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The Spirit's Work

The Spirit's Work poster

Address delivered at the 1923 Annual Missionary Rally.

This afternoon I am going to speak on the work of the Holy Spirit of God in the life of the believer. There are two aspects of the work of the Spirit: the work that He does in the unsaved in convincing of sin, of righteousness and of judgment, and the work that He does in the saved person in giving power, direction and efficiency as soul winners. The work of the Spirit in fitting for soul winning work, after all, means making a missionary, whether at home or abroad. The matter of walking with the Spirit, having the equipment, being prepared and sent forth is not a mysterious thing. There is nothing accidental about it. It is distinctly a practical thing. If we do not have the means and the messengers necessary for the progress of the work on the field it is because Christians are not right with God. We talk about hoping that someone will hear the call to go to the field. They are never going to hear a single sound, and if they did they would not understand it or respond to it unless and until their hearts are right with God. The biggest thing needed at home today is a campaign to get spiritual Christians, for then you will have missionaries, and you will never have missionaries until you have spiritual Christians from which they may be drawn.

Our young people, many of them, have professed to believe on Christ and have taken a certain amount of activity in relation to their profession of Christ, but there is a terrible dearth of missionary timber. The missionary volunteers come from our Bible schools, from our Bible conferences, and from here and there a church that is giving out a clear message about the walk and life in the Spirit. This is not an accident. Where the message concerning the life and walk in the Spirit is neglected there will be a desperate and awful neglect and failure among Christians along the line of missionary volunteers. When the life in the Spirit is emphasized, you are going to see companies of young people volunteering to go to the foreign field. What is the relation between these? It is this, that when a life is really yielded to God and subject to the power of the Spirit of God, he is going to lead them into that greatest of all services in this world, to make Christ known in fields where He has not yet been preached. If young people are not being called into that work, the reason lies in that they are not going to be turned to a life of service until they have first been turned to a life of absolute yieldedness to the mind and will of God. Therefore, if we are going to be practical in our dealings with these great questions of the hour and these great needs, it behooves us to look at these things from a logical standpoint and trace things back to their cause.

We can coax unspiritual people to take an interest in missions and we will get nowhere. But if we can get you right with God in your own inner life no one has to coax you; it will boil up in your heart, the passion of God wrought in your heart by the Spirit within you.

There were many things which took place when you were saved. I had occasion to look these up some time ago, and I discovered from a careful survey of the New Testament that there are at least thirty-three stupendous miracles that take place the moment a soul is saved, and if you are saved it is because God has performed all these. But there is also one thing that He did not do. There is one thing that He would have done when you were saved, and He did not do it for a very special purpose. Whether you are interested in it very much or not, He is intensely interested in it. Whether you have ever caught the vision of it or not makes no difference as to His purpose in the thing that He did not do. It is this: As a part of your salvation you would have been translated instantly out of this world into your heavenly home. He did move your citizenship. He took all your rights and titles away from this world and placed them in heaven so that from the moment you are saved it can be said of you that your citizenship is in heaven. That means if God were to take a census of heaven today your name would appear in the list of the citizens of heaven, and there might be a little star beside your name pointing to a footnote stating that temporarily you are away from home as an ambassador doing business for the King in the enemy’s country. But that is a very trivial thing. The great essential fact is that you are now a citizen of heaven. You would have been taken immediately from this world, I say, the moment you were saved, not because you wanted to go, but because God wanted you with Him. His heart is set upon you. His love is centered in you and He (if I may use the words) is suffering a great sacrifice when you are away from home. Shame on us if we are not suffering a sacrifice because we have to stay away from home.

