This morning I thought I would share some challenging words from A.W. Tozer’s The Divine Conquest, on being filled with the Spirit (and then add some comments/questions of my own):
Before a man can be filled with the Spirit he must be sure he wants to be. And let this be taken seriously. Many Christians want to be filled, but their desire is a vague romantic kind of thing hardly worthy to be called desire. They have almost no knowledge of what it will cost them to realize it.
Let us imagine that we are talking to an inquirer, some eager young Christian, let us say, who has sought us out to learn about the Spirit-filled life. As gently as possible, considering the pointed nature of the questions, we would probe his soul somewhat as follows: “Are you sure you want to be filled with the Spirit who, though He is like Jesus in his gentleness and love, will nevertheless demand to be Lord of your life? Are you willing to let your personality be taken over by another, even if that other be the Spirit of God himself?
If the Spirit takes charge of your life He will expect unquestioning obedience in everything. He will not tolerate in you the self-sins even though they are permitted and excused by most Christians. By the self-sins I mean self-love, self-pity, self-seeking, self-confidence, self-righteousness, self-aggrandizement, self-defense. You will find the Spirit to be in sharp opposition to the easy ways of the world and of the mixed multitude within the precincts of religion.
He will be jealous over you for good. He will not allow you to boast or swagger or show off. He will take the direction of your life away from you. He will reserve the right to test you, to discipline you, to chasten you for your soul’s sake. He may strip you of those borderline pleasures which other Christians enjoy but which to you are a source of refined evil.
Through it all He will enfold you in a love so vast, so mighty, so all-embracing, so wondrous that your very losses will seem like gains and your small pains like pleasures. Yet the flesh will whimper under His yoke and cry out against it as a burden too great to bear. And you will be permitted to enjoy the solemn privilege of suffering to ‘fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ’ in your flesh for His body’s sake, which is the church. Now, with the conditions before you, do you still want to be filled with the Holy Spirit?”
I remember when I first became a Christian at the age of 20 that I heard quite a bit about being filled with the Spirit, but on reflection now, I can’t remember the last time that I heard someone speak about this. Which causes me to wonder if there is some sinister silence on the matter. Are we afraid that if we talk of the Spirit, people will misunderstand the Spirit as some impersonal, invasive force, rather than the sweet person of our Lord Jesus living inside us, moving us to follow His will and obey his loving commands? Are we afraid of the extremes some practice who claim to be filled with the Spirit, but which we see as unbridled, unchecked emotionalism? Do we fear that if we surrender ourselves to the Spirit, that we will lose our own personality in the process? We need not fear this. As we become more Christ like, we become more of the person that God always intended us to be. In my case, more “Glyn-ness” and less Sin-ness.
I’m sure it is very much in the Enemy’s will that we not embrace the person of Christ in our lives, in this way.
And so the questions for me and you this morning…
Do we really want the Holy Spirit? Is it our consuming desire to be filled with Christ, to have his wants and desires dominate over ours?
Are we guilty of quenching the Spirit by what Tozer calls the self-sins: self-love, self-pity, self-seeking, self-confidence, self-righteousness, self-aggrandizement, self-defense.
Are we willing to pay the price required to become more like Christ?
PS. A.W. Tozer is often this challenging. If you want to explore his writings, I recommend reading The Pursuit of God first of all, then perhaps The Divine Conquest, and then anything else by him. Links to Amazon for these books are below.