“For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17)
“But for those who are righteous,
the way is not steep and rough” (Is 26: 7, NLT)
A bicycle is not going to get very far without tyres, and those tyres need to be filled with air. For us, as we cycle along the track on the Mountain of the Lord, the air in the tyres is the breath, the Ruach, of the Holy Spirit. Without labouring the point made repeatedly on these pages, we do not progress far in our Christian walk unless we are filled with the Holy Spirit as instructed in Ephesians 5:18; and that filling has to be repeated and ongoing, as the tense of the Greek verb used translates as “be being filled…” We cannot move if our tyres are flat: they need to “be being filled” – pumped up – with the Ruach, the breath of God.
The old “penny farthing” cycles of the latter part of the nineteenth century had a massive single wheel above which the rider perched precariously, that was driven directly by pedals that were affixed to the axle and had a solid rubber tyre. In lots of ways it is a good picture of dead religion, running along a single wheel of the letter of the law, no chain (the connected body of Christ – that’s the next article), without the Holy Spirit, uncomfortable to ride, and certainly impossible to take onto the mountain track.
For a more detailed study on the baptism of the Holy Spirit, see “The Name of the Father,” but for the purposes of this article we’ll just limit ourselves to some basic principles of what it means to be filled with the Spirit. And, as with the other parts of this series, these are just a few (relatively) concise notes for you to unpack further, either on your own or with other believers.
So what do we have in our tyres?
“God’s love is poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:5) The pre-eminence of love in the life of the Christian disciple is a given: I don’t need to add here to the millions of words that are already written on the subject: it’s enough that Jesus has commanded us to love one another. What is relevant here is that we cannot love one another as commanded; or love the world as God did by sending His Son, unless it is with the love that He has filled us with. God’s love prefers others, serves , gives unstintingly, blesses, builds, and doesn’t seek approval or reward. These are not qualities of our flesh. If we have compassion on the poor and needy without reaching into the heart of God for His resources we are just another social action group whose work will, ultimately, not stand. God in Christ loved His friends by washing their feet, and reached out in compassion to the fallen world. We need to pray for His compassion to fill our hearts if we, as His disciples, are going to do the same.
God has given us the Spirit of Adoption, by which we cry out “Abba, Father!” (Romans 8:15) The Holy Spirit fills us with the revelation of our identity in Christ: it is only by the Spirit’s power that we know that we are children of God. Anyone can believe in their heads that they are a child of God or call themselves by that name. Some religious worldviews would say that we are all God’s children, because we are His creation and man was made in His image. But sin marred that image and broke the spiritual bloodline. Every man and woman is God’s creation and is a child of the first Adam; but God is Spirit, and it is only as brothers and sisters of the second Adam, Jesus Christ the Son of God, that our original spiritual family line is restored. Galatians 3: 26 makes this clear: “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” Every Christian is of the Seed of Abraham (See Galatians 3: 29), yet when the Jews claimed that Abraham was their Father Jesus retorted that their father was actually the devil. (John 8:44) It is only by the Spirit of God, through the blood of Jesus, that we can be children of God. And as true children of God, let us be filled with the knowledge of His parenthood.
Jesus told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem until “The Promise of the Father” was poured out from on high (Acts 1: 1-5). The promise was of redemption and blessing for himself and all his children, who would be numerous beyond count, and can be found in Genesis 12: 1-3. When the Holy Spirit was poured out at Pentecost this was like the uncorking of a great cask of blessing that had been stored up in Heaven since the time of Abraham, and it has been pouring ever since. Every time a believer is filled with the Spirit, whether for the first time or subsequently, God is re-affirming that He keeps His promises. And this affirmation is in itself another promise: it’s the very promise of Heaven, the deposit or guarantee of our eternal inheritance (Ephesians 1:14; 2 Cor 1:22). Meanwhile in this life, the promise that fills us is the promise to bless. Whatever obstacles or pitfalls might lay across our path, it tells us that He that is in us is greater than he that is in the world. (1 John 4:4) We carry within us the promise that, by the power of His Spirit, “in all things, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37) Filled with blessing, faithfulness and promise, our tyres will take us over everything that comes our way on Earth, and they will carry us on to our eternal destiny in Heaven.
Paul tells Timothy – and us –“You do not have a spirit of fear, but of love, power and a sound mind.” (2 Tim 1:7) The Spirit that is in us is the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead. We all know this Bible verse in our heads, but do we have it in our hearts? If we have within us a deposit of the power of the God who created all things, we don’t want to just know this truth as a fact, but we want to experience it as an aspect of the breath that fills our tyres, the ruach that we are riding on. What did I experience today of the power that raised Jesus from the dead dwelling in me? When I prayed, did I just mumble the first thing that came into my head that matched the need I was considering, or did I wait for the Spirit of God to reveal His perspective and release His provision? What interactions have I had with other people, in or outside the church, that Jesus may have wanted to touch supernaturally through the operation of a gift of the Holy spirit? Paul says to the Corinthians: “Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?” (2 Cor 13:5) Many of us in the church today could probably benefit from following the same injunction.
A sound mind
The word translated as “sound mind” is sophronismos. Sometimes translated as self-control or sobriety, it is more than that: it is actually an admonition to walk in full control of one’s faculties; to be disciplined. The full set of meanings listed in Strong’s concordance under the verb sophronizo are 1) “restore one to his senses,” 2) “to moderate, control, curb, disciple,” 3) “to hold one to his duty,” and 4) “to admonish, to exhort earnestly.” Did you spot the word “disciple” tucked into the list? I don’t have an Amplified Bible translation to hand, but if we used the Strong’s definition of the original Greek for the noun translated as “self control,” or “a sound mind” to do our own amplified version, we could say that the Holy Spirit gives us “a restored mind that responds to an earnest exhortation to stay on course and not to wander out of control and go off track.” In other words, a renewed mind that responds to being discipled. Or quite simply, a discipled mind.
As well as filling us with God’s love and power, His fatherhood and His faithfulness, it is the Holy Spirit who disciples us. Jesus called Him the Counsellor or The Paraclete, the One who Comes Alongside. But it is up to us to keep our tyres pumped up.