Be Filled With The Spirit
By: Robert J. Wells
“And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the
Spirit.” – Eph. 5:18.
One of the most neglected, misunderstood, and misused Passages in the New Testament is the one which constitutes the text of this message. The negative part of the passage is not the source of the difficulty, for I have never heard of a Bible scholar nor any really born again person, for that matter, having the slightest difficulty in understanding Paul when he said: “Be not drunk with wine wherein is excess.” All are quite agreed that Paul means just what he says.
But when we approach the positive injunction in the passage we find ourselves on exceedingly controversial ground. It is not necessary, and this is not the place for us to go into a discussion of the “pros” and “cons” which enter into the various theological considerations of the passage, but it is necessary to point out that the church of Christ has suffered tragically, and the cause of evangelism and revival have received irreparable damage as the result of this controversy. I think that without doubt the greatest hindrance to the progress of revival in our generation has been the refusal on the part of conservative Bible teachers, evangelists, Bible institutes and seminaries to give due attention to the command of our text and to the doctrines that are associated with it.
I remember well an experience in my own life which illustrates the facts I am trying to present. A special ministers’ conference was being held in a church in Evanston some years ago. I had been pastor of a small church on the far southside of Chicago for only a few months at the time. I was invited, together with about forty other ministers, to attend. We sat in the choir loft, and one of the brethren sat at a table on the platform leading the discussion on the subject: “Is the Filling of the Spirit for Us Today?” Being only a young man with rather limited experience, not having preached very long, I did not feel that I was entitled to enter into the discussion. But I listened very carefully and drank in everything that was said. I recall that one man spoke something like this:
“The Bible says that the Spirit does not speak of Himself, and during this dispensation of the Spirit it is not God’s desire that we emphasize the Holy Spirit, but rather, that we emphasize Christ. In my ministry, I do not talk about the Holy Spirit, but I seek to emphasize the importance of the Christ-like life.”
He had not bothered to check the margin in his Bible for the correct translation of John 16:13. If he had, of course he would have discovered that the Bible actually says, “He shall not speak from Himself,” and not, “of Himself.” It seemed that a little thing like a mistranslation of a word did not bother him, nor did it seem to bother any of the others.
After this another brother stood and asked: “What about the testimony of men like D.L. Moody, Charles G. Finney, and R.A. Torrey, concerning the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives?”
Here was admittedly a difficult problem to handle, and so the discussion lagged somewhat for a few moments. Then one of the brethren arose and said:
“I’ve been perturbed about this matter for quite a long time. I have searched my heart to see if there was anything hindering me from having the same kind of an experience that these other men had, for I greatly desired to be filled with the Spirit and to have the power that these men had experienced. But I have come to this conclusion: I believe that God doesn’t always work in the same way. He uses different means and methods and men. I believe that God had a special work for these men to perform, and so He called them and gave them a special filling with the Holy Spirit to equip them for their special tasks. I do not feel that just because God did this for Moody, Wesley, Finney, Edwards, Torrey and others like them, He will do it for us today. I have come to the conclusion that the baptism of the Holy Spirit, or the filling of the Holy Spirit as these men experienced it, is only for those whom God calls and especially equips for particular and extraordinary tasks.”
For some reason or another the other men who were in attendance upon this discussion seemed to like this explanation of the problem. One after another they concurred with this suggestion, and so concluded that the ministry of the Spirit in filling men as in days gone by is limited in this day to those whom God specially selects for the purpose of accomplishing particular objectives. They agreed that if God has a special job for a man to do, then it may be that He will fill that man with the Holy Spirit as He filled Moody, Wesley, Finney, Torrey, and the many others whose names we do not have time to mention, but that we are not to be concerned about the matter and are most certainly not to presume to seek a similar blessing.
I well remember how I went from that place with a hungry heart. In my heart I was saying: “That’s a lie! That isn’t true! That’s a lie! That isn’t true!” I had felt that I did not have any right to speak in the conference, but I said, “I’m going to settle this thing for myself!” I went to my home, and I sat down with my Bible. I said: “Lord, I don’t believe that the conclusion of that conference was according to the teaching of Thy Word, and I am not willing to believe it. That kind of a conclusion makes You a respecter of persons, and my Bible says that You are not a respecter of persons. I believe that if You did something for D.L. Moody, You will do it for me if I am willing to meet the conditions that are laid down in Your Word. D.L. Moody had the same problems that we have, he had the same trials that we must face, his responsibilities were the same as ours, and his task was not different from ours. He was commissioned to preach the gospel to a dying world even as we have been. If he received special equipment for the task, then we are entitled to the same. And, anyway, Lord, Ephesians 5:18 still says, ‘Be filled with the Spirit.'”
