POWER Through the HOLY SPIRIT
Author, Ye Must Be Born Again, The Saviour’s Invitation, Appelman’s Sermon Outlines and Illustrations, etc.
If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him? (Luke 11:13),
There is a promise in Luke 11:13 which you all know. The Lord Jesus said, “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” It is my conviction that the term “second blessing” is not a happy one. It is not a completely descriptive term. It does not tell the entire truth, because a person may have a thousand and one blessings between the time he is converted and the time he is filled with the Holy Spirit. Inasmuch as we believe that the Holy Spirit can fill again and again, we cannot speak of a “second blessing.” I believe with all my heart and soul that there is an experience with the Holy Spirit separate from and subsequent to salvation which has no relation to salvation as such. It is part of salvation. It has nothing to do with the forgiveness of our sins as such. I am using the expressions “salvation” and “the forgiveness of sins” In their very narrowest sense. I have a threefold reason for believing that such an experience is possible.
The first reason is this: the Bible seems to leach it. The second chapter of Acts says that the apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit. In the fourth chapter we read that they were filled with the Holy Spirit again (Acts 4:31). “They were all filled with the Holy Ghost.” It must be a process which may be repeated and is repeatable. It must be something which can occur again and again. This experience must be subsequent to salvation. You cannot be saved over and over again. Certainly the apostles were not first saved on the Day of Pentecost. Neither were they saved on the day of which we read in the fourth chapter of Acts. They had salvation long before either of those two events, they were saved long before Pentecost hut did not have the fullness of the Holy Spirit until the Day of Pentecost. In the second chapter of Acts we find that the Holy Spirit came upon them in power, flooding their souls. That was the first full experience.
What about the fourth chapter of Acts? In the fourth chapter of Acts we read that the same people wove again filled with the Holy Spirit. Why? What was the reason for this filling, and refilling? I will tell you. The first reason is this: it is utterly impossible for us in the flesh to live, constantly on the uplands of faith. We would die. We would lose our minds. Our nerves would collapse. Have you ever attended a revival meeting, a church service, a prayer meeting when the ecstasy of the hour became almost unbearable? How long could you endure it? Have you ever been in a fiery meeting and then lain awake all night because of the joy of it? All of us twice-born children of God, all of us possessing even a modicum of the Spirit, have had such experiences. They are high and holy memories for us. We rejoice in them, thank God for them, but a constant strain such as this would be unbearable.
The second reason is our spiritual make-up. The flesh is still present, still constantly warring against the Spirit. We frequently give way to the old Adam. We pamper the carnal when we should utterly slay it. We play a stupid game with the Lord. We are Indian-givers. We attach the strings of self-will to our so-called “surrenders.” There is not that once-for-all abandonment on the altar. We are like the two little children who had been listening to a message on giving to the Lord. Their mother baked cookies. The children decided to give a present to the Lord. They took the cookies to the garden, nut them on the table in the summer house, and said a little prayer. Hiding in the near-by bushes, they waited to see what would happen. Ten slow minutes passed. Nothing happened. Growing restless, the children picked up the cookies and ate them, saying, “I guess the Lord did not want them, anyway.”
Similarly, in our churches we stress the dedication of ourselves to the Lord. We sing about it, preach about it, study about it, exhort and encourage each other to it and in it. We attend conventions, flock to conferences, and are swept off our feet by the glorious emotions experienced in high hours of holy endeavor. Then the testing comes. The shouting dies. The singing grows dim. The way stretches ahead of us long, dreary, hot. The hills are high, the valley deep, the crosses heavy. The results are meager. Ofttimes we must stand alone. The tempter is ever near. We grow discouraged, road-weary. It is then that we take ourselves away from God.
My third reason for believing that there is such an experience with the Holy Spirit of God—an infilling, an enduing, an empowering, an overflowing experience separate and apart from and subsequent to salvation—is this: every great Christian of whom I have read tells of such an experience. D. L. Moody tells about it. Jonathan Edwards, Gipsy Smith, Billy Sunday and George Truett tell of it. It occurred in the lives of Martin Luther and John Wesley. They were converted long before the second blessing. John Wesley was a Christian long before he was ordained to the priesthood of the Church of England. He was a Christian years before that marvelous experience in Aldershot. When these giants, men who have swept the world toward God, tell us that they have had an experience with the Holy Spirit, who are we to doubt? What else is then left for us to do except to believe that there is such an experience?
