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Absolute Surrender

And Other Addresses

 

By Andrew Murray (1828-1917)

 

Chicago 1895 Moody Press

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Table of Contents

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ABSOLUTE SURRENDER

 

"And Ben-hadad the king of Syria gathered all his host together: and

there were thirty and two kings with him, and horses, and chariots: and

he went up and besieged Samaria, and warred against it. And he sent

messengers to Ahab king of Israel into the city, and said unto him,

Thus saith Ben-hadad, Thy silver and thy gold is mine; thy wives also

and thy children, even the goodliest, are mine. And the king of Israel

answered and said, My lord, O king, according to thy saying, I am yours

and all that I have" (1 Kings 20:1-4).

 

What Ben Hadad asked was absolute surrender; and what Ahab gave was

what was asked of him--absolute surrender. I want to use these words:

"My lord, O king, according to thy saying, I am yours, and all that I

have," as the words of absolute surrender with which every child of God

ought to yield himself to his Father. We have heard it before, but we

need to hear it very definitely--the condition of God's blessing is

absolute surrender of all into His hands. Praise God! If our hearts are

willing for that, there is no end to what God will do for us, and to

the blessing God will bestow.

 

Absolute surrender--let me tell you where I got those words. I used

them myself often, and you have heard them numberless times. But in

Scotland once I was in a company where we were talking about the

condition of Christ's Church, and what the great need of the Church and

of believers is; and there was in our company a godly worker who has

much to do in training workers, and I asked him what he would say was

the great need of the Church, and the message that ought to be

preached. He answered very quietly and simply and determinedly:

"Absolute surrender to God is the one thing."

 

The words struck me as never before. And that man began to tell how, in

the workers with whom he had to deal, he finds that if they are sound

on that point, even though they be backward, they are willing to be

taught and helped, and they always improve; whereas others who are not

sound there very often go back and leave the work. The condition for

obtaining God's full blessing is absolute surrender to Him.

 

And now, I desire by God's grace to give to you this message--that your

God in Heaven answers the prayers which you have offered for blessing

 

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on yourselves and for blessing on those around you by this one demand:

Are you willing to surrender yourselves absolutely into His hands? What

is our answer to be? God knows there are hundreds of hearts who have

said it, and there are hundreds more who long to say it but hardly dare

to do so. And there are hearts who have said it, but who have yet

miserably failed, and who feel themselves condemned because they did

not find the secret of the power to live that life. May God have a word

for all!

 

Let me say, first of all, that God claims it from us.

 

God Expects Your Surrender

 

Yes, it has its foundation in the very nature of God. God cannot do

otherwise. Who is God? He is the Fountain of life, the only Source of

existence and power and goodness, and throughout the universe there is

nothing good but what God works. God has created the sun, and the moon,

and the stars, and the flowers, and the trees, and the grass; and are

they not all absolutely surrendered to God? Do they not allow God to

work in them just what He pleases? When God clothes the lily with its

beauty, is it not yielded up, surrendered, given over to God as He

works in its beauty? And God's redeemed children, oh, can you think

that God can work His work if there is only half or a part of them

surrendered? God cannot do it. God is life, and love, and blessing, and

power, and infinite beauty, and God delights to communicate Himself to

every child who is prepared to receive Him; but ah! this one lack of

absolute surrender is just the thing that hinders God. And now He

comes, and as God, He claims it.

 

You know in daily life what absolute surrender is. You know that

everything has to be given up to its special, definite object and

service. I have a pen in my pocket, and that pen is absolutely

surrendered to the one work of writing, and that pen must be absolutely

surrendered to my hand if I am to write properly with it. If another

holds it partly, I cannot write properly. This coat is absolutely given

up to me to cover my body. This building is entirely given up to

religious services. And now, do you expect that in your immortal being,

in the divine nature that you have received by regeneration, God can

work His work, every day and every hour, unless you are entirely given

up to Him? God cannot. The Temple of Solomon was absolutely surrendered

to God when it was dedicated to Him. And every one of us is a temple of

God, in which God will dwell and work mightily on one

condition--absolute surrender to Him. God claims it, God is worthy of

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it, and without it God cannot work His blessed work in us.

God not only claims it, but God will work it Himself.

 

God Accomplishes Your Surrender

 

I am sure there is many a heart that says: "Ah, but that absolute

surrender implies so much!" Someone says: "Oh, I have passed through so

much trial and suffering, and there is so much of the self-life still

remaining, and I dare not face the entire giving of it up, because I

know it will cause so much trouble and agony."

 

Alas! alas! that God's children have such thoughts of Him, such cruel

thoughts. Oh, I come to you with a message, fearful and anxious one.

 

God does not ask you to give the perfect surrender in your strength, or

by the power of your will; God is willing to work it in you. Do we not

read: "It is God that works in us, both to will and to do of his good

pleasure" (Philippians 2:13)? And that is what we should seek for--to go on

our faces before God, until our hearts learn to believe that the

everlasting God Himself will come in to turn out what is wrong, to

conquer what is evil, and to work what is well-pleasing in His blessed

sight. God Himself will work it in you.

 

Look at the men in the Old Testament, like Abraham. Do you think it was

by accident that God found that man, the father of the faithful and the

Friend of God, and that it was Abraham himself, apart from God, who had

such faith and such obedience and such devotion? You know it is not so.

God raised him up and prepared him as an instrument for His glory.

Did not God say to Pharaoh: "For this cause have I raised you up, for

to show in you my power" (Exodus 9:16)?

 

And if God said that of him, will not God say it far more of every

child of His?

 

Oh, I want to encourage you, and I want you to cast away every fear.

Come with that feeble desire; and if there is the fear which says: "Oh,

my desire is not strong enough, I am not willing for everything that

may come, I do not feel bold enough to say I can conquer everything"--I

pray you, learn to know and trust your God now. Say: "My God, I am

willing that You should make me willing." If there is anything

holding you back, or any sacrifice you are afraid of making, come to

God now, and prove how gracious your God is, and be not afraid that He

will command from you what He will not bestow.

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God comes and offers to work this absolute surrender in you. All these

searchings and hungerings and longings that are in your heart, I tell

you they are the drawings of the divine magnet, Christ Jesus. He lived

a life of absolute surrender, He has possession of you; He is living in

your heart by His Holy Spirit. You have hindered and hindered Him

terribly, but He desires to help you to get hold of Him entirely. And

He comes and draws you now by His message and words. Will you not come

and trust God to work in you that absolute surrender to Himself? Yes,

blessed be God, He can do it, and He will do it.

 

God not only claims it and works it, but God accepts it when we bring

it to Him.

 

God Accepts Your Surrender

 

God works it in the secret of our heart, God urges us by the hidden

power of His Holy Spirit to come and speak it out, and we have to bring

and to yield to Him that absolute surrender. But remember, when you

come and bring God that absolute surrender, it may, as far as your

feelings or your consciousness go, be a thing of great imperfection,

and you may doubt and hesitate and say:

 

"Is it absolute?"

 

But, oh, remember there was once a man to whom Christ had said:

 

"If you canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth"

(Mark 9:23).

 

And his heart was afraid, and he cried out:

"Lord, I believe, help my unbelief" (Mark 9:24).

 

That was a faith that triumphed over the Devil, and the evil spirit was

cast out. And if you come and say: "Lord, I yield myself in absolute

surrender to my God," even though it be with a trembling heart and with

the consciousness: "I do not feel the power, I do not feel the

determination, I do not feel the assurance," it will succeed. Be not

afraid, but come just as you are, and even in the midst of your

trembling the power of the Holy Spirit will work.

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Have you never yet learned the lesson that the Holy Spirit works with

mighty power, while on the human side everything appears feeble? Look

at the Lord Jesus Christ in Gethsemane. We read that He, "through the

eternal Spirit" (Heb. 9:14), offered Himself a sacrifice unto God. The

Almighty Spirit of God was enabling Him to do it. And yet what agony

and fear and exceeding sorrow came over Him, and how He prayed!

 

Externally, you can see no sign of the mighty power of the Spirit, but

the Spirit of God was there. And even so, while you are feeble and

fighting and trembling, in faith in the hidden work of God's Spirit do

not fear, but yield yourself.

 

And when you do yield yourself in absolute surrender, let it be in the

faith that God does now accept of it. That is the great point, and that

is what we so often miss--that believers should be thus occupied with

God in this matter of surrender. I pray you, be occupied with God. We

want to get help, every one of us, so that in our daily life God shall

be clearer to us, God shall have the right place, and be "all in all."

 

And if we are to have that through life, let us begin now and look away

from ourselves, and look up to God. Let each believe--while I, a poor

worm on earth and a trembling child of God, full of failure and sin and

fear, bow here, and no one knows what passes through my heart, and

while I in simplicity say, O God, I accept Thy terms; I have pleaded

for blessing on myself and others, I have accepted Thy terms of

absolute surrender--while your heart says that in deep silence,

remember there is a God present that takes note of it, and writes it

down in His book, and there is a God present who at that very moment

takes possession of you. You may not feel it, you may not realize it,

but God takes possession if you will trust Him.

 

God not only claims it, and works it, and accepts it when I bring it,

but God maintains it.

 

God Maintains Your Surrender

 

That is the great difficulty with many. People say: "I have often been

stirred at a meeting, or at a convention, and I have consecrated myself

to God, but it has passed away. I know it may last for a week or for a

month, but away it fades, and after a time it is all gone."

 

But listen! It is because you do not believe what I am now going to

tell you and remind you of. When God has begun the work of absolute

 

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surrender in you, and when God has accepted your surrender, then God

holds Himself bound to care for it and to keep it. Will you believe

that?

 

In this matter of surrender there are two: God and I--I a worm, God the

everlasting and omnipotent Jehovah. Worm, will you be afraid to trust

yourself to this mighty God now? God is willing. Do you not believe

that He can keep you continually, day by day, and moment by moment?

 

Moment by moment I'm kept in His love;

Moment by moment I've life from above.

 

If God allows the sun to shine upon you moment by moment, without

intermission, will not God let His life shine upon you every moment?

And why have you not experienced it? Because you have not trusted God

for it, and you do not surrender yourself absolutely to God in that

trust.

 

A life of absolute surrender has its difficulties. I do not deny that.

Yes, it has something far more than difficulties: it is a life that

with men is absolutely impossible. But by the grace of God, by the

power of God, by the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, it is a

life to which we are destined, and a life that is possible for us,

praise God! Let us believe that God will maintain it.

 

Some of you have read the words of that aged saint who, on his

ninetieth birthday, told of all God's goodness to him--I mean George

Muller. What did he say he believed to be the secret of his happiness,

and of all the blessing which God had given him? He said he believed

there were two reasons. The one was that he had been enabled by grace

to maintain a good conscience before God day by day; the other was,

that he was a lover of God's Word. Ah, yes, a good conscience is

complete obedience to God day by day, and fellowship with God every day

in His Word, and prayer--that is a life of absolute surrender.

 

Such a life has two sides--on the one side, absolute surrender to work

what God wants you to do; on the other side, to let God work what He

wants to do.

 

First, to do what God wants you to do.

 

Give up yourselves absolutely to the will of God. You know something of

that will; not enough, far from all. But say absolutely to the Lord God:

 

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"By Thy grace I desire to do Thy will in everything, every moment

of every day." Say: "Lord God, not a word upon my tongue but for Thy

glory, not a movement of my temper but for Thy glory, not an affection

of love or hate in my heart but for Thy glory, and according to Thy

blessed will."

 

Someone says: "Do you think that possible?"

 

I ask, What has God promised you, and what can God do to fill a vessel

absolutely surrendered to Him? Oh, God wants to bless you in a way

beyond what you expect. From the beginning, ear hath not heard, neither

hath the eye seen, what God hath prepared for them that wait for Him (1

Corinthians 2:9). God has prepared unheard-of things, blessings much more

wonderful than you can imagine, more mighty than you can conceive. They

are divine blessings. Oh, say now:

 

"I give myself absolutely to God, to His will, to do only what God

wants."

 

It is God who will enable you to carry out the surrender.

And, on the other side, come and say: "I give myself absolutely to God,

to let Him work in me to will and to do of His good pleasure, as He has

promised to do."

 

Yes, the living God wants to work in His children in a way that we

cannot understand, but that God's Word has revealed, and He wants to

work in us every moment of the day. God is willing to maintain our

life. Only let our absolute surrender be one of simple, childlike, and

unbounded trust.

 

God Blesses When You Surrender

 

This absolute surrender to God will wonderfully bless.

 

What Ahab said to his enemy, King Ben-hadad--"My lord, O king,

according to thy word I am yours, and all that I have"--shall we not

say to our God and loving Father? If we do say it, God's blessing will

come upon us. God wants us to be separate from the world; we are called

to come out from the world that hates God. Come out for God, and say:

"Lord, anything for You." If you say that with prayer, and speak that

into God's ear, He will accept it, and He will teach you what it means.

I say again, God will bless you. You have been praying for blessing.

 

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But do remember, there must be absolute surrender. At every tea-table you see it.

 

Why is tea poured into that cup? Because it is empty, and

given up for the tea. But put ink, or vinegar, or wine into it, and

will they pour the tea into the vessel? And can God fill you, can God

bless you if you are not absolutely surrendered to Him? He cannot. Let

us believe God has wonderful blessings for us, if we will but stand up

for God, and say, be it with a trembling will, yet with a believing

heart:

 

"O God, I accept Thy demands. I am yours and all that I have. Absolute

surrender is what my soul yields to You by divine grace."

