Growing in Grace Studies: VII. A Word To Workers

Theology Girl Studies

GROWING IN GRACE STUDIES
Blogging with TheologyGirl & ReformedWomen
Fall 2009
BOOK: The Deeper Christian Life by Andrew Murray

 

VII. A WORD TO WORKERS

   Some time ago I read this expression in an old author: –“The first
   duty of a clergyman is humbly to ask of God that all that he wants done
   in his hearers should first be truly and fully done in himself.” These
   words have stuck to me ever since. What a solemn application this is to
   the subject that occupied our attention in previous chapters–the
   living and working under the fullness of the Holy Spirit! And yet, if
   we understand our calling aright, every one of us will have to say,
   That is the one thing on which everything depends. What profit is it to
   tell men that they may be filled with the Spirit of God, if, when they
   ask us, “Has God done it for you?” we have to answer, “No, He has not
   done it”? What profit is it for me to tell men that Jesus Christ can
   dwell within us every moment, and keep us from sin and actual
   transgression, and that the abiding presence of God can be our portion
   all the day, if I wait not upon God first to do it truly and fully day
   by day?

   Look at the Lord Jesus Christ; it was of the Christ Himself, when He
   had received the Holy Ghost from heaven, that John the Baptist said
   that “He would baptize with the Holy Ghost.” I can only communicate to
   others what God has imparted to me. If my life as a minister be a life
   in which the flesh still greatly prevails–if my life be a life in
   which I grieve the Spirit of God, I cannot expect but that my people
   will receive through me a very mingled kind of life. But if the life of
   God dwell in me, and I am filled with His power, then I can hope that
   the life that goes out from me may be infused into my hearers too.

   We have referred to the need of every believer being filled with the
   Spirit; and what is there of deeper interest to us now, or that can
   better occupy our attention, than prayerfully to consider how we can
   bring our congregations to believe that this is possible; and how we
   can lead on every believer to seek it for himself, to expect it, and to
   accept of it, so as to live it out? But, brethren, the message must
   come from us as a witness of our personal experience, by the grace of
   God. The same writer to whom I alluded, says elsewhere:– “The first
   business of a clergyman, when he sees men awakened and brought to
   Christ, is to lead them on to know the Holy Spirit.” How true! Do not
   we find this throughout the word of God? John the Baptist preached
   Christ as the “Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world;” we
   read in Matthew that he also said that Christ would “baptize with the
   Holy Ghost and with fire.” In the gospel by John, we read that the
   Baptist was told that upon Whom he would see the Spirit descending and
   abiding, He it was who would baptize with the Spirit. Thus John the
   Baptist led the people on from Christ to the expectation of the Holy
   Ghost for themselves. And what did Jesus do? For three years, He was
   with His disciples, teaching and instructing them; but when He was
   about to go away, in His farewell discourse on the last night, what was
   His great promise to the disciples? “I will pray the Father, and He
   shall give you another Comforter, even the Spirit of truth.” He had
   previously promised to those who believed on Him, that “rivers of
   living water” should flow from them; which the Evangelist explains as
   meaning the Holy Ghost: –“Thus spake He of the Spirit.” But this
   promise was only to be fulfilled after Christ “was glorified.” Christ
   points to the Holy Spirit as the one fruit of being glorified. The
   glorified Christ leads to the Holy Ghost. So in the farewell discourse,
   Christ leads the disciples to expect the Spirit as the Father’s great
   blessing. Then again, when Christ came and stood at the footstool of
   His heavenly throne, on the Mount of Olives, ready to ascend, what were
   His words? “Ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come
   upon you, and ye shall be witnesses unto Me.” Christ’s constant work
   was to teach His disciples to expect the Holy Spirit. Look through the
   Book of Acts, you see the same thing. Peter on the day of Pentecost
   preached that Christ was exalted, and had received of the Father the
   promise of the Holy Ghost; and so he told the people: “Repent and be
   baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye
   shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” So, when I believe in Jesus
   risen, ascended, and glorified, I shall receive the Holy Ghost.

   Look again, after Philip had preached the gospel in Samaria, men and
   women had been converted, and there was great joy in the city. The Holy
   Spirit had been working, but something was still wanting; Peter and
   John came down from Jerusalem, prayed for the converted ones, laid
   their hands upon them, “and they received the Holy Ghost.” Then they
   had the conscious possession and enjoyment of the Spirit; but till that
   came they were incomplete. Paul was converted by the mighty power of
   Jesus who appeared to Him on the way to Damascus; and yet he had to go
   to Ananias to receive the Holy Ghost.