Let us study this Christian experience from these three view points. First, why is it that many of us do not have that experience? Why do we not have the fullness of the Spirit? Second, what will the fullness of the Holy Spirit do for us? Third, what must we do to obtain the fullness of the Spirit?
The first reason we do not have this wondrous blessing is this: ignorance. How long has it been since you heard a series of sermons on the Holy Spirit in your church, in your Sunday school? You talk about God. You talk a great deal about the Lord Jesus Christ. It is equally essential, equally important equally necessary, equally profitable to study the Holy Spirit. But you are not increasing your knowledge of Him. This is not your fault, perhaps, yet, in a sense, it is. All you have to do is take your own Bible and concordance, and investigate.
Most of us have heard people stand up to pray and speak about the Holy Spirit as “It.” Do not refer to the Holy Spirit as “It.” Those who address Him thus do not understand His Person, His mission, His purpose. They do not know the promises of God concerning the Holy Spirit. They have misunderstood what they have read concerning the blessed Third Person of the Holy Trinity. They are ignorant concerning the Holy Spirit.
The second reason why so many of our people are not filled with the Holy Spirit is this: they are indifferent. They are unconcerned. They are saved. They are going to heaven. What more do they need? What else should they want? They do not desire to be better Christians, greater Christians, more effective Christians, more victorious Christians. Those who are not filled with the Spirit arc not interested in a total, all- out, world-condemning, sin-denying, Satan-defying program for life. They believe that they have an insurance policy to keep them out of hell. They want to enjoy this life. “Why go to such extremes?” they ask. “Why not be a little more comfortable? After all, we cannot all be preachers.” People who speak thus consider themselves “good”. They do not drink or gamble. They do not over-indulge in the practices of the world. They are, however, shallow and rootless.
May Cod in His infinite mercy save us from being contented with what and where we are! Let us pray that we may be possessed of a holy dissatisfaction, yearning, longing, looking for more, more, much more of what the Lord has for us. Let us pray that we may be stirred by a relentless appetite, an increasingly burning thirst for the fullness of the Spirit. May God save us from lazy, self-complimenting indifference to the greater, deeper, nobler things of God.
My friends, put your finger on the sore spot. It is absolutely true that many of us are not filled with the Holy Spirit because of ignorance and indifference. We are not willing to pay the price. Jesus Christ said, “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.”
Permit a crude illustration. Picture a Sunday school teacher in your church or in any church. This teacher is clean, fine, loyal. She knows the Sunday school lesson well, and is prepared to teach it on a certain Sunday morning. The class is waiting for her. About the time she is ready to leave for Sunday school, Aunt Somebody’s maiden cousin conies in for a visit. The dear teacher forgets about her Sunday school class, and the church, and remains home to entertain the visitor. There is something bitterly wrong there, yet this occurs frequently.
Many of us are powerless, barren, fruitless, not so much because of ignorance and indifference, but because of sin. I am not afraid of your going out to commit adultery. I am not afraid of your going out to kill, to tell lies, to steal, to cheat. The little foxes steal the grapes. Anything, no matter what it is, which you put between yourself and God is sin There are some of you reading this who belong to a church but do not have what God has for you because of iniquity in your life. You are trifling with God. You are playing fast and loose with Satan. This obstacle may not be a mortal transgression. It may not even be immorality. The Holy Spirit is a jealous, lofty-minded, lofty-hearted Person. He will not share you with anybody or anything. To have Him in all His mighty fullness you must give up whatsoever and whomsoever grieves Him. He will tell you what or who it is. He will point out the fault, the foible, the failure which prevents His entrance and grieves His great heart. Be willing to give it up and you will have no doubt concerning the nature of the failing.
Study the lives of the great Christians of yesterday and of today. There are differences between them—differences racially, nationally, socially, educationally, denominationally, temperamentally. They lived in different ages, under different circumstances; they were used of God in various ways. There is, however, one universal, unmistakable similarity between them. They are all passionately in love with the Lord Jesus Christ. They were and are ready to give up everything for their Beloved. Their ambition is to be well pleasing in His sight. Whatsoever they do, they do it for the glory of the Lord. Their lives are attuned to one harmony, the good pleasure of the Son of God. They count everything but dung for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus.