The Apostle Paul was able to say, “To depart and be with Christ is far better.” He left us here in this world for a very special purpose and that purpose is that we might be His witnesses, that we might have the privilege (for it is a very great privilege) which He has granted to us to represent the Lord Jesus Christ as His ambassadors in His stead here in this world. It is the simple life to live every moment of every day as ambassadors of Jesus Christ, having no other relation to things in this world other than to carry out that one great responsibility of being ambassadors for Him. Where your service is to be and the manner of your service, He has not left you to decide for one moment. We are told very plainly in the 12th chapter of 1 Corinthians that the ministry of the people of God is going to be as He wills. And we are never placed until we are willing for Him to place us. The great mass of Christian people that throng our meetings and our churches have never for one moment experienced the thrill, the joy, the zest, and the freshness in the Spirit that comes from having been placed where God the Spirit would have them be with the consciousness that they are in the will of God. If you think that is a pretty severe thing to say I want you to come and go along with a Bible teacher who has to conduct spiritual clinics of this kind all the time. I used to think that practically everybody was doing the will of God. I have come to the conclusion that almost no one but just here and there one is really yielded to the will of God. It is an awful conviction to have, but it is born of years and years of experience. Perhaps the difficulty in your life, and to some measure in mine, lies in the fact that God does not have His way.

Now soul-winning work has a great dynamic power. If we could only get it clear in our minds that God never once has to do a single thing in this age of Grace because He has to do it, and He wants us to do what we do because we want to do it. Everything in our relation to Him is not any longer of necessity but it is our heart’s expression to Him. He swept the whole law system of necessity away. If you are a wife today you do not want your husband to be kind to you simply because he thinks it is his duty to be kind to you. You want him to be kind to you because he has it in his heart. There are certain state laws that tell a mother to take care of her child, but there is something in a mother’s heart which is so wonderful a dynamic that there is no need of a state law. In many cases she does not even know there is a state law. When you get right with God and the Spirit has His way in your heart you are going to have a dynamic soul, and there can’t anybody stop you from winning souls. No one will need to pity you because of your hardships in soul winning, because you would not thank them for their pity.

One of our very best missionaries, with tears of joy streaming down his face, told me of an experience of his when he was away out in a native village preaching the Gospel. The people thronged to listen. An old woman came, sat down and began to tell the story of her own burdened heart of sin, and just before he fell asleep that night he had the opportunity of leading just one more soul to the Lord. He told this poor old woman about the Lord Jesus Christ who died for her, and how by simple trust in him alone she could have the peace of God that passeth understanding. The old woman believed and was saved. When he dismissed her he looked around that little cabin where chickens were roosting and pigs and dogs walking about here and there on the dirt floor. The light was nothing more than a burning pine knot. Then he looked at those dark faces around him and he just raised his heart in prayer and said, “Oh my Father, President Harding can have his job but he can’t have mine.” What is back of that, dear friends?

Lying back of all missionary work and all soul-saving work is a great dynamic, a great impetus. The Apostle Paul said in Romans 5:5 “The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts, out from the spirit which is given unto us.” May I give you just a little closer reading, one which I think is warranted? “The love of God gushes forth passing through our hearts out from the spirit that is given unto us.” Where did it come from? From the spirit. It is the love of God, not any human affections stimulated. And what is that love? It gave Jesus to die. It was the very love in the heart of Christ that was willing to die. It is that love so reproduced in the Apostle Paul that he, as he looked at his Lord and looked at the sinful world could say, “I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing witness in the Holy Ghost. I have great heaviness and continual sorrow. I could be accursed for you, my brethren and kinsmen according to the flesh.” The Apostle Paul never expected to be accursed. It was the last punishment in this world to ever even hint that a human being would ever need to be accursed after Jesus Christ had become the curse on Calvary’s tree. But there was that within his heart by which he was willing to be an accursed one if only his brethren and kinsmen might be saved. It was the love of God that gave Jesus to die, the love of God in Christ that was willing to die for sinners. The love of God shed abroad in your heart is going to be a passion and an agony for men that they might be saved, for you cannot have the love of God shed abroad in your heart without your having the dynamic that reaches out for lost men.

