This sermon is number 2 in a series of 7
Life As God Intends For His People - Part 2
"Life Empowered By The Spirit"
by David Legge | Copyright © 2011 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
Well, good evening to you all again, it's good to be back with you. Thank you, Phyllis, for the singing, and Alan for the welcome - and good to be back with you again in Leaney. I'm looking forward this week of ministry that we're going to enjoy together throughout the week. Those of you who were with us last evening will know that we've begun a series entitled 'Life As God Intends For His People', and last night we looked at the subject 'Life Eternal' - and we must have read the whole of John's Gospel! If you were here, you'll have felt that way anyway! We looked at many many verses, and looked at how John defines this life eternal, this very life of God that He has placed in us when we receive His Son. It's a personal relationship, that's how we laid the foundation, and it's vital that we remember that throughout this week of meetings: that Christianity, we said, can be summed up in one word - a relationship with the Godhead. A relationship with God as our Father, through His Son the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit - that's it, the sum total of Christianity. It's a marvellous thought, isn't it? We looked at that verse, John 17 verse 3: 'This is eternal life, to know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent'.
Now tonight we're moving on from that, and we're looking at 'Life Empowered By The Spirit'. Tomorrow evening we'll be looking at a 'Life of Grace Not Law'. Wednesday night we'll be looking at a 'Life Of Hearing God'. Thursday night, a 'Life Free From The Enemy', particularly on Thursday we'll be looking at freedom from oppression and unforgiveness. Friday night we're going to look at the same subject, freedom from the enemy, but we will look at it from a different aspect - freedom from fear and anxiety. Then next Sunday night we will look at a 'Life Of Love' - 'By this shall all men know that you are My disciples, that you love one another'.
But tonight we're looking at 'Life Empowered By The Spirit', and we're turning to the book of Galatians, Paul's Epistle to the Galatians chapter 3. We're going to read a couple of verses from chapter 3 and one verse from chapter 5 - and as I said last evening, it would be good for you to take notes if you can. It would be impossible to remember these things, and I know there are recordings, and I think there will also be actual hard copies available of this series in written form - if you should request it you can get those, I believe that's the case, and I think that's an option on these sheets that you can have at the back. So if you're fed up listening to me this week, you can read it and you'll not have to listen to the Belfast slang any more!
Chapter 3 of Galatians, verse 1: "O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you", that term carries the idea of, it's as if you've been cast into a spell, it's as if someone has put a trance over you, Galatian Christians, "that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified?". These were good evangelical folk, they knew the Gospel, they knew that Christ died for their sins according to the scriptures, was buried, and rose again according to the scriptures. They knew it was through the blood that they were redeemed and bought, and saved and sanctified - they were taught all this - but something had come over them, and I believe it was spiritual from the enemy, to deceive them. He has to really spell this out in verse 2: "This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?" - and this is the verse I want to concentrate on - "Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?". Now over to chapter 5 please, verse 16: "I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh".
Now I want us all to pray - as I said last night, we're going to do this each night. Sometimes you have the invitation at the end of the meeting, I have it at the beginning: we want to invite you to come to the Lord now, whatever your need is, whatever your situation, I want you to ask the Lord now to speak to you and to minister to your need. I hope you've come here not just to get into a warm room for an hour, I'm sure you haven't - you've come, I hope, to hear from God and to encounter God. So we want to ask the Lord, and I believe with all my heart that when you ask the Lord to speak to you, if your heart is open and truly humble before Him, He will speak and He will meet with you. So let's pray and ask Him to do that.
Father, we want to come to you in the name that is above every name: Lord Jesus Christ. We thank You, Father, that we can call You 'Father' through the Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son - for the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world. We saw last night that we needed a Saviour, and we thank You that Christ Jesus came, and we thank You that through Him, He is the way, no one can come to the Father but by Him. We are coming, Lord, by the blood-sprinkled way in the name of Jesus to You tonight, by the unction of the Holy Spirit - and we pray now that we will be enlightened and instructed, that You will reveal to our minds and our hearts this great truth about the power of the Holy Spirit that is necessary to live this life as You have intended as Your followers, as Your children. So Lord, we pray now for the help - it's an awful thing for a man to stand in a pulpit, Lord, and talk about the Holy Spirit without the Holy Spirit! Lord, let us not have a teaching lesson tonight, as if we were in school, but not know the first thing experientially about this matter. Lord, we want to be learning on the job tonight, we want to meet the Holy Spirit in His power in this place. We want to encounter the Lord Jesus in His risen power through the Holy Spirit, whom He has sent to be a Comforter to us of the same kind. So, Lord, come we pray, come and meet with us - for Christ's sake, Amen.
