After the Holy Spirit had revealed God the Father in the Son to be our Immanuel and His blood had been offered on the cross as propitiation of our sins and the “captives were freed”, the same Holy Spirit opened the doors of heaven for the Son of God to be in His rightful place in heaven and offer His blood in the heavenly temple and be our High Priest there. The High Priest offered His prayers in heaven and the time for fulfillment of the prayer He prayed on the earth had come “That they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I in You; that they also may be one in Us” (John 17:21). At the right time on the day of Pentecost, when the 120 disciples were in prayer together with one accord, this prayer was answered by the Father “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:4). After this Divine blessing Apostle Paul on another occasion commands the Church in Ephesus “to understand what the will of the Lord is” and not be unwise “but be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18).
Why should we be filled with the Holy Spirit? – The Holy Spirit is given to us as the Comforter that every believer needs to be empowered to undertake the tasks that God desires to assign us specifically. We are not to look up to the Spirit for power for work but to fill our inner life and then from within us the power will flow. He must first occupy the “temple” in us His holy dwelling place and the empowerment will then happen. Once He is in us and starts His work of transforming us in the image and likeness of the Son of God only then we are a vessel prepared to be filled with the Spirit to do His will.
How do we get filled with the Holy Spirit? – The answer to this difficult question can only be attempted through an analytical study of the happenings of the Pentecost day as to how were the disciples prepared to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Our Lord will not give the Spirit to someone who is ill equipped and unprepared to welcome Him. The necessary question then becomes- What am I required to do be filled with the Holy Spirit? We shall see this from the preparation of the disciples before they were blessed and filled.
- They had forsaken all for Christ– The seminary or the training school that was started by God in the Garden of Eden to train the first two students was commissioned by the Lord with a single command “Follow Me”. All those who joined were in for a three years preparation for Pentecost and John the Baptist had declared “He will baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire” (Matthew 3:11). And this was a preparation with fiery trials of opposition from all quarters- of this world and from the spiritual realm. The condition of joining was simple and only one- give up everything for Jesus; their business, their fishing nets, their well established tax collectors jobs and much more. The command was accepted and Simon Peter confirmed “Lord, we have forsaken all and followed you” (Luke 18:28) for Christ could not impart His own heavenly life and the Spirit to anyone who was still attached to this world. Lord Jesus took them and prepared them through His teaching and personal example to give up everything for God and follow Him.
To follow Him into heaven the demand today also is the same “Except a man forsake all he cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:33) and this command means “all worldly things” with no exceptions. I must let go of family attachment, honor, passions, desires and all else and give first place- the place of honor in my heart to the Lord. Surrender everything and place self at His disposal to take complete charge over my whole being and the He will rule and tell what is important by living in me and filling me with the Holy Spirit. After we have taken this first step, then and only then will He come in and Trust Him for He definitely will. Then without hesitation be firm with a solemn conviction to follow His path but keep self analysis on, lest there be something lurking still somewhere in me- my anger or some hidden desire- the little sins. The Everlasting God in heaven is ready and waiting to fulfill His promise but He cannot fill a vessel that is already filled with other things of the world.
- They had reached a stage of utter despair – For the disciples the first step was achieved but after joining the Lord’s seminary they realized they had to forsake self. “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself” (Matthew 16:24) and they did not realize how terrible was the power of self ruling in them as it is in us. Two things took place before and after the Lord’s Supper in the upper room- first they had a dispute among themselves about who should be chief for they were yet filled with pride. They were concerned with their personal glory and places of honor in the Lord’s kingdom while He washed their feet and became a servant figure. The second was that they all forsook Him and fled to save their lives despite their promises to Him “to even die for Him”. They were filled with a self confident spirit an d it was with that spirit that the Lord took them to Gethsemane park to the commencement of the trial. They all fell asleep even the three who were taken into the inner garden area and when the guards came to arrest Him they fled though Peter and john did follow Him later. Peter denied knowing Him and John did not muster courage to confront the Jewish leaders about their illegal deeds- both legally and spiritually. The Lord had prayed for Peter “that your faith may not fail” (Luke 22:32) for He knew the fate of Judas Iscariot.
Peter wept bitterly when his eyes met the Lord’s for His look was of love, compassion and understanding and condemning (Luke 22:61). They had hoped for the kingdom to reign in glory and their hope was gone on the cross. The Sabbath day was a day of utter despair for the disciples for what they had done and for what God had done. This period of contemplation was to break them from their trust in anything external and anything in themselves and only through this could they reach the state of utter despair to be able to say later “the life that I live in the flesh, I live by faith of the Son of God. Only from the grave of self can the Spirit filled life arise. Even during the 40 days with Him after His resurrection they were yet unsure of what was coming but could have a glimpse of that life. They could not understand and could do nothing but trust in Him and not in self and the only way was to get down, lower and lower before Him to enable Him to raise them up.
