What is the secret to being continually filled with the Holy Spirit? That is a question I have asked myself many times! Considering Ephesians 5:18, “…be [continually] filled with the Spirit”, how can we live out this command? Over the last few weeks I wrote about the five reasons why the filling of the Holy Spirit is essential to Christian living. (click here to read Five Reasons Why You MUST Be Filled With the Holy Spirit). However, these five reasons beg the question, “How can I be continually filled with the Holy Spirit?” I believe Jesus gives us the secret to this question in John 15:1-5. In these verses, Jesus uses the metaphor of a vineyard to reveal the three secrets to how Christians can be continually filled with the Holy Spirit.
1. Our position in the vineyard. The first secret to being continually filled with the Holy Spirit is establishing our position in the vineyard. Jesus opens the metaphor of the vineyard by making clear what are the different positions in the vineyard. “I am the vine, and My Father is the vinedresser… you are the branches” (vv. 1, 5). I think it can be better said that Jesus establishes the relationships in the vineyard.
The Spirit-filled life begins with being in right relationship to the Vine and Vinedresser. Or, to put it in positional terms, we must have a right standing before God. Titus 3:7 perfectly ties together our relationship and position in salvation – “…having been justified [position, standing] by His grace we should become heirs [relationship to God] according to the hope of eternal life. (see Titus 3:3-7) In simple terms, the Spirit-filled life begins when we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. This is the foundation and beginning to the Spirit-filled life. Without it there is no life!
2. The pruning of the Vinedresser. The continual filling of the Spirit requires continual cleansing. Jesus said His Father was the Vinedresser and He prunes the branches (Jn. 15:2). The word translated “prune” actually means to cleanse. Our Heavenly Father desires maximum fruitfulness in our lives. So, he removes anything that would hinder our fruitfulness in Him. Bible commentator Albert Barnes explains, “[The Father cleanses Christians] by the regular influences of his Spirit in sanctifying them, purifying their motives, teaching them the beauty of holiness, and inducing them to devote themselves more to him. He does it by taking away what opposes their usefulness, however much they may be attached to it, or however painful to part with it…. He removes the objects which bind their affections, and which render them inactive.” Pruning generally hurts; but, for those who have been trained by it they know it yields the fruits of righteousness (see Hebrews 12:11). It is by the forces of nature against a tree that it is compelled to put down deep roots. And so, it is by pain and trial that the Christian is cleansed and deepened in God.
3. Our persisting in the vine. The final secret to the continual filling of the Holy Spirit is persisting in the vine. Jesus says it this way, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:4-5). While salvation is essential to enter into the Spirit-filled life, the life of abiding in Christ is the primary secret to continuing in the Spirit. Bill Bright defined abiding in Christ as “…[living] in conscious dependence upon [Christ], recognizing that it is His life, His power, His wisdom, His resources, His strength, and His ability, operating through you, which enable you to live according to His will” (A Handbook for Christian Maturity). We are weak and fully dependent upon Christ for everything at every moment. In fact, the word that Jesus uses for “branch” implies weakness and a propensity to break (Vincent Word Studies). For that reason, we must abide in Him.
The picture that Jesus is giving us here is not that of a filling that is spent for which we must then return for more. Often, I have perceived this to be what it means to be continually filled with the Spirit. As if the filling of the Holy Spirit was like filling the gas tank of your vehicle, burning the fuel, and then having to go back for more each day. That is not the idea that Jesus is conveying here.
Rather, it is the idea of a branch being grafted into a vine so that it may continually, at every moment, receive the life giving flow of the Holy Spirit from the vine. Just as a branch continually receives the flow of sap from the vine, so the Christian can continually receive the life giving flow of the Holy Spirit from the Vine. By this unbroken connection to Christ, He abides in us and we abide in Him (Jn. 15:4-5). The Expositor’s Bible gives this great insight: “[According to the nature of grafting, our] grafting in Christ [must be similar]. It must be a laying bare of our inmost nature, so that a vital connection may be formed between these two. What we expect to receive by being connected with Christ is the very Spirit which made Him what He was. We expect to receive into the source of conduct in us all that was the source of conduct in Him. We wish to be in such a connection with Him that his principles, sentiments, and aims shall become ours.” It is the “laying bare of our inmost nature”, the full and absolute surrender of ourselves to God, that forms this connection to Christ and enables us to enjoy abiding fellowship with Him.
We are not only called to be continually filled with the Holy Spirit, but God has made a way for us to be continually filled with the Holy Spirit by abiding in Christ.
What do does it mean to abide in Christ? Leave your feedback in the comments section below.
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All Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version.