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We’ve Always Done It This Way

The distance between railroad tracks is exactly 4 feet, 8½ inches. Odd size...Why not 4 feet or 5 feet?

When American engineers designed the tracks, they made them just as they did in England. The reason England built the tracks 4 feet, 8½ inches is because the wagons were built 4 feet, 8½ inches.

The reason the wagons were built 4 feet, 8½ inches was because the ruts in the roads were exactly that measurement, and they didn't want to break their wheels by not fitting into the ruts.

I fear that's many Christians. We do things in church and life because we always have done it this way. We are a right or left rut. A man may say, "I'm a right rut. I'm right, and I'm in a rut. I don't know about those left ruts, but my rut's right."

The Holy Spirit came to the first church to indwell, baptize and fill the first church. Let's zero in on why we all need the filling of the Holy Spirit.

The filling of the Spirit has to do with power for witness and service (Acts 1:8). We are commanded to be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18), for we need His power constantly if we are to serve God effectively. At Pentecost, the Christians were filled with the Spirit and experienced the baptism of the Spirit; but afterward, they experienced many fillings (Acts 4:8, Acts 4:31; Acts 9:17; Acts 13:9).

I believe we pastors have neglected to preach, teach and learn to live with the filling of the Spirit. I pray today we understand what this vital, abundant life is all about.

I. The Reality of the Filling (Acts 2:4)
Remember there were 120 believers united in an upper room prayer meeting, waiting on God to do what was next for them. They had no power in themselves—no website, blog, Twitter or Facebook account.

Something had to be done, or we wouldn't be here today. They couldn't do things the way they'd always done them because this church was a church plant. Literally. To the first church, the filling of the Holy Spirit was life-giving power for the spread of the gospel! I ask you: Does the church in America need this life-giving power today?

Are we, by and large, in churches stuck in a powerless rut?

Back to our ruts...Why were the ruts 4 feet, 8½ inches? Because the Roman Empire built the roads and their war wagons to that measurement.

Here's the deal: The emphasis of the reality of the filling is not on the gift we get, but on the Giver of the gift.

When we neglect the ministry and filling of the Holy Spirit, we have no power in the pulpits or the pews.

Listen to what the reality of the filling did for the first church in Acts 4:31: "And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness."

That's what I want—a Holy Ghost boldness when I preach. When God's people show up filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, God shows off.

II. The Reason to be Filled (Eph. 5:18)
"And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit."

This verse is describing that by which we are controlled. The contrast of being under the influence of alcohol simply refers to that which we allow to control us.

A person who gets drunk has allowed him or herself to be controlled by alcohol. He or she has submitted to its control.

We have a reason to be filled:
A. It's a Command:
 "Be filled with the Spirit" is God's command, and He expects us to obey. The command is plural, so it applies to all Christians, not a select few. The verb is in the present tense: "keep on being filled," so it is an experience we should enjoy constantly, not only special occasions.

B. It's a Commitment: The verb is passive. We do not fill ourselves, but we permit the Spirit to fill us. The verb fill has nothing to do with contents or quantity, as though we were empty vessels needing a required amount of spiritual fuel to keep going. In the Bible, filled means "controlled by."

Throughout Acts, Luke uses different verbs to describe the coming of the Spirit upon new believers. This first time was a unique event, never again repeated in exactly the same way. When we look at the entire New Testament teaching on the Holy Spirit, we see the word baptism associated with initial conversion and the word filling associated with ministry.

Again, our text, Acts 2:4: "Filled with the Holy Spirit, and began…" This was a new ministry needed in the church. The reason you and I are to be filled is for the good of the church, not our own prominence. We are to commit to the work of the kingdom. That's what gives glory to God and magnifies Jesus Christ.

What Happens When We Don't Commit:
You know the reason the Roman war wagons were 4 feet, 8½ inches? Because that's the width of two horses' rear ends.

So our railroads were built to accommodate the backsides of horses. I wonder how many times we collectively have behaved as a couple of horses' rear ends?

When we fail to be filled, we are allowing our own strength, opinions, attitudes and flesh to shine through rather than the igniting power of the Holy Spirit. We need the Spirit to set our hearts ablaze, and burn brightly so others will see Jesus, not us.

III. The Request to Be Filled (Luke 11:13)
"If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!"

Luke 11:1-13 starts with the Lord's Prayer in verses 1-4. In verses 5-8 we read of a friend who shows up at midnight and asks for three loaves of bread. That better be a good friend. We're told here because the visitor was so persistent the friend got the bread.

The passage leads logically to continue to ask, seek and knock. When we ask, we are hungry for God to fill us. The Bible tells us, "So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened" (Luke 11:9-10).

The verb tense means "keep on asking, seeking and knocking. In 1 Thessalonians 5:17, the Bible tells us to "Pray without ceasing."

It is a request we make to God. It's not that we wake up in the morning filled with the Spirit. The Holy Spirit has indwelled the believer from salvation, but we don't stay filled.

An illustration is eating. We eat our first meal of the day, but we burn calories, digest food and wind up hungry again.

Luke 11:11-13 tells us of the father who would give good things to his children. It says if an earthly father would do this, certainly our heavenly Father would do so much more.

Luke 11:13 tells us to ask Him. We ask to be filled with the Spirit. Filling is a daily battle. It is not a once-and-for-all experience. It's similar to filling a bucket of water and leaving it outside. It eventually will evaporate.

The same is true of us being in the world. The Spirit either will be poured out by us on others or evaporate because of the pressures and struggles of life.

Steps to the Request:
1. Want to be filled
—there has to be a hunger for God.
2. Ask to be filled—we must ask. God has required for us to pray.
3. Expect to be filled—it's not a feeling or emotion.
Repeat.

Conclusion:
When engineers were building the Solid Rocket Boosters for the space shuttle, they built them in Utah. They had to be shipped by railway. So the boosters had to fit through railroad tunnels.

You guessed it—our delivery system for the most sophisticated technology on the planet had to be built the size of two horses' rear ends.

Sometimes people will say, "That's the way we have always done it." My question is, "Is it working?"

Are you in a rut, doing the same thing, living the same way?

Definition of Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results (Albert Einstein)

Are you filled with the Spirit today? Are you living life in your own strength instead?

Have you made the request to be filled with the Holy Spirit?

Do you understand the reason? Being filled is a command and a commitment.

Do you know the reality of the filling? God's power is available to you.

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