The Divine Conquest
The Spirit-filled Life
Christians are all over the map when it comes to the filling of the Holy Spirit. Some will avoid the very idea like the plague; others think that you are as filled at conversion as you are ever going to be. (Ed: Some believe that all you have to do is ask and the Lord will fill you without any preconditions or prerequisites other than conversion.)
But, every Christian can have a dramatic outpouring of the Holy Spirit far beyond that received at conversion, or that enjoyed by most Christians today. God will not surprise a doubting heart or fill anyone who still questions the possibility of being filled. A reverent study of the Word of God should remove any doubts.
Before a man can be filled with the Holy Spirit, he must be sure he wants to be. Are you sure you want to be filled with a Spirit who, though He is like Jesus in gentleness and love, will nevertheless demand to be Lord of your life? Are you willing to submit your will to another, even the Spirit of God Himself? If so, He will expect unquestioning obedience.
He will not tolerate in you the self-sins even though they are permitted and excused by most Christians. By the self-sins I mean self-love, self-pity, self-seeking, self-confidence, self-righteousness, self-exaggeration, or self-defense. He will not allow you to boast, or swagger, or show-off. He will take the direction of your life away from you. He will reserve the right to test you, discipline you, or chasten you for your soul’s sake.
He may strip you of those borderline pleasures that other Christians enjoy, but to you are a source of refined evil. Through it all, He will enfold you in a love so vast, so mighty, so all-embracing, so wondrous that your very losses will seem like gains and your small pains like pleasures. Yet your flesh will whimper and cry out against a burden too great to bear as you are permitted the privilege of suffering to “fill up that which is left behind of the afflictions of Christ.” Now, do you still want to be filled with the Holy Spirit?
Before we can be filled with the Spirit, the desire to be filled must be all-consuming. I doubt whether anyone has received such a filling without first experiencing a period of deep anxiety and inward agitation.
Religious contentment is the enemy of the spiritual life. The biographies of the saints teach us that the way to spiritual greatness has always been through much suffering and inward pain.
“If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”) The way of the cross has always meant, the way of rejection and loss. No-one ever enjoyed the cross, just as no-one ever enjoyed the gallows.
Complete self-despair need not be discouraging. Despair with self, when accompanied by faith, destroys one of the hearts most potent enemies and prepares the soul for the Comforter. If we resist the sense of utter emptiness, of disappointment and darkness (Ed: The dark night of the soul, as it were), we may miss nearly everything the Father has in store for us.
If we cooperate, he will tear away our natural comforts and that false thing the Chinese call “face” (Ed: read – pride) and show us how painfully small we really are. When He is done, we will know what “Blessed are the poor in spirit” really means.
Be sure that during this process the Lord will never leave us nor forsake us, but will keep us as the apple of His eye, and keep us under His wings. His love will never fail even while He is taking us through this experience of self-crucifixion so real, so terrible, that we can express it only by crying, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?”
The value of the stripping experience lies in its power to detach us from life’s passing interests and to point us back to eternity. It serves to empty our earthly vessels and prepare us for the inpouring of the Holy Spirit. We must give up all and undergo an inward death; death to our self.
We must remember that the Holy Spirit is a person Who hears and sees and feels like any person. We can please Him, grieve Him, or silence Him. But to walk with Him, we need to continue in the Word, in prayer, in obedience, and in His purpose (will). And, we need to keep our thought-life clean and holy. If we do these things, He will make known to us the mystery “which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
God bless you.