Now it's necessary for me to give you a bit of a background to the book of Galatians very quickly, it's easy to do. The Galatians were believers and, as I said, they believed that Christ died for their sins, was buried, rose again, and they were taught from the apostle himself that it was through faith alone that they partook of that sacrifice of redemption. You know that, and we laboured that last night: by grace through faith, not of works - but something happened in Galatia. There was a group of preachers called Judiasers, of Jewish origin, and they came to these Gentiles in Galatia, and they said: 'No, that's right, Christ died for your sins, and you must believe in Him, but that is not enough - there is more for you to do'. They brought this doctrine in that you've got to still adhere to the laws of Moses, and the rites, and the rituals, and the ceremonies, and the practices of Judaism - you must be circumcised, and keep the ceremonial law and so on. So they brought them under this bondage of legalism, and we will touch on that far more tomorrow evening, but what I do want to emphasise tonight is that these Christians who had begun in the Spirit, chapter 3 verse 3, they had begun in the Spirit, they were now living their Christian life on a merely human level. They had begun in the Spirit, but they were trying to perfect themselves by the flesh. You see, you can do that, and some of you here tonight are doing it: you are living the Christian life, you think, by effort - rather than what God's intention was, that you should live it by enduement of power from on high, the Holy Spirit.
If you think about it like this, it's like me starting a journey tonight from Portadown to Ballymoney, and I have a tank half full of petrol - and maybe by the time I get to Ballymena the tank is empty. It would be like me getting out and starting to push the car the rest of the way, rather than stopping at the nearest garage and filling her up again. Have we started in the Spirit, and are now being made perfect by the flesh? Now, as far as Christians are concerned there's a lot of 'pushers' about - they've got out of the car and they're starting to, in the power of the flesh, push the car in their own steam rather than relying on the enduement from on high. I believe this is a reason why a lot of 'Christians' struggle as Christians. They feel: 'I'm just not living what other people seem to be living and experiencing', and they maybe read some Christian biographies and books, and they think 'Am I really saved at all? There is something wrong with me, I'm not experiencing this victory over sin, I'm not experiencing this joy, this peace, and this power to witness and to serve the Lord'. The reason why - often, not always - but one of the reasons I believe in the majority of cases is: they are living, or trying to live, the Christian life in the power of the flesh.
Now, can I tell you something, and this might be one of the greatest revelations you'll ever have in a church meeting - listen: the Christian life is impossible to live. Did you know that? You're looking at me now! It's impossible to live in the flesh because, as we saw last night, it's the very life of God. We cannot live the life of God, and that's why the disciples were told to wait for the promise of the Father. They were to wait, because in and of themselves, though they had a 3 1/2 year apprenticeship with the Lord Jesus Christ and had learned many many great spiritual truths, that was not enough - that's a sobering thought, isn't it? It was not enough to run on the energy of intellectual wisdom, or the experience of what they had with the bodily Christ, but they had to wait for the promise of the Father from on high. Now, you could be here and you could even, at meetings, or conventions, or various other events, have consecrated yourself to the Lord. Maybe you've heard great stirring messages about full surrender, and giving your all to Christ, and putting all on the altar for the Lord - and, as far as you're concerned, you've done that, but you're still not knowing that power and that victory in your life. Well, surrender is very important, but that's our part. The enduement of power from on high is God's part. Now listen carefully to what I'm going to say: some people, well-meaning people, confound the two. They think because they have fully surrendered, and they have laid all on the altar to the Lord, that that's it - that is not it! That's your part, but God's part must come, and it's essential.
A famous Boston preacher, Dr A.J. Gordon, visited the World's Fair in Chicago on one occasion, and in the distance he saw a man robed in bright gaudy Oriental clothes, who appeared to be laboriously turning the crank of a pump. As he turned the crank of this pump, a mighty flow of water come forth. Gordon was greatly impressed with the man's energy as he pumped, and his smooth motions, and his obvious physical conditioning and strength - he was pumping a tremendous amount of water! So Gordon decided to go closer and, as he drew closer, he was surprised to discover that the man was actually made of wood. Instead of turning the crank and making the water flow, the flow of water through this wooden figure was actually turning the crank and thereby making him go. That's exactly what I'm talking about in relation to the power of the Holy Spirit. Many of us as Christians have been saved and we are trying to crank the water of eternal life and the power of God by effort, whereas what God has intended for His people is that the power of the Holy Ghost should flow through us and should cause us to go! Is that not what we touched on last evening in John 7:37, where Jesus said: 'On the last great day of the feast, He stood and cried out, saying, 'If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water''. We don't pump the living water, the Lord gives it and it outflows.