Second, what will the Holy Spirit do for us when He comes into out lives? Why is it essential and necessary to have the Holy Spirit? I wish you were members of a class and I were a teacher, so that I could make you memorize this and pass an examination on it. The first thing the Holy Spirit will do for us is give us a realization of Christ’s abiding presence The only one who can make Jesus real to as is the Holy Spirit.
I believe that the Bible is verbally inspired. I believe that every word in the original language was dictated by the Holy Spirit to those who wrote it. I believed that about the Old Testament before I became a Christian, and I now believe this also concerning the New Testament.
Will you understand me when I say that I am not entirely satisfied with the Christ of the Bible? I want the Christ of my heart, the Christ of my experience. Is that orthodoxy or heresy? Is that Calvinism or Arminianism? I do not know what it is, but I thank God, I have it. It is not enough for me to know what John wrote about Jesus. Thank God for it! But I want to go beyond that. I want to have this Jesus about whom John wrote. The only kind of Christianity I want is the emotional, devotional, personal, heartfelt, experiential, experimental Christianity. It may be possible for a person to be saved and not know it, but why be satisfied with such a salvation? Why lack the singing, shouting, joyous assurance that our sins are forgiven, that we are children of God? This is our heritage! The Bible offers it to us! The Holy Spirit can make it effective in us!
Dr. Truett used to tell this story. Time and again he was privileged to conduct the annual revival in Baylor University, Waco, Texas. (This is the largest orthodox Baptist school in the world.) It was Dr. Truett’s Alma Mater. The entire student family and all the townsfolk looked forward to the visits of this superlative pulpiteer.
On one occasion he returned to the school to hold a revival. Every unsaved person who had anything to do with the school found Christ during that brief week—except one boy. This student was somewhat atheistic in his tendencies. Brilliant, he was a searching young man who could not find his way into the grace of God. Dr. Truett knew the boy’s father and mother before they were married. Some of the students arranged for an appointment between Dr. Truett and this difficult young fellow. The preacher talked to the boy, pleaded with him prayed with him, reasoned with him. Dr. Truett said that the boy had an answer for every argument.
At last the conference ended. Dr. Truett extended his hand as he said, “I wish I could help you, son. I am sorry. I will pray for you.” The boy did not take the offered hand. Looking into Dr. Truett’s face, he said, “Dr. Truett, before you say good-bye I want to ask you a question. I do not want you to answer it like a preacher, but like a man. I want you to tell me the truth. Is Jesus real to you? Is He real to you or is He something in this book?”
Dr. Truett stepped back. He said with conviction, “Son, I knew your father and mother before you were born. I won’t lie to you. Jesus is more real to me than the flesh on my bones, than the skin on my flesh.”
The boy bowed his head and sobbed as he said, “I’ll take Him as my Saviour.”
Is He real to you? You cannot make Him real to yourself. You cannot pray Him real to yourself. You cannot sing Him real to yourself. Thank God, the Holy Spirit can make Him real to you! The Holy Spirit will make Him real to you!
The Holy Spirit will not only give us a realization of the abiding presence of the Lord Jesus Christ, but will produce within us His reproduction of the holy life of Jesus. The question is not only “Is Jesus real to you?” but “Does Jesus live in you?”
You will recall this story regarding Martin Luther. As he walked down the street one day, someone stopped him, tapped him on the breast, and said, “How is Martin Luther?” Luther replied quickly, “Martin Luther doesn’t live there anymore. Jesus Christ does.” Christ lived in Martin Luther.
I discovered a long time ago that no matter how earnestly you strive to be a Christian, the only one who is stronger than Satan is the Holy Spirit. The only one who can empower you to live a holy life is the Holy Spirit. You cannot do it yourself. The very best of your tendencies are tainted. The Holy Spirit is the only one who can make you live the Christlike life.
I would rather affect you readers as George Truett affected me than anything else. When I was in a room which he entered, I trembled. I have had the privilege of speaking again and again at conventions, association meetings and other gatherings where we were seated together on the platform. I told him one time, “Dr. Truett, I wish you were miles away from here. Dr. Truett, you are so much like Jesus that you frighten me.” He smiled. When the time came for me to speak, he gripped my knee and squeezed it until I almost cried out in pain, as if to say, “Boy, pitch ball. I’ll be back here praying for you.” I never lost my fear of him.
