12 Moses said to the Lord, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favour with me.’ 13 If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favour with you. Remember that this nation is your people.”
14 The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
15 Then Moses said to Him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. 16 How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”
17 And the Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”
18 Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.”
19 And the Lord said, "I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.”
5 “Now I am going to Him who sent me, yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6 Because I have said these things, you are filled with grief. 7 But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counsellor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. 8 When He comes, He will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; 10 in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.
12 I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on His own; He will speak only what He hears, and He will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.”
Despite the fact that we live in a world that is becoming increasingly opposed to the idea that God exists, most ordinary people believe that there is a God, but most of them would admit that they have never really felt His presence. For many people, their belief in God is an intellectual, impersonal acknowledgment that there must be a God somewhere out there. Even in the Church we see many Christians who have an intellectual and scholarly understanding of God, but if you were to do a poll and ask if they’ve actually experienced God in a spiritual sense, you might be surprised at how many would say they haven’t really felt the Spirit of God moving in their hearts.
One of the reasons for this is even though the Church is full of people who are involved in different aspects of ministry, they find themselves doing things for God rather than allowing God to do those things through them. They’re “doing the right things”, but it is more a matter of the mind, rather than the heart.
Jesus says in John 6:44, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” What this means is that our relationship with God is a spiritual relationship. It is completely different to the relationships you have with other people. The unique relationship we have with God comes through the work of the Holy Spirit. An important point to understand is that the Holy Spirit is a person. He is not an “it.” Try saying to the mother or granny of a newborn baby, “Isn’t it cute”, and see what kind of reaction you get. God’s Holy Spirit isn’t some misty, ghostly apparition. He is a person who can be grieved. He can be quenched, He comforts, He convicts, He reveals, He regenerates, and He keeps us in God’s grace. The doctrine of the Trinity is a mystery that must be accepted by faith.
Of course, the Trinity remains a mystery that we will never fully understand, particularly on this side of eternity. We do not have all the answers, but we do know that when an individual or a Church congregation becomes “filled with the Spirit” things begin to happen.
As Jesus told His disciples, “It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counsellor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.” As long as Jesus was in the flesh on the earth, He was restricted by His physical body. He couldn’t be in two places at the same time, but now that He indwells all believers everywhere, now that we experience Christ in us, there is no limit to where He can go and what He can do through those who are prepared to step out in faith for Him.
Since the physical ascension of Jesus and the coming of His Spirit at Pentecost in the Church, the presence of Jesus is everywhere all of the time. God is a universal God, present and working in the lives of His children throughout the world.
As we all know, just how the Holy Spirit works is difficult for us to fully understand, but what we do know is that He comes into the heart of the Christian at the moment of conversion. 1 John 4:13 is a crucial verse: “We know that we live in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.” In other words, if you are a Christian, you don’t need to pray for the Holy Spirit to come into your heart. He is already there, and He is there in all His fullness. So the obvious question is, why is the Spirit clearly more active in some Christians than in others?
The simple answer is that He may well be living in your heart, but He has been squeezed into a corner. Maybe you have crowded your heart with so many worldly things, that you are suppressing the work of the Spirit in your life. There is a difference between having the Spirit and being filled with the Spirit.
Ephesians 5:18 says we are to “Be filled with the Spirit.” It’s a command. It’s also a step or an experience we need to make. The Spirit plays an active part in our salvation, the act of justification where God declares us righteous, but He is just as active in the process of sanctification, where we are transformed more and more into the likeness of Jesus each day. To have the Spirit is a gift. It is a gift of grace given to us at the moment of salvation. To be filled with the Spirit is also a gift, as He works in us and through us in our walk of faith. The extent of our usefulness, our joy, our peace of mind and heart, and our boldness in witnessing – all of these things are dependent on the extent to which we allow the Spirit to fashion and shape our lives. So being filled with the Spirit is a command, but it’s also a gift – it’s one of the ways we partner with God in Kingdom work. He doesn’t fill us with His Spirit for our benefit, but for the benefit of others, and ultimately of course, for His glory.
So if there is a clear distinction between having the Spirit and being filled with the Spirit, how do we move from here to there?
