Experiencing The Holy Spirit # 6
How the Blessing Is Hindered
"Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it" (Matthew 16:24-25).
Many people earnestly seek the full blessing of Pentecost and yet do not find it. Often the question is asked as to what may be the cause of this failure. To this inquiry more than one answer may be given. Sometimes the solution to the problem points in the direction of one or another sin that is still permitted. Worldliness, lovelessness, lack of humility, and ignorance of the secret of walking in the way of faith, and indeed many more causes, may also be often mentioned in truth.
Many people think they have come to the Lord and sincerely confessed these failures and put them away. Yet they complain that the blessing does not come. It is necessary to point out that there still remains one great hindrance - namely, the root from which all other hindrances have their beginning. This root is nothing less than the individual "self", the hidden life of "self" with its varied forms of self-seeking, self-pleasing, self-confidence, and self-satisfaction.
The more earnestly anyone strives to obtain the blessing and desires to know what prevents him, the more certainly he will be led to the discovery that it is here the great evil lies. He himself is his worst enemy. He must be liberated from himself, and the self-life to which he clings must be utterly lost. Only then can the life of God entirely fill him.
A Full Understanding of the Cross
This is what is taught in the words of the Lord Jesus to Peter. Peter had uttered such a glorious confession of his Lord that Jesus said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 16:17). But when the Lord began to speak of His death by crucifixion, the same Peter was seduced by satan to say, "Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!" (v. 22).
The Lord said to him that not only must He Himself lay down His life, but also this same sacrifice was to be made by every disciple. Every disciple must deny himself and take up his cross in order that he himself may be crucified and put to death on it. He who wishes to save his life will lose it, and he who is prepared to lose his life for Christ's sake will find it.
You see, then, what the Lord teaches and requires. Peter had learned through the Father to know Christ as the Son of God, but he did not yet know Him as the Crucified One. Of the absolute necessity of the death on the cross, he as yet knew nothing. It may be so with the Christian. He knows the Lord Jesus as his Saviour; he desires to know Him better, but he does not yet understand that he must have a deeper discernment of the death of the cross as a death which he himself must die. He must actually deny and lose his life - his whole life and being in the world - before he can receive the full life of God.
This requirement is hard and difficult. And why is this so? Why should a Christian be called on always to deny himself, his own feelings, will, and pleasure? Why must he part with his life? The answer is very simple. It is because that life is so completely under the power of sin and death that it has to be utterly denied and sacrificed. The self-life must be wholly taken away to make room for the life of God. He who wishes to have the full, overflowing life of God must utterly deny and lose his own life.
Only one great stumbling block lies in the way of the full blessing of Pentecost. It is the fact that two opposing things cannot at the same time occupy the very same place. Your own life and the life of God cannot fill the heart at the same time. Your life hinders the entrance of the life of God. When your own life is cast out, the life of God will fill you. As long as I myself am still something, Jesus Himself cannot be everything. My life must be expelled; then the Spirit of Jesus will flow in.
Let every seeker of the full blessing of Pentecost accept this principle and hold on to it. The subject is of such importance that I would like to make it still clearer by pointing out the chief lessons that these words of the Lord Jesus teach us.
Self and the Power of Sin
When God created the angels and man, He gave them a separate personality, a power over themselves, with the intention that they would, of their own free will, present and offer up that life to Him in order that He in turn might fill them with His life and His glory. To be a vessel filled with the life and the perfection of God was to be the highest blessedness of the creature.
The fall of angels and men alike consisted of nothing but the perversion of their lives, their wills, and their personalities, away from God, in order to please themselves. This self-exaltation was the pride that cast them out of heaven and into hell. This pride was the infernal poison that the serpent breathed into the ears and the heart of Eve.
Man turned himself away from God to delight in himself and the world. His life, his whole individuality, was perverted and withdrawn from the control of God so that he might seek and serve himself.
You must utterly lose that life before the full life of the Spirit of God an be yours. To the minutest details, always and in everything, you must deny that self-life! "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me."
A deep conviction of the entire corruption of our human nature is an experience that is still lacking in many people. It appears to them both strange and harsh when we say that in nothing is the Christian free to follow his own feelings. Self-denial is a requirement that must prevail in every sphere of life and without any exceptions. The Lord has never withdrawn His words: "Whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple" (Luke 14:33).
Is Your Heart Open?