What made George Truett? He comes from Georgia. It was not Georgia that made him. It was not Baylor University. It was not his superlative church. It was not his reading. It was not the great honors which came to him—greater than, those conferred upon any living preacher. It was the blessed Holy Spirit that transformed the slender backwoods schoolteacher into this world-shaking prince of preachers. His utter dependence upon the Holy Spirit characterized every detail of his mighty life.
So it is with all God’s instruments. It is the Holy Spirit and shoe-salesman D. L. Moody. It is the Holy Spirit and ball-player Billy Sunday. It is the Holy Spirit and gutter-snipe Mel Trotter. It is the Holy Spirit and everyone else who has been outstanding in the service of the Lord. They have a sheen, a shine, a magnetism, a power that frightens us. It is extraordinary. It is unearthly. How many of you really want it? How I hunger and thirst for it! It has come to me in tasted drops. I cannot be content until the mighty showers are poured out upon my soul.
Not only will the Holy Spirit give as a realization of Christ’s abiding presence and a reproduction of Christ’s holy life, but there will also be a re-enactment of Christ’s glorious power. Does Jesus work through you? Does Jesus work in you? Do you believe the promises of the Bible? You nod your head, you whisper “Amen”. Jesus said “Greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.”
It we believe in the promises of the Bible, why is there no fulfillment of these truths? Why are we not doing “greater things”? Why are our Sunday schools lethargic? Why are our churches dead? Is it because we are not giving the Holy Spirit a chance? Is it because we are doing everything in our own strength and wisdom? We are busy. We are too busy. There was never a generation of Christians so busy as ours. We preachers are busy. Twenty-four hours a day are not enough to perform the multitudinous activities which clamor for our attention. We keep our people so occupied that they become glassy-eyed with fatigue. We pile organization upon organization, activity upon activity, conference upon conference, revival upon revival, ad infinitum, but the results, ah, the results! We console ourselves with the half-truth that God expects us to be faithful and does not hold us accountable to be fruitful.
It is not so. If we are faithful, God will see to it that we are fruitful. If we are not fruitful, it is because we are not faithful. There is something lacking either in our motives or in our methods—perhaps even in our lives and hearts. Others who had less equipment than we have, accomplished mighty wonders. Is it because they depended more upon the Holy Spirit? Is it because, realizing their own weaknesses, they tarried before God in prayer until the windows of heaven opened to flood their souls with the powers of Pentecost? Are we “missing the boat”?
In every detail of the life of the Early Church, the leaders and the followers waited upon the Lord. We call new pastors, elect new officers, appoint new committees. We spend our time committing these committees, pushing these officers, pasturing these pastors. Is it because some of these have never been appointed, ordained by the Holy Spirit, that they are like square pegs in round holes? Where is the failure in our great schools and seminaries which are producing graduates by the hundreds who have not even a modicum of heavenly power? The Holy Spirit of God will re-enact Christ’s magnificent power in our lives.
What must we do to be filled, and refilled, and constantly filled with the Holy Spirit? There are three things we must do. First, we must condemn the flesh—completely. In me there dwelleth no good thing. My mind is evil. My soul is warped. My heart is corrupt. My very being is swept by satanic impulses. We must condemn the flesh. The world is wrong. It is wrong socially. It is wrong politically. It is wrong religiously. It will not be changed until Jesus comes. We cannot borrow its plans, cannot bless its programs, cannot benefit by its proposals. All are in the hands of Satan. The world is shot through with sin. The dark prince of hell is the ruler of it. The etiquette of the pit is its rulebook. It has the stench of hell. There is only one thing to do with the carnal world. Press your feet of faith upon its neck and keep them there until you have destroyed its hold upon you!
Have you heard the story of the princess and the pea? When I was a boy in Chicago I read fairy tales. Among them was this. Once upon a time, east of the sun and west of the moon, there was a kingdom. Its queen was a widow with one son. The son had grown into young manhood, but he was still unmarried. He was very particular. Time and again princesses were brought to his attention only to be rudely disregarded. There was something wrong with each of them.
