The Way to Pentecost
Chapter 20: The Way Into the Blessing
There are many who have not because they ask not, and there are others who ask and have not because they ask amiss. There are many who miss the Blessing because they do not seek it, but there are those who seek and do not find. There are believers who are deeply concerned about the failure and disappointment of their religious experience and their lack of effectiveness and power. They yearn for a fullness of Life in Christ that never comes. They pray, and nothing happens. They seek, and somehow always miss the way. They cry unto the Lord in secret, and that which seems to come so easily to others does not come to them. They confess their need, and seek the prayers and counsel of others. They obey injunctions, repeat avowals of faith, and claim according to instructions, but the emotion passes and all is as before with the added disappointment, and another dart has been added to the quiver of the enemy. It may be as real and as easy to others as they affirm, but to them there is no answering reality to their faith, and they lose heart. They miss the blessing, but they cannot give it up. It must be there, for others have it; and it must be for them, for with God there is no respect of persons. So periodically there come a sense of hunger and a deep want of soul, and again the quest begins, and again the way is missed.
What Blessing?Almost every day I get letters from people asking the way into the Blessing. They probably represent a great host, and I am going to try to help them, even though I must begin with the confession that my own plea for help brought me nothing but confusion. I was concerned to know what was the blessing that I knew I needed. Witnesses failed under cross examination, and sent me books to supply what they could not give. The books were as confusing as the witnesses, but there was no doubt that they had something I had not, and I was aware that the something they had would make all the difference to me if I could find it. Somehow I was led to leave all books and interpreters, and give myself up to a search of the Scriptures, believing that God would make the truth known to me.
Our Lord prayed that we might be sanctified by the Truth, and I expected to find in the Scriptures the way into the Blessing. Even there the way was not easy to find, for I was seeking an explanation rather than an experience. There were no definitions, no explanations, and no interpretation of processes. My search was for a practical solution of a work wherein I had failed. I had energy, and lacked power. I had ideas, and I had words of my own and other people's, but there came no convicting, converting result. The blessing I sought was power. The blessing God had for me began farther in and deeper down. Power was conditioned. The Truth that sanctifies begins with cleansing of heart and motive, a life surrendered to the Divine Will, and a personality possessed by and filled with the Holy Spirit, and I very nearly missed the way.
The Way in the WordThe way I came is the way I know. That is why I send every seeker to the Word of God, in dependence upon the Holy Spirit of Truth. The method looks hopeless, but it works, because the Spirit is promised to guide us into all Truth; and He does. In the light of the Word of God, a seeker should know what it is he seeks. The Blessing is known by many names, and it is often confused with other experiences of Grace. It is known as the Pentecostal Gift of the Spirit, as Entire Sanctification, Christian Perfection, and Perfect Love, according as it is interpreted in the terms of the Law, the Sanctuary, or the Home. The Scriptures are not written to exempt from thinking, and there are certain facts that need to be adjusted and accounted for. There are believers in the New Testament who had received the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and there were those who had not. There were those who were born again and yet carnal, and there were those who were sanctified. Some were addressed as Perfect, and others who had not been made Perfect. There is a Perfection that is definite, decisive, and determinate; and there is a Perfection that is progressive, disciplinary, and ethical; and there was an experience by which believers passed from one order to the other. It is an experience of Grace, in which the nature is cleansed from all sin. The carnal mind, the body of sin, is done way. That is the Bible word for what happens -- sin is done away. The fullness of the indwelling Spirit sanctifies and quickens every natural faculty, and bestows gifts that are peculiarly His own. Love is made perfect, and the sanctified will is energized by Divine Power.
The Way of FaithSalvation from first to last is of Grace through Faith. We are Justified by Faith, Sanctified by Faith, Spirit-filled by Faith. There are those who think we are saved by Faith and made perfect by philosophy; and there are those who imagine we are justified by Faith and sanctified by Works. That is why so many miss the way. This second experience of Grace is the Gift of God through Faith unto Faith. The Word of God must. be received in Faith. Consider the commands of God that we be holy. Search out the promises of God that we shall be holy. Pray through the prayers in the New Testament which set forth the Spirit-inspired pleadings for Holiness. Have faith in God; in His Word, and in His Spirit. Where there is no faith it is useless either to ask or seek; but where Faith is, prayer will prevail. Everything depends upon what you believe about God, about Jesus Christ the Saviour, and about the Holy Spirit. God meets every seeker of the Blessing with the challenge of Faith: Believe ye that I am able to do this? To every man is given according to his Faith. Many stumble at the question of Faith. It is simple enough to those who will leave aside all disputing about Faith, and substitute honest obedience for subtle definitions. Faith is an attitude of mind and heart and an act of obedience to what is believed to be the 'Truth. An honest heart never gets lost on a straight road; and the Spirit of Truth makes straight paths for the feet of every honest seeker who desires to know the Truth that he may obey it. The Holy Spirit leads by the Holy Word. Obedience is the way of Faith.
The children of light walk in the light, and in obedience to the light there is conscious fellowship with the God of Life, Light, and Love, "and the Blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin."
The test of obedience is often a trial to sense and reason, and still more to freedom and pride. The decisive battle is nearly always over some apparently trivial issue. The story of the Fall is true to the experience of life, when it makes the destiny of the race turn upon the eating of an "apple." The occasion may be trivial, but the issues are momentous. It is no business of ours to go scenting idols for the burning, but the Spirit searches every honest seeker and convicts, condemns, and commands; and there is generally a bonfire when the Fire of God falls. They are not things wrong in themselves that are condemned, for this Blessing is for believers, and they that are born of God do not keep sinful things in their lives. Their condemnation does not turn upon the law of right and wrong, but upon the ethical and spiritual claims of a surrendered life. So it is wide of the mark to ask, What wrong is there in these things? They are judged by the standard of Consecration and the Law of the Spirit of Life, and they must go, however profitable, however pleasant, and however right.
The Steps of FaithTwo things are plain:
1) Pentecost is a definite work of the Spirit in Believers.Now what are the steps of Faith by which the Blessing is appropriated?
2) It is by Grace through Faith.
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 God's 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 focused into petition. "Ye have not," says James, "because ye ask not," 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."
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 seek not?" 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." 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 m 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" 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." 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." 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.
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