The Spirit-Filled Life.
An address given at the Keswick Convention on July 24, 1947.
WE have now reached, in the sequence of teaching that runs through our Convention, the central dominating theme of Keswick—the Spirit-filled life. This is the message that constitutes the very raison d'etre of the Convention. It is also the secret of its maintenance for more than seventy years as a powerful testimony to the present day. It is the impact of the Holy Spirit of God upon a human life. For the essential character of a Christian which distinguishes Him from other men, is that he is a man possessed by the Spirit of God. He is no longer "in the flesh," he is described as being "in the Spirit. If so be," says the Apostle, "that the Spirit of God dwell in you"; otherwise, of course, he is not a Christian at all, for "if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His." It was the lack of this that prompted Paul's questioning of those twelve disciples at Ephesus. They were all professed disciples, keen and enthusiastic; but the Apostle Paul, who was not easily deceived by outward profession, noted something amiss about them, and put this question to them: "Did you not receive the Holy Ghost when you believed?" And they looked surprised and said, "We do not know anything about the Holy Ghost." "Well then," he said, "how do you call yourselves Christians? How were you baptized?" And they explained how they had heard John preaching about Jesus, and had been baptized into John's baptism. So they were disciples, but they were disciples of only one baptism, the baptism of John, the baptism of water. And John's baptism is not enough. There must be two baptisms; there must be the baptism of water, the baptism unto repentance; and there must be the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the baptism of regeneration. Many a man has been baptized unto repentance; he has truly repented, he has been earnest and sincere in his repentance, but he is not born again, he is not really a Christian. On Paul's explaining this to them, the twelve men of Ephesus were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, and the Holy Ghost came upon them. Now, into what baptism have you been baptized? Into John's baptism unto repentance, or into Jesus' baptism with the Holy Ghost unto regeneration? That was a remarkable saying of Jesus to Nicodemus, "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God." You know that when the Jews baptized a proselyte, they spoke of his having been born again. He was "born of water." I expect it was the same with John's baptizing, and probably Nicodemus was one of the "many Pharisees" who came to be baptized of him. If so, we can understand the force of Jesus' warning to him that something more than this was needed if he were to enter into the Kingdom of God. He must be born of the Spirit.
It was for this very reason that Christ came into the world. Said John the Baptist, "I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I cometh . . . He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost." It was for that reason Christ came into the world, and it was for that reason He left the world—"It is expedient for you that I go away, for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you." So Christ came into the world, and Christ ascended to the Father, with the express purpose that men should be baptized with the Holy Ghost and with fire; and a Christian truly saved, may be said to be a Holy Ghost man. He is not a better man, he is a new man; he has a new life, the life of the Spirit; he has been born again of the Spirit—"That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." Are you flesh or spirit? He has a new life, the life of the Spirit. He has a new law, the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made him free from the law of sin and death; he was bound by the law or principle of sin and death that held him earth-bound, but then there came this new life, and this new life brought a new law, and the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made him free from the law of sin and death. How often I have watched a lark rising from a cornfield on a summer day, and seen it as it has gone higher and higher into the blue of the sky, singing as if its throat would burst with the joy of song. I have watched it until I could see it no longer, but could still hear its trill as it rose higher and higher. And the sight suggests to me a problem. Is not a lark heavier than the air? Why then, is the lark going up and not coming down? Does the law of gravity cease to apply to a lark? I know very well that if I take a gun and aim accurately, I should soon prove that the law of gravity is still in operation upon the lark. What then, is the explanation of the seeming miracle? It is that the law of the spirit of life in the lark has made it free from the law of gravity. And that is what happens when a man is born of the Spirit of God. The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made him free from the law of sin and death. There has come new life, and with it a new law. He has also come under a completely new leading. He is a man led by the Spirit of God—"for as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God." The Holy Spirit of God becomes the controlling and directing force in the believer's life. He becomes a man of God because the Spirit of God indwells and controls and directs; that is the distinction between a Christian and a non-Christian.
Said a young man once to another, "You call yourself a Christian. I do not call myself one. I sin sometimes, and I suppose you do too. I am doing my best, and I suppose you are too. What then, is the difference between us?" The young man replied, "I will tell you the difference between you and me; I have the Holy Spirit of God, and you have not." That is right. The believer is a man of God because the Spirit of God dwells in him. "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?" And "the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are." And for this reason, a Spirit-filled life is perforce a holy life, and we are called to holiness.
