The Spirit-Filled Life
By S. D. Gordon
Love is ambitious. God is love. Therefore God is ambitious for us. In the best sense of the word He is ambitious for our lives. The old impression has been that salvation is for the soul, and for heaven. Well, it is for the soul and for heaven, but it is for the present life and for this earth as well. Some of God's most far-reaching plans have to do with this earth. Let us get a glimpse of God's ambitious ideal for our lives here on earth, something of an understanding of the results of the unrestrained presence within us of His Holy Spirit.
It is not surprising that there have been some mistaken ideas about the results. It has been a common supposition that somehow the baptism of the Holy Spirit is always connected with an evangelistic gift and further, connected with marked success in soul winning. Men have thought of Mr. Moody facing great crowds who were swayed and melted at his words and of people in great multitudes accepting Christ. Probably the world has never had a finer illustration of a Spirit-filled man than in dear old Moody. It is not to be wondered at that the rare evangelistic gift of service with which he was endowed and the great results attending it should be so closely allied in our minds with the Spirit-filled life which he exemplified so unusually.
In sharp contrast, however, with that conception will you note that we are told in Exodus of a man named Bezalel who was filled with the Spirit of God that he might have skill in carpentry, in metal working and weaving of fine fabrics, for the construction of the tent of God (Exodus 31:1-5). Note further that a company of seventy men were filled in a like manner that they might be skilled in conducting the business affairs of the nation (Numbers 11:16,17). Luke tells of Elizabeth being filled that she might become a true mother for John (Luke 1:13-17,41).
A second misconception has been that marked success always accompanies the Spirit's control. In contrast with that will you please note the results in some of the Spirit-swayed men whom God used in Bible times. Isaiah was called to a service that was to be barren of results, though long continued; and Jeremiah's was not only fruitless but with great personal peril. Jesus' public work led through a rough path to a crown of thorns and a cross. Stephen's testimony brought him a storm of stones. Paul passed through great danger and distress to a cell, and beyond, a keen-edged ax. These are leaders among Spirit-filled men.
Paul's teaching in the Corinthian epistle helps one to a clear understanding about results. He explains that while it is one Spirit dwelling in all who acknowledge Jesus as Lord, yet the evidence of His presence differs widely in different persons. It is one God working all things in all persons, but with great variety in the gifts bestowed, in the service with which they are entrusted, and in the inner experiences of which they are conscious (1 Cor. 12:4-6,11).
What results then may be expected to follow the filling of the Holy Spirit? Jesus fills us with the same Spirit that filled Himself that He may work out in us His own image and ideal, and make use of us in His passionate reaching out after others. If we attempt to analyze these results we shall find them falling into three groups. First--results in the life, that is in the inner experiences and the habits. Second--results in the personality, that is in the appearance and the mental faculties. Third--results in service.
A Transfigured Life
Here we look a little at the first of these. Without doubt the first result experienced will be a new sense of peace, a glad, quiet stillness of spirit which nothing seems able to disturb. The heart will be filled with a peace still as the stars, calm as the night, deep as the sea, fragrant as the flowers.
How many thousands of lips have lovingly lingered over those sweet strong words: "The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall guard your heart and thought in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:7). It is God's peace. It acts as an armed guard drawn up around the heart and thoughts to keep unrest out. It is too subtle for intellectual analysis but it steals into and steadies the heart. You cannot understand it but you can feel it. You cannot get hold of it with your head, but you can with your heart. You do not get it. It gets you. You need not understand in order to experience. Blessed are they that have not understood and yet have yielded and experienced.
With that will come a new intense longing to do the Master's will, to please Him. As the days come and go this will come to be the master passion of this new life. It will drive one with a new purpose and zest to studying the one book which tells His will. The Bible becomes literally the book of books to the Spirit-dominated man.
With that will come a new desire to talk with this new Master who talks to you in His word, and is ever at your side sympathetically listening. His book reveals Himself. Better acquaintance with Him will draw you oftener aside for a quiet talk. The pleasure of praying will grow by leaps and bounds. Nothing so inspires to prayer as reverent listening to His voice. Frequent use of the ears will result in more frequent use of the voice in prayer and praise. And more, prayer will come to be a part of service. Intercession will become the life mission.
But I must be frank enough to tell you of another result, which is as sure to come as these--there will be conflict. You will be tempted more than ever. Temptations will come with the subtlety of a snake; with the rush of a storm; with the unexpected swiftness of a lightning flash. The act of surrender to Jesus is a notice of fight to another. You have changed masters, and the discarded master does not let go easily. He is a trained, toughened fighter. You will think that you never had so many temptations, so strong, so subtle, so trying, so unexpected.
