How to be filled with the Holy Spirit (How do you drink the wine of God? Meditation on Ephesians 5:18-21)

Below is an extract from John Piper’s meditation on the said Taste and See article. I love how-to articles. What could get simpler than a how-to article, right? But I would be a fool to think that I can be Spirit-filled just by following steps 1-2-3. Any desire and ability to be led by the Spirit is the work of the Spirit Himself, by the grace of God.

My Father in heaven greatly desires to give His children His Spirit. We just need to ask (Luke 11:3). What a wondrous and thrilling thought! But how can we be filled with the Spirit? As explained by Pastor Piper in the article, we have to imbibe the word of God deeply when we desire so.

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Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Ephesians 5:18-21

Oh, how we need to be filled with the Spirit! Let’s seek it! Pursue it!

But the crucial question is, how? Start with the closest parallel: Don’t be drunk with wine, be filled with the Spirit! (verse 18). How do you get drunk with wine? You drink it. Lots of it. So how then shall we get drunk (filled) with the Spirit? Drink it! Lots of it. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 12:13, “For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink”. Jesus said, “On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.’ By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified” (John 7:37-39).

How can you drink the Spirit? Paul said, “Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires” (Rom 8:5). We drink the Spirit by setting our minds on the things of the Spirit. What does “setting the mind on” mean? Colossians 3:1-2 says, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things”. “Setting the mind on” means seeking, directing your attention toward, being very concerned about (Philippians 3:19). It means being devoted to and taken up with. So drinking the Spirit means seeking the things of the Spirit, directing your attention to the things of the Spirit, being devoted to the things of the Spirit.

What are the “things of the Spirit”? When Paul said in 1 Corinthians 2:14, “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned”, he was referring to his own Spirit-inspired teachings (2:13) – specifically his teaching about the thoughts and ways and plans of God (2:8-10). Therefore, “the things of the Spirit” are the teachings of the apostles about God. Jesus also said, “The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life” (John 6:63). Therefore, the teachings of Jesus are also the “things of the Spirit.”

So drinking the Spirit means setting our minds on the things of the Spirit. And setting our minds on the things of the Spirit means directing our eager attention to the teachings of the apostles about God and to the words of Jesus. If we do this long enough, we will get drunk with the Spirit. In fact, we will get addicted to the Spirit. Instead of having chemical dependencies, we will develop a wonderful Spirit dependency.

One more thing: The Holy Spirit is not like wine, because he is a person and is free to come and go everywhere he wills (John 3:8). Therefore Luke 11:13 must be added. Jesus said to his disciples, “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” If we want to be filled with the Spirit we must ask our heavenly Father for it. And that is just what Paul does for the Ephesians in Ephesians 3:19. He asks his Father in heaven (verse 19) that the believers “know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Drink and pray. Drink and pray. Drink and pray.

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