by David Legge
Hi everybody, good evening. Let's pray together before we come to the word: Father, we thank You for what has already been shared in prayer and in praise. Lord, we just want to, Father, lift up the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. We want to agree with heaven, because He is high above all. We thank You that therefore, being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear. Lord, we pray that we would be living in the reality of these days of the Spirit in which your word tells us we are. Lord, I pray that tonight all of us will know that we are having an encounter with God. Whatever has been in the way in our lives, that You will just remove it. Lord, we may not be addressing any of those things specifically, but in the presence of Your power that You would just come and deal with those things. Lord, we think of John the Baptist, how he came and prepared the way of the Lord. Father, send the Holy Spirit to come and prepare the way for you, to remove those mountainous obstacles, to raise the valleys, and to bring heaven down upon us. Lord, we welcome You - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - in Jesus' mighty name. Amen.
I want you to turn with me to Acts chapter 19, and I've been waiting on God for these messages - so I want you to understand that I'm not just bringing you stuff, pulling it out of a case somewhere, and bringing it, and giving it. I'm bringing you messages, I believe, from the heart of God for these particular nights. This is one, last evening really I didn't know what I was going to do tonight, but just last night I felt the Lord directing me to this portion of Scripture - and I believe there will be much in it for hopefully all of you.
Chapter 19 then of Acts - do you believe the book of Acts? Yes? You believe the Bible, don't you, or we're in trouble! You believe the book of Acts - the question is: do you believe the book of Acts is for today? Last time I read through the book of Acts in my daily devotions, I wrote at the end of it: 'To be continued...'. Do you believe that, or do you believe it's all done and dusted, and it's history? I don't believe Acts is history. Sometimes we're taught in Bible colleges and various churches that Acts is history. Now it is history inasmuch as Luke was a great historian, but it's what we call - this is a big term - theological narrative. Do you know what that means? Well, let me ask you it like this: is Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John only history? Is it? Well, it is history, isn't it? But it's not just history, it's teaching us something. Acts is theological narrative, in other words: it's teaching us something about the early Christians' lives and experience with God. What's it teaching us? That this God is our God; that this Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever; and this Holy Spirit that you now see having been poured out on the Day of Pentecost is the same Spirit who is meant to inhabit the church today. Do you remember we saw it last evening: the promise is to you, to your children, to all who are far off, and to everyone who the Lord our God shall call. Isn't that wonderful?
So we're going to look here at chapter 19 verse 1, we're just reading through to verse 7: "And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples he said to them, 'Did you receive the Holy Spirit when'", or some versions will say 'since', "'you believed?'. So they said to him, 'We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit'. And he said to them, 'Into what then were you baptized?'. So they said, 'Into John's baptism'. Then Paul said, 'John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus'. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied. Now the men were about twelve in all".
D.L. Moody, the great evangelist, said: 'You might as well try to hear without ears, and breathe without lungs, as try to live the Christian life without the power of the Holy Spirit'. Yet the fact remains, especially in our land - anybody would think, to listen to my preaching at times, that I'm really down on Ireland! I'm not, I live for Ireland and to see Ireland on fire for Christ! But the problem is: we are steeped in religion of all sorts of shades and flavours. Religion in essence - and when I say 'religion', I'm talking about man-made efforts to achieve righteousness with God; and you see it in Protestantism, and Roman Catholicism, and all the 'isms' that you find in the spectrum of Christendom and denominationalism - basically it is flesh, and that which is of the flesh is flesh, but that which is of the Spirit is spirit. The flesh brings death, but the Spirit brings life - yes? The Galatians had a problem, Paul exhorts them: 'You began in the Spirit, but you're now trying to be made perfect in the flesh'. Evangelicalism, the conservative wing of evangelicalism, espouses strongly the need for conversion, the need for the new birth, a personal relationship with Jesus Christ - and we believe that, because that's what the Bible teaches. You need to know that this evening: that if you're not a child of God - I'm not talking about being born into a certain religion, I'm talking about knowing that you're a sinner, repenting of your sins, believing the Gospel, and having an experience of trusting Christ alone for salvation, knowing that He died for your sins and it's only through His blood that you can be saved. Coming to that point in your experience - that is vital, that is core and key to everything. But so many in the church today begin that way, through an experience of the Holy Spirit in conversion birthed from heaven, and yet they continue to try and live the Christian life in the power of the flesh. It's like trying to drive a car without ignition, trying to live the Christian life without fire. If you try to get around in a car without ignition, you'll have to get out and push it - and there are a lot of pushy Christians about (in more ways than one), but you understand what I mean. They are trying to push their car along the journey of this Christian pilgrimage, and it can't be done.
'Tis fire we want, for fire we plead,
The fire will meet our every need.
