You will find my text in Ephesians 5:18:
filled with the Spirit"
This is the most important commandment in the Bible. I know that the
command to be baptized is important, but this is more important. The
commandments of Moses are important, but they are not as important as
this commandment. The commandment of Jesus, "Go ye into all the world
and preach the Gospel," is one of the most important in the New
Testament, but the command to be filled with the Spirit is still more
important. Because, you see, when you obey this commandment you
automatically obey all the others. The fullness of the Spirit settles
every problem in your life.
This commandment was not given to a carnal church; it was given to one
of the most spiritual churches, the Church at Ephesus. If it had been
give to the Corinthian Church we would have understood it at once. The
Corinthians were carnal; they needed the fullness of the Spirit. But it
was not given to them. If, therefore, it was necessary for the Ephesian
Church it is necessary for us today. Paul could stand in any pulpit in
our day and say, "Be filled with the Spirit," for there are some in
every church who have never yet been filled with the fullness of the
Spirit of God.
This message, therefore, is for each and every one of us. We all need
to be filled with the Spirit. The disciples were filled on the day of
Pentecost and then filled again at a later date. We, too, must be
filled again and again. God wants us not only to be filled, but to live
Spirit-filled lives. Otherwise we will be failures.
"But," you say, "I have the Holy Spirit. I received Him when I was
regenerated." That is true. It was also true of the Ephesians. They had
the Spirit. However, it is one thing to "have" the Spirit, it is
another thing to be "filled" with the Spirit.
Here, for instance, is a glass of water. It is filled partly with water
and partly with air. Before it can be filled with water all the air
must be excluded. Only when it is filled to the brim would I be correct
in saying that it is filled with water. So it is with you. You have the
Spirit, but does He have you? Is He in complete control of you? Does He
fill you? Or are you partly filled with the Spirit and partly filled
with self, the world and sin? Does He dominate and rule your life? Are
you really and truly filled with the Spirit?
WHY MUST YOU BE FILLED?
But why must you be filled with the Spirit? There are two reasons and I
express them both in one word, and that one word is POWER. You need
power. You must have power. But power, however, along two lines.
First, power over sin. You will never be an overcomer until you are
Spirit filled. The Bible says: "Walk in the Spirit and ye shall not
fulfill the lust of the flesh" (Gal. 5:16). It is only as you are
filled with the Holy Spirit that you are able to overcome your
besetting sin. The Holy Spirit makes you a victorious Christian.
Without His fullness you will be defeated, you will be a slave to sin.
God wants to set you free. He wants to make you an overcomer. You
cannot overcome yourself. Only the Holy Spirit within you can overcome.
The Christian life is the outliving of the indwelling Christ. Only as
He indwells in the fullness and power of the Holy Spirit will your
outward life be the kind of a life it should be. Therefore, in order to
have power over sin you must be filled with the Spirit.
Second, power in service. You will never be used of God until you are
filled with the Spirit. The Bible says: "Ye shall receive power, after
that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto
Me" (Acts 1:8). If you are going to be an effective witness you must be
filled with the Spirit. Otherwise you will witness in the energy of the
flesh and accomplish nothing. If you want your testimony to count for
God, you must testify in the power of the Holy Ghost. Only as you are
filled with the Spirit will you be used of God, otherwise your ministry
will be ineffective. You will be working in the energy of the flesh
instead of in the power of the Spirit. Therefore, if you want God to
use you, you will have to be filled with the Spirit.
This, then, is the purpose of the fullness of the Spirit, namely,
POWER. Power over sin and power in service. Do you have that power? Are
you a victor? Are you an overcomer? Are you living a Spirit-filled
life? Or are you a defeated Christian? Are you discouraged? Do you feel
like giving up? Does your besetting sin conquer you? Or have you been
set free? Then, too, do you have power in service? Is God using you for
His glory? Are you really surrendered? Will you go where He wants you
to go and do what He wants you to do? Are you His slave? Is your
testimony effective? When you witness for the Lord Jesus Christ does
anything happen? Are you ministering in the energy of the flesh or in
the power of the Spirit?
WHAT ARE THE CONDITIONS?
Now comes the question, "How may I be filled with the Holy Spirit?" God
says that He gives the Holy Spirit "to them that obey Him" (Acts 5:32).
The Holy Spirit will not fill a disobedient heart. You must be willing
to remove every hindrance. If there is sin in your life you are
disobedient. If you will not surrender to God, you are disobedient. But
how can the hindrance be removed? By confession, renunciation, and
surrender. These are the steps that must be taken. These are the
conditions that must be met. Let me express them in four simple words
-- confess, renounce, surrender, believe.
In 1 John 1:9 we read: "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just
to forgive us our sins." Sin confessed is sin forgiven, and sin
forgiven is sin cleansed. "The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth
us from all sin" (1 John 1:7).
Note, if you will, that it is the Christian and not the sinner who is
told to confess his sins. God never tells a sinner to confess his sins.
First, because it would be impossible for him to remember them. He
might remember some of the outstanding sins of his life, but there
would be thousands that he would forget, and if he has to confess one
then he has to confess all.
