The Greatest Experience of the Christian
“Great Things for Grievous Times”
TOPIC:“The Greatest Experience of the Christian”
by Rev. Dr. Reg Dunlap
TEXT:John 14: 16, 26
“And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he
may abide with you forever…But the Comforter, who is the Holy Spirit, whom
the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things.”
During the past forty years I have traveled in crusades all over this country and I have received firsthand knowledge about the present day emphasis upon the mission and ministry of the Holy Spirit. Not only that, but I have read numerous books on the person, work, and gifts of the Holy Spirit. From this vast experience I have come to this conclusion: The Holy Spirit is the most misunderstood member of the Godhead. There are thousands of Christians who completely fail to understand the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the life of the church of today. Certainly the continued misunderstanding of the Holy Spirit is too evident to deny and impossible to justify.
Today we find believers confusing baptism with fullness, the gifts of tongues with spirituality, and I am constantly hearing and reading of believers worshipping, glorifying and praying to the Holy Spirit. This is wrong and must not be done. All of our adoration, worship and glory must be given to Jesus Christ. Even Jesus said of the Holy Spirit in John 16:14: “He shall glorify me.” I am literally appalled at the lack of real biblical teaching on the fullness of the Holy Spirit. A. W. Tozer was right when he stated: “Satan has opposed the doctrine of the Spirit-filled life about as bitterly as any other doctrine there is. He has confused it, opposed it, surrounded it with false notions and fears.” Tozer was right!
People are everywhere talking about the Holy Spirit and asking questions. Many are not finding satisfactory answers. Because of this, I want us in this message to look at what the Word of God has to say about the person and ministry of the Holy Spirit.
To begin with, let us consider the INCOMING of the Holy Spirit as a GIFT. It was to those perplexed and puzzled disciples of His that Jesus said in John 14:16: “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever.”
Now when Christ made this amazing declaration the eyes of His disciples were turned toward Pentecost for the bestowal of that gift. For remember, the gift of the Holy Spirit was yet to come - both historically when He would be given by God the Father, and experientially when He would be received by the waiting disciples. Can any thinking man doubt that this is exactly what the risen Christ had in mind when He promised the releasing of the Spirit of God into every believing heart? Listen carefully to His words as found in Acts 1:5: “For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days hence.”
Since the Day of Pentecost God has bestowed the Holy Spirit upon all of those who are saved by faith in His Son for salvation. At the moment of conversion every newborn Christian is saved, sealed, baptized, and personally indwelt by the Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit is God's mark of ownership upon us. His indwelling within us is the evidence that we belong to Christ. God never releases His Spirit upon those who have not received His Son. If you know Christ you have the Holy Spirit.
But the question needs to be answered: Is this gift of the Holy Spirit that God gave to the Church at Pentecost a dynamic power or a divine Person? In other words, are we to imagine that the Holy Spirit is some vague influence or indefinite force, unreal and intangible, and thus, not as divine and personal as God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son? The answer to that question is clearly found in the Bible. The personality of the Holy Spirit is not some dainty theory, but a divine truth. Let me show you what I mean.
Think of the TITLES which are ASCRIBED to Him. In the New Testament alone there are thirty-nine different names given to the Holy Spirit. He is rightly called the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Life, the Spirit of Truth, the Spirit of Power, the Spirit of Love, the Spirit of Faith, the Spirit of Grace and the Spirit of Glory. But of the many different titles which reveal the personality of the Holy Spirit, it was Christ Himself who gave the most distinctive and descriptive title to this Third Person of the Holy Trinity. Recall again the words of Christ to His lonely disciples: “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter” (John 14:16). The word “Comforter” which Christ used to describe the Holy Spirit comes from the Greek word “paraclete” which means “one called alongside of to help or to assist.” This was precisely the mission and ministry of the Holy Spirit.
Now that Christ was about to withdraw from His disciples, He assures them that they will not be left as orphans upon the sea of life with only a passing memory of what He was like. On the contrary! Now Christ was going to be present on even a higher level. In some amazing and astonishing way the Spirit of God was to come, and not only to be WITH these fearful disciples, but now to be IN them. Give ear to the words of Christ: “Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but you know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you” (John 14:17). Once the Holy Spirit RESTED UPON men, but now, praise God, He RESIDES WITHIN men. The Apostle Paul had this truth in mind when he said to the Corinthians: “What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you” (I Corinthians 6:19).