So I want to talk about this life as God intended for His people, life empowered by the Spirit - and I want to do it under three headings. First of all, this is a life of empowerment. Secondly, it is a life of fullness. Thirdly, it is a life full of fruits and gifts. So let's look at the first: this is a life of empowerment. We want to talk about the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. Now, when you're born-again - we saw it last night in John chapter 3 - it literally means to be born of the Spirit, to be born from above, and when you're born-again you receive the Holy Spirit. In Romans chapter 8 and verse 9, Paul says: 'Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His'. So I'm not talking to you tonight, if you're a believer, as if you don't have the Holy Spirit. You cannot be without the Holy Spirit if you're a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. But you see, God's intention is not simply to be resident in you, He wants to be President. God's objective is always incarnation, He wants us to live out in the flesh His life. As Ephesians chapter 3 verse 19 says, He wants us to be - listen to this statement - filled with all the fullness of God. What about that!
This is why Jesus came. If you turn with me to Matthew chapter 3, you will see this, the first gospel chapter 3 - John the Baptist is speaking here, and he says: 'I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire'. Now the verses following verse 11 talk about the fire of judgement, and of course fire is often used as a figure of judgement, but it's also used - and I could give you several references in Isaiah, Zechariah, Malachi, 1 Peter - fire is also used as a figure of grace, God's grace, for fire does not just purify in judgement, fire purges us. We know this, that fire is a symbol of the Holy Spirit on many occasions in the New Testament. In fact, when you go to Acts chapter 2, the Day of Pentecost, when the church is baptised in the Holy Spirit, what do they find on each of their heads? Tongues, cloven tongues, as of fire.
Sadly, many professing Christians have no fire. I wonder are you one of them? Paul put it like this to the Thessalonians: 'They have a form of godliness, denying the power'. I tell you, Ulster is full of this. You've got all the trappings, you've got all the sayings, you look the part - but deep within you there is an absence of fire. Just as motor cars are designed with an engine to move when there is ignition, fire, Christians are meant to operate with the fire of God in them! So if you're here tonight, and you're an unmoved Christian, or you're a Christian who fails to move others, it may well be that it's because of an absence of fire. William Booth says:
'Tis fire we want, for fire we plead,
The fire will meet our every need,
Send the fire!'.
Now I know that the area of the Holy Spirit is a controversial one in the Christian church, and I know there's a collection of folk here from many and varied backgrounds - and don't be afraid tonight, I'm not going to stray into any overt areas of controversy, but what I will say is: in many Christian traditions and denominations this truth has been taught down through the years. Some have called it in Pentecostal circles 'baptism with the Spirit', or 'in the Spirit'; others have understood it not in those terms, but as the 'filling of the Spirit', or 'the infilling of the Holy Spirit'. The Puritans, some of them, called it 'the sealing of the Spirit'. You can come down on whatever conclusion you like, but I stand with Billy Graham on this one at least, when I'm preaching to a congregation like you folk - he said: 'I don't care what you call it, just get it!'. I think he's right. You know, there's a great danger that we can fight about terminology, and biblical terminology is important in its place, but not if we miss the whole point of the reality of this experience that God intended for His people! Whatever your theological persuasion is here tonight, I want you to understand: God's word teaches that we are to live this Christian life not in the power of the flesh, but with an enduement of power from on high, without which it is utterly impossible to live it! I don't care what you call it, just get it.
I believe this can be simultaneous with conversion, I believe that at conversion you can be filled with the Holy Spirit, I do - but I believe that more often than not it is an experience subsequent to conversion. Many good Christians, and maybe you're one of them here tonight, they're trying their best but they know something is missing. Let's be honest: is that you? You know something is not right, you're confused - or maybe, as we touched on last night, you have substituted something else for this glorious experience. Maybe it's a pet doctrine that you have, or it's some new thing that you hanker after - but what you need tonight, listen carefully, God is speaking: you need the Holy Spirit! You need this enduement of power from on high, that's what God intended for His people.
Now the great question is: how? I want to be as practical as possible in these meetings during this week: how do you get endued with power from on high? Well, it's a lot less complicated, I have to say, than we often make it. It's very similar to salvation, in fact. Just as salvation is a gift of God's grace that we must take by faith, so this enduement of power is the same. Jesus has provided our eternal life through the shedding of His precious blood on the cross - and the cross is the way to God, the way of the cross leads home. In the same way, the cross is the way to be filled with the Holy Spirit - in this sense: it's been bought by the blood of Jesus, it has. In fact, everything that we have as Christians is because of the cross, and we don't get any of it by works, we only get it by engaging through faith in what Jesus has done on the cross. So, just as salvation is offered by grace and we take it by faith, the enduement of power from the Holy Spirit is offered because of Calvary by God through grace - and, guess what, we take it by faith.
