While certain ministries of the Holy Spirit may involve a feeling, such as  conviction of sin, comfort, and empowerment, Scripture does not instruct us to  base our relationship with the Holy Spirit on how or what we feel. Every  born-again believer has the indwelling Holy Spirit. Jesus told us that when the  Comforter has come He will be with us and in us. “And I will ask the Father, and  he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth.  The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you  know him, for he lives with you and will be in you” (John 14:16-17). In other  words, Jesus is sending one like Himself to be with us and in us.

We  know the Holy Spirit is with us because God’s Word tells us that it is so. Every  born-again believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, but not every believer is  controlled by the Holy Spirit, and there is a distinct difference. When we step  out in our flesh, we are not under the control of the Holy Spirit even though we  are still indwelt by Him. The apostle Paul comments on this truth, and he uses  an illustration that helps us to understand. “Do not get drunk on wine, which  leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). Many  people read this verse and interpret it to mean that the apostle Paul is  speaking against wine. However, the context of this passage is the walk and the  warfare of the Spirit-filled believer. Therefore, there is something more here  than just a warning about drinking too much wine.

When people are drunk  with too much wine, they exhibit certain characteristics: they become clumsy,  their speech is slurred, and their judgment is impaired. The apostle Paul sets  up a comparison here. Just as there are certain characteristics that identify  someone who is controlled by too much wine, there should also be certain  characteristics that identify someone who is controlled by the Holy Spirit. We  read in Galatians  5:22-24 about the “fruit” of the Spirit. This is the Holy Spirit’s fruit,  and it is exhibited by the born-again believer who is under His control.

The verb tense in Ephesians  5:18 indicates a continual process of “being filled” by the Holy Spirit.  Since it is an exhortation, it follows that it is also possible to not be filled  or controlled by the Spirit. The rest of Ephesians 5 gives us the  characteristics of a Spirit-filled believer. “Speak to one another with psalms,  hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always  giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus  Christ. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians  5:19-21).

We are not filled with the Spirit because we feel we are,  but because this is the privilege and possession of the Christian. Being filled  or controlled by the Spirit is the result of walking in obedience to the Lord.  This is a gift of grace and not an emotional feeling. Emotions can and will  deceive us, and we can work ourselves up into an emotional frenzy that is purely  from the flesh and not of the Holy Spirit. “So I say, live by the Spirit, and  you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature … Since we live by the  Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians  5:16, 25).

Having said that, we cannot deny that there  are times when we can be overwhelmed by the presence and the power of the  Spirit, and this is often an emotional experience. When that happens, it is a  joy like no other. King David “danced with all his might” (2 Samuel 6:14) when they  brought up the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. Experiencing joy by the Spirit  is the understanding that as children of God we are being blessed by His grace.  So, absolutely, the ministries of the Holy Spirit can involve our feelings and  emotions. At the same time, we are not to base the assurance of our possession  of the Holy Spirit on how we feel.