Send the fire!'
We saw last night that John said: 'I indeed baptise you with water, but He who is coming after me - whose shoe latches I am not worthy to loose - He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire' - and that's Christianity. That's why, here in the Acts of the Apostles, in chapter 2 you have the Day of Pentecost. Now, there is a sense in which we don't need another Pentecost. That sense is that God's Spirit has been poured out, and I believe it's a continuous experience - so the Spirit of God is being poured out across the world now, this is the age of the Spirit. But nevertheless, we don't need another Day of Pentecost as such, just the way we don't need another Calvary. We don't need Jesus to die all over again, we don't need Him to be raised from the dead again, we don't need Him to ascend to the right hand of God again - but what we do need is: we need to enter into the experience and the reality of what happened on the Day of Pentecost; just the same way as because Jesus died doesn't mean you're saved, you have to come to a personal realisation of what Jesus did for you. You have to have that appropriated in your life by the grace of God through faith in Christ - do you understand? It's the same with the power of the resurrection, it's the same with the realities of the ascension and what it is to live in Christ, as He is, so are we in this world - wonderful truths. But what I'm saying to you tonight is: it's not enough to have some kind of positional theological espousal to 'Oh, it happened in the Bible, therefore I'm living in the reality of it' - not so. You need to have your own personal Pentecost.
God is pouring out His Spirit, but you need to have your personal experience of it. So often we emphasise a personal experience of salvation - that you cannot get to heaven on the back of any church, or your Mum, or your Dad, or families, or anything like that; you've got to come yourself. But what about every other experience in the Christian life? You've got to have personal experience of Pentecost. Here in chapter 2 of Acts and verse 16, we looked at this verse last night, Peter preached and said: 'This is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: 'And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams''. In the last days He will pour out His Spirit upon all flesh. Now we are now living in the last days, OK? The last days were starting around about this period after the Lord Jesus ascended to heaven at this apostolic time, but they are continuing now. Some of these prophecies here in Joel 2 have not been fulfilled yet, won't be fulfilled until the last of the last days, if you like. I believe there is going to be a latter-day outpouring of the Holy Spirit then.
But this is in accordance with what Jesus said in chapter 1 and verse 8, if you look at it: 'You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth'. Now we actually see this taking place in the Acts of the Apostles. The word says, Joel 2, that the Spirit would be poured out upon all flesh - I don't think that has happened yet, do you? Has every tribe found the outpouring of the Spirit yet? No, they haven't even heard the Gospel yet - so this is not completely fulfilled, but what we see in Acts is a taster of it. Now I was brought up, taught that the baptism of the Spirit, the outpouring of the Spirit was an historic event that has already happened. This is the Scripture that was used, if you look at Acts 2 you see in verse 5: 'And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven'. So, there on the Day of Pentecost, the Spirit was outpoured as Acts 1 verse 8 says, Jerusalem and Judaea - so the Jews got it. There were Jews from all over the Empire coming in for the Feast of Pentecost, and there they were, and they received the Holy Spirit. So they say: 'That's that fulfilled', OK? Then when you come to chapter 8 you find verse 14: 'Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them', so they believed the Gospel, 'who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit'. So they believed the Word, but they had not received the Spirit yet: 'For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus'. So they were converted, we might say, but they had not had this experience of baptism in the Holy Spirit. 'Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit'. So the apostles laid hands, they received, and it doesn't say they spoke in tongues or prophesied - although something took place that evidenced this fact in that, as we read on from verse 18, Simon Magus saw what wonderful power this was, and he wanted it, and he even tried to buy it. So he had to see something that took him aback a little, to realise that this was God's power.
But here are the Samaritans - what does Acts 1:8 say? 'To Jerusalem, Judaea, Samaria' - this is being fulfilled. Now this is not the Day of Pentecost, this is not the Day of Pentecost, this is after the Day of Pentecost - but the Holy Spirit is being poured out on the Samaritans. Then you come further and you go to chapter 10 and verse 44. Now Peter is in Cornelius' house, remember he was a Roman centurion, and he was a good man. God has observed his devoutness before Him, and sent Peter to preach words to him whereby he may be saved. Verse 44: 'While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word'. That's very interesting, nobody is laying hands on anybody here - as far as we're aware, nobody is putting hands on anybody. So the Holy Spirit can come through people laying on hands, but the Holy Spirit can just come upon a collect gathering or an individual without any of that. 'And those of the circumcision', that's the Jews, 'who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also'. This was a new thing entirely! 'For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. Then Peter answered, 'Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?'. So they spoke with tongues as an evidence that they had been baptised in the Holy Spirit. Now, who are these? These are the Gentiles. Jerusalem, Judaea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the world - that's the Gentile region, OK?
