The Holy Spirit is a person, with intellect, desires, and emotions. We can communicate with him; he hears our prayers. He knows our heart, our feelings, our hopes. He is not a force; he is a divine being. He can be loved, praised, and obeyed. He can also be grieved, resisted, insulted, and blasphemed.
A car does not run without an engine; a Christian does not live without the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is the agent of the new birth and of the entire life that follows. He produces in us the character of Christ (fruit) and the ministry of Christ (gifts). He teaches, guides, convicts, encourages, empowers, comforts, and equips. The Spirit is the power behind the New Covenant—from start to finish. Then how are we filled with the Spirit? We do not follow five easy steps. The Holy Spirit is a person, not a machine. Every experience of the Spirit is different, as the book of Acts makes clear. The Scriptures give us no automatic way but offer principles to follow and examples to learn from.
We desire. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Matt. 5:6). Curiosity is insufficient motivation to enter or go deeper into the life of the Spirit. Desperation sometimes precedes appropriation, while passivity kills spiritual passion. Paul said, “Earnestly desire the spiritual gifts” (I Cor. 14:1), and that would apply equally well for all aspects of the Spirit’s work. Hungry people say, “There’s more,” while people who have had enough stop eating. The Laodiceans said, “I need nothing” (Rev. 3:17), and all they received from Jesus was a rebuke. The Pharisee who “prayed to himself” didn’t need anything, while the tax collector cried out for mercy, and his prayer was heard. If you are satisfied with where you are, that is where you will stay. Wonderfully, our longings work in tandem with the purposes of God.
We pray. Pentecost occurred at the end of a ten-day prayer meeting. Jesus had told them that they were to wait until they were “clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). They translated waiting not as immobility but as heartfelt praying. It was while praying that Jesus was filled with the Spirit (Luke 3:21). It was after Cornelius and Peter were both praying that God brought them together and poured out the Spirit upon a room full of seekers (Acts 10). And it was while the apostles were praying that “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly” (Acts 4:31). The Greek word for “pray” literally means “to ask.” People who pray are needy. Prayer is the language of dependence. Satisfied people don’t pray; broken and needy people like the tax collector pray, as the Upper Room crowd of 120 did.
We relax. We don’t put ourselves in the position of having to conjure up God’s presence. We are creatures, not the Creator, children, not the Father. After the death of Jesus, the disciples on Sunday evening shuddered behind locked doors “for fear of the Jews” (John 20:19). The first word the resurrected Christ brought them was, “Peace be with you.” Apparently, one time was insufficient, because he said it again (21). This prepared them to receive the Holy Spirit that he was about to give them. An outlook of peace prepares us to appropriate the Spirit of peace. (How we receive comes in part 2).