As a result of that experience, I searched my Bible for what I believed to be the truth concerning this passage, and I want to present that to you in this message.
I. Some Logical Conclusions Concerning This Injunction
Consider first of all the author of the words, “Be filled with the Spirit.” If I were to ask you, “Who wrote these words?” your answer would no doubt be, “The apostle Paul.” But your answer would be incorrect. While Paul was the human instrument used, he was not the real author of the words. The Holy Spirit of God wrote them. These words are not of human but of divine origin. So, it is important as we consider this command, “Be filled with the Spirit,” that we realize it is the command of Almighty God! Since this is true, we had better give careful consideration, for no command from God is incidental! We do not have the authority to set it aside with a mere shrug, and say, “It’s a matter of controversy, so I won’t bother about giving it personal consideration.” Controversial or not, it is God’s command, and is just as important as any other command in the Bible, and we will be held responsible for our attitude concerning it just as we will be held responsible for heeding the authoritative warning, “Ye must be born again!”
Now, let me ask you a question. Would God give a command if He did not expect obedience to that command? Would He give a command simply for the purpose of taking up space in His blessed Word, or perhaps, for the purpose of creating controversy? Surely it is not logical to assume that God, the all-wise and the all-understanding God, would give a command to His children without-expecting them to obey it. Why should we treat this definite, clear, positive command of God in a different way than we treat His other commands? To ask the question is to reveal the foolishness that has so characterized our attitudes in this matter. It is quite obvious that since this is a command of God, He expects obedience. That means that God’s children are obligated to obey the solemn injunction: “Be filled with the
Since this is a command of God, and since God expects obedience to this command, what naturally follows is that we can obey that command. God would never give a command to which He expected obedience, if it were not possible for us to obey. We must face the fact that we are not only obligated to obey this command, but we have the ability or the enablement to obey it. We are able to respond to the injunction with our obedience.
There is another step in this process of logic which we must not overlook. Since it is true that God has given us the command, “Be filled with the Spirit,” since it is obviously true that He expects obedience, and likewise, that we are able to obey; I think it naturally follows that we should obey! We are without excuse! Those who have been emphasizing this great truth and spending much of their time urging Christians to face up to their responsibility and to be filled with the Spirit have been the subjects of much ridicule and mocking. They have been laughed and scoffed at in contempt. But beloved, what does this blessed Book have to say? After all, that is what counts. God’s Word says: “Be filled with the Spirit.” How many of us are facing these facts and obeying this part of our “marching orders”?
Let us now consider one other thing. If I as a child of God am obligated to be filled with the Spirit of God, there is another inescapable fact that I must face. It is a fact that follows just as surely as night follows day and day follows night: we can and should know whether or not we have obeyed the injunction and whether or not we have been filled with the Holy Spirit. We are faced with a definite command, and we must have a definite reaction to that command. It is either obedience or disobedience. There is no middle road in this. Have you been filled with the Spirit? We have no right to hedge, no right to evade the issue. The command is so plain and so simple that there is not any room for excuse. We cannot truthfully say that we didn’t understand.
Now we are ready to take one more step in the direction of logical conclusions concerning this injunction. Since this is a command of God, since God expects obedience to His command, since we have the ability to obey, since we know that it naturally follows that we should obey, since we can and should know whether or not we have obeyed, I think it is not at all presumptuous, but rather definitely in order that we should proceed to the final step, which is: we can be so definite about it as to give thanks to God for having been filled with the Spirit!
We love to sing the chorus by Seth Sykes:
Thank You, Lord, for saving my soul,
Thank You, Lord, for making me whole;
Thank You, Lord, for giving to me
Thy great salvation, so rich and free.
I said, “We love to sing it,” and we do. But, why? Because we know that we have been born again. We have accepted the truth of the gospel, God’s wonderful salvation has been appropriated by faith, and so we thrill at the opportunity to express our thanks in this great chorus. My friends, I believe it should be even so in the matter of the filling of the Holy Spirit. I believe that we can know that we have been filled with the Holy Spirit even to the point of coming to God in the quiet of our prayer closets and saying, “Thank You, Lord, for filling me with the Holy Spirit of God!”
There is a need in America today which is pre-eminent; it is a need that transcends all other needs; it is the need of men and women who have been called of God into the service of God to know that they have been filled with the Holy Spirit of God. They need to know it with such confident assurance that they will get down on their knees in heartfelt praise and gratitude to God for the purpose of pouring out their thanksgiving for being filled with the Holy Spirit. That is how definite I believe the filling of the Holy Spirit to be. I think anything short of this is a crime against the Word of God! Without danger of being contradicted, I remind you that in days gone by, the men who have been used mightily of God in the salvation of souls have been men who believed, experienced, preached and taught the very facts I am presenting to you just now!
