Last night I attended a worship service and Bible study with my friend Melissa. She had told me about her church and how fantastic the people were, and I was excited to meet all these people I had only heard about and communicated with through the internet. They were all just as wonderful as she said they were! We studied Acts chapter five and dove deep into what it means to be Spirit-filled in boldness and worship. I can honestly say that in the faith tradition that I grew up in, this is a rare topic to hear a sermon on.
I was convicted of so many things as the pastor spoke. I wondered how often I really desired and prayed to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Honestly, the thought is kind of frightening. I have seen many things over the years in different services outside of the denomination I grew up in: falling on the ground, shouting, speaking in tongues, etc. Sometimes all of these at once. My style of worship and communication with God has always been calm and private. Growing up, everyone else worshiped the same way. If you were super spiritual, you would raise your hand in the air (possibly two if you were really having a moment), but it is only acceptable at certain points in the song. If you venture outside that place, people start staring at you like you’re a freak.
Lately I have been contemplating many things about my worldview and asking the question, “What if I’ve been wrong?” I have started praying in different situations that are uncomfortable or abnormal to me that God would show me His truth through His eyes, not mine. My eyes would see a passionate style of worshiping as wrong, because it’s not what I’m used to. What if I’m wrong? What if God desires that I come to Him jumping and shouting, falling down on the ground before Him? Have I been holding out on Him?
The idea of being Spirit-filled has been tainted for me, I believe, by the worldview that I have had growing up. In many ways, we left that job for the crazies and we moved on to live holy lives. We desire to live in the power of the Holy Spirit, but only when it’s comfortable, safe, and doesn’t disturb the people standing next to us. Looking at that concept objectively, it makes absolutely no sense. If we are filled with the Spirit, we don’t care what is comfortable or safe. We have the power of God! Who in heaven or on earth do we have to fear? What reputation we have with other people could be more important than being filled with the presence and person of Almighty God? And how can we be filled with the Spirit and not disturb the person next to us?
The pastor used the illustration of a person jumping into the pool and being soaked. Every part of him is wet. What happens when he hugs someone who is dry? He cannot help but influence that person. The evidence is on that person’s clothes! Could I be soaked in the Holy Spirit? Could I be so covered and filled with Him that when I go out into the world to live a life of love for God, that I would get some of Him on everyone around me?
I love Jesus and I have dedicated my entire life to Him. I have a relationship with Him. He speaks with me and I speak with Him. However, I sense that He is asking me to dive much deeper with Him in learning what it means to worship Him and to be filled with the Holy Spirit. The person who is filled with the Spirit is bold, confident, and passionate. Too often I see myself as cowardly, insecure, and dull. Deep inside, I know that I am called to so much more. I desire a richer relationship with God.
The pastor said, “The Kingdom of God doesn’t advance by the death of others, but by the death of ourselves.” Have I truly died to myself? I have noticed so many things about myself lately that prove to me that I value safety more than devotion. Especially in worship, I have a hard time truly letting go of myself, even if everyone around me is going nuts in God’s presence. I feel like I have to keep my dignity. I am reminded of the David Crowder Band song that says, “I will dance, I will sing to be mad for my King. Nothing, Lord, is hindering this passion in my soul. And I’ll become even more undignified than this. Some may say it’s foolishness but I’ll become even more undignified than this. Leave my pride by my side and I’ll become even more undignified than this.” I recognize in myself a lot of pride. I don’t want to look weird. I don’t want to be ridiculous. The fact that this is a concern for me shows me that I do not truly know and understand God like I should. If I fully recognized how holy He is and how great His love is, surely I couldn’t do anything but go crazy in worship.
True worship comes when we eliminate ourselves and are totally immersed in God’s presence and holiness. There is nothing dignified about that. This worship should be an attitude of the heart and spirit 24/7; it goes beyond the worship band, sermon, and fellowship times. It reaches into our jobs and social life. It penetrates the deepest parts of us when we are alone and no one is watching. How many of us carry within us the reality of God’s Spirit everywhere we go? This Spirit is unmistakable! No one in the world should wonder Whose you are. It should be obvious by that fact that you are totally soaked!
In my mind, I have always seen total surrender to God as a process that happens over time. To a small degree this is true. However, it rocked my world to think that God’s presence could fill me in a moment and His Spirit could cover me with power and boldness every day, regardless of how long I had been seeking Him and growing. It is not a point that we work toward with God; it is His desire that we be filled with Him every day of our lives. What would happen if I dared to pray to be filled with His Spirit? Could I put aside my fear about what that might look like, eliminate myself totally from the equation, and live in worship to Him?
I have made so much of my relationship with God intellectual. I have put Him at a distance so I can observe Him and analyze things about Him. I’ll talk to Him and I’ll obey Him. However, I didn’t realize how much I kept God at arms length. I am afraid to touch Him, and for good reason. He is holy and I am not. Could I let the gush of His love overpower me and soak me through and through? Could I allow Him to wash me clean? The Bible says that only those who have clean hands and a pure heart may stand in His presence. I want that! Holy Spirit, make me whole!
My faith has been wimpy. Recently, I have found myself in certain situations where I am torn in how to respond. I am afraid of stupid things. I back down when I should stand. I wonder if I am smart enough to discuss certain things with people, or if I have a right to take part in certain things. How Holy Spirit-less have I been? This is the opposite of the fruit that I should be seeing in my life! Time after time when the Bible tells of someone who is filled with the Spirit, they are given boldness, courage, confidence, and joy. There is a part of all of us that knows we are meant to live this way.
Everyone has heard the story of the prodigal son, but there is an element that I had never heard before. When the father in the story saw the son from a distance, he broke every cultural rule by running to his son and throwing his arms around him. The Scripture says the father fell on his son’s neck (a tight and overwhelming embrace). The word used for the father falling on his son’s neck in this story is the same ancient word used when the Holy Spirit fell on those in the upper room in Acts chapter two. This falling of the Holy Spirit caused all in that room to start speaking in other languages, drawing a crowd to observe what was happening. Peter spoke with boldness the message of God and about 3,000 people were added to the Body of Christ that day. The embrace of God is a powerful thing.
The pastor said, “Worship has nothing to do with how we feel. It has everything to do with God and who He is.” He read Psalm 8:1-2: “O Lord, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth! Your glory is higher than the heavens. You have taught children and infants to tell of your strength, silencing your enemies and all who oppose you.” Even when children speak praise to our Lord, the Enemy is silenced! Nothing shuts him up more than worship to Almighty God.
May God continue to teach us more about what it means to worship Him in everything we say and do. May we not be afraid to be filled with the Spirit, but rather seek it with everything we have. May we eliminate ourselves from the equation so that we may embrace who God is. May we not be afraid to be undignified in how we approach the throne of God and our neighbor. May we jump into the pool of His Spirit and be totally immersed in His power. May we be soaked through and through with Him!