I was thinking last Wednesday about what it means to be filled with the Spirit. Now with a starter for ten like that I’m aware how many people might be turned off this blog entry straight away. In any case I continue.
My experience of being filled with the Spirit has been closely associated to ecstatic expression. Growing up in a particular church culture being filled with the Spirit was linked to making loud noises of praise and acclaim at certain points during a sermon and when the speaker or singer or whoever was emotionally moved by what they were offering. Perhaps they likewise might get ecstatic, jumpy, shouty and type of thing.
Now I don’t decry that at all – I still get caught up in such expressions from time to time and don’t see them as all bad at all. The problem is where our definition of being filled with the Spirit is limited to those expressions. To be fair as well to my upbringing, I hardly heard people testify of experiencing being filled with the Spirit and being led into a wilderness. There were no testimonies of having the Spirit leading to proclaiming good news to the poor, recovery of sight to the blind, broken-hearted mended, those in captivity released, those bound set free and all hearing that this is the year of the Lord’s favour.
What made matters worse for me last Wednesday as I pondered further was this rather convicting verse in the gospel according to Mark.
For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45)
Then it all began to be a bit clearer. The Spirit-filled life is one of the miraculous and the extraordinary – of that there should be no doubt. It should also be accompanied by rejoicing and exclamations fitting such wondrous occasions. There is this key element in being Spirit filled however that allows me to live like Jesus expressing His character all the time and His mentality. That mentality is not really about the ecstatic more than it is for being a servant.
Now of course anyone who jumps up and down and says that this applies to Jesus alone as He is the only one who has laid His life for many would be absolutely right. And absolutely wrong. The context suggests that this mentality of service is the heartbeat of any follower of Christ and this is the Master saying He shows the way in the fulfilment of His mission.
So imagine that then, being Spirit-filled is about serving others and serving them as Jesus served us – whole-heartedly, compassionately and with a desire that we should see God for who He is through these acts of grace.
That thought was bothering me all last Wednesday then on and off during the week. You see I want to be fruitful and productive in whatever I’m doing and now I am more than ever convicted that this is as much about having a Christ-like servant approach to relationships than ever before.
Just when I think it’s safe to dwell on that thought I have a night like tonight. As you know, I work for the North Staffs YMCA as a Christian Spiritual Development Worker which is really all about creating opportunities for especially the young people who reside there to get to know more about faith and Christ can make a good difference in life. Almost like creating gospel opportunities in the context of developing relationships.
One of the outlets for that is a Monday evening session called Chill, Chat and Connect where we do what it says get to know young people and offer them the chance to do activities and projects that particularly intrigue them. Two months ago one member of the team who did not strike me as particularly bold and confident suggested turning the canteen into a restaurant. People were behind the idea and it grew from there.
What was amazing about it was that this was an opportunity for the customers – the people who are the recipients of the services provided for them to support them in life’s journey, were now turning around and serving a number of their workers. There they were, voluntarily serving them and giving them top quality service at that in terms of food content and quality hospitality.
I was blown away by the quality of service and how well they did – more in a report that will be on the YMCA’s web-site. So there was all I’d been reading about in front of me – serving people is what it really means to be Spirit-filled and drawing them as a result closer to the Kingdom of God that is all about hospitality as that engenders the feeling of being at home and feeling relaxed enough to experience the healing that comes with that.
No, the young people on a whole are not born-again Christians and who’s to say they ever will be, but to see that in action was a testimony to me of what Jesus was talking about and how serving others with that level of sacrifice and gentle attitude is what it’s all about – indeed that’s the Spirit.
For His Name's Sake