Firstly, it needs to be something we desire. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 12, “eagerly desire the greater gifts.” If we ever reach the point where we say we have as much of God as we want, He cannot fill us. We’re the ones who have to make room for Him. I love the story of a Sunday School teacher asking little children if they’d like Jesus to come and live in their hearts. One of the youngsters with his simple black and white understanding of life replied, “I don’t think He’ll fit.” He will fit, and He will fill you to the brim and more if that is your heart’s desire.
If we are satisfied to get along without God’s power, we cannot receive the filling of the Holy Spirit.
We also need to be very clear in our minds that there is a cost involved here too.
The Bible calls it dying to self, and this concept comes into direct conflict with one of our most basic human instincts: The instinct to look after number one. Sure, we all have moments when we do consider others, but at the heart of the human heart is self-preservation and the attitude of me first.
Last Sunday just before the end of the service I quoted from Isaiah 6: “I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!” You cannot respond to the call of God on your life like that unless if you are prepared to lay down your life for the cause of Christ first. He may not call you to go to the Amazon jungle. In fact, the vast majority of Christians stay exactly where they are when they respond to God’s call, because that is where He has called them to in the first place, but it takes a radical mind and heart shift for us to choose to die to self, and to ask God to fill us with His Spirit while emptying us of self at the same time.
If you think about it, emptying our lives of self in order to be filled with the Spirit is logical. If a container is full of one thing, it cannot be filled with something else unless the original contents are removed. If our lives are filled with self, they cannot, at the same time, be filled with God. We must be emptied of self. If our lives are filled with sin, they cannot be filled with God’s righteousness. To the extent our lives are filled with worldliness, to that extent they cannot be filled with the things of God.
We must be emptied of our pride, our self-righteousness, and our love for pleasure if we are to be filled with God’s pleasure.
Our desire needs to be an infilling of the glory of Jesus and not our own. Also, if our desire is to be filled with God’s Spirit in order to be successful in the Christian life or in the ministry or in Church leadership, our motive is wrong. The Holy Spirit never glorifies the Christian. The work of the Christian and the task of the Church always has been and always will be to bring glory to God.
We need to learn to trust God as we ask Him to fill us with His Holy Spirit. Jesus says in Luke 11:13, “If you, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” Do you want to do great things for God? Just ask Him, and trust that He will do what’s best for you, and ultimately, what’s best for His Kingdom and His glory.
I read an interesting article on this concept of being filled with the Spirit. The writer said that because each Christian is different, and God works in unique ways with each of us, we mustn’t expect a once in a lifetime experience. God’s Spirit equips some people for a lifetime experience, but for most Christians, to be filled with the Spirit is a recurring experience that comes when we feel a special need and when we have an overwhelming desire to do this one thing for God, whatever it may be. The point is that God doesn’t fill us up and just leave us to our own devices. Rather, He equips us differently at different times with different gifts for different purposes. It’s all a matter of being available and listening for that still, small voice as God guides you through life. This is why it is so important to remain in fellowship with Him through prayer and Scripture. If you’re not connected to a small group of fellow believers, I’d encourage you to do so. You might be amazed at how God speaks and encourages through your brothers and sisters in Christ.
One of the best ways to ‘stay in tune’ with the Spirit of God is through worship, remembering that worship is not simply standing up in Church and singing a few songs on a Sunday morning. It is about seeking the face of God in all areas of your life, particularly when you sense or know that He is calling you to a new level or a new experience.
Let’s take a look at the example of Moses.
When we pick up Moses’ story in Exodus 33, he had already been up Mount Sinai, so the law was now being formalised for God’s chosen people. In chapter 32 is the tragic story of the peoples’ disobedience as they make the golden calf. God is naturally angry with them and threatens to destroy them, but graciously listens to Moses’ plea on their behalf. In chapter 33:12-13 he says, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favour with me.’ If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favour with you. Remember that this nation is your people.”
Moses had a hunger for God. “Teach me your ways, so I may know you,” he said. Moses wasn’t interested in God’s ways just because he wanted information. He remembered the call of God to lead His people, and His desire to know God came from his desire to die to self and take seriously the call on his life. It was his way of saying I want to become more progressively, more intimately acquainted with the living God. He was saying that he wanted to experience God every day of his life. He didn't just want the facts - he wanted God. He was talking about a relationship.
