Walking in the Spirit Part 6
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Let us receive Him in all His fullness, let us be filled with the Spirit, let us drink of the ocean in which we have been baptized. A Christian friend wrote the other day that his old neighbors had got up a report that he had turned out badly in his Christian life and taken to drinking. He replied, very happily, that it was true he had taken to drinking of late, but that if his old friends could only know what he was drinking they they would all join him, for he had found the fountain of living waters, and was drinking from the Holy Spirit and could say, "He that drinketh of this water shall never thirst again."
3. Let us trust the Holy Spirit.
We must believe in the Spirit as well as in the Son, and treat Him with confidence, expecting Him to meet us and bless us, and communicate unto Him all our needs, perplexities, and even our temptations and sins. He was the anti-type of the water of h.o.r.eb's ancient rock, and it is as wrong today as it was for Moses to strike that rock in unbelieving violence, when G.o.d bids us simply to speak to it in gentleness and trust, and expect its waters to gush forth at our whispered call and satisfy out every need.
The Holy Spirit is sensitive to our distrust. Many persons cry for Him and pray to Him as though He were a distant and selfish tyrant, insensible to His children's cry. It is a mother heart to whom we speak, and one who is always within whispering distance of her little ones.
Let us nestle beneath her wings, let us walk in the light of her love, let us trust the Holy Ghost with implicit, childlike confidence, and always expect the answering voice and presence of the Comforter, and it shall be true, "Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear." The apostle asks the Galatians, "Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?" and adds after, "we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith."
This is the only way that we can receive a person-by treating him with confidence, believing that he comes to us in sincerity, and opening the door to him at once, recognize him as a friend, and treat him as a welcome guest. So let us treat the Holy Spirit.
4. Let us obey the Spirit.
The first thing in obedience is to hearken. Especially is this necessary with the gentle Comforter. So gentle is this mother that her voice is not often loud, and may be missed by the inattentive ear; therefore, the beautiful expression is used by the apostle Paul in the 8th chapter of Romans, which reminds us of a mother's voice; "The minding of the Spirit is life and peace." We are to mind the Spirit, we are to pay attention to His counsels, commands, and slightest intimations. G.o.d never speaks an idle word, or gives a lesson that we can afford to slight or forget. They who will listen will have much to listen to, but they who slight the voice of G.o.d need not wonder that they are often left in silence.
The Spirit's voice is ''a still small voice." The heart in which He loves to dwell is a quiet one, where the voice of pa.s.sion and the world's loud tumult is stilled, and His whisper is watched for with delight and attention.
But not only must we hearken; when we know we must obey. The voice of the Spirit is imperative; there can be no compromise, and there should be no delay. G.o.d will not excuse us from His commandments. His word is very deliberately spoken and for our good always, and when the command is given it cannot be recalled. Therefore, if we do not obey we must be involved in darkness, difficulty, and separation from Him. We may plunge on, but the Spirit waits at that point, on the crossroads of life, and we can make no progress until we return and obey Him. Many a bitter experience, many a tear of brokenhearted disappointment and failure have come from refusing to obey. Indeed, such disobedience must be fatal if persisted in. It was just there that Saul halted and lost his kingdom, through disobedience and willfulness in neglecting the voice of G.o.d. It was there that Israel found the fatal crisis of their history at Kadesh Barnea. It was there that, in the apostolic days, a nation was about to reap the same fatal error, and the apostle pleaded with his countrymen so solemnly and gently: "Today if ye will hear His voice harden not your hearts."
Happy the heart that promptly obeys the voice of G.o.d. The Spirit delights to lead such a soul. How beautifully we see this ill.u.s.trated in the experience of Paul! At one period of his ministry he was in danger of pressing on in his work beyond the divine command, and so, we are told, he was forbidden of the Spirit to preach the Word in Asia, and essayed to go into Bithynia but the Spirit suffered him not. Happy for him that he obeyed both these restraints. Had he persisted. in his way, and even succeeded in getting down to Ephesus, he would have found every door closed, and his visit would have been premature.