Let's admit it my friend: It takes a person to come and take the place of another person. A force or an influence cannot do this, but the Holy Spirit can and He did. Though Christ is absent from us, the Holy Spirit has come to abide within us. He has come as the Representative of Jesus Christ, to do His work and to care for His interest. The Holy Spirit came to take up permanent residence in the believer. Christ Himself declared: “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 depart, I will send him unto you” (John 16:7).
Then, also, I know that the Holy Spirit is a person because of the TASKS which are ASSIGNED to Him. Some of the functions which are given to the Holy Spirit include the following: He teaches (John 14:26). He reproves (John 16:8). He guides (John 16:13). He shows (John 16:13). He glorifies (John 16:14). It is my contention and conviction that such a ministry as this can only be accomplished by a person, and that Person is God Himself living within us in the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Or have you ever thought of the TREATMENT that is ACCORDED to the Holy Spirit? He may be offended by people in so many different ways. This in itself is one of the real convincing proofs of the personality of the Holy Spirit. He may be insulted. He may be resisted. He may be quenched. He may be grieved. He may be lied to. It is precisely these sins which can only be committed against a person. A young girl may grieve her mother's heart by the things that she does and by the places she goes. So it is with the Holy Spirit. The fact that He is a divine Person makes Him deeply sensitive to sin of any kind. It goes right against His divine and holy nature. If only we Christians would realize the grief, sorrow, and suffering the Holy Spirit feels when we willfully sin against Him.
I beg of you, start to face up to the truth that the gift of God at Pentecost was much more than a dynamic power, much more than an indefinite force, much more than a figment of the imagination, but a divine Person who can be hurt by us in many different ways because of some sin that we may commit against Him.
Having considered the incoming of the Holy Spirit as a gift, I call your attention to the INFILLING of the Holy Spirit as a GROWTH. This is better known as the invasion of the Spirit of God into the life of each believer.
There is a tremendous distinction between the gift of the Holy Spirit and the growth in the Holy Spirit. Permit me to explain. As a gift, the Holy Spirit abides within us. But as a growth, He anoints us with power. There is a tremendous difference between the abiding and the anointing. The gift of God's Spirit makes us alive, but the growth in God's Spirit makes us adequate. Adequate to live the Christian life on the highest level. Looking at it gift-wise, He is present in the life, but looking at it growth-wise, He is preeminent within the life. As a gift the Holy Spirit resides within us, but as a growth He reigns within us. Again, I say, there is a tremendous distinction between His residing and His reigning.
But you may ask, What makes the difference between being “born” of the Holy Spirit and being “filled” with the Holy Spirit? The answer to that question is simply one of attitude. Some Christians are satisfied with only a MINIMUM of the Spirit's control over their lives. Other Christians are content with nothing less than a MAXIMUM of the Spirit's control. If I may quote from the late A.W. Tozer who said: “It may be said without qualification that every man is as holy and as full of the Spirit as he wants to be. He may not be as full as he wishes he were, but he is most certainly as full as he wants to be.”
Now then, let me ask you: What is your attitude regarding the fullness of the Holy Spirit? A minimum or a maximum? A cellar or a ceiling experience? Are you ready to permit the Spirit of God to take full control of your life? Will you allow your life to be brought totally under the reign of God's indwelling Spirit? Are you willing to be filled, dominated, possessed, and mastered by this Third Person? Are you willing to be content with nothing less than being a floodtide Christian who is living on the right side of Pentecost? And I mean by that, a Christian plus Pentecost not minus Pentecost.
To be sure, that was exactly the experience of those early Apostolic disciples. We read of them in Acts 2:4 these words: “Suddenly they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.” Here at Pentecost, in this high and holy hour, these weak and wayward disciples were suddenly and transformingly filled with the Holy Spirit. They were captivated and captured by the Spirit of the Living God. They were equipped and empowered for service. Now in this critical and crucial crisis of their lives they were brought totally under the rule of the Spirit of God. They were totally saturated in every realm of heart and life with His presence. The Holy Spirit had right of way in their lives.