Turn with me to Luke chapter 11 please verse 13: 'If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!'. There it is! You ask! Based on what? Well, ultimately based on the cross work of Christ, His resurrection - but the promise. What did Jesus say in Acts chapter 1 to the disciples, we've already alluded to it, He said: 'Wait! Wait! Tarry, till you receive the promise of the Father'. So this is a promise that God has given, you can read about it - we don't have time, but it's wonderful - you could take a week of meetings on this alone! Chapters 14, 15 and 16 of John's Gospel, how the Lord Jesus promised a Comforter and Encourager, another of the same kind who would come, and who would testify and witness of Jesus to the minds and hearts of unbelievers, and would turn the lives of believers into the life of Jesus through faith in Him. It's wonderful, and it's promised.
So what do you do with a promise? What do you do when God gives you a promise? 'Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved', what do you say to an unsaved person? 'If you just claim that, that's God's word, you engage with that by faith, believe it and receive it' - and in the same token, it's the same with this enduement of power from on high. If you're evil, and you know how to give your kids and grandkids good presents, and you're a depraved sinner, how much more shall the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit when you come and ask. In fact, if you look at the verses running into this verse 13, verse 11: 'If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil...' - and so on and so forth. Do you see the point? The Lord Jesus is saying: if you ask God for this good thing - don't be afraid of the Holy Spirit. I know there's a lot of wacky stuff on cable television that would put you off the Holy Spirit for the rest of your days, and a lot of it's of the flesh, and a lot that is done in the name of the Holy Spirit is of the flesh - but don't be afraid of the Holy Spirit!
These things that Jesus says the Father will not give you - a scorpion is harmful, isn't it? The Holy Spirit will not harm you. So you come to God and, by faith, claim the promise - and of course that involves repentance, just as salvation does. You can't expect to come to God and reach out with one hand for the Holy Spirit, and your other hand is holding on to your pet sins - no, there has got to be repentance involved. But, like salvation, repentant faith is your part - but, just like salvation, the saving assurance is God's part. Like catching fire, which is really what the Holy Spirit is likened to, you've got to provide the right environment and the right conditions in which it can be caught. Repentant faith, taken by faith upon the assurance of the promise.
Let me show you another verse, Mark chapter 11, this is a helpful one in this regard concerning faith. Mark chapter 11, remember we're talking now about the 'how' of this enduement, verse 24, Jesus says again: 'Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them'. Now this isn't some new-age type of philosophy, that if you just wish for something it's going to come true. This is underpinned with the promises of the revealed will of God in His word. If you ask for something that is declared in God's counsels as His will for you, you can believe that you have it - and that's what faith is by the way! A lot of people that come into the counselling room in my missions have a problem getting hold of the fact that God has received them - and that, in essence, is what faith is. If God says, that as a sinner I come to Jesus and God will receive me, you believe that, and that's when you receive the assurance, when you believe it! When you accept it! This enduement of power from on high is the promise of the Father that has been bought by the blood of the Son, and He has given the assurance that if you ask Him He will give you it, but you must believe that in asking He has heard you - and you must believe that you have received. The word is the assurance, and you've got to believe the word.
But with salvation there is also a subjective assurance. The objective assurance is the word, the promise; but there is also a subjective assurance with salvation. The Spirit of God witnesses with your spirit that you are a child of God - and in this regard it is the same with the Spirit's infilling. There should be a witness that the Comforter has come. Do you have that witness? Let me ask you a question: do you know that you have been filled with the Holy Spirit? Whatever terminology you want to use. Do you know it upon the authority of God's word? Do you know it because of the Spirit witnessing with your spirit? Now let me say: many people have had many different experiences, and I think there is a great danger that when one person has one experience that they say everybody ought to have that experience. I read a lot of Christian biographies, and I have seen many great men and women of God, and they have all sought and found the filling of the Holy Spirit - but in many diverse ways, I have to say. What counts is faith - not even feelings, don't be hankering after feelings! Here's my advice to you tonight, if there should be anyone here - and I hope it's all of you - who wants to be endued with this power from on high that is the promise of the Father: claim it by faith, and let God confirm it however He sees fit.
Let me ask you: have you had your own personal Pentecost? The disciples received the Spirit - in John 20 verse 22 we read: 'Jesus breathed on them, and said, 'Receive the Holy Spirit'' - but they still needed their Pentecost. Have you had this enduement of power from on high? I don't care what you call it, just get it - for that is life as God intended for His people.
