjust your sails everyday:
1. Surrender control – Being filled with the Spirit starts with the loss of control. The Holy Spirit calls the shots, not us. When God calls us to repentance, he’s calling us to surrender our way of living for God’s way. To come under the full influence of the Holy Spirit, you have to take yourself out of the driver’s seat. Paul puts this beautifully, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
2. Saturate yourself in the Word – If we want the Holy Spirit to lead us and guide us, we need to hear his voice and recognize his promptings. God’s Word is living and active (Hebrews 4:12), and the Holy Spirit many times will use specific Scriptures to guide us on a daily basis. The more we meditate on Scripture, the bigger we build our sails, and the easier it will be to recognize when the Holy Spirit is speaking to us.
3. Dialogue with God throughout the day – Jesus says of the Holy Spirit, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit” (John 3:8). Adjusting your sails to the Holy Spirit means remaining constantly vigilant to where and how the wind of the Holy Spirit is blowing. As great as a weekly church service might be or even a daily quiet time, more is needed. The Holy Spirit is constantly moving, and we need to be constantly attentive to him. Practically speaking, we need to have an ongoing dialogue with God throughout the day. A dialogue is part talking to God. In 1 Thessalonians 5:17, Paul tells the church to “pray without ceasing.” A dialogue is also part listening to God. Work on the discipline of being aware of God’s presence at school, work, Walmart, the ball field, and everywhere in between. You’ll find that the wind of the Holy Spirit blows in all of those places, not just within the four walls of a church building.
4. Obey – The first three are useless if you don’t obey. The Holy Spirit doesn’t speak to you for your amusement or to simply give you advice. Look at some of the key moments in the book of Acts (like chapter 16 when Paul takes the gospel from Asia to Europe). Those moments changed world history because the early believers not only listened to the Holy Spirit, they obeyed. If you’re not sure what to do, the safest thing to do is the last thing you know God told you to do.
When you surrender control, saturate yourself in the Word, dialogue with God throughout the day and obey the Holy Spirit’s promptings, buckle up! You’re about to start living.