"But now I go to him that sent me: and none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou? But because I have spoken these things to you, sorrow hath filled your heart. Nevertheless I tell you the truth: It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I go I will send him unto you. And he, when he is come, will convict the world with respect to sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they believe not on me; of righteousness, because I go to the Father, and ye behold me no more; of judgment because the prince of this world hath been judged" (John 16:5-1 1).
Down through the ages the Word of God has usually been pro- claimed more or less one-sidedly. To preach the whole counsel of God to salvation has always been an art that only a few have mastered. Preachers have again and again gone to the one extreme or the other. The man who seems to be the most popular for the moment, or the particular spirit of the time which has captivated the fancy of the people, will so easily mold the opinion of the people. The same views, forms of preaching and methods of work will become popular. But if one truth is preached at the expense of another, spiritual life will suffer. At times it may even result in turning a flowering "Lord's garden'' into a spiritually burnt-over area; our history has many sad examples of this.
It does not seem to make so much difference to which side the digression goes. That life, which according to its nature requires the whole truth of God, will suffer if one truth is set aside in favor of another. A healthy spiritual life must have all of God's Word. God has not given us anything that is useless.
Especially does it seem so easy to drift away from salvation and the liberty which we have in Christ and into the slavery of legalism and commandments of men. At times this direction is downward into the cold and deadening struggle of work righteousness; at other times the movement is upward into an ethereal cloud of spirituality where it is thought the highest degree of spiritual power and liberty is to be found. In reality both lead to Sinai and result in death by spiritual attrition.
The scripture's teaching about sin, atonement and justification - of Christ's open grave and the Father's tender care for His people, seems to have a less prominent place in our preaching today than it had formerly. On the other hand there is a great deal said today about sacrifice, sanctification, a more abundant spiritual life and a more intimate relationship with God, and of being baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit; all this is given a greater emphasis in preaching today than at any time before.
All this about Christ's death and blood is taken for granted, something that people know already - Christian people at least. Many are therefore of the opinion that they have a right and a duty to pass by this in favor of that which is called a higher and greater goal for the Christian. It is as though there is something greater than the knowledge of Him who was dead and became alive again.
The truth is probably this that we see so little that is wonderful in Christ; therefore we have so little to say about Him. The emphasis in preaching has changed from Romans 8 to Romans 12; from "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus'' to "Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy acceptable unto God."
That which we should like to bring out here is the teaching of Scripture concerning the Holy Spirit as He is given to us by God to be our teacher in the great old subject of sin and grace.
When Jesus had given Himself to God as a sacrifice for our trespasses and had gained the victory over sin, death and the devil, He entered heaven to present Himself before God in our stead. He is there now as our representative with all that which He has gained for us.
God's Word also tells us so clearly that what Jesus is for us before God, that is sufficient for us. If we then can be united with Jesus we shall have restored to us all that which we lost in Adam.
We have received the Holy Spirit as a guide through the Word of God and to our Savior. That was the promise which Jesus gave to His own as He was about to return to the Father; that promise He has also fulfilled.
As Christ is our advocate with God in Heaven, so the Holy Spirit is our advocate on earth. His work is to lift us up from sin, death, and the power of the devil, and into the liberty that we have in our living Savior.
What a wonderful comfort this is for us!
As Christ is our only Savior, so the Holy Spirit is our only guide through God’s Word into the salvation which Christ has provided. No one can call Christ Lord except by the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 12:3).
Human life on earth would be a perpetual night without the Holy Spirit. No one would find the way to God; no one would be rescued from the pit of despair and night; no one could comprehend the mystery of the Cross and be born a child of God without the Holy Spirit.
Christ is not present in a human heart unless the Holy Spirit is there also. With all our knowledge of the Bible and the way of salvation, and with all our experience of the grace of God, we should sink into impotence and death without the Holy Spirit. The Christian who has lost the Spirit of God is transformed from a living flower to an artificial rose, from an organism to a mechanism. God’s kingdom without the Holy Spirit is a dead lion, a bloodless body with neither heart nor pulse-beat; it is only sounding brass and clanging cymbal.
