If you ask the average Christian what it means to be Spirit-filled, you would likely get a wide range of answers. One answer would be that being Spirit-filled means that you have good warm feelings or excitement about God or the mission of the church. Some may profess to feel the Spirit moving when a certain song is sung or played or a certain Scripture is read or when certain kinds of prayers are said. The idea in all of this is that the filling of the Spirit is mainly interior, purely personal. While the Holy Spirit is rightly called the Comforter, and while He communicates with our spirits in ways that we may not be able to articulate – being filled with the Spirit means much more than simply having special feelings.
Another answer might be that the Spirit fills you in order to make you do things you could not otherwise do. You are not moving your mouth or arms or legs any more, but it is the Holy Spirit taking over and causing you to do miraculous things that you could not otherwise do. It’s like your body is a suit and the Holy Spirit puts you on and does things with you that you have little control over. Or you are a Muppet and the Spirit is the puppeteer. While it is true that God is sovereign over our actions and does empower us and grant us special boldness, this is not quite how the Bible presents this idea. Along with this usually comes the idea that the Spirit helps us to break out of the mundane and the routine and gives us the unstructured freedom to cast off order and structure. If you were really Spirit-filled in worship you would jump up and dance down the aisle during the Apostle’s Creed.
But how does the Bible speak of the filling of the Spirit? Here is a simple place to start. Every time someone is said to be filled with the Spirit in the New Testament, they speak or sing. Every single time. With one exception. When Jesus is filled with the Spirit, He goes out to fight Satan in the wilderness. And his warfare with Satan is largely verbal. So the Spirit that breathes into us the breath of life, breathes His words back out of us in the form of prayer and praise and song, and gospel, and bold declarations of truth.
That’s primarily what it means to be filled with the Spirit, to have this holy confidence to speak the Spirit’s words. Just as the Spirit was breathed into Adam’s nostrils to give Him life, the Spirit breathes His words into the Church, and she breathes them back out to give life to a dead world.