Now, this is not presented in Scripture as an optional matter, but as a holy obligation. There is no choice about it; the believer is a man pledged to a holy life. Some folk do not approve of holiness Conventions, on the ground of their emphasis on holy living. Such have misconceived their calling as Christians. The Bible never contemplates a believer as other than a saint—a holy man. It is to effect this that the Holy Ghost takes up His abode in the temple of our bodies. For the Holy Spirit is always presented in Scripture as the active Agent of the Holy Trinity. It was so at Creation: "And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the deep." It was true in the old dispensation, when He came upon individual men for the accomplishment of super-human purposes—such as Samson and Gideon and King Saul; He came upon them temporarily and just for the accomplishment of a super-human purpose; and that purpose accomplished, He left them. He comes now to abide in the believer, and not to leave him. It was so pre-eminently in the earthly life of our Lord. The Holy Spirit came upon Him at His baptism; forthwith the quiet, secluded life of a simple carpenter of the agricultural village of Nazareth, making yokes for oxen, gave place to a Spirit-impelled career. "He was driven of the Spirit into the wilderness." He became the arena there of the conflict between the Spirit of God and the spirit of evil: "He was tempted of the devil"—He returned in the power of the Spirit to Nazareth, to announce in the synagogue, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me." His message was in the power of the Spirit; His miracles were through His anointing "with the Holy Spirit's power." His death was "through the eternal Spirit." His resurrection was "by the Spirit of holiness."
And now, dear friends, it is the same with His people. The Holy Ghost comes upon them and demonstrates His presence in power, for such was the parting promise of the Saviour, "Ye shall receive power." You poor, powerless, frightened little company of people, shut up in that Upper Room, you shall receive power," and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." How they must have stared in astonishment at Him and at one another! Yet how literally it came to pass when the Holy Ghost came upon them a few days later.
Some of you sitting here in all your conscious weakness, suppose you heard the Holy Ghost say to you as I am speaking, "You shall receive power if you will let me have My Own way in you." Would you believe it could be true? "And when the Day of Pentecost was fully come," He came upon them. And this is how He came—"as a rushing, mighty wind," sweeping irresistibly all before it. It made the apostles irresistible at Pentecost, so that men who had been able to resist even the preaching of Jesus, had laughed in His dying face, had gloried in having slain and buried Him—these very men, when the Holy Ghost came like a rushing, mighty wind, bowed like reeds before the wind and cried, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" And when Peter challenged them in reply, "You have publicly denied the Holy One and the Just; go and be baptized publicly in His name, and you shall be saved and filled with the Holy Ghost," they did it; such was the irresistible wind of the Holy Spirit. Similarly on another occasion we read, "They were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he (i.e., Stephen, filled with the Holy Ghost) spake." He came upon them also as tongues of fire. As God descended on Mount Sinai in fire, so the Holy Ghost descended at Pentecost in fire. "For our God is a consuming fire." It was the fire of God that descended on Mount Carmel, and it is the fire that shall at last try every man's work of what sort it is.
So these men of wind and fire, men with the power of God upon them, turned the world upside down; they were men who demonstrated that the Gospel is in fact the power of God to every one that believeth. The same promise remains true to-day: "Ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you." It would be a wonderful thing for us all to go home with the power of God resting on us. It would be wonderful for each of us to go home a really, honestly Spirit-filled believer. What a difference it would make! It is God's design that His people should be endued with power in a powerless world; that they should be men who "can" while other men cannot. While even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fail, these Spirit-filled people "shall mount up with wings," and "run and not be weary," and "walk and not faint." And the power by which they achieve this overcoming life is the power of the Holy Ghost.
Suppose, then, that the Holy Spirit becomes an active Agent of the Holy Trinity in me, how will His presence and power manifest itself? It is a simple matter to answer such a question, if we turn to the Scriptures. Let me point out a few of the ways in which, we are told, His aspiration in the life of a Spirit-filled believer will be manifested.
Firstly, by a complete deliverance from the doubts and fears that beset men generally—"Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost." So when the Holy Ghost comes upon a believer, all his fears and doubts vanish as the morning clouds vanish when the sun rises, and its strong, warm rays penetrate, and a clear view opens. So the doubts, the mists and miasma disappear, and the happy believer begins to "see" with a new and clarified vision. Some folk live all their lifetime subject to fear; they are afraid of that which is high. But the believer, when the Holy Spirit comes upon him, is set utterly free; there is complete deliverance from doubt and fear by the Holy Ghost, for he has a "hope that maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost." That is the first thing.
