Put off your old nature which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new nature, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Eph. 4:22-24).
The apostle Paul is writing to Christian believers who have been born again, and in whom the Holy Spirit abides. They have been justified by faith and adopted into the family of God. They have already been counted as righteous in Jesus Christ, who died for their sins. They now have a destiny which they must pursue. They are called unto holiness, not because they are not yet accepted by God, but because they are.
The miracle of regeneration changes our standing with God – we pass from death unto life; we are transplanted from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light; we are transformed from creatures of despair into children of hope with a glorious inheritance.
As lost souls, we responded to the Holy Spirit’s call to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. As believers, we must now respond to the Holy Spirit’s call to God’s ordained purpose for each of His redeemed children: “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son (Rom. 8:29). This change from our old sinful corrupt nature of Adam into the new nature of Christ is the work of the Holy Spirit, with our consent – with our willingness to die to our selfish desires, our total surrender to the will of God. This change is called sanctification. This sanctifying experience is both a refining crisis and a renewing continuation.
Let us note three conditions on the part of the believer in order to experience the sanctifying crisis as well as the purifying process: ask, believe, obey.
Since our inner cleansing is a work of the Holy Spirit, we are commanded to be filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18). We received the Holy Spirit as a gift at the moment of our new birth, but when we are filled with the Spirit, we are cleansed. I fear that A. W. Tozer was absolutely correct when he observed, “Almost all Christians want to be full of the Spirit; only a few want to be filled with the Spirit.” (Keys to the Deeper Life, Zondervan, p. 26). Its no wonder that Jesus insisted that we must ask: If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him! (Luke 11:13). I note that nearly every instance the filling or refilling of the Spirit recorded in the book of Acts is associated with prayer. In Luke 11:13, Jesus is implying that with no asking for the Holy Spirit, there will be no receiving of His fullness.
Jesus promised the twelve disciples that if they would return to Jerusalem to pray for the promise of the Father – and then He extended this promise to all who heard Him speak just before His ascension from the Mount of Olives – they would be endued with power from on high! (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:8). At least one hundred and twenty people believed and returned to the Upper Room in Jerusalem to ask for the baptizing fullness of the Holy Spirit. Luke records that they were all filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:4).
I’ve met hundreds of Christians who are in bondage, confusion and messed-up relationships, who admit they have never prayed for the sanctifying fullness of the Holy Spirit. Oh, how I wish that self-centered, worldly, carnal Christians would ask the Lord to cleanse their hearts and fill them with the power of the Holy Spirit! But remember, Jesus said, Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. (Mark 11:24). Any believer’s prayer for the fullness of the Holy Spirit implies our response to Christ’s promise. Of course, it will be necessary that we be receptive, expectant and willing to receive. No doubt some of God’s children have uttered the request, but either weren’t hungry and thirsty to be filled, or doubted in their hearts. Therefore, they did not receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit.
On the other hand, I’m glad to report that over a period of sixty-two years of preaching the Gospel, I have witnessed hundreds of believers – Wesleyan Arminians, Calvinists, Pentecostalists, Main-liners, Independents and Roman Catholics – who have asked the Lord for the fullness of the Holy Spirit, who have believed, and who have received Him! I can remember that October day in 1947, a year after I’d been born again, when in an Arkansas forest, I asked and received the sanctifying fullness of the Holy Spirit! So, my dear readers, I know I am offering what the New Testament teaches, and what has been preached and taught and experienced by Christian believers across two thousand years of church history. Oh! I believe the crying need among God’s people today is a massive seeking of tens of thousands of believers passionately turning to the Lord and passionately, hungrily asking for the baptizing, cleansing, filling with the Holy Spirit! This in itself would represent the greatest revival since the Wales or Hebrides Revivals of the twentieth century.
But there is one more condition that must be included in experiencing and continuing our walk in the fullness and power of the Holy Spirit. It is that we must obey!
The apostles were called before the Jewish rulers in Jerusalem, and they were warned and threatened and charged to stop teaching in Jesus’ name. But Peter answered by telling of the miracles that the Risen Christ was continuing to do. They finished their case by saying, And we are witnesses to these things, so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him (Acts 5:32). The twelve apostles, along with one hundred and eight other believers had been filled with the Holy Spirit in the Jerusalem Upper Room several months before. And in their response to the threats of the Sanhedrin, they were in effect saying, “We will continue to obey God rather than obey you. We will not grieve the Holy Spirit and forfeit His cleansing and power by carrying out your orders.”
And so it is, Christian brothers and sisters, those who are filled with the Holy Spirit must continue to walk in fellowship with an ungrieved Holy Spirit by obeying Him continually. We simply cannot walk in fullness and power of the Holy Spirit when we are not obeying Him – when we grow unloving, critical, unforgiving. When we yield to pride, lust and greed, we lose His fullness. In yielding, we violate His anointing, we grieve His Person. And so we’ve proven to be an unworthy, insensitive host to the Holy Spirit. When the Spirit convicts us of our sins, we then must repent and ask for a new filling of the Spirit. In fact, the best rendering of Eph. 5:18 (be filled with the Spirit) is keep on being filled with the Spirit. The apostles were among those at the Pentecostal outpouring of whom it was said “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:4). But it is said of them in Acts 4:31 that they were again filled with the Spirit.
The crises experiences of being filled with the Spirit are meant for the purpose of living a life of holiness. The moments of being filled must result in the Spirit’s power of reproducing within us the very life of Jesus – we must pray as He prayed, worship as He worshiped, love as He loved, forgive as He forgave, care for people as He cared for them.
When the apostle Paul urged believers to continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling (Philip. 2:12), he was requiring of them to translate into every-day living the grace that had been communicated to them in the cleansing and empowerment of the Holy Spirit in their experience of sanctification. Sanctified people must prayerfully seek to live holy lives. Dr. Richard Taylor reminded us that the crisis experience itself “is not an automatic cause-and-effect mechanism, that the experience of sanctification must be validated by holiness ethics.” We must pray and obey to become like Jesus! Many of we Wesleyan evangelicals love to sing with Thomas O. Chisholm:
“O to be like Thee! O to be like Thee,
Blessed Redeemer, pure as Thou art!
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness.
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.”