Having considered these logical implications of the injunction, let us now give consideration to
The Actual Meaning of the Passage
Our Authorized Version is inadequate in the translation of this particular passage. It reads: “Be filled with the Spirit.” However, in the original it is not just that way. A literal and somewhat liberal translation of the passage clears away many of the problems which have entered into the controversies relative to it. Actually, the words of Paul indited by the Spirit of God are: “Be ye continually being filled up to the brim with the Holy Spirit.” This clear translation should settle the matter once and for all for those who talk about a filling never again to be repeated, and for those who talk about a “second blessing” apart from any future or further blessings. The passage clearly teaches the very opposite of this.
In considering the actual meaning of the text I would like for you to think with me concerning three very important matters: the crisis filling, the process filling, and the problem involved.
1. The Crisis Filling
Some time ago I came upon the words of a British Bible teacher, Rev. W.W. Martin, whose message on the Holy Spirit was published in the 1938 English Keswick Report. He said:
“The filling of the Holy Spirit is a crisis which becomes a process.”
That is consistent with what this passage actually teaches and what the Greek demands. I am well aware that there are many who will immediately agree with me when I speak of the process and suggest that there are many infillings. But these same people are losing out on the blessings of this great doctrine so far as practical experience is concerned simply because they are not willing to consider the crisis as the supreme necessity!
I feel that we must lay a great deal more stress on the fact that we are commanded to be filled “up to the brim” with the Holy Spirit! We are not told that we must begin a process but that we are to be filled, and then we are told that this filling must be retained. Every Christian who would be in the center of God’s will must sometime come to the place where he will face up to the command that he be filled with the Holy Spirit. This means that he must come to a crisis in his life. It also means that he must not be content until he has come to the place where he is able to say, “Thank Thee, Lord, for filling me with Thy Holy Spirit.” It means that he will come into a definite experience, a crucial, crisis experience when he will have received the filling of the Holy Spirit.
I believe it is something that manifests itself in a very definite way. I am not suggesting that the one who is filled with the Spirit will necessarily be conscious of an overwhelming emotional reaction, nor am I contending that there will necessarily be any kind of physical manifestation. But I am satisfied that there will be an inner evidence bringing confirmation of the completed transaction. Then, without question, there will be the inevitable results that accompany the Spirit-filled life! It is the lack of these evidences that casts such reflection upon the testimonies of so many of those who make profession of being filled. Looking back into the pages of history we read the testimonies of those who wrought mightily for God, and almost without exception they bear witness to the necessity of the crisis experience of which I am speaking. Wesley was filled with the Holy Spirit,and he knew it! Count Zinzendorf knew it! Finney knew it! Jonathan Edwards knew it! Brainerd knew it! Greenleaf knew it! Torrey knew it!
D.L. Moody was preaching to great crowds of people and was enjoying an unusual measure of success, a greater success than most preachers in our day are having. But there came that night when those two godly women called his attention to his need of the filling of the Holy Spirit. Then, one glorious day, as a result of the prayers of these women and the searching of his own heart, D.L. Moody was filled with God’s Holy Spirit in such an unusual way that he could hardly live. Moody testified that “from that day on my ministry was different.” Instead of having a few people coming to Christ for salvation, they came by the hundreds and by the thousands, and the power of God was upon his ministry in a tremendous way. There was never any question on his part as to the reason why God so marvelously blessed him. Without hesitation he constantly declared that it was the result of, as he called it, the “baptism of the Spirit.”
It is this kind of definite experience, definite in its transforming power, for which I am pleading and which I believe to be absolutely necessary if we are to know what is actually meant by the filling of the Holy Spirit. It is involved in the passage and cannot be overlooked!
2. The Process, the Continual Filling
I have emphasized the need for the crisis, or the initial filling; but I do not want to give the impression that I consider the one initial filling to be sufficient to meet the requirements of our text. As we have seen, our text demands, ‘Be continually being filled.’ That means, as this British Bible teacher put it, “The crisis becomes a process.” The one crucial, crisis, initial filling is of supreme importance, and there can be no process without it. But that one filling is to issue forth in a series of continued fillings. God is desirous of our being filled and being kept filled with the Holy Spirit as a process that will not end until we stand in His presence and likeness!