Here, I believe, is the kind of experience that thousands of Christians need to have happen to them - the infilling of the Holy Spirit which comes by means of a critical experience in one's life. None can doubt that it is the sacred responsibility of every Christian to be constantly and continuously filled with the Spirit of God. Mind you, the words “filled with the Holy Spirit” are frequently found in the book of Acts. And let it be clearly stated that even years after the original outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon those early Christians in Jerusalem, we still find the Apostle Paul encouraging the Ephesian believers to be controlled and dominated by the Holy Spirit. The command of Paul to the Ephesian Christians was simply this: “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18).
Let it be plain to all that this fullness of the Holy Spirit that Paul spoke about is not a luxury to enjoy, but a command to experience. It is not a matter of choice. It is not optional. It is not some extra blessing which only a few people can experience. The fullness of the Spirit is a spiritual necessity for every child of God no matter what their position in life. It is the God-given birthright, privilege, and responsibility of every Christian.
But what has become ours by provision has not become ours by possession. We admire the Spirit-filled life in others, but have not appropriated that fullness for ourselves. As a matter of fact, I believe that every child of God at this very moment can experience an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in a far greater measure than that which is being enjoyed by the average Christian of today. The question still remains to be answered: Do we genuinely want the Spirit of Christ to take charge and control of our lives? For if we do, then we shall be able to say in the words of the hymn:
“Holy Spirit, with power divine
Cleanse this guilty heart of mine;
Long hath sin, without control
Held dominion o'er my soul.
Holy Spirit, all divine
Dwell within this heart of mine;
Cast down every idol throne,
Reign supreme, and reign alone.”
The saturation of God's Holy Spirit in every part of one's life is without doubt the deepest experience that any Christian can have this side of the grave. The early disciples thought so much of this glorious experience that they tarried ten days in order to receive it. D. L. Moody, the great evangelist, said regarding this experience: “I would not go back to where I was before that blessed experience if you should give me all of the world.” It was in the same spirit that George Muller, the saintly man of God, wrote about his experience when he consented for the Spirit of God to take over the reigns of his life. He said: “The change was so great it was like a second conversion.” And so it is when the mighty inflow of the divine Holy Spirit comes into the life in all of His fullness.
But remember: There is a price to pay if the joy of the Spirit-filled life is to be our experience. You can be sure that God will never fill a dirty vessel with His Holy Spirit until that person is willing to come to the place where sin and self is shattered from the life. Then, and only then, can we be repeatedly filled with a fresh infilling of the Holy Spirit. We don't have to wait for it. We don't have to work for it. We don't have to wish for it. Whenever we are consciously aware that we need such a fullness, we need only to confidently and courageously appropriate the fullness of His Spirit. Let us appropriate that fullness today. When we do, the Christian life will never be the same again.
But let us now move on: Think of the INSTRUCTING of the Holy Spirit as a GUIDE. Jesus proclaimed to His disciples: “When he, the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13). Now it is the responsibility of the Holy Spirit to make clear to us all those things that God would have us to know. He becomes our eyes in the apprehension and appreciation of the various truths of the Bible. The same Holy Spirit who inspired the Bible is the same One who must interpret it to us.
And in all our seeking and searching for truth, we must forever give ourselves unreservedly to the divine Guide, ever realizing, that only He can bring to light those things which we must know. I ask: Who but the Holy Spirit can reveal and teach us all we need to know about God, about man, about the universe, about sin, about salvation through Christ, about Heaven, and to be sure, about Hell? Christ Himself declared: “But the Comforter, who is the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I said unto you…For He shall receive of Mine, and shall show it unto you” (John 14:26; 16:14).