Waiting on G.o.d's bidding and way a year longer he was permitted to go afterwards and found the door wide open, and his next and perhaps most successful ministry was given to him at Ephesus, while in obedience, that led him now into Europe, he was permitted to establish the Gospel in that mighty continent.
A little later, we see the very opposite lesson exemplified in his life. We are told that he purposed in Spirit to go to Jerusalem and Rome. This was a personal direction of the Holy Ghost to him, and in consequence he determined upon the greatest purpose of his life, to carry the gospel to his countrymen at Jerusalem, and then to establish Christianity in the capital of the world.
It was well that he proposed it in the Spirit, and that he was sure of G.o.d's command, for the difficulties that afterwards met him would have been insuperable on any human line.
First, the very servants of G.o.d met him all along the way, and even prophetic messengers warned him not to go to Jerusalem, but the brave apostle kept to his promise and pressed divinely on.
Next, the whole power of unbelieving Judaism arrayed itself against him, tried to mob him at Jerusalem, to a.s.sa.s.sinate him on the way to Caesarea, and then to condemn him before the tribunal of Felix, Festus and Agrippa, but still he pressed steadfastly on.
Next, the intriguing policy and imperial power of Rome itself confronted him, and held him two years a prisoner at Caesarea, but he never for a moment abandoned his purpose.
At length he was on his way to Rome, but then the very elements of nature and the powers of h.e.l.l combined in one last effort to destroy him. The fierce Euroclydon of the Mediterranean wrecked his s.h.i.+p, and on Malta's sh.o.r.e the viper from the flames fastened upon his hand, but he still pressed on in indomitable might, in obedience to the Holy Ghost, and so he reached Rome and planted the standard of the cross before the palace of the Caesars, witnessed for Christ in the face of imprisonment and martyrdom, and at last looked down from heaven on the spectacle of Christianity the established religion of the whole "Roman empire three hundred years later.
Thus let us obey the Holy Ghost, whether it be in silence or in activity, and we shall find that if He be to us our Wonderful Counsellor, He shall certainly prove our mighty G.o.d.
5. Let us honor the Holy Ghost.
Less than any other person does He honor Himself. His constant business is to exalt Christ and hide behind His person. Therefore, the Father is pleased when we exalt and honor Him, and He Himself will especially use the instrument which gives Him the glory. "Honor the Holy Ghost and He will honor you," was the counsel of an aged Christian patriarch who had seen many a mighty awakening in the church of G.o.d.
It is indeed true and specially important in this material and rationalistic age, when even the ministers of Christ sometimes seem to wish to eliminate the supernatural from the Scriptures and the church, and find any other explanation than the power of G.o.d for His supernatural working.
The special dispensation of the Holy Ghost is drawing to its close. We may therefore expect that He will manifest His power in unusual methods and degrees as the age draws to its close.
Let us understand Him and be in sympathy with His divine thought, and ready to follow His wise and mighty leaders.h.i.+p unto the last campaign of Christianity. Why should we ever be looking back to Pentecost? Why should we not expect His mightiest triumphs in the immediate future, and, as Joel has prophesied, "before the great and terrible day of the Lord."
HINDERING THE HOLY SPIRIT.
"Grieve not the Holy Spirit of G.o.d."--Eph. iv: 80.
"Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost."--Acts vii: 51.
"Quench not the Spirit. "-1 Thess. v: 19.
It is very touching and solemn that while the Holy Ghost might, in the exercise of His omnipotence, coerce our will, and compel us to submit to His authority, yet He approaches us with the most deferential regard for our feelings and independence, even suffering us to resist and disobey Him, and bearing long with our willfulness and waywardness.
There are several terms used in the Scriptures to denote the manner in which we may sin against the Holy Spirit.
We May Quench the Spirit.
This has reference, perhaps, mainly to the hindrance we offer to His work in others, rather than to our resistance of His personal dealings with our own souls.
