3. The Power Connection

Adapted from Personal Disciplemaking by Chris Adsit (used with permission)


The disciple has a basic understanding and avails himself of the ministry of the Holy Spirit.


Following are a number of verses that address the subject of the filling of the Holy Spirit. Look up each reference and jot down a brief summary in your disciplemakers’ notebook. In each case, I’ve included a thought or two about why I think the verse is important to the concept of the filling of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 1:8: The Holy Spirit is the source of power in the Christian’s life; we must be able to draw on His power in order to live an abundant and fruitful life.

Romans 8:5-6: We have the option of setting our minds on either our old sinful nature or the things the Spirit desires. Each option carries its own unique consequences. Also, it is possible for the Spirit to control our minds.

1 Corinthians 2:14-15: The man controlled by the Spirit is able to discern spiritual truth.

Ephesians 4:30: It is possible for us to act in a way contrary to the desires of the Holy Spirit, causing Him to grieve.

Ephesians 5:18: We are commanded to be filled with the Spirit, literally: “be being filled.” We must have the option of being filled since a command can be either obeyed or ignored.

Galatians 5:16: The man controlled by the Holy Spirit is able to live a pure, righteous life.

Galatians 5:25: This is an exhortation; therefore, it is possible for us to choose not to live in line with the designs and intentions of the Spirit.

1 Thessalonians 5:19: It is possible for us to hamper the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.


The indwelling of the Holy Spirit: the entering of the Holy Spirit into the life of a repentant sinner as he is saved; the fact that the Holy Spirit permanently lives within those who are born again. This occurs in the life of every believer at the moment of salvation (John 14:16-18; John 16:7; Romans 8:9-11; 1 Corinthians 6:19). This is also known as the “baptism of the Holy Spirit.” In Greek, to baptize means “to dip,” and carries with it the idea of “being immersed into a new environment.” When we were “baptized in the Holy Spirit,” we were brought into the environment or sphere of influence of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13).

The filling of the Holy Spirit: the directing, controlling and empowering influence of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer who has submitted his will to the will of God. Filling may occur frequently, even daily and hourly, in a believer’s life. Filling depends upon the initiative and obedience of the believer.


As mentioned in the previous chapter, understanding the ministry of the Holy Spirit could well be one of the most important concepts your new-believer friend will ever learn.

Billy Graham recently said that 90 percent of the Christians in the United States are carnal Christians, people who are living lives of defeat and impotence because they either will not or don’t know how to allow the Holy Spirit to control and empower their lives. A Gallup poll taken in the early ‘80s told us that well over half the people in the United States consider themselves born-again Christians. So where are they hiding? Where is their influence? Where are their voices in our legislatures, our universities, our media, our businesses, our streets? In most cases, they have quietly disconnected from the source of their power: the Holy Spirit. For whatever reasons, they have decided to set their minds on what their sinful natures desire, rather than on what the Spirit desires (Romans 8:5-6). As a result, it is increasingly difficult for the Holy Spirit to find open conduits through which He can influence the world.

Unless we give the Holy Spirit free reign in our lives, He’ll never enjoy free reign in our country (at least, not before the coming of Christ). Your disciple needs to learn early that the Holy Spirit wants to direct and empower him to do the will of God.

When it comes to wanting to do the will of God, most new Christians can put us veterans to shame. They are usually so fresh, eager and committed to doing anything God wants them to do that you have no problem motivating them. The only thing they lack is knowledge concerning how to go about it effectively.

By the way, how about you, my disciplemaking friend? Have you given the Holy Spirit free reign in your life? Or are there still areas to which you will not allow God access? Has He prompted you to do something you have dragged your feet about? Is your life characterized by a lack of power or a lack of fruit? It so, maybe you’d better turn that stethoscope on yourself, doc. Remember, you will be able to take your disciple only as far as where you are in your own spiritual growth.

The controversy.

There is a controversy regarding the extent of the role of the Holy Spirit in maturing us. Some say that Christian maturity comes only as a direct result of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. If you aren’t growing, or spending time in prayer and in the Word, or witnessing for the Lord, it’s because, somewhere along the line, you took control of your life away from the Holy Spirit and are trying to run it yourself. These people hold that if you simply take a minute and re-enthrone Him through prayer, you will again experience His power in your life, and things will fall back into place.

The other side says maturity will come about only as a result of a faithful, obedient walk with the Lord. The Holy Spirit is always there, but He empowers your life and makes you grow gradually through “renewing your mind” as you discipline yourself in Bible study, prayer, etc. The more time you log in His Word, for instance, the more you’ll see His power and direction in your life.

Then there is a third side (which I throw my lot in with) that supports a combination of those two concepts, holding that elements of both contribute to power and growth in the Christian life. If we think only about the Holy Spirit, not bothering to obey God in such things as Bible study, prayer, fellowship, witnessing, etc., we might be emotionally tied to God, but we would be of little use due to a lack of depth in our lives. Conversely, if we are intensely disciplined in carrying out the mechanics of the Christian life to the exclusion of developing a genuine relationship with God through the Holy Spirit, we might be well-informed and impressive, but still be of little use because God has not been allowed to steer that knowledge toward where He wants it. Both components—depending on the supernatural empowering of the Spirit, and developing personal obedience and discipline—are required.

