In this series we’re looking at “the DNA of Cornerstone.” Last week we talked about doctrine, the importance of sound doctrine to us. It’s part of the foundation on which we build and live at CFC. It has been from the beginning.
This morning is another foundational idea, being Spirit-filled. Being Spirit-filled is something that’s foundational to us. Because it affects every part of your Christian life, every part of our church life.
One way to see what we’re talking about is to think of a man named Tom. Let’s say Tom works as a carpenter. He does home renovations.
As we talk about being a Spirit-filled church, this scenario helps unpack what we mean. It means a whole variety of gifts being displayed by a whole variety of people. And the overall impact is that people are saved and discipled and begin to minister to others themselves.
It’s not one particular gift or a few. It’s a whole variety. All coming together and used by God to transform lives.
Our series is the DNA of Cornerstone. We’ve been reading from Eph 2:19–22:
19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (Eph 2:19–22)
Last week it was that “foundation of the apostles and prophets.”
This week “a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” The church is to be a place where God dwells “by the Spirit.” How God’s Spirit works in our lives and church is what we’ll see in Ephesians.
If you’re not a Christian or maybe a new Christian:
We start this look at being Spirit-filled at the individual level. This is fitting since you and I are children of God entirely because of the Holy Spirit.
Without the work of the Holy Spirit, there would be no Christians. Everyone would be running as fast as they could to get as far away from God as possible. Without the work of the Holy Spirit, everyone would much rather spend an eternity in hell than ever repent and turn to Christ.
As Paul says in 1 Corinthians, “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor 12:3). And as he says earlier in 1 Corinthians, spiritual things are “folly” to us and impossible to understand without the work of the Holy Spirit (2:14).
But as Christians we are those made alive by the Spirit with a mind being renewed by the Spirit. We can say, “Jesus is Lord,” because the Spirit is in us.
But in Ephesians we’re reminded that this regeneration by the Spirit, this new birth by the Spirit, is only a beginning. God has more in store for his people. Ephesians makes this clear.
You can see this in his prayer in chapter three. READ EPHESIANS 3:14–19.
You pray for things you don’t currently have. You don’t pray for something you already have. If you already have it, you give thanks for it. But you don’t pray to receive it.
Paul is praying that we would receive something we don’t already have. He’s not giving thanks for something we already do have.
He prays to “the Father.” Described in 3:15 “from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named” = All heavenly and earthly creatures are “named” by God. As with Adam in the Garden, this implies authority over. But unlike Adam, this also speaks of God as Creator. “The Father, then, is Creator and Lord of all family groupings; their existence and significance is dependent on him.”
And this heavenly Father has “riches of glory” (3:16). Paul prays with a deep awareness of that. He has glorious riches. And so Paul prays that some of it would be given to us.
What he prays for is then a specific work of the Spirit. It’s a gift of the Spirit to be given to us. The gift = “to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being.”
This gift requires the work of the Holy Spirit to exercise his power in our inner being. Our soul. There’s a soul work that the Spirit is being asked to do.
Then we get a series of phrases that build on top of each other until the ultimate goal.
3:17 = “SO THAT Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith”
3:17-19a = “THAT you…may…know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.”
3:19b = “THAT (Grk. hina, “in order that, so that”) you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
This internal work God does in our souls is a work of the Holy Spirit. It’s a prayer that Christ may dwell in our hearts in a special way, in such a way that we know his love for us deeply. Even know a love that surpasses knowledge.
But these are still climbing toward the ultimate end. The heights he prays for is that we would be “filled with all the fullness of God.”
In chapter one he spoke of Christ as filling all things. And then in chapter two he spoke of the church as a “dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” But now the prayer is that this being “filled with all of God’s fullness” would happen inside of us.
It’s a prayer that God’s power and presence, his love and glory, his holiness and mercy, would overwhelm us and fill us.
There are times where earthly vocabulary fails us. When you’re talking about being filled with the very Spirit of God in this kind of overflowing and overwhelming way, Paul in a sense says, “I don’t have words for this. I don’t know how to describe it. It’s just…a fullness. A vastness. A glory.”
With this fullness in mind, this idea of being overwhelmed by the presence of God, you can better hear Eph 5:18. READ Ephesians 5:18.
Paul’s double command here helps us know what he’s talking about. He tells us not to do something but instead to do something else. When he combines things like this, a negative command and then a positive command, they’re related in some way.
In 4:25, don’t speak “falsehood,” but “speak the truth.” In 4:28, let a person who is a thief no longer steal but instead “labor, doing honest work with his own hands.” The negative and positive go together.