Among the various hindrances which we may offer to the Holy Spirit may be mentioned such as these: 1. We may refuse to obey His impulses in us when He bids us speak or act for Him. We may be conscious of a distinct impression of the Spirit of G.o.d bidding us to testify for Christ, and by disobedience, or timidity, or procrastination, we may quench His working, both in our own soul and in the heart of another 2. We must suppress His voice in others, either by using our authority to restrain His messages, when He speaks through His servants or refusing to allow the liberty of testimony. Many hold the reins of ecclesiastical authority unduly, and thus lose the free and effectual working of the Holy Ghost in their churches and in their work.
There is a less direct way, however, of politely silencing Him by forcing Him out, and so filling the atmosphere with the spirit of stiffness, criticism, and a certain air of respectability and rigidness that He gently withdraws from the uncongenial scene, and refuses to thrust His messages upon unwilling hearts.
3. The Spirit may be grieved by the method of public wors.h.i.+p in a congregation.
It may be either so stiff and formal that there is no room for His spontaneous working, or so full of worldly and unscriptural elements as to repel and offend Him from taking any part in a pompous ritual. An operatic choir and a ritualistic service will effectually quench all the fire of G.o.d's altar, and send the gentle dove to seek a simpler nest.
4. The Spirit may be quenched by the preacher, and his spirit and method.
His own manner may be so intellectual and self-conscious, and his own spirit so thoroughly cold and vain that the Holy Ghost is neither recognized nor known in his work. His sermons may be on themes in which the Spirit has no interest, for He only witnesses to the Holy Scriptures and the person of Christ, and wearily turns away from the discussion of philosophy, and the stale show of critical brilliancy over the questions of the day or the speculations of man's own vain reason.
Perhaps his address is so rigidly written down that the Holy Spirit could not find a opportunity for even a suggestion, if He so desired, and His promptings and leading so coolly set aside by a course of elaborate preparation which leaves no room for G.o.d.
5. The spirit of error in the teachings of the pulpit will always quench the Holy Spirit.
He is jealous for His own inspired Word and when vain man attempts to set it aside He looks on with indignation, and expose such teachers to humiliation and failure.
The spirit of self-a.s.sertion and self -consciousness is always fatal to the free working of the Holy Ghost.
When a man stands up in the sacred desk to air his eloquence and call attention to his intellectual brilliancy, or to preach himself in any sense, he will always be deserted by the Holy Spirit. He uses the things "that are not to bring to naught the things that are." And before we can expect to become the instruments of His power, we must wholly cease from self and be lost in the person and glory of Jesus.
6. The spirit of pride, fas.h.i.+on and worldly display in the pews, is just as fatal as ambition in the pulpit.
Such an atmosphere seems to freeze out the spirit of devotion, and erect on the throne of the lowly Nazarene a G.o.ddess of carnal pride and pleasure, like the foul Venus that the Parisian mob set up in the Madeleine at Paris in the days of the revolution, as an object of wors.h.i.+p. From such an atmosphere the Holy Ghost turns away grieved and disgusted.
7. The quickening and reviving influences of the Holy Ghost are often quenched in the very hour of promise by wrong methods in the work of Christ's church.
How often, on the eve of a real revival, the minds of the people have been led away by some public entertainment in connection with the house of G.o.d, or its after-fruits withered by a series of unholy fairs and secular bids for money, and the introduction of the broker and the cattle-vender into the cleansed temple of Jehovah, as in the days of Christ.
8. The spirit of criticism and controversy is fatal to the working of the Holy Ghost.
The gentle dove will not remain in an atmosphere of strife. If we would cherish His power we must possess His love, and frown down all wrangling gossip, evil speaking, malice, envy, and public controversy in the preaching of the Word.
Sometimes a single word of criticism after an impressive service will dispel all its blessed influence upon the heart of some interested hearer, and counteract the gracious work that would have resulted in the salvation of the soul.
A frivolous Christian woman returning one night from church with her unsaved husband, was laughing lightly at some of the mistakes and eccentricities of the speaker. Suddenly she felt his arm trembling; she looked in his face and his tears were falling. He gently turned to her, and said: "Pray for me; I have seen myself tonight as I never did before." She suddenly awoke with an awful shudder to realize that she had been frivolously wrecking his soul's salvation, and quenching the Holy Ghost.
