Lord, Fill My Cup!
This can be a really touchy area, so I want to tread lightly. I like word pictures, so we'll try it that way.
Everybody has a cup. So that you have a visual, let's say you're a 16 oz. coffee mug. In that cup is You and the Sin (world, satan, evil). That's the nature of man since the fall in Genesis. When you accept Jesus as your Lord (Master, Owner, Supreme Commander), then the redemptive power of the Holy Spirit (God, Jesus) comes in and provides a barrier of sorts between the You and the Sin. The more you obey, the more Jesus you get as He displaces the Sin. (Note: You can't displace the Sin by having more of You. It just squashes the Jesus!)
The daily grind of living in this place, particularly America, keeps shaking everything up. Imagine a jar of Italian Dressing with layers of oil and vinegar. They don't really blend and change their nature, they're just shuffled up. If you sit the jar down and give it some time to quietly settle, you'll see the divisions again. In America, we hardly ever have time to "settle." That's what Prayer is for - to quickly resort the ingredients (settle) so Jesus will stand between us and our sin again and we can see more clearly.
The redemptive power of the Holy Spirit is different than the empowering power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit DID NOT show up on the scene first at Pentecost. John the Baptist was filled from birth. Jesus was filled at His baptism. Zachariah and Anna were filled with the Spirit. Many in the Old Testament were filled off and on. The disciples went out on their own in pairs and healed and delivered and did miracles - surely they had some Holy Spirit it them at the time?
If nothing else, in John 20:22, it says Jesus "breathed on them and said, 'Receive the Holy Spirit'." But they were told to stay in Jerusalem and wait (Acts 1:4-5). THEN came the empowering power of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost - rushing wind, tongues of flame - the whole cool light show (Acts 2:1-4). IMMEDIATELY they went out preaching in such power and with such miracles that thousands came to Christ right on the spot. They weren't doing that after Jesus breathed on them in the Upper Room. It wasn't until the empowering of the Holy Spirit that these fishermen were fearless speakers and teachers and leaders (and martyrs, by the way).
So what happened to them? How could they live in harmony and share with each as they had need? (Acts 2:42-47) What made them sell off all their stuff? Why weren't they afraid? (Acts 4:31-35)
Well, I think it works like this. The empowering power of the Holy Spirit filled them the rest of the way up and displaced the Sin. That is, there just wasn't any more room for the bad stuff because they were so full of God. Some people describe this as the Baptism of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5 - "For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.) Some people describe it as being Filled with the Holy Spirit or "Spirit-filled" - which makes more sense for our cup analogy (Acts 2:4 "All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit"). That is something that is still a gift and a promise to us today (Acts 2:38-39 "Peter replied, Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far offfor all whom the Lord our God will call.). In fact, without it, we disobey Christ's command to "wait in Jerusalem until the Comforter comes". That is, we go out under our own power to wage war against the enemy without the empowering power available when you are FULL of the Holy Spirit.
I want to take just a quick moment and describe the graphic below. You see, depending on your willingness to lay everything down, you can seek the Holy Spirit and still be unwilling to release every sin (see cup 3 above). You'll get more empowering and you might even have enough to show evidence of some of the stuff you read about in Acts (tongues, miracles, healing, etc.), but you're not going to find holiness (purity, sanctification - I Thess. 5:23, Gal. 5:24), because there are still things you won't let go of that have a grip on you and whisper in your ear. The first cup below is someone that really does seek to lay down every sin and is filled with the Holy Spirit, but there is still a lot of themselves in there. That's fine, but pretty soon the Holy Spirit is going to start trying to pour out even some of YOU (second cup). If you can walk in it and keep your cup full DAILY, then He'll decide you can be trusted with a bigger cup and then there will be lots more of Him and less of You (third cup). He increases as You decrease. There might be just as much of You as in the cup before, but now there's lots more Jesus, so the balance of power shifts more and more toward Him.
A cup like that you can shake up as much as you like and nothing happens. That's how people are burned at the stake and preach for hours while they're on fire. Or are stoned or electrocuted or tortured and don't feel pain. The world can shake all it wants and it doesn't matter, pretty much only God is left in there.
Once you have proven that you're capable of keeping Sin out of your cup, you can start praying for a bigger cup. Because the danger is greater as the cup gets bigger, God doesn't want you to commit yourself beyond what you can handle. The bigger the cup, the more the enemy wants to take you out.
