For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control… By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.
By Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981)
Any holiness teaching or any doctrine of sanctification which begins by saying, ‘Now about getting rid of that particular sin of yours,’ is in itself starting in the wrong way. The scriptural method is positive; the way to deal with these things is to be filled with the Spirit.
The scriptural way of dealing with them is to clarify our thinking about these various sins, and it says: Can you not see that those things are incompatible with this great truth? If you want to avoid the pestilences and diseases that arise out of the swamps down in the valleys, the best thing to do is to walk to the top of the mountain.
Far too often, it seems to me, we tend to think of being filled with the Spirit in mechanical terms. The idea seems to be conjured up in our minds of an empty vessel and of something being poured into it. But clearly that must be wrong, because the Holy Spirit is not an influence, nor a power. We must not think of him in terms of electricity or of steam, for the Holy Spirit is a Person; he is described everywhere in the Scriptures in a personal manner. So when we think of being filled with the Spirit what we really mean is that the blessed Person of the Holy Spirit is controlling us, dominating and influencing us.
We often speak about being ‘full of life’. Or we say of certain people that at the moment they are really full of something. When a man becomes interested in some special person he is absolutely full of that person. It does not mean that the person is poured into him, but it does mean that the person is controlling his thoughts, his desires, and his activities, dominating the whole of his life and especially his thoughts. He is thus under the influence of and is being mastered by that person.
Most of the excesses and errors into which people have fallen with regard to this doctrine of being filled with the Spirit are almost invariably due to the fact that they think of the Spirit as some force or power that can be injected or transfused into us, instead of thinking of him in terms of this relationship to the Person who has been given to us and who dwells with us.
*Excerpt from “Growing in the Spirit.” Republished in The Assurance Of Our Salvation: Exploring The Depth Of Jesus’ Prayer For His Own: Studies In John 17, Crossway Books, 2015.