Now, I was always taught that that now is the fulfilment of Joel 2, that is Pentecost over. The Spirit of God has been outpoured upon the Jews, the Samaritans, and the Gentiles - closed shop, it's all over now, it's fulfilled. Problem: chapter 19 - and it's a big problem! The reason being, these are Gentiles. The question begs: if the Holy Spirit has already been outpoured in the world, it can't be on the Day of Pentecost (because the Samaritans and the Gentiles were after the Day of Pentecost, so you can forget that right away) - but if this is just an historical sort of dispensations of outpouring, and once it's done it's over, where do we fit chapter 19 in here? Because there is a crowd, verse 7 says, of twelve disciples - that's very interesting, isn't it? It's nearly like a throwback to the original twelve. But here are twelve disciples who have missed out, big-time! They are lagging behind. Paul asks them, they are from Ephesus, Ephesians, he says to them in verse 2: 'Did you receive the Holy Spirit when', or since, 'you believed?'. By their reply we realise how far behind they are, verse 2, the second part: 'We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit'. Now we're realising there is a shortfall in their knowledge somewhere along the way of what Jesus did when He purchased salvation at the cross, when He shed His blood, when He rose again, when He ascended up on high and made captivity captive and gave gifts to men - they don't know about this! They haven't even heard of the Holy Spirit!
I want to suggest to you that much of the church is like this. I want to ask you the question: have you received the Holy Spirit when you believed? Now, I know the answer, I know the theological quips that will come back: 'Oh, you can't be of God if you don't have the Holy Spirit'. We know that, we're not talking about new birth here. You receive the gift of the Holy Spirit within you as the life of God when you're born again, OK? We're not saying that's not the case, but what we're talking about is something entirely other than that. We're not so much talking about you having the Holy Spirit per se, we're talking about the Holy Spirit having you, and all of you, and being over you, and you being in Him - entirely immersed, submerged, bathed in Him. Watchman Nee says that the Christian life is like having two books purchased for you, and you go to collect them. One is the book of justification by faith, and the other is the book of the fullness or baptism of the Spirit. He says that most Christians go to the bookstore and get the first book all wrapped up in brown paper and walk away with that, and leave the second book behind them.
This is what Jesus purchased for us. Now, I don't know whether we have any theologians in the gathering tonight - but it seems sometimes that everybody is a theologian. But we have to deal with this, because this is a very controversial passage of Scripture. I'm not making out by any means that it's easy at all, because the big question that begs here is: were these twelve Ephesians complete Christians? Now, you say: 'What on earth is that?'. Well, some people say they weren't true born-again believers, or they hadn't come all the long way of true faith of the new birth in Jesus Christ. Now, there's no doubt about it that that is a question. Now, I would point you to verse 1 where it says that these were 'disciples'. Paul found some 'disciples' in Ephesus. Now some people will say: 'Ah, but they were disciples of John the Baptist'. Well, if that's the case, what usually happens is that it would qualify that term 'disciples' as 'disciples of John the Baptist' - but where the term is left just 'disciples', it usually infers that these are disciples of Jesus.
But let's leave that one for a moment. When you look at verse 4 you will see that it says that Paul - hearing that they were baptised into John, John the Baptist's baptism of repentance - Paul said to them in verse 4: 'John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus'. So Paul is outlining the message that John the Baptist preached that these people obeyed - what was it? 'Believe in Jesus'. So they had been baptised because they had believed in Jesus, but it was a baptism of repentance and they hadn't received the rest of the message. They were baptised in water, but they have not received the power of the Spirit and they had not been baptised into the name of Jesus.
Now, were they believers or were they not? It's hard to know, really, isn't it? I personally believe they were, because it says they were disciples and it says they believed in Jesus - OK? But let's say they weren't, OK? For the sake of argument, let's say they weren't. That doesn't really matter for our purposes this evening, and let me show you why: if they weren't, OK, they had only been baptised into John's baptism, and they hadn't been truly born-again - what does Paul do for them? Well, Paul baptises them into Jesus, into the truth of the fullness of all that Jesus did at the cross and the resurrection, the ascension. If all they needed was to be converted, why is it not that that's all Paul did - lead them to Christ? So it doesn't matter whether they were true born-again believers, or they were only half-baked and needed a bit more of the message - because here's what are the facts: if you look down there at verse 6, what Paul did, 'Paul laid hands on them, and the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied'.