 

You may not have such strong and clear feelings of deliverances as you

would desire to have, but humble yourselves in His sight, and

acknowledge that you have grieved the Holy Spirit by your self-will,

self-confidence, and self-effort. Bow humbly before him in the

confession of that, and ask him to break the heart and to bring you

into the dust before Him. Then, as you bow before Him, just accept

God's teaching that in your flesh "there dwells no good thing" (Romans

7:18), and that nothing will help you except another life which must

come in. You must deny self once for all. Denying self must every

moment be the power of your life, and then Christ will come in and take

possession of you.

 

When was Peter delivered? When was the change accomplished? The change

began with Peter weeping, and the Holy Spirit came down and filled his

heart.

 

God the Father loves to give us the power of the Spirit. We have the

Spirit of God dwelling within us. We come to God confessing that, and

praising God for it, and yet confessing how we have grieved the Spirit.

And then we bow our knees to the Father to ask that He would strengthen

us with all might by the Spirit in the inner man, and that He would

fill us with His mighty power. And as the Spirit reveals Christ to us,

Christ comes to live in our hearts forever, and the self-life is cast

out.

 

Let us bow before God in humility, and in that humility confess before

Him the state of the whole Church. No words can tell the sad state of

the Church of Christ on earth. I wish I had words to speak what I

sometimes feel about it. Just think of the Christians around you. I do

not speak of nominal Christians, or of professing Christians, but I

 

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speak of hundreds and thousands of honest, earnest Christians who are

not living a life in the power of God or to His glory. So little power,

so little devotion or consecration to God, so little perception of the

truth that a Christian is a man utterly surrendered to God's will! Oh,

we want to confess the sins of God's people around us, and to humble

ourselves. We are members of that sickly body, and the sickliness of

the body will hinder us, and break us down, unless we come to God, and

in confession separate ourselves from partnership with worldliness,

with coldness toward each other, unless we give up ourselves to be

entirely and wholly for God.

 

How much Christian work is being done in the spirit of the flesh and in

the power of self! How much work, day by day, in which human

energy--our will and our thoughts about the work--is continually

manifested, and in which there is but little of waiting upon God, and

upon the power of the Holy Spirit! Let us make confession. But as we

confess the state of the Church and the feebleness and sinfulness of

work for God among us, let us come back to ourselves. Who is there who

truly longs to be delivered from the power of the self-life, who truly

acknowledges that it is the power of self and the flesh, and who is

willing to cast all at the feet of Christ? There is deliverance.

 

I heard of one who had been an earnest Christian, and who spoke about

the "cruel" thought of separation and death. But you do not think that,

do you? What are we to think of separation and death? This: death was

the path to glory for Christ. For the joy set before Him He endured the

cross. The cross was the birthplace of His everlasting glory. Do you

love Christ? Do you long to be in Christ, and not like Him? Let death

be to you the most desirable thing on earth--death to self, and

fellowship with Christ. Separation--do you think it a hard thing to be

called to be entirely free from the world, and by that separation to be

united to God and His love, by separation to become prepared for living

and walking with God every day? Surely one ought to say:

 

"Anything to bring me to separation, to death, for a life of full

fellowship with God and Christ."

 

Come and cast this self-life and flesh-life at the feet of Jesus. Then

trust Him. Do not worry yourselves with trying to understand all about

it, but come in the living faith that Christ will come into you with

the power of His death and the power of His life; and then the Holy

Spirit will bring the whole Christ--Christ crucified and risen and

living in glory--into your heart.

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"THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT IS LOVE"

I want to look at the fact of a life filled with the Holy Spirit more from the practical side, and to show how this life will show itself in our daily walk and conduct. 

 

Under the Old Testament you know the Holy Spirit often came upon men as a divine Spirit of revelation to reveal the mysteries of God, or for power to do the work of God. But He did not then dwell in them. Now,

many just want the Old Testament gift of power for work, but know very little of the New Testament gift of the indwelling Spirit, animating and renewing the whole life. When God gives the Holy Spirit, His great object is the formation of a holy character. It is a gift of a holy mind and spiritual disposition, and what we need above everything else, is to say:

 

"I must have the Holy Spirit sanctifying my whole inner life if I am really to live for God's glory."

 

You might say that when Christ promised the Spirit to the disciples, He did so that they might have power to be witnesses. True, but then they received the Holy Spirit in such heavenly power and reality that He took possession of their whole being at once and so fitted them as holy men for doing the work with power as they had to do it. Christ spoke of power to the disciples, but it was the Spirit filling their whole being that worked the power.

 

I wish now to dwell upon the passage found in Galatians 5:22:

 

"The fruit of the Spirit is love."

 

We read that "Love is the fulfilling of the law" (Romans 13:10), and my desire is to speak on love as a fruit of the Spirit with a twofold object. One is that this word may be a searchlight in our hearts, and give us a test by which to try all our thoughts about the Holy Spirit and all our experience of the holy life. Let us try ourselves by this

word. Has this been our daily habit, to seek to be filled with the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of love? "The fruit of the Spirit is love." Has it been our experience that the more we have of the Holy Spirit the more loving we become? In claiming the Holy Spirit we should make this the first object of our expectation. The Holy Spirit comes as a Spirit of love.

 

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Oh, if this were true in the Church of Christ how different her state would be! May God help us to get hold of this simple, heavenly truth that the fruit of the Spirit is a love which appears in the life, and that just as the Holy Spirit gets real possession of the life, the heart will be filled with real, divine, universal love.

 

One of the great causes why God cannot bless His Church is the want of love. When the body is divided, there cannot be strength. In the time of their great religious wars, when Holland stood out so nobly against Spain, one of their mottoes was: "Unity gives strength." It is only when God's people stand as one body, one before God in the fellowship of love, one toward another in deep affection, one before the world in a love that the world can see--it is only then that they will have power to secure the blessing which they ask of God. Remember that if a

vessel that ought to be one whole is cracked into many pieces, it cannot be filled. You can take a potsherd, one part of a vessel, and dip out a little water into that, but if you want the vessel full, the vessel must be whole. That is literally true of Christ's Church, and if there is one thing we must pray for still, it is this: Lord, melt us together into one by the power of the Holy Spirit; let the Holy Spirit, who at Pentecost made them all of one heart and one soul, do His blessed work among us. Praise God, we can love each other in a divine love, for "the fruit of the Spirit is love." Give yourselves up to love, and the Holy Spirit will come; receive the Spirit, and He will teach you to love more.

 

God Is Love

 

Now, why is it that the fruit of the Spirit is love? Because God is love (1 John 4:8).

 

And what does that mean?

 

It is the very nature and being of God to delight in communicating Himself. God has no selfishness, God keeps nothing to Himself. God's nature is to be always giving. In the sun and the moon and the stars, in every flower you see it, in every bird in the air, in every fish in the sea. God communicates life to His creatures. And the angels around His throne, the seraphim and cherubim who are flames of fire--whence have they their glory? It is because God is love, and He imparts to them of His brightness and His blessedness. And we, His redeemed

children--God delights to pour His love into us. And why? Because, as I said, God keeps nothing for Himself. From eternity God had His only

 

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begotten Son, and the Father gave Him all things, and nothing that God

had was kept back. "God is love."

 

One of the old Church fathers said that we cannot better understand the

Trinity than as a revelation of divine love--the Father, the loving

One, the Fountain of love; the Son, the beloved one, the Reservoir of

love, in whom the love was poured out; and the Spirit, the living love

that united both and then overflowed into this world. The Spirit of

Pentecost, the Spirit of the Father, and the Spirit of the Son is love.

 

And when the Holy Spirit comes to us and to other men, will He be less

a Spirit of love than He is in God? It cannot be; He cannot change His

nature. The Spirit of God is love, and "the fruit of the Spirit is

love."

 

Mankind Needs Love

 

Why is that so? That was the one great need of mankind, that was the

thing which Christ's redemption came to accomplish: to restore love to

this world.

 

When man sinned, why was it that he sinned? Selfishness triumphed--he

sought self instead of God. And just look! Adam at once begins to

accuse the woman of having led him astray. Love to God had gone, love

to man was lost. Look again: of the first two children of Adam the one

becomes a murderer of his brother.

 

Does not that teach us that sin had robbed the world of love? Ah! what

a proof the history of the world has been of love having been lost!

There may have been beautiful examples of love even among the heathen,

but only as a little remnant of what was lost. One of the worst things

sin did for man was to make him selfish, for selfishness cannot love.

 

The Lord Jesus Christ came down from Heaven as the Son of God's love.

 

"God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son" (John

3:16). God's Son came to show what love is, and He lived a life of love

here upon earth in fellowship with His disciples, in compassion over

the poor and miserable, in love even to His enemies, and He died the

death of love. And when He went to Heaven, whom did He send down? The

Spirit of love, to come and banish selfishness and envy and pride, and

bring the love of God into the hearts of men. "The fruit of the Spirit

is love."

 

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And what was the preparation for the promise of the Holy Spirit? You

know that promise as found in the fourteenth chapter of John's Gospel.

 

But remember what precedes in the thirteenth chapter. Before Christ

promised the Holy Spirit, He gave a new commandment, and about that new

commandment He said wonderful things. One thing was: "Even as I have

loved you, so love you one another." To them His dying love was to be

the only law of their conduct and intercourse with each other. What a

message to those fishermen, to those men full of pride and selfishness!

"Learn to love each other," said Christ, "as I have loved you." And by

the grace of God they did it. When Pentecost came, they were of one

heart and one soul. Christ did it for them.

 

And now He calls us to dwell and to walk in love. He demands that

though a man hate you, still you love him. True love cannot be

conquered by anything in Heaven or upon the earth. The more hatred

there is, the more love triumphs through it all and shows its true

nature. This is the love that Christ commanded His disciples to

exercise.

 

What more did He say? "By this shall all men know that you are my

disciples, if you have love one to another" (John 13:35).

 

You all know what it is to wear a badge. And Christ said to His

disciples in effect: "I give you a badge, and that badge is love. That

is to be your mark. It is the only thing in Heaven or on earth by which

men can know me."

 

Do we not begin to fear that love has fled from the earth? That if we

were to ask the world: "Have you seen us wear the badge of love?" the

world would say: "No; what we have heard of the Church of Christ is

that there is not a place where there is no quarreling and separation."

Let us ask God with one heart that we may wear the badge of Jesus'

love. God is able to give it.

 

Love Conquers Selfishness

 

"The fruit of the Spirit is love." Why? Because nothing but love can

expel and conquer our selfishness.

 

Self is the great curse, whether in its relation to God, or to our

fellow-men in general, or to fellow-Christians, thinking of ourselves

and seeking our own. Self is our greatest curse. But, praise God,

 

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Christ came to redeem us from self. We sometimes talk about deliverance

from the self-life--and thank God for every word that can be said about

it to help us--but I am afraid some people think deliverance from the

self-life means that now they are going to have no longer any trouble

in serving God; and they forget that deliverance from self-life means

to be a vessel overflowing with love to everybody all the day.

 

And there you have the reason why many people pray for the power of the

Holy Spirit, and they get something, but oh, so little! because they

prayed for power for work, and power for blessing, but they have not

prayed for power for full deliverance from self. That means not only

the righteous self in intercourse with God, but the unloving self in

intercourse with men. And there is deliverance. "The fruit of the

Spirit is love." I bring you the glorious promise of Christ that He is

able to fill our hearts with love.

 

A great many of us try hard at times to love. We try to force ourselves

to love, and I do not say that is wrong; it is better than nothing. But

the end of it is always very sad. "I fail continually," such a one must

confess. And what is the reason? The reason is simply this: Because

they have never learned to believe and accept the truth that the Holy

Spirit can pour God's love into their heart. That blessed text; often

it has been limited!--"The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts"

(Rom. 5:5). It has often been understood in this sense: It means the

love of God to me. Oh, what a limitation! That is only the beginning.

 

The love of God is always the love of God in its entirety, in its

fullness as an indwelling power, a love of God to me that leaps back to

Him in love, and overflows to my fellow-men in love--God's love to me,

and my love to God, and my love to my fellow-men. The three are one;

you cannot separate them.

 

Do believe that the love of God can be shed abroad in your heart and

mine so that we can love all the day.

 

"Ah!" you say, "how little I have understood that!"

Why is a lamb always gentle? Because that is its nature. Does it cost

the lamb any trouble to be gentle? No. Why not? It is so beautiful and

gentle. Has a lamb to study to be gentle? No. Why does that come so

easy? It is its nature. And a wolf--why does it cost a wolf no trouble

to be cruel, and to put its fangs into the poor lamb or sheep? Because

that is its nature. It has not to summon up its courage; the

wolf-nature is there.

 

17

 

And how can I learn to love? Never until the Spirit of God fills my

heart with God's love, and I begin to long for God's love in a very

 

different sense from which I have sought it so selfishly, as a comfort

and a joy and a happiness and a pleasure to myself; never until I begin

to learn that "God is love," and to claim it, and receive it as an

indwelling power for self-sacrifice; never until I begin to see that my

glory, my blessedness, is to be like God and like Christ, in giving up

everything in myself for my fellow-men. May God teach us that! Oh, the

divine blessedness of the love with which the Holy Spirit can fill our

hearts! "The fruit of the Spirit is love."

