Then Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
While faith in the atoning blood of Jesus Christ makes salvation a fact settled in heaven, it hasn’t dawned on many believers that it is the inner working of the Holy Spirit that confirms it as spiritual reality. In studying the book of Romans we understand that believing the Gospel brings about a judicial change in the sinner, but our God of salvation seeks to make us conscious of this by giving us His Spirit.
Jesus prepared His disciples
Jesus spent most of His time with His disciples preparing them for their reception of the Holy Spirit. He knew that if they failed in this they could never advance His Kingdom to the ends of the earth. After His resurrection, Jesus appeared to the Eleven and “breathed on them,” saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” He exhaled (He “breathed on them”); He told them to inhale (“receive the Holy Spirit”). Really, as God the Father and God the Son breathe on us, we are to inhale (breathe in, receive, partake of) the Holy Spirit as the breath of God. The spiritual exercise the Risen Christ taught the disciples in the Upper Room was prophetic and preparatory to Pentecost. There the rushing mighty winds represented the breath and life of God and “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:4).
We see the Early Church being renewed in the fullness of the Holy Spirit throughout the book of Acts, and we hear them emphasizing the Holy Spirit as the secret of their power and success. Friends, this is not a trifling observation. As A. W. Tozer taught us, “A doctrine has practical value only as far as it is prominent in our thoughts and makes a difference in our lives.” Our neglect of receiving the Holy Spirit is having serious consequences: we call our meetings worship services, yet there are few who offer up sacrifices of praise, little sense of the divine Presence, no moments of wonder and holy stillness, hardly a trace of reverent thought, almost never trembling in holy fear; we hold events we call revival meetings, but even among the small attendance almost no one gets revived; we claim to believe in divine healing, but how long has it been since we saw someone healed?
What are we filled with?
How serious are we about the Holy Spirit? Do we truly believe what Jesus said about Him? If so, then we should ask the Father to give us the Spirit in fullness and power. And when we ask, we should prepare our hearts to receive Him. As the Father breathes on us, we should breathe in the Spirit. Then we should “keep on being filled with the Spirit as the apostle Paul taught (Eph. 5:18).
If we are not filled with the Spirit, we will be filled with ourselves, with unbelief, with fleshly practices, with covetousness, which is idolatry, with religious forms without power. If we are not filled with the Spirit, we shall never know deliverance from the tyranny of the flesh and experience being “crucified with Christ.” If we are not filled with the Spirit we can never put on the whole armor of God and prevail in prayer, wrestling successfully against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenlies. Unless we are filled with the Spirit we can never wield the spiritual weapons of warfare that tear down strongholds, destroy arguments and all the high things that stand against the truth of God and bring every thought into the captivity of Christ.
Until we are filled with the Spirit, we can never pray beyond our doubts. Unbelief will get a stranglehold on us until we are anointed for prayer, and then “praying in the Spirit,” we shall break through to the kind of spiritual power Jesus knew and that we see operating in the Early Church.
Ask, seek, knock
What will it take in the average church or in the average Christian’s life to force the main issue – that of receiving the fullness of the Holy Spirit. In Luke, chapter eleven, we hear Jesus preparing His followers for receiving the Spirit by urging them to become bold in prayer: “And I say to you, ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you fill find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (vv. 9-13).
The entire context of asking, seeking and knocking has to do with receiving the Gift of the Holy Spirit from our Father. Note the increasing intensity: ask (state your request, file your claim); seek (make your commitment, set your course to go in search); knock (get desperate, put all your soul into the request, go for broke – it’s the fullness of the Spirit or nothing at all)! The solid foundation under such an intense search for the Holy Spirit is the direction of our Lord Himself. He said to approach the Father in this determined manner. Not to do this is to show a willingness to go on without the fullness of the Holy Spirit, which is just where millions of American evangelicals are today. It seems that some would hope that God would surprise us and suddenly fill us with the Holy Spirit on His own initiative. But, according to Jesus, the Father will never impose the fullness of His Spirit upon us. No one will stagger into this fullness accidentally. The fullness of the Spirit will continue to elude the half-hearted, the self-seeking religionist. Here in Luke 11:9-13, Jesus reminds us that the One we are coming to is not an imperfect earthly parent; no, He is our Heavenly Father, who gives good gifts, to those who ask.
But this brings us to the crucial step of receiving. John Knox taught his disciples that the fullness of the Holy Spirit is the one Gift the Father cannot give without our asking. An earthly parent might give gifts to a child who does not ask, but the fullness of the Holy Spirit is given by our Heavenly Father to a son or daughter only when there is sincere asking and complete openness to receiving.