Now, first of all, if the Holy Spirit has already been outpoured upon all flesh at Pentecost, on the Day of Pentecost, or arguably to the Samaritans, or to the Gentiles, and it's all over - then all Paul needed to do was preach the Gospel, baptise them in the name of Jesus, and they would automatically receive this experience of the Holy Spirit, but that's not what he did. What did he do? He laid hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit, and they spoke in tongues. So whether they are believers or not, to me that is a watertight answer to this whole conundrum. So I ask you: did you receive the Holy Spirit when, or since, you believed? People fight about that wee word as well, 'Oh, the 'since' implies that there is a subsequent experience after salvation' - well, yes, it does, but 'when you believed', that helps, does it? Does that really help? Well, it does imply that you could have received it when you believed, and I believe that. In fact, I'll go further than that, do you know what I believe that the Bible teaches? That Christian initiation is fourfold.
We are obsessed about the conversion experience - and, don't misunderstand me, it is vital and it is so important - but it is only the threshold experience. In the Acts of the Apostles we find Christian initiation to be fourfold, fourfold. Repentance toward God, faith in Jesus Christ. Repentance toward God means turning away from your sin and turning to God. Faith towards Jesus Christ, realising that it's not through your own works, it's not through a religion, it's not through anything other than Jesus' death and resurrection, and faith in that that you can be saved. Now listen carefully to what I'm saying, and don't misunderstand me or misrepresent me: it's repentance and faith that will justify you before God. It's by grace alone through faith alone - but Christian initiation, being a true Christian, is not just about justification before God. You do know that, don't you? There is no such a thing - and here's the third aspect of initiation - there is no such a thing in the New Testament as an unbaptised Christian. Doesn't exist! I deplore anything that insinuates that baptism is an optional extra. There is no command of Christ that is an optional extra! I know we get into a whole minefield here, because there are so many different opinions in denominational circles and all the rest - but we have to get above all that. We really do! What does the Bible teach? What did Jesus command? Repent and believe the Gospel for the forgiveness of your sins, and be baptised, that you might receive the Holy Spirit.
So there is repentance toward God, faith in Jesus Christ, water baptism, and Spirit baptism - or fullness, or whatever you like to call it. I'm not saying you need to be baptised in water or the Spirit to go to heaven, that's not what I'm saying - but to be a New Testament Christian, as New Testament Christians were, that's what happened. Can I tell you: it didn't happen with six month, or six year, or six decade intervals, it happened there and then, right away! So if you want to choose the word 'Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?', that's OK, because that's when the things usually happen - but to show that there are times that people can lag behind and miss out because of a lack of teaching or whatever, we have this portion of Scripture. I don't know all that was going on here, but I know this: Paul looked at these Ephesian Gentile disciples who had believed in Jesus - let's leave it at that - and he perceived that there was something deficient in their experience of the Holy Spirit.
So I challenge you tonight: what about yourself? Would someone look at your life and see a conspicuous absence of the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, His peace, His gifts, His fruit in your life? Or if you look at yourself tonight, what do you see? Is there evidence? C.H. Spurgeon was a Baptist - and all the Baptists, they don't shut up about him, he is the 'Prince of preachers' they call him, and all the rest - but he believed in the fullness and the power of the Holy Spirit big-time. Listen to what he said when he preached on Acts 19: 'Have you then received the Spirit since you believed? Beloved, are you now receiving the Spirit?' - you see, this is not a once for all thing, this is a continuous thing, be continually filled with the Holy Spirit - 'Are you still receiving the Spirit now? Are you living under His Divine influence? Are you filled with His power? Put the question personally. I am afraid some professors will have to admit that they hardly know whether there be any Holy Ghost. And others will have to confess that though they have enjoyed a little of His saving work, yet they do not know much of His ennobling and sanctifying influence'. Spurgeon!
You might call yourself a Christian tonight, but what I'm asking is: have you received the Holy Spirit since you believed? Many Christians believe in the Holy Spirit; they confess that maybe in church 'I believe in the Holy Ghost'; they sing 'Breathe on me breath of God', and 'Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me' - but what I'm asking you is: do you know anything experientially about the power, the Person, the work, the influence of the Holy Spirit of God? So Paul applies this question.
I read years ago of a school fire in Texas, and there were 263 pupils killed - the fire burned the whole place to the ground. Then they built it up again, opened the school, and they had installed in it the finest sprinkling system, state-of-the-art at the particular time, to safeguard against anything remotely happening like this again. They actually took tours around the beautiful new school, and the pride of place was this sprinkling masterpiece of technology. Seven years past the war, I think it was the janitor discovered this, seven years past the war - that's going on quite a bit from when it was built - they found that the sprinkler system had never been connected to the mains.