   Then again, we read that when Peter went to preach to Cornelius, as he
   preached Christ, “the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the
   word,” which Peter took as the sign that these Gentiles were one with
   the Jews in the favour of God, having the same baptism.

   And so we might go through many of the Epistles, where we find the same
   truth taught. Look at that wonderful epistle to the Romans. The
   doctrine of justification by faith is established in the first five
   chapters. Then in the sixth and seventh, though the believer is
   represented as dead to sin and the law, and married to Christ, yet a
   dreadful struggle goes on in the heart of the regenerate man as long as
   he has not got the full power of the Holy Spirit. But in the eighth
   chapter, it is the “law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” that
   maketh us free from “the law of sin and death.” Then we are “not in the
   flesh, but in the Spirit,” with the Spirit of God dwelling in us. All
   the teaching leads up to the Holy Spirit.

   Look again at the epistle to the Galatians. We always talk of this
   epistle as the great source of instruction on the doctrine of
   justification by faith: but have you ever noticed how the doctrine of
   the Holy Spirit holds a most prominent place there? Paul asks the
   Galatian church: –“Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or
   by the hearing of faith?” It was the hearing of faith that led them to
   the full enjoyment of the Spirit’s power. If they sought to be
   justified by the works of the law, they had “fallen from grace.” “For
   we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.” And
   then at the end of the fifth chapter, we are told: –“If we live in the
   Spirit, let us walk in the Spirit.”

   Again, if we go to the epistles to the Corinthians, we find Paul asking
   the Christians in Corinth: –“Know ye not that your body is the temple
   of the Holy Ghost which is in you?” If we look into the epistle to the
   Ephesians, we find the doctrine of the Holy Spirit mentioned twelve
   times. It is the Spirit that seals God’s people; “Ye were sealed with
   the Holy Spirit of promise.” He illumines them; “That God may give the
   Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him.” Through
   Christ, both Jew and Gentile “have access by one Spirit unto the
   Father.” They “are builded together for an habitation of God through
   the Spirit.” They are “strengthened with might by His Spirit in the
   inner man.” With “all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering,
   forbearing one another in love,” they “endeavour to keep the unity of
   the Spirit in the bond of peace.” By not “grieving the Holy Spirit of
   God,” we preserve our sealing to the “day of redemption.” Being “filled
   with the Spirit,” we “sing and make melody in our hearts to the Lord,”
   and thus glorify Him. Just study these epistles carefully, and you will
   find that what I say is true–that the apostle Paul takes great pains
   to lead Christians to the Holy Ghost as the consummation of the
   Christian life.

   It was the Holy Ghost Who was given to the church at Pentecost; and it
   is the Holy Ghost Who gives Pentecostal blessings now. It is this
   power, given to bless men, that wrought such wonderful life, and love,
   and self-sacrifice in the early church; and it is this that makes us
   look back to those days as the most beautiful part of the Church’s
   history. And it is the same Spirit of power that must dwell in the
   hearts of all believers in our day to give the Church its true
   position. Let us ask God then, that every minister and Christian worker
   may be endued with the power of the Holy Ghost; that He may search us
   and try us, and enable us sincerely to answer the question, “Have I
   known the indwelling and the filling of the Holy Spirit that God wants
   me to have?” Let each one of us ask himself: “Is it my great study to
   know the Holy Ghost dwelling in me, so that I may help others to yield
   to the same indwelling of the Holy Spirit; and that He may reveal
   Christ fully in His divine saving and keeping power?” Will not every
   one have to confess: “Lord, I have all too little understood this; I
   have all too little manifested this in my work and preaching”? Beloved
   brethren, “The first duty of every clergyman is to humbly ask God that
   all that he wants done in his hearers may be first fully and truly done
   in himself.” And the second thing is his duty towards those who are
   awakened and brought to Christ, to lead them on to the full knowledge
   of the presence and indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

   Now, if we are indeed to come into full harmony with these two great
   principles, then there come to us some further questions of the very
   deepest importance. And the first questions is: –“Why is it that there
   is in the church of Christ so little practical acknowledgment of the
   power of the Holy Ghost?” I am not speaking to you, brethren, as if I
   thought you were not sound in doctrine on this point. I speak to you as
   believing in the Holy Ghost as the third person in the ever-blessed
   Trinity. But I speak to you confidently as to those who will readily
   admit that the truth of the presence and of the power of the Holy Ghost
   is not acknowledged in the church as it ought to be. Then the question
   is: Why is it not so acknowledged? I answer because of its
   spirituality. It is one of the most difficult truths in the Bible for
   the human mind to comprehend. God has revealed Himself in creation
   throughout the whole universe. He has revealed Himself in Christ
   incarnate–and what a subject of study the person, and word, and works
   of Christ form! But the mysterious indwelling of the Holy Spirit,
   hidden in the depths of the life of the believer, how much less easy to
   comprehend!

