How to be a Spirit-Filled Christian
The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.”
Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.
God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
John 4:19-24 (NKJV)
What did Jesus mean when he told the woman at the well that God is Spirit and must be worshipped in spirit and in truth?
The conversation centres around whether the temple is the correct location, or the mountain in Samaria. Jesus says that neither is sufficient for worshipping God and both will become unnecessary once the crucifixion takes place. As we know, at the hour of Jesus’ death, the veil in the temple which separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the temple was torn in two. The veil between us and God was removed.
Later, at Pentecost, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit in tongues of flame to transform the frightened disciples into brave warriors of the gospel and to proclaim the truth from the rooftops.
There is intricate symbolism embedded within the old temple practices which had to be performed for atonement under the law, and also important clues to Jesus’ identity in the exodus of the Israelites through the wilderness. For example, Jesus says that He is the living water and He is the bread of life, such as what was given to the people in the wilderness in the form of manna and water which gushed from a rock. This symbolic sustenance travelled with the people, as did the pillar of cloud which provided shade and covering from the sun during the day and fire to see by at night.
In the past it was a physical manifestation so that we could understand the spiritual equivalent.
At the temple in Jerusalem, they performed daily sacrifices for the atonement of sin; they ritually bathed at the laver; they kept a table to unleavened bread on the table of showbread for a week at a time; the altar of bronze was for the blood of sacrificed animals, while the altar of gold was for incense; in the temple of Solomon there were 10 lampstands with five on one side and five on the other, while in the second temple they used the minora filled with olive oil.
All of these became symbolic for how to worship God in spirit and in truth, which we will discuss very shortly.
The thing about a physical devotion rather than a spiritual devotion grounded in truth, is that people can start going through the motions while having no heart behind it. This is not enough for God, as we can see in the time of Isaiah:
“To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me?” Says the Lord.
“I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed cattle.
I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs or goats.
“When you come to appear before Me, who has required this from your hand, to trample My courts?
Bring no more futile sacrifices; Incense is an abomination to Me.
The New Moons, the Sabbaths, and the calling of assemblies—I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting.
Your New Moons and your appointed feasts My soul hates; They are a trouble to Me, I am weary of bearing them.
When you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you; Even though you make many prayers, I will not hear.
Your hands are full of blood.
Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes.
Cease to do evil, Learn to do good; Seek justice, rebuke the oppressor; Defend the fatherless, plead for the widow.”
“Come now, and let us reason together,” says the Lord,
“Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; But if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword.”
Isaiah 1:11-20 (NKJV)
God wanted to draw close to the people and give them blessings, but they no longer worshipped truthfully, and instead had began to worship idols and engage in abominable behaviour. They believed that they could do whatever they wanted, then slit a lamb’s throat and throw it on a fire to make everything right with God.
He was sick of having to receive their prayers. He was exhausted by their very presence and could barely stand it anymore. They refused to turn away from sin, even though they looked devout on the exterior.
We see Jesus repeating this sentiment when He addresses the churches in the book of Revelation:
“I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.”
Revelation 3:15-16 (NKJV)
A church which no longer is on fire for God, or is no longer refreshing to the believers, is enough to make God sick. It will also make Him furiously angry, as we can see when Jesus cleansed the temple at Jerusalem of people desecrating it with merchandise:
Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business. When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables. And He said to those who sold doves, “Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!” Then His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up.”
John 2:13-17 (NKJV)
Then He went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in it, saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house is a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’”
Luke 19:45-46 (NKJV)
In the Old Testament, when Israel had fallen away from God, they were required to cleanse the temple as seen in 2nd Chronicles 29:1-11 when King Hezekiah restores the temple after his father had abandoned it to build altars in other places and made abominable sacrifices to demons. Once it was made acceptable to God, it could be used for worship. This had to be done many times throughout their history as the people would go through times of devotion, and then backslide into disobedience once more. That would be the time when God turned away from His people and allowed them to be overcome by adversaries.
Jesus cleansed us, His new temples, with His sacrifice on the cross. Now that we are acceptable to the Father, we are able to worship in spirit and truth, but we must endeavour to maintain that connection with God in order to continue being vessels of His Spirit.
How does the temple parallel our worship if we’re doing it in spirit and truth?
Paul says in his letters that our bodies are the new temples of God:
Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.
1st Corinthians 6:18-20 (NKJV)
Paul is telling members of the church not to desecrate God’s temple which is now their bodies.
Some Christians fail to realise that we’re supposed to be the dwelling of the HOLY Spirit… as in; the Holy of Holies. Being promiscuous, or chasing after idols, or blaspheming God, or disobeying His commandments… that does not create a temple for the Holy and Living God in which He can dwell.
If we look at the temple as a metaphor for our bodies, we can see that the temple has walled courtyards to separate it from the outside world, which it has no association with. In the same way, we are supposed to be in the world, but not of it. Within the courtyards, but outside the temple is the bronze sacrificial altar and the water cleansing laver or “sea” as it was known. This is where we sacrifice the desires of the flesh, repent of our sins and seek forgiveness. It is vital to not live the same way as people who do not know God personally, for a number of reasons.
Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”?
But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.”
Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
James 4:4-8 (NKJV)
Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.
1st John 2:3-6 (NKJV)
Once we move into the temple itself, there are a number of things to take note of:
Firstly, you would see the lampstands along each wall if you walked into Solomon’s temple, or you would see the golden minora of the second temple. This represents the Holy Spirit and the lamps are fed by the purest olive oil at the first press of the harvest. The Holy Spirit was first manifest to the disciples in tongues of flame above their heads. Jesus told the parable of the wise and foolish virgins with their lamps and oil, and He specifically numbered them five wise and five foolish to represent the ten golden lampstands in Solomon’s temple. In that parable it becomes evident that it will be up to us to maintain the oil for the Spirit so that our flame does not go out before the Lord returns.
Next within the temple we have the showbread, which is the same bread used at Passover when we remember Jesus’ sacrifice. This reminds us that the Lord provides for us when we do what He asks us to do and go where He asks us to go. He is our bread of life, and we can rely on Him to help us along the journey, but we must take those steps in faith.
And Abraham called the name of the place, The-Lord-Will-Provide; as it is said to this day, “In the Mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”
Genesis 22:14 (NKJV)
In front of the curtain before the Holy of Holies is the golden altar for offering incense as a sweet aroma to the Lord. This represents the prayers we offer to God on a daily basis and the prayers of the faithful saints are very powerful, as we can see in Revelation:
Then another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel’s hand. Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and threw it to the earth. And there were noises, thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake.
So the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound.
Revelation 8:3-6 (NKJV)
Prayer is vital in our walk with God, since that is how we communicate with Him and remain open to instruction. We’re even told to pray without ceasing.
Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all. See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.
1st Thessalonians 5:14-22 (NKJV)
Once we go through the curtain of Solomon’s temple, into the Holy of Holies, we find the arc of the covenant. What does the arc contain? It contains the two stone tablets with the ten commandments written by the finger of God.
This is what we are to hold most sacred in our hearts and minds so that we can know what is required of us when the world around is overcome by moral relativism.
“This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,”
Hebrews 10:16 (ESV)
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.”
John 14:15-17 (ESV)
If our bodies are the temple of the Living God, we need to know what that means and how to practice His commandments while following His narrow and straight way.
So how do we worship God in the ways which He wants to be worshipped?
We need to offer our bodies up to God and become obedient to the sound of His voice so that we can follow His divine lead through the wilderness and have Him dwell within us:
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
Romans 12:1-2 (NKJV)
What does that look like in practice?
A sacrifice is when we forgo something we want or enjoy. Sin is usually something which people enjoy such as drugs, sex, reckless driving, getting something for nothing, manipulating or lying to people to have your own way, being worshipped on Instagram… All of these things make us hardened against God and leave us exposed to the enemy for further influence. They lead to strife:
For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!
I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
Galatians 5:13-18 (NKJV)
We can overcome addictions and temptations through the power of the Holy Spirit if we submit to God’s commandments. In exchange, we must forsake the lusts of the flesh which lead to the wide and easy boulevard of the world.
Enter in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
Matthew 7:13-14 (KJV)
The bible doesn’t say that as soon as we accept Jesus as Lord, then we’re home and hosed. No; it says that once we find the gate, we must enter through it and then we need to walk a straight path which eventually leads to eternal life.
How far can we stray from the narrow and straight way before we can no longer see it, or don’t even care to look for it?
Following the path is not an easy task, as Jesus plainly says:
And he said to them all, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away? For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father’s, and of the holy angels.”
Luke 9:23-26 (KJV)
When Jesus says to pick up our crosses and follow Him, that is exactly what we should do if we want to be led out of the wilderness and remain under His protective cloud. We have not reached the promised land of heaven yet, and if we start worshipping idols along the way, or doubt God’s plan in the face of massive adversaries, then we will fall away into the outer darkness.
Never forget that you are approaching the Holy and Living God. It’s healthy to remember that God is righteous, holy and powerful as well as merciful and patient. This helps us to keep things in perspective and not start to think that we know better, or have our own power to puff us up.
The whole point of choosing to walk with God and keep His commandments is not to do it our of fear or as some annoying obligation. It is supposed to be done from a place of love. Because we love God. It’s not a “works-based” religion at all, it is a close and personal relationship.
God would like to have willing servants like Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who He can also call friend:
But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the offspring of Abraham, my friend;
you whom I took from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest corners, saying to you, “You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off”;
Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Isaiah 41:8-10 (ESV)
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.
Ezekiel 36:26-27 (NKJV)
God gives us the ability to overcome if we truly choose to walk in His statutes and soften our hearts towards Him. If we delight in His ways and no longer seek the ways of the world.
Then we can be called Friend.
That is how we know if we are Spirit-filled Christians.