It’s cyclical: We look to Him for power, direction and motivation—He gives it, and then looks to us to respond in obedience, commitment and discipline. As we do that, we are moved to a greater love and dependence on Him, and we draw more deeply on His power. He gives more, enabling us to pursue greater depths of obedience and commitment. The wheels go round and round…

Our goal is to produce balanced disciples. So much success in the Christian life is found in the balance between discipline and relationship; the teeth-gritting decision to say no to our old nature, and yet to run emotionally to the arms of our “Daddy” for protection. We need good old-fashioned will power to haul us out of bed at 6 in the morning to have a quiet time (discipline), which results in the beauty of the give and take of communion with the Lover of our souls (relationship). Sometimes grim determination is required to memorize Scripture, yet there is unbounded delight when our Father takes that Word, breathes life into it and says, “This is what I want to say to YOU!”

It is a cycle, but we can short-circuit it at any point. We must never tell our disciples that, if they will just say the magic words, they’ll turn into “Super-Christian!” By the same token, they must know that pure discipline is no ticket to maturity either, or the Pharisees would have been the spiritual giants of Jesus’ day.


Your disciple probably has had some ups and downs since your last meeting, and no doubt has some questions. Let him talk. Ask questions of your own. Draw him out. Ask him about what he shared during your last meeting. For instance, suppose he had told you he made an offer on a new house. Ask him if it went through. Or maybe he was a little anxious about a test coming up at school. Ask him how it went. If you have begun to keep a one-to-one diary of your meetings with him, you probably have written down this kind of information after each meeting. Not only does this provide information for your own times of prayer, but it also will mean a lot to your disciple when he sees you care enough to listen and remember what he shares with you. On the other hand, your silence on issues that are important to him will be deafening.

You can make the transition into the subject of the filling of the Holy Spirit by saying something like this, “Remember the last time we were together, and I shared with you that when you invited Christ into your life, the Holy Spirit took residence in your heart? I was wondering…have you noticed any changes since He entered your life? [He may say yes, and share some with you, or he may say no. It doesn’t really matter which.] You know, Bill, the more mature you get in your new life with Christ, the more obvious the influence of the Holy Spirit will become.

“It’s sad, though, that the great majority of Christians in this country don’t see the Holy Spirit working in their lives. Either they don’t want to allow Him to, or they don’t know how to allow Him to. Why don’t we spend a little time on the subject of how to experience the benefits of the Holy Spirit?”

Another way to open the subject would be, “What did you think of the little booklet I gave you last time? Did you get a chance to read it? Did it make sense to you?”

Or, you might share this illustration with him. Pour an inch or two of water into a glass, and then ask your disciple, “Would you say this glass has water in it? [“Yes.”] Wound you say it’s filled with water? [“No, it’s only about half full.”] That’s the way it is with most Christians and the Holy Spirit. All Christians are automatically indwelt by the Holy Spirit. All Christians are automatically indwelt by the Holy Spirit, just like this glass is ‘indwelt’ by the water, but not all are ‘filled’ with the Holy Spirit. There is an important difference.”

Now, fill the glass to the brim with water. “Is the glass filled now? [“Yes.”] Right. It takes a special set of circumstances for us to call this glass full. It’s the same way with being filled with the Holy Spirit; it doesn’t happen automatically. But when our lives are filled with the Holy Spirit, that means we have asked Him to direct, control and empower us to do His will. It’s not the same as the ‘emptying of one’s self’ as many Eastern mystical religions teach, where total obliteration of self is the supreme goal, so that the gods are everything and we are nothing. Instead, it’s simply coming to a decision that you want to do the things God wants you to do, and that you’re giving Him permission to empower you to carry out that decision. In a way, you are asking Christ to live out His life through you.”

Bump the glass and let a little of it spill out onto the table or floor. “But it’s not always smooth sailing in the Christian life. Our lives get a little upset at times; we get frustrated with how things are going, or we don’t like the way God is directing our lives, and we take back the control. That’s what sin is. Before we came to Christ, we basically said, ‘God, I’ll not have You rule over me!’ just as Satan said. Yet when we became Christians, we asked God to be our King, and we became His loyal subjects. When we sin, we’re going back to our old attitude and saying to God, ‘Get off that throne! I don’t like the plans You cooked up. I want to take over again.’ We rejoin Satan’s rebellion. When this happens, it’s just like spilling out some of this water. The glass is still indwelt by water, but it is no longer full. Our lives are still indwelt by the Holy Spirit, but we are no longer filled. He is not directing, controlling or empowering us. But that doesn’t have to be a permanent condition. Just as I can refill this glass [fill the glass to the brim again], so you can be refilled by the Holy Spirit. Today let’s look at what the Bible says about all this.”


Don’t treat this as some kind of second salvation decision, or as though if your disciple would just read the prayer written in this booklet, all his troubles would be over and he would now be a real Christian.

I’ll never forget the first contact I had as a young Christian with a somewhat over-zealous brother. As soon as he heard of my decision, he ushered me off to his room, sat me down on his bed, and started reading me a tract about the Holy Spirit. I had never seen the thing before, and the lingo was unfamiliar to me, but I knew what it meant to allow the Holy Spirit to control my life. That wasn’t enough for this fellow, though. Unless I prayed that prayer right then and there, I was going to be in big trouble. He kept pushing and probing, trying to find out why I wanted to keep being a carnal Christian (which I didn’t—he just perceived it that way). I believe I’d still be hog-tied in his room if I hadn’t gone ahead and prayed the prayer. After that, he acted like I’d been born-again again, but I didn’t notice any difference.
All I’m saying here is this: Be sensitive to where your disciple is. Don’t push him to do something he doesn’t understand or is just not ready to do yet.