So many Christians are like that: they are not hooked up, they're not tapped in, they're not plugged into the power of God. Maybe you're here, and you say: 'But what if you don't really know'. I spoke a little bit last night about, and I'll talk in a moment or two, about how we receive the Holy Spirit in His fullness. It is by faith objectively in the word of God. So you might surmise: 'I could be filled by the Holy Spirit and not know it. Perhaps I'm walking in fullness already right now, and I don't really know'. Now, that is possible, it is possible to be saved and not have assurance - but you, if you know your Bible enough, will know that God's word is very clear that these things are written that you might know that you have eternal life. God doesn't just want to save us, He wants us to know that we are saved - and it's only when we know and have the assurance that we can experience all the blessings of knowing who we are in Christ and our inheritance in Him. It's exactly the same with this experience of the fullness of the Spirit. He wants us not only to have it, but He wants us to know, He wants us to walk in confidence. It's not arrogance! I can stand here tonight, and there used to be a time when I couldn't say it, and I would have said to you: 'I've prayed for this, I've claimed it by faith, and I believe God has heard me and God has answered me'. That's true bill, but I couldn't have stood before you and said: 'I'm absolutely certain that it has happened', because the assurance wasn't there.
So you could be filled and not know it, but God wants you to have the assurance. I'll tell you this: if you are walking - and it's a different thing to have this and walk in it - if you're walking in it, if the rivers of living water, as we preached last night from John 7, are flowing out from your innermost being. You see, some people have an inlet of the Holy Spirit, but not an outlet. They are like the Dead Sea. You know why the Dead Sea is dead? Because it has an inlet and no outlet. But if you are being filled with the Spirit, and there is an outflow of the Spirit flowing out of you rivers of living water from your innermost being, you will know that you're filled. There will be evidence that you are filled. You ought to know that you're filled.
Listen to Spurgeon again - I know this place is packed with Baptists tonight, you see. Listen: 'Give a man an electric shock and I wararnt you he will know it! But if he has the Holy Ghost, he will know it much more'. It's well I didn't say that, isn't it? He could get away with it - an electric shock! You will know it! The trouble is we talk about these truths without experiencing them. We're like the bus conductor, he's called out the destinations so many times, he thinks he's been there himself.
I want to answer three things, maybe two, we'll see how the time goes. Why maybe have you not received the Holy Spirit since you believed, in His fullness now? Secondly: how to receive - then we will see how much time we have left. First of all: why people don't receive. First reason, and this is not exhaustive, but let's give the main reasons. First of all: the Spirit can be resisted. Now, some people's theology doesn't allow for this, but sorry, I have to go with this book. Acts chapter 7 verse 51, Stephen is preaching before he is stoned to death, and he says to the Jewish people in Acts 7:51 - they were stiffnecked generation: 'You do always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers before you'.
Now, I'm not talking to people who are unconverted. Although, if you're unconverted here tonight, I would warn you not to resist the Holy Spirit: 'He who hardens his neck, who is often reproved, shall be suddenly rebuked - and that without remedy'. God is not mocked. But you know, Christians, the Jews here are the equivalent to believers. They had their Bible, they were God's people, and they were resisting God, they were resisting the Holy Spirit! You could be here tonight, and through stubbornness, through hardness, through an unyielded will, through an unbroken self - where self is on the throne of your heart and not the Lord Jesus Christ - you are resisting the Holy Spirit, and you cannot know the blessing of God in this regard if you're resisting His voice. The One you are resisting is the One you portray you want in your life - that cannot be. So don't resist the Holy Spirit.
Secondly: people grieve the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 4 and verse 3 says: 'Grieve not the Holy Spirit'. Now, what does grieving the Holy Spirit mean? Well, it's really offending the Holy Spirit. We do that through sinfulness - dead easy, isn't it? When we sin - I alluded to this last night, the Holy Spirit descended as a Dove; and the Dove is such a wonderful symbol, there is so much in all of that. It is pure and undefiled in a sense, but it is very easily disturbed, very easily grieved, if you like. The marvellous thing we saw about the Lord Jesus last night was that the Spirit descended upon Him and remained upon Him - because in Him is no sin. But when we sin wilfully, we grieve the Holy Spirit.
'Return, O Holy Dove, return,
Sweet Messenger of rest.
I hate the sins that made Thee mourn,
And drove Thee from my breast'.