 

Love Is God's Gift

 

Once again I ask, Why must this be so? And my answer is: Without this

we cannot live the daily life of love.

 

How often, when we speak about the consecrated life, we have to speak

about temper, and some people have sometimes said:

"You make too much of temper."

 

I do not think we can make too much of it. Think for a moment of a

clock and of what its hands mean. The hands tell me what is within the

clock, and if I see that the hands stand still, or that the hands point

wrong, or that the clock is slow or fast, I say that something inside

the clock is not working properly. And temper is just like the

revelation that the clock gives of what is within. Temper is a proof

whether the love of Christ is filling the heart, or not. How many there

are who find it easier in church, or in prayer-meeting, or in work for

the Lord--diligent, earnest work--to be holy and happy than in the

daily life with wife and children; easier to be holy and happy outside

the home than in it! Where is the love of God? In Christ. God has

prepared for us a wonderful redemption in Christ, and He longs to make

something supernatural of us. Have we learned to long for it, and ask

for it, and expect it in its fullness?

 

Then there is the tongue! We sometimes speak of the tongue when we talk

of the better life, and the restful life, but just think what liberty

many Christians give to their tongues. They say:

 

"I have a right to think what I like."

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When they speak about each other, when they speak about their

neighbors, when they speak about other Christians, how often there are

sharp remarks! God keep me from saying anything that would be unloving;

 

God shut my mouth if I am not to speak in tender love. But what I am

saying is a fact. How often there are found among Christians who are

banded together in work, sharp criticism, sharp judgment, hasty

opinion, unloving words, secret contempt of each other, secret

condemnation of each other! Oh, just as a mother's love covers her

children and delights in them and has the tenderest compassion with

their foibles or failures, so there ought to be in the heart of every

believer a motherly love toward every brother and sister in Christ.

Have you aimed at that? Have you sought it? Have you ever pleaded for

it? Jesus Christ said: "As I have loved you . . . love one another"

(John 13:34). And He did not put that among the other commandments, but

He said in effect:

 

"That is a new commandment, the one commandment: Love one another as I

have loved you" (John 13:34).

 

It is in our daily life and conduct that the fruit of the Spirit is

love. From that there comes all the graces and virtues in which love is

manifested: joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness; no

sharpness or hardness in your tone, no unkindness or selfishness;

meekness before God and man. You see that all these are the gentler

virtues. I have often thought as I read those words in Colossians, "Put

on therefore as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies,

kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering" (Colossians 3:12),

that if we had written this, we should have put in the foreground the

manly virtues, such as zeal, courage, and diligence; but we need to see

how the gentler, the most womanly virtues are especially connected with

dependence upon the Holy Spirit. These are indeed heavenly graces. They

never were found in the heathen world. Christ was needed to come from

Heaven to teach us. Your blessedness is longsuffering, meekness,

kindness; your glory is humility before God. The fruit of the Spirit

that He brought from Heaven out of the heart of the crucified Christ,

and that He gives in our heart, is first and foremost—love.

 

You know what John says: "No man hath seen God at any time. If we love

one another, God dwells in us" (1 John 4:12). That is, I cannot see

God, but as a compensation I can see my brother, and if I love him, God

dwells in me. Is that really true? That I cannot see God, but I must

love my brother, and God will dwell in me? Loving my brother is the way

 

19

 

to real fellowship with God. You know what John further says in that

most solemn test, "If a man say, I love God, and hates his brother, he

is a liar; for he that loves not his brother whom he hath seen, how

can he love God whom he hath not seen?" (1 John 4:20). There is a

brother, a most unlovable man. He worries you every time you meet him.

He is of the very opposite disposition to yours. You are a careful

businessman, and you have to do with him in your business. He is most

untidy, unbusiness-like. You say:

 

"I cannot love him."

 

Oh, friend, you have not learned the lesson that Christ wanted to teach

above everything. Let a man be what he will, you are to love him. Love

is to be the fruit of the Spirit all the day and every day. Yes,

listen! If a man loves not his brother whom he hath seen--if you don't

love that unlovable man whom you have seen, how can you love God whom

you have not seen? You can deceive yourself with beautiful thoughts

about loving God. You must prove your love to God by your love to your

brother; that is the one standard by which God will judge your love to

Him. If the love of God is in your heart you will love your brother.

 

The fruit of the Spirit is love.

 

And what is the reason that God's Holy Spirit cannot come in power? Is

it not possible?

 

You remember the comparison I used in speaking of the vessel. I can dip

a little water into a potsherd, a bit of a vessel; but if a vessel is

to be full, it must be unbroken. And the children of God, wherever they

come together, to whatever church or mission or society they belong,

must love each other intensely, or the Spirit of God cannot do His

work. We talk about grieving the Spirit of God by worldliness and

ritualism and formality and error and indifference, but, I tell you,

the one thing above everything that grieves God's Spirit is this lack

of love. Let every heart search itself, and ask that God may search it.

 

Our Love Shows God's Power

 

Why are we taught that "the fruit of the Spirit is love"? Because the

Spirit of God has come to make our daily life an exhibition of divine

power and a revelation of what God can do for His children.

In the second and the fourth chapters of Acts we read that the

disciples were of one heart and of one soul. During the three years

 

20

 

they had walked with Christ they never had been in that spirit. All

Christ's teaching could not make them of one heart and one soul. But

the Holy Spirit came from Heaven and shed the love of God in their

hearts, and they were of one heart and one soul. The same Holy Spirit

that brought the love of Heaven into their hearts must fill us too.

Nothing less will do. Even as Christ did, one might preach love for

three years with the tongue of an angel, but that would not teach any

man to love unless the power of the Holy Spirit should come upon him to

bring the love of Heaven into his heart.

 

Think of the church at large. What divisions! Think of the different

bodies. Take the question of holiness, take the question of the

cleansing blood, take the question of the baptism of the Spirit--what

differences are caused among dear believers by such questions! That

there are differences of opinion does not trouble me. We do not have

the same constitution and temperament and mind. But how often hate,

bitterness, contempt, separation, unlovingness are caused by the

holiest truths of God's Word! Our doctrines, our creeds, have been more

important than love. We often think we are valiant for the truth and we

forget God's command to speak the truth in love. And it was so in the

time of the Reformation between the Lutheran and Calvinistic churches.

 

What bitterness there was then in regard to the Holy Supper, which was

meant to be the bond of union among all believers! And so, down the

ages, the very dearest truths of God have become mountains that have

separated us.

 

If we want to pray in power, and if we want to expect the Holy Spirit

to come down in power, and if we want indeed that God shall pour out

His Spirit, we must enter into a covenant with God that we love one

another with a heavenly love.

 

Are you ready for that? Only that is true love that is large enough to

take in all God's children, the most unloving and unlovable, and

unworthy, and unbearable, and trying. If my vow--absolute surrender to

God--was true, then it must mean absolute surrender to the divine love

to fill me; to be a servant of love to love every child of God around

me. "The fruit of the Spirit is love."

 

Oh, God did something wonderful when He gave Christ, at His right hand,

the Holy Spirit to come down out of the heart of the Father and His

everlasting love. And how we have degraded the Holy Spirit into a mere

power by which we have to do our work! God forgive us! Oh, that the

 

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Holy Spirit might be held in honor as a power to fill us with the very

life and nature of God and of Christ!

 

Christian Work Requires Love

 

"The fruit of the Spirit is love." I ask once again, Why is it so? And

the answer comes: That is the only power in which Christians really can

do their work.

 

Yes, it is that we need. We want not only love that is to bind us to

each other, but we want a divine love in our work for the lost around

us. Oh, do we not often undertake a great deal of work, just as men

undertake work of philanthropy, from a natural spirit of compassion for

our fellow-men? Do we not often undertake Christian work because our

minister or friend calls us to it? And do we not often perform

Christian work with a certain zeal but without having had a baptism of

love?

 

People often ask: "What is the baptism of fire?"

 

I have answered more than once: I know no fire like the fire of God,

the fire of everlasting love that consumed the sacrifice on Calvary.

The baptism of love is what the Church needs, and to get that we must

begin at once to get down upon our faces before God in confession, and

plead:

 

"Lord, let love from Heaven flow down into my heart. I am giving up my

life to pray and live as one who has given himself up for the

everlasting love to dwell in and fill him."

Ah, yes, if the love of God were in our hearts, what a difference it

would make! There are hundreds of believers who say:

"I work for Christ, and I feel I could work much harder, but I have not

the gift. I do not know how or where to begin. I do not know what I can

do."

 

Brother, sister, ask God to baptize you with the Spirit of love, and

love will find its way. Love is a fire that will burn through every

difficulty. You may be a shy, hesitating man, who cannot speak well,

but love can burn through everything. God fill us with love! We need it

for our work.

 

You have read many a touching story of love expressed, and you have

said, How beautiful! I heard one not long ago. A lady had been asked to

 

22

 

speak at a Rescue Home where there were a number of poor women. As she

arrived there and got to the window with the matron, she saw outside a

wretched object sitting, and asked:

 

"Who is that?"

 

The matron answered: "She has been into the house thirty or forty

times, and she has always gone away again. Nothing can be done with

her, she is so low and hard."

 

But the lady said: "She must come in."

The matron then said: "We have been waiting for you, and the company is

assembled, and you have only an hour for the address."

The lady replied: "No, this is of more importance"; and she went

outside where the woman was sitting and said:

"My sister, what is the matter?"

"I am not your sister," was the reply.

 

Then the lady laid her hand on her, and said: "Yes, I am your sister,

and I love you"; and so she spoke until the heart of the poor woman was

touched.

 

The conversation lasted some time, and the company were waiting

patiently. Ultimately the lady brought the woman into the room. There

was the poor wretched, degraded creature, full of shame. She would not

sit on a chair, but sat down on a stool beside the speaker's seat, and

she let her lean against her, with her arms around the poor woman's

neck, while she spoke to the assembled people. And that love touched

the woman's heart; she had found one who really loved her, and that

love gave access to the love of Jesus.

 

Praise God! there is love upon earth in the hearts of God's children;

but oh, that there were more!

 

O God, baptize our ministers with a tender love, and our missionaries,

and our Bible-readers, and our workers, and our young men's and young

women's associations. Oh, that God would begin with us now, and baptize

us with heavenly love!

 

Love Inspires Intercession

 

Once again. It is only love that can fit us for the work of

intercession.

 

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I have said that love must fit us for our work. Do you know what the

hardest and the most important work is that has to be done for this

sinful world? It is the work of intercession, the work of going to God

and taking time to lay hold on Him.

 

A man may be an earnest Christian, an earnest minister, and a man may

do good, but alas! how often he has to confess that he knows but little

of what it is to tarry with God. May God give us the great gift of an

intercessory spirit, a spirit of prayer and supplication! Let me ask

you in the name of Jesus not to let a day pass without praying for all

saints, and for all God's people.

 

I find there are Christians who think little of that. I find there are

prayer unions where they pray for the members, and not for all

believers. I pray you, take time to pray for the Church of Christ. It

is right to pray for the heathen, as I have already said. God help us

to pray more for them. It is right to pray for missionaries and for

evangelistic work, and for the unconverted. But Paul did not tell

people to pray for the heathen or the unconverted. Paul told them to

pray for believers. Do make this your first prayer every day: "Lord,

bless Thy saints everywhere."

 

The state of Christ's Church is indescribably low. Plead for God's

people that He would visit them, plead for each other, plead for all

believers who are trying to work for God. Let love fill your heart. Ask

Christ to pour it out afresh into you every day. Try to get it into you

by the Holy Spirit of God: I am separated unto the Holy Spirit, and the

fruit of the Spirit is love. God help us to understand it.

 

May God grant that we learn day by day to wait more quietly upon Him.

 

Do not wait upon God only for ourselves, or the power to do so will

soon be lost; but give ourselves up to the ministry and the love of

intercession, and pray more for God's people, for God's people round

about us, for the Spirit of love in ourselves and in them, and for the

work of God we are connected with; and the answer will surely come, and

our waiting upon God will be a source of untold blessing and power.

 

"The fruit of the Spirit is love."

 

Have you a lack of love to confess before God? Then make confession and

say before Him, "O Lord, my lack of heart, my lack of love--I confess

it." And then, as you cast that lack at His feet, believe that the

 

24

 

blood cleanses you, that Jesus comes in His mighty, cleansing, saving

power to deliver you, and that He will give His Holy Spirit.

 

"The fruit of the Spirit is love."

SEPARATED UNTO THE HOLY SPIRIT

 

"Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and

teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of

Cyrene, and Manaen . . . and Saul.

 

"As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Spirit said,

Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called

them.

 

"And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them,

they sent them away. So they, being sent forth by the Holy Spirit,

departed unto Seleucia" (Acts 13:1-4).

 

In the story of our text we shall find some precious thoughts to guide

us as to what God would have of us, and what God would do for us. The

great lesson of the verses quoted is this: The Holy Spirit is the

director of the work of God upon the earth. And what we should do if we

are to work rightly for God, and if God is to bless our work, is to see

that we stand in a right relation to the Holy Spirit, that we give Him

every day the place of honor that belongs to Him, and that in all our

work and (what is more) in all our private inner life, the Holy Spirit

shall always have the first place. Let me point out to you some of the

precious thoughts our passage suggests.

