John 7:37-39 (NIV)
37 On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.
I think a lot of the time we misunderstand what it really means to be filled with the Spirit. When people try to explain the concept, it is usually presented like a jar or a bottle. We take off the cap and ask God to fill the whole bottle full. Then, when we have been filled, we put the cap back on, and screw it on really tight so none of the Spirit will leak out. Then, as we go through our day, or our week, or job is to try to hold on to as much of that Spirit as we possibly can. But, despite our best efforts, the Holy Spirit tends to leak away, and we get emptier, and emptier, until our spiritual fuel gauge reads “E”. Then we ask the Lord to fill us anew, and the whole process starts over again.
What a difference between that and the picture that Jesus paints of being filled with the Holy Spirit in John 7! Jesus talks about the Holy Spirit being like streams of living water that will flow from with His people. This is the same imagery that He used when He was talking to the Samaritan woman in John 4:13-14: Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” And it is the same imagery used by John in Revelation 22:1-2a, where he says, “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city.”
NONE of these depict the Holy Spirit as something that can be held inside a person to “fill them up.” Instead, the imagery is of “living water”, water that is active and rapidly flowing, full of life and oxygen and energy. It can’t be contained or it will lose its essential qualities. When we try to hold on to the Holy Spirit, locked up inside us, of course He leaks out! He must flow out of us!
In addition to this,when we try to “cap off” the Holy Spirit to keep Him in, we actually block off His flow through our lives. Not only does He leak away (usually a lot quicker than we would believe possible!), but He can’t automatically keep us full, since we have also cut off the influx.
A better picture of being full of the Spirit is probably a garden hose. It is full only as long as the water is flowing through it on its way out the other end. It would be ridiculous to try to fill a hose by plugging up the outflow, turning on the water, and then disconnecting the hose and blocking off the inflow. You might end up with a hose full of water, but what good is it!
But if you turn on the water full force, the hose is full of water, and the outflow brings moisture and life to whatever it flows onto. In the same way, our lives can be best and most continually filled with the Holy Spirit when we stay connected continually to the Lord, and let His Spirit flow THROUGH us and out into the world, where it can bring life, light and peace to everything it touches!