All spiritual life, both in the Old Testament and the New Testament, bears witness to this fact. By the Spirit Samson could destroy a lion as though it were a lamb; he could break the strongest rope as though it were a woolen thread; he could strike down his enemies with the jawbone of an ass; he could tear up and carry away the gates of Gaza as though they were garden gates. In the same Spirit he broke down the pillars upon which the temple of Dagon rested, and buried his enemies among their gods. But when he had lost this Spirit he lay bound and helpless—and object of derision and a source of dishonor both to himself and to the God of Israel.
The same thing happened to Saul. He was victorious just so long as he carried in his bosom the Spirit which he received when Samuel’s cruse of oil was emptied upon his head. But when through disobedience he lost this precious gift he suffered one defeat after another; finally he turned his back upon the enemy and fell upon his own sword.
Elijah stood among a godless people, strong and courageous. All alone he rose against the people and their king and a host of heathen priests. He challenged them to a contest, and gained the victory because he was supported by the Spirit of God.
As we stand on the border of the New Covenant we hear the voice of another man of the Spirit who calls his people to repentance; large numbers of them were gripped by his words. It is Peter, the Apostle, who stands forth on Pentecost day and calls his people to salvation; he speaks in the power of the Spirit, and the result is that three thousand people are baptized into Christ.
All this speaks clearly of the work of the Holy Spirit in human beings.
The promise of Christ to His people under the New Covenant is this: “But ye shall receive power, when the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and ye shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in Judea and Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth.” (Acts 1:8).
Now it is not a promise only to some individuals among God’s people; the door is now open to all who will repent and believe. Servant girl and slave, king and priest—all have the promise of the Spirit.
The New Testament is the realm of the Spirit with a life in God through faith in Jesus Christ. Therefore it is not only the preachers of the Word who must have the Holy Spirit, but every single Christian. Parents who would influence their children for good must have the Holy Spirit. No teacher or preacher can proclaim Christ effectively without the Spirit. No layman can testify of Christ so that hearts are moved unless he is supported by the Spirit of God.
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However, let us not forget that there is another kingdom in the world, the kingdom of Satan. This is also a spiritual kingdom with great powers. It is not a kingdom that is satisfied merely by holding what it has. It has this in common with the Kingdom of God that it is a kingdom of conquest. It always aims to reconquer that which it has lost. With all the hosts of evil, Satan searches out every Christian on earth, and seeks to draw him into his own kingdom again. God’s Word admonishes us therefore to be on the watch so that we may not become victims of Satan’s treachery.
We must not forget that Satan is not particular about the means and methods that he uses when he wants to deceive God’s people. If he cannot gain his point by an outright temptation to sin, he will don the wings of an angel and show himself as though he were the Spirit of God and a servant of Christ.
The Word of God therefore exhorts us to try the spirits to see if they are of God. Why should the Bible remind us of this if Satan does not have the power to show himself as the Spirit of God? The magicians of Egypt could imitate the miracles of Moses by their secret arts.
According to the Word of God we are bound to believe that not every spirit that purports to be the Spirit of God actually is so. Many Christians do not seem to understand this, and therefore they are drawn into by-paths. It has been a mystery to us how honest and sincere Christians could be led astray by a spirit that is shown to be something else than the Holy Spirit. The answer undoubtedly is this that Satan has betrayed them to think that he is the Spirit of God.
Many Christians do not dare to criticize anything which purports to be spiritual and lays claim to being of God. Especially is this so if this manifestation seems to be more than ordinarily spiritual; Christians are afraid of quenching the Spirit, or at least wounding Him, by any adverse criticism. But to try the spirits to see if they are of God is precisely what the Word of God asks us to do. Those who then blindly and uncritically open their arms and hearts for every wind and spirit that claims to be from God expose themselves to the danger of being deceived.
Much could be gained for the Kingdom of God, and much would be lost for the kingdom of Satan, if Christian people would not forget this.
My purpose with that which is written here is to try to discover some of the ways in which the Holy Spirit works in bringing a person to Christ. I shall also try to point out how He helps God’s children through all the dangers in this life and brings them safely to their heavenly home. May the Holy Spirit direct my thoughts so that what is here written may be of help to many who strive to gain the imperishable crown.
First I shall try to trace some of the ways of the Spirit as He goes about winning those who are away from Christ.
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It is sin which has made the separation between God and us. It was sin that made Christ to become the Lamb of God in order to die for us sinners. If we are to know ourselves as we really are, we must learn to know our sin; if we are to have any particular use for Christ as our Savior, we must be inwardly convinced that we need Him.