They were too tall or too short, too dark too fair. They did not satisfy him.
One stormy night the queen and the prince were sitting in the parlor. Suddenly there came a knock on the palace gate. The queen went out, opened the gate to find there a pale, mud-spattered, hatless, bedraggled girl who said she was the daughter of the king of a neighboring sovereignty. She told the queen that the sudden storm had separated her hunting party, had frightened her horse into running through the thick woods. She had been thrown from the animal’s back and stumbled weary miles to this castle. She asked for a night’s lodging. Tomorrow her friends would surely find her.
This bedraggled traveler did not look like a princess, but what could the queen do? She could not let out the girl in the storm, so she invited her into the palace. She was taken upstairs and given a change of clothing. When she came down, the prince took one look at her, and, walking to his mother, said, “Mother, that’s the girl I’m going to marry.”
“Wait,” whispered the queen. “Wait until tomorrow.” The next morning when the queen and her son came down to breakfast, the young woman was still in her room. After some minutes she also came down and apologized for her tardiness. She was pale and appeared to be ill.
“How did you sleep?” asked the queen.
“I don’t want to complain,” said the princess, “but I did not sleep a wink. Please forgive me for even mentioning this. You have been so very kind to me. I appreciate it all. However, when I went to bed last night, there was something under my aide that hurt. I turned and twisted but could find no relief.”
The queen, lifting her to her feet, put her hand in the prince’s hand and said, “You may marry her. She is a princess.”
The prince asked, “How do you know?”
The queen answered, “Last night before I sent her to bed, I went upstairs and put a pea on one of the slats. I put three mattresses on top of that, and two feather pillows, and then another mattress. If she can feel a pea through those soft coverings, she is a princess”
We should have a similar experience. No matter how sugar-coated and disguised sin may be, it should hurt us, worry us, annoy us. We should have no rest with it. If we are princes and princesses, children of God, sins that the world cannot even understand will give us pain, will cause us unhappiness. Do you understand? If we can continue to do things that are wrong and not worry about them, we do not know the Holy Spirit. We may not even be saved!
Second, we must crucify the old man. Condemning the flesh is an attitude, a state of mind. Crucifying the old man is an act of life, a determination, a decision, a practice of living. It is our only safety, our only hope. The old man, like the old man of the sea in the story of Sindbad the sailor, will crush the spiritual life out of us. He is our enemy, one of our adversaries. There must be no compromise with him. We must make an unconditional surrender to Christ. There is to be absolutely no provision made for the old man. He is an emissary of Satan.
This is not so easy as it sounds, but with God’s help we can do it. By separation from all that has even a tinge of evil, by a constant attitude of repentance, and by the ceaseless doing of God’s will, we can conquer the carnal nature. Paul’s cry, “I am crucified with Christ,” will become a burning reality in our souls.
Regardless of what others may do, we are to be unspotted from the world, refusing even the slightest compromise, turning our backs on all—absolutely all—practices which do not befit a child of God. The Lord will give us pleasures of which the world knows not. We shall find peace, joy, release and relaxation in those pursuits, in those communions which will make us fit for heaven’s society.
Third, not only must we condemn the flesh and crucify the old man, but we all must ceaselessly, conscientiously and carefully co-operate with the Holy Spirit. When our physician tells us that we are ill, prescribes medicine, gives us a diet, limits our physical activities, what do we do? The great majority of us have had that experience, and know the answer. We co-operate with the physician because we do not want to die, because we want to be cured.
We must, in similar fashion, heed the words of the Great Physician. We must co-operate with and obey the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit tells us to pray, let us pray. When He tells us to read our Bibles, let us read them. When He urges us to give, let us give. When He insists that we witness, let us witness. When we are commanded to seek the house of God, let us be faithful in our worship. There are other avenues of Christian experience and activity into which the Holy Spirit may lead you. Obey, and great will be your reward.
I have told you of the three steps into the fullness of Pentecost. If we condemn the flesh, crucify the old man and cooperate with the Holy Spirit, we have the guarantee by every promise in the Blessed Book that we, too, shall be filled to overflowing with the Third Person of the Holy Trinity. Jesus will become real to us. Our lives will be holy, a sweet odor ascending to heaven. The mighty power of heaven will flow through us unto abundant victorious fruitfulness.