   In the early Pentecostal days of the church, this knowledge was
   intuitive; they possessed the Spirit in power. But soon after the
   spirit of the world began to creep into the church and mastered it.
   This was followed by the deeper darkness of formality and superstition
   in the Roman Catholic Church, when the spirit of the world completely
   triumphed in what was improperly styled the Church of Christ. The
   Reformation in the days of Luther restored the truth of justification
   by faith in Christ; but the doctrine of the Holy Ghost did not then
   obtain its proper place, for God does not reveal all truth at one time.
   A great deal of the spirit of the world was still left in the reformed
   churches; but now God is awakening the church to strive after a fuller
   scriptural idea of the Holy Spirit’s place and power. Through the
   medium of books, and discussions, and conventions many hearts are being
   stirred.

   Brethren, it is our privilege to take part in this great movement; and
   let us engage in the work more earnestly than ever. Let each of us say
   my great work is, in preaching Christ, to lead men to the acknowledging
   of the Holy Spirit, who alone can glorify Christ. I may try to glorify
   Christ in my preaching, but it will avail nothing without the Spirit of
   God. I may urge men to the practice of holiness and every Christian
   virtue, but all my persuasion will avail very little unless I help them
   to believe that they must have the Holy Ghost dwelling in them every
   moment enabling to live the life of Christ. The great reason why the
   Holy Spirit was given from heaven was to make Christ Jesus’ presence
   manifest to us. While Jesus was incarnate, His disciples were too much
   under the power of the flesh to allow Christ to get a lodgement in
   their hearts. It was needful, He said, that He should go away, in order
   that the Spirit might come; and He promised to those who loved Him and
   kept His commandments, that with the Spirit, He would come, and the
   Father would also come, and make Their abode with them. It is thus the
   Holy Spirit’s great work to reveal the Father and the Son in the hearts
   of God’s people. If we believe and teach men that the Holy Spirit can
   make Christ a reality to them every moment, men will learn to believe
   and accept Christ’s presence and power, of which they now know far too
   little.

   Then another question presents itself, viz, What are we to expect when
   the Holy Spirit is duly acknowledged and received? I ask this question,
   because I have frequently noticed something with considerable
   interest–and, I may say, with some anxiety. I sometimes hear men
   praying earnestly for a baptism of the Holy Spirit that He may give
   them power for their work. Beloved brethren, we need this power, not
   only for work, but for our daily life. Remember, we must have it all
   the time. In Old Testament times, the Spirit came with power upon the
   prophets and other inspired men; but He did not dwell permanently in
   them. In the same way, in the church of the Corinthians, the Holy
   Spirit came with power to work miraculous gifts, and yet they had but a
   small measure of His sanctifying grace. You will remember the carnal
   strife, envying, and divisions there were. They had gifts of knowledge
   and wisdom, etc.; but alas! Pride, unlovingness, and other sins sadly
   marred the character of many of them. And what does this teach us? That
   a man may have a great gift of power for work, but very little of the
   indwelling Spirit. In 1 Cor. xiii, we are reminded that though we may
   have faith that would remove mountains, if we have not love, we are
   nothing. We must have the love that brings the humility and
   self-sacrifice of Jesus. Don’t let us put in the first place the gifts
   we may possess; if we do, we shall have very little blessing. But we
   should seek, in the first place, that the Spirit of God should come as
   a light and power of holiness from the indwelling Jesus. Let the first
   work of the Holy Spirit be to humble you deep down in the very dust, so
   that your whole life shall be a tender, broken-hearted waiting on God,
   in the consciousness of mercy coming from above.

   Do not seek large gifts; there is something deeper you need. It is not
   enough that a tree shoots its branches to the sky, and be covered
   thickly with leaves; but we want its roots to strike deeply into the
   soil. Let the thought of the Holy Spirit’s being in us, and our hope of
   being filled with the Spirit, be always accompanied in us with a broken
   and contrite heart. Let us bow very low before God, in waiting for His
   grace to fill and to sanctify us. We do not want a power which God
   might allow us to use, while our inner part is unsanctified. We want
   God to give us full possession of Himself. In due time, the special
   gift may come; but we want first and now, the power of the Holy Ghost
   working something far mightier and more effectual in us than any such
   gift. We should seek, therefore, not only a baptism of power, but a
   baptism of holiness; we should seek that the inner nature be sanctified
   by the indwelling of Jesus, and then other power will come as needed.