It is therefore the work of the Holy Spirit to convict us of sin.
The first experience of an unconverted person with the Holy Spirit is that of being disturbed in his life apart from God. In the heart of every one who has been instructed in the Word of God the Spirit is at work; He is trying to disturb all those who are sleeping in sin. The Spirit is at work with men while they are about their daily tasks; He calls upon them in Church and in gospel hall; He is active at sea and on land; He pleads with men in sick-room, theatre and dance hall. Every once in a while man’s mind and conscience is brought face to face with God; the day of reckoning is brought into view, and the heart feels itself condemned, tired and sore.
Thus the Spirit of God seeks to convict man of sin.
A person is not permitted to walk in his sin as peacefully as it sometimes appears to us that he does. Under the hardest countenance and coarsest blasphemy may be found a soul that is crying and longing for peace. That people sometimes throw themselves into sin and shameful vices is not always caused by a desire to destroy themselves; they are just trying to stifle the cry that the Holy Spirit has called forth in their hearts. We can therefore often see that those whom we thought to be farthest away from God are the first ones to become Christians. Where the day has been given to merriment, laughter and jesting, night may offer no sleep; in its stead bitter tears are wrung from a heart that is sore and a soul that is longing for God.
This is the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart of an unconverted person.
Who can number the times that the Spirit of God has been knocking at the door of our hearts?
For all who have been called and drawn to God, but who have resisted the Holy Spirit, it will be terrible to be a human being in the day of judgment.
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But the work of the Holy Spirit is not merely to disturb the sinner in his sin. When you who are not a Christian become weary of the life in sin, and when you long for the great day when also you might believe that you are a child of God, then you can be certain that God’s Spirit is near you. You have become the object of the Spirit’s activity. It never happens that a desire to be saved rises in the soul unless it has been called forth by the Spirit of God.
Then we experience the great wonder of having our eyes opened to see the Savior. This is the great goal of the Holy Spirit in His dealings with us. But it is at this point that the greatest difficulty arises for those who wish to become Christians. All who go through the narrow gate from self to Christ, from death to life, from the power of Satan to the power of God — know of the many obstacles that will be placed in the way when the Spirit is to pilot the soul into the haven of salvation.
You will discover that nothing is right with you. Whatever you attempt results in failure. You will soon discover that you do not even care to improve yourself. You are hard and cold; at times you think that you are too sinful to be saved, and at other times you fear that you are not sinful enough; you are certain that you have neither been rightly converted nor properly awakened, and you are sure you have not grieved sufficiently over your sins. You are convinced that everything is wrong with you; what is worse is that you are not particularly bothered by this. And so you grieve because you cannot grieve as you ought to; you weep in pain because you feel so little pain.
You have become an obstacle in your own path.
You want to be saved, and you don’t want to. Your soul is a battlefield, and your heart an open sore; you feel that your life is broken. Such you feel yourself to be; what is worse is that you actually are thus. God’s Word has previously declared it to be so, and now you see it yourself; the Holy Spirit, who was sent to convict the world of sin, has pointed it out to you.
But how can you be saved? That is the great question which the Holy Spirit is trying to answer; unless this question is solved by the Holy Spirit, it will never be solved. While you are occupied with yourself, how you are and how you ought to be, and while you are praying bootlessly for a new life and another mind, the Holy Spirit is seeking to show you in the Word that it is such people Jesus wants to save. The Spirit wants you to believe that in Christ you are saved as you are. It is just this which you think is so unreasonable; you dare not believe that you can be saved as you now are. You want to destroy sin in your life first, and then begin to believe in God when you have improved yourself sufficiently.
You do not realize that you can never become rightly prepared —you who are dead in trespasses and sins. Therefore the Holy Spirit coaxes you and draws you to Him who justifies the ungodly and brings salvation to the sinner.
That is how it happened to me and many others — may it also happen to you. We saw that Jesus alone is sufficient. We saw that we had need of nothing else for salvation. We had to be saved just as we were. The light of salvation came into the soul. Where there formerly was fear, night, and death there came to be peace, day, and life.
Under the Cross of Jesus the day of grace began to dawn.
The Spirit introduced Jesus to our heart, and life’s most vexing problem was solved.
This is the work of the Holy Spirit. He has led the sinner to Christ, and the sinner is saved.
God’s Spirit witnesses with our spirit that we are the children of God.