I know people who won't sing that, because their theology won't allow them - 'The Holy Spirit can't be driven from my breast', you try sinning and find out! Grieve not the Holy Spirit, do not resist the Holy Spirit. A third reason why people don't receive is quenching the Holy Spirit. First Thessalonians 5 and verse 19: 'Quench not the Holy Spirit', or it can be translated 'Don't put out the fire of the Spirit'. You can quench the Holy Spirit by doing all sorts of things. You can quench the Holy Spirit by neglecting the Holy Spirit. If you ignore a fire it will go out. That can mean you're not stirring up the fire. Paul exhorted Timothy, didn't he: 'Stir up the gift of God that is within you'. So don't you think this is something that happens, and you're zapped, and you just go on your merry way without any effort for the rest of your days - no, no, no! That's not the case at all! But a fire can go out by being quenched, by being overcome by something else, something cold. There are a lot of people that have cold water poured on their experiences. You would not believe the amount of people that come for prayer - and I'm not saying they're coming about this, but they're coming about other matters - and they have got into circles that don't believe in the power and the work of the Holy Spirit; and they once exhibited giftings of the Holy Spirit when they were first converted, and someone spoke to them and poured cold water and said: 'Oh no, that was in the days of the apostles, that's not for today. Just read your Bible and pray and that's enough'. It never operated again, someone poured cold water on it. There are gallons of cold water being poured on the fire of the Spirit from pulpits on a regular basis, in Bible College halls, in universities.
Or you can starve it of oxygen, you can put a receptacle over a flame and it just goes out because there is no fuel for it. I don't know what it could be - it could be your theology, it could be unbelief we saw last evening. That's probably the greatest thing that would hinder any of us moving into this fullness: unbelief. The Israelites limited the Holy One of Israel by their unbelief, and even in Mark chapter 6 we saw that when Jesus went into one of His home villages, that He could do no mighty miracle there because of their unbelief. Not because He was impotent, but because God has chosen to reward faith and belief! So, do you believe? We saw last evening what Jesus said in John chapter 7 verse 37: 'If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in me, as the Scripture says, out of his innermost being will flow rivers of living water'. This spoke He of the Spirit, who was not yet given, for Christ was not yet glorified. We saw that we need desire, but we also need faith; you've got to thirst, but you've got to believe! You've got to believe this is for you! Jesus died for you! Can I say something to you tonight: this is Christianity! This is it! The real thing! The power of God! Not the counterfeit, not the water pots of the Feast of Tabernacles as we saw last night - that pomp and ceremony and all the outpouring of the water down the steps of the Temple - no, it's Jesus and His living water!
Some of you have bought into a form of godliness that denies the power, and you're thirsty, and you're hungry. You've got to believe. I know there are a lot of claims that go about that maybe are counterfeit. David Pawson exhorts when he says: 'I have been amazed by a kind of schizophrenic attitude to a supernatural among some evangelicals who are entirely credulous towards anything bound between black leather covers and profoundly sceptical about anything like that happening today'. Oh, in some of our churches, 'Don't you dare doubt that it was the Red Sea that Moses went through with the children of Israel. Don't you say that it's the Reed Sea, or anything like that, anything shallow, anything like that! Don't talk about big fish, it was a whale or whatever!'. I don't know what miracles you get uptight about, and 'The miracles of Jesus, don't be watering them down, we don't want any liberals' - sure we don't? We want to be fundamentalists in all this truth of God's word - but well dare God do anything today! Some of them are obsessed about the end times, and there's going to be these things in the sky happening, and moons of blood, and all sorts of signs and wonders, and hell is going to open up and these weird scorpion things are going to crawl out over all the earth, and there is the Antichrist and the false prophet - he might be around, they're saying, he might be around, be careful! There is the false prophet of the beast, and he is like the magician of the Antichrist, and he can do great wonders - he can even fain a resurrection! So there are all these miracles in the New Testament, and there is all this supernatural stuff at the end times - but now, no, there is none now.
Now, I'm not trying to be rude here, I'm trying to waken you up. We have believed a lie, and we've bought into something that is paralysing us. Power belongs unto God. Do you know that even the devil's power belongs unto God, because He created it - now it's prostituted power, but it belongs unto God. I cry out like Psalm 68 in the NIV, I think it's verse 26 or 24: 'Summon Your power, God; show us Your strength, our God, as You have done before' - because He's the same! But we've got to believe it, and we don't - I don't believe that the way I should. I'm constantly praying to God: 'Lord, give me more faith'.
Ravenhill, Leonard Ravenhill, once said: 'We've been warned of false fire by fireless men, and too often we settle for no fire at all'. I was brought up in that, I was terrified of the Holy Spirit because all these crazy guys that I was told were going around, and they would give you a demon. So 'I don't want that, don't come near me and talk about the Holy Spirit, or anything of the sort' - isn't the devil clever? We've got people going around the country warning people of the Holy Spirit - that's not exactly what they're saying, but it's effectively what they're saying. Is that why you haven't received? For fear?