Now, I do not want to be misunderstood here. There are some who will think
I am suggesting that it is necessary to have a crisis experience of being filled with the Spirit, and that this is to be followed with an emptying out, a complete emptying out, and that this order is to be repeated throughout the Christian’s lifetime. No, that is not what God expects. He is saying, ‘I want you to be filled with the Spirit, and I want you to be filled constantly, continually, completely!’ It is not the idea of filling a glass of water and emptying it out, and filling it again. It is the idea of putting the glass of water under a faucet, filling it, and keeping the glass under the running faucet so that the glass continues to be filled even to overflowing. That is what God wants for you and for me and for everyone of His children. He wants to fill us with His Holy Spirit, and He wants to keep us filled day by day, year in and year out, so that “rivers of living water” may flow from us to a dry and thirsty world.
3. The Problem Involved
Having considered briefly the fact that this experience of being filled with the Spirit is a crisis which becomes a process, we can now turn for just a moment to the consideration of the problem involved.
Wherever I have spoken on the subject of this message, I have inevitably been aware of the fact that many people were perplexed with one particular question. It is this: “Since the Holy Spirit is a Person, and since He already indwells us as believers, how can we have more of Him?”
It is because of the problem involved in this question that many teachers have given the suggestion, “It is not that we should have more of Him, but rather, that He should have more of us,” as the final solution of the entire matter. As a consequence, they go up and down the land telling people that they are not to pray for the Spirit, nor for more of the Spirit, but they are to yield more of themselves, and having done that they are just simply to accept the filling by faith. These folk insist that if we have met the requirement of yieldedness, all that remains is for us to believe, and having done so, God will not deny our faith, but is really obligated to fill us. So we are to take it for granted that although there is no particular manifestation of the filling, the transaction has been completed nevertheless. It is because of this kind of teaching that many people make profession of this filling when there is an utter absence of evidence to support their contention because there is a total absence of the results that normally follow a Spirit-filled life.
The problem then is: “Considering the fact that the Holy Spirit is a Person, and that, as such, He is already indwelling the believer, how can the believer have more of Him?”
Dr. W.E. Biederwolf said in his book, A Help to the Study of the Holy Spirit: “To attempt such an answer as just indicated is for the finite to presume a knowledge sufficient to clarify the most infinite mystery, – the omnipresence of a Divine Personality.” Again, in another place, he writes: “We have thought long here, but have been left always as at the outset. The subject deals with Infinity, and while many have made statements conformable as they believe to Scripture, it is satisfying to note that not in a single volume is any attempt made to deal with this inscrutable mystery with a view to making it wholly intelligible to the finite mind; we are in the presence of the Infinite, and it becomes us to say, ‘Speak Lord, for Thy servant heareth,’ and to be satisfied with what He says.
“This most precious bestowal we have been accustomed to explain by figurative expressions; indeed, we have been taught in this by the inspired writers themselves. Even baptism and filling are figurative as touching any relation the Holy Spirit can bear to an individual. We speak, as indeed does the Word, of His filling us, clothing us, being poured upon us, etc.; all of which are accommodations to the finite. All the definitions in the world can never explain what God is, and no more can any amount of philosophizing explain how by His Spirit He enters into man, regenerates him or operates within him; this is a mystery more infinite than life itself, but we have not only the postulates of reason that it may be so, but the Word of God and our own experience that it is so, which is more powerful evidence than anything metaphysics could ever bring to us.”
F.B. Meyer said, “Before undertaking any definite work for God, be sure you are equipped by a new reception of the Holy Ghost.”
Andrew Murray said, “God has not given His Spirit in the sense of parting with Him.”
Adderi to these witnesses is the testimony of the great scholar, Bishop Handley Moule, who said while commenting on Ephesians 1:17, “We are not to think of the ‘giving’ of the Spirit as an isolated deposit of what, once given, is now locally in possession.”
The expressions of these men, (and we could quote from many others) warn us that we are to remember that the Holy Spirit is in Heaven as well as in the believer, and that He is at the same time in every believer. We are dealing with the mystery wonderful attribute of the Holy Spirit (as of each member of the Trinity), the mystery of omnipresence.
There is no doubt at all that the answer to the question will still be lacking so far as complete satisfaction is concerned. Yet in the light of the things we have just considered and in the light of some references in the Word of God, we can be satisfied that in some mysterious, wonderful, and perhaps amazing sense, we can have more of the Spirit.
Here we should notice that in John 3:34 we are informed that “God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him”; in Acts 2:17,18, Luke speaks of the Spirit as having been ‘poured out’; then those who had been filled once are spoken of in Acts as having been filled again and again. Since the Scripture uses such terminology, since the New Testament writers, inspired by the Holy Spirit, spoke in such manner, why should we hesitate for a moment to believe that it is possible in some wonderful way to receive an additional ‘measure,’ an additional ‘outpouring,’ or an additional ‘filling’ with the Holy Spirit?
