Being Filled and Staying Filled With the Spirit
By Fred Pruitt
Thank you for writing with these great questions – almost everyone confronts them at one time or another – and for your patience in waiting on my reply. I want you to know from the beginning that I am using my reply to you as one of my Blog posts, though I am leaving your name out. Nothing you asked is “personal” in nature, but are questions almost everyone has had who moves into a union consciousness. Somewhere Paul wrote for us to say certain things “so that all may learn” (1 Cor 14:31), and that is what we are attempting to do with this answer.
The issues you bring up are these:
- Waiting on God “Season”
- Culminated in finding a “settled sense of completeness and oneness in Christ
- Now experiencing feeling conflicted due to not “waiting on God” like you used to, citing as reason that you have felt your sense of “subjective enjoyment of Christ seems to have levelled off.”
- You say you are “settled and rejoice daily in the reality of my union with Christ. However, the activity of the Holy Spirit is not what it was.
- Then you express that you “long to see more of His activity released in my life. I long for Him to flow through me to others and be a channel of His redemptive grace seeing the broken restored and healed.”
- Then you write that, the “Scriptures talk about abiding in the vine as a key to fruitfulness. That subdivides into these issues:
- As I understand this, beyond abiding in the objective reality of my new identity in Christ and union with Him, there seems to me to be a subjective dynamic to this abiding as well.
- Spending time in His presence and simply waiting on Him in fellowship with Him seems to keep the inner well bubbling up.
- Then there is the Gal 6 instruction to be filled with the Spirit which I understand is done by spending time in fellowship with Him.
- The underlaying question I am really asking is one that centres around how we are filled with the Spirit. For those who have come into Union how can they be filled and stay filled with the Spirit?
- For those who have come into Union how can they be filled and stay filled with the Spirit?
- How do you interpret these passages of abiding in the vine and Gal 6 about being filled, how does it happen?
- Is there any fluctuation or degrees of fullness for those in Union?
- Do we never need to be filled or topped up?
- There are those who teach that there is a need for us to wait on God, to spend time in His presence in order to stay in tune and to enjoy the activity of the Holy Spirit in our lives in greater measure. Do you hold this view?
- Did Norman or do you (hope you don’t mind me being personal) spend prolonged periods in prayer and waiting on God?
- This implies there is a correlation between the time we spend in His presence and how well we function on a daily basis or our level of fruitfulness. Was this time just spent in fellowship or is it a means of “staying full”?
I think that’s about it. So we’ll go over these things one by one. I may skip some here and there because a lot of this has the same answer and I believe you will begin to see that as we go along.
So let’s start with your first season of “waiting on God” which culminated finally when you began to see and know your inner union with Christ.
I echo what you say there, and so will countless others. There is a progression of understanding and consciousness in the Life of the Spirit we begin when we start out in Christ. Just like in our humanity, we all start in Christ as infants, babes, who can only drink milk, and who are also somewhat coddled, protected and guided by older ones who have come before us.
We come into Christ still in the separated mindset in which we’ve walked all our time in the world, but we do not yet know that. Because of that separated mindset, we see ourselves and all others as little independent “units,” living in a sense in an inner world of our own. Because we see ourselves like that along with everyone else, we see God that way, too. We see Him as the GREAT BIG GIANT UNIT (a self-enclosed unitary being like ourselves) who is WHOLLY APART from us, dwelling in Himself and permeating everything and everyone else in His “Being,” but still as apart from us and we apart from Him.
We are told to “Behold” Him, and in our infant imagination we understand that to be like looking at the sun or moon or landscape. We’re here, He’s over there, so we “Behold Him” from here, seeing Him “over there.” How else could we “behold Him” if He was not across from us where we could see Him?
A lot of this will be review for you but I thought it necessary to start here since I believe my “experience” echoes yours in some ways. I spend the first seven years of my life in Christ with that mindset, which was the same mindset almost all Christians as well as all non-Christians live in. At first in my new life, there were periods of ecstasy, of “joy unspeakable and full of glory,” and for quite a while a total astonishment at the grace and goodness of God! Until I began to know Him I had been walking around in death but did not know it! Even during the 2 or 3 year period when people who were “witnessing Christ” to me before I knew Him would tell me stuff like that, I didn’t get it. I really thought all they were talking about was a philosophy or one of the “many alternate ways” people could get to God. It was, to me, all intellectual. I had no concept of “spirit.”
