Being Filled by the Holy Spirit
(from a sermon by A. J. Tozer)
Before there can be fullness there must be emptiness. Before God can fill us with Himself we must first be emptied of ourselves. It is this emptying that brings the painful disappointment and despair of self which so many persons have complained just prior to their new and radiant experience. There must come a total of self-disvaluation, a death to all things without us and within us, or there can never be real filling with the Holy Spirit.The dearest idol I have known,
Whate'er that idol be.
Help me to tear it from Thy throne,
And worship only thee.
We sing this glibly enough, but we cancel out our prayer by our refusal to surrender the very idol of which we sing. To give up our last idol is to plunge ourselves into a state of inward loneliness which no gospel meeting, no fellowship with other Christians, can ever cure. For this reason most Christians play it safe and settle for a life of compromise. They have some of God, to be sure, but not all; and God has some of them, but not all. And so they live their tepid lives and try to disguise with bright smiles and snappy choruses the deep spiritual destitution within them.
One thing should be made crystal clear: the soul's journey through the dark night is not a meritorious one. The suffering and loneliness do not make a man dear to God. Everything comes out of his goodness on the grounds of Christ's redeemed blood and is a free gift, with no strings attached. What the soul agony does is to break from earthly interests and focus the attention upon God.
All that has gone before is by way of soul preparation for the divine act of infilling. The infilling itself is not a complicated thing. While I shy away from 'how to' formulas in spiritual things, I believe the answer to the question 'How can I be filled?' may be answered in four words, all of them active verbs. They are (1) surrender, (2) ask, (3) obey, (4) believe.
I Beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God. (Romans 12:1-2)
If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him? (Luke 11:13)
We are His witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey Him. (Acts 5:32)
Complete and ungrudging obedience to the will of God is absolutely indispensable to the reception of the Spirit's anointing. As we wait before God we should reverently search the Scriptures and listen for the voice of gentle stillness to learn what our Heavenly Father expects of us. Then, trusting to His enabling, we should obey to the best of our ability and understanding.
This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? (Galatians 3:2)
While the infilling of the Spirit is received by faith and only by faith, let us beware of that imitation faith which is no more than a mental assent to truth. It has been a source of great disappointment to multitudes of seeking souls. True faith invariably brings a witness. But what is that witness? It is nothing physical, vocal nor psychical. The Spirit never commits himself to the flesh. The only witness He gives is a subjective one, known to the individual alone. The Spirit announces himself to the deep-in spirit of the man. The flesh profiteth nothing, but the believing heart knows. Holy, Holy, Holy.
~ from a sermon by A. J. Tozer