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What Does Filled with the Spirit Mean?

Andrew Wilson writes in an article for Christianity Today:

When you’re sailing, is “being filled with the wind” an experience or a habit? Both. Catching the wind on a sailboat is clearly an experience. I vividly remember that first feeling of being seized and carried forward by a mighty power from elsewhere. But it is also a habit. If you don’t put the sails up, pull the mainsheet fast, or adjust the jib, you won’t go anywhere, even if the wind is blowing powerfully.

Sailing, in that sense, is the art of attentive responsiveness to an external power. You rely entirely on the external power to get you anywhere. Sailors never imagine themselves to be powering the boat by their own strength. But you also have to respond attentively to whatever the wind is doing, which comes through cultivating awareness, skill, and good habits.

Being filled with the Spirit involves the same both-and. We pursue the experience of the Holy Spirit - Paul uses the language of filling and drenching, drinking and pouring. We rely entirely on the Spirit’s immeasurable power, rather than our own strength, to get us anywhere. But we also develop habits. We respond attentively to what he is doing in and through us, a capacity that comes through awareness, skill, and practice. Paul mentions four such habits in subsequent verses: teaching one another, singing, giving thanks, and submitting to one another (Eph. 5:18–21).

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