Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Why Filled? Why Sent?

This is a post that I have been meaning to write since I started my blog. Why did I name it this, "Filled and Sent"? Why and how am I filled? And sent? What does that even mean?
My friends, on a day like today, I feel the truth of these things to my very core. Today I met with a friend that I work with to have lunch. Over the fall semester we had gotten to know one another and often joked around. She is a phenomenal woman, very hard-working and very funny. I love the stories that she tells. I have been praying for her since early on in the semester because I greatly desired for the chance to share the gospel with her. And today seemed like the perfect opportunity! I was thrilled to have the chance to get to know her even deeper and to be able to share God's love with her. We started eating and she said to me, "so what's been going on in your life?" And instead of taking a deep breath and praying for the Holy Spirit to speak through me, I stumbled over my words and my thoughts. In somewhat rough, yet enjoyable conversation, I tried to explain the love that I feel from God and how my "life has been changed" and my "eternal perspective." Stumbling and stuttering through, I felt like I was completely failing. And just plain chickening out of telling her the truth of the gospel in plain English. But in God's grace, I was allowed to see a bit of her heart. She told me that she is becoming bored with her life - it's always the same old routine on weekends (going out, drinking...) and she feels like she needs a new group of friends. She wants to have a real meaning for her life. If that's not a blatant cry for the gospel, I don't know what is. Thankfully, she is super sweet and didn't mind my stammering. Our friendship, I hope, will continue to grow as I show her more of God's love. I do love her as a precious new friend and I pray that despite my failures that she would come to see God and know his love for her, and her need for him.
But I still haven't answered the question. Why filled? Why sent? This summer I learned about one of the most crucial aspects concerning my relationship with God. Let me try to make an analogy. Imagine that you are brewing a full pot of coffee, but you have only put in enough grounds for one cup. Now, you'll certainly be able to brew the coffee, but it will be very weak in flavor. And no matter how much water you keep adding to the brew, you may keep making more "coffee," but it will get weaker with each brew if you don't add more grounds. This is how I felt in my relationship with God. I felt like I was this over-brewed pot of coffee that was weak. I felt frustrated that I couldn't produce a "stronger brew" - a deeper faith, on my own. But what I discovered this summer is that I wasn't being continually filled by the Holy Spirit! When we first become Christians, the Holy Spirit comes and fills us. But this is not a one time deal - we are to be continually filled by the Holy Spirit. Paul even gives it as a command in Ephesians 5:18, "Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit." So, back to the coffee example. There's no way that you can keep making coffee that tastes remotely decent if you're not continually filling up with new grounds. And there's no way that Christians can be effective or feel empowered if they are trying to follow God based solely upon what they possess within themselves. When I realized this truth this summer, I was absolutely floored. Oh, how I had been feeling so frustrated and exhausted from trying to live out my Christian life based upon my own efforts! But what incredible freedom I felt in letting the Holy Spirit fill me with his power and his strength. Now, each day I have been able to recognize my incredible need to be filled by the Spirit. The first necessary step is to confess any withstanding sin that I have before God. If sin dwells in my heart, then the Spirit cannot fill me. Some people like to call this "spiritual breathing." It is exhaling out all of the gunk that I have been letting fill me and then inhaling the Spirit and offering to him the reigns of my life once more. This is something that I try to do multiple times a day. Constantly I stumble and need once more to go through this process. But my is it worth it!! And this how one can measure a Spirit-filled life: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." - Galatians 5:22 When you take inventory of these 'fruits' in your life, you can tell if you are truly letting the Spirit fill you, or if you are still "brewing weak coffee."
I applaud you highly if you have read this far. The second portion of my title is about being sent. It's great to be filled by the Spirit, but that's not the whole story. After Jesus had risen from the dead, appeared to his disciples and was just about to be taken up to heaven, he gave them very important instructions. "Then Jesus came to them and said, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.' " - Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus has sent me (and you, if you are a Christ-follower!) to go make disciples of all nations. Every single person on this earth needs to know about Jesus and his love for them! That is a HUGE thing to command. It seems pretty scary thinking at the vastness of that command and the fact that we might be "stepping on toes." But listen to these verses from Romans 10:14-15, "How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, 'How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!' " Woah, baby. I don't know about you, but that hits home for me. And so I am living as a sent one. In my apartment, in my classes, in my workplace, in my Bible study, with my friends, on a bus... every day, every moment, for the rest of my life. I am a sent one for the gospel of Jesus Christ so that every nation will have a chance to call on the God who has loved them enough to give his only son for them.
This is why I am filled. This is why I am sent.

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