Moses hungered and longed for God, because he knew full well that in his own strength he was not qualified to undertake this huge task of leading these people out of Egypt and into Canaan. He also knew that nothing else in the world could compare to the experience of being with God. Moses knew about God, but he wanted to experience Him too.
We have the benefit of knowing what happened at Pentecost all those years later. Moses didn’t have the knowledge of the Spirit of God that we have, but he’d seen and experienced enough of the Spirit to want to walk closer to God. “Teach me your ways.” Let that be our prayer today. If that were the prayer of every Christian congregation throughout the world, we would transform the world.
You can have an intellectual understanding that Jesus died for your sins. You can know facts and figures, dates and times, and still not really have a passion for Jesus. I really believe that we miss out on so much because we become so easily distracted by worldly things. The sad truth is that all over the world our Churches are full of people who know who God is but they don’t really know Him. They’ve never really experienced His presence and the joy of falling in love with Jesus.
This is why we each need a personal encounter with God.
“Teach me your ways”, is not the only profound statement Moses makes in Exodus 33. In verse 18 he says, “Now show me your glory.”
The Hebrew word for glory translates into God’s honour, renown, majesty, weight, and His visible splendour. The word glory used here is closely related to presence and face. Moses wanted to see God face to face. He wanted a visible encounter with the living God. He was not content with business as usual. He wanted God to show up in his life. Is that our desire?
When you come to Church are you tired of business as usual, going through the motions of religious ritual, coming Sunday after Sunday, but you just know that God is not stirring your soul? Do you leave each Sunday the same way you came in?
The point is that not only should we hunger for God, but we need an encounter, an experience with Him. We need to see Him face to face as Moses did.
When this happens, He will transform our worship from a duty to devotion, from a ritual to relationship, from just another Sunday meeting to a holy gathering. As His Spirit fills our lives and gives us a new awareness of the work of His Kingdom He calls each of us to, we begin to discover that experiencing the touch of the Spirit is at the heart of true worship.
But this is not just about experiencing a buzz or a warm fuzzy feeling. Remember, it’s not about us. It’s about Him. As His Spirit fills us we’re able to see people the way God sees them. We’re able to love and forgive as He loves and forgives. As I said last Sunday, ask Him to break your heart with the things that break His heart, and you might be surprised at how He answers you.
Why did Moses not abandon the Israelites after all their constant moaning and complaining? His patience was pushed to near breaking point many times, but he remained faithful to God’s call on his life. Why was that? Because God answered his prayers when he said, “Teach me your ways. Now show me your glory.”
“Be filled with the Spirit.” Jesus said of the Spirit in John 16:13, “He will guide you into all truth.” Why would we possibly not want that in our lives?
We each need to decide for ourselves if we are satisfied with spiritual mediocrity. The non-believing world calls the Christian faith irrelevant and dull, and when you look at some Christians you cannot help but agree with them. Knowing that God has something better for you, do you want those things?
Psalm 42 begins with a plea from someone who once knew the sheer joy of experiencing the Spirit of God, and now his faith had run dry, but at least he knew where to turn as he sought God out once more. “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?’ These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng.”
And finally from Psalm 51, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” May that be our prayer today.
Homegroup Study Notes
Read John 16:5-15
Jesus speaks of the Holy Spirit in the first person – He.
Older translations of the Bible call Him the “Holy Ghost,” which has created much confusion about the nature and character of God’s Spirit.
We will never fully grasp the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, but what is your understanding of the Holy Spirit?
Read Ephesians 5:15-21
The Bible teaches that God’s Spirit enters our hearts at the moment of salvation. Paul was writing to Christians, so when he says we should “be filled with the Spirit” he makes a clear distinction between having the Spirit and being filled with the Spirit.
Discuss the differences in your group.
In Exodus 33:13 and 18 Moses says, “Teach me your ways. Now show me your glory.” It was his way of saying that he wanted to experience God, and go deeper in his relationship with God.
Discuss some of the differences between knowing about God and knowing Him.
Share with your group a time when you “experienced” God in a deeper, more spiritual sense.
How did this change your relationship with Jesus?