Once again, we have the same old quibbling about theological terminology which has hindered so many from enjoying the blessings and benefits which come from a wholehearted reception of the teaching of God’s Word. I say, away with all doubts, away with all questionings concerning this matter, and receive the testimony of the New Testament writers, the testimony of the eminent Bible teachers I have quoted, the testimony of God’s great giants of days gone by who have moved entire continents for God, the testimony of contemporary Christian leaders who are winning multitudes to Christ! With complete unanimity they agree that, although we are dealing with the infinite in the consideration of this problem, and although our finite minds find it difficult to comprehend the infinite, we may come into the realization of what it is to be filled with the Spirit even in the sense, so to speak, of receiving more of a Person who already indwells us since we are born again children of God!
III. To Whom the Injunction Is Given
Having seen that Ephesians 5:18 teaches a definite and a continuous experience of being filled with the Spirit, it is necessary for us to consider to whom this injunction is given. I think that as we consider what the Bible teaches in this regard we will be faced with inescapable evidence that will compel us to admit that this passage is addressed to all those who have experienced the new birth through faith in Christ Jesus. Please notice that Paul speaks to the Ephesians in chapter 1, verse 13, as follows: “In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise.” Paul tells us here that the members of the Ephesian church to whom the letter was addressed had “heard the word of truth,” and “trusted” in Christ. Then, he adds, “After that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise.” There can be no denial of the fact that here Paul is addressing born again believers who had been indwelt by the Holy Spirit.
In chapter 4, verse 30, Paul writes to these same Christians, saying: “And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.” So once again, he emphasizes the fact that he is writing to Spirit-sealed, Spirit-indwelt Christians.
Then in Ephesians 5:18 he commands these same born again Christians who have been indwelt by the Spirit to “be filled with the Spirit.” It is not an accident that the command comes to us in this setting. God wanted us to know that it is not enough to be born again, not enough to be indwelt or sealed by the Spirit; He wanted to forcefully impress upon our minds the necessity of being filled with the Spirit.
To those of you who are attending this great conference at Winona Lake, I say, “Thank God, that you have been born again.” I rejoice with you in the fact of the new birth, and that you have been and are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. But I call upon you to believe God when He says you must be filled with the Holy Spirit, and I urge you to give solemn attention to this positive command to Christians! If you do not, there is coming a day when you will stand before the Lord Jesus Christ at the judgment seat of Christ, and you will have to give an account of the attitude you have taken
concerning Ephesians 5:18. When Jesus stands before you and says, “How about it? What have you done about being filled with the Holy Spirit?” in that day there will be no questions, there will be no controversies aired.
In that day there will be no excuses that will stand before Him. In that day you will face the facts as they are! Then you will say, “I believed it, and I obeyed it,” or, you will say, “I set it aside, I paid no attention to it, I disobeyed it.”
My friends, I believe that every child of God who should be filled with the Holy Spirit, who is obligated to be filled with the Spirit, and who has disobeyed this divine injunction, no matter what the reason for disobeying may be, will face the penalty of God in that day and the loss of reward, to say the least!
IV. The Results of Being Filled With the Spirit
Some of you will say, “How can I know whether or not I have been filled with the Holy Spirit?” The Bible has not left us ignorant concerning this all-important question. If you will read the verses which immediately follow our text, you will find at least part of the answer.
1. Spirit-Filled Christians Are Happy Christians
You will notice that there is a semicolon after the word “Spirit” in verse 18. Read on, and you will notice that Paul says in verse 19: “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” That is one way you can know you are filled with the Holy Spirit. You folk who go around with a long face all of the time, you who are grumbling, grouching, groaning, murmuring and complaining most of the time; you will get over that those things will go out of your life when the Spirit of God comes in to take control. You be filled with the Spirit of God, and you will have a song in your heart. You will start to sing as Tindley does if you get the Spirit of God in His fulness operating in your heart and life. It is not just a matter of singing with your voice, it is a matter of having a song in your heart so that it is there in the morning when you awaken and all day long; it is there when you go to bed at night, and in the middle of the night. There is a song in your heart because the Spirit of God is there. He takes away the sadness. He takes away the gloom. He takes away all bitterness. He takes away strife, envy, animosity. He takes out of your heart all those things which hinder you from living a victorious and happy life.
