I believe God gave the command, "Be filled with the Spirit," to all believers always and everywhere (Ephesians 5:18). The privilege of being filled with the Holy Spirit belongs to the youngest and weakest of believers, as well as the most advanced. We only need to comply with the conditions and commands that the Savior stated when He promised the gift.
I do not find two standards of Christian experience. I do not believe that God ever intended there to be a lower life and a higher life. And I am afraid that those who rest in the lower life will find themselves very mistaken at the judgment. Christianity is all or nothing. Individually, God is either first in our lives or nowhere with us. The very essence or core of Christianity is "God First," a supreme allegiance and obedience to Him.
Jesus offers the filling of the Holy Spirit to all believers. God wants you to be filled. God calls you to be filled. If you will, you can live in the power of the Holy Spirit as much as the apostles did. Only God knows what He would do with you and make of you if the Holy Spirit filled you. The experience of Peter shows how utterly different a man is before and after he gets the baptism of the Holy Spirit. After Peter got this power, the man who could not stand the questionings of a servant-maid dared to be crucified.
We hear a common lament on the lips of really spiritual teachers, "Ye did run well." Some begin in the Spirit, then, as the Apostle says, "They go on to be made perfect in the flesh" (Galatians 3:3). How is this? The Holy Spirit puts before everyone the walk of a full consecration and whole-hearted devotion to God. Instead of being obedient to the heavenly vision, some shrink back and say, "That is too much--that is too close--that is too great a sacrifice." So they decline. Instead of giving up their profession of Christian faith and going back into the world (there would be ten times more hope for them if they did), they cling on to their profession and kindle a fire of their own and walk in the sparks they have kindled. God says He will be against them, and they "shall lie down in sorrow" (Isaiah 50:11). Oh! There is too much of this.
People must have a god and a religion. When they shrink from the true God, and will not follow the Divine counsel, they make a god and religion for themselves. Many of them go to sleep and never wake up. Oh! See that you wake up and keep awake, and be willing to follow the Spirit's teaching in everything at all costs.
Notice how the disciples waited to obey Jesus command, "Tarry at Jerusalem till ye be endued with POWER." They had received the truth before, and they now needed more than truth. Paul says his gospel and his preaching were not merely in word, but in power and in the demonstration of the Holy Spirit. After Jesus' ascension into heaven, I think the first feelings of the disciples would have been of deep self-abasement, of humiliation, guilt and shame. As they thought of the past, now that the full glory of His divinity and the divinity of His mission had burst upon them, and as they thought of their three years' traveling with Him, and of all their darkness and blindness of heart, and of all they had lost--all they might have known--all He would have revealed to them if they would have received it--as the thought of these things burst upon them, they must have exclaimed, "What fools we were!" Indeed, as Jesus said of them, "Oh, fools, and slow of heart to believe" (Luke 24:25). While they waited, they were cured of their self-sufficiency and pride.
I would not be surprised at all if in the upper room Peter, with his impulsive nature, did not throw himself on his face before his risen Master in deepest humiliation and broken-heartedness for his vile ingratitude in having denied Him. How do you think Thomas and all of them felt as they remembered the scene in the Garden and how they, in the hour of His agony, had forsook Him and fled? Oh! They would feel unholy, untrue, cowards, and would go down repeatedly on their faces to wait in deep self-abasement.
Now, dear reader, this is the very first and indispensable condition of receiving the Holy Spirit. You must first realize your past impurity, unholiness, disobedience and ingratitude. You must not be afraid to know the worst of yourself. You must look back at the time when your hand has been with Him on the table, and yet you have virtually betrayed Him. You must look at your unfaithfulness and disobedience, at your shrinking from the cross, at your cleaving to the world. If you want to be filled with the Holy Spirit, you must be willing to know the worst of yourself. You must say, "Now, Lord, am I low enough? Now, Lord, am I far enough in the dust for you to come and lift me up? I abhor myself. I loathe myself in dust and ashes, and I want you to come and fill me with your Spirit."
You will have to be emptied of self. When people are self-sufficient, God always leaves them alone to prove their self-sufficiency. When people think they can do for themselves, He lets them fall down and see their weakness. We must realize our utter helplessness and weakness. We must see ourselves as utterly lost in our own sight. God's way of exaltation is through the Valley of Humiliation. You must get lower--lower. You can never get too low in your own estimate to be filled with the Spirit of God.
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