The 1 Question: What does it mean to be full of the Holy Spirit?

SERMON January, 15th, 2017

When people talk about you when you are not around, what would you like them to say?  

Today we heard a story about Barnabas.  He had quite a story.  Barnabas traveled with Paul on one of his missionary journeys.  He had a lot of experience of going into villages and sharing the gospel.  He was an essential part of the working of the Holy Spirit.  

In the story we heard today Barnabas had been sent to a village named Antioch.  Some context.  The faith community in Antioch had been growing dramatically.  The people in Jerusalem wanted to hear about what was happening.  

Obviously this was a few years before cell phones or Snap Chat; no one could send a text.  The only way to find out what was happening was for someone in Jerusalem to walk to Antioch, observe what was happening, and then walk back and give a report.    


Here’s a map.  It was about 300 miles from Jerusalem to Antioch.

Barnabas was selected.  He walked to Antioch.  I’ll let Luke—who wrote the book of Acts—share what happened.    

SLIDE “When [Barnabas] came and saw the grace of God [in Antioch], he rejoiced, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast devotion.”  Acts 11:23

And then Luke—who was an educated man and wanted to write an orderly account of the story of Jesus—couldn’t help but editorialize.  He wrote: 

SLIDE For [Barnabas] was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.  And a great many people were brought to the Lord.  Acts 11:24

Barnabas was full of the Holy Spirit.  That is how we was described.  I would hope that we would want to be described this way too.  

This brings up the question—what does it mean to be filled with the Holy Spirit?  That’s the question of the day.

Today I’m continuing a sermon series called “The 1 Question.”  At Christmas Eve I asked people to share questions about which they would like to hear a sermon.  I received 24 questions.  

SLIDE Last week the question was “Can we be forgiven for all if we are truly sorry for what we have done, even regarding the 10 Commandments?

Next Sunday the question is: Can a child or someone who has never heard the Word go to heaven?

Two weeks from today we’ll look at: Does God really have a plan?  Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?

SLIDE Today the question is “What does it mean to be filled with the Holy Spirit?”  

My hope in this sermon is to share a bit about what it means to be filled with the Holy Spirit.  From the outset I have to share that I’m just scratching the surface.  This could easily be a six-week sermon series.  

Of the four gospel writers, The phrase “being filled with the Holy Spirit” was only used by Luke.  He described all sorts of people as being filled with the Holy Spirit.  Peter and Elizabeth, Zechariah, Stephen, Saul, John, Barnabas and of course Jesus.  But being filled with the Holy Spirit is not meant to describe people in the Bible.  It’s meant to describe you and me.  You and I can be filled with the Holy Spirit.


This week I wrote a devotion about many of these people Luke described and what it meant to be filled with the Holy Spirit.  I encourage you to use it this week.  In the middle is a place to take notes.  I believe God might say something to you that you’ll want to write down.  ON the back is a place for our congregation’s prayer requests.  


The Holy Spirit is one of the most misunderstood ideas or doctrines of faith.  This is so sad because the Holy Spirit does not have to be complicated.  We humans have made it complicated.  I have many examples of what caused this confusion, but one I want to share comes from the Apostles’ Creed.  

We don’t say the Apostles’ Creed often at Chain of Lakes, but we certainly could.  

SLIDE   I believe in God the Father almighty maker of heaven and earth.  And Jesus Christ his only son our Lord.  Who was conceived by the Holy _____.

The Holy Ghost?  When I was growing up I was afraid of ghosts.  If I thought a ghost was coming I would put the blankets over my head and try to hide.  The last thing I would want is to have contact with a ghost, and I certainly wouldn’t have want to be filled with a Holy Ghost.  

Where did this come from?  The Holy Ghost is a phrase that was used by the King James translation of the Bible.  It’s a terrible translation of the greek word pneuma.  You open up the New Revised Standard Version and you won’t find the term Holy Ghost.  The Holy Spirit

Another part of our confusion is we’ve been taught that we primarily have experiences of the Holy Spirit.  And we do.  When I was in elementary school I went to Presbyterian camp on Lake Okibodji.  I loved going to camp.  The camp still exists.  One year on the last night of camp the counselors took us into a room.  It felt like the Upper Room.  A counselor started sharing her story.  At the end of her story she shared how she was happy that Christians weren’t persecuted for their faith like in the 1


century.  And she started crying.  And I kid you not, this wave of emotion hit the room.  All of a sudden many people were crying.  Not everyone.  I was a macho boy so I refused to cry.  I felt it.  Something entered that room.  I can’t prove it to you logically or with the tools of science, but there is no doubt in my mind that the Holy Spirit swept over us.    When we left the room many of us started hugging each other (which I liked because I was a adolescent boy).  It was an experience.    

