Experiencing the Holy Spirit # 4
How The Blessing Was Bestowed From Heaven
"If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever; the Spirit of truth." (John 14:15-17)
A tree always lives according to the nature of the seed from which it grew. Every living being is always guided and governed by the nature that it received at its birth. The church received the promise and her growth by the Holy Spirit on the day of her birth. It is important for us to turn back often to the Day of Pentecost and not to rest until we thoroughly understand, receive, and experience what God did for His people on that Day. The hearts of the disciples were ready to receive the Spirit. Now we know what we must do to enjoy the same blessing. The first disciples serve as our examples on the way to the fullness of the Spirit.
What enabled them to become the recipients of these heavenly gifts? What made them acceptable vessels for the habitation of God? The right answer to these questions will help us on the way to being filled with the Holy Spirit.
A Personal Relationship
First, the disciples were deeply attached to the Lord Jesus. The Son of God came into the world in order to unite the divine life, which He had with the Father, with the life of man. In this way, the life of God could penetrate the life of the creature. When He had completed the work by His obedience, death, and resurrection, He was exalted to the throne of God on high. This was done in order that, in spiritual power, His disciples and church might participate in His very own life. We read that the Holy Spirit "was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified" (John 7:39). In was only after His glorification that the Spirit of the complete indwelling of God in man could be given. It is the Spirit of the glorified Jesus that the disciples received on the Day of Pentecost. His Spirit penetrated all the members of His body.
If the fullness of the Spirit dwells in Jesus, a personal relationship with Him is the first condition for the reception of the full gift of the Comforter. It was to attain this end that the Lord Jesus kept the disciples in close fellowship with Himself. He desired to attach them to Himself. He wanted them to truly feel at one with Him. He wanted them to identify themselves with Him, as far as this was possible. By knowledge, love, and obedience, they became inwardly knit to Him. This was the preparation for participating in the Spirit of His glorification.
The lesson that it taught here is extremely simple, but it is one of profound significance. Many Christians believe in the Lord, are zealous in His service, and eagerly desire to become holy, yet they do not succeed in their endeavor. It often seems as if they could not understand the promise of the Spirit. The thought of being filled with the Spirit exercises little influence on them.
The reason is obvious. They lack the personal relationship to the Lord Jesus, the inward attachment to Him, the perfectly natural reference to Him as their best and nearest Friend, as the beloved Lord, that was so characteristic of the disciples. This is absolutely indispensable. Only a heart that is entirely occupied with the Lord Jesus and depends entirely on Him can hope for the fullness of the Spirit.
They Left All For Jesus
"Nothing for nothing." This proverb contains a deep truth. A thing that costs me nothing may nevertheless cost me much. it may bring me under an obligation to the giver and so cost me more than it is worth. I may have so much trouble in taking hold of it and keeping it that I may pay much more for it than the price that should be asked for it. "Nothing for nothing."
This maxim also holds good in the life of the kingdom of heaven. The parables of the "treasure hidden in a field" (Matt. 13:44) and the "pearl of great price" (v. 46) teach us that, in order to obtain possession of the kingdom within us, we must sell all that we have. This is the renunciation that Jesus literally demanded of the disciples who followed Him. This is the requirement He so often repeated in His preaching: "Whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple" (Luke 14:33).
The two worlds between which we stand are in direct conflict with one another. The world we live in exercises such a mighty influence over us that it is often necessary for us to withdraw from it. Jesus trained His disciples to long for what is heavenly. Only then could He prepare them to desire and receive the heavenly gift with an undivided heart.
The Lord has left us no outward directions as to how much of the world we are to abandon or in what manner we are to do so. In His Word He teaches us that without sacrifice, without a deliberate separation from the world, we will never make much progress in grace. The spirit of this world has penetrated into us so deeply that we do not observe it. We share in its desire for comfort and enjoyment, for self-pleasing and self-exaltation, without our knowing how impossible these things make it for us to be filled with the Spirit.
Let us learn from the early disciples that, to be filled entirely separate from the children of this world or from worldly Christians. We must be willing to live as entirely different people, who literally represent heaven on earth, because we have received the Spirit of the King of heaven.
Recognizing Your Enemies
Man has two great enemies by whom the devil tempts him and with whom he has to contend. The one is the world outside, and the other is the self-life within. This last, the selfish ego, is much more dangerous and stronger than the first. It is quite possible for a man to have made much progress in forsaking the world while the self-life retains full dominion within him.