How else will He manifest His presence in the believer? By a heart full of melody unto the Lord. "Be not drunk with wine," says the Apostle—What a curious exhortation!—"but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to yourselves in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart unto the Lord." That is what happens when a person is filled with the Spirit. They do not go about with a pious if not sanctimonious expression, saying, "I have had such a blessing, I am completely sanctified, I am filled with the Spirit." No; it is something far more healthy and happy: "Then was our mouth filled with laughter and our tongue with singing." The children of the King have a right to shout and sing! Some years ago, my brother George Goodman and I were taking seaside services for the Children's Special Service Mission. On arriving one year, a little girl came up to my brother and said, "Oh Mr. Goodman, I am so glad you are here again! Tell me, is the musical box still playing?" Well, anyone would be surprised at a question like that, even from a child. So he looked a little puzzled and said, "What do you mean?" She said, "Don't you remember last year when you were here, you told us that you had got a musical box inside, and it was always playing!" Oh Blessed Holy Ghost! He fills your heart with melody, with the joy of the Lord: "speaking to yourselves in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord." And those of us who, unfortunately, cannot make melody with our mouths, can make it in our hearts. And this is the direct outcome of a Spirit-filled life.
Thirdly, by a complete deliverance from the lusts of the flesh. "This I say then, walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh, and these are contrary the one to the other, so that ye cannot do the things that ye would"—so that you may not do the things that otherwise you certainly would. Why may I not do them? Because the Spirit lusts against the flesh. There is the old flesh lusting and there is the Spirit lusting, and these are contrary the one to the other.
You know, the cuckoo is a curious bird—not, as the school-boy said, "A bird that does not lay its own eggs," but a bird that does not hatch its own eggs. It has a curious, lazy way; instead of building itself a nest, it appropriates somebody else's. It is a squatter; it puts its eggs in another bird's nest. Perhaps one day a sparrow will find another egg in the nest, but not being educated in arithmetic, I suppose the sparrow cannot count; at any rate it goes on hatching, in ignorance of the imposition. At length it hatches out, not only its own little fledglings, but a young cuckoo. Then, while the mother bird goes to find food for her young brood, and brings it to the nest, she finds them all with open beaks crying out, "Feed me, feed me!" And everything depends on who is fed! If the cuckoo gets the food, it grows and very soon ousts the young sparrow fledglings from the nest. So in the nest of your life is a dual nature. There is the flesh lusting, and saying, "Feed me," and there is the Spirit lusting and saying, "Feed me." "This I say then, walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh."
Lastly, the Spirit of God in a believer manifests His presence there by an acute quickening of all his spiritual senses. Just as a man under the influence of wine has his senses quickened acutely by the liquor, so Paul, emphasizing the analogy, says, "Be not drunk with wine." Do not come under the influence of wine, do not let wine master you, but come under the gracious influence of the Spirit. Do not be filled with wine, but be filled with the Spirit. If I am filled with wine, I come under the influence and dominance of wine, I am mastered by it; so as a believer, filled with the Holy Spirit, I experience a like vitality in the spiritual realm of all my spiritual senses, which are the counterpart of my natural senses. Thus the Spirit-filled man becomes a Spirit-quickened man in all his spiritual capacities.
His hearing is quickened. The vindication of Christ's ministry was just this: "Go and tell John . . . the deaf hear." It is a remarkable thing about a spiritual man that he can in fact hear what nobody else can hear. The mark of the sheep of Christ is this: "My sheep hear my voice." The Spirit-filled person has a new sense of hearing; he is no longer "dull of hearing." God is able to speak with him. He has "ears to hear," and he hears the voice behind him saying, "This is the way, walk ye in it"; when he deviates from the path, turning to the right hand or the left, the Spirit-filled believer hears the voice of the Lord saying, "This is the way." He does not need that any man should teach him, he has an unction from the Holy One. I have been constantly astonished in my work among boys and young men in the last half century at the speed and acuteness with which the young believer will apprehend the things of God by simply going to the Word of God. It is a fact, young believer; do not be afraid, you do not need to rely on the voice of others. It does not mean, of course, that they cannot teach you, but the Spirit will teach you, and you will hear Him speak to you as you open the Word, and as you pray. Your hearing will be quickened as you walk in the Spirit.
Then the believer's sight is quickened. He can see what nobody else can see; in fact, he looks not on the things that are seen, but on the things that are not seen. He sees the invisible. He can see afar off. Peter sees that a man who is lacking these things, who is becoming carnal, tends to lose his spiritual vision. Poor man, he cannot see afar off; he is a man without vision; he is taken up with temporal things, and he cannot see the invisible eternal things. A lady, wishing, no doubt, to display her superior artistic taste, said to that greatest of all English artists, J. M. W. Turner, "Mr. Turner, I think your pictures are wonderful, but I must say, I do not see your colours in Nature." He replied, "And don't you wish you could, Madam." You believers know well what I am talking of: "We behold as in a glass the glory of the Lord," and so beholding, are changed into the same image as we see that glory with unveiled face. Do you know this in your experience? How wonderful it all is! Our spiritual senses are quickened, our hearing is quickened, and our sight is quickened.
