I make no apologies for this being a long post – it is an imperfect transcript as I listened just now to my pastor’s preach from a couple of weeks back that I missed, on digging your own well in the Spirit. As I listened to it, it reminded me of something I read a couple of weeks ago, so if I get a Comment or two (regular readers please note!) then I will post my own addendum. This is great material, and listening to it will double bless you – download ithere.
The Well of the Spirit – John France 7/11/2012
The baptism of the Holy Spirit is just the start of the adventure.
The filling of the Holy Spirit can never simply be theology. It should always lead to action. Something should happen in our lives. All doctrine should lead to activity in our lives, and if it doesn’t we need to question our doctrine, or how we are holding our doctrine. Is it living, or is it just something we’re holding in our head?
We’ve all heard of the Hebridean Revival, the Welsh Revival, the New England revival, and probably latter-day outpourings of the Spirit of God. It’s marvellous what God did in the Hebrides – do read accounts of the Hebridean Revival. These things stir our hearts. But we can’t just wait for a revival to happen. Imagine getting to heaven and God says ‘What did you do with your life?’
‘Well, I waited for another revival.’ Somehow, I don’t think that would cut much mustard with God. There are times that we need to wait on God, and waiting on Him is great. But we cannot spend all our lives just waiting for God to move, and nor do we have to. Let’s see why we don’t have to wait to be filled with the Spirit.
Ephesians 5:18: “Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is, and do not be drunk with wine, 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 God the Father in the name of Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God.”
It is difficult to set our hearts on God is we are deliberately sinning. If our disposition is to follow our own way rather than to follow God, then we will find it very difficult to be filled with the Spirit. We have to set our hearts and our minds to follow God. It is vital that we understand that it is the will of the Lord that we should be filled with the Spirit. ‘Understand what the will of the Lord is’. The will of the Lord is to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
Go on being filled with the Spirit
We have to consider the Greek. ‘Be filled’ is imperative, giving it the force of a command. It isn’t ‘take it or leave it’, an optional extra. You think ‘You know what, I can’t be bothered to be filled with the Spirit today’. It is also in the present tense, which means not just once or twice, but to ‘go on being filled’ with the Spirit. Day after day. This is quite a challenge! Can you imagine what the church would be like if we were all filled with the Holy Spirit all the time! With love, joy, peace, longsuffering, patience, kindness, self-control – can you imagine it? What a change that would make in the church.
As soon as we came in to church, we would burst out in praise. There would be no factions or in-fighting. No disagreements or squabbles. No one chasing power because they want it. No rebellion, no power-plays. No one feeling cross because they don’t like what the elders or the pastors have done! I want to be part of a church like that. Imagine how evangelism would be. One of the biggest obstacles to evangelism is us – non-Christians take a look at the church and say ‘thanks but no thanks’.
You don’t say ‘thanks but no thanks’ to the Holy Spirit, because He is good.
Another aspect of the Greek is that it’s passive. WE don’t do the filling, but God does. Can you see the contradiction here? We have a command that says ‘be filled’ with the Spirit. But that makes us responsible to be filled. How do we reconcile this apparent contradiction? Often contradictions teach us something – of the mechanics of how we are filled with the Spirit.
We cannot do it, but our will has to be engaged. Take an illustration: for a combi-boiler you turn on the tap to get hot water. You don’t heat up the water, but simply turn the tap on, the boiler heats the water and the water comes out. Being filled with the Holy Spirit is similar. WE turn on the tap, and God boils the water. The onus is on us, and yet we are passive. We cannot fill ourselves with the Holy Spirit, but we can turn the tap on. We have access to the resources of the Holy Spirit.
How to get yourself filled up
How do we do that then? It tells us: ‘Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.’