In 5:18 it’s the same. Don’t get drunk with wine but instead be filled with the Spirit. Getting drunk with wine is being filled with something to such an extent that you experience changes—your emotions, your speech, your actions. It changes in a bad direction. You’re drunk and it’s sinful and not a good thing. If you’re not careful you’ll do something you really regret.
Instead of being so filled with wine you get drunk, Paul says to be continually filled with the Holy Spirit. Be filled with another substance that won’t take you to bad places. Be filled with the very Spirit of God.
Let the Spirit of God leave you spiritually intoxicated. Let the Spirit of God so overwhelm you that it changes your emotions, your speech, your actions.
But the verb here, “be filled,” in the Greek implies that we are to do this and keep on doing it. It’s really calling us to seek out and open ourselves up to what Jesus talked about in John 7:
“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” (John 7:37–38)
Jesus was inviting us to come and drink to such an extent that rivers of living water will flow out of our hearts.
And just like getting drunk with wine is something that other people can see, being filled with the Holy Spirit in this way will be something that other people can see.
Maybe the Lord will give you fresh joy others notice. Paul in Romans 14:17,
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. (Rom 14:17)
Maybe the Holy Spirit will so overwhelm you that you’ll overflow with words of praise and thanksgiving and evangelism. That’s what he says in Ephesians 5:
18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Eph 5:18–20)
But what does it look like to seek such a filling of the Holy Spirit? It’s God that does it. We can’t control when it happens. Andrew Murray the Dutch Reformed missionary in South Africa has some excellent thoughts on this.
This week I read a little book of his called Aids to Devotion. Andrew Murray was born in 1828 into a Dutch Reformed Church home in South Africa in early 1800s. He went to Edinburgh, Scotland for his schooling and then to the Netherlands for his ministry training. He was ordained at the Hague into the Dutch Reformed Church and returned to South Africa as a pastor and missionary and educator.
Reading the book was a moment of God’s providence in itself.
I picked up this book at a church library book sale in about 1994. I’ve never read it. The guy who organized the book sale wasn’t supposed to do it. But I ended up with a cheap book.
I packed it up and unpacked it a half-dozen times, moving it from house to house to house. I bought a desk in our new house that has a few book shelves attached to it. I pretty randomly put a couple dozen books in it. This book was one of them.
On Monday I was praying and feeling the need for a fresh word from the Lord. So I pulled this book out because of its title, “Aids to Devotion.” Turns out the book is a reflection of all the Holy Spirit passages in the book of Ephesians. These are short reflections of 3–4 pages each on each passage. And very rich.
I’ll read you a paragraph he wrote on Ephesians 5:18:
Andrew Murray on Eph 5:18:
In all filling we know how two things are needed. The one that the vessel be clean and empty and ready, even in its posture, to receive the water that is waiting for it. The other that the water be near and ready to give away itself in full measure to the waiting vessel. In the great transaction between God and man for the filling of the Spirit, man needs first of all to know how complete the surrender is that is needed, and how, even to the death to self and the world, the yielding up of the whole being is indispensable. And then how willing and ready, and oh, so able, the Holy God is to take possession of our being, and to fill it with Himself.
Andrew Murray, Aids to Devotion
A rich part of our history at Cornerstone is the experience many of us have had of being filled with the Spirit in a special way at some point in our lives. A time in our past when the Spirit of God touched us.
We believe the kind of experiences with the Spirit we read about in the NT can happen today. We know we aren’t identical to the Peters and Pauls and Stephens of the NT.
But we also know Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. And while Pentecost was unique in many ways, it was also the beginning of an era of the Holy Spirit working among God’s people in a new way unlike anything before. An era that won’t end until Christ returns. It wasn’t the death of the original apostles or the writing of the New Testament that ended this era of the Spirit. It’s the return of Christ that ends this era of the Spirit.
So, pray to be filled with all the fullness of God. Pray to be strengthened in your inner man to have Christ dwell in your hearts, to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, all that you might be filled with all the fullness of God.
When we think of a Spirit-filled church, one thing we think of is a church filled with spiritual gifts. These gifts are rightfully called gifts of the Spirit.
1 Corinthians 12:4–7:
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. (1 Cor 12:4–7)
In this passage, see:
Ephesians talks about these same spiritual gifts, but there Paul takes us back to the day of Pentecost. The first giving of these gifts. Ephesians 4:7–13 is really the Pauline Pentecost. The day of Pentecost described in his own distinct way.
But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” 9 (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? 10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. (Eph 4:7–13)
Do you see there his language of “ascended on high” (4:8)? Here he’s quoting Ps 68:18. To say that the Messiah “ascended” implies also that he first descended. You can’t go UP unless you’re first DOWN.
He DESCENDED from heaven to earth. His earthly ministry. Cross and burial and resurrection. But then ASCENSION: “ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things” (4:10).