 

First of all, we see that God has His own plans with regard to His

kingdom.

 

His church at Antioch had been established. God had certain plans and

intentions with regard to Asia, and with regard to Europe. He had

conceived them; they were His, and He made them known to His servants.

Our great Commander organizes every campaign, and His generals and

officers do not always know the great plans. They often receive sealed

orders, and they have to wait on Him for what He gives them as orders.

 

God in Heaven has wishes, and a will, in regard to any work that ought

to be done, and to the way in which it has to be done. Blessed is the

man who gets into God's secrets and works under God.

25

 

Some years ago, at Wellington, South Africa, where I live, we opened a

Mission Institute--what is counted there a fine large building. At our

opening services the principal said something that I have never

forgotten. He remarked:

 

"Last year we gathered here to lay the foundation-stone, and what was

there then to be seen? Nothing but rubbish, and stones, and bricks, and

ruins of an old building that had been pulled down. There we laid the

foundation-stone, and very few knew what the building was that was to

rise. No one knew it perfectly in every detail except one man, the

architect. In his mind it was all clear, and as the contractor and the

mason and the carpenter came to their work they took their orders from

him, and the humblest laborer had to be obedient to orders, and the

structure rose, and this beautiful building has been completed. And

just so," he added, "this building that we open today is but laying the

foundation of a work of which only God knows what is to become."

 

But God has His workers and His plans clearly mapped out, and our

position is to wait, that God should communicate to us as much of His

will as each time is needful.

 

We have simply to be faithful in obedience, carrying out His orders.

God has a plan for His Church upon earth. But alas! we too often make

our plan, and we think that we know what ought to be done. We ask God

first to bless our feeble efforts, instead of absolutely refusing to go

unless God goes before us. God has planned for the work and the

extension of His kingdom. The Holy Spirit has had that work given in

charge to Him. "The work whereunto I have called them." May God,

therefore, help us all to be afraid of touching "the ark of God" except

as we are led by the Holy Spirit.

 

Then the second thought--God is willing and able to reveal to His

servants what His will is.

 

Yes, blessed be God, communications still come down from Heaven! As we

read here what the Holy Spirit said, so the Holy Spirit will still

speak to His Church and His people. In these later days He has often

done it. He has come to individual men, and by His divine teaching He

has led them out into fields of labor that others could not at first

understand or approve, into ways and methods that did not recommend

themselves to the majority. But the Holy Spirit does still in our time

teach His people. Thank God, in our foreign missionary societies and in

our home missions, and in a thousand forms of work, the guiding of the

26

 

Holy Spirit is known, but (we are all ready, I think, to confess) too

little known. We have not learned enough to wait upon Him, and so we

should make a solemn declaration before God: O God, we want to wait

more for You to show us Thy Will.

 

Do not ask God only for power. Many a Christian has his own plan of

working, but God must send the power. The man works in his own will,

and God must give the grace--the one reason why God often gives so

little grace and so little success. But let us all take our place

before God and say:

 

"What is done in the will of God, the strength of God will not be

withheld from it; what is done in the will of God must have the mighty

blessing of God."

 

And so let our first desire be to have the will of God revealed.

If you ask me, Is it an easy thing to get these communications from

Heaven, and to understand them? I can give you the answer. It is easy

to those who are in right fellowship with Heaven, and who understand

the art of waiting upon God in prayer.

 

How often we ask: How can a person know the will of God? And people

want, when they are in perplexity, to pray very earnestly that God

should answer them at once. But God can only reveal His will to a heart

that is humble and tender and empty. God can only reveal His will in

perplexities and special difficulties to a heart that has learned to

obey and honor Him loyally in little things and in daily life.

 

That brings me to the third thought--Note the disposition to which the

Spirit reveals God's will.

 

What do we read here? There were a number of men ministering to the

Lord and fasting, and the Holy Spirit came and spoke to them. Some

people understand this passage very much as they would in reference to

a missionary committee of our day. We see there is an open field, and

we have had our missions in other fields, and we are going to get on to

that field. We have virtually settled that, and we pray about it. But

the position was a very different one in those former days. I doubt

whether any of them thought of Europe, for later on even Paul himself

tried to go back into Asia, till the night vision called him by the

will of God. Look at those men. God had done wonders. He had extended

the Church to Antioch, and He had given rich and large blessing. Now,

here were these men ministering to the Lord, serving Him with prayer

27

 

and fasting. What a deep conviction they have--"It must all come direct

from Heaven. We are in fellowship with the risen Lord; we must have a

close union with Him, and somehow He will let us know what He wants."

And there they were, empty, ignorant, helpless, glad and joyful, but

deeply humbled.

 

"O Lord," they seem to say, "we are Thy servants, and in fasting and

prayer we wait upon You. What is Thy will for us?"

Was it not the same with Peter? He was on the housetop, fasting and

praying, and little did he think of the vision and the command to go to

Caesarea. He was ignorant of what his work might be.

 

It is in hearts entirely surrendered to the Lord Jesus, in hearts

separating themselves from the world, and even from ordinary religious

exercises, and giving themselves up in intense prayer to look to their

Lord--it is in such hearts that the heavenly will of God will be made

manifest.

 

You know that word fasting occurs a second time (in the third verse):

"They fasted and prayed." When you pray, you love to go into your

closet, according to the command of Jesus, and shut the door. You shut

out business and company and pleasure and anything that can distract,

and you want to be alone with God. But in one way even the material

world follows you there. You must eat. These men wanted to shut

themselves out from the influences of the material and the visible, and

they fasted. What they ate was simply enough to supply the wants of

nature, and in the intensity of their souls they thought to give

expression to their letting go of everything on earth in their fasting

before God. Oh, may God give us that intensity of desire, that

separation from everything, because we want to wait upon God, that the

Holy Spirit may reveal to us God's blessed will.

 

The fourth thought--What is now the will of God as the Holy Spirit

reveals it? It is contained in one phrase: Separation unto the Holy

Spirit. That is the keynote of the message from Heaven.

 

"Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called

them. The work is mine, and I care for it, and I have chosen these men

and called them, and I want you who represent the Church of Christ upon

earth to set them apart unto me."

 

Look at this heavenly message in its twofold aspect. The men were to be

set apart to the Holy Spirit, and the Church was to do this separating work.

28

 

The Holy Spirit could trust these men to do it in a right spirit.

There they were abiding in fellowship with the heavenly, and the Holy

Spirit could say to them, "Do the work of separating these men." And

these were the men the Holy Spirit had prepared, and He could say of

them, "Let them be separated unto me."

 

Here we come to the very root, to the very life of the need of

Christian workers. The question is: What is needed that the power of

God should rest upon us more mightily, that the blessing of God should

be poured out more abundantly among those poor, wretched people and

perishing sinners among whom we labor? And the answer from Heaven is:

 

"I want men separated unto the Holy Spirit."

 

What does that imply? You know that there are two spirits on earth.

Christ said, when He spoke about the Holy Spirit: "The world cannot

receive him" (John 14:17). Paul said: "We have received not the spirit

of the world, but the Spirit that is of God" (1 Corinthians. 2:12). That is the

great want in every worker--the spirit of the world going out, and the

Spirit of God coming in to take possession of the inner life and of the

whole being.

 

I am sure there are workers who often cry to God for the Holy Spirit to

come upon them as a Spirit of power for their work, and when they feel

that measure of power, and get blessing, they thank God for it. But God

wants something more and something higher. God wants us to seek for the

Holy Spirit as a Spirit of power in our own heart and life, to conquer

self and cast out sin, and to work the blessed and beautiful image of

Jesus into us.

 

There is a difference between the power of the Spirit as a gift, and

the power of the Spirit for the grace of a holy life. A man may often

have a measure of the power of the Spirit, but if there is not a large

measure of the Spirit as the Spirit of grace and holiness, the defect

will be manifest in his work. He may be made the means of conversion,

but he never will help people on to a higher standard of spiritual

life, and when he passes away, a great deal of his work may pass away

too. But a man who is separated unto the Holy Spirit is a man who is

given up to say:

 

"Father, let the Holy Spirit have full dominion over me, in my home, in

my temper, in every word of my tongue, in every thought of my heart, in

every feeling toward my fellow men; let the Holy Spirit have entire possession."

29

 

Is that what has been the longing and the covenant of your heart with

your God--to be a man or a woman separated and given up unto the Holy

Spirit? I pray you listen to the voice of Heaven. "Separate me," said

the Holy Spirit. Yes, separated unto the Holy Spirit. May God grant

that the Word may enter into the very depths of our being to search us,

 

and if we discover that we have not come out from the world entirely,

if God reveals to us that the self-life, self-will, self-exaltation are

there, let us humble ourselves before Him.

 

Man, woman, brother, sister, you are a worker separated unto the Holy

Spirit. Is that true? Has that been your longing desire? Has that been

your surrender? Has that been what you have expected through faith in

the power of our risen and almighty Lord Jesus? If not, here is the

call of faith, and here is the key of blessing--separated unto the Holy

Spirit. God write the word in our hearts!

 

I said the Holy Spirit spoke to that church as a church capable of

doing that work. The Holy Spirit trusted them. God grant that our

churches, our missionary societies, and our workers' unions, that all

our directors and councils and committees may be men and women who are

fit for the work of separating workers unto the Holy Spirit. We can ask

God for that too.

 

Then comes my fifth thought, and it is this--This holy partnership with

the Holy Spirit in this work becomes a matter of consciousness and of

action.

 

These men, what did they do? They set apart Paul and Barnabas, and then

it is written of the two that they, being sent forth by the Holy

Spirit, went down to Seleucia. Oh, what fellowship! The Holy Spirit in

Heaven doing part of the work, men on earth doing the other part. After

the ordination of the men upon earth, it is written in God's inspired

Word that they were sent forth by the Holy Spirit.

 

And see how this partnership calls to new prayer and fasting. They had

for a certain time been ministering to the Lord and fasting, perhaps

days; and the Holy Spirit speaks, and they have to do the work and to

enter into partnership, and at once they come together for more prayer

and fasting. That is the spirit in which they obey the command of their

Lord. And that teaches us that it is not only in the beginning of our

Christian work, but all along that we need to have our strength in

prayer. If there is one thought with regard to the Church of Christ,

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which at times comes to me with overwhelming sorrow; if there is one

thought in regard to my own life of which I am ashamed; if there is one

thought of which I feel that the Church of Christ has not accepted it

and not grasped it; if there is one thought which makes me pray to God:

"Oh, teach us by Thy grace, new things"--it is the wonderful power that

prayer is meant to have in the kingdom. We have so little availed

ourselves of it.

 

We have all read the expression of Christian in Bunyan's great work,

when he found he had the key in his breast that should unlock the

dungeon. We have the key that can unlock the dungeon of atheism and of

heathendom. But, oh! we are far more occupied with our work than we are

with prayer. We believe more in speaking to men than we believe in

speaking to God. Learn from these men that the work which the Holy

Spirit commands must call us to new fasting and prayer, to new

separation from the spirit and the pleasures of the world, to new

consecration to God and to His fellowship. Those men gave themselves up

to fasting and prayer, and if in all our ordinary Christian work there

were more prayer, there would be more blessing in our own inner life.

If we felt and proved and testified to the world that our only strength

lay in keeping every minute in contact with Christ, every minute

allowing God to work in us--if that were our spirit, would not, by the

grace of God, our lives be holier? Would not they be more abundantly

fruitful?

 

I hardly know a more solemn warning in God's Word than that which we

find in the third chapter of Galatians, where Paul asked:

 

"Having begun in the Spirit, are you now made perfect by the flesh?"

(Galatians 3:3).

 

Do you understand what that means? A terrible danger in Christian work,

just as in a Christian life that is begun with much prayer, begun in

the Holy Spirit, is that it may be gradually shunted off on to the

lines of the flesh; and the word comes: "Having begun in the Spirit,

are you now made perfect by the flesh?" In the time of our first

perplexity and helplessness we prayed much to God, and God answered and

God blessed, and our organization became perfected, and our band of

workers became large; but gradually the organization and the work and

the rush have so taken possession of us that the power of the Spirit,

in which we began when we were a small company, has almost been lost.

 

 

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Oh, I pray you, note it well! It was with new prayer and fasting, with

more prayer and fasting, that this company of disciples carried out the

command of the Holy Spirit, "My soul, wait you only upon God." That is

our highest and most important work. The Holy Spirit comes in answer to

believing prayer.

 

You know when the exalted Jesus had ascended to the throne, for ten

days the footstool of the throne was the place where His waiting

disciples cried to Him. And that is the law of the kingdom--the King

upon the throne, the servants upon the footstool. May God find us there

unceasingly!

 

Then comes the last thought--What a wonderful blessing comes when the

Holy Spirit is allowed to lead and to direct the work, and when it is

carried on in obedience to Him!

 

You know the story of the mission on which Barnabas and Saul were sent

out. You know what power there was with them. The Holy Spirit sent

them, and they went on from place to place with large blessing. The

Holy Spirit was their leader further on. You recollect how it was by

the Spirit that Paul was hindered from going again into Asia, and was

led away over to Europe. Oh, the blessing that rested upon that little

company of men, and upon their ministry unto the Lord!

