(Originally posted on the Bibles for America Blog)
When we consider how Jesus Christ loved us and gave Himself on the cross for us, we can’t help but love Him. We often want to do something for Him in return.
So we might ask the Lord questions like: “What do You want me to do for You?” and “How can I be useful to You?”
The problem with questions like these is that they suggest God created us primarily to do something for Him. But is that really why He created us? He already had a multitude of angels to serve Him. Why did God need to create mankind, if it was for the same purpose?
Created as vessels
Actually, the desire of God’s heart isn’t for mankind to do something for Him. Instead, He wants us to express Him.
We might think that expressing God is to behave in a certain way, or to do things that we believe would please Him. But this isn’t what God wants. God’s intention is that He would first get inside of us, then spread and fill our whole being until we spontaneously express Him.
We tend to focus on our outward behaviour, on what we can do for God or how we can be useful to Him. But God is concerned with first filling us within.
We can see this in the particular way God created us. Romans 9:23-24 says:
“In order that He might make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He had before prepared unto glory, even us, whom He has also called.”
Notice here that the verse doesn’t refer to us as instruments or tools, but as vessels. So what is a vessel? A vessel is a hollow receptacle with an opening. Its purpose is to contain something. In fact, its sole reason for existing is to receive and be filled with some content.
Isaiah 64:8 says:
“But now, Jehovah, You are our Father; we are the clay; and You, our Potter; and all of us are the work of Your hand.”
God is the divine Potter who specifically made human beings as vessels, not as tools or instruments to be used by Him. And as vessels, what are we supposed to contain? We were created to contain God Himself.
If a vessel is empty, its purpose isn’t being fulfilled. This explains why before we were saved we felt so empty and purposeless.
But praise God, we’re no longer empty vessels! When we believed in Christ, we received Him into our spirit. He came into us. Now He’s living in us and wants to fill us completely so that we live a life that expresses Him.
How can we be filled with God?
God first came into us when we received the Lord Jesus as our Saviour. This was our initial receiving of Him, and nothing can undo or change this fact. But He wants us to continue to receive Him until our whole being is filled with Him and even overflowing with Him.
So how does this happen? Ephesians 5:18-21 tells us:
“And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissoluteness, but be filled in spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and psalming with your heart to the Lord, giving thanks at all times for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to our God and Father, being subject to one another in the fear of Christ.”
Note 1 on verse 18 in the New Testament Recovery Version points out the issue of being filled:
“To be drunk with wine is to be filled in the body, whereas to be filled in the spirit (our regenerated spirit, not God’s Spirit) is to be filled with Christ (1:23) unto the fullness of God (3:19). To be drunk with wine in our physical body causes us to become dissolute, but to be filled in our spirit with Christ, with the fullness of God, causes us to overflow with Christ in speaking, singing, psalming, and giving thanks to God (vv. 19-20) and also causes us to subject ourselves to one another (v. 21).”
And note 1 on verse 19 points out that the issue is also the way we can be filled:
“Verses 19-21 modify be filled in spirit in v. 18. Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs are not only for singing and psalming but also for speaking to one another. Such speaking, singing, psalming, giving of thanks to God (v. 20), and subjecting of ourselves to one another (v. 21) are not only the outflow of being filled in spirit but also the way to be filled in spirit.”
Practical ways to be filled
This passage in Ephesians mentions some very practical ways we can experience being filled in spirit.
- Speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs—We can not only sing hymns, but also speak the lyrics to one another. Hymnal.net is an excellent resource for learning hymns, and includes both the words and music for each song.
- Singing and psalming—There are many marvelous benefits to singing hymns and spiritual songs. We don’t have to be a good singer; we can all sing with our heart to the Lord.
- Giving thanks—Ephesians 5:20 talks about giving thanks at all times for all things—not just during good times and for good things. Complaining about our situation doesn’t fill us with the Lord. But once we begin to thank Him even in the midst of difficult circumstances, we experience being filled with Him.
- Being subject to one another—we probably wouldn’t think of being subject as a way to be filled, but Ephesians 5:21 includes this as both an issue and a way to be filled in our spirit. As members of the Body of Christ, the Lord wants us not only to be subject to Him as the Head but to one another in the fear of Christ.
The Bible is clear that God wants us to be filled with Him. By filling us with Himself, God will be expressed through us, working out His eternal purpose.
Every day, we can practice these ways to be filled in spirit. We also strongly recommend ordering a free copy of the New Testament Recovery Version. You can read all the commentary on these verses in Ephesians 5 to be more deeply impressed with God’s desire to fill us for His expression.