You see this fact illustrated in the case of the disciples. Peter could say with truth, "See, we have left all and followed You" (Matt. 19:27). Yet how manifestly did the selfish ego, with its self-pleasing and its self-confidence, still retain its full sway over him.
The Lord led the disciples to the point of forsaking their outward possessions and following Him. He also began to teach them that a disciple must deny himself and lose his own life if he wishes to be worthy of receiving His life. It was mans love for his self-life that hindered the Lord Jesus from doing His work in mans heart. It cost man more to be redeemed from the selfish ego within him than to withdraw from the world around him. The self-life is the natural life of sinful man. He can be liberated from it by nothing except death - that is, by first dying to it and then living in the strength of the new life that comes from God. [or, forget "self", just forget pleasing "me". Let Christ be our life]
The forsaking of the world began at the outset of the three years discipleship. At the end of that period, at the Cross of Jesus, dying to the self-life first took place. When they saw Him die, they learned to despair of themselves and of everything on which they had previously based their hope. Whether they had thought of their Lord and the expected redemption or of themselves and their shameful unfaithfulness toward Him, they tended to be filled with despair over everything. Little did they know that this despair would break up their hard hearts, mortifying their self-life and confidence in themselves. This death to self enabled them to receive something entirely new - namely, a divine life through the Spirit of the glorified Jesus in the innermost depths of their souls.
Oh, that we understood better that nothing hampers us as much as secret reliance on ourselves. On the other hand, nothing brings as much blessing as entire despair of ourselves and all that is on the earth, teaching us to turn our hearts wholly to heaven and partake of the heavenly gift.
The Unheard Of Wonder
The disciples received and held fast the promise of the Spirit given by the Lord Jesus.
In His farewell address, Jesus comforted His disciples in their sorrow over His departure with one great promise - namely, the mission of the Holy Spirit from heaven. Better than His bodily presence among them, it would be to them the full fruit and the power of His redemption. The divine life - He Himself with the Father - was to make its abode within them. They were to know they were in Him and He in them. At His ascension from the Mount of Olives, this promise of the Spirit was the last subject He addressed to them.
It is evident the disciples had little idea of what this promise signified. But however defective their understanding was, they held it fast; or rather, the promise held them fast and would not let them go. They all had only one thought: "Something has been promised to us by our Lord; it will give us a share in His heavenly power and glory; we know for certain that it is coming." What the thing itself was or what their experience of it was to be, they could give no account. It was enough for them that they had the word of the Lord. He wold make it a blessed reality within them.
The same disposition is needed now. To us also, even as to them, has the word of the Lord come concerning the Spirit who is to descend from the throne in the power of His glorified life.
"He who believes in Me ... out of his heart will flow rivers of living water" (John 7:38). For us also the one thing needed is to hold fast to that word, to set our whole desire on the fulfillment of it, and to lay aside all else until we inherit the promise. The word from the mouth of Jesus concerning the reception of the Spirit in such measure that we be endued with power from on high, must fill us with strong desire and with firm, joyful assurance.
They waited on the Father until the fulfillment of the promise came and they were filled with the Spirit.
The ten days of waiting were for them days in which they were continually praising and blessing God and continuing in prayer and supplication. It is not enough for us to try to strengthen desire and to hold fast our confidence. The principle thing is to set ourselves in close and abiding contact with God. The blessing must come from God; God Himself must give it to us. We are to receive the gift directly from Him. What is promised is to us is a wonderful work of divine omnipotence and love. What we desire is the personal occupancy and indwelling of God the Holy Spirit. God Himself must give this personally to us.
A man gives another a piece of bread or a piece of money. He gives it away and has nothing further to do with it. It is not so with God's gift of the Holy Spirit. No, the Spirit of God. God is in the Spirit is the most personal act of the Godhead. It is the gift of Himself to us. We have to receive it in the closest, personal contact with God.
The clearer the insight we obtain into this principle the more deeply we will feel how little we can do to grasp the blessing by our own desiring or believing. The goodness of God alone must give it. His omnipotence must work it into us. Our disposition must be one of silent assurance that the Father desires to give it to us and will not keep us waiting one moment longer than is absolutely necessary. Every soul that persists in waiting will be filled with the glory of God.
Every tree grows from the root out of which it first springs. The Day of Pentecost was the planting of the Christian church, and the Holy Spirit became the power of its life. Let us turn back to that experience and learn from the disciples what is really necessary. Attachment to Jesus, the abandonment of everything in the world for Him, despair of self and of all help from man, holding onto the word of promise, and then waiting on the living God - this is the sure way of living in the joy and power of the Holy Spirit.
(continued with # 5 - How Little The Blessing Is Enjoyed