One of the topics we talked about with the young people at Summer Camp was “what does it mean to be filled with the Holy Spirit?” It was great to talk with them about this fantastic subject Sadly, the subject of “Who is the Holy Spirit” and what does it mean to be “filled with the Holy Spirit” is often controversial with a strong emphasis on the weird and the wonderful. But it does not have to be like that.
We spent some time talking about what the phrase “Be filled” means. One of the youth leaders got the young people to think about different examples of where this phrase is used. What do we mean when we talk about the following?
Water filling a jug
A smell filling the room
A crowd filling a room
A person filling a room.
It was great to get them thinking about how a word/phrase is used in different contexts. WE then took one of the examples, the water jug. I explained how sometimes people have used this as an example. The analogy goes like this “You are like a glass that gets filled with water. The water represents the Holy Spirit and you receive Him (at conversion or when you are baptised with the Spirit) but then as you go out into the world you share the Gospel and pass on something of the Spirit to others, you make mistakes and sin, you get weary. It’s as though the Holy Spirit leaks out of you. So you have to come back and get refilled with the Spirit again.”
I asked the teenagers what they made of this. They thought carefully and the began to respond.
“The Holy Spirit is a person so we should not be thinking about Him as a substance”
“The Holy spirit is God. That means that he is already everywhere. He is all powerful.”
So if The Holy Spirit is God and is a person, as our teenagers quickly realised, he cannot be divided or diminished. We talked about God’s character and God’s promises, especially the promise not to leave or forsake us.
Too often, the Holy Spirit is treated as a substance, a power source or fuel. We see church as a place to come to be filled up with this fuel. Worship becomes all about how best to create the right atmosphere so that people can tap into this. We engineer an atmosphere, we create emotion and we assume that this is what it means to be filled with the Spirit. Emotion is great and there’s nothing wrong with a fantastic atmosphere of expectancy but don’t confuse this with being filled with God’s Spirit.
We then came back to the other illustrations. Of course, none of the illustrations are perfect but each of them did get us thinking about what it means to be filled. Even the water in a jug gets us thinking about the exclusive demand that God has on our lives whilst a smell filling the room reminds us that the Holy Spirit will have an influence over all of our lives and that others will notice. Similarly, we saw how even one person can fill a place with their personality so that all eyes are on them. We preferred the examples that focused on people as we saw that the Holy Spirit is a person who is with us, who commands our whole obedience and attention and influences our whole life so that others notice and see God at work.