Then said Jesus unto His disciples: If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whosoever would save his life shall lose it. and whosoever shall lose his life for My sake shall find it." MATT. xvi. 24, 25.
FT! HERE are many who seek the full blessing of Pentecost long and earnestly and yet do not find it. Often the question is put as to what may be the cause of this failure. To this inquiry more than one answer may be given. Sometimes the solution of the problem points in the direction of one or another sin which is still permitted. Worldliness, lovelessness, lack of humility, ignorance of the secret of walking
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in the way of faith these, and indeed many more causes, may also be often mentioned with justice. There are, however, many people who think that they have come to the Lord with what of these sources of failure still remains in them, and have sincerely confessed them and put them away, and yet complain that the blessing does not come. For all such it is particularly necessary to point out that there remains still one great hindrance namely, the root from which all other hindrances have their beginning. This root is nothing else than our individual self, the hidden life of Self with its varied forms of self- seeking, self-pleasing, self-confidence, and self- satisfaction. The more earnestly anyone strives to obtain the blessing and would fain know what prevents him, the more certainly will he be led to the discovery that it is here the great evil lies. He himself is his worst foe: he must be liberated from himself; the self-life to which he clings must be utterly lost. Only then can the life of God entirely fill him.
That is what is taught us in the words of the Lord Jesus to Peter. Peter had uttered such a glorious confession of his Lord, that Jesus said 5
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to him: " Blessed art them, Simon Bar-Jonah: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father which is in heaven." But when the Lord began to speak of His death by crucifixion, the self-same Peter was seduced by Satan to say: " Be it far from Thee, Lord: this shall never be unto Thee." 1 Thereupon the Lord said to him that not only must He Himself lay down His life, but that this same sacrifice was to be made by every disciple. Every disciple must deny himself and take up his cross in order that he himself may be crucified and put to death on it. He that would fain save his life will lose it; and he that is prepared to lose his life for Christ’s sake will find it.
You see, then, what the Lord here teaches and requires. Peter had learned through the Father to know Christ as the Son of God, but he did not yet know Him as the Crucified One. Of the absolute necessity of the Cross, and death on the Cross, he as yet knew nothing. It may be so with the Christian. He knows the Lord Jesus as his Saviour; he desires to know Him better, yea, fully; but he does not yet understand that
1 Mutt. xvi. 17, 22,
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for this end it is necessary that he must have a deeper discernment of the death of the Cross as a death which he himself must die; that he must actually deny, and hate, and lose his life his whole life and being in the world ere he can receive the full life of God.
This requirement is hard and difficult. And why is this so? Why should a Christian be called upon always to deny himself, his own feeling, and will, and pleasure? Why must he part with his life that life to maintain which a man is prepared to make any sacrifice? Why should a man hate and lose his life? The answer is very simple. It is because that life is so completely under the power of sin end death that it has to be utterly denied and sacrificed. The self-life must be wholly taken away to make room for the life of God. He that would have the full, the overflowing life of God, must utterly deny and lose his own life.
You see it now, do you not? There is only one great stumbling-block in the way of the full blessing of Pentecost. It lies in the fact that two diverse things cannot at one and the same time occupy the very same place. Your own
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life and the life of God cannot fill the heart at the same time. Your life hinders the entrance of the life of God. When your own life is cast out, the life of God will fill you. So long as / myself am still something, Jesus Himself can not be everything. My life must be expelled; then the Spirit of Jesus will flow in. Let every seeker of the full blessing of Pentecost accept this principle and hold it fast. The subject is of such importance that I should like to make it still clearer by pointing out the chief lessons which these words of the Lord Jesus teach us.
Our life, our individual self, is entirely and completely under the power of sin.
When God created the angels and man, He gave them a separate personality, a power over themselves, with the intention that they should of their own free will present and offer up that life, that individual self, to Him, in order that He in turn might fill them with His life and His glory. This was to be the highest blessed ness of the creature. It was to be a vessel filled with the life and the perfection of God.