In the second place, if we were to tell a sinner to confess his sins we
would be putting salvation on a basis of works, and salvation is not of
works, but by faith. When a sinner wants to be saved you do not tell
him to get down and start working by confessing his sins. You simply
point him to the Lord Jesus Christ. All that a sinner has to confess is
that he is a sinner and that he needs salvation. The Publican cried:
"God be merciful to me, a sinner" (Luke 18:13). He did not confess his
sins. He simply admitted that he was a sinner and needed mercy.
However, when it comes to the Christian it is entirely different. The
Christian who has backslidden and has gone off the road must return.
Christian, in Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, tried to go on, but found
that he had to return to the crossroads where he had slept, and there
he found his scroll, and only then could he go on his way rejoicing. So
it is with the Christian today. Some besetting sin in his life turned
him aside and got him off the road. He must confess that sin before he
can be right. God says: "If we (we Christians) confess our sins (the
sins of the Christian) he is faithful and just to forgive us OUR sins"
(again, the sins of the Christian). Anything that is wrong in the life
of a Christian must be confessed. God will never pour out His Spirit on
the flesh. Sin and spirituality cannot coexist. The Holy Spirit will
not occupy a dirty heart.
Now there are three kinds of confession. First of all, there is PRIVATE
confession. Then there is PERSONAL confession, and, lastly, there is
PUBLIC confession. If your sin has been committed against God alone,
then you need only confess it to God and He will forgive you. If,
however, it has been committed against another individual, then you
will have to confess it to that individual as well. Perhaps you have
injured someone. Whatever it is, it will have to be made right. To be
right with God is to be right with man, and to be wrong with man is to
be wrong with God. Finally, there is public confession. If your sin has
been committed against the entire Church, it will have to be confessed
to the Church. If it was publicly committed and everyone knows about
it, it must be publicly confessed. Otherwise there will be no
forgiveness and no peace.
Now, let me ask you a question: Have you confessed every Sin? Have you
made everything right between you and those you have injured or
wronged? If you have borrowed money, have you paid it back? Or are you
still in debt? God says: "Owe no man anything" (Rom. 13:8). Have you
paid what you owe, or are you refusing to meet your obligation? Where
do you stand with your fellowmen? Where do you stand with God? Have you
come clean? Do you believe God has forgiven you?
Not only must you confess your sin, you must also renounce it. It must
be put away. Unless you forsake what you are doing, your confession is
valueless. It is no use confessing your sin and then going right back
and committing it again. When sin is confessed it must also be
renounced. "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear
me" (Psalm 66:18).
But, you say, I cannot give up my sin. I am a slave to it. I love it.
It has a stranglehold on me and I cannot break it. My friend, let me
ask you two questions. First, are you WILLING to forsake your sin?
Second, are you DETERMINED to forsake your sin?
Now there are a lot of Christians who are not willing. They turn it
over as a sweet morsel and they do not want to give it up. Do you
remember when Jesus spoke to the man at the pool? He said: "Wilt thou
be made whole?" Do you want to be better, or would you rather be sick?
If, my friend, you are not willing, then you will have to offer this
prayer: "Lord, I am willing to be made willing," and God will make you
You may be willing and not be determined. The Prodigal Son was willing.
He was sick of the life he was living. He wanted to get away from the
swine, but he was not determined. Finally, however, there came a moment
when determination took the place of willingness. Springing to his
feet, he cried: "I will arise and go." Turning his back on the swine,
he started towards his father's house, and never looked over his
shoulder until he found himself in his father's arms. As soon as he was
determined he was free. You, too, must be determined. You must be in
dead earnest. You must mean business. If you are both willing and
determined, God will set you free.
Up to the present we have been dealing with the negative, now we turn
to the positive. It is one thing to confess and renounce, it is another
thing to surrender. The Bible says, "Yield yourselves to God" (ROM
6:13). God wants you to serve Him and in order to serve Him you must be
surrendered to Him. Everything must be laid on the altar. You are His,
body, soul, and spirit. Not only is He your Savior, He is your Lord and
The reason you have had so much trouble in your Christian life is
because your will has crossed God's will. There will never be an end to
the struggle until your will parallels God's will. His will must become
yours, so that you can say with the Lord Jesus in the Messianic Psalms,
"I delight to do thy will, O my God" (Psalm 40:8). "My meat is to do
the will of him that sent me" (John 4:34). Once God's will has become
your will the conflict will be over. After that you will have no desire
to do anything apart from the will of God. You will have surrendered
completely to the Lord Jesus Christ.
