“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
The Spirit of God is a gentleman. He won’t force His way on you. Any kind of “no” will “quench” the Spirit, put out the fire of passion, stop the flow of power. Whenever I take back control of my life I’m shutting off his free flow of life. How can you tell? He seems more distant, close companionship seems to have slipped away, service for God lacks power, temptations begin to win out, I’m beginning to spiral down. Here are some ways I’ve “quenched” the Spirit: a) neglect my devotional life, b) watch a typical TV drama, sitcom, talk show, c) rationalize some failure instead of acknowledging it, d) refuse to forgive someone who hurt me, e) flip through a magazine with sexy pictures, f) say “yes” to too many people and get overloaded, g) nurse my bruised ego, self-pity, h) let my mind dwell on how someone else has it better than I have, i) listen to a song that promotes this-world’s values.
In your relationship with God have you ever been quite sure you were not filled with the Spirit? Reflect on my list and check any that may have contributed to your drift out of a tight relationship with the Spirit.
Perhaps it was simply that you chose against God’s will, saying “no” to something he wanted you to do or stop doing. That will cause the fire of the Spirit to die back instantly. Be very honest. Perhaps you could list in the margin (or in your journal), what you know or what you suspect the culprit may have been. Or is, indeed, even now.
There’s another expression used of our relationship to the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a person with feelings—it’s quite possible to make him sad. “Do not grieve the Spirit of God,” Paul says (Ephesians 4:30). Then he tells us exactly the kind of thing that will make the Spirit sad: unwholesome talk, bitterness, rage and anger, brawling, slander, malice (vv. 29-32).
One meaning of being filled with the Spirit, then, is to yield full control to Him. Are you a Spirit-filled Christian in that sense? There’s no place else to begin. Here’s my prayer response to this wonderful promise of Holy Spirit fullness:
Holy Spirit of God, thank you, thank you for allowing me to have a personal relationship with you. I really do want you to be the controlling partner in that relationship and I reaffirm today that you are indeed Lord of my life. I’m truly sorry for the ways I’ve made you sad. Please forgive me. And give me strength to always say “yes” to you in the small things as well as the major choices I make. Let me ever be filled with your presence and power.
Perhaps you’d like to write out your own prayer response in your journal, making sure once again that the connection is tight, that, so far as you have anything to do with it, you’re filled with the Spirit.
The first—and most important—outward evidence of filling up on the Spirit is to produce Spirit fruit. But what does the picture-word “fruit” (of the Spirit) mean literally? Fruit, of course, is the product of a plant or tree, but it also is the evidence of what’s inside, what kind of plant or tree it is. It’s also evidence of the health of the tree. If we have become “Jesus plants,” are alive and healthy, we’ll produce Jesus fruit. And everyone in my life is a fruit inspector—they can tell what’s on the inside by what comes out. “By their fruit you shall know them,” said Jesus (Matthew 7:20).
Jesus never intended us to have a few little shriveled “fruits,” just enough to prove we’re alive and what kind of “tree” we are. He promises a bumper crop—lots of Jesus’ characteristics. You might call it “full,” a full crop. He told us about it Himself in Scripture’s most complete chapter on fruit, John 15:1-17. Why don’t you check out the harvest you produce? A few shriveled fruit or a bumper crop? What is on the inside that is evidenced on the outside?