2. Spirit-Filled Christians Are Thankful Christians
Then, in verse 20 God says: “Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Now, you would expect that of a person who was filled with the Holy Spirit, wouldn’t you? We all know that Romans 8:28 is in the Book, and we all like to quote it. “And we know that all things work together for good….” But when some of us preachers wake up Sunday morning and see the clouds, we begin to murmur and grumble because of the clouds we see in the sky, for we just know they are going to affect our service. Something happens in our lives to upset us a little bit, and what do we do? We go around groaning and complaining in spite of Romans 8:28. When you are filled with the Holy Spirit and are letting Him dominate and control your life, you will not be criticizing God’s way of doing things. You will be giving thanks for all things, always without exception, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. You will be a thankful Christian in addition to being a happy Christian.
3. Spirit-Filled Christians Are Humble Christians
There is another point here, for the thought is not completed until in verse 21. Then the rest of the chapter continues and amplifies in detail what has been presented in verse 21. “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.” Do you know what that means? It means that you will be a humble Christian. It means that instead of saying, “I want to be up there, I want this consideration, I want you to think about me” – instead of thinking of yourself more highly than you ought to think, you will be a humble Christian, down on your face before God. In the spirit of humility you will be thinking of others, you will be esteeming yourself less than others, you will recognize your proper position, and you will respect those in authority. If this congregation went from here as happy, thankful, humble Christians; if that spirit got contagious and spread out into all of the churches that are represented here today, we would have revival all over America, because the folks who are pointing their fingers at you and calling you hypocrites would not have the right nor the authority to do it any more. They would have no evidence to substantiate their claims. You would live as a Christian and you would act as a Christian. That is what we need! You get the filling of the Holy Spirit in your life, and you will be transformed by grace divine to such an extent that people all around you will know it, will thank God for it and will say, “That’s what I want! That’s what I want!”
A little Syrian girl was saved in Wichita, Kansas. She did not know very much. She was not very bright, but she was walking along the street singing:
To be like Jesus, to be like Jesus,
All I ask – to be like Him.
All through life’s journey from earth to Glory,
And I ask – to be like Him.
She did not have any better sense than to sing it out loud in public. That is more than most of us would do. But as she was singing it there on the main street, a woman came up, tapped her on the shoulder and asked, “What are you singing? Sing it again!” So she sang for the woman the same song again. The tears came down the face of that woman as she said, “I’d like to be like Jesus. Could you tell me how? More than anything else in my heart I want to be like Jesus. Can you tell me how?”
The little girl thought for a minute, then said, “Well, all I know is John 3:16: ‘For God so loved the world, (and that means you) that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever (and that means you) believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’ That’s for you.”
The woman said, “All right, can we pray?”
The little girl looked around (it was the main street, and she did not know what to do), but she said, “All right.”
The two of them got down on their knees on the main street in Wichita, Kansas, and the little sixteen year old Syrian girl led that woman into the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
The world is looking for people like Jesus, and if you will only see it, and live it, you will win them to Christ.
Spirit-Filled Christians Are Powerful Christians
If you are filled with the Holy Spirit you will not only be a happy, thankful, and humble Christian, but you will be a powerful Christian. In John 7:37-39 we read:
“In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me. and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given, because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)”
This passage says that when the Holy Spirit is given, the one who believes on Christ will have a wonderful experience, the experience of having rivers of living water flow from his innermost being. Where are the rivers of living water? Do you see them anywhere? Wherever I go I find dry and barren, arid country, spiritually speaking. Oh, my heart ached this morning when I asked those who had not won a soul in at least a month to stand to their feet, and when the majority, the overwhelming majority, of those who attended stood to their feet! That is a shame! It is a crime against our fellowmen who are lost and damned for eternity! The reason this condition exists is because so many have not obeyed the injunction of God to be filled with the Spirit, and the living waters are not flowing from them. Oh, if the waters were pouring forth in streams and rivers from your life and from mine, people could not help but drink of them and live. Our lives would be powerful in bringing the water of life to a thirsty world!
In Acts 1:8 we read: “But ye shall receive power…” Notice the word power. Power! POWER! Do you know where there is any power today? Someone says that the advent of the Holy Spirit took place at Pentecost, and that when He came Christians were filled, and that is all that was necessary. If that is so, then show me the power to prove it! Someone says, “I am filled with the Holy Spirit.” I say, “Show me the power to prove it.”
“But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”
The reason we are not successful witnesses is because we do not have the power. The reason we have no power is because we have not obeyed Ephesians 5:18 to be filled with the Holy Spirit. That is what we need more than anything else in the world.
V. How to Be Filled With the Holy Spirit
That is our next point for consideration. Some of you ask, “Preacher, what can I do about it? How can I be filled with the Holy Spirit?”
That is a message in itself, but let me give you some suggestions.