Here's a second thing I want to share with you, not just the empowerment of the Spirit, but the fullness of the Spirit. We go to Ephesians 5 and verse 18 for this one, Paul is writing to Ephesus here and he says: 'Do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit'. Now, after initially being endued with this power from on high, having an infilling of the Holy Spirit for the first time, what Paul is talking about here is keeping it aflame, keeping the fire aflame. This is conservation of this fire of the Spirit's power in your life. Just as the conditions have to be right for fire to catch - repentance, and faith, and belief, and claiming it, and waiting upon God for the confirmation - so that flame must be conserved and preserved, or as Paul put it in another place to Timothy: 'Stir up the gift of God that is within you'.
Now this statement here in verse 18: 'Be filled with the Spirit', let's look at it for a moment. It's in what we call the 'imperative mood', that simply means it's a command - it's not an option. He is telling these believers: 'You must be filled with the Spirit'. Now that means, conversely, not to be filled with the Spirit is what? Disobedience, because you're not obeying the command! We don't think of it like that, do we? So if you're not filled with the Holy Spirit, it is essentially disobedience. Look at it again, it's in the plural: 'Be you filled', plural, 'with the Holy Spirit'. So it applies to all Christians, not a select few. Sometimes I hear people talk as if this was something for, you know, missionaries like C.T. Studd, or men like Duncan Campbell, revivalists, or the reformers, or great men of God like D.L. Moody, but it's not for little old me. Oh, it is for little old you, it's for all of us! Be filled with the Holy Spirit - you might not have the same experience of being filled in such a dramatic way, you may, you may not, that's not the point. It is for you: 'This promise is to you', Joel said, 'and to your children', to all flesh.
The verb is also in the present tense, which means this is constant. You are to constantly be continually filled with the Holy Spirit, so it's not for special occasions only, it's not something that happened one time and never ever happens again. The verb is also in the passive mood, that simply means we do not fill ourselves with the Holy Spirit, it's passive, it is something that is done to us. We get to a place where the Spirit fills us! So let me translate all that into a statement so that we can understand, really it could read like this: 'Let the Spirit continually fill you'. So once you get to that place of crisis, that place of surrender, that place of faith, and claim this blood bought right of promise from God, and wait upon God and receive it - as if you have it, even when you don't feel it. Wait for God to witness it according to how He sees fit. You must maintain this by being in a place, a condition, where God can continually fill you.
How do you continually maintain this filling? Well, you've got to maintain an environment that will fan the flames. You know there are environments that will put flames out, but you've got to create an environment that will continually fan the flames. 'What is that?', you say. It's the same thing as the start of the Christian life: repentant faith - that's how you get saved, that's how you receive the filling of the Holy Spirit, and that's how you maintain the fullness of the Spirit. It is a life of constant humility and repentant faith and obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ. It's really the other side of the coin of the Lordship of Jesus Christ. I remember asking the late Rex Mathie what his views on the fullness of the Holy Spirit were, and this is what he said to me - and it has stayed with me all through my life, he said: 'David, whenever you and Jesus aren't arguing about anything, you'll be filled with the Holy Spirit'.
Can I ask you tonight: what are you arguing with Jesus about? What is that thing that you haven't been able to let go of? That dispute that you've had, quite silently of course, you would never vocalise it - but you know it is a thing that Jesus has put His finger on, maybe many years ago or recently, and you know that until you have sorted that out you will not be full of the Holy Spirit, because that area of your life is locked away from Him. You see, the issue is not so much how much of the Holy Spirit you have, as rather how much of you He has. D.L. Moody, the great evangelist, was being considered for an evangelistic campaign many years ago, and one of the organisers on the committee of the campaign asked someone sarcastically: 'Does D.L. Moody have a monopoly of the Holy Spirit?'. The answer came back pointedly: 'No, but the Holy Spirit has a monopoly of D.L. Moody' - that's it! Does the Holy Spirit have a monopoly of you?
Now listen, whatever your tradition is, we've got to get away from this concept of a once and for all filling - that's not what is being taught here. There is an initial crisis, perhaps, but this is a constant - look at the literal translation: 'Be being filled', present continuous tense, continually filled. Whatever has happened in your past years ago, this is meant to become a constant characteristic of your life, every day. We see it in Acts chapter 6 and verse 3 when the Apostles felt the pinch of all the work that had to be done, the expression is 'serving tables' - it doesn't mean they were waiters, it means that they were doing practical Christian work that was taking them away from praying and ministering the word of God. So they set up what probably were like deacons, and they looked for men - and here was the quality of the men they looked for, verse 3 of Acts 6: 'Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business'. Now look at that statement in verse 3, does it say: 'Look out seven men of good reputation who were filled with the Holy Spirit'? Is that what it says? Full, present tense, at this moment they're full of the Holy Spirit.