The word for speaking is onomatopoeic – it sounds like its meaning. It means ‘very basic speech’. This does not require intellect. It could almost be baby-talk: Da-da-da. The emphasis is on making sounds. You don’t get more filled with the Holy Spirit if you have a PhD. One of the earliest uses of this word was to do with birds chirping. This lends itself easily to thinking about speaking in tongues, although Paul is not simply thinking of this. Personally, I try each morning to speak in tongues for fifteen minutes, which is a great way to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
Declarations are also really important. This can fill you with the Holy Spirit. Here are some that I make: “Thank you God that you so love me that you gave your only Son, that if I believe in you and I do, I should not perish but have eternal life. I declare I believe, thus I have eternal life. I am, by virtue of believing and being born again, a new creature in Christ Jesus, old things have passed away, and as far as the east is from the west, you have removed my sin from me. I am in Christ Jesus, and there is no condemnation. I am a member of Christ’s Body. You forgive all my iniquities and all my diseases. Having begun a good work in me, you will bring it to completion for my glory.”
Read the Word, dig into the word and get your own declarations. It starts the day off well. It’s better than Weetabix for starting the day off.
What about singing and making melody? Singing is straightforward, and ‘making melody’ is playing instruments. We are to sing AND make melody. It’s great to accompany yourself. The reason I started to learn the guitar at the ripe old age of 58 was because I wanted to play it in my own worship times with God. Every believer should play an instrument; it is such a blessing. You also learn something about yourself!
What about psalms, hymns and spiritual songs? We have the Psalms in the Bible. Hymns are songs with a doctrinal content, and/or based around the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Some passages in the epistles clearly were hymns for the early church. Spiritual songs pertain to the Spirit, and may not be so doctrinal. We have a tendency in the church to go to extremes. Some people say you should never sing a song unless it’s lifted directly from Scripture. Others say that you shouldn’t even play an instrument, but should just sing acapella, on your own. This passage does not support that either.
One of the problems with narrow interpretations of the Word, over-zealous approaches, is that they bring us into bondage. Christ has set us free for freedom.
We are set free by singing and making melody in our hearts to the Lord. This creates a virtuous circle. Once you start singing, the product is to sing some more. But you have to get into it in the first place!
The Israelites sang AFTER the wilderness
What about singing in a little more detail? Numbers 21:16. ‘Spring up oh well’. You will recall that while the Israelites were in the wilderness, often they would be in need of water, unsurprisingly. This would often be a source of contention, of moaning and complaining. Blame the leader when things are going wrong. At Rephidim, in Exodus 17, they were going to stone Moses. God said to him to go to the rock and hit it, and out poured water. But He was not impressed with their attitude and complaining. And at Kadesh they were thirsty again, and complained again. This time, Moses took the stick, God said to him to speak to the rock, but he whacked the rock, and said ‘Hear now you rebels’. Moses lost his rag with the people of God.
The principle in this, annoying but interesting, is that as a leader of God’s people you can never afford to lose your temper with them. If you do, you always suffer. Moses missed out on going into the Promised Land, because he got angry with the people of God. Personally, I think that’s unfair. I have a lot of sympathy with Moses. Perhaps he should have started whacking some of the people! He had a hard time, yet could not ever lose his temper. He lost ground when he did. There is plenty of provocation, but we must not lose our temper because of it.
So in Numbers God has said that he will give them water, and this time the people don’t complain. There is no reference to moaning here. They have learnt some of the lessons of the wilderness. It is a different outcome, and a different principle. This time they sing! What a contrast. It is very difficult to complain and sing at the same time. You have to laugh at yourself. ‘I am so miserable!’ Sing it and you will see.
We have received a well of the Spirit
Jesus in John 4:14 said this: “Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst, but the water I give him will become a fountain springing up to everlasting life.” Eternal life is not just longevity of life, but also quality of life. There is a well of the Spirit within us, and this passage shows us how to access the well of the Spirit. ‘Therefore with joy shall you draw water out of the wells of salvation’.
The Old Testament is vital: “The New in the Old concealed, the Old in the New revealed.” So the Israelites sang to the well. How do you get your well dug? Try singing to it. This is a Scriptural principle. They dug the well with staves. You can’t dig a well with a stick, and yet that’s what we read.