At the time of his conversion, the young Christian has little understanding of this requirement. He receives the seed of the new life into his heart while the natural life is still strong. It was this way with Peter when the Lord addressed to him the above words. He was a disciple but an incomplete one. When his Lord was to die, instead of denying himself, he denied his Lord. But this grievous failure brought him at last to despair of himself and prepared him for losing his own life entirely and for being wholly filled with the life of Jesus.
We must all eventually come to this point. As long as a Christian imagines that in some things - for example, in his eating and drinking, in the spending of his time or money, or in his thinking and speaking about others - he has the right and the liberty to follow his own wishes, to please himself, and to maintain his own life, he cannot possibly attain the full blessing of Pentecost.
My dear readers, it is an unspeakably holy and glorious thing that a man can be filled with the Spirit of God. It demands inevitably that the present occupant and governor of the heart, the individual self, be cast out and everything be surrendered into the hands of the new inhabitant, the Spirit of God. If only we could understand that the joy and power of being filled with the Spirit will come once we comply with the first and principle condition - namely, that He alone be acknowledged as our Life and our Leader.
Who Performs This Transformation?
At no stage of our spiritual careers are the power and the deceitfulness of the individual self and the self-life more manifest than in the attempt to grasp the full blessing of Pentecost. Many people endeavor to take hold of this blessing by a great variety of efforts. They do not succeed and are not able to discover the reason why. They forget that self-will can never cast our self-will and that "self" can never really mortify itself. Happy is the man who is brought to the point of acknowledging his helplessness and powerlessness. He will especially need to deny himself here and cease to expect anything from his own life and strength. He will rather lay himself down in the presence of the Lord as one who is powerless and dead, so that he may really receive the blessing from Him.
It was not Peter who prepared himself for the Day of Pentecost or brought down the Pentecostal blessing from heaven. It was his Lord who did all this for him. His part was to despair of himself and yield himself to his Lord to accomplish in him what He had promised.
It is your part, believer, to deny yourself, to lose your own life, and in the presence of the Lord to sink down in your nothingness and powerlessness. Accustom yourself to set your heart before Him in deep humility, silent patience, and childlike submission. The humility that is prepared to be nothing, the patience that will wait for Him and His time, and the submission that will yield itself wholly so that He may do what seems good are all that you can do to show that you are ready to lose your life.
Jesus summons you to follow Him. Remember how He first sacrificed His will. He laid down His life into the hands of the Father, went down into the grave, and waited until God raised Him to life again. In like manner, you are to be ready to lay down your life in weakness, assured that God will raise it up again in power with the fullest of the Spirit. Forfeit the strength of mere personal efforts and abandon the dominion of your own power. "Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit," says the Lord" (Zech. 4:6).
Deny Yourself Daily
You of course say at once, "Who is sufficient for these things? Who can sacrifice everything and die and lay down his life utterly as Jesus did? Is such a surrender impossible?" My reply is that it is indeed so. But "with God all things are possible" (Matt. 19:26). You cannot literally follow Jesus down into death and the grave. That will always remain beyond your power. Never will our individual selves yield themselves up to death or rest quietly in the grave.
But hear the glad tidings. In Christ you have died and have been buried. The power of His dying, of His willing surrender of His spirit into the hands of the Father, and of His silent resting in the grave works in you. By faith in this working of the spirit and the power of the death and the life of the Lord Jesus, give yourself willingly to lose your life.
For this end, begin to regard the denying of yourself as the first and most necessary work of every day. Accept the message I bring you. The great hindrance in the way of the life of Pentecost is the self-life. Believe in the sinfulness of that life, not because of its gross external sins, but because it sets itself in the place of God. It seeks, pleases, and honors itself more than God.
Recognize your own life as your own worst enemy and as the enemy of God. Begin to see what the full blessing is that Jesus has prepared for you and that He bestowed at Pentecost - namely, His own indwelling. Count nothing too precious or too costly to give as an exchange for this "pearl of great price" (Matthew 13:46).
Believer, are you really sincere about being filled with the Spirit of God? Is it your great desire to know what hinders you from obtaining it? Take the word of our Lord and keep it in your heart. Go to Him with it. He is able to make you understand and experience it. It is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.
Let everything in you that belongs to "self" be sacrificed to Him. He, who by His death obtained the Spirit, who prepared Peter for Pentecost in "the fellowship of His sufferings" (Phil. 3:10), has your guidance in His hands. Trust your own Jesus. He baptizes with the Spirit beyond doubt or question.
Deny yourself and follow Him. Lose your own life and find His. Let Him impart Himself in the place you have up to this time retained for yourself. From Him there "will flow rivers of living water" (John 7:38).
(continued with # 7 - How the Blessing Is Obtained By Us