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The gift of the Holy Spirit is the distinguishing feature of the Christian religion. It is the very soul of our faith. In His indwelling Presence is the secret of all Christian experience, and in the abiding energy of His power is the dynamic of all Christian service. The promises concerning the Holy Spirit challenge us. The record of the day of Pentecost challenges us. The history of the Christian Church challenges us. Do we believe in the Holy Spirit? If we do, what is the practical proof of our faith?...
Have we power over sin? The Spirit of Truth is the Spirit of Holiness. He sanctifies in truth. The Day of Pentecost changed carnal thought into spiritual vision, pride into humility, selfishness into love, and cowardice into courage. It changed hearts and transformed lives. Victory comes by fullness. Have we the joy of conquest over sin? Is the character of the average Christian anywhere near the standard of a Spirit-filled soul?
What about the love of the world? Jesus said He was One "whom the world cannot receive." They are in irreconcilable antagonism. What has come of the doctrine of separation? If believers were filled with the Spirit, would they haunt the worlds gaudy fountains and brackish springs? It is mockery to profess fullness, and go about panting with thirst and gasping with vanity.
What about the power for service? Is our decline due to external difficulties or internal weakness? Think of the host of workers, the vastness and variety of their service, the earnestness and ingenuity of their labors, and the scanty result of it all. What influence has the Church upon the life of the people, and what impression does it make upon the strongholds of iniquity.
What about the dearth of conversions? Pentecost brought awakening, conviction, conversions, and baptism; but the ungodly no longer speak of chapels as "converting furnaces." The gift of the Holy Spirit is the gift of power, and the lack of power is due to the absence of His indwelling fullness. Abounding fullness overflowed in gladness, testimony, and sacrifice.
The Call of Pentecostal Fullness
There is no doubt that the one thing needful for the Church is the blessing of Pentecostal fullness. The flood would sweep away all the rubbish, fill all the dikes, and fertilize all the desert. The work of God cannot be accomplished without the fullness of the Spirit, and everywhere God waits to give His Holy Spirit to them that ask Him. It is His will that every believer should be filled with the Spirit, overflow in the power of the Spirit, and in all things prevail through the Spirit.
What hinders? The blessing is for all, and for all now. The conditions are simple, unalterable and universal. God waits to fill ordinary people with extraordinary power, and to turn a baffled faith into a rapturous conquest....
The Way into the Blessing
Two things are plain:
(1) Pentecost is a definite work of the Spirit in Believers.
(2) It is by grace through faith.
What are the steps of faith by which the blessing is appropriated?
The first step is to repent. "And Peter said unto them, Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost" (Acts 2:38).
There is a repentance of believers as well as of sinners. When men begin to pray for the blessing of Pentecost the answer begins in conviction of sin. The things of which they are convicted, as we have said, are not transgression of the law, but sins of the spirit. The things of which the believer is convicted are not in themselves sinful, but they are kept in disobedience to Gods will. Things are not surrendered, indulgences retained against light, possessions held for selfish ends--these must all be surrendered to the supreme authority of Christ. For until He is exalted, crowned, glorified, there can be no Pentecost.
The second step is to ask. "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 must be definite asking for the specific gift. I was talking with a farmer in Lincolnshire a few years ago about prayer, and he said all the preachers he heard just now were urging people to pray and come to prayer meetings. "But," he said, "to my mind, desire has a good deal to do with praying, and praying is a slack business when desire is lacking." There must be desire that is focussed into petition. "Ye have not," says James, "because ye ask not" (James 4:2), and there are thousands of believers who have never definitely asked for the Blessing. God waits to give, but He is a God of discretion, and waits to be asked. "I the Lord have spoken it, and I will do it...For this, moreover will I be inquired of by the House of Israel to do it for them" (Ezek. 36:36-37).
We must be careful not to ask amiss. Nothing hinders faith so effectually as a wrong motive. "How can ye believe, which receive the glory of one another, and the glory that cometh from God ye ask not" (John 5:44). James traces the failure of prayer to the same source: "Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may spend it in your pleasures" (James 4:2). The pleasures may be lawful and laudable enough, but God will not give the glory of His Son to another, and the mission of the Spirit is to glorify the Son. If the power is sought for success in Christian service merely, it will not be given. Christ must be supreme in affection and aim.
The third step is to receive. When the consecration is complete the act of faith is quite simple. "Receive ye the Holy Ghost" (John 20:22) is the all inclusive command. It is the word used in the Upper Room when our Lord gave them the Bread that symbolized His Body-- "Take" (Matt. 26:26). There is a point at which asking becomes foolishness. Faith claims and takes. "Therefore I say unto you, all things whatsoever ye pray and ask for, believe that ye have received them, and ye shall have them" (See Mark 11:24). Take God at His Word.
The fourth step is the continuous life of obedience. Jesus Christ identifies faith with obedience, and in the Acts of the Apostles obedience is made the condition of receiving and retaining the Spirit. "And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey Him" (Acts 5:32). Abiding fullness depends upon obedience to the ever widening circle of illumination. The blessing of Pentecost may be lost, and it is always lost when obedience fails. The Spirit filled must be Spirit ruled. We are ministers of the Spirit through whom the supply is conveyed. Those who are greatly used of God have no monopoly of the Holy Ghost; they are mighty through God because the Spirit has a monopoly of them.
Again I say this extraordinary gift is for ordinary people. All may be filled as full and as truly as the hundred and twenty on the day of Pentecost. The conditions are the same for all: Repent, Ask, Receive, Obey.