 

I pray you, let us learn to believe that God has a blessing for us. The

Holy Spirit, into whose hands God has put the work, has been called

"the executive of the Holy Trinity." The Holy Spirit has not only

power, but He has the Spirit of love. He is brooding over this dark

world and every sphere of work in it, and He is willing to bless. And

why is there not more blessing? There can be but one answer. We have

not honored the Holy Spirit as we should have done. Is there one who

can say that that is not true? Is not every thoughtful heart ready to

cry: "God forgive me that I have not honored the Holy Spirit as I

should have done, that I have grieved Him, that I have allowed self and

the flesh and my own will to work where the Holy Spirit should have

been honored! May God forgive me that I have allowed self and the flesh

and the will actually to have the place that God wanted the Holy Spirit

to have."

 

Oh, the sin is greater than we know! No wonder that there is so much

feebleness and failure in the Church of Christ!

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PETER'S REPENTANCE

 

 

"And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the

word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, you

shalt deny me thrice. And Peter went out, and wept bitterly" (Luke

22:61, 62).

 

That was the turning-point in the history of Peter. Christ had said to

him: "You canst not follow me now" (John 13:36). Peter was not in a

fit state to follow Christ, because he had not been brought to an end

of himself; he did not know himself, and he therefore could not follow

Christ. But when he went out and wept bitterly, then came the great

change. Christ previously said to him: "When you art converted,

strengthen thy brethren." Here is the point where Peter was converted

from self to Christ.

 

I thank God for the story of Peter. I do not know a man in the Bible

who gives us greater comfort. When we look at his character, so full of

failures, and at what Christ made him by the power of the Holy Spirit,

there is hope for every one of us. But remember, before Christ could

fill Peter with the Holy Spirit and make a new man of him, he had to go

out and weep bitterly; he had to be humbled. If we want to understand

this, I think there are four points that we must look at. First, let us

look at Peter the devoted disciple of Jesus; next, at Peter as he lived

the life of self; then at Peter in his repentance; and last, at what

Christ made of Peter by the Holy Spirit.

 

Peter the Devoted Disciple of Christ

 

Christ called Peter to forsake his nets, and follow Him. Peter did it

at once, and he afterward could say rightly to the Lord:

 

"We have forsaken all and followed you" (Matthew 19:27).

 

Peter was a man of absolute surrender; he gave up all to follow Jesus.

Peter was also a man of ready obedience. You remember Christ said to

him, "Launch out into the deep, and let down the net." Peter the

fisherman knew there were no fish there, for they had been toiling all

night and had caught nothing; but he said: "At thy word I will let down

the net" (Luke 5:4, 5). He submitted to the word of Jesus. Further, he

was a man of great faith. When he saw Christ walking on the sea, he

said: "Lord, if it be you, bid me come unto you" (Matt. 14:28); and

at the voice of Christ he stepped out of the boat and walked upon the water.

 

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And Peter was a man of spiritual insight. When Christ asked the

disciples: "Whom do you say that I am?" Peter was able to answer: "You

art the Christ, the Son of the living God." And Christ said: "Blessed

art you, Simon Barjona; for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto

you, but my Father which is in heaven." And Christ spoke of him as the

rock man, and of his having the keys of the kingdom. Peter was a

splendid man, a devoted disciple of Jesus, and if he were living

nowadays, everyone would say that he was an advanced Christian. And yet

how much there was wanting in Peter!

 

Peter Living the Life of Self

 

You recollect that just after Christ had said to him: "Flesh and blood

hath not revealed it unto you, but my Father which is in heaven,"

Christ began to speak about His sufferings, and Peter dared to say: "Be

it far from you, Lord; this shall not be unto you." Then Christ had

to say:

 

"Get you behind me, Satan; for you savor not the things that be of

God, but those that be of men" (Matthew 16:22-23).

 

There was Peter in his self-will, trusting his own wisdom, and actually

forbidding Christ to go and die. Whence did that come? Peter trusted in

himself and his own thoughts about divine things. We see later on, more

than once, that among the disciples there was a questioning who should

be the greatest, and Peter was one of them, and he thought he had a

right to the very first place. He sought his own honor even above the

others. It was the life of self strong in Peter. He had left his boats

and his nets, but not his old self.

 

When Christ had spoken to him about His sufferings, and said: "Get you

behind me, Satan," He followed it up by saying: "If any man will come

after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me"

(Matthew 16:24). No man can follow Him unless he do that. Self must be

utterly denied. What does that mean? When Peter denied Christ, we read

that he said three times: "I do not know the man"; in other words: "I

have nothing to do with Him; He and I are no friends; I deny having any

connection with Him." Christ told Peter that he must deny self. Self

must be ignored, and its every claim rejected. That is the root of true

discipleship; but Peter did not understand it, and could not obey it.

 

And what happened? When the last night came, Christ said to him:

"Before the cock crow twice you shalt deny me thrice."

 

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But with what self-confidence Peter said: "Though all should forsake

you, yet will not I. I am ready to go with you, to prison and to

death" (Mark 14:29; Luke 22:33).

 

Peter meant it honestly, and Peter really intended to do it; but Peter

did not know himself. He did not believe he was as bad as Jesus said he

was.

 

We perhaps think of individual sins that come between us and God, but

what are we to do with that self-life which is all unclean--our very

nature? What are we to do with that flesh that is entirely under the

power of sin? Deliverance from that is what we need. Peter knew it not,

and therefore it was that in his self-confidence he went forth and

denied his Lord.

 

Notice how Christ uses that word deny twice. He said to Peter the first

time, "Deny self"; He said to Peter the second time, "You wilt deny

me." It is either of the two. There is no choice for us; we must either

deny self or deny Christ. There are two great powers fighting each

other--the self-nature in the power of sin, and Christ in the power of

God. Either of these must rule within us.

 

It was self that made the Devil. He was an angel of God, but he wanted

to exalt self. He became a Devil in hell. Self was the cause of the

fall of man. Eve wanted something for herself, and so our first parents

fell into all the wretchedness of sin. We their children have inherited

an awful nature of sin.

 

Peter's Repentance

 

Peter denied his Lord thrice, and then the Lord looked upon him; and

that look of Jesus broke the heart of Peter, and all at once there

opened up before him the terrible sin that he had committed, the

terrible failure that had come, and the depth into which he had fallen,

and "Peter went out and wept bitterly."

 

Oh! who can tell what that repentance must have been? During the

following hours of that night, and the next day, when he saw Christ

crucified and buried, and the next day, the Sabbath--oh, in what

hopeless despair and shame he must have spent that day!

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"My Lord is gone, my hope is gone, and I denied my Lord. After that

life of love, after that blessed fellowship of three years, I denied my

Lord. God have mercy upon me!"

 

I do not think we can realize into what a depth of humiliation Peter

sank then. But that was the turning point and the change; and on the

first day of the week Christ was seen of Peter, and in the evening He

met him with the others. Later on at the Lake of Galilee He asked him:

"Do you love me?" until Peter was made sad by the thought that the Lord

reminded him of having denied Him thrice; and said in sorrow, but in

uprightness:

 

"Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you" (John 21:17).

 

Peter Transformed

 

Now Peter was prepared for deliverance from self, and that is my last

thought. You know Christ took him with others to the footstool of the

throne, and bade them wait there; and then on the day of Pentecost the

Holy Spirit came, and Peter was a changed man. I do not want you to

think only of the change in Peter, in that boldness, and that power,

and that insight into the Scriptures, and that blessing with which he

preached that day. Thank God for that. But there was something for

Peter deeper and better. Peter's whole nature was changed. The work

that Christ began in Peter when He looked upon him, was perfected when

he was filled with the Holy Spirit.

 

If you want to see that, read the First Epistle of Peter. You know

wherein Peter's failings lay. When he said to Christ, in effect: "You

never canst suffer; it cannot be"--it showed he had not a conception of

what it was to pass through death into life. Christ said: "Deny

thyself," and in spite of that he denied his Lord. When Christ warned

him: "You shall deny me," and he insisted that he never would, Peter

showed how little he understood what there was in himself. But when I

read his epistle and hear him say: "If you be reproached for the name of

Christ, happy are you, for the Spirit of God and of glory rests upon

you" (1 Peter 4:14), then I say that it is not the old Peter, but that

is the very Spirit of Christ breathing and speaking within him.

 

I read again how he says: "Hereunto you are called, to suffer, even as

Christ suffered" (1 Peter 2:21). I understand what a change had come

over Peter. Instead of denying Christ, he found joy and pleasure in

having self denied and crucified and given up to the death.

 

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And therefore it is in the Acts we read that, when he was called before the

Council, he could boldly say: "We must obey God rather than men" (Acts

5:29), and that he could return with the other disciples and rejoice

that they were counted worthy to suffer for Christ's name.

You remember his self-exaltation; but now he has found out that "the

ornament of a meek and quiet spirit is in the sight of God of great

price." Again he tells us to be "subject one to another, and be clothed

with humility" (1 Peter 5:5).

 

Dear friend, I beseech you, look at Peter utterly changed--the

self-pleasing, the self-trusting, the self-seeking Peter, full of sin,

continually getting into trouble, foolish and impetuous, but now filled

with the Spirit and the life of Jesus. Christ had done it for him by

the Holy Spirit.

 

And now, what is my object in having thus very briefly pointed to the

story of Peter? That story must be the history of every believer who is

really to be made a blessing by God. That story is a prophecy of what

everyone can receive from God in Heaven.

 

Now let us just glance hurriedly at what these lessons teach us.

The first lesson is this--You may be a very earnest, godly, devoted

believer, in whom the power of the flesh is yet very strong.

 

That is a very solemn truth. Peter, before he denied Christ, had cast

out devils and had healed the sick; and yet the flesh had power, and

the flesh had room in him. Oh, beloved, we have to realize that it is

just because there is so much of that self-life in us that the power of

God cannot work in us as mightily as God is willing that it should

work. Do you realize that the great God is longing to double His

blessing, to give tenfold blessing through us? But there is something

hindering Him, and that something is a proof of nothing but the

self-life. We talk about the pride of Peter, and the impetuosity of

Peter, and the self-confidence of Peter. It all rooted in that one

word, self. Christ had said, "Deny self," and Peter had never

understood, and never obeyed; and every failing came out of that.

 

What a solemn thought, and what an urgent plea for us to cry: O God, do

reveal this to us, that none of us may be living the self-life! It has

happened to many a one who had been a Christian for years, who had

perhaps occupied a prominent position, that God found him out and

taught him to find himself out, and he became utterly ashamed, falling

down broken before God. Oh, the bitter shame and sorrow and pain and

 

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agony that came to him, until at last he found that there was

deliverance! Peter went out and wept bitterly, and there may be many a

godly one in whom the power of the flesh still rules.

And then my second lesson is--It is the work of our blessed Lord Jesus

to reveal the power of self.

 

How was it that Peter, the carnal Peter, self-willed Peter, Peter with

the strong self-love, ever became a man of Pentecost and the writer of

his epistles? It was because Christ had him in charge, and Christ

watched over him, and Christ taught and blessed him. The warnings that

Christ had given him were part of the training; and last of all there

came that look of love. In His suffering Christ did not forget him, but

 

turned round and looked upon him, and "Peter went out and wept

bitterly." And the Christ who led Peter to Pentecost is waiting today

to take charge of every heart that is willing to surrender itself to

Him.

 

Are there not some saying: "Ah! that is the mischief with me; it is

always the self-life, and self-comfort, and self-consciousness, and

self-pleasing, and self-will; how am I to get rid of it?"

 

My answer is: It is Christ Jesus who can rid you of it; none else but

Christ Jesus can give deliverance from the power of self. And what does

He ask you to do? He asks that you should humble yourself before Him.

IMPOSSIBLE WITH MAN, POSSIBLE WITH GOD

 

 

 

"And he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible

with God" (Luke 18:27).

 

Christ had said to the rich young ruler, "Sell all that you hast . . .

and come, follow me." The young man went away sorrowful. Christ then

turned to the disciples, and said: "How hardly shall they that have

riches enter into the kingdom of God!" The disciples, we read, were

greatly astonished, and answered: "If it is so difficult to enter the

kingdom, who, then, can be saved?" And Christ gave this blessed answer:

"The things which are impossible with men are possible with God."

The text contains two thoughts--that in religion, in the question of

salvation and of following Christ by a holy life, it is impossible for

man to do it. And then alongside that is the thought--What is

impossible with man is possible with God.

 

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The two thoughts mark the two great lessons that man has to learn in

the religious life. It often takes a long time to learn the first

lesson, that in religion man can do nothing, that salvation is

impossible to man. And often a man learns that, and yet he does not

learn the second lesson--what has been impossible to him is possible

with God. Blessed is the man who learns both lessons! The learning of

them marks stages in the Christian's life.

 

Man Cannot

 

The one stage is when a man is trying to do his utmost and fails, when

a man tries to do better and fails again, when a man tries much more

and always fails. And yet very often he does not even then learn the

lesson: With man it is impossible to serve God and Christ. Peter spent

three years in Christ's school, and he never learned that, It is

impossible, until he had denied his Lord and went out and wept

bitterly. Then he learned it.