   There is a third question: –Suppose some one says to me: –“I have
   given myself up to be filled with the Spirit, and I do not feel that
   there is any difference in my condition; there is no change of
   experience that I can speak of. What must I then think? Must not I
   think that my surrender was not honest?” No, do not think that. “But
   how then? Does God give no response?” Beloved, God gives a response,
   but that is not always within certain months or years. “What, then,
   would you have me do?” Retain the position you have taken before God,
   and maintain it every day. Say, “Oh God, I have given myself to be
   filled, here I am an empty vessel, trusting and expecting to be filled
   by Thee.” Take that position every day and every hour. Ask God to write
   it across your heart. Give up to God an empty, consecrated vessel that
   He may fill it with the Holy Spirit. Take that position constantly. It
   may be that you are not fully prepared. Ask God to cleanse you; to give
   you grace to separate from everything sinful–from unbelief or whatever
   hindrance there may be. Then take your position before God and say, “My
   God, Thou art faithful; I have entered into covenant with Thee for Thy
   Holy Spirit to fill me, and I believe Thou wilt fulfil it.” Brethren, I
   say for myself, and for every minister of the gospel, and for every
   fellow worker, man or woman, that if we thus come before God with a
   full surrender, in a bold, believing attitude, God’s promise must be
   fulfilled.

   If you were to ask me of my own experience, I would say this: –That
   there have been times when I hardly knew myself what to think of God’s
   answer to my prayer in this matter; but I have found it my joy and my
   strength to take and maintain my position, and say: “My God, I have
   given myself up to Thee. It was Thine own grace that led me to Christ;
   and I stand before Thee in confidence that Thou wilt keep Thy covenant
   with me to the end. I am the empty vessel; Thou art the God that
   fillest all.” God is faithful, and He gives the promised blessing in
   His own time and method. Beloved, for God’s sake, be content with
   nothing less than full health and full spiritual life. “Be filled with
   the Spirit.”

   Let me return now to the two expressions with which I began: “the first
   duty of every clergyman is humbly to ask of God that all that he wants
   done in those who hear his preaching may be first truly and fully done
   in himself.” Brethren, I ask you, is it not the longing of your hearts
   to have a congregation of believers filled with the Holy Ghost? Is it
   not your unceasing prayer for the Church of Christ, in which you
   minister, that the Spirit of holiness, the very Spirit of God’s Son,
   the spirit of unworldliness and of heavenly-mindedness, may possess it;
   and that the Spirit of victory and of power over sin may fill its
   children? If you are willing for that to come, your first duty is to
   have it yourself.

   And then the second sentence: –“the first duty of every clergyman is
   to lead those who have been brought to Christ to be entirely filled
   with the Holy Ghost.” How can I do my work with success? I can conceive
   what a privilege it is to be led by the Spirit of God in all that I am
   doing. In studying my Bible, praying, visiting, organizing, or whatever
   I am doing, God is willing to guide me by His Holy Spirit. It sometimes
   becomes a humiliating experience to me that I am unwatchful, and do not
   wait for the blessing; when that is the case, God can bring me back
   again. But there is also the blessed experience of God’s guiding hand,
   often through deep darkness, by His Holy Spirit. Let us walk about
   among the people as men of God, that we may not only preach about a
   book, and what we believe with our hearts to be true, but may preach
   what we are and what we have in our own experience. Jesus calls us
   witnesses for Him; what does that mean? The Holy Ghost brought down
   from heaven to men a participation in the glory and the joy of the
   exalted Christ. Peter and the others who spoke with Him were filled
   with this heavenly Spirit; and thus Christ spoke in them, and
   accomplished the work for them. O brethren, if you and I be Christ’s we
   should take our places and claim our privilege. We are witnesses to the
   truth which we believe–witnesses to the reality of what Jesus does and
   what He is, by His presence in our own souls. If we are willing to be
   such witnesses for Christ, let us go to our God; let us make confession
   and surrender, and by faith claim what God has for us as ministers of
   the gospel and workers in His service. God will prove faithful. Even at
   this very moment, He will touch our hearts with a deep consciousness of
   His faithfulness and of His presence; and He will give to every
   hungering, trustful one that which we continually need.

 Next Week:  CONSECRATION

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