- They had intense personal attachment to Jesus – The Holy Spirit comes from God through His Son and can only come to those who are united to the Son through a personal bond. Lord Jesus had taught them to lean on Him in every situation – the storms and in lack; sickness and in despair and to love Him and delight in Him. The three years with Him had made them love Him despite their personal failures and sins of the flesh. They loved Him but without the indwelling Spirit were utterly helpless to obey Him. For three years they had enjoyed His love, His care and blessings of power and how He had loved them and He had won their hearts. Though they deserted Him their hearts were grieved due to a sense of personal attachment to Him and even in His death they clung to Him.
This is the necessary third step to cling to Him with an intense love and personal attachment. The charge of the Lord on the church at Ephesus was not about their works or labour but that “you have left your first love” (Revelation 2:4). We may be doing great things for the Lord but do not cling to Him in love and without this we are of no use to Him. Before filling of the soul with the Spirit there has to be a tenderness of feeling, a preparation for it in the intensity of love for Jesus; there is clinging of the heart to Him; the soul longs for Him with a longing to love Him better. We may say my religion is more in my head than in intense love to Him and how do I achieve this. Peter learnt this lesson and finally surrendered himself by saying “Lord, You know all things, You know that I love You” (John 21:17). We have to say this with boldness, with sorrowing but say it we must to e baptized with the Holy Spirit. This is only possible through surrender to Him, even with our sin and shame and confess the want of His personal tender love, clinging love to initiate a close fellowship with Him. Say it in humility and say it in faith for He is ready and wanting to fill us with His Holy Spirit.
- They believed His promise of the coming Holy Spirit, in full faith – The ten days of waiting were spent in intense prayer and waiting in faith. They had heard of the promise in the Old Testament “I will pour out My Spirit on all people” (Joel 2:28) and the Lord had promised it. It was enough for them though they did not probably know about the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the resultant joy and presence of the Lord Jesus in their hearts as a result of that. They just believed the Master whom they loved. It would be foolishness to some that God will consent to live in a sinner like me but for them it was –He said it and we will wait and receive despite being grossly unworthy. Others might say even today that this is too high for a man on earth, that a man in flesh and blood cannot have the Lord being in Him. That is unbelief- do not listen to the “voices of the world but listen to the heavenly promise of our Lord” and get ready for the filling.
Believe that there is a God in heaven and there is a blessing waiting and God is willing to give it and if you believe what God has said and that He is waiting to bless you; then wait eagerly for fulfillment of His promises. To fellowship with God is a solemn thing and not a mundane matter and we must set our heart on it and expect earnestly. We may think that I may not be able to handle the filling of the Holy Spirit or how will I manage everything and the coming responsibilities. You do not have to manage the Holy Spirit for He will do it for us in His power when we are full of him.
- 5.They longed and thirsted for it – The shock of the quake that hit all in Jerusalem on Calvary and their own sense of despair sat their denial and forsaking Him and the shame and disgrace of having treated Him in such a manner had brought them to a state of longing for something better. The seed of this expectation was sown in their hearts by the Lord Himself during His 40 days of sojourn with them to fill them with assurance during the ten days waiting period. They were held in contempt by others but these 120 men and women were steadfast in their love for the Lord and belief in His Word.
Are you willing to do this? Some think that it would be a moment of great emotion stirring their whole being or some other such great event. It may not always be like the happenings of Pentecost and may be in a gentle whisper like dew falling on the grass- quiet and simple for Elisha found after the earthquake and the storm that “the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice” (1 kings 19:12). The filling of the Holy Spirit may not be under very dramatic earth shattering circumstances for the Lord decides and His thoughts and ways are different from our thoughts and ways (Isaiah 55:8).
A river can be filled in two ways- suddenly with violence as in the case of a cloud burst or very heavy rain in the upper reaches causing it to suddenly overflow its banks. The second is through the gradual melting of snow in the upper reaches and the gentle flow of water down the slopes to fill the river. There are souls in whom the filling of the spirit with great emotion while there are others who come trembling and fearfully before God humbling themselves to receive the blessed Spirit. They say it quietly, claim and receive in faith thanking Him and are led by Him to the destined path. In each case the empty vessel must get separated for the Lord, be at His disposal, believe in Him and wait for the filling of the Holy Spirit. Neither can we force God nor can we change His time schedule for pour life.
The Holy Spirit is our heritage as ‘children of God’ and we must say- ‘the fullness of the Holy Spirit is mine and mine for my daily life to enable me to live a holy life as a testimony of His love. Are you ready to bow down before Him?
(Adapted from Andrew Murray’s The Spiritual Life)