 

Just look for a moment at a man who is learning this lesson. At first

he fights against it; then he submits to it, but reluctantly and in

despair; at last he accepts it willingly and rejoices in it. At the

beginning of the Christian life the young convert has no conception of

this truth. He has been converted, he has the joy of the Lord in his

heart, he begins to run the race and fight the battle; he is sure he

can conquer, for he is earnest and honest, and God will help him. Yet,

somehow, very soon he fails where he did not expect it, and sin gets

the better of him. He is disappointed; but he thinks: "I was not

watchful enough, I did not make my resolutions strong enough." And

again he vows, and again he prays, and yet he fails. He thought: "Am I

not a regenerate man? Have I not the life of God within me?" And he

thinks again: "Yes, and I have Christ to help me, I can live the holy

life."

 

At a later period he comes to another state of mind. He begins to see

such a life is impossible, but he does not accept it. There are

multitudes of Christians who come to this point: "I cannot"; and then

think God never expected them to do what they cannot do. If you tell

them that God does expect it, it appears to them a mystery. A good many

Christians are living a low life, a life of failure and of sin, instead

of rest and victory, because they began to see: "I cannot, it is

impossible." And yet they do not understand it fully, and so, under the

impression, I cannot, they give way to despair. They will do their

best, but they never expect to get on very far.

 

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But God leads His children on to a third stage, when a man comes to

take that, It is impossible, in its full truth, and yet at the same

time says: "I must do it, and I will do it--it is impossible for man,

and yet I must do it"; when the renewed will begins to exercise its

whole power, and in intense longing and prayer begins to cry to God:

"Lord, what is the meaning of this?--how am I to be freed from the

power of sin?"

 

It is the state of the regenerate man in Romans 7. There you will find

the Christian man trying his very utmost to live a holy life. God's law

has been revealed to him as reaching down into the very depth of the

desires of the heart, and the man can dare to say:

 

"I delight in the law of God after the inward man. To will what is good

is present with me. My heart loves the law of God, and my will has

chosen that law."

 

Can a man like that fail, with his heart full of delight in God's law

and with his will determined to do what is right? Yes. That is what

Romans 7 teaches us. There is something more needed. Not only must I

delight in the law of God after the inward man, and will what God

wills, but I need a divine omnipotence to work it in me. And that is

what the apostle Paul teaches in Philippians 2:13:

 

"It is God which works in you, both to will and to do."

 

Note the contrast. In Romans 7, the regenerate man says: "To will is

present with me, but to do--I find I cannot do. I will, but I cannot

perform." But in Philippians 2, you have a man who has been led on

farther, a man who understands that when God has worked the renewed

will, God will give the power to accomplish what that will desires. Let

us receive this as the first great lesson in the spiritual life: "It is

impossible for me, my God; let there be an end of the flesh and all its

powers, an end of self, and let it be my glory to be helpless."

 

Praise God for the divine teaching that makes us helpless!

When you thought of absolute surrender to God were you not brought to

an end of yourself, and to feel that you could see how you actually

could live as a man absolutely surrendered to God every moment of the

day--at your table, in your house, in your business, in the midst of

trials and temptations? I pray you learn the lesson now. If you felt

you could not do it, you are on the right road, if you let yourselves

be led. Accept that position, and maintain it before God:

 

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"My heart's desire and delight, O God, is absolute surrender, but I cannot perform

it. It is impossible for me to live that life. It is beyond me." Fall

down and learn that when you are utterly helpless, God will come to

work in you not only to will, but also to do.

 

God Can

 

Now comes the second lesson. "The things which are impossible with men

are possible with God."

 

I said a little while ago that there is many a man who has learned the

lesson, It is impossible with men, and then he gives up in helpless

despair, and lives a wretched Christian life, without joy, or strength,

or victory. And why? Because he does not humble himself to learn that

other lesson: With God all things are possible.

 

Your religious life is every day to be a proof that God works

impossibilities; your religious life is to be a series of

impossibilities made possible and actual by God's almighty power. That

is what the Christian needs. He has an almighty God that he worships,

and he must learn to understand that he does not need a little of God's

power, but he needs--with reverence be it said--the whole of God's

omnipotence to keep him right, and to live like a Christian.

 

The whole of Christianity is a work of God's omnipotence. Look at the

birth of Christ Jesus. That was a miracle of divine power, and it was

said to Mary: "With God nothing shall be impossible." It was the

omnipotence of God. Look at Christ's resurrection. We are taught that

it was according to the exceeding greatness of His mighty power that

God raised Christ from the dead.

 

Every tree must grow on the root from which it springs. An oak tree

three hundred years old grows all the time on the one root from which

it had its beginning. Christianity had its beginning in the omnipotence

of God, and in every soul it must have its continuance in that

omnipotence. All the possibilities of the higher Christian life have

their origin in a new apprehension of Christ's power to work all God's

will in us.

 

I want to call upon you now to come and worship an almighty God. Have

you learned to do it? Have you learned to deal so closely with an

almighty God that you know omnipotence is working in you? In outward

appearance there is often so little sign of it. The apostle Paul said:

 

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"I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and . .

. my preaching was . . . in demonstration of the Spirit and of power."

From the human side there was feebleness, from the divine side there

was divine omnipotence. And that is true of every godly life; and if we

would only learn that lesson better, and give a wholehearted, undivided

surrender to it, we should learn what blessedness there is in dwelling

every hour and every moment with an almighty God. Have you ever studied

in the Bible the attribute of God's omnipotence? You know that it was

God's omnipotence that created the world, and created light out of

darkness, and created man. But have you studied God's omnipotence in

the works of redemption?

 

Look at Abraham. When God called him to be the father of that people

out of which Christ was to be born, God said to him: "I am God

Almighty, walk before me and be you perfect." And God trained Abraham

to trust Him as the omnipotent One; and whether it was his going out to

a land that he knew not, or his faith as a pilgrim midst the thousands

of Canaanites--his faith said: This is my land--or whether it was his

faith in waiting twenty-five years for a son in his old age, against

all hope, or whether it was the raising up of Isaac from the dead on

Mount Moriah when he was going to sacrifice him--Abraham believed God.

 

He was strong in faith, giving glory to God, because he accounted Him

who had promised able to perform.

 

The cause of the weakness of your Christian life is that you want to

work it out partly, and to let God help you. And that cannot be. You

must come to be utterly helpless, to let God work, and God will work

gloriously. It is this that we need if we are indeed to be workers for

God. I could go through Scripture and prove to you how Moses, when he

led Israel out of Egypt; how Joshua, when he brought them into the land

of Canaan; how all God's servants in the Old Testament counted upon the

omnipotence of God doing impossibilities. And this God lives today, and

this God is the God of every child of His. And yet we are some of us

wanting God to give us a little help while we do our best, instead of

coming to understand what God wants, and to say: "I can do nothing. God

must and will do all." Have you said: "In worship, in work, in

sanctification, in obedience to God, I can do nothing of myself, and so

my place is to worship the omnipotent God, and to believe that He will

work in me every moment"? Oh, may God teach us this! Oh, that God would

by His grace show you what a God you have, and to what a God you have

entrusted yourself--an omnipotent God, willing with His whole

omnipotence to place Himself at the disposal of every child of His!

 

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Shall we not take the lesson of the Lord Jesus and say: "Amen; the

things which are impossible with men are possible with God"?

Remember what we have said about Peter, his self-confidence,

self-power, self-will, and how he came to deny his Lord. You feel, "Ah!

there is the self-life, there is the flesh-life that rules in me!" And

now, have you believed that there is deliverance from that? Have you

believed that Almighty God is able so to reveal Christ in your heart,

so to let the Holy Spirit rule in you, that the self-life shall not

have power or dominion over you? Have you coupled the two together, and

with tears of penitence and with deep humiliation and feebleness, cried

out: "O God, it is impossible to me; man cannot do it, but, glory to

Thy name, it is possible with God"? Have you claimed deliverance? Do it

now. Put yourself afresh in absolute surrender into the hands of a God

of infinite love; and as infinite as His love is His power to do it.

 

God Works in Man

 

But again, we came to the question of absolute surrender, and felt that

that is the want in the Church of Christ, and that is why the Holy

Spirit cannot fill us, and why we cannot live as people entirely

separated unto the Holy Spirit; that is why the flesh and the self-life

cannot be conquered. We have never understood what it is to be

absolutely surrendered to God as Jesus was. I know that many a one

earnestly and honestly says: "Amen, I accept the message of absolute

surrender to God"; and yet thinks: "Will that ever be mine? Can I count

upon God to make me one of whom it shall be said in Heaven and on earth

and in Hell, he lives in absolute surrender to God?" Brother, sister,

"the things which are impossible with men are possible with God." Do

believe that when He takes charge of you in Christ, it is possible for

God to make you a man of absolute surrender. And God is able to

maintain that. He is able to let you rise from bed every morning of the

week with that blessed thought directly or indirectly: "I am in God's

charge. My God is working out my life for me."

 

Some are weary of thinking about sanctification. You pray, you have

longed and cried for it, and yet it appeared so far off! The holiness

and humility of Jesus--you are so conscious of how distant it is.

 

Beloved friends, the one doctrine of sanctification that is scriptural

and real and effectual is: "The things which are impossible with men

are possible with God." God can sanctify men, and by His almighty and

sanctifying power every moment God can keep them.

 

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Oh, that we might get a step nearer to our God now!

 

Oh, that the light of God might shine, and that we might know our God better!

 

I could go on to speak about the life of Christ in us--living like

Christ, taking Christ as our Saviour from sin, and as our life and

strength. It is God in Heaven who can reveal that in you. What does

that prayer of the apostle Paul say: "That he would grant you according

to riches of his glory"--it is sure to be something very wonderful if

it is according to the riches of His glory--"to be strengthened with

might by his Spirit in the inner man"? Do you not see that it is an

omnipotent God working by His omnipotence in the heart of His believing

children, so that Christ can become an indwelling Saviour? You have

tried to grasp it and to seize it, and you have tried to believe it,

and it would not come. It was because you had not been brought to

believe that "the things which are impossible with men are possible

with God."

 

And so, I trust that the word spoken about love may have brought many

to see that we must have an inflowing of love in quite a new way; our

heart must be filled with life from above, from the Fountain of

everlasting love, if it is going to overflow all the day; then it will

be just as natural for us to love our fellow men as it is natural for

the lamb to be gentle and the wolf to be cruel. Until I am brought to

such a state that the more a man hates and speaks evil of me, the more

unlikable and unlovable a man is, I shall love him all the more; until

I am brought to such a state that the more the obstacles and hatred and

ingratitude, the more can the power of love triumph in me--until I am

brought to see that, I am not saying: "It is impossible with men." But

if you have been led to say: "This message has spoken to me about a

love utterly beyond my power; it is absolutely impossible"--then we can

come to God and say: "It is possible with You."

 

Some are crying to God for a great revival. I can say that that is the

prayer of my heart unceasingly. Oh, if God would only revive His

believing people! I cannot think in the first place of the unconverted

formalists of the Church, or of the infidels and skeptics, or of all

the wretched and perishing around me, my heart prays in the first

place: "My God, revive Thy Church and people." It is not for nothing

that there are in thousands of hearts yearnings after holiness and

consecration: it is a forerunner of God's power. God works to will and

then He works to do. These yearnings are a witness and a proof that God

has worked to will. Oh, let us in faith believe that the omnipotent God

 

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will work to do among His people more than we can ask. "Unto him," Paul

said, "who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or

think. . . . unto him be glory." Let our hearts say that. Glory to God,

the omnipotent One, who can do above what we dare to ask or think!

"The things which are impossible with men are possible with God." All

around you there is a world of sin and sorrow, and the Devil is there.

 

But remember, Christ is on the throne, Christ is stronger, Christ has

conquered, and Christ will conquer. But wait on God. My text casts us

down: "The things which are impossible with men"; but it ultimately

lifts us up high--"are possible with God." Get linked to God. Adore and

trust Him as the omnipotent One, not only for your own life, but for

all the souls that are entrusted to you. Never pray without adoring His

omnipotence, saying: "Mighty God, I claim Your almightiness." And the

answer to the prayer will come, and like Abraham you will become strong

in faith, giving glory to God, because you account Him who hath

promised able to perform.

"O WRETCHED MAN THAT I AM!"

 

"O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this

death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 7:24, 25).

You know the wonderful place that this text has in the wonderful

epistle to the Romans. It stands here at the end of the seventh chapter

as the gateway into the eighth. In the first sixteen verses of the

eighth chapter the name of the Holy Spirit is found sixteen times; you

have there the description and promise of the life that a child of God

can live in the power of the Holy Spirit. This begins in the second

verse: "The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free

from the law of sin and death" (Rom. 8:12). From that Paul goes on to

speak of the great privileges of the child of God, who is to be led by

the Spirit of God. The gateway into all this is in the twenty-fourth

verse of the seventh chapter:

 

"O wretched man that I am!"

 

There you have the words of a man who has come to the end of himself.

He has in the previous verses described how he had struggled and

wrestled in his own power to obey the holy law of God, and had failed.

But in answer to his own question he now finds the true answer and

cries out: "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord." From that he

goes on to speak of what that deliverance is that he has found.

 

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I want from these words to describe the path by which a man can be led

out of the spirit of bondage into the spirit of liberty. You know how

distinctly it is said: "You have not received the spirit of bondage

again to fear." We are continually warned that this is the great danger

of the Christian life, to go again into bondage; and I want to describe

the path by which a man can get out of bondage into the glorious

liberty of the children of God. Rather, I want to describe the man

himself.

 

First, these words are the language of a regenerate man; second, of an

impotent man; third, of a wretched man; and fourth, of a man on the

borders of complete liberty.

