When they had prayed….they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.(Acts 4:31)
Not long after the disciples were filled with the Spirit at Pentecost, they prayed afresh for boldness to speak in His name (Acts 4:23-30); a fresh coming down of the Holy Spirit was the Father’s fresh fulfillment of His promise (4:31). So also we find Paul praying for those who have been sealed with the Spirit of God, that God would grant them the spirit of illumination (Ephesians 1:13,17); and later on, that He would grant them, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by the Spirit in the inner man (3:16).
What new meaning and promise does this give to our lives of waiting! It teaches us to keep the place where the disciples tarried at the footstool of the throne. It reminds us that, as helpless as they were to meet with their enemies or to preach to Christ’s enemies, until they were endued with power, we too can be strong in the life of faith or the work of love only as we are in direct communication with God and Christ. The omnipotent God will, through the glorified Christ, work in us a power that can bring unexpected things to pass, impossible things.
Oh, what the church will be able to do when her individual members unite in waiting with one accord for the promise of the Father, once so gloriously fulfilled, but still unexhausted ! Let each of us be still in the presence of the inconceivable grandeur of this prospect: the Father waiting to fill the church with the Holy Spirit. And willing to fill me, let each one say. With this faith, let a hush and a holy fear come over the soul, as it waits in stillness to take it all in. And, let life increasingly become a deep joy in the hope of the ever fuller fulfillment of the Father’s promise.
Before we come to know Christ we are all flesh- sin controlled flesh- and nothing of the Spirit. When we are saved- and that through the work of the Spirit (Ephesians 2) we receive the measure of the Spirit. As we grow in faith we, or at least we should, move through the spiritual progress of being more filled with the Spirit and less filled with the flesh. Every day should bring a transformation by which the Spirit gains more place and the flesh gives up more space. Ultimately the goal is to be completely dominated by the Spirit and the flesh completely having lost all of its power.
Far to many believers see their spiritual lives as recorded events and far too many stop at the event of salvation. They may be baptized in water, become church members, attend and serve in the church, but for all practical purposes they are still where they were spiritually the day they initially came to Christ.
We read this was not so with the Acts church. We know that the disciples had walked with Jesus, He had breathed upon them and told them to receive the Spirit. We also read in Luke that He opened their understanding so they might grasp the crucifixion and the resurrection. They gathered with Him on the mount of ascension and heard the instructions repeated by the angel to wait for the Promise. Gathered in the upper room on the Day of Pentecost, they were baptized in the Holy Spirit. A few days later after Peter and John reported the happenings at the temple as they prayed they were filled again with the Holy Spirit
As we continue reading through Acts and the NT writings we find this idea of continued fillings by the Holy Spirit including Cornelius the Gentile convert.
The Acts church recognized they were totally dependent on the Spirit and that their flesh was a hindrance to the work of God and their spiritual growth, so they prayed continuously to be filled with the Spirit again and again.
If there were ever a time that the church needs the evident power and presence of the Holy Spirit surely it is now in these dark days. We must confess that our best effort through the flesh is falling far short of influencing the world around us. Indeed the church rather than expanding is declining. Many reasons are given for this but I submit that this happening lies in the fact that as individuals we still have more flesh than Spirit and many have stopped on their journey toward more Spirit than flesh. I recognize that much of our teaching is centered around being saved and that certainly is vital and while new birth is an incredible event it is only the beginning of what God has for us.
Let me try to illustrate this point. Suppose you went down to the river one day with a bottle- the river representing the Holy Spirit and the bottle being you. When you arrive at this mighty river with your bottle, the river is full but your bottle is empty. You begin to dip that bottle in the river and the first thing that happens is that bottle is cleansed inside and out by the fresh flow of the water. This is an illustration of salvation for when we receive Christ the first act of the Holy Spirit is to cleanse and refresh us. Now suppose you dip the bottle deeper into the water and it begins to fill with fresh water. We call this sanctification as the Holy Spirit fills us and washes us and by the way this is a continual process for we become dry and dusty so daily we need to be dipped into the river of the Spirit. As you push the bottle deeper and deeper into the river it begins to become more and more filled until the moment comes that it is totally filled. Somewhere along the way of being filled you might experience the gifts and manifestation of the Holy Spirit. You will begin to notice that the fruit of the Spirit is becoming more evident and the works of the flesh are diminishing. However, keep in mind that there is always pressure from the flesh to regain control so you have to hold the bottle under the water because it wants to raise itself up. So at some point you might bring the bottle up from the water and it is filled to the brim- this is the picture of being filled with the Spirit. Full of the Spirit with no dry and empty places. But notice that despite being filled the bottle is not only filled but is still conforming the Spirit to itself. It’s capacity for the water is limited to itself and cannot go on beyond this point. There’s no question that this is an incredible place to be spiritually in comparison to that empty bottle you initially brought to the river. And it would be tempting to become satisfied with this place except there is a deeper experience that awaits us. Let’s take the bottle that is filled with the river and put it back into the river until the river is not only filling the bottle but surrounding it and it is no longer the river conforming to the size and shape of the bottle but now the bottle is in the river and the river is in the bottle and the bottle is carried and it’s journey is totally surrendered to the moving of the river. The bottle had surrendered itself fully to the way of the river. This is the baptism in the Holy Spirit and it is available to every believer. It is not automatic, like the bottle and the river there must be intentional pursuit. The disciples had met in prayer asking for the fulfillment of the Promise when they were initially baptized in the Spirit. They were meeting in prayer again when they were filled again. Cornelius was in prayer before Peter came and gave the gospel. Paul is praying for the Ephesus church to be filled. So we must conclude there is a correlation between asking and seeking and receiving greater measures of the Spirit.
My random thought of the day is this: what if, like the Acts church, we suspended all church activities and gathered in prayer until we had a visit by the Holy Spirit and we discovered His power and wisdom? What if every individual became dissatisfied with their current spirituality and became discontent with the same old, same old that has no ability to transform or impact the world? What if we ceased to substitute activity for true movement by the Holy Spirit? And what if we went down to the river and followed the Ezekiel experience. Ezekiel tells that God invited him into this spiritual river so he walked down into it and he was ankle deep. He receives further invitation and as he moves farther he goes deeper until the water is at his calves. Going farther he finds himself waist deep. And then he says that God calls him still further until the river becomes so deep he loses touch with the bottom and he is subject to the power of the river. May I conclude by saying that we will never find ourselves fully where God desires us to be as long as we are still earth and flesh bound. So take the plunge!
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