The next year we were at Camp.  And the counselors had an end of camp worship service the night before we left.  We were in a different room.  And though my faith life wasn’t that deep, I decided that I wanted to have another experience of the Holy Spirit.  So as we sang songs and prayed I prayed with all of the energy that I had something like, “I want to experience you again.”  Those weren’t the exact words, but that was the idea.  This time I wanted to have an experience of the Holy Spirit.  I wanted to be touched.  I didn’t care if I couldn’t hug any girls.  I wanted to have that wave hit our room again and hit me.  I prayed; I clenched my eyes shut as if that would do anything.  I prayed and prayed.  And do you know what happened?

Nothing.  Nothing happened to me.  The music was good and the prayers were fervent and I have no doubt that God was in the room.  I didn’t have an experience like I had the year before..  

As I’ve reflected on these experiences I’ve learned that the Holy Spirit is more than an experience.  I’ve learned that the Holy Spirit was just as present that second year as it was the first year.  It was present in a different way.

What is the Holy Spirit?  The Holy Spirit is God.  We believe in the Trinity—God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  One God; three persons as the hymn Holy, Holy, Holy shared.  The math doesn’t work—3=1 or 1=3. But God goes beyond math.  The Holy Spirit is God.

What is so awesome is the Holy Spirit is inside of us.  You and I don’t have to do anything to get connected to the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is part of us.  Just as blood is part of us or our muscles are part of us.  We don’t have to do anything to have access to blood or muscles.  The Holy Spirit is like that.  

How do you know that the Holy Spirit is part of us.  I can say this because of our baptism.  Like many other denominations Presbyterians believe that baptism is a sacrament.  What this means it is a sign and seal of grace.  We believe that when someone is baptized we can practically see God.  It’s a sign of grace.  

And we believe that baptism is a seal of grace.  We believe that grace is sealed inside of us for all of eternity.  Once you have been sealed with grace it can never be taken away from you.  No matter what you do, grace is inside of you.  That is why baptism is so important.

Another way to say this is the Holy Spirit is inside of you.  The Holy Spirit is more than grace, of course, but at baptism we believe that the Holy Spirit is sealed inside of us forever.  It’s part of our spiritual reality.  

So though we can have experiences of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit is much more than an experience.  

What happens is we good, stoic Midwesterners aren’t good with emotions and experiences, so we’re unsure or even afraid of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is more than a ghost; the Holy Spirit is more than an experience.  The Holy Spirit loves us; the Holy Spirit wants the best for us.  

What does it mean to be full of the Spirit?  Again—I’m just touching briefly on this.  I have a phrase that answers the question.  I’ve shared this before.  The phrase is the Inspirational Intersection.  


The Inspirational Intersection is the intersection between what God wants us to do and be and what we want to do and be.  

Say this with me.  

Say this line is what God wants us to do and be; say this line is what we want to do and be.  We want to discover the intersection.  When we find that intersection we ware full of the Spirit.    

When we discover this intersection we discover a tremendous amount of energy and passion and imagination.  It’s as if we’ve found ourselves.  At this intersection we often say we were made to be at this place.  Everything is natural and flows.  

The Inspirational Intersection is not a place where God wants us to be and we don’t want to be.  We can exist at this place for a while, but we don’t find energy there.  This is a place of should and oughts and have tos.  This is doing things that we’re supposed to do.  Sometimes the church compels people to be at this place.  We send a message “you really should be doing this,” or “you really ought to do that.”  This is a place of going through the motions.  There’s not a lot of joy at this place.

I don’t believe that God wants us at this place for a long period of time.  

The Inspirational Intersection is not doing and being what we want and what God doesn’t want.  This turns us into God.  That place doesn’t work because God is not going to let us be God. 

We have to discover the intersection.  Quite frankly this is one of my goals as a pastor for us at Chain of Lakes.  I want Chain of Lakes to be full of people who are living at each of our Inspirational Intersection.  Because the energy can’t be contained.  We will be so full of the Spirit.  It will be overflowing.

John Ortberg wrote a book called “the me I want to be.”   We did a study on this many years ago.  The me I want to be is God’s best version of us.  This is being filled with the Holy Spirit.  Being the best of who we want to be connects to our mind and our heart and our spirit.  We are operating at place of wonderful energy.  

Notice what John Ortberg didn’t way.    


The Me I don’t want to be 

The Me I Pretend to be

This one is hard for people in church because we think there an image of Christians that we’re supposed to live into.  One of the beauties of Chain of lakes Church is we don’t try to pretend.  We have a call to be an authentic, Chritian community.  Don’t pretend.  Be yourself.

BUR doesn’t mean

The Me I think I should be

There’s no shoulds when it is coming to be full of the Holy Spirit.  

The Inspirational Intersection.  How do we find that place.  

One way is to talk and reflect with God.  Let me give you three simple reflection questions.  This week spend some time reflecting on three questions:


What does God want me to do and be?