 

The Regenerate Man

 

There is much evidence of regeneration from the fourteenth verse of the

chapter on to the twenty-third. "It is no more I that do it, but sin

that dwells in me" (Rom. 7:17): that is the language of a regenerate

man, a man who knows that his heart and nature have been renewed, and

that sin is now a power in him that is not himself. "I delight in the

law of the Lord after the inward man" (Rom. 7:22): that again is the

language of a regenerate man. He dares to say when he does evil: "It is

no more I that do it, but sin that dwells in me." It is of great

importance to understand this.

 

In the first two great sections of the epistle, Paul deals with

justification and sanctification. In dealing with justification, he

lays the foundation of the doctrine in the teaching about sin, not in

the singular, sin, but in the plural, sins--the actual transgressions.

In the second part of the fifth chapter he begins to deal with sin, not

as actual transgression, but as a power. Just imagine what a loss it

would have been to us if we had not this second half of the seventh

chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, if Paul had omitted in his

teaching this vital question of the sinfulness of the believer. We

should have missed the question we all want answered as to sin in the

believer. What is the answer? The regenerate man is one in whom the

will has been renewed, and who can say: "I delight in the law of God

after the inward man."

 

The Impotent Man

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Here is the great mistake made by many Christian people: they think

that when there is a renewed will, it is enough; but that is not the

case. This regenerate man tells us: "I will to do what is good, but the

power to perform I find not." How often people tell us that if you set

yourself determinedly, you can perform what you will! But this man was

as determined as any man can be, and yet he made the confession: "To

will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good, I find

not" (Romans 7:18).

 

But, you ask: "How is it God makes a regenerate man utter such a

confession, with a right will, with a heart that longs to do good, and

longs to do its very utmost to love God?"

 

Let us look at this question. What has God given us our will for? Had

the angels who fell, in their own will, the strength to stand? Surely

not. The will of the creature is nothing but an empty vessel in which

the power of God is to be made manifest. The creature must seek in God

 

all that it is to be. You have it in the second chapter of the epistle

to the Philippians, and you have it here also, that God's work is to

work in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure. Here is a man

who appears to say: "God has not worked to do in me." But we are taught

that God works both to will and to do. How is the apparent

contradiction to be reconciled?

 

You will find that in this passage (Romans 7:6-25) the name of the Holy

Spirit does not occur once, nor does the name of Christ occur. The man

is wrestling and struggling to fulfill God's law. Instead of the Holy

Spirit and of Christ, the law is mentioned nearly twenty times. In this

chapter, it shows a believer doing his very best to obey the law of God

with his regenerate will. Not only this; but you will find the little

words, I, me, my, occur more than forty times. It is the regenerate I

in its impotence seeking to obey the law without being filled with the

Spirit. This is the experience of almost every saint. After conversion

a man begins to do his best, and he fails; but if we are brought into

the full light, we need fail no longer. Nor need we fail at all if we

have received the Spirit in His fullness at conversion.

 

God allows that failure that the regenerate man should be taught his

own utter impotence. It is in the course of this struggle that there

comes to us this sense of our utter sinfulness. It is God's way of

dealing with us. He allows that man to strive to fulfill the law that,

as he strives and wrestles, he may be brought to this:

 

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"I am a regenerate child of God, but I am utterly helpless to obey His law."

See what strong words are used all through the chapter to describe this

condition: "I am carnal, sold under sin" (Romans 7:14); "I see another

law in my members bringing me into captivity" (Romans 7:23); and last of

all, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of

this death?" (Romans 7:24). This believer who bows here in deep

contrition is utterly unable to obey the law of God.

 

The Wretched Man

 

Not only is the man who makes this confession a regenerate and an

impotent man, but he is also a wretched man. He is utterly unhappy and

miserable; and what is it that makes him so utterly miserable? It is

because God has given him a nature that loves Himself. He is deeply

wretched because he feels he is not obeying his God. He says, with

brokenness of heart: "It is not I that do it, but I am under the awful

power of sin, which is holding me down. It is I, and yet not I: alas!

alas! it is myself; so closely am I bound up with it, and so closely is

it intertwined with my very nature." Blessed be God when a man learns

to say: "O wretched man that I am!" from the depth of his heart. He is

on the way to the eighth chapter of Romans.

 

There are many who make this confession a pillow for sin. They say that

if Paul had to confess his weakness and helplessness in this way, what

are they that they should try to do better? So the call to holiness is

quietly set aside. Would God that every one of us had learned to say

these words in the very spirit in which they are written here! When we

hear sin spoken of as the abominable thing that God hates, do not many

of us wince before the word? Would that all Christians who go on

sinning and sinning would take this verse to heart. If ever you utter a

sharp word say: "O wretched man that I am!" And every time you lose

your temper, kneel down and understand that it never was meant by God

that this was to be the state in which His child should remain. Would

God that we would take this word into our daily life, and say it every

time we are touched about our own honor, and every time we say sharp

things, and every time we sin against the Lord God, and against the

Lord Jesus Christ in His humility, and in His obedience, and in His

self-sacrifice! Would to God you could forget everything else, and cry

out: "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of

this death?"

 

Why should you say this whenever you commit sin? Because it is when a

man is brought to this confession that deliverance is at hand.

 

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And remember it was not only the sense of being impotent and taken

captive that made him wretched, but it was above all the sense of

sinning against his God. The law was doing its work, making sin

exceedingly sinful in his sight. The thought of continually grieving

God became utterly unbearable--it was this that brought forth the

piercing cry: "O wretched man!" As long as we talk and reason about our

impotence and our failure, and only try to find out what Romans 7

means, it will profit us but little; but when once every sin gives new

intensity to the sense of wretchedness, and we feel our whole state as

one of not only helplessness, but actual exceeding sinfulness, we shall

be pressed not only to ask: "Who shall deliver us?" but to cry: "I

thank God through Jesus Christ my Lord."

 

The Almost-Delivered Man

 

The man has tried to obey the beautiful law of God. He has loved it, he

has wept over his sin, he has tried to conquer, he has tried to

overcome fault after fault, but every time he has ended in failure.

 

What did he mean by "the body of this death"? Did he mean, my body when

I die? Surely not. In the eighth chapter you have the answer to this

question in the words: "If you through the Spirit do mortify the deeds

of the body, you shall live." That is the body of death from which he is

seeking deliverance.

 

And now he is on the brink of deliverance! In the twenty-third verse of

the seventh chapter we have the words: "I see another law in my

members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into

captivity to the law of sin which is in my members." It is a captive

that cries: "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the

body of this death?" He is a man who feels himself bound. But look to

the contrast in the second verse of the eighth chapter: "The law of the

Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin

and death." That is the deliverance through Jesus Christ our Lord; the

liberty to the captive which the Spirit brings. Can you keep captive

any longer a man made free by the "law of the Spirit of life in Christ

Jesus"?

 

But you say, the regenerate man, had not he the Spirit of Jesus when he

spoke in the sixth chapter? Yes, but he did not know what the Holy

Spirit could do for him.

 

God does not work by His Spirit as He works by a blind force in nature.

 

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He leads His people on as reasonable, intelligent beings, and therefore

when He wants to give us that Holy Spirit whom He has promised, He

brings us first to the end of self, to the conviction that though we

have been striving to obey the law, we have failed. When we have come

to the end of that, then He shows us that in the Holy Spirit we have

the power of obedience, the power of victory, and the power of real

holiness.

 

God works to will, and He is ready to work to do, but, alas! many

Christians misunderstand this. They think because they have the will,

it is enough, and that now they are able to do. This is not so. The new

will is a permanent gift, an attribute of the new nature. The power to

do is not a permanent gift, but must be each moment received from the

Holy Spirit. It is the man who is conscious of his own impotence as a

believer who will learn that by the Holy Spirit he can live a holy

life. This man is on the brink of that great deliverance; the way has

been prepared for the glorious eighth chapter. I now ask this solemn

question: Where are you living? Is it with you, "O wretched man that I

am! who shall deliver me?" with now and then a little experience of the

power of the Holy Spirit? or is it, "I thank God through Jesus Christ!

The law of the Spirit hath set me free from the law of sin and of

death"?

 

What the Holy Spirit does is to give the victory. "If you through the

Spirit do mortify the deeds of the flesh, you shall live" (Romans 8:13).

 

It is the Holy Spirit who does this--the third Person of the Godhead.

He it is who, when the heart is opened wide to receive Him, comes in

and reigns there, and mortifies the deeds of the body, day by day, hour

by hour, and moment by moment.

 

I want to bring this to a point. Remember, dear friend, what we need is

to come to decision and action. There are in Scripture two very

different sorts of Christians. The Bible speaks in Romans, Corinthians

and Galatians about yielding to the flesh; and that is the life of tens

of thousands of believers. All their lack of joy in the Holy Spirit,

and their lack of the liberty He gives, is just owing to the flesh. The

Spirit is within them, but the flesh rules the life. To be led by the

Spirit of God is what they need. Would God that I could make every

child of His realize what it means that the everlasting God has given

His dear Son, Christ Jesus, to watch over you every day, and that what

you have to do is to trust; and that the work of the Holy Spirit is to

enable you every moment to remember Jesus, and to trust Him!

 

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The Spirit has come to keep the link with Him unbroken every moment. Praise God

for the Holy Spirit! We are so accustomed to think of the Holy Spirit

as a luxury, for special times, or for special ministers and men. But

the Holy Spirit is necessary for every believer, every moment of the

day. Praise God you have Him, and that He gives you the full experience

of the deliverance in Christ, as He makes you free from the power of

sin.

 

Who longs to have the power and the liberty of the Holy Spirit? Oh,

brother, bow before God in one final cry of despair:

 

"O God, must I go on sinning this way forever? Who shall deliver me, O

wretched man that I am! from the body of this death?"

 

Are you ready to sink before God in that cry and seek the power of

Jesus to dwell and work in you? Are you ready to say: "I thank God

through Jesus Christ"?

 

What good does it do that we go to church or attend conventions, that

we study our Bibles and pray, unless our lives are filled with the Holy

Spirit? That is what God wants; and nothing else will enable us to live

a life of power and peace. You know that when a minister or parent is

using the catechism, when a question is asked an answer is expected.

Alas! how many Christians are content with the question put here: "O

wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this

death?" but never give the answer. Instead of answering, they are

silent. Instead of saying: "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord,"

they are forever repeating the question without the answer. If you want

the path to the full deliverance of Christ, and the liberty of the

Spirit, the glorious liberty of the children of God, take it through

the seventh chapter of Romans; and then say: "I thank God through Jesus

Christ our Lord." Be not content to remain ever groaning, but say: "I,

a wretched man, thank God, through Jesus Christ. Even though I do not

see it all, I am going to praise God."

 

There is deliverance, there is the liberty of the Holy Spirit. The

kingdom of God is "joy in the Holy Spirit" (Romans 14:17).

"HAVING BEGUN IN THE SPIRIT"

 

The words from which I wish to address you, you will find in the

epistle to the Galatians, the third chapter, the third verse; let us

read the second verse also:

 

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"This only would I learn of you, Received you the Spirit by the works of the law,

or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish?" And then comes my text--

"Having begun in the Spirit, are you now made perfect by the flesh?"

 

When we speak of the quickening or the deepening or the strengthening

of the spiritual life, we are thinking of something that is feeble and

wrong and sinful; and it is a great thing to take our place before God

with the confession:

 

"Oh, God, our spiritual life is not what it should be!"

 

May God work that in your heart, reader.

As we look round about on the church we see so many indications of

feebleness and of failure, and of sin, and of shortcoming, that we are

compelled to ask: Why is it? Is there any necessity for the church of

Christ to be living in such a low state? Or is it actually possible

that God's people should be living always in the joy and strength of

their God?

 

Every believing heart must answer: It is possible.

Then comes the great question: Why is it, how is it to be accounted

for, that God's church as a whole is so feeble, and that the great

majority of Christians are not living up to their privileges? There

must be a reason for it. Has God not given Christ His Almighty Son to

be the Keeper of every believer, to make Christ an ever-present

reality, and to impart and communicate to us all that we have in

Christ? God has given His Son, and God has given His Spirit. How is it

that believers do not live up to their privileges?

 

We find in more than one of the epistles a very solemn answer to that

question. There are epistles, such as the first to the Thessalonians,

where Paul writes to the Christians, in effect: "I want you to grow, to

abound, to increase more and more." They were young, and there were

things lacking in their faith, but their state was so far satisfactory,

and gave him great joy, and he writes time after time: "I pray God that

you may abound more and more; I write to you to increase more and more"

(1 Thessalonians 4:1,10). But there are other epistles where he takes a very

different tone, especially the epistles to the Corinthians and to the

Galatians, and he tells them in many different ways what the one reason

was, that they were not living as Christians ought to live; many were

under the power of the flesh. My text is one example. He reminds them

that by the preaching of faith they had received the Holy Spirit.

 

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He had preached Christ to them; they had accepted that Christ and had

received the Holy Spirit in power. But what happened? Having begun in

the Spirit, they tried to perfect the work that the Spirit had begun in

the flesh by their own effort. We find the same teaching in the epistle

to the Corinthians.

