A long time ago, when Keith was still a young preacher, he caught sight of one of the elders frowning during his sermon. Afterward, he asked the older man if he had a problem with the lesson. He was surprised at Keith’s query. “Of course not. It was fine,” came the reply. When Keith told him he had been frowning the man laughed and said, “Oh that. I just had a little indigestion tonight.”
We are too quick to leap to conclusions about one another when we ought to be paying attention to ourselves. Was that elder filled with the Spirit? Well he was obviously filled with something, but whether or not it was the Spirit had nothing to do with how he looked. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves of Jesus’ admonition in John 7:24--Judge not according to appearance, but judge righteous judgment.
We are also too prone to judge ourselves this way. When I see people with ebullient personalities, who hug everyone in sight, who sing loud and pray long, whom everyone gushes over as the “best example of a Christian I have ever seen” precisely because they are so “out there” with it, it makes me wonder about myself. I don’t bubble, I am not demonstrative, and, though I often sing loudly, it’s more often because I am getting older so my range is shrinking, and I can’t get that high note on pitch at anything less than 80 decibels. What is wrong with me? Why don’t I have a Spirit-filled life after all these years? Am I nothing but a fact-filled shell of a Christian?
Paul tells us in Eph 5:18-21 how to tell if we are filled with the Spirit, and it has nothing to do with how loud we are and how many people we hug.
And be not drunken with wine, wherein is riot, but be filled with the Spirit; [How?] 1) speaking one to another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; (2) giving thanks always for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; [and (3)] subjecting yourselves one to another in the fear of Christ.
Yes, singing is the first thing on the list, but remember what we discovered about the “one to another” in this passage a couple of years ago. It is not the usual “one to another” phrase that implies reciprocity. In fact it is not a phrase at all, but a single word, a pronoun, often translated himself, herself, or yourself. The context is not the assembly, but rather how I live my daily life. The better translation is “singing to yourself.” This is the singing I do throughout the day to edify myself and to praise God. I often do that very quietly, especially if I am in the middle of an aisle at the grocery store. Yes, people walking by probably hear a susurration of melodic noise, maybe even a word or two, but I am doing the singing for myself, especially if I have had a bad morning and need to calm down.
A person who is filled with the Spirit “gives thanks always.” Do I? Or do I only thank God “for being so good” when I get what I want, and then rail at him with, “Why me?” when I don’t? Do I recognize my blessings as easily as my problems? A grumbling heart is not filled with the Spirit.
Then there is the most telling factor, probably the most difficult one. Do I submit myself to my brethren? Notice, this is the same Greek word used of a wife’s submission to her husband (Col 3:18), and our submission to the government (1 Pet 2:13). It is also the same word used of our submission to God (Jas 4:7)! Do I give in to my brother or sister’s opinion even when I think this is not the best way to do it? Based upon what I have heard about all-male business meetings, if the men there were as subject to one another as they expect their wives to be to them, in other words, if they were to obey the command in Eph 5:21 as well as they expect their wives to obey the command in Col 3:18, the vast majority of problems in the church would disappear.
So don’t worry if you are a quiet person with a reserved personality. You too can be filled with the Spirit, and you can know you are if you sing hymns during the day, if you thank God for all his blessings, and if you do your best to serve others, even giving in to the opinions of others when you disagree strongly. Those are the things a Spirit-filled Christian does, sometimes loudly, but sometimes quietly too. It really isn’t that difficult to tell.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control; against such there is no law. If we live by the Spirit, by the Spirit let us also walk. Let us not become vainglorious, provoking one another, envying one another. Gal 5:22, 24-26.