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What Is Spilling Out Of You?

I read a story years ago about a little African American boy who became fascinated as he watched a clown releasing helium-filled balloons into the air. Whether red, blue, yellow, green, or orange, the balloons all floated upward into the sky. Finally the little boy approached the clown and asked, "Would a black balloon float upward, too?" The clown smiled and said, "Of course it would, my little friend, if it is filled with helium. It's not the color on the outside that makes the difference. It's what fills the inside." That story floated to the surface of my brain recently as I thought about words from the apostle Paul in Ephesians 5:18-21, words now nearly two thousand years old, but as important and relevant to Christian living as when originally penned. Listen – "And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord-Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God." Those verses remind us it's what fills us on the inside us that makes the difference in how effectively we live for Christ. Now, there's a lot of heated debate about what it means to be "filled with the Spirit." Paul clearly directs, even commands, that Christians be "filled with the Spirit." But what some say Paul's words mean muddies the picture and clouds the truth with false teaching. These verses do not teach (nor do any others in the Bible) that Christians are to seek the "baptism of the Holy Spirit." Or that they ever receive some kind of super-duper, power-packed, "just-let-go-and-let God" kind of ecstatic spiritual experience that is "better felt than told," and that empowers recipients to "speak in tongues," "prophesy," or receive "mountain moving faith," etc. Or, for that matter, be able to be more like Christ in character and conduct, to live above the reach of temptation and sin and the devil, or have a strong and enduring marriage — unless there is constant effort and dependence upon the Lord through the vital spiritual disciplines of Bible study, prayer, worship, and involvement in the church! Then what does it mean to be "filled with the Spirit?"

We can best answer that question by asking this one: What happens when a person is "filled with wine" or other intoxicating drink? We correctly say they are "under the influence," that is, dominated by the alcohol. In other words, outward behavior is governed by what one has filled himself with. Think of it this way. If you fill a cup with coffee, what comes out if you spill it? The correct answer would be coffee. How about orange juice? Or iced tea? Or apple juice? Or a bowlful of soup? In each case, what spills out of the cup or bowl is whatever the container has been filled with. Are we full of the Spirit? We can test whether or not we are. First, examine ourselves and make sure we have obeyed the Gospel (see Acts 2:38; 5:32; 1 Thessalonians 4:8). Then read Ephesians 5:19-21 again (and Galatians 5:16-26) and ask yourself if your life increasingly demonstrates the attitudes and behaviors listed in those Holy Spirit
related passages. The test for whether or not we are being filled with the Spirit is not dramatic displays of spiritual ecstacy but a day in, day out commitment to obey God's word. Now, what spills out of you?

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