 

Now, we have here a solemn discovery of what the great want is in the

church of Christ. God has called the church of Christ to live in the

power of the Holy Spirit, and the church is living for the most part in

the power of human flesh, and of will and energy and effort apart from

the Spirit of God. I doubt not that that is the case with many

individual believers; and oh, if God will use me to give you a message

from Him, my one message will be this: "If the church will return to

acknowledge that the Holy Spirit is her strength and her help, and if

the church will return to give up everything, and wait upon God to be

filled with the Spirit, her days of beauty and gladness will return,

and we shall see the glory of God revealed among us." This is my

message to every individual believer: "Nothing will help you unless you

come to understand that you must live every day under the power of the

Holy Spirit."

 

God wants you to be a living vessel in whom the power of the Spirit is

to be manifested every hour and every moment of your life, and God will

enable you to be that.

 

Now let us try to learn that this word to the Galatians teaches

us--some very simple thoughts. It shows us how (1) the beginning of the

Christian life is receiving the Holy Spirit. It shows us (2) what great

danger there is of forgetting that we are to live by the Spirit, and

not live after the flesh. It shows us (3) what are the fruits and the

proofs of our seeking perfection in the flesh. And then it suggests to

us (4) the way of deliverance from this state.

 

Receiving the Holy Spirit

 

First of all, Paul says: "Having begun in the Spirit." Remember, the

apostle not only preached justification by faith, but he preached

 

something more. He preached this--the epistle is full of it--that

justified men cannot live but by the Holy Spirit, and that therefore

God gives to every justified man the Holy Spirit to seal him. The

apostle says to them in effect more than once:

 

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"How did you receive the Holy Spirit? Was it by the preaching of the

law, or by the preaching of faith?"

 

He could point back to that time when there had been a mighty revival

under his teaching. The power of God had been manifested, and the

Galatians were compelled to confess:

 

"Yes, we have got the Holy Spirit: accepting Christ by faith, by faith

we received the Holy Spirit."

 

Now, it is to be feared that there are many Christians who hardly know

that when they believed, they received the Holy Spirit. A great many

Christians can say: "I received pardon and I received peace." But if

you were to ask them: "Have you received the Holy Spirit?" they would

hesitate, and many, if they were to say Yes, would say it with

hesitation; and they would tell you that they hardly knew what it was,

since that time, to walk in the power of the Holy Spirit. Let us try

and take hold of this great truth: The beginning of the true Christian

life is to receive the Holy Spirit. And the work of every Christian

minister is that which was the work of Paul--to remind his people that

they received the Holy Spirit, and must live according to His guidance

and in His power.

 

If those Galatians who received the Holy Spirit in power were tempted

to go astray by that terrible danger of perfecting in the flesh what

had been begun in the Spirit, how much more danger do those Christians

run who hardly ever know that they have received the Holy Spirit, or

who, if they know it as a matter of belief, hardly ever think of it and

hardly ever praise God for it!

 

Neglecting the Holy Spirit

 

But now look, in the second place, at the great danger.

You all know what shunting is on a railway. A locomotive with its train

may be run in a certain direction, and the points at some place may not

be properly opened or closed, and unobservingly it is shunted off to

the right or to the left. And if that takes place, for instance, on a

dark night, the train goes in the wrong direction, and the people might

never know it until they have gone some distance.

 

And just so God gives Christians the Holy Spirit with this intention,

that every day all their life should be lived in the power of the Spirit.

 

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A man cannot live one hour a godly life unless by the power of

the Holy Spirit. He may live a proper, consistent life, as people call

it, an irreproachable life, a life of virtue and diligent service; but

to live a life acceptable to God, in the enjoyment of God's salvation

and God's love, to live and walk in the power of the new life--he

cannot do it unless he be guided by the Holy Spirit every day and every

hour.

 

But now listen to the danger. The Galatians received the Holy Spirit,

but what was begun by the Spirit they tried to perfect in the flesh.

How? They fell back again under Judaizing teachers who told them they

must be circumcised. They began to seek their religion in external

observances. And so Paul uses that expression about those teachers who

had them circumcised, that "they sought to glory in their flesh" (Galatians

6:13).

 

You sometimes hear the expression used, religious flesh. What is meant

by that? It is simply an expression made to give utterance to this

thought: My human nature and my human will and my human effort can be

very active in religion, and after being converted, and after receiving

the Holy Spirit, I may begin in my own strength to try to serve God.

 

I may be very diligent and doing a great deal, and yet all the time it

is more the work of human flesh than of God's Spirit. What a solemn

thought, that man can, without noticing it, be shunted off from the

line of the Holy Spirit on to the line of the flesh; that he can be

most diligent and make great sacrifices, and yet it is all in the power

of the human will! Ah, the great question for us to ask of God in

self-examination is that we may be shown whether our religious life is

lived more in the power of the flesh than in the power of the Holy

Spirit. A man may be a preacher, he may work most diligently in his

ministry, a man may be a Christian worker, and others may tell of him

that he makes great sacrifices, and yet you can feel there is a want

about it. You feel that he is not a spiritual man; there is no

spirituality about his life. How many Christians there are about whom

no one would ever think of saying: "What a spiritual man he is!" Ah!

there is the weakness of the Church of Christ. It is all in that one

word--flesh.

 

Now, the flesh may manifest itself in many ways. It may be manifested

in fleshly wisdom. My mind may be most active about religion. I may

preach or write or think or meditate, and delight in being occupied

with things in God's Book and in God's Kingdom; and yet the power of

 

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the Holy Spirit may be markedly absent. I fear that if you take the

preaching throughout the Church of Christ and ask why there is, alas!

so little converting power in the preaching of the Word, why there is

so much work and often so little result for eternity, why the Word has

so little power to build up believers in holiness and in

consecration--the answer will come: It is the absence of the power of

the Holy Spirit. And why is this? There can be no other reason but that

the flesh and human energy have taken the place that the Holy Spirit

ought to have. That was true of the Galatians, it was true of the

Corinthians. You know Paul said to them: "I cannot speak to you as to

spiritual men; you ought to be spiritual men, but you are carnal." And

you know how often in the course of his epistles he had to reprove and

condemn them for strife and for divisions.

 

Lacking the Fruit of the Holy Spirit

 

A third thought: What are the proofs or indications that a church like

the Galatians, or a Christian, is serving God in the power of the

flesh--is perfecting in the flesh what was begun in the Spirit?

The answer is very easy. Religious self-effort always ends in sinful

flesh. What was the state of those Galatians? Striving to be justified

by the works of the law. And yet they were quarreling and in danger of

devouring one another. Count up the expressions that the apostle uses

to indicate their want of love, and you will find more than

twelve--envy, jealousy, bitterness, strife, and all sorts of

expressions. Read in the fourth and fifth chapters what he says about

that. You see how they tried to serve God in their own strength, and

they failed utterly. All this religious effort resulted in failure. The

power of sin and the sinful flesh got the better of them, and their

whole condition was one of the saddest that could be thought of.

 

This comes to us with unspeakable solemnity. There is a complaint

everywhere in the Christian Church of the want of a high standard of

integrity and godliness, even among the professing members of Christian

churches. I remember a sermon which I heard preached on commercial

morality. And, oh, if we speak not only of the commercial morality or

immorality, but if we go into the homes of Christians, and if we think

of the life to which God has called His children, and which He enables

them to live by the Holy Spirit, and if we think of how much,

nevertheless, there is of unlovingness and temper and sharpness and

bitterness, and if we think how much there is very often of strife

among the members of churches, and how much there is of envy and

jealousy and sensitiveness and pride, then we are compelled to say:

 

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"Where are marks of the presence of the Spirit of the Lamb of God?"

Wanting, sadly wanting!

 

Many people speak of these things as though they were the natural

result of our feebleness and cannot well be helped. Many people speak

of these things as sins, yet have given up the hope of conquering them.

 

Many people speak of these things in the church around them, and do not

see the least prospect of ever having the things changed. There is no

prospect until there comes a radical change, until the Church of God

begins to see that every sin in the believer comes from the flesh, from

a fleshly life midst our religious activities, from a striving in

self-effort to serve God. Until we learn to make confession, and until

we begin to see, we must somehow or other get God's Spirit in power

back to His Church, we must fail. Where did the Church begin in

Pentecost? There they began in the Spirit. But, alas, how the Church of

the next century went off into the flesh! They thought to perfect the

Church in the flesh.

 

Do not let us think, because the blessed Reformation restored the great

doctrine of justification by faith, that the power of the Holy Spirit

was then fully restored. If it is our faith that God is going to have

mercy on His Church in these last ages, it will be because the doctrine

and the truth about the Holy Spirit will not only be studied, but

sought after with a whole heart; and not only because that truth will

be sought after, but because ministers and congregations will be found

bowing before God in deep abasement with one cry: "We have grieved

God's Spirit; we have tried to be Christian churches with as little as

possible of God's Spirit; we have not sought to be churches filled with

the Holy Spirit."

 

All the feebleness in the Church is owing to the refusal of the Church

to obey its God.

 

And why is that so? I know your answer. You say: "We are too feeble and

too helpless, and we try to obey, and we vow to obey, but somehow we

fail."

 

Ah, yes, you fail because you do not accept the strength of God. God

alone can work out His will in you. You cannot work out God's will, but

His Holy Spirit can; and until the Church, until believers grasp this,

and cease trying by human effort to do God's will, and wait upon the

Holy Spirit to come with all His omnipotent and enabling power,

 

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the Church will never be what God wants her to be,

and what God is willing to make of her.

 

Yielding to the Holy Spirit

 

I come now to my last thought, the question: What is the way to

restoration?

 

Beloved friend, the answer is simple and easy. If that train has been

shunted off, there is nothing for it but to come back to the point at

which it was led away. The Galatians had no other way in returning but

to come back to where they had gone wrong, to come back from all

religious effort in their own strength, and from seeking anything by

their own work, and to yield themselves humbly to the Holy Spirit.

There is no other way for us as individuals.

 

Is there any brother or sister whose heart is conscious: "Alas! my life

knows but little of the power of the Holy Spirit"? I come to you with

God's message that you can have no conception of what your life would

be in the power of the Holy Spirit. It is too high and too blessed and

too wonderful, but I bring you the message that just as truly as the

everlasting Son of God came to this world and wrought His wonderful

works, that just as truly as on Calvary He died and wrought out your

redemption by His precious blood, so, just as truly, can the Holy

Spirit come into your heart that with His divine power He may sanctify

you and enable you to do God's blessed will, and fill your heart with

joy and with strength. But, alas! we have forgotten, we have grieved,

we have dishonored the Holy Spirit, and He has not been able to do His

work. But I bring you the message: The Father in Heaven loves to fill

His children with His Holy Spirit. God longs to give each one

individually, separately, the power of the Holy Spirit for daily life.

 

The command comes to us individually, unitedly. God wants us as His

children to arise and place our sins before Him, and to call upon Him

for mercy. Oh, are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you

perfecting in the flesh that which was begun in the Spirit? Let us bow

in shame, and confess before God how our fleshly religion, our

self-effort, and self-confidence, have been the cause of every failure.

 

I have often been asked by young Christians: "Why is it that I fail so?

 

I did so solemnly vow with my whole heart, and did desire to serve God;

why have I failed?"

 

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To such I always give the one answer: "My dear friend, you are trying

to do in your own strength what Christ alone can do in you."

And when they tell me: "I am sure I knew Christ alone could do it, I

was not trusting in myself," my answer always is:

"You were trusting in yourself or you could not have failed. If you had

trusted Christ, He could not fail."

 

Oh, this perfecting in the flesh what was begun in the Spirit runs far

deeper through us than we know. Let us ask God to reveal to us that it

is only when we are brought to utter shame and emptiness that we shall

be prepared to receive the blessing that comes from on high.

And so I come with these two questions. Are you living, beloved

brother-minister--I ask it of every minister of the Gospel--are you

living under the power of the Holy Spirit? Are you living as an

anointed, Spirit-filled man in your ministry and your life before God?

 

O brethren, our place is an awful one. We have to show people what God

will do for us, not in our words and teaching, but in our life. God

help us to do it!

 

I ask it of every member of Christ's Church and of every believer: Are

you living a life under the power of the Holy Spirit day by day, or are

you attempting to live without that? Remember you cannot. Are you

consecrated, given up to the Spirit to work in you and to live in you?

Oh, come and confess every failure of temper, every failure of tongue

however small, every failure owing to the absence of the Holy Spirit

and the presence of the power of self. Are you consecrated, are you

given up to the Holy Spirit?

 

If your answer is No, then I come with a second question--Are you

willing to be consecrated? Are you willing to give up yourself to the

power of the Holy Spirit?

 

You well know that the human side of consecration will not help you. I

may consecrate myself a hundred times with all the intensity of my

being, and that will not help me. What will help me is this--that God

from Heaven accepts and seals the consecration.

 

And now are you willing to give yourselves up to the Holy Spirit? You

can do it now. A great deal may still be dark and dim, and beyond what

we understand, and you may feel nothing; but come. God alone can effect

the change.

 

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God alone, who gave us the Holy Spirit, can restore the

Holy Spirit in power into our life. God alone can "strengthen us with

might by his Spirit in the inner man." And to every waiting heart that

will make the sacrifice, and give up everything, and give time to cry

and pray to God, the answer will come. The blessing is not far off. Our

God delights to help us. He will enable us to perfect, not in the

flesh, but in the Spirit, what was begun in the Spirit.