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The whole Fall alike of angels and of inert consisted of nothing but the perversion of their life, their will, their personality, away from God, in order to please themselves. This self-exaltation was the pride that changed the angels into demons and cast them out of heaven into hell. This pride was the infernal poison that the serpent breathed into the ear and the heart of Eve. Man turned himself away from God to find delight in himself and the world. His life, his whole individuality, was perverted and withdrawn from the control of God that he might seek and serve himself. It was no wonder that Jesus said: " You must hate, you must utterly lose that life, ere the full life of the Spirit of God can be yours. To the minutest details, always and in everything, you must deny that self -life; otherwise the life of God cannot possibly fill you. He that will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow ME." l
A deep conviction of the entire corruption of our nature, manifesting itself in the fact that even the Christian still pleases himself in many
1 Matt..\vi. 2-i.
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things, is an experience that is still lacking in many people. It appears to them both strange and harsh, when we say that in nothing is the Christian free to follow his own feeling, that self-denial is a requirement that must prevail in every sphere of life and without any exceptions. The Lord has never withdrawn His words: " He that forsaketh not all that he hath cannot be My disciple, cannot walk with Me, cannot be is I." 1
Our own life must be utterly cast aside to make full room for the life of God.
At the time of his conversion the young Christian has but little understanding of this requirement. He receives the seed of the new life into his heart while the natural life is still strong. It was still thus with Peter when the Lord addressed to him the words that have been quoted. He was a disciple, but, alas! how defective and incomplete. When his Lord was to die, instead of denying himself, he denied his Lord. But that grievous failure brought him at last to that despair of himself which 1 Luke xiv. 33.
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caused him to go out and weep bitterly, and so prepared him for losing entirely his own life and for being wholly filled with the life of Jesus.
This, accordingly, is the point to which we must all in the long-run come. So long as a Christian imagines that in some things for example, in his eating and drinking, in the spending of his time or money, in his think ing and speaking about others he has still the right and the liberty to follow his own wishes, to please himself, to maintain his own life, he cannot possibly attain to the full blessing of Pentecost.
My brethren, it is an unspeakably holy and glorious thing that a man can be filled with the Spirit of God. It demands inevitably that the present occupant and governor of the heart, our individual self, shall himself be cast out, and that everything within it, everything wholly and entirely, shall be surrendered into the hands of the new Inhabitant, the Spirit of God. Would that we could understand that the joy and power of being filled with the Spirit will come of themselves when once we comply with the first and principal condition namely, that He alone shall be acknowledged as our Life and our Leader.
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It is once for all impossible for the Christian to bring about this great transformation in himself.
At no stage of our spiritual career are the power and the deceitfulness of our individual self and the self-life more manifest than in the attempt to grasp the full blessing of Pentecost. Many people endeavour to appropriate this blessing, and that by a great variety of efforts. They do not succeed, and they are not able to discover the reason why. They forget that Self-will can never cast out Self-will: that Self can never really mortify itself. Happy is the man who is brought up to the point of acknowledging his helplessness and impotence. He will here specially need to deny himself, and so cease to expect anything from his own life and strength, but will rather lay himself down in the presence of the Lord as one who is alike impotent and dead, that he may really receive the blessing from Him.
It was not Peter that prepared himself for the day of Pentecost or brought down the Pentecostal blessing from heaven; it was his
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Lord that did all this for him. His part was to despair of himself and yield himself to his Lord to accomplish in him what He had promised. Hence also it is your part, believer, while yielding obedience to this call, to deny yourself, and to lose your own life, and in presence of the Lord to sink down in your nothingness and impotence. Accustom yourself to set your heart before Him in deep humility, and silent patience, and childlike submission. The humility that is prepared to be nothing, the patience that will wait for Him and His time, the submission that will yield itself wholly that He may do what seemeth Him good, is all that you can do to show that you are ready to lose your life. Jesus summons you to follow Him. Remember how He first sacrificed His will, and when He had laid down His life into the hands of the Father, and went down into the grave, waited till God raised Him again to life. Be you in like manner ready to lay down your life in weakness, and be assured that God will raise it up again in power with the fulness of the Spirit. Have done with the strength of mere personal efforts; abandon the dominion of your
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own power of apprehension. " Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord." l
It is the surrender of faith to Jesus in His self-humiliation and death that opens the way to the full blessing of Pentecost.
You of course say at once: "Who is sufficient for these things? Who can sacrifice everything and die and lay down his life utterly as Jesus did? To man such a surrender is impossible." My reply is that it is indeed so. But "with God all things are possible." You cannot literally follow Jesus, and like Him go down into death and the grave. That ever remains beyond your power. Never will our individual self yield itself up to death or rest quietly in the grave. But hear the glad tidings. In Christ you have died and have been buried. The power of His dying, of His willing surrender of His spirit into the hands of the Father, of His silent resting in the grave, works in you. In faith in this working, however little you may understand it in faith in this working in 1 Zech. iv. G.