It's like the parable of the talents (Matt 25)- some are trusted with one, some with two, some with five. If you're a trustworthy two talent person, prove yourself and then ask for five. But know that there is twice the danger. It requires a lot of maintenance to keep a big cup filled. That means hours of time in prayer and LOTS of obedience. Some people have cups the size of oil tankers, but even just the evaporation of daily living on something that size leaves lots of room for Sin to sneak back in and cause trouble. That's why you see some high profile figures that are mightily used by God eventually crash and burn in some fiasco. The enemy is gunning for them and there are lots of places to sneak in when you have a gigantic cup.
It works in reverse, you see. This isn't a one-time thing. Peter is "filled" here (Acts 2:4) and here (Acts 4:8) and here (Acts 4:31). You don't get "Baptized in the Spirit" and then stay full. It's a constant daily struggle. We can drain off the Holy Spirit through our wilfill Sin - disobedience, pride, anger, unforgiveness, lust, etc. Then the Sin will always swoop in to fill up the vaccuum. We can start to pour the YOU back in if we get prideful or willful. Oh, you might keep the "Gifts" that came with reaching a certain level of Holy Spirit, but that doesn't necessarily mean you're holy and pure anymore. (That's one of the great secrets that some church leaders want to hide!) Almost immediately in the early church you can see an example (Ananias) of someone who was "filled" and let satan back in (Acts 5:1-11). As soon as Sin enters your cup again, you have to start wondering whose voice you're hearing. You see there are only three choices - Your imagination, God or the enemy. Only by the power of God can you resist the enemy enough to push him out.
The very essence of the Christian walk in community should be one in which we are constantly watching out for each other's cups and pouring ourselves out onto any that have a need. The faster we give it away, God is faithful to give us more. So if you want a bigger cup, the best way is to find someone that is hurting and empty and pour out all you have on them. God likes that. Because it looks like Jesus. He poured Himself out completely for all of us - and His cup was the bigger than the universe!
How could Jesus say, "Go and sin no more." or similar things in 1 John 5:18 or James 4:7? Is it really possible to be pure and holy and live a sinless life? The short answer is, "Yes!". But you need to focus on a daily walk with God and be willing to acknowledge your mistakes, repent of them, wipe the slate clean and keep moving. Do we fall? Sure. But hopefully less and less all the time. It all comes down to obedience. Are we doing/living/speaking the way God would want? If we are, then we have all the power we need to resist temptation and send the enemy running. We need to focus on living in the overflow - that little extra hump you get when you overflow a glass. Don't pray to be full, pray to be OVER full. Pray that springs of Living Water would flow up from inside of you and splash everyone nearby.
One other thing, the more Holy Spirit in you, the more you can accomplish for God. That is, think of it as jet fuel. Does your cup hold enough to power a two-seater Cessna or a 747 Jumbo Jet? At some point you have enough in there to ask for spiritual gifts (they require fuel) and God will give them to you (as He sees fit). Tongues requires the least amount - it's the lowest on the list of gifts. We're to pray for the greater gifts. Why? Because they require a bigger cup and do more damage to the enemy. You're going to need a REALLY big cup if you want your SHADOW to heal the sick! (Acts 5:15) And even then, you can still have sin sneak in (Galatians 2:11-15)!
Above all, pray for wisdom. God is always happy with that prayer. And He's likely to give it to you - and then you're going to need some of the other stuff to make it really effective. See, Solomon asked for wisdom and got everything else along with it (I Kings 3:4-15).
But don't pray for a bigger cup unless you understand the danger and are willing to do what it takes to keep it filled. The bigger the cup, the more damage you can do. But every day will be harder than the last as the enemy pounds on you more. But the rewards are beyond compare!! The more Jesus in your cup, the better you hear and have the strength to obey.
So it comes down to this. Which cup ARE you? Which cup do you want to be? Which cup do you think God wants you to be? If you've got red stuff, you better repent right NOW. Can you pray in faith that He would scrub you clean of the red stuff and believe that He will answer? Can you pray in faith for a bigger cup and believe that He will answer? Then do it. RIGHT NOW!! Don't be afraid. He'll give you all of the strength that you will need.
This is a WAR! We need lots of great big giant cups full of Jesus to start getting about the Father's business and pushing back some darkness in the biggest possible way. Walk in holiness. There is no peace and joy and victory so long as YOU are fighting your battles. Let JESUS take over. YOU just need to lay there and get out of His way.
Copyright Doug Perry 2005. Use without charge or changes. Link to www.TheChurchOfLiberty.com
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