The Christian life thrives when it exists in intimacy with the Holy Spirit. "Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5.25 NIV)."
So here's the million dollar question? How do I live by the Spirit? How do I keep in step with the Spirit's work?
One way to envision Spirit-filling is that it is like wind filling the sails on a sailboat. Wind fills the sails. The boat glides through the water. ". . .Be filled with the Holy Spirit . . . (Ephesians 5.18 NLT)." In Christ, I am filled by the Spirit and, consequently, moved by the Spirit.
So we are filled and fueled by the Spirit, like a sailboat moves under the influence of the wind when its sails are full. Make sense? Unfortunately, too many Christians think of themselves as more like a rowboat, not a sailboat. Their journey is entirely up to them! The currents and winds push against them, so they constantly need to keep rowing, to fight on. . .to try harder . If they’re going to change, if they are going to be transformed, it depends on their sweat equity. In a rowboat – who’s in control? The rower.
Back to the sailboat. Did you know Holy Spirit, Agios Pneuma, can be literally translated as Holy Wind? So, a sailboat is a much more biblical way of envisioning the Christian life than a rowboat. We are to be filled and powered by the Pneuma , the Wind (Spirit) of God.
Obviously, the sailor has work to do in a sail boat. The sailor is not a spectator. There is a dynamic partnership between sailor and wind. I learned this back when I was a kid sailing on Beaver Lake with my dad in northwest Arkansas. When we sailed, we were not passive. We would hoist the sail. Move the sail to best capture the wind. Use the rudder to steer. When sailing, however, we were 100% dependent on the power of the wind. We knew every time we pushed off from the shores of Beaver Lake that if the wind didn't fill our sails, we weren't going anywhere.
Unlike the rowboat, in the sail boat, there’s no room for believing that you are in control, because if the wind doesn’t blow, you don’t move. When the starts blowing, however, things really start to get exciting!
So, what is my role? In the process of spiritual growth and Spirit-powered living, what do I need to be doing? Quite simply - my job is to make sure my sails are raised. When Paul tells Christians to "Be filled with the Holy Spirit” he is giving us a command. We must raise our sails so that we may be filled and fueled.
Raising my sails - this is about Spirit; not science. Relationship; not rules. There has to be room left for mystery. Remember what Jesus told Nicodemus about this mystery? Jesus talked about this in John 3 when he spoke with Nicodemus about the mystery of the Holy Spirit. "The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit (John 3.8 NIV)."
Anything I can do to feed my soul helps me to be filled and fueled. At the same time, I must never fall into the trap of thinking that I am powering my growth in Christ, that I am fueling my life. It's not ultimately up to me. I have a part to play, but I'm counting on the Pneuma to fill and fuel my life in Christ.