We talk sometimes about the missionary spirit, and I think many times it is a sort of vague, strange thing to us. The missionary spirit is stated in Galatians 5:22 in the first of the nine words that describe the fruit of the Spirit: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love.” When the Spirit is free to bear that fruit in your heart you are going to have love. It will not be your love, but it will be the love of God, the fruit of the Spirit, pulsating, throbbing, moving through you. There never was a thrill in all this world comparable to the thrill of the love of God passing through your spirit, reaching out for God. It is like drinking the very wine of heaven. It is the very joy of the one in whose presence the angels are, for “there is joy in the presence of the angels of God when one sinner is turned to God.” Our need is a very simple practical one. It is a spiritualizing of Christians at home. The world is mad today in search of some new thrill. If you could pick up one person from the street who is rushing on, searching and hoping somewhere, somehow, through the amusements of the hour to gain happiness, and could take him to that cot yonder in that little mud hut and let him know the experiences that actually passed through the soul of the missionary of whom I have been telling you, that man would be spoiled for this world.

May I bring to you a very concise statement of what the Spirit of God purposes to do in a life when that life is surrendered to Him? I am talking to you about what the Bible called being filled with the Spirit. You know very well if you are a Christian that your problem is not a problem of “getting the Spirit.” The Bible is intensely clear and final on the question that every person, from the moment he is saved is a temple of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit living in you is one of the essential facts of the Christian, but here is something additional for you to be just as clear about, and that is that not every Christian is filled with the Spirit. To be filled with the Spirit does not mean for you to get more of the Spirit. It means for the Spirit to get more of you. You cannot have more or less of a person. No person is divisible or subject to being diminished or increased. If you have the Spirit of God you have a person, and the issue is not more of the Spirit but it is that the Spirit may have more of you. When the Spirit has you, then He can do God’s gracious work through you. But if He has only a part of you, then that work is limited, and sometimes almost totally hindered.

Every Spirit-filled Christian has the following experiences. First of all there is produced in the heart, the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control. That is the life of the Spirit in the believer. Listen friends, don’t you ever try to do that thing. The biggest counterfeit that the Devil has ever produced is the counterfeit of trying to imitate the fruit of the Spirit. Don’t ever pose in any of those nine things. God never intended that you should try to work up such a program in your life. But the moment you are yielded to the Spirit of God that is going to be the very output of your life. It is going to be its very atmosphere. It is never found in any human being until God the Spirit produces it there, and He does not produce it there until He is unhindered in that heart and life. He came to produce it there. Therefore, the moment He is free to do it you have not got to ask Him; He is going to do it because that is what He is there for. You will have these graces then. The first of them is the great impulse flowing out from this divine compassion of the Lord in your heart. Because of that great impulse to bring men to know Christ, any place, anywhere, any way you will find yourself not only longing to go, but hastening to go to make Christ known, whether it is in the next neighbor’s house, whether it is to class or group of people, or to a foreign field or a home field. There is just one dynamic back of soul winning work, and that is that the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts from the Spirit which is given unto us.

When the Spirit of God fills your heart He is going to bring you to the divine appointment as to His ministry and your place of service. This in the Scripture is called the gifts, and the gift in the Spirit means something the Spirit of God is doing through you, incidentally using you to do it. Don’t talk in prayer to God about helping you to do this and that. There is no such program in the New Testament that you are going to start some enterprise of your own and then ask God to help you through. The right relationship of a soul to God will be maintained when we are Spirit-filled, and we will recognize that it is the Holy Spirit doing something through us. There are diversities of gifts, but it is the same Spirit. If you would arise and go out from this meeting to do Christian service there would be two or three hundred different kinds of service, for no two of us are alike, but it would simply mean the Holy Spirit of God doing two or three hundred things at once through two or three hundred different channels. Yes, diversities of gifts, but it is the same Spirit, and the manifestation is the manifestation not of you and me, but of the Spirit.