What do I want to do and be?

Where is the Intersection?  

Another way is to worship weekly.  When we worship a spiritual energy field is created.  When we worship well we are lifted up to experience God.  We connect to a supernatural reality.  Worship forms us.  We forget for a time the challenges that might weigh us down.  When we worship well we leave worship a different place than when we enter.   

If worship isn’t full of the Spirit then we will change.  I think worship at Chain of Lakes is full of the Spirit.  But we constantly are evaluating worship here at Chain of lakes.  With my encouragement our worship team decided to hand our evaluation forms about worship.  We started doing this last week.  I read an evaluation that one person filled out.  It was really helpful.  

Worship is the most important ministry that we have.  Worship weekly.

Two ways to discover our Inspirational Intersection.  Reflect and talk to God; worship weekly.

Let me go in a different direction.  There’s one part of the Holy Spirit that it’s important to talk about and that is talking about the charismatic parts of the Spirit.  This is speaking in tongues or being slain in the Spirit or other practices.  

Presbyterians have not always been comfortable with these dimensions of the Spirit.  Let me share some history.  

SLIDE It’s a story about William J Seymour.  He was an African American minister, the son of a freed slave.  He preached that speaking in tongues was evidence of the Holy Spirit.  He got kicked out of his first church.  He kept preaching.  Eventually crowds began to gather when he preached on Azusa Street, in a run-down building in downtown Los Angeles.  When he preached at Azusa Street something incredible happened.  It was a revival.  People came from all over the world to participate in this revival.  The revival last for three years.  It started the Pentecostal movement.  The Azusa Street revival was multi-racial, welcomed poor people and encouraged the leadership of this revival launched Pentecostalism.

Part of Pentecostalism is speaking in tongues.  The Greek word is glossalia.    

A story.  I first came into contact with speaking in tongues when I was in college.  I was in a group called Intervarsity.  I had a friend who was a few years older than me.  One day we prayed together.  As we prayed together he started speaking in a language that I didn’t understand.  He was uttering different syllables and vowels.  I had no understanding of what that was.  I wasn’t threatened by it.  I was more curious.  When we were done I asked him if he was speaking in Hebrew.  No—he said that he was speaking in tongues.

That was my first experience of being with someone who spoke in tongues.  In my ministry I’ve had many friends who speak in tongues.  I love to pray with people who speak in tongues.  We have people at Chain of lakes who speak in tongues.  All the people I’ve known who speak in tongues approach their gift with a tremendous amount of humility.

We don’t need to be afraid of people speaking in tongues.  Admittedly it’s a bit strange at first to hear someone speak in tongues.  But once we get used to it, it’s not that strange to pray with someone who speaks in tongues.

I don’t speak in tongues myself.  Speaking in tongues is a gift.  God hasn’t given me this gift.  Speaking in tongues doesn’t mean a person is a Christian on steroids.  What it means is we have a gift.  I don’t look at a person who speaks in tongues as a better Christian.  I look at the person as having a gift.  Just as I have gifts.  Just as you have gifts.   No gift is better than another or makes us a super Christian.  

We can be filled with the Spirit and not speak in tongues.

We can be filled with  the Spirit and speak in tongues.

If you know of people who speak in tongues I would encourage you to talk to the person about their gift.

When we are filled with the Spirit we are living at a really cool place.  We live with less anxiety and much more contentment.  Let me close with this.  

Imagine a day of being filled with the Holy Spirit.

We get up a little late, but it doesn’t bother us.  We needed the rest.  

Our kids get out of bed and we give them a big hug.  When you are hugging your kids you are experiencing love.  Life might be crazy at breakfast if you even have breakfast together.  You’re not sweating the small stuff.  When your kids leave for school, you’re not yelling at them about forgetting something or nagging them to remember something.  You’re telling them you love them.

As you drive to work you get caught in a traffic jam.  It doesn’t bother you.  As you’re driving to work someone cuts you off.  Instead of responding in a nasty way, you just smile.  

When you’re at work someone tells you the latest bit of gossip—a real juicy tidbit of information.  You listen and smile.  You don’t’ feed the desire of your workmate to pass on something that is not helpful.

You decide to read your Bible during a break.  It doesn’t matter that some of your workmates want to call you a goody two shoes.  You’re comfortable with who you are.  You know the truth.  You like your relationship with God and the criticism of others doesn’t bother you.

You come home at night and your spouse does something dumb.    It bounces off your heart—you’re full of the Spirit.  You don’t condone what your spouse did and don’t encourage it.  You say, “honey I love you, but don’t do that anymore.”  Your spouse appreciates the love that you shared.

What a difference your day is when we are filled with the Spirit.  You encounter the same problems that you always have.  But they don’t’ affect you.  You are filled.  You are filled.  You are filled.  Let’s be filled.