The Pain of Desire…

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Below are some mind-blowing notes including a couple of edited entries from my Choose Life devotional. If you read them slowly and chew the cud, rehashing and mulling over the contents, maybe it’ll be literally life-transforming. If you simply flit through and then go back to Facebook or answering emails, you’ll have stumbled over and beyond the greatest treasure imaginable. Maybe it’d be worth printing it out and taking it off on a walk. Your choice. Here goes:

Ephesians 5:18 says, “Be filled with the Spirit.” The Greek present tense is used in the above verse, meaning the infilling of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer is not a once-for-all event but an ongoing need for refilling and refueling. To those who do think it’s a once-for-all experience at conversion or subsequently, Martyn Lloyd-Jones issues this challenge: “Got it all? Well, if you have got it all, I simply ask in the name of God why are you as you are? If you have got it all, why are you so unlike New Testament Christians? Got it all! Got it at your conversion! Well where is it, I ask?”

Are you thirsty today, or satisfied?

Abraham Heschel wrote, “He who is satisfied has never truly craved.” I hope you haven’t given up on the potential of a life saturated with God’s presence. The cravings we feel, we were made to feel, and only God can satisfy. John Piper wrote in A Hunger for God, “If you don’t feel strong desires for the manifestation of the glory of God, it is not because you have drunk deeply and are satisfied. It is because you have nibbled so long at the table of the world. Your soul is stuffed with small things, and there is no room for the great.”

I remember several periods of my life of being so filled by the Holy Spirit that I didn’t want to leave his presence. I wanted to live in that continued state of heightened reality. When I saw people, I couldn’t help but share of God’s goodness with them. Some converted immediately, others thought I was mad! But the point I want to make is, how easy it is for us to settle for a stunted satisfaction with spiritual inertia. We fear beginning to crave, lest we are left disappointed yet again. “Come, all you who are thirsty… that your soul may live” (Isaiah 55:1–3).

A.W. Tozer observed, “Satan has fought the doctrine of the Spirit-filled life about as bitterly as any doctrine there is. He has confused it, opposed it, and surrounded it with false notions and fears. The Church has tragically neglected this great liberating truth that there is now, for the child of God, a full and wonderful and completely satisfying anointing with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit-filled life is not a special deluxe edition of Christianity. It is part and parcel of the total plan of God for his people.”

Moody was the most effective evangelist of the nineteenth century. After one service early in his ministry, two old ladies approached him and told him, “You are good, but you haven’t got it… we have been praying for you… you need power!” Moody, an already well-respected minister, was shocked, “I need power? Why, I thought I had power!” The ladies poured out their hearts in intercession for him to receive the anointing of the Holy Spirit, and soon he became desperate for more of God. He wrote, “I began to cry as never before, for a greater blessing from God. The hunger increased; I really felt that I did not want to live any longer if I had not this power for service. I kept on crying all the time that God would fill me with His Spirit. Well, one day in the City of New York – oh! What a day, I cannot describe it, I seldom refer to it. It is almost too sacred an experience to name. Paul had an experience of which he never spoke for fourteen years. I can only say, God revealed Himself to me, and I had such an experience of His love that I had to ask Him to stay His hand.”

That was the result after six months of pleading with God. And once God had visited him in power as he walked down Wall Street in New York, he was never the same again. Although his sermons were verbatim the same, those same words saw many dozens come to faith each time where before it had been a mere handful.

John Stott commented, “What we need is not more learning, not more eloquence, not more persuasion, not more organisation, but more power from the Holy Spirit.”

Now this remains a hotly contested doctrine, but the bottom line is, whatever work we’re involved in, surely we want more of Him in our lives? I know I need more power. How about you?

The Victorian minister and missionary Andrew Murray suggested four practical and verbal steps we must take to being filled by God’s Spirit.

Step 1 Say ‘I must be filled’ – knowing that God commands it and you need it.

Step 2 Say ‘I may be filled’ – believing that it is God’s promise to all believers.

Step 3 Say ‘I should be filled’ – willing to surrender all for that pearl of great price.

Step 4 Say ‘I shall be filled’ – claiming the promised gift of God, purchased by Christ.

Finally, what got me to put up this blog was this week coming across the following challenging words from Tozer, which I’ve re-read several times as I do an honest self-assessment of my current spiritual state:

“After a person is convinced they can be filled with the Holy Spirit, they must desire to be: are you sure you want to be possessed by a Spirit who, while He is pure and gentle and wise and loving, will yet insist upon being Lord of your life?

Are you sure you want… One who will require obedience to the written Word? Who will not tolerate any of the self-sins in your life: self-love, self-indulgence? Who will… reserve the right to test you and discipline you? Who will strip away from you many loved objects which secretly harm your soul?”

Tozer concludes, tellingly: “Unless you can answer an eager ‘yes’ to these questions, you do not want to be filled. You may want the thrill or the victory or the power, but you do not really want to be filled with the Spirit.

If, on the other hand, your soul cries out for God, for the living God, and your dry and empty heart despairs of living a normal Christian life without a further anointing, then I ask you: is your desire all-absorbing? Is it the biggest thing in your life? Does it… fill you with an acute longing that can only be described as the pain of desire? If your heart cries ‘yes’ to these questions you may be on your way to a spiritual breakthrough which will transform your whole life.”

Hmm… Wow! I’ve got to re-read that again…

May you and I press in hungrily, embracing the ‘pain of desire’, and thereby be on our ‘way to a spiritual breakthrough which will transform our whole lives’.

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