One of the greatest tragedies of the hour is that in some centers where there is great enthusiasm and great pleasure being brought to bear upon young people, these young people seem to be depending upon somebody else’s vision. It has been our experience in connection with missionary work that every day we get hold of young people who have come to us to go to the mission field, they have volunteered to go, and in the last analysis they are trying to ride on somebody else’s vision. They are trying to do it because somebody else thinks it is a good thing to do. Listen, friends. There is need today that we shall hold the claim before every one of these young people that they must have that evidence from God of His leading and direction whereby they can go to a field, and if need be, they can suffer and die and never doubt but what they are in the will of God. Christian service is the service of God doing something through you. It is by His divine appointment, and the duty of every Spirit-filled child of God is to wait before God until he knows from God that he has the right of way.

That leads to another thing the Spirit is going to do and always does in the Christian that is filled with Him. He is going to lead in every detail of the Christian life. He is going to lead you step by step. How much need there is today of sane, wholesome, detailed, careful teaching on this question of the leading of the Spirit. If you are a Spirit-filled Christian God, by the Holy Spirit, is going to see to it that your feet are kept in the path of His choosing. If you are a Spirit-filled person you are going to be taught the Word of God which is one of the greatest needs, even among our missionaries. It is a sad thing that so many people cannot define the Gospel of the grace of God, and so many times it is confused with all kinds of works and human conceptions. I don’t want to be a judge, but I call upon my own experience and I say to you that it is one of the most common things of the hour that the Gospel is misstated. But when we are taught of the Spirit of God, He is going to bring you through clearly on these things and make you an able minister of that Word. I would rather have one hour of the teaching of the Spirit on this book than to have all the training of the seminaries, as much as I appreciate education. All the human training that can ever be given is not to be compared with it in its preciousness and effectualness.

When the Spirit of God fills you He is going to make you an able minister in prayer. We have in Romans 8:26 the great statement concerning the Spirit’s energizing work in relation to the place of intercession. Just notice, dear friends, that the prayer of intercession is very different from the prayer of supplication. You may have the experience of praying a prayer of supplication when you pray for yourself and your own immediate interests, but the prayer of intercession is that prayer which you offer when you stand between God and dying souls. How long since you have known what it was to be in agony of prayer for the salvation of a soul? That is the prayer of intercession. I am not going to tell you that when you come to that prayer you don’t know what to pray for as you ought. Praise God, the Spirit not only maketh intercession for us, but makes intercession through us, for there would be no intercession if he did not indict the prayer, and He it is that prays because He knows the mind of God. Such prayer is the soul-winning prayer. I wonder if you know what it is to win souls by prayer? What a field I have thrown open to you when I have said that much! It is a marvelous field of winning souls by the ministry of prayer in the Holy Spirit. When you come up before your Lord in His presence in Glory would not your heart fill with praise to have some man from China or India or from Africa, South America or Central America, some man or woman or child that you have never heard of, that you have never seen at least, come to you and say, “It was because of that hour of yours spent in prevailing prayer that I know Jesus Christ and am forever saved?” There isn’t a person here that would not pay almost any price to guarantee a joy like that. You would do anything to win a soul, but the great method and means that God has put in our hands strangely goes neglected. Hear me, friends, don’t you ever try to force yourself to pray for souls. It is one of the most empty, fruitless things, just to simply whip yourself to pray for souls. Will you hear my last word? If it isn’t in your heart to pray the prayer of intercession which can be used of God to bring men to Christ the trouble is that the Spirit cannot do His work in your heart. The way to get that thing cured is not to try to force yourself in a carnal state of heart to do what you ought to do. The practical thing to do is to get right with God. Then the prayer of intercession along with every other ministry of the Spirit in your heart is going to be your experience when you are right with God.

I am not going to tell you that when you are right with God He is going to send you to some foreign field or going to ask you to stand on a platform and speak. The great mass of people are going to be called upon to live a very simple life by being witnesses for Jesus Christ. Don’t get your eyes on some great, conspicuous thing, but get your eyes upon doing the will of God where He places you in the power of the Spirit, and that will be a God-honoring, fruitful life to the glory of Jesus Christ.