And so, public controversy is as fatal to the Spirit's working as personal criticism.
It is when the children of G.o.d unite at the feet of Jesus, and together seek His blessing, that He comes in all the fullness of His life-power.
At the Council of Nice it is said that a great number of grievances were sent unto Constantine, the presiding officer. After the opening of the great Council, he ordered them to be gathered into the centre of the large hall, and then a fire kindled under them, and as they went up in smoke and flame, the Spirit of G.o.d fell upon the a.s.sembled mult.i.tude, and they all felt that in the burning of their strifes and selfish grievances they had received the very baptism of the Holy Ghost.
The Spirit may be quenched in the hearts of our friends by unwise counsel, or unG.o.dly influence.
The little child may be discouraged from seeking Christ by a worldly parent, or the ignorant a.s.sumption that it is too young to be a Christian, or too busy with its studies, or its social enjoyments, for such things.
The attractions of the world and claims and pressures of business, may be interposed in the way of some seeking heart, and we find in eternity that we put a stumbling-block in our friend's way, from which he fell into perdition.
Let us be very careful lest, in our willfulness and pride, we not only miss ourselves the inner chambers of the kingdom of heaven, but hinder those that would enter from going in.
Oh! if we would cherish the faintest breath of life in the rescued waif that has been s.n.a.t.c.hed from a watery grave, if we could fan the expiring flame of life in a friend's bosom, let us be careful lest we quench the spark of everlasting life in a human soul, and stand at the last, responsible for the murder of immortal beings, and crimson with the blood of souls. "Quench not the Spirit."
We May Grieve the Spirit.
This is a very tender expression; it suggests His gentleness and patience; grieved rather than angry with His unfaithful and distrustful children.
1. We may grieve Him by our doubts and distrust of His love and promises. Thus Moses grieved Him when he struck the rock instead of gently speaking.
Many are afraid of the Holy Ghost and think Him a despot and a terror; shrinking even from His too close approach, as though He would consume us by His holiness. He wants us to love Him, and come near to Him as the gentle mother; to believe in His promises, to count Him faithful, and to treat Him as one who does come to us and dwell within us.
2. We grieve the Holy Spirit when we refuse to wholly yield ourselves to Him, and hold back from entire abandonment and surrender, or when, having so surrendered ourselves, we shrink back from His actual leading and refuse to meet the tests He brings, and lie upon the wheel in stillness while He moulds the plaster in clay.
He is grieved at our willfulness and rebellion and resistance. He knows we are losing a blessing, and that we must again go through the same discipline if we are to have our blessings from Him.
He sees in it the spirit of distrust and unbelief, and He feels wounded and slighted by our shrinking.
3. We grieve the Holy Spirit when we fail to enter into the fullness of His grace, and receive the Lord Jesus Christ as our complete Saviour.
He has not written one word that we can afford to allow to become of none effect. It is an insult to His wisdom and love to treat the higher visions of His grace as if they were not binding upon our life.
They should fully honor Him, press forward into all His will, and feel they owe to Him as well as themselves that they should lose nothing of all that He has wrought, nor seem to come short of entering into His rest.
Oh, how many of His children are grieving Him as a mother would be grieved, if after having, at great cost and toil, provided bountifully for her children, they should refuse her bounty or despise her rich provision!
4. We grieve the Holy Spirit when we fail to hearken to His voice.
He is constantly calling upon us to listen, and He never speaks in vain, nor can we ever afford to miss the slightest whisper. When, therefore, we fail to hearken, and dash along with heedless impulsiveness, He is deeply grieved, and has to call in the loud and painful tones of trial and chastening.
How He bewails His ancient people for their refusing to listen to His living voice: "Oh, that my people had hearkened to my commandments, then had their peace been like a river, and their righteousness as the waves of the sea."
5. We grieve the Holy Spirit when, having heard, we presume to disobey His voice.
This is very serious, and full of terrible danger. It is an awful thing willfully to neglect or defy the distinct command of the Holy Ghost. We cannot do it without losing the sense of His presence, and being conscious that He has withdrawn the manifestation of His love, until we deeply and penitently recognize our sin, and step into the path of obedience where we separated from His companions.h.i.+p.