You see, you could be filled yesterday and grieve the Spirit today. You could have been filled six months ago, or 60 years ago, but have grieved the Spirit today. As D.L. Moody put it: 'Our problem is our buckets leak!' - isn't that right? We are sinners, and we have foibles, and we have weaknesses, and we fail the Lord time and time again - but the key is to have this constant fullness, this constant surrender, this constant repentant faith and obedience to Christ. John describes it, we looked at it last night in John 15, as 'abiding', abiding in the Vine. The Vine is Jesus, the life source, John 15 verse 5: 'I am the vine, you are the branches. Abide in Me'. We are to abide in Christ as the branches - the life source is Christ, we are to abide in Him and derive our life from Him - but equally Christ is to abide in us, this abiding: His word in us. Do you know what the word 'abide' means? It just means 'dwell', it could also be translated 'make your home'. We are to make our home in Jesus, but here's the big thing: He is meant to make His home in us. The question is: could He be at home in your heart or mine?
Colossians is a book that is very interesting to parallel with the book of Ephesians, it's about a lot of the same stuff. In fact at times you would think they were the exact same verses. The parallel verse of Ephesians 5:18, 'Be filled with the Spirit', in Colossians is Colossians 3:16 which reads thus: 'Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly'. Do you see how Paul puts it to the Colossians? It's again John 15: you're to abide in Christ, but Christ is to abide in you - and one of the ways He abides in you, as John 15 says, is His word abides in us. We are walking in complete agreement, not arguing with Jesus or Heavenly Father about anything, His word is dwelling in us - and so He abides in us, He's at home in us, and we abide in Him.
Dr Douglas Brown preached on the fullness of the Holy Spirit in Wales, and a young man followed him into his office afterwards and cried: 'Sir, it's alright telling me to be filled, but I'm full of...' - and he pointed over into the corner of the room to a cracked wastepaper basket, and he said 'I'm full of cracks'. Dr Brown replied: 'What if you are? For if that basket were lowered into the depths of the sea, it will be filled, and it will remain full. If it abides in the ocean it cannot be emptied, the basket will only lose its contents if it is removed from the sea. Young man, cracks or no cracks, if you abide in Christ you'll always be filled with the Holy Spirit' - that's it!
The results of this are marvellous. In fact what Paul says in Ephesians 5 and verse 18 is effectively: what drink does, alcohol does, in a negative sense, the Holy Spirit - a different kind of spirit - does in a positive sense. Now let me say that that's not an illustration I probably would have used, but Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, used it. He was saying: what drink does to a man negatively, sinfully, the Holy Spirit does positively. In other words, drink dominates the personality, drink determines a person's behaviour, but you're not meant to be a person controlled by alcohol in your personality, or your behaviour controlled by alcohol or any other substance - but you're meant to be one who is controlled by the power and the dynamism of the Holy Spirit. You know a man when he's drunk, don't you? Often you know him by the way he walks - I haven't got time to show you this, but in Ephesians you've got a lot of talk about walking. Chapter 5, for instance, 'Walk worthy', 'Walk in love'. Galatians we read, 'Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh'. You will know how a man walks - in Ephesians we have this statement, just before in verse 15 of chapter 5: 'See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise'.
Circumspectly we're meant to walk, that just means carefully. Where I come from in East Belfast, a number of the houses are terraced houses, and they've got what we call yards, and an entry at the bottom of the yard. My great aunt, I remember her yard, and the wall around the yard, and all this broken glass from broken bottles that was placed all around the walls - and do you know what that was for? It was to keep the bad boys out - maybe to keep some of them in, I don't know - but I remember watching with intrigue the pussycat negotiating its way round these shards of glass on the wall, she could do it well! That's what walking circumspectly is, walking carefully.
You know a man that's filled with the Holy Spirit by his walk, or a woman filled with the Holy Spirit by their walk. Something else, you know a drunk man by his talk, don't you? On the Day of Pentecost they were filled with the Holy Spirit and they spoke in tongues - it affected their mouth. Jesus said: 'Out of the abundance of a man's heart, the mouth speaks'. So whatever is in the heart - so if you're filled with the Holy Spirit, it will affect your tongue, it will affect the way you talk to people, it will affect the way you talk about people. In fact, here in this passage, look at verse 19 of Ephesians 5, after it says 'Be filled with the Holy Spirit', 'Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord' - there it is, the tongue, the talk is affected.