The trouble with most of us is we have never been broken. We have never
really yielded. Let me show you what I mean. Sam Jones, an American
evangelist, held a campaign for the cowboys of Texas. They wanted to
take up a love-offering for him, but they had no money. So they let him
go back to his house in Philadelphia without any honorarium. Some weeks
later he received a telegram from the cowboys stating that they were
sending him a love-offering. They were shipping him a carload of
broncos. But what could Sam Jones do in the city of Philadelphia with a
carload of wild horses? Suddenly he thought of an idea. He decided to
hold an auction sale and sell them and then pocket the money, which he
However, he kept the finest looking animal for his son. Calling the
cowboy to him, he asked him the question: "How much will you charge to
break the bronco so that my son can ride him?" "Fifteen dollars," said
the cowboy. "Take him away," said Sam, "and break him." Two weeks
passed by. The cowboy returned, leading the bronco. "Is it broken?"
asked Sam. "Yes, sir." "Can my son ride him?" "Yes, sir." "All right,
here is your fifteen dollars." Then Sam, thinking that he had better
try first, approached the animal. The cowboy came running up in
consternation. "Why, what's the matter?" asked Sam. "Why, sir," said
the cowboy, "he has only been broken on one side and you are mounting
from the wrong side." "Oh," said Sam, "that will never do. My son might
make a mistake and mount him from the wrong side. How much will you
charge to break him on the other side?" "Fifteen dollars," said the
cowboy. "All right," said Sam. "Take him away and break him on the
other side." Another two weeks passed and the cowboy returned with the
bronco. "Is he broken now?" asked Sam. "Yes," said the cowboy. "Both
sides?" "Yes, sir, both sides. Your son may mount from either side."
"All right," said Sam, "here is your fifteen dollars."
Do you know the trouble with the average Christian? He is only broken
on one side. He is like Ephraim's cake --half-baked. He will do this,
but he will not do that. He will go here, but he will not go there. He
will sing in the choir -- if he can sing the solos. He will work in the
foreign field, but he refuses to work in the home field. God cannot
depend upon him. He has never been broken. He is not trustworthy. God
wants us to be broken, so that He can count on us. Once that has
happened we will be surrendered and then we will be usable. If God were
to fill us with the Holy Spirit and we still chose our will instead of
His, we would make shipwreck of the experience. We must be broken,
yielded, surrendered, if we are to be filled.
I will never forget the time God broke me. I was quite young in the
ministry and had been pastor of a large Presbyterian church, but I had
resigned. Naturally, I expected to get another just as large, but I
found that I could not. I preached for a Call in many a church, but was
never called. I went to mission halls, but still I was not wanted. My
finances were very low and I was at my wits' end. One day Paul Rader
came to Toronto to hold a great campaign in Massey Hall. I asked if I
could usher and I did so, but was soon set aside. Then I tried to do
personal work. But, again, I was ignored. Finally, I started selling
hymnbooks in the aisles. My heart was broken. I knew not which way to
turn, It seemed as though my ministry had come to an end and that I was
to be put on the shelf. I felt that God had no more use for me. I was
Suddenly, one night, Arthur W. McKee, Paul Rader's song-leader,
announced that he was going to lead the great congregation in the
singing of a new hymn that had just been published, entitled "Saved."
Then before the entire audience of 3,400 people he pointed down to
where I was selling hymnbooks and said: "That young man down there
wrote this hymn." I did not know which way to look. I went on selling
hymnbooks. Presently the audience began to sing. I will never forget
it. I was hearing it for the first time. I was to hear it often in the
Suddenly one day I received a cable from London, England, asking if I
could occupy the world-famous pulpit of Spurgeon's Tabernacle for a few
Sundays. I immediately accepted. From that time to this I have never
been without a Call. I have to refuse dozens that I cannot accept. A
great work had opened for me in Toronto -- The Peoples Church. Before
long I was traveling all over the world holding large campaigns. But,
you see, I had to be broken. God knew that I was proud and ambitious,
and so He could not use me. He had to bring me down by taking
everything away from me, and only when I had completely surrendered,
only when I had been broken, was He able to trust me again and use me
for His glory.
My friend, have you taken these three steps? Have you confessed,
renounced and surrendered? If you have, then all you have to do is to
believe. God will then give you a supernatural faith and you will be
able to trust Him for the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Remember, the
Holy Spirit is more anxious to fill you than you are to be filled.
Nature abhors a vacuum. So it is with the Holy Ghost. As soon as your
heart is ready He will come in and then He will complete the
transformation until you are finally changed into Christlikeness.
There may not be any great emotional experience. God never promises it.
No two are filled the same. When there is a lot of sin there may be a
tremendous experience. When there is a big dam and it is suddenly taken
away, there will be a mighty rush and roar as the water pours over. If
there is no great dam, then, as you quietly yield, He will flow in in
His fullness and fill you without any tremendous upheaval, but it will
be real nevertheless. The result will be seen in your ministry. You
will be used by God. Conviction will grip the hearts of those to whom
you preach, or witness. God will work in you and through you for His
glory. He will use you as you have never been used before. You will
then know both power over sin and power in service, and thus you will
Will you, right now, take these three steps? Will you get alone with
God, and as you pour out your heart in confession, will you tell Him
that you renounce every sin? Then will you yield to Him, surrender to
Him, become His slave? After that it will be easy for you to trust Him,
to believe Him for the fullness of the Spirit, and you will rise to
live for Him and serve Him in a way you have never known before. There
will be a peace you will experience for the very first time, a rest you
have never known. And, as you walk softly in fellowship with Jesus
Christ, you will be conscious of His presence. You will know that He
has filled you with His Spirit. Your problems will be solved, for you
will have carried out the injunction given in Ephesians 5:18, "Be
filled with the Spirit."