I had good intentions. I wrote Part 1 of this series in July 2018. I intended on getting back to it sooner than I did. Part 2 ended up on the back burner for over three years. It’s time to put this article to bed.
In my last post, I highlighted the main metaphor that was used in the OT to describe how believers could remain close to God in their daily lives, by walking with God. In this article, I want to look at two corresponding images found in the NT – abiding in Christ and being filled with the Holy Spirit.
Abiding in Christ
This word picture that describes how we relate with the second person of the Trinity is probably quite familiar to most Christians. In John 15:1-7, Jesus presents another metaphor that describes who He is. In addition to being the light of the world, the bread of life, etc., Jesus states that He is the vine.
Jesus is not talking about some kind of clinging vine that you sometimes see climbing up a tree or spread out over the side of an old house. A grapevine is more or less equivalent to the trunk of a tree.
Jesus said in verse 5 that He was the vine and that we are the branches. He said that if we abide or remain connected to Him, we will bear fruit: we would grow healthy grapes to the glory of the Gardener. There would be something tangible that others could see that would naturally flow from this supernatural connection to Jesus by faith. (Paul lists the fruit of the Spirit in Gal. 5:22-23.)
For me, throughout my day, I am often reminded to draw near to God’s presence by abiding in Christ. I do this by humbly expressing my dependence on Him. I read, meditate, trust, and obey God’s word and I pray in Jesus’ name through constant adoration and praise, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication.
Being filled with the Spirit
In Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus, he describes how Christians are to rest in their union with Christ, to walk in unity with believers and in light among unbelievers, and to stand strong against spiritual opposition. One of the keys to this walk of faith is to be filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18).
Paul contrasts being controlled by God’s Spirit with being drunk. Alcohol can overtake a person’s natural tendencies and can lead them to say and do unprofitable and unloving things. When we give God’s Holy Spirit control, He overcomes our fleshly bent and empower us to do Christlike things.
I have used a great illustration for many years to explain how the Holy Spirit changes a Christian from the inside out and how being filled with the Spirit is distinct from being indwelt by the Spirit.
Imagine a glass of milk. Plain 2% milk. It looks like every other glass of milk. Next to it, I have a jar of Hershey’s Syrup. Putting the jar right next to the glass does nothing for the milk. The milk has to accept the chocolatey goodness. When we pour it in and stir it a bit with a spoon, the very nature of the milk changes to resemble the Hershey’s Syrup. It is not like the other glasses of milk. It has been transformed into something better. Guess what? We can’t make it go back to the way it once was.
The Hershey’s Syrup has now taken up residence in the milk. But if we just let it sit for a while, perhaps the syrup might start to separate from the milk and sink down to the bottom of the glass. It hasn’t left the milk, but the milk has begun to lose it distinctive chocolatiness. What do we need to do? I think we need to get a spoon and give it a vigorous stirring. Then it will look as good as new.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have been indwelt by God’s Holy Spirit. He will never leave us if we are true believers. (See Eph. 1:13-14.) We just need to allow Him to fill us up with His presence.
How can we consistently walk, abide, and remain filled?
Christians are to live out their faith by intentionally relating to all three members of the Trinity as it is described in Scripture. I make an effort to walk with God the Father, abide in Christ, and be filled with the Spirit. The more I do that, the more I am empowered by God to remain in His presence.
There are many times I fail on a daily basis. Something called sin always seems to get in the way.
So, how do I deal with that? The answer is simple. I confess and forsake my sin when I need to (1 John 1:9). The Holy Spirit convicts me. I know when I have unconfessed sin, as David described in Ps. 32:3-4: “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.” (I invite you to read an article I wrote about losing and regaining our sense of God’s presence.)
Let me add a personal note here. There have been many times over the past several years when I sensed the presence of God at work. It occurred to me one day that it was not my efforts that drew me close to God. It was Jesus’ work on the cross that paid the penalty for my sin, allowing me to recognize and enjoy His presence at work, at home, at church, or wherever I happen to be. I recalled a key verse that exhorts us to maintain our walk with God by faith: “Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16). It’s all about grace. God’s merciful, abundant, and amazing grace.
I hope that you will be more mindful to walk, abide, and be filled at church, at home, and at work.
About the author:
Russell E. Gehrlein (Master Sergeant, U.S. Army, Retired) is a Christian, husband of 41 years, father of three, grandfather of five, and author of the book, Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Profession: A Biblical, Theological, and Practical Approach to the Doctrine of Work, published by WestBow Press in February 2018. He is an ordinary man who is passionate about helping ordinary people experience God’s presence and integrate their Christian faith at work. Russ received a B.S. in Mathematics from Colorado State University in 1980 and an M.A. in Biblical Studies from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary in 2015. He is a former junior/senior high school math and science teacher and youth minister. He served 20 years on active duty. Russ works as a Department of the Army civilian at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. Since 2015, he has written 175 articles on faith and work topics. Eighty of these have been published over 160 times on several Christian organization’s websites, including: the Center for Faith & Work at LeTourneau University, Institute for Faith, Work & Economics, Coram Deo, Nashville Institute for Faith + Work, Made to Flourish, 4Word Women, and The Gospel Coalition. (See published articles on Linktree.)