This is the first of what will probably be a few posts touching on this topic. Like all things that I post to my blog, this is the result of study that I am doing, so feel free to let me know where you think I’ve gone wrong and we can think about it together!
I think this question is difficult to answer for a few reasons:
First, the Holy Spirit is invisible and typically doesn’t speak audibly, so to always be certain that you are connecting with him in the moment, without the advantage of hindsight, can be difficult.
Second, I’ve found that the Holy Spirit doesn’t operate according to step-by-step recipes that people try to create. While I believe we can know his character, he is not, and will not be, put into a box that will allow us to say how he will act in each situation. People might say that you can expect him to do certain things in a certain way or in a certain order, but I’ve just never found that he works that way.
Third, Jesus even seems to tell us that the Spirit moves as he pleases and you know him by the effects that he leaves behind. Like the wind, for example, you can hear its sound, but you don’t know where it is going. So also with the Holy Spirit, you may find yourself seeing that he is working based on the effects of his work.
There are several other reasons for these difficulties, including differences in teachings about whether the Spirit is still operating today, the gifts of the Spirit, etc.
Despite all of this, I think it is important to try to understand as much as we can about the Holy Spirit, according to the Word of God, and be able to help other people understand it as well. In this way, we can try to work together with the Spirit, with him in the lead, to see the Kingdom of God come here on earth.
Jesus seemed to think it was pretty important as well:
Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.John 3:5
So, given all of this, I think we should dig in and learn more, so here goes…
How can I know that I am filled with the Holy Spirit? John gives us a direct test to consider:
This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.1 John 4:2-3
And then a little bit later, he says:
This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God.1 John 4:13-14
From what I’m reading here, I think this means that a good starting point to know whether or not we are filled with the Holy Spirit is to ask who we believe Jesus to be. John says that every spirit that acknowledges Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.
Beyond this, John goes on to say that if anyone acknowledges Jesus as the Son of God, God lives in them.
This is a good start, but God’s Word has much more to say about how the Holy Spirit works, so let’s go one step further in this post. I heard a recent podcast on this topic suggesting that we consider the opposite viewpoint: What would I be like if I didn’t have the Holy Spirit? Here are a couple of additional scriptures, this time from the Apostle Paul as he wrote to the church in Corinth:
The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.1 Corinthians 2:14
Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.1 Corinthians 12:3
Paul seems to go one step beyond John, beyond acknowledgement of Jesus’s divinity in the flesh, saying that it isn’t possible to say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit. In other words, only by having the Holy Spirit inside of me can I humble myself underneath Jesus, submitting to him and what he commands of me and my life. Otherwise, the things that Jesus says, and those things that come from the Word of God, which at the least are the things that come from the Spirit of God, seem to be foolishness to me.
These are a couple of ways to get started to know that I am filled by the Holy Spirit. The scriptures have much more to say on this topic though…stay tuned!