Quickly: how to receive. This is maybe the most important thing that I will say this evening, and I want to be immensely practical. Some people will preach that you need to be consecrated and surrender your all to Jesus - there is no doubt about that, that's what you need to do, but that will not get you filled with the Holy Spirit. Consecration and surrender is your part, and there are a lot of consecrated, surrendered people, but they are empty. They are like walking funerals, they are hard to be around, and God help their children! You've got to be filled with the fullness of God, that's His prerogative - do you understand? Your part is to present yourself as an empty vessel. Listen: being holy is not enough - and holiness is important, but, as I said last evening, if you could be holy without the Holy Spirit then you don't need the Holy Spirit. This is by grace through faith just like salvation. God offers it through the death of His Son, and the hand that gives it is His, it is a free gift of His grace. You don't have to earn it, you don't have to work it up, you don't have to pray through for it. I'm not saying that there isn't time that transpires for some people - it was years for me until I had the witness - but what I am saying is: don't get into your head that you've got to earn this somehow. Listen to Jesus in Luke 11 verse 13: 'If you, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to them that ask'. So come and ask Him, and ask in faith, ask believing. We quoted it last night, 1 John 5:14: 'This is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. If we know that He hears us, we know that we have the petitions we have asked of Him' - now, that is confidence, but you've got to believe it!
You see, I was brought up in a Christian home. I was brought up hearing the Gospel from I was nearly that age, and one of the problems is: you keep asking the Lord to save you - has anybody ever done that? You keep asking the Lord to save you nearly every night, because you're just not sure, and you want to make sure He saved you. Really, you're asking, but you're not asking in faith - because there has to come a committal, where you actually say: 'Right!', and this happened to me on 3rd November 1984, after Sunday School I decided, 'Right! I've got to draw a line in the sand here, and I've got to choose to believe that God has heard me'. That's when you break through into assurance, when you choose to believe that God is true to His word. It's exactly the same with the fullness of the Spirit, or baptism of the Spirit, whatever you want to call it. You've got to believe: 'This is God's will for me, God wants this for me more than I want it for myself, and I'm going to come and ask Him in faith in Jesus' name, but I'm going to believe that He has heard me and believe that He has come'.
Now let me show you this from Scripture, Mark chapter 11. This could be a lesson on faith from any aspect, but Mark chapter 11, let's apply it to this whole area. Mark 11:24, Jesus says: 'Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask', now, follow me on this, 'whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them'. Now that's strange, because that's not the way we think, is it? We believe we have something when we receive it, right? So, I get a new motor, and I believe I have received it when I see it, and when the keys are in my hand - yes? But that's not faith, faith is the evidence of things not seen. Here it says: 'When you ask praying, believe that you receive them, and you will have them'. Some of you are praying, praying, praying, but you don't believe that you're receiving it - even though you're praying according to God's will - that's why you're not getting anything. Do you understand? Do you understand? Jesus is teaching here, this is a secret: 'You believe', if it's God's word and God's will, 'you believe that God has given it to you already, whatever you see or don't see'. You see, that's one marvellous change that God has wrought in my understanding, and it's this: I will choose to believe in the miraculous even if I don't see a miracle. 'Oh, you've got to see it surely, I mean you can't talk about these things' - I do see it, don't misunderstand me, but I'm not going to devise my theology on what my eye sees, I'm going to devise my theology on what God says - because that's faith. Then, when I devise my belief on what God says, guess what happens? You start to see.
Will you come to God tonight on the naked, raw, objective word of God that this is what He wants for your life? Come surrendered, come repentant - yes, that must be the case - but come to God and say: 'This is what You said, this is what Jesus died for, this is Your promise; and I'm going to ask You, and I'm going to believe that I have already received'. Now, having said that, to enter through into complete assurance Scripture does teach, the same Scripture that teaches to receive things by faith teaches that there is a subjective witness to the Holy Spirit. Three times in the book of Acts during these baptisms there were tongues on three of the occasions, one of them doesn't mention tongues but something happened that there was an obvious outpouring of the Holy Spirit that others were able to see. I don't believe it's always the gift of tongues, but what I am saying is: all who believed they received had a witness, and there should be a witness in our lives that the Comforter has come.
Just like many people have had different conversion experiences, so people will have different fullness experiences - and you ought not to try and copy somebody else's. I came to Christ in childlike faith as a child, as I have just mentioned, and it wasn't a Damascus Road experience - but it was the greatest experience of my life. Your fullness of the Spirit may not be like some of the biographies that you've read, it doesn't matter: this is a thing of faith, not feelings. But I'll tell you this: there will be subjective evidence that must come into your life so that you might walk in the assurance and be able to say, 'I know I am filled with the Holy Spirit'. There ought to be a confirmation.