But there will be victory! Truth goes in pairs. You will be tempted. The devil will attend to that. That is one truth. Its companion truth is this: you will be victorious over temptation as the new Master has sway. Your new Master will attend to that. Great and cunning and strong is the tempter. Do not underrate him. But greater is He that is in you. You cannot overrate Him. He won the victory at every turn during those thirty-three years, and will get it for you as many years and turns as shall make out the span of your life. Your one business will be to let Him have full control.
Still another result will be a new feeling about sin. There will be an increased and increasing sensitiveness to sin. It will seem so hateful whether coarse or cultured. You will shrink from contact with it. There will also be a growing sense of the sinfulness of that old heart of yours, even while you may be having constant victory over temptation. Then, too, there will grow up a yearning, oh, such a heart-yearning as cannot be told in words, to be pure, really pure in heart.
A seventh result will be an intense desire to get others to know your wonderful Master. A desire so strong, gripping you so tremendously, that all thought of sacrifice will sink out of sight in its achievement. He is such a Master! so loving, so kind, so wondrous! So many do not know Him, have wrong ideas about Him. If they only knew Him--that surely would settle it. Probably these two--the desire to please Him, and the desire to get others to know Him will take the mastery of your ambition and life.
The All-Inclusive Passion
But all of these and much more is included in one of Paul's packed phrases which may be read, "the love of God hath flooded our heart through the Holy Spirit given unto us" (Rom. 5:5). The all-inclusive result is love. That marvelous tender passion--the love of God--heightless, depthless, shoreless, shall flood our hearts, making us as gentle and tenderhearted and self-sacrificing and gracious as He.
Every phase of life will become a phase of love. Peace is love resting. Bible study is love reading its lover's letters. Prayer is love keeping tryst. Conflict with sin is love jealously fighting for its Lover. Hatred of sin is love shrinking from that which separates from its lover. Sympathy is love tenderly feeling. Enthusiasm is love burning. Hope is love expecting. Patience is love waiting. Faithfulness is love sticking fast. Humility is love taking its true place. Modesty is love keeping out of sight. Soul winning is love pleading.
Love is revolutionary. It radically changes us, and revolutionizes our spirit toward all others. Love is democratic. It ruthlessly levels all class distinctions. Love is intensely practical. It is always hunting something to do. Paul lays great stress on this outer practical side.
Do you remember his "fruit of the Spirit"? (Gal. 5:22-23). It is an analysis of love. While the first three--"love, joy, peace" --are emotions within, the remaining six are outward toward others. Notice, "long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness," and then the climax is reached in the last--"self-control."
In his great love passage in the first Corinthian epistle (1 Cor. 13), he picks out four of these last six, and shows further what he means by love in its practical working in the life. "Long-suffering" is repeated, and so is "kindness" or "goodness." "Faithfulness" is reproduced in "never faileth." Then "self-control" receives the emphasis of an eight-fold repetition of "nots." Listen: "Envieth not," "boasteth not," "not puffed up," "not unseemly," "seeketh not (even) her own," "is not provoked," "taketh not account of evil" (in trying to help others, like Jesus' "despairing of no man"--Luke 6:35, R.V. margin), "rejoiceth not in unrighteousness" (that is when the unrighteous is punished, but instead feels sorry for him). What tremendous power of self-mastery in those "nots"!
Then the positive side is brought out in four "alls." Two of them--the first and last--are passive qualities: "beareth all things," "endureth all things." In between are two active things: "hopeth all things," and "believeth all things." The passive qualities are doing sentinel duty on both sides of the active. These passive traits are intensely active in their passivity. There is a busy time under the surface of those "nots" and "alls." What a wealth of underlying power they reveal! Sometimes folks think it sentimental to talk of love. Probably it is of some stuff that shuffles along under that name. But when the Holy Spirit talks about it, and fills our hearts with it there is seen to be an intensely practical passion at work. Love is not only the finest fruit, but it is the final test of a Christian life!...
When the Holy Spirit takes possession there is love, aye more, a flood of love....Floods are apt to do peculiar things. So does this one. It washes out the friction-grit from between the wheels. It does not dull the edge of the tongue, but washes the bitter out of the mouth, and the green out of the eye. It leaves one deaf and blind in some matters, but much keener-sighted and quicker-eared in others. Strange flood that! Would that we all knew more of it!
– From Quiet Talks On Power by S. D. Gordon.