You know a drunk man by his smell, don't you? You say, 'Where are you going with that one, now?'. Well, in Corinthians we read that we're meant to be a savour of Christ to people around in this fallen world. In other words, when we rub shoulders with people, they are meant to smell the fragrance of Jesus off us - but I'll tell you: that's not what they often smell. Do you know why? Because we're not filled with Jesus, we're filled with ourselves, or we're filled with sin, or were filled with some other spirit - whether it's bitterness or sectarianism, I don't know.
The evidences that a man or a woman is filled with the Spirit are the same as drink, but in the positive. These are the results of abiding in Jesus, John 15:5: 'I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing'. There it is! It's impossible to live this Christian life without abiding in Jesus - and then, when you do, you can bear much fruit.
How much fruit are you bearing for the Lord Jesus? That leads me on to this third point. There is the empowerment of the Spirit, there is the fullness of the Spirit, and then there is the fruit and the gifts of the Spirit. In Galatians 5 we find the fruit of the Spirit, turn with me there please, Galatians chapter 5 verse 22. We have from verse 19 down to verse 21 the works of the flesh, we'll not look at those tonight, but the converse of that is the fruit of the Spirit, verse 22: 'But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit'.
Now this is the fruit of the Spirit. In 1 Corinthians 12, 13 and 14 we find there the gifts of the Spirit, and there is a long list - some people say there are nine, some people more, some people less, you can find them in Romans chapter 12 as well - that manifest the power of God in the church, and that's a whole other subject. We're told to seek earnestly the best gifts, you study it there. But I believe that more importantly - the gifts are important - but more importantly than the gifts that God gives to the body, in God's eyes, is character. You see you have, in the New Testament and the Old Testament, gifted individuals - but their character failed them. One in particular was Samson, he had gifts given by God, he was endued by God, but the character failed him.
The fruit of the Spirit here in Galatians 5 speak of character - and the word is 'fruit'. Look at verse 22, it doesn't say 'the fruits of the Spirit', it's not used in the plural, it says 'the fruit', singular. 'The fruit of the Spirit is', again singular, not 'The fruit of the Spirit are', but 'is'. So what we have here is one concept, though it's ninefold in description - love, joy, peace, etc - it is one concept, and the concept is character. Whose character? Is it your character? I'll tell you it's not! I don't know you now, and nobody has been whispering in my ear - but I can be pretty much sure it's not your character in and of yourself, it's certainly not mine - and my wife will tell you that if you talk to her any length of time! Whose character is it? Come on! Jesus, it's His character! It has been manifest by whom? The Holy Spirit in our lives, as we surrender to Him, as we deny ourselves, as ourselves are crucified and we allow the Holy Spirit to live through us, Jesus' life is manifested in our mortal bodies - because it is the Spirit's objective to reproduce the life of Jesus in you - and that is life as God intended for His people.
You see, the enduement of power is important, and spiritual gifting is important, but God is not just interested in power - and sometimes, I have to say, and I have been guilty of this in the past, we can be hungry after more power but God is really interested in character. He wants people to see Jesus in you. Now that's not an achievement of human effort, how could it be? Do you think you could achieve being like Jesus in human flesh? Utterly impossible, that's why the Christian life is impossible - and the only thing that you and I can do is this: we've got to receive this life, this very life of God, and we receive it by yielding, by accepting. A machine can work, but only life can produce fruit - and that's what we have here, the fruit of the Spirit. So it means having no confidence in the flesh, but an honest confession of your weakness - that's one of the qualifications of getting filled with the Spirit, remaining filled with the Spirit, bearing the fruit of the Spirit - it's to know your own weakness in the flesh, that of my flesh I can do nothing, and then the other step is to surrender completely in dependence upon the power of God alone. Then you will be empowered to live this life.
The 19th-century philosopher Soren Kierkegaard once told a story about a village inhabited by ducks. On Sundays the ducks would waddle out their doors, down the street to church, and they would waddle into the sanctuary and squat in their favourite pews. Then the duck choir, they would waddle in, and the duck pastor would waddle up to the pulpit and open the Bible. He would read: 'Ducks, God has given you wings, you can fly, with wings you can mount up and soar like eagles. There are no walls that can confine you, no fence can hold you. You've got wings, God has given you wings, and you can fly like birds!'. Excitedly the ducks, they all quacked and shouted: 'Amen!', and then they all waddled home. You get the point, don't you?