Now listen: If you as a Christian ever want to get beyond the state of walking carelessly and casually through life, then you must allow yourself to be moved and motivated by the Spirit of God. The disciples of the early church did this very thing. They neither roamed nor strayed from His guidance. On one occasion the Holy Spirit STARTED them. We read of Paul and Barnabas these words: “So they, being sent forth by the Holy Spirit” (Acts 13:4). And not only Paul, but was not Philip in the midst of a mighty revival in Samaria, when he was assigned and commissioned by the Holy Spirit to a desert highway in order that he might introduce the Gospel into Africa? These penetrating words come to focus in Acts 8:29: “Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near and join thyself to this chariot.”
But not only did the Holy Spirit start those early disciples, He also STOPPED them. During the mighty missionary movement of the Apostolic church, Paul and Silas decided that they would take the gospel into Asia. Notice what happened according to Acts 16:6: “They were forbidden of the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia.” Then again in the very next verse we read: “They attempted to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not.”
What the Holy Spirit did for them, He wants to do for us. He wants to start us on a life of sacred purity and stop us from a life of sinful passion. He wants to give us the power to make Christ central in our lives by knocking out the conceit, hate, bitterness, and self-centeredness that has come to be a part of the lives of so many Christians. But how many of us have been willing to bring our lives under His divine guidance and direction? Is it not on the side of honesty to confess, that on the most part, we have been slow and slack regarding this matter of getting our direction from God's Holy Spirit?
If we are ever going to escape the heartaches, the tears, the failures, the disappointments, which come from a self-planned and self-centered life, then I know of nothing short than having our lives directed by the Spirit of the Living God. It is highly significant, is it not, that Jesus Christ lived a God-guided and God-planned life? We read of Him: “And Jesus, being full of the Holy Spirit, returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness” (Luke 4:1). The Apostle Luke said of Christ: “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit, and with power” (Acts 10:38). Here, indeed, was a Spirit-anointed man. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit. He was led by the Holy Spirit. He was anointed by the Holy Spirit. He was crucified in the power of the Holy Spirit. I ask you: Since the Eternal Son of God was a Spirit-guided man, should we be anything less than that? I should say not!
So far in this message we have considered the following: The incoming of the Holy Spirit as a gift; the infilling of the Holy Spirit as a growth; the instructing of the Holy Spirit as a guide. Let us think now of the INWORKING of the Holy Spirit as a GLOW. No thoughtful student of the Spirit-filled life can doubt that this is the meaning of those words as found in John 16:14, “He shall glorify me.”
Once the Spirit of holiness takes up His abode and abides within us, He begins a ministry of making us more and more like Christ. The full majesty and beauty of the Savior of the world becomes manifested and magnified within each one of us. I like to think of the Holy Spirit as the divine Artist who reproduces within each one of us the express image of Jesus Christ. His inworking becomes evident to all those around us because of the bright and brilliant glow that He puts upon our face. Such a spiritual glow will never fade with the passing of the years.
But for the spiritual glow to glitter within our hearts something must happen to us. Perhaps the same experience that came one day to Dr. Walter Wilson, the well-known Methodist minister, who tells about the powerless life that he lived after his conversion to Christ. He found himself helpless as far as victory over sin and self was concerned. Then one day God sent a faithful missionary to his home who asked him this searching question: “What is the Holy Spirit to you?” Immediately Dr. Wilson replied: “He is one of the persons of the Godhead.” But then pressing the issue the missionary asked: “But what is the Holy Spirit to you personally?” Whereupon Dr. Wilson sadly confessed: “He is nothing to me.” I have no contact with Him, no powerful relationship with Him, and could get along very well without Him.”
But then, quite suddenly, one day life was all changed for Dr. Walter Wilson. He experienced his own personal Pentecost and was immediately filled with the Holy Spirit of God. His Christian life was revolutionized so much that victory over sin became his daily experience. He became a servant of Christ with a glow upon his face. This was for Dr. Wilson, as it was for those early disciples, the total abandonment of their lives to the Holy Spirit. The result was the joy of the Spirit-filled life.
Believe me, when I say, that it is necessary for Christians to have this same critical experience of being filled with the Holy Spirit. Only such an experience will change our lives. Let it happen today! Then with Isaac Watts we can sing:
“Come, Holy Spirit, heavenly Dove
With all Thy quickening powers;
Kindle a flame of sacred love
In these cold hearts of our.”