“Be filled with the Spirit” Ephesians 5:18
Every couple of months I take time to have my hair cut. In preparation I wash my hair within twenty four hours of going. When I arrive, I sit in the seat and let the hairdresser go about cutting my hair. The first few times I visited this hairdresser I explained what I expected the end product to look like. When it is all over I make a quick inspection to see if he has fulfilled my expectations.
There are parallels with having a hair cut and being filled with the Spirit. Paul expresses this as a commandment in Ephesians 5:18. Further, the grammar used means that we are to be continually submitting to being filled with the Spirit and also that it is not something we do. How can it be a commandment to believers if they can’t do it?
When I was conscripted into the army one of the first commands I received was to have a hair cut. I didn’t cut my own hair. The hairdresser did it. Being filled with the Spirit is similar in that we are commanded to be filled but it is not we who do the filling. It is God who does the filling. Our part is to ensure that we are in the right place spiritually and ready to receive this Gift of God.
The Holy Spirit can only “fill” a clean and holy vessel. We may be able to wash our hair before going to the hairdresser but only the blood of Jesus can cleanse us in the way necessary for the Holy Spirit to fill us. This requires confession of particular sins, not generalisations about being a sinner (1 John 1:9). What is the end product we desire? For a true disciple of Jesus the end product is to be just like Jesus. The New Testament writers express that in several ways (Romans 12:1, 2; 1 Peter 1:8, 9; 1 John 3:2, 3). At the hairdresser there is a mirror so that we can observe progress to see that the hairdresser is conforming to our desire. Likewise we have the Bible as a mirror so that we can see how we are progressing in becoming Christ-like.
With the hairdresser we have no more assurance than past experience that he will achieve the goal. However, with Jesus Christ we have God’s Word that guarantees that He is working all He can to complete the task (Philippians 2:12, 13). The main obstruction to His getting the job done right is how well we submit to His working. If we squirm in the chair or turn our head, the hairdresser may make a mistake. It won’t be his fault but ours.
We are inclined to be “stiff-necked” and resist the working of the Holy Spirit but James gives us the remedy – if we will accept it. “Submit to God … Draw near to God … Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord … For God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6-10).