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Filled With The Spirit

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TITLE:  Filled with the Spirit           SCRIPTURE:  Acts 2:1-21

Filled with the Spirit!  Filled with the Holy Spirit!  Filled with the Spirit of God!

Are you filled with the Spirit?  Are you filled with the Holy Spirit?  Are you filled with the Spirit of God?  I certainly hope so! 

Take a moment to look at the person on your right and the person on your left.  What do you think?  Are they filled with the Spirit –– the Holy Spirit –– the Spirit of God!  I think there's a good chance that they are. 

If you are filled with the Holy Spirit –– the Spirit of God –– how did you get that way?  When did it happen?

Our scripture from the book of Acts today went only through verse 21.  If we were to read further, we would read about the Apostle Peter preaching a stem-winder of a sermon to a great crowd of people in Jerusalem on Pentecost, a great religious holiday.  He concluded his sermon by telling them that they had crucified the messiah –– the one whom God had sent –– the one for whom they had waited so long.

And then it says that the people were "cut to the heart" and asked Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what should we do?"  Peter said:

      "Repent, and be baptized every one of you

      in the name of Jesus Christ

      so that your sins may be forgiven;

      and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38)

Peter told them to do two things –– repent and be baptized –– so they would receive two blessings –– the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

And then he continued:

      "For the promise is for you,

      for your children,

      and for all who are far away,

      everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him" (Acts 2:39).

That's an important verse.  It says that the promise is "for all who are far away."  Do you know who that is?  That is us.  Peter was telling those people in Jerusalem that the promise wasn't just for them and their children.  It is also for people like us who live far from Jerusalem.  It is for people like us who live centuries after that first Pentecost.  The promise is that if we do two things –– repent and be baptized –– then we will receive forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit.  So we received the Spirit at our baptism.

But let me get back to the phrase, "filled with the Holy Spirit."  The book of Acts says that Jesus' disciples "were filled with the Holy Spirit" on that first Pentecost (2:4).  There were people from all the many nations there –– people who spoke many different languages.  So the Spirit gave the disciples the ability to speak in all of those languages so that all of those people could hear the Gospel preached in their own language.

Some of the listeners were amazed and receptive, but others said, "They are filled with new wine" –– in other words, drunk.  But new wine is wine that has not yet fermented, so they were really saying, "They are filled with grape juice.  They have gotten drunk on grape juice."  There are always people like that, aren't there.  Scoffers!  Unbelievers!  People who wouldn't believe no matter what!

But these disciples weren't filled with new wine.  They were filled with the Holy Spirit –– the Spirit of God. 

And so are we.  We received the gift of the Holy Spirit at our baptism. 

And that makes a difference!  In his letter to the church at Galatia, Paul listed what he called "the fruit of the Spirit."  He listed nine fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23):

      –– Love

      –– Joy

      –– Peace

      –– Patience

      –– Kindness

      –– Generosity

      –– Faithfulness

      –– Gentleness

      –– and Self-control

When I look around at the people in this congregation, I see those virtues.  I see lots of love –– and joy –– and peace –– and patience (well, maybe not always patience) –– and kindness –– and generosity (I have certainly seen lots of generosity from the people of this congregation) –– and faithfulness –– and gentleness –– and self-control.

So you might ask yourself how you measure up on those nine virtues.  Are you a loving person –– a joyful person –– a peaceful person –– a patient person –– a kind person –– a generous person –– a faithful person –– a gentle person?  Are you self-controlled?

You might ask your husband or your wife (or your mother or your dad) how you measure up on those virtues.  One way to approach that would be to say, "I am trying to write a brief description of myself and I would like for your feedback.  What I have written so far reads like this:  'I am loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, generous, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled.'  Have I gotten that about right?"

Your husband or wife might suggest that you add one more virtue to your list –– humility!

But when I think about people whom I have known in this and other churches, I must admit that there are times when some of those nine virtues don't seem to apply.  In fact, if I were to be brutally honest, I would have to admit that I, too, have occasionally failed to be loving, joyful, and all the rest.  Maybe more than occasionally!

So what's going on?  If we are filled with the Spirit –– God's Spirit –– and if that is supposed to make us loving, joyful, and all the rest –– why aren't we always like that?

When I was thinking about this, I remembered something that a science teacher showed us when I was in high school.  That was a long time ago, but I think that the basic science still applies.  The teacher took a jar and filled it to the brim with marbles.  He then asked if the jar was full.  We agreed that it was full. 

He then took some sand and poured the sand inside the jar –– and shook it a bit and poured some more sand inside –– and repeated that until the jar was filled to the brim with marbles and sand.  He asked if we thought the jar was full.  We thought it was, but we weren't eager to commit ourselves after being wrong the first time. 

So then the teacher got a beaker of water (science teachers never have pitchers –– they always have beakers) and he showed us that the beaker was full.  He then poured water from the beaker into the jar until the jar was full to the brim of marbles, sand, and water.  Then he showed us the beaker.  It was practically empty.  There had been enough space in that full jar for the whole beaker of water.

And then the teacher told us that, if we could see a molecule of water, we would find that it is mostly empty space –– like the universe.  A molecule has protons and neutrons and electrons and a few other things, but mostly the molecule is empty space –– just like the universe is mostly empty space.

So that jar, which looked so absolutely full, wasn't really full at all.  If you really thought about it, the jar was mostly empty even after it had been filled three times.

That little science lesson has been helpful to me when I have seen Christians, who are supposedly filled with the Spirit of God, being spiteful –– or stingy –– or hateful.  When that happens, I just remind myself of that jar of marbles and sand and water –– and I think, "Well, I guess the Holy Spirit hasn't yet penetrated all the way to that person's fingertips!  I guess there is still a bit of space in there waiting to be filled!"

I mentioned earlier that Paul listed nine virtues that he called fruits of the Spirit –– love, joy, peace, patience, and all the rest.  It helps me to remember that a fruit tree doesn't bear much fruit the first year –– or the second year –– and maybe not the third year.  It takes time for a tree to mature so that it can be productive.  I think that it takes us time, too, to become really fruitful Christians –– full of love and joy and peace and patience and all the rest.  I think that it takes a lifetime of walking with God.

The book of Genesis tells us that we were created in the image of God.  The book of Acts tells us that we have been filled with the Spirit of God.  Our experience tells us that we aren't perfect on either count.  We neither look nor act like Godly people on every occasion.  But let us thank God that he thinks so highly of us that he calls us his children.  And let us pray for grace to become more and more like the people God created us to be.

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