A staff represents authority. The three things that we see here: firstly, they believed the promise of God that he would provide water. Secondly, they acted on that promise and their faith was manifested in that they sang to the well. Thirdly, they exercised their authority, represented by the staves.
This is true for each one of us as well. We act by faith in God that he has put a well within us. We say, ‘I know he’s put a well within me, and in faith I am going to release it.’ Then we sing. This is the natural product of our faith. We sing – glory to God.
This is a divinely ordained method – to sing. You can sing on your own, playing an instrument, or put a CD on and sing to it. Don’t just put a CD on and listen to it; you need to sing to it as well. Being filled with the Holy Spirit is not just what Christians do. This is what we do to prove that we’re better than others. It’s about quality of life and witness, about dynamism in our ministry. It is much better to have a Spirit-filled day than a carnal day. It’s much better to be happy in God. Do you want desert and grumbling, or water and singing? What do you want in your life?
Singing establishes the victory we already have
Singing is often associated with victory. They sang when Pharoah and his armies were buried in the Red Sea. ‘The horse and his rider are cast into the sea’. What about 2 Chronicles 20:22, when Jehoshaphat was fighting the enemy? He put the singers in front of the army and told them to go in front and praise the Lord. What do we learn from this?
Singing comes from a victory already obtained. Jesus has already obtained the victory, so we can sing. But we learn from 2 Chron. 20:22 that sometimes we have to sing before we have the victory. There are individual circumstances that we need to get the victory over, by singing. Singing brings you into the victory. They sang BEFORE the enemy was defeated – and it worked.
All creation sings of His glory
Psalm 148: ‘Praise the Lord from the heavens, praise him in the heights, praise him sun and moon, praise him you heaven of heavens. Let them praise the name of the Lord.’ The whole of creation praises God. Have you ever listened to a stream, or the wind whispering in the tops of the trees, the susurration of the wind. It’s so restful – or the rain pattering on your roof, so restful. The song of a blackbird is beautiful. Chirping away praise to God. It isn’t just an accident. And they don’t know the difference between 4/4 time and 6/8 time, and it still sounds so wonderful. What gives forth sweeter praise than the song of a blackbird. The stars make noise. The whales sing in the heart of the ocean. Louie Giglio has put on YouTube a montage of these sounds. Shouldn’t we praise God?
Job 38:7 “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Who determined its measurements? Who laid its cornerstone when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” Commentators say that this was the angels. The very stars themselves sing. There is a literal meaning to this – the whole of creation sings to God. Not like we sing, but a beautiful noise, and God has called it forth. God will raise up the stones to praise Him if we don’t.
One of the wonderful things about speaking or singing in tongues is that you don’t have to worry about speaking in time or in key. We used to have a lady in church who was extremely out of key, but even so it’s wonderful to sing in tongues. One Tuesday night meeting one man came into the singing in tongues, and it brought him to Christ. He couldn’t figure out how wonderfully harmonious the sounds were without any planning. See my later workshop on tongues for more on this!
God sings over His people’s return
Zephaniah 3:17 “The Lord your God in your midst, the mighty one will save, he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” God sings over his people. The word ‘rejoice’ is strong in the Hebrew – it means ‘exuberant joy’. The picture I get is God dancing and singing over his people, a bit like David dancing before the Ark, told off by the religious people. There is always someone religious to tell you off when you are getting free in the Holy Spirit.
God sings over his people when they turn back to him – he sings and rejoices. If God does it, is it too much for us to do it? Is it below us to sing? It can be embarrassing to sing on your own. There is a real pressure on you, perhaps. ‘I can’t sing’. People don’t sing today unless they’re at a football match. Whatever you do, sing. It is the way of getting filled with the Holy Spirit. Sing psalms, hymns, spiritual songs, but whatever we do we must sing.
Billy Bray, the tin miner who got saved in the Cornish revival, said ‘If they put me in a barrel I’ll shout glory through the bunghole’. We need to set aside time for singing. You can wait for revival if you want to, but I’m starting mine today. We can start revival by singing, by making declarations, and by singing, and God will fill you with His Holy Spirit.