Listen to D.L. Moody: 'The blessing came upon me suddenly like a flash of lightning. For months I had been hungering and thirsting for power in service. I had come to that point where I think I would have died if I had not got it. I remember I was walking the streets of New York. I had no more heart in the business I was about than if I had not been in the world at all. Well, one day, O what a day, I cannot describe it, I seldom refer to it, it is almost too sacred an experience to name. Right there on the streets the power of God seemed to come upon me so wonderfully that I had to ask God to stay His hand. I was filled with a sense of God's goodness, and I felt as though I could take the whole word to my heart. I took the old sermons I had preached before without any power, and it was the same old truth, but there was new power. Many were impressed and converted, and this happened years after I was converted myself. I would not now be placed back where I was before that blessed experience if you should give me all the world. It would be as small dust in the balance'. I say 'Amen' to that. Other people had similar experiences, other people had experiences where they hardly knew it had happened, but in retrospect God started to really bless and outpour upon them - Oswald Chambers was one of them - and he was able to look back and say: 'God has answered my prayer, and there is fruit is evidence of that'. Some, like David Brainerd, just experienced an overwhelming sense of the joy of God, or a bursting joy within them, or just an awareness of God's presence.
Don't be looking for the experience, look primarily for the Person. This is vital for the church, it's vital for you as an individual Christian, but it's vital for the church. Do you want revival? I say to you: revival never came out of the cessationist wing of the church, never. Do you understand what that means? Those who didn't believe the power of the Holy Spirit was for today. They may have moved into that from a cessationist position - but do you know effectively what revival really is? Corporate baptism in the Holy Spirit, it's a baptism of love. If Ireland needs anything, it's a baptism of love. If the church of Jesus Christ needs anything, it's a baptism of love. Smith Wigglesworth, in 1947 he was an uneducated Yorkshire plumber who introduced thousands to the Person and power of the Holy Spirit all over the world. A week before his death he predicted two developments in the universal church. He said that first there would be a restoration of the gifts of the Spirit, and second there would be revived emphasis on the word of God. Listen to what he said, he added: 'When these two moves of the Spirit combine, we shall see the greatest move the church of Jesus Christ has ever seen'. I believe that. The question to you tonight is: have you received the Holy Spirit since you believed? Let's pray.
Now I want you to understand that nobody is confined here in this meeting, you don't have to stay - if you have to go a certain time, we want you to know that, we apologise if you've felt that way at all. But I have to confess to you, last night a lot of people sat on - I like it when people don't know what to do, because it a sign God is at work - some people didn't know what to do. But understand that you can go at any moment, alright? We want to linger on a few moments in the presence of God, and give an opportunity for anyone here tonight to say: 'I'm going to believe this evening - I'm going to ask, but I'm going to believe'. Some of you are struggling with issues, sins, maybe it's an addiction or pornography, it could be 100 million things, and you think: 'I need to sort this out before I could ever...' - no, you don't. You need to repent of it, and you need to renounce it, but you need the power of God if you're going to overcome it. I know of a lady, and the best way that she weaned people off drugs in Hong Kong was through the baptism of the Holy Spirit - because they needed the power of God.
Now listen tonight, whether you've been religious or whether not, if you want to be saved, get saved. Just come to Jesus tonight - but don't just get saved, get baptised in water, and get filled with the Spirit. Maybe there's someone, and for you, you've lagged behind like these twelve Ephesians. You're a disciple and you believe in Jesus, but you've lived as if there hardly was a Holy Spirit. Is there anyone of that nature, and while heads are bowed and eyes closed, that you would say: 'Look, tonight I'm going to take hold of God by faith, and I'm going to trust Him for the assurance tonight that this is done'? Would you raise your hand just where you're sitting? God bless. Is there anybody else, just raise your hand, nobody is looking only me and the Lord. God bless. Just respond now.
What you need to do is, you need to come now - you can put your hands down - you can come now, and upon Luke 11:13 say: 'Lord, You have said that, as a good Father, You will give this to me if I come and ask. I ask in faith, because Jesus died for me, and I believe now that I receive'. If you have to do a bit of repenting, you do that now, ask Him to cleanse you - but ask Him to fill you, and baptise you, and immerse you in the power of God; come in and possess you completely. Say: 'Lord, I believe that I have received of You now. I believe' - now you've got to believe that, you can't just say it, you've got to believe it. Believe that He is true to His word, and hears you: 'I believe that I have received, and I'm going to step out in faith upon that. I'm going to confess that I am filled, I'm going to live that I am filled. I want You, Lord, to witness to me that I am filled as You see fit'. Be ready for anything, don't you dictate to Him what He does now.
'O Thou who camest from above,
The pure celestial fire to impart
Kindle a flame of sacred love
Upon the mean altar of my heart.
There let it for Thy glory burn
With inextinguishable blaze,
And trembling to its source return,
In humble prayer and fervent praise'.
Lord, Father, send the Holy Spirit, for Jesus' sake, Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at Loughbrickland Mission Hall in N. Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the recording titled "Have You All Received?" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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