Sometimes I have thought preachers lose much because they do not follow exposition with direction. They tell their hearers what the blessing is, and insist upon its necessity and advantages, but they leave people bewildered as to how they may enter into possession. Like Moses they can expound the law and expatiate upon the blessedness of the land, but they stop on the wilderness side of Jordan. Mr. Cook was the Joshua of Southport, and Keswick had its Joshua in Evan Hopkins. It seems to need a special grace—simple enough and direct enough to lead people into Canaan. There will be many sermons preached about Pentecost the next few days, and I would like to set forth the Scriptural way into the blessing it brings.
The first passage says that we must ask for it.
“ 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 xi. 13).
There must be definite asking for the specific gift. I was talking with a farmer in Lincolnshire a few days ago about prayer, and he said all the preachers he heard just now were urging people to pray and come to prayer-meetings. “ But,” he said, “to my mind desire has a good deal to do with praying, and praying is a slack business when desire is lacking.” There must be desire that is focussed into petition. “Ye have not,” says James, “ because ye ask not,” and there are thousands of believers who have never definitely asked for the blessing. God waits to give, but He is a God of discretion and waits to be asked. “I the Lord have spoken it, and I will do it. . . . For this, moreover, will I be enquired of by the House of Israel to do it for them.” The first step is to ask that we may receive.
The second step is to repent.
“ And Peter said unto them, Repent ye, and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost ” (Acts ii. 38).
There is a repentance of believers as well as of sinners. When men begin to pray for the blessing of Pentecost the answer begins in conviction of sin. The things of which they arc convicted are not transgression of the law, but sins of the spirit. Regeneration saves from sinning. A soul born of God can no more sin than a teetotaler can get drunk. Pentecost saves from the law of sin (Rom. viii. 2). The things of which the believer is convicted are not in themselves sinful but they are kept in disobedience to God’s will. Things not surrendered, indulgences retained against light, possessions held for selfish ends — these must all be surrendered to the supreme authority of Christ. For until He is exalted, crowned, glorified, there can be no Pentecost.
An Act of Faith and a Life of Obedience
Nothing hinders faith so effectually as a wrong motive. “How can ye believe, which receive the glory one of another, and the glory that cometh from God ye seek not?” James traces the failure of prayer to the same source: “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may spend it in your pleasures.” The pleasures may be lawful and laudable enough, but God will not give the glory of His Son to another, and the mission of the Spirit is to glorify the Son. If the power is sought for success in Christian service merely it will not be given. Christ must be supreme in affection and aim. When the consecration is complete the act of faith is quite simple. “Receive ye the Holy Ghost” is the all-inclusive command. It is the word used in the Upper Room when our Lord gave them the Bread that symbolised His Body—“Take.” There is a point at which asking becomes foolishness. Faith claims and takes.
“Therefore I say unto you, all things whatsoever ye pray and ask for, believe that ye have received them, and ye shall have them.” Take God at His Word.
Jesus Christ identifies faith with obedience, and in the Acts of the Apostles obedience is made the condition of receiving and retaining the Spirit. “And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Ghost, Whom God hath given to them that obey Him” (Acts v. 32). Abiding fulness depends upon obedience to the ever-widening circle of illumination. The blessing of Pentecost may be lost, and it is always lost when obedience fails. The Spirit-filled must be Spirit-ruled. We are ministers of the Spirit through Whom the supply is conveyed. Those who are greatly used of God have no monopoly of the Holy Ghost; they are mighty through God because the Spirit has got a monopoly of them. He is clothed with them and they are clothed in Him. Again I say this extraordinary gift is for ordinary people. All may be filled as full and as truly as the hundred and twenty on the day of Pentecost. The conditions are the same for all: Ask, Repent, Receive, Obey.
Yours in the joy of Pentecost,
May 25, 1914. S. Chadwick.