1. Get Thirsty
The first thing is to get thirsty, to desire to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Perhaps, some of you do not want the filling of the Holy Spirit because you are afraid it will clean you up, rid you of your dirty, filthy habits and sins. It will send you forth to be honest men and women again. It will make you live sacrificial lives. It will make you put God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit, and lost dying souls before yourself, your family, and your home. You do not like that! It might make a “fanatic” out of you.Unless you desire, unless you are thirsty for it to such an extent that you will be willing to pay the price whatever it may be, you will never know what it means to be filled with the Spirit! My friends, as far as I am concerned, if being filled with the Holy Spirit of God makes fanatics of people, then God give us more fanatics!
2. Believe That God Can Do It
After you have desired to be filled, then believe that God can do it. Believe the Book. Believe that God meant what He said, and that because He is God He is also able to fulfill His promise.
Obey the Lord! In Acts 5:32 Peter declares, “And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.”
Someone says, “That’s just for salvation.” That is absurd! Christ does not tell me to go out into the world and tell men, “Obey Me, and you will be saved.” Rather, Christ tells me to preach, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” But He says that those who want to be filled with the Holy Spirit, those who would receive the power of God’s Spirit, must obey Him! Obey Ephesians 5:18. Obey the other Scriptures, such as I John 1:9 and similar passages, which tell us that if we regard iniquity in our hearts He will not hear us, which tell us that in order to have forgiveness and cleansing from sin we must confess our sins.
But this is not all. Maybe this will shock you, but listen carefully to me. You can thirst all you want, you can believe all you want, you can obey all you want, but unless that obedience includes this one matter of praying to be filled with the Spirit, you will never be filled with the Holy Spirit. I believe that everything hinges on it. Turn, please, in your Bibles to Luke 11:13 and put all prejudices out of your hearts and minds. I will read it to you.
“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?”
We need to pray for the Holy Spirit today! In John 20:21 Jesus said to the disciples, “As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.” Then in verse 22 we read, “He breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost.” Some people say, “Nothing happened then.” Some people say, “That was prophetic.” Others say, “That was a foretaste.” Still others say, “That was typical.” But what right do they have to draw those conclusions? When Jesus spoke those words He was the glorified Son of God, and something happened when He spoke them. After that event, in Luke 24:49, He told the disciples: “Tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued (or clothed upon) with power from on high.” Not “until ye be indwelt by the Spirit of God,” not “until the Spirit of God comes,” but ‘until ye be clothed upon with power from on high.’
Some people do not like that word tarry. You do not have to use it if you do not want to, but God wants us to wait on Him concerning this matter. You know why so many of you have trouble with sin in your lives? It is because you do not take time to tarry before the Lord. You would begin all of a sudden to think of a multitude of things you had not thought of before if you would get down on your face before the Lord and confess all of the sins you know about, and then if you would say, “Lord, if I have sinned that much, I must have sinned more. What have I said that was sinful? What have I thought that was sinful? What have I done that was sinful? Oh, Spirit of God, reveal my sinfulness.” Words, thoughts, and deeds that have grieved the Spirit of God that need to be cleansed and forgiven by His grace will be brought to mind as you wait upon the Lord. You are not going to have victory in your life until they are forgiven. Just as you need to wait upon God in the matter of getting rid of the sins in your life, getting victory over those sins, just so it is for the blessings.
The men who have prayed and who have worked mightily for God have not been the men who said, “Now, Lord, I need five hundred dollars, give it to me. You know my need, You love me, You have kept me, You are for me. Thank You. Goodnight.” The men who have gone out and done mighty things for God have not been those who have said, “Lord, You love sinners more than I do. You are more interested in them than I am. Your Word is powerful, and it will not return unto You void; and so I’ll give them the Word, and Lord, You take care of the rest of it.” No sir! The men who have wrought wonderfully for God have been the kind who, though sick and broken hearted and ready to die in some cases, got out in the midst of the woods and in thick snow when it was below zero weather, poured out their hearts to God and said, “Lord, I have to have the victory, even though it kills me!” That is the way Brainerd won. They have been the kind of men who said, “Give me Scotland or
I die!” That is the way John Knoxwon. They have been the kind of men who said, “Lord, I’ll not be denied,” so stayed on their knees before God until things happened!
People have been telling us that what I am preaching is not true. They have been saying, “Don’t preach that doctrine anymore, just emphasize the grace of God.” As a result of it, our institutions have gone over to the devil and multitudes upon multitudes of souls have gone to Hell. A spiritual dearth has swept over the whole land and our country has become like the dry desert. Institutions that used to be flaming fires of evangelism for God have burned out. All they can do now is teach theology. Men who used to be on fire have cooled off, and they cannot get a baker’s dozen out to hear them preach on Sunday night. Churches that used to be the centers of evangelism cannot even hold their own.