However, when He revealed Himself in me (though I didn’t know yet that was “where” He was), everything changed almost overnight! Just like Paul, “scales” dropped from my eyes, more and more every day, as I was in the beginning stages of the “renewal of my mind” in Christ. This was early 1973, and the charismatic renewal was going full speed ahead in many mainline churches, so almost immediately I also was exposed to healing, gifts of the Spirit and speaking in tongues, coming from people in the Episcopal Church we attended.
Like many many others, I desired and sought that gift, and one day while praying alone in my little prayer place I had then, I experienced the Holy Spirit “falling on me” and was involuntarily moved to ecstatic joy when I opened my mouth and a language I had never known or heard came out. If it was possible my joy and excitement in that moment could have propelled me all the way from the earth to the moon!
That stood me in good stead for quite a while, but eventually through the influence of others, which sounded good to me at the time, I began to “work on myself” to kind of make myself over and be better and more dedicated so that God would be pleased with me and “bless” me. The “blessing,” I believed, would be in tangible, visible ways, like God blessing my crops and all my endeavors because I was living a life that “pleased Him.” That’s pure Old Testament, which is simply we do our best to obey all the commandments (“our part”), including and most especially a constant and intimate prayer life where we “spend time with God,” and if we have performed all that well enough, God rewards us with blessings (His part). That is one of the most common phases that most believers experience.
So there came a day when somehow it came to me that, “I’m not what I should be,” which began in earnest a nearly seven year day-in-day-out pursuit of that elusive goal.
The way that played out in me as well as countless others, had first of all to do with the “doctrine” we lived by. I think it’s a pretty pervasive concept loosely adapted in almost all evangelical or “Bible” churches, including Pentecostal. It was this: time “invested” in Bible study and prayer would “cause” God to bless us in proportion to the amount of time – AND EFFORT – we put in.
The idea being that the more time one could spend praying and the more “earnest” we were in our praying, the more “anointing” God would put on us to have during the day by which to live and walk in the Spirit or participate in ministry. It was especially effective, we thought, if there were tears involved, so I was not above trying to manufacture some tears and sorrow in order to have more effective prayer.
At the time I did not see the fallacy of what I was attempting. Raising my hands higher, shouting louder, singing more earnestly, seeking God’s “move” and “Presence” in our meetings, were less “responses” from me because of the infilling of the Spirit and grace of God, than they were “efforts” on my part to get God to show up and give us all goosebumps. It was simply quid pro quo, tit-for-tat. We do our part; God does His. Right?
Only there is a little bitty problem with that outlook. Lots of problems, actually. But there is one “main” problem. And that problem is the “my part” bit. God could easily do His part, with “one hand tied behind his back,” to use an old metaphor! I’m the one with the problem, though. I could never quite measure up to the perfection I thought I was seeking. And since I couldn’t …. Well, it didn’t seem God was fulfilling His part, either, but it was my fault, certainly not His!
The result of living by that thinking translated for me into good days and bad days. Good days would be when I got my full devotions in. I would seem more energetic, closer to God, living above the almost constant temptation to condemnation. On the other hand if I missed or avoided my devotions, life was dreary and the heavens were brass. I would be out of sorts and swimming in self-condemnation. No anointing, no nothing – or so it seemed!
Eventually in that environment my life boiled down to one main thing as far as prayer was concerned. I was in a continual state expressed best in Psalm 42.
“As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my meat day and night, while they continually say unto me, Where is thy God? When I remember these things … I pour out my soul in me … Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance. O my God, my soul is cast down within me.”
I’ll skip my oft told story about coming to “the end of myself,” when I finally collapsed in ultimate exasperation, telling God I could no longer go on. I couldn’t fight; I couldn’t keep up; I didn’t think I could make it. I said, “I quit! If anything is going to get done You’ll have to do it, I can’t!”