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you of the spirit and the power of the death and the life of the Lord Jesus, give up yourself willingly to lose your life.
For this end, begin to regard the denying of yourself as the first and most necessary work of every day. Accept the message I bring you. The great hindrance in the way of the life of Pentecost is the self-life. Believe in the sinfulness, the detestableness, of that life: not on account of its gross external sins, but because it sets itself in the place of God; seeks, and pleases, and honours itself more than God. Exercise yourself in what Jesus lays upon you, and hate your own life as your own worst foe and as the foe of God. Begin to see what the full blessing is that Jesus has prepared for you and which He bestowed at Pentecost namely, His own life, His own indwelling; and count nothing too precious or too costly to give as an exchange for this pearl of great price.
Brother, are you really in earnest about having the full blessing of Pentecost and being filled with the Spirit of God? Is it your great desire to be made to know what hinders you
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from obtaining it? Take the word of our Lord and keep it in your heart. Take it and go with it to Himself. He is able to make you understand, and consider, and experience it. It is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. Let everything in you that belongs to self be sacrificed to Him, and be counted as loss, and cast away to give place to Himself. He who by His death obtained the Spirit, who prepared Peter for Pentecost in the fellowship of His suffering, has your guidance in His hands. Trust, trust Him, your own Jesus. He baptizes with the Spirit, beyond doubt or question: deny yourself, and follow Him; lose your own life and find His. Let Him impart Himself in the place you have hitherto retained for yourself. From Him there will flow rivers of living water. Amen.
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" Be not drunken with wine, wherein is riot, but be filled with the Spirit." EPH. v. 18.
THE command to be filled with the Spirit is just as peremptory as the prohibition not to be drunken with wine. As truly as we are not at liberty to be guilty of the vice are we bound not to be disobedient to the positive injunction. The same God who calls upon, us to live in sobriety urges us with equal earnestness to be filled with the Spirit. His command is tantamount to a promise: a sure pledge that He Himself will give what He would fain see us possess. With full confidence in this fact,
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let us in all simplicity ask for the way in which in this respect we should live in the will of God, as those who would be filled with the Spirit. I desire now to suggest to those who really long for this blessing some directions whereby they may obtain what is prepared for them.
The full blessing of Pentecost is the inheritance of all the children of God.
This is the first principle we have to enunciate. There are many of God’s children who do not fully believe this. They imagine that the day of Pentecost was only the birthday feast of the Church, and that it was thus a time of blessing and of power which was not destined to endure. They do not reflect on the command to be filled with the Spirit. The result is that they never with earnestness seek to receive the full blessing. They take their ease and remain content with the weak and defective life in which the Church of the day exists.
Is not this the case with you, my reader? Far be it from us. In order to carry on her work in the world, the Church requires the full
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blessing. To please your Lord and to live a life of holiness, and joy, and power, you too have need of it. To manifest His presence, and indwelling, and glory in you, Jesus counts it necessary that you should be filled with the Spirit. Believe firmly that the full blessing of Pentecost is a sacred reality. A child of God may and must have it. Take time to con template it and to suffer yourself to be fully possessed by the thought of its glorious significance and power. A firm confidence that the blessing is actually within our reach is the first step towards obtaining it and a powerful impulse in the pursuit.
I do not as yet have this blessing.
This is the second step towards it. You may perhaps put the question why it should be necessary to cherish this conviction. I will tell you briefly the reasons why I consider it of importance.
The first is that there are many Christians who think that they already have the Holy Spirit, and that all they require is to be more faithful in the endeavour to know and to obey
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Him. They think that they are already standing in God’s grace, and that they only need to make a better use of the life they possess. They imagine that they have all that is necessary for continued growth. On the contrary, it is any deep conviction that such souls are in a sickly state and that they have need of a healing as divine and effective as that which the blind and lame received from the Lord on earth. Accordingly, just as the first condition of nay recovery from disease is the knowledge that I am sick, so it is absolutely necessary for them to discover and acknowledge that they do not live the life of Pentecost, that they do not walk in the fulness and the joy of the Spirit, that they do not possess the full blessing which is indispensable for them if they are to please God in everything.
Once this first conviction is made thoroughly clear to them, they will be prepared for another consideration namely, that they ought to acknowledge the guiltiness of their condition. They ought to see that if they have not yet rendered obedience to the command to " be filled with the Spirit," this defect is to be ascribed to