When I confronted the pastor of the First Baptist Church of a certain city with his lack of support of a union meeting I was then conducting, he said to me, “I’m not interested in that sort of thing. I’m not interested in mass evangelism.” A few days later I learned from one of his deacons that on the previous Wednesday night they had had two people out to prayer meeting. That following Sunday night there was an attendance of fifteen hundred people in our tent revival. I said to the audience, “I would like to know something. How many of you were saved in your homes?” Six people stood to their feet. I said, “How many of you were saved in Sunday School?” Twelve people stood. I said, “How many of you were saved in a mid-week prayer meeting?” Three or four stood to their feet. I then said, “How many of you were saved in a Spirit-filled evangelistic meeting?” Almost the whole audience then stood to their feet. Then I said: “Do you folks want to know why the pastor of the First Baptist Church will not co-operate in this meeting? He says that he does not believe in this type of evangelism, but I tell you the actual reason is that he is just a plain fool.”
Any man who can face the facts that I have just placed before you, proving that the people who fill our churches have come through evangelistic fires, and say, “I don’t believe in that type of evangelism,” is just a plain fool! The thing that has killed, emptied, and ruined our churches and our land has been a refusal to follow the Spirit of God.
But, listen to me. Do you know what has happened? The tide has been turned. The thing is changed. Life is being rekindled, evangelistic flames are burning brightly again, and we have “Philadelphia for Christ,” “Los Angeles for Christ,” “Christ for Cleveland,” “Christ for Buffalo,” “Christ” for these other major cities up and down the land. Hundreds of thousands of people are coming to God. It is no accident either that at the same time “Youth for Christ” sweeps over the nation on Saturday nights, that hundreds of thousands are listening to the gospel instead of playing with the devil’s crowd, and multitudes are being born again. We have a conference on evangelism like this, representing almost every state in the Union, with men and women coming with burdened, broken, bleeding hearts, and finding joy, peace, and satisfaction, coming to shake my hand and saying, “I’m going back with new life and new fire, with new determination, and may God help me to kindle the flames in the home church.”
Why is all of this happening? Because once again men are recognizing the need for being filled with the Spirit and are working in the might of His power! Here is a tremendous fact. If you will study the history of revivals, you will learn that without one single, solitary exception, those who have been mightily used of God have believed the truth I am preaching this morning. If you will go back just a few years to the close of the ministries of Torrey, Chapman, Billy Sunday, and Paul Rader, then if you will search this land over up to the present day, you will discover that great dearth has come as a result of a lack of preaching on this particular subject. But now with a renewed emphasis of this doctrine, the situation is rapidly changing. Cast your eyes about and listen to the voice of those who know. Ask Jesse Hendley, Hyman Appelman, Bob Jones, Dr. Shelhamer, Dr. Hankins, John Rice, and these other men. They will tell you that what I say is true. Thank God, we are waking up and once again we are witnessing revival blessings all over the land!
I close now with this illustration. I heard Jesse Hendley give it in a church of which I was the pastor a number of years ago. He said: “There are three kinds of Christians. They can be illustrated by three kinds of boats. There is the rowboat Christian; he is pulling with might and main at his oars as he tries to row up the stream, and he makes some progress. It is pretty hard going against the current. Although he makes some progress, he gets all worn out. He rests at his oars a little bit. But when he has recuperated and has sufficient strength to go on, he starts to row again, when 10 and behold, he discovers that he is farther down the stream than when he first began. There are a lot of Christians like that, struggling, struggling, in the energies of the flesh to get the job done.”
Then he said, “There is the sailboat Christian. When the wind of revival is blowing, the sails are put up to the wind. My! how they lift! The boat just sails along. For a time everything is wonderful, just sailing along on a surge of emotionalism. But when the wind stops blowing, when the revival is over, the boat stops, and just drifts along, and they get down in the dumps, and do not amount to anything much for God until the wind of revival starts blowing again.”
Then he said: “There is another kind. There is the steamboat Christian. The steamboat does not care about the current, it does not care about the wind, because the fire and water make its motors go, turns the propellers, and it moves right on the same one day as another, weather or no weather, wind or no wind!”
The water of the Word of God, heated by the flame of the Holy Spirit of God, makes a Christian a “steamboat Christian,” one who can plow on when the winds are blowing favorably or adversely, when the current is against him or with him. It makes not a bit of difference, he goes on, and on, and on for God. That is what we need. We have the Word of God; don’t ever let it go. But now, take the Spirit of God, let Him become a flame in your soul as He fills you. Then you will go forth under steam to do business for God. May God grant it for every child of His in these dark days!
(The above material was published by “How to Have Revival”, Sword of the Lord Publishers, 1946.)
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