Then things began to be very different in me from how they had been in the previous seven years. In the initial beginning of my Christian life, it was a lot of bliss and not a lot of ardent effort on my part. God just “flowed” over me for months. There were bumps here and there, but nevertheless the overall sense of those first months was like a honeymoon! I prayed and God answered.
I did have an anxiousness about me at the time, but it wasn’t about “me,” so much as it was about the “work of God,” and my part in it. I was as expectant as the early believers were that Christ could come back any minute, and I didn’t want to be left out of the final work and ingathering of God’s people in the “end times.”
It was that earnest desire that caused Janis and I to pack our 1959 VW bus and take our two-month old first child, John, along with the rocking chair my mother had given us to rock him, and set out from Georgia to California. It was as if nothing could stop us.
When we arrived in Monterey and for a while after, it seemed like we were living something like a New Testament “dream,” in that we joined a full-time “community,” in a Pentecostal church. There we began our labors in God’s fields, spending pretty much every moment of every day in some sort of function of the church. We would all gather at 7 AM each week morning for Bible study in the church sanctuary, led by our “teaching” minister. The next hour was for prayer, led by our prayer minister. Then from there we would move to all sorts of activities, everything from child-care to door-to-door witnessing. That first year some of us (me included) would “on our own time” walk down to Fisherman’s Wharf to preach the gospel to any and all comers. We even had some conversions that way!
But all that enthusiasm had gone away by the end of those seven years, and I had become a basket-case of constant unrelenting self-condemnation.
It was in that state that I went to Norman Grubb in the fall of 1980, for a “counseling session.” At least, that’s what I thought it was going to be. What it ended up being, however, was a complete and total reorientation of my entire spiritual life, and the beginning of the liberation in the Spirit in infant form that is still going on today.
Here is that “reorientation” in a nutshell. All those years, after the initial euphoria, were spent with me thinking the “success” of my Christian life was based solely upon my own actions, attitudes and beliefs. I saw church services and private devotions as a means to an end. My job (our job) as I saw it, was to “pray God in.” It was like God didn’t really want to bless us unless we showed Him (by our actions and words) how much we wanted Him to show up and bless us. So we had to convince Him through prayer and praise to come down and fill us with “blessings from the tops of our heads to the tips of our toes,” and if we didn’t put forth enough effort, or worse if there was some “sin in the camp,” we got bupkes. (Yiddish for “nothing.”)
That was the system that eventually “failed” me. Driving home that day from being with Norman, the spiritual electrons were flitting here and there in my inner self. I had started years before with the promise of drinking the “Water of Life” so that I would thirst no more (John 4:14: 6:35). At first it was that way. However, after seven years of still thirsting I was wondering where that went. I found out that day. It was in me, and DID NOT DEPEND UPON ME IN ANY WAY TO MANIFEST, other than my acknowledgement that it was so.
I had previously thought that getting God into action was like a pep rally at school before an athletic competition. Everybody at school would participate, cheering and shouting for the team to do their best and go out there and win the state championship. Our “cheerleaders,” usually the cutest teenage girls in the school, would shout, “Y’all yayel.” (My school was in the South, in Atlanta GA. In case someone needs a translation of “Y’all yayel,” it means, “All of you people yell!” they would scream.) That’s how we got our team motivated to go out there an WIN!
I transferred that type of thinking to the church services we were having. I can’t put this off on others who might not see it as I did, but that’s the way it was with me. In order to “get God into action,” we had to have a pep rally. Driving home that day over and over again I was thinking and rejoicing, “Oh my goodness. I DON’T NEED A PEP RALLY! It is God’s desire to manifest out of our lives, not by our effort but by His Spirit. He is in us like an Artesian well. An Artesian well does not need pumping nor does one need a bucket to lower in order to get the water. It has its own pressure that causes the water to rise to the surface. AND THAT IS THE SPIRIT IN US!!!
“He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:38).
Now that’s our foundation in life in union with God in Christ. When you say that you have been basking in the objective truth of our union, that’s how it starts out in us. But it completes in us by an inner confirmation from the Spirit that this is His permanency in us.
And I believe you are at that juncture, since you go on to say that you believe there must be “a subjective dynamic to this abiding as well.” Yep, you’re right, and that’s where the Spirit has brought you.
