“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21)
“Do you remember me?” The bright-eyed teen looked at me eagerly. I couldn’t bring myself to say “no,” so I stalled: “Are you from Birmingham?” I knew there was a large group from Birmingham at the youth conference, and the leader had told me a remarkable story of how God had moved in the local high school all year long. The whole campus was transformed, starting with a couple of girls in an early morning prayer meeting. Dozens had come to Christ.
The seventeen-year-old must have decided to let me off the hook when she heard “Birmingham,” so she continued, “Do you remember last year, the night after that last meeting of the conference when we sat on that stone wall over there?” It all came back to me. “Oh, yes, Debbie, I remember.”
That night she had talked despondently of a failed Christian life. “I didn’t respond to the invitation to consecrate my life to the Lord,” she’d said, “because I’m sick and tired of doing it over and over. Nothing ever comes of it. I go forward in a meeting and everything changes. It’s really great. For two weeks. Then it’s boom, back to the same miserable failure again. What’s wrong with me?”
“I really don’t know, Debbie. Tell me, who’s in the driver’s seat of your life?”
“Jesus is….” She paused, then added, “most of the time.”
“Oh, no,” I said. “It doesn’t work that way. You don’t let him drive down the road to the first intersection and then grab the wheel when you think He’s turning the wrong direction. I think this is what you’re saying.” On a piece of paper I wrote two words: “No” and “Lord.” “Well, yes, sometimes I do say that.” “But you can’t,” I said.
Debbie bristled a little, “But I do!”
“But you can’t,” I insisted. “What does ‘Lord’ mean?” “Savior?” she asked.
“The Savior is Lord, but what does the word ‘Lord’ mean?”
A few more guesses and she gave up. “Well,” I tried again, “How about ‘king?’ What does king mean?”
“That’s easy. A king is the big boss.”
“Do you say ‘no’ to the king?”
“Well, it wouldn’t be healthy.”
“Right,” I said. “And Jesus is King of all kings, Lord of all lords. You can’t say ‘no’ to Him! It’s either ‘yes, Lord’ or ‘no, Jesus.’ ‘No’ cancels out the meaning of ‘lord.’” I tore the paper in half, with ‘no’ on one piece and ‘Lord’ on the other. “Which will it be?” I asked. “‘No’ or ‘Lord’?” She dropped her head and long hair covered her face as she wrestled with the choice. Minutes passed. Finally she threw her head back, tears streaming down her face.
She reached out to take the paper with ‘Lord’ written on it, but I pulled it away.
“How long do you want Him to be Lord, Debbie?” I asked.
“Oh,” she said, “I want him to be Lord forever!” In that moment she was filled with the Spirit of God. And then he began to overflow into the lives of those around her until a whole high school was transformed.
If a high school teen can experience the full resources of the Spirit for living the life and ministering with power, how about a mature Christian? The exciting thing is this: the resources God provides for living the abundant life of promise are not gifts sent UPS from a distant Omnipotence; the resource is himself, God in person coming to live with us. And it’s no halfway measure — he intends to fill us full of himself.
Being filled with the Spirit isn’t optional, as Debbie discovered, it’s commanded: “Be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). But what does it mean to be “filled” with the Spirit? After all, He isn’t a liquid or impersonal force. Do you sometimes wish the Bible didn’t use so much picture language, that it would just tell you straight out what it means? Like “full” — when you get right down to it, what does it look like to be “filled with the Spirit”? What actually happens? What does it feel like? The Bible never defines it for us. We may not be able to describe “full” precisely, but it’s a wonderful picture word. There’s excitement in it, a completeness, a satisfaction, and a mystery. Are you filled full?