I am quite convinced that in our revival and camp meeting services hundreds of good Christians come to the altars sincerely seeking the fullness of the Holy Spirit, because they are sick and tired of spiritual defeat, completely aware of their own inability to passionately worship and powerfully witness for their Redeemer. But for many of these, I believe their failure to go away in divine fullness is due to their unbelieving hearts. They make their case; they wait in unbelief; they go away in emptiness. From there, they go into a twilight zone, fearing there might be nothing to this offer of the fullness of the Holy Spirit.
God is freely giving His Holy Spirit, but He is looking for takers who will receive as generously as He gives. When I first asked God to fill me with the Holy Spirit, I just knew deeply within me that I was not to ask for accompanying signs; such as He gave at the initial outpouring on the one hundred twenty at Pentecost. I knew that when I asked, I was to receive by faith. I did believe that my Heavenly Father gave me the fullness of the Holy Spirit. I thanked Him and then went out expecting to live in the power of the Spirit. This power first showed up in love – I forgave some people who had offended me and I started loving them and expressing that love in word and deed. I felt a joy that was beyond anything I had ever experienced in human relationships. I then basked in peace that passed all understanding.
But I have learned across these 59 years of living for Christ that I am a leaking vessel, and that when I grieve or quench or run ahead of the Holy Spirit, I must go to my Heavenly Father in confession and repentance. I must ask for a new filling of the Holy Spirit. And then I must focus as much on receiving by faith as I did in asking by faith. I must thank my Heavenly Father for a new cleansing and a fresh filling of the Spirit and go out to live in continuing surrender and obedience and power.
Dear readers, are you hungry for divine fullness? Have you made your life a present of surrender to the Lord? Can you say with the apostle Paul, “I am crucified with Christ?” Then tell God you will not go on in spiritual mediocrity, that you will ask, seek and knock for the fullness He has promised. But reach the point of faith where you are able and willing to breathe in (inhale) the Holy Spirit as your Heavenly Father breathes on you. Believe that He gives. Believe that you receive. Then start living in intimacy with God, in power over the flesh, in “joy unspeakable and full of glory.”
Tozer for Today: Tozer on the Holy Spirit
by A. W. Tozer, Marilynne E. Foster (Compiler)
Rev. Tharp states, “Tozer is at his best in this great devotional book of theology. I am enjoying reading it.” This wonderful volume, excerpted from the insightful and wisdom-filled teaching of A.W. Tozer, gives the reader daily digestible amounts of deep thoughts on the Holy Spirit. Tozer deplores the neglect of the doctrine of the third Person of the Holy Trinity and reveals its serious consequences. Tozer, in his insightful and inimitable style, encourages readers to recognize the Holy Spirit as a Person and to pursue an intimate relationship with Him. He believes the doctrine of the Holy Spirit is buried dynamite with its power awaiting discovery and obedience by the church. This 366-day collection of one-page devotional readings incorporates Scripture for the day and is enhanced by supporting inspirational quotations by classical authors.
The Life of A.W. Tozer: In Pursuit of God
by James L. Snyder
Although A. W. Tozer died in 1963, his life and spiritual legacy continue to draw many into a deeper knowledge of God. Tozer walked a path in his spiritual life that few attempt, characterized by a relentless and loving pursuit of God. He longed to know more about the Savior-how to serve and worship Him with every part of his being.
Throughout his life and ministry, Tozer called believers to return to an authentic, biblical position that characterized the early church-a position of deep faith and holiness. “He belonged to the whole church,” says James Snyder in the book, In Pursuit of God: The Life Of A. W. Tozer. “He embraced true Christianity wherever he found it.”
During his lifetime, Tozer pastored several Christian and Missionary Alliance churches, authored more than forty books, and served as editor of Alliance Life, the monthly denominational publication for the C&MA. At least two of Tozer’s books are considered spiritual classics, The Pursuit of God and The Knowledge of the Holy-a tremendous accomplishment for a man who never received a formal theological education. The presence of God was his classroom. His notebooks and tools consisted of prayer and the writings of early Christians and theologians-the Puritans and great men of faith.
Everything Tozer taught and preached came out of the time he spent in prayer with God. It was there that he shut out the world and its confusion, focusing instead only on God. “Our religious activities should be ordered in such a way as to leave plenty of time for the cultivation of the fruits of solitude and silence,” wrote Tozer.
He realized early in his ministry that Christ was calling him to a different type of devotion-one that required an emptying of self and a hunger to be filled to overflowing with God’s Spirit. It was also a devotion that consumed him throughout his life.
Leonard Ravenhill once said of Tozer, “I fear that we shall never see another Tozer. Men like him are not college bred but Spirit taught.”
“God discovers Himself to ‘babes,'” wrote Tozer, “and hides Himself in thick darkness from the wise and the prudent. We must simplify our approach to Him. We must strip down to essentials and they will be found to be blessedly few.
Copyright 2005 IN TOUCH MINISTRIES, ITM, Inc., Atlanta, Georgia, USA, used with permission. All rights reserved. This content and more resources can be found on www.intouch.org.