But not to return to those “doing” things in order to make it work. We no longer do anything whatsoever to get God moving, or manifesting, or revealing, etc. It isn’t like that. God is not in heaven waiting on us to say the right thing or have the right attitude. Instead, if you’ll see it and believe it, we see that we ourselves are His manifestation of Himself in our human form by His work, by His Spirit, that needs no shoring up from us. We don’t put our hand on the ark to steady it. We ARE His moving; we ARE His manifesting; we ARE His revelation of Himself.
“Abiding” is doing nothing. You’ve made it in your mind to be an activity, but it is not. Here is the best description of “abiding” in God in the Scriptures: “The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.” (John 5:19).
When Norman talked about seeking God’s guidance in his early morning meetings, it may have meant prayer, or it may have meant reading, or it may have meant seeking a consensus among the brethren, but I can tell you for a fact it wasn’t about him getting up early every morning and having a long session of “prayer” in the normal sense of the word. Again, we see “prayer” as an activity, but it is not. Instead it is an outflow from within, where we are united in unbroken wholeness with God, Father Son and Holy Spirit. This is ALWAYS the case, though we do have fresh reminders here and there.
As far as fresh fillings, sure there are those times. But let’s get rid of this idea that this is something formal that has steps and doctrines and procedures, and instead just see all these things as the natural course of our daily human lives, which, in our cases, are Christ manifesting His Life and Death in our mortal flesh. We ALWAYS live in Jesus’ confession from the Garden – “Nevertheless not My will but thine.” That’s not a surrender of a separate will as much as it is a declaration that there is only ONE WILL – GOD’S, and we therefore neither acknowledge nor promote any other will functioning in the universe. Instead, we see as Paul wrote, that God “worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.” (Eph 1:11). And we see ourselves as part of that “all things.”
Here’s a very good and accurate description of Norman’s prayer life. The last time he came to Rome GA where I lived in the 80s was in 1982. He hadn’t been in a while but I had invited him to come speak at the Episcopal church there. When he did come, he always stayed at the home of a wonderful southern lady, Lillian Bosworth. One morning during that visit (Lillian told me this in person) she was walking to the kitchen to prepare breakfast and she passed the room where Norman was staying. She heard him inside saying, “O praise you, Lord. Thank you, Jesus. Hallelujah, thank you Lord,” and other prayerful words. When he came shuffling in to the kitchen a while later, Lillian smiled at him and said, “Norman, I heard you when I passed your room. It sounds like you were having a wonderful time of prayer.”
Norman replied, “Oh no, my dear, I was just putting on my socks!”
Brother, the man’s life WAS prayer. And so is yours. This is permanent! You are right where you are supposed to be and God is directing your life. Believe that.
As far as prayer times, Bible study, all those other supposedly spiritual “helps,” if so moved, do them. Though I do not have “formal” times every day to do those things, it is my testimony that I am the same as Norman was, not by virtue of anything I do or am, but by virtue of the One Who lives in me “to will and to do of His good pleasure.” (Phil 2:13).
I AM prayer! I AM praise! I AM the “knowing” of God. We have a well that is springing up within us every moment of every day coming out of the heart of God. We don’t “seek” the Life, we ARE the life.
It was 38 years ago when I had that conversation with Norman that turned everything in my life right-side up. Through all these years I’ve had temptation after temptation after temptation to go back and “do something” to get more God or to see the work grow, etc., only to have the Spirit each time say, “I am your sufficiency, whether you see me or hear me or feel me or not. Everything is proceeding out of your life as I have determined.”
One more brief word about this. The Spirit takes us through times and seasons over the years, and one of the greatest lessons He teaches us, is that succinct lesson Paul wrote out in a couple of verses that are really the whole thing as it concerns our life in Christ.
“And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward: Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament.” (2 Cor 3:4-6).
All of that is true for you, isn’t it?
I hope this gives a little help!
PS – Oh wait, regarding issue 10 above, where you mention spending time “in His presence.” You are always in His presence. There may be times you “sense” that more than others, but that does not change the Truth. In fact, if you want to be technical about it, You ARE His presence! If Christ has been formed in you, as I believe He has, then you walk around being Him, by simply being yourself in the current moment.