The believer's sense of touch also is quickened; he handles with expert hand the sword of the Spirit. He handles aright the Word of God. He has the sure touch of the good surgeon, he knows how to wound and how to bind up without blundering. He can take the mote out of his brother's eye with steady, tender hand, without hurting him; he has his Lord's touch. Have you noticed how the Lord used to love to touch people? Do you remember how on one occasion He went to a leper and touched him? It was quite unnecessary to the healing miracle; He might just as easily have said, "I will, be thou clean"; but no, He must needs touch the leprous man. Do you know why? The poor man had never felt a human touch since he had been a leper; even his own mother had never been free to lay a hand on him—and is there not something wonderful about a human touch? When you cannot say anything adequate to sympathize with a suffering friend, you can help him by just laying your hand on his. A mother lays her hand on the head of her weeping child, and the child is soothed at once at the mother's touch. When John at Patmos fell down, overcome by the vision of the Lord of Glory, he writes, "He laid His right hand upon me." In like manner, every really Spirit-filled man or woman learns the sense of touch; they know how to touch another's grief, another's heart. It is a great mystery. If you walk by the Spirit, your touch will be quickened.
The believer's sense of taste, too, is quickened. A Christian enjoys a greatly improved appetite for the Word of God when he is filled with the Spirit; the Word of God often becomes flat and unpalatable to the carnal believer just as the manna did to the children of Israel. They called it "this light bread," and their soul loathed it. Heavenly food though it undoubtedly was, they did not like it. Have you, perhaps, lost your taste for the Word of God? If you get the spiritual blessing Keswick has to offer you, if the Holy Spirit has His way with you and you become a Spirit-filled man or woman, your sense of taste will be so quickened that you will say with Jeremiah, "Thy words were found and I did eat them; thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart"; and with David, "How sweet are Thy words unto my taste Yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!"
So the believer's hearing, sight, touch and taste are all quickened; and his sense of smell is quickened also. Isaiah writes concerning the Lord: "And the Spirit of God shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord, and shall make Him quick of scent in the fear of the Lord." And this is true in measure of His Spirit-filled followers. They become quick of scent to recognize that which has the savour of Christ, and that which has the savour of death. They will develop a wonderful spiritual instinct, which enables them to scent out truth from error; they will have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. The devil promised Eve that if she would only eat of the tree in the midst of the Garden, she would be as God, knowing good and evil. He lied; but the Spirit-filled believer has this very gift. He can discern by a quickened taste that which is good and that which is evil. He instinctively knows his Lord's will. Said a little lad once to another, "Jack, will you come skating with me on Sunday afternoon?" Jack replied, "No, my father would not like me to." "Oh, so your father has told you not to?" "No, he didn't tell me not to; only I know father."
Thus we have the mind of Christ. Why have so many of us not got it? Have we taken any steps to acquire it? It is sadly possible for a person to be Spirit-born and not Spirit-filled. It is essential for those who live by the Spirit to walk in the Spirit; but it is possible to live by the Spirit and to walk after the flesh, to walk as men, to grieve the Holy Spirit of God, to quench the Spirit.
Do you ask, 'How can this filling come to me?' You no doubt remember the story of Isaac going down into the land of the Philistines. He took all his flocks and herds with him, without any anxiety on the perennial question of watering them, for had not Abraham dug wells there before him? Yet when he got there, he found to his dismay that there was no water. The reason was that the Philistines had choked the wells. What should he do? Dig more wells? Of course he could do that, but bearing in mind that the essential character of a well was to supply water and not merely to act as a receptacle for it, and that being so, it must have within itself a source of supply; he knew the spring was still there in spite of all the enemy had done to choke it. There was accordingly only one thing needful to do; he must get to work and clear out the rubbish. And as soon as he had diligently and sensibly removed the things that were hindering the flow, up came the living water and filled the wells.
"The water that I shall give," said Jesus, "shall be in him a well of water springing up." And it is just this springing up that fills the well of every believer who is prepared relentlessly to remove the things that hinder. For as surely as a spring will fill a well in so far as it has free course to do so, so the Holy Spirit of God Who indwells every believer will fill him just in so far as He has unhindered sway, until he is "filled with all the fullness of God."