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Are You Filled with the Holy Spirit?

July 25, 2016 No Comment

by Nolan Astley

Rev. Nolan Astley.

Rev. Nolan Astley.

Like me, you may have some Christian friends who talk a great deal about being filled with the Holy Spirit. Though they do not mean to sound arrogant, they often come across as if they think themselves to be a cut above the ordinary Christian. They speak with confidence about their faith, they can pray easily even in a crowd, and they very much want everyone to share the same indwelling of the Spirit that animates their lives.

If you have encountered people like that, do not despair! You are just as filled with the Holy Spirit as they are, even if you may not feel it or are not able to exude the same level of confidence about your faith as they do.

The Holy Spirit comes not to focus us upon our own abilities or our own faithfulness, but instead to fill us with Christ. The work of the Holy Spirit is simply to thrill us with Christ, to infect us with an enthusiasm for all that Christ can do for people and for world to change things, to renew institutions and to salvage lives. The Holy Spirit is all about Christ. That same centrality of Christ has united all great church leaders from the Gospel writers two thousand years ago to this day. More than anything else they cared that Jesus Christ be preached and believed. That is exactly what it means to be filled with the Holy Spirit! As St. Paul reminded the Corinthians, “What we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord” (2 Corinthians 4:5). And again: “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles” (1 Corinthians 1:22-23).

Years ago folks came to me to complain about my preaching. I was eager to hear what they had to say.  “Pastor, we don’t really like your sermons,” they said. “I don’t like most of them either,’ was my first response, “They are not often as good as they could be, what is your concern?” “Well,” one of them said, “your sermons are always about Jesus. When are you going to preach about more practical things, like money management and family relationships, like they do at the community church we’ve been attending these past few weeks. That church seems to be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

For a moment or two I was not sure what to say. Reflecting back on that now I have come to see such desires are nothing less than a manifestation of the antichrist. In its own way the desire to focus our preaching and teaching on felt needs or topics we want to hear about is denying Christ. That which denies Christ, no matter how well intended it might be, is antichrist (1 John 2:22).

Remember Ed McMahon? As Ed was to Johnny Carson, so the Holy Spirit is to Christ. The relationship is one of deference, a shyness not of self-centeredness, but of other-centeredness. The Holy Spirit always points us to Christ. “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth, for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak, and He will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for He will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that He will take what is mine and declare it to you” (John 16:12-15).

The work of the Holy Spirit is the honoring of Jesus Christ. We are not necessarily in the presence of the Holy Spirit when there is a great deal of talk about the Holy Spirit. But when we are honoring Jesus Christ by hearing His Word, coming to His table and living in the baptism He gives us, we can be sure we are in the presence of the Holy Spirit—indeed, we are filled with the Holy Spirit!

When we are honoring Jesus Christ by hearing His Word, coming to His table and living in the baptism He gives us, we can be sure we are in the presence of the Holy Spirit.

In this season after Pentecost in the church, be assured, in Christ alone you are filled with the Spirit.


Rev. Nolan Astley is Lutheran Church–Canada’s Interim Pastoral Leader for Alberta and British Columbia.

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