When he ascended “he gave gifts to men.” Like a typical triumphant king who returns with the spoils of war. If he’s a good king he won’t keep the spoils to himself. He’ll give gifts to his people.
That’s just what Christ did. He ascended to God the Father and then gave gifts to men. When did that happen? That’s the Day of Pentecost. That’s when our King of king ascended and then gave gifts to men.
In 4:7 Paul speaks of this as Christ’s “gift.” It’s singular. His singular gift was the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
But in that singular giving of the Holy Spirit, “each one of us” (4:7) was given gifts. Just like 1 Cor 12 = No Christian was left out. This wasn’t some sad Christmas where everyone was given gifts except for you. No one is left out.
And these gifts include men (4:11) tasked to serve the church in different ways—apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers.
And these gifts have a point, “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (4:12).
And these gifts will be in the church until Christ returns—4:13. That’s when we reach full maturity.
A firm conviction that “each one of us” has a gift of the Holy Spirit. Discovering those gifts and cultivating them is a core conviction of ours.
Each of us gifted for various roles in the church. Match people with their gifting as much as possible:
Many of the Spirit’s gifts are ministry gifts. They appear as you minister to others:
But the Holy Spirit sometimes gives gifts in the moment, something that’s needed for right now.
On a Sunday morning, this can happen at what we call the prophecy microphone.
Since we’ve restarted our services with COVID, the prophecy mic has been a little quiet. The rhythm of our services feels different with the shorter service. It seems like there are more things to distract us.
Pray that God would continue to visit us with those spontaneous gifts of the Spirit that can mean so much.
A prophecy. A prayer. A tongue with an interpretation.
Or maybe you get word of knowledge for an individual. A sense from the Lord that the Lord wants to say something particular to someone else.
How we structure our Sunday corporate gathering.
When Jesus walked the earth there were dozens who followed him. When he rose again hundreds saw him and many believed in him. On the day of Pentecost 3,000 were saved. By the beginning of Acts 4 (4:4) there are 5,000 in this fledgling church.
And the fire lit at Pentecost hasn’t stopped. It has spread throughout the globe, and today there are hundreds of millions of worshippers. Christianity was first seen as a small sect of Judaism. But now that little sect is a dominant force throughout the world.
The question is why? Why did Christianity spread like it did? Why is it spreading even today like it is?
The answer is the Holy Spirit.
You get a picture of this Spirit-filled mission in Ephesians 3.
When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. 6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. (Eph 3:4–6)
Paul writes here of the gospel he preaches. He calls it “the mystery of Christ” (3:4), the mystery that Gentiles and Jews get to share in God’s promises.
But the key for us is how Paul learned this mystery. He says it was “revealed…by the Spirit.” The Spirit of God brought to men like Paul the revelation they preached. The message is so connected to the Spirit’s work that he speaks of the Bible as the very “sword of the Spirit.”
Every aspect of the mission is Spirit-filled:
The church’s mission is and must be a Spirit-filled mission.
The fact the Spirit must fill the mission of the church is why he says this as his final appeal of this epistle:
And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. (Eph 6:17–20)
The great apostle himself knew where his strength came from. That’s why even he prayed for “words” to be “given” to him and boldness “to proclaim” the gospel.
And he called us to pray “at all times in the Spirit.” It’s really clear what he means here. He might mean to pray in tongues if you do pray in tongues. Or to pray by the direction of the Holy Spirit. Or to pray by the power of the Holy Spirit.
People filled with the Spirit affect the people in their lives.
A church filled with the Spirit and walking in the whole variety of gifts of the Spirit will affect people outside of the church.
That's how mission will get done—Spirit-filled people impacting others where the Spirit of God is at work.
Ways to Apply being Spirit-Filled:
This is a place to hear Jesus’ words to “Ask…seek…knock.” “Ask and keep on asking…” And in Luke 11 he then asks, “
“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13)
As Andrew Murray is closing his reflection on Ephesians he is aware of the standard it sets. He knows that it’s beyond us. But he also knows that it’s an invitation held out to us to pursue this kind of life. For him that gap means we must pray! He writes,
It needs time, and thought, and prayer, and above all, quiet waiting on the Spirit of God for anyone to get the vision, and to keep it, of the Spirit-sealed, Spirit-taught, Spirit-strengthened, Spirit-filled believer as here set before us. It needs a turning away from self and the world to allow God to work in us all His purpose according to the counsel of His own will.
Andrew Murray, Aids to Devotion
Personal Prayer and Closing Song
 Lincoln (WBC), 203.
 Ibid., 70.
 Ibid., 84.
We are a church built on the Bible, guided and empowered by the Spirit, striving to make disciples, and pursuing holiness in the context of robust biblical relationships.
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