You're here tonight and you're not flying, maybe you've never been flying, and you don't really understand why - why you can't make this Christian life work, why it doesn't work for you the way it has worked for other people. Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 5 verse 19 to the church there: 'Do not quench the Spirit', the phrase could be translated 'Stop putting out the Spirit's fire'. I want to ask you: have you been resisting the Holy Spirit through stubbornness in your life? Is there an area of your life that you won't let the Holy Spirit in? Have you grieved the Holy Spirit? You know all too well that there is a sin that you're engaging in, and that's why you're not filled with the Holy Spirit tonight. Maybe you've quenched the Holy Spirit? You say: 'How can I quench the Holy Spirit?', Well, it's just like quenching or extinguishing a flame. A flame will go out if it's ignored, and the Holy Spirit has been ignored, largely speaking, in the majority of the church. How rude to ignore the third Person of the blessed Trinity! I heard Rebecca Manley Pippert say: 'Today in evangelicalism we worship the Father, the Son, and the Holy Scriptures'.
A flame will go out when it is no longer tended. Paul told Timothy: 'Stir up the gift of God that is in you' - you've got to stir it up. A flame will go out when it is overwhelmed, when it's overwhelmed by something else. We see this early in church history, tradition and ecclesiastical hierarchy came in very early and substituted the work of the Spirit in guiding and leading and ministering in the church. Even doctrine came in, doctrine divorced from power, the word without the Spirit, and it's death! One of the greatest ways to quench the Spirit is unbelief, and maybe some of you are here tonight and you don't believe that there is anything other than what you have experienced, or over and above your tradition. Oh my friend, there is, there is - and it is life as God intended for His people!
Let me finish with this story. A man who had experienced the infilling of the Holy Spirit, constant fullness, was teaching on this subject and a clergyman at the meeting asked him a question: 'Are you telling us that you have the truth and we do not?'. The man was stumped, and he thought for a moment and he said: 'No, I do not say that', and he thought about how he was going to explain the difference between individuals and churches who are operating in the fullness of the power of the Spirit and those who are not, those who are in the flesh, or in tradition or something else. Suddenly he found himself thinking about an appliance he and his wife had bought when they moved to their Dallas home. This is how he explained, he said: 'We both have the truth', that's what he said to the clergyman, 'We both have the truth'. He went on: 'You know, when my wife and I moved to America we bought a marvellous device called a deep freeze, and there we keep some rather fine Texas beef. Now my wife can take one of those steaks out and lay it frozen solid on the table, and it's a steak alright, no question of that. You and I can sit around and analyse it, we can discuss the lineage, it's age, what part of the steer it comes from, we can weigh it and list its nutritive values. But if my wife puts that steak on the fire, something different begins to happen. My little boy smells it away out in the yard, and comes shouting, 'Wow, Mum, that smells good, I want some!'. Gentlemen', the preacher said, 'that is the difference between our ways of handling the same truth: you have yours on ice, ours is on fire'.
'Tis fire we want, for fire we plead,
The fire will meet our every need,
Send the fire!'.
Do you have the fire of the Holy Spirit as God intended for His people? Let's take a moment, I know you've given me great liberty in the time you've allowed me to preach - but I want you not to rush at this moment. I remember hearing the late Duncan Campbell on a tape-recording saying about Elijah calling down fire from heaven on Mount Carmel, that he imagined that perhaps it may have been possible that after the sacrifice had been laid on the altar and arranged, that there might have just been a little bit of that sacrificial animal just not quite on the altar. Supposition I know, but it's an interesting thought, that he said, perhaps, when it was just lifted on, that little bit lifted on to the altar, that then the fire fell. What is it tonight in your life that's not on the altar? Maybe you were once all on the altar, but something has slipped off and you've lost your fire? Will you come tonight, not only come and put yourself on the altar, but claim the fire, claim it - and ask the Lord to witness it in your heart tonight, and be filled with the Holy Spirit. That is what God intended for you.
Father, we just pray that You will do what no preacher, or organisation, or hymn, or church can do, and fill vessels here tonight to overflowing with the Holy Spirit of the Living God, for the glory of Jesus alone we pray. Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at Leaney Mission Hall in Ballymoney, Northern Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the second recording in his 'Life As God Intends For His People' series, entitled "Life Empowered By The Spirit" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
All material by David Legge is copyrighted. However, these materials may be freely copied and distributed unaltered for the purpose of study and teaching, so long as they are made available to others free of charge, and this copyright is included. This does not include hosting or broadcasting the materials on another website, however linking to the resources on preachtheword.com is permitted. These materials may not, in any manner, be sold or used to solicit 'donations' from others, nor may they be included in anything you intend to copyright, sell, or offer for a fee. This copyright is exercised to keep these materials freely available to all. Any exceptions to these conditions must be explicitly approved by Preach The Word. [Read guidelines...]