6. Nothing grieves the Holy Spirit more than a divided heart and the cheris.h.i.+ng of any idols in our affections which separate our supreme love from Christ.
There is a remarkable pa.s.sage in the book of James which declares that "the Spirit which dwelleth in us loveth us to jealousy" (marginal reading), and in the same connection it is added, "Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friends.h.i.+p of the world is enmity with G.o.d? that is, a heart set upon earthly things is guilty of spiritual adultery, the Holy Ghost looks upon it with jealous love, grieved and insulted by the dishonor done to our divine husband by our unfaithful affections.
7. We grieve the Holy Spirit whenever we neglect, pervert, or dishonor the Holy Scriptures.
This is His word, and not one utterance or one jot shall fall to the ground. How we grieve Him when we explain its precious promises, and make of none effect its exact commands; and how He loves the heart that feeds upon the truth and honors the Bible in its least promise and command!
8. Especially do we grieve the Holy Ghost when we dishonor Jesus, or let anything separate us from Him, or cloud our conception of Him, and interrupt our devotion to Him.
He is jealous for the honor of Christ; therefore, whenever self, or any human being comes between us and Christ, whenever the glory of the Master is obscured by the glory of the servant, whenever even truth or work becomes more distinct than Christ Himself, the Holy Ghost is grieved; and He is pleased when we exalt the Saviour, and give Him all the glory.
9. The Holy Spirit is grieved when we ignore Him.
He longs after our love and trust.
10. The Holy Spirit is especially grieved by a spirit of bitterness toward any human being, and therefore the apostle says, "Let all bitternesses, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you with all malice. And grieve not the Holy Spirit of G.o.d, whereby we are sealed unto the day of redemption."
We May Resist the Holy Spirit.
This has special reference to the att.i.tude of the unbeliever, with whom the Holy Ghost is striving with a view to convict him of sin and lead Him to the Saviour.
1. The sinner resists the Holy Spirit when he tries to shake off religious impressions.
This may be done in many ways. Sometimes the soul, under the Spirit's striving, tries to quench its impressions in pleasure, excitement or business. Sometimes it treats them as nervous depression, low spirits or ill-health, and seeks a remedy in change of scene or thought; very often it resorts to light reading, worldly amus.e.m.e.nts, frivolous society, perhaps indulgence in sin, and the devil always has plenty of auxiliaries to suggest distracting thoughts, and help to dispel the sacred influences that G.o.d is gathering around the heart.
Very often it will become provoked and offended with some acts on the part of Christians, sometimes perhaps connected with the religious services, and will resolve to give up attending, or find some petty excuse for getting out of the way of the influences that are troubling its content. All these efforts to escape are but the stronger evidence of the Spirit's striving, and He patiently and lovingly continues to press the arrow still more keenly into the wounded heart, until it is laid prostrate at the feet of love.
2. The sinner resists the influences of the Holy Spirit in leading him to conviction of sin.
It is not enough to awaken concern in the soul, and even alarm-there must be a distinct working of Scriptural conviction in order to secure lasting peace and sound conversion; and, therefore, the Holy Ghost has promised to convict the world of sin.
He does this by bringing before the conscience the memory of actual transgressions-the recollection of any forgotten sins, the iniquities of youth and childhood, the secret sins known to G.o.d only, the aggravations of sin, the warnings and light against which it has been committed, the love that has been resisted, the threatenings of the divine law, the unchangeable holiness of the divine character, the tremendous sentence against all iniquity, the deep inward consciousness of guilt, the still more terrible sense of the wickedness of the sinner's heart, the hopeless depravity, the consciousness of willfulness and unbelief, and the dreadful fear of its hopelessness, the impossibility of its salvation.
Thus the Great Advocate sets in array our transgressions, until the heart seeks some escape from itself, and Satan is ready to suggest a thousand excuses, palliations and false hopes, through which the guilty spirit seeks to evade the force of its conviction.
Walking in the Spirit Part 6
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Walking in the Spirit Part 6 summary
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