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Following in the Footsteps of Others
When we read the testimonies of those great spiritual heroes of days gone past and hear them describe the time leading up to their baptism in the Holy Spirit and their living the Higher Christian Life, a certain pattern begins to emerge. Granted, all their individual experiences are different, since God chooses to reveal Himself in the way He chooses to each of His children. So we obviously can’t put God in a box and demand He deals with everyone the way He deals with us. There is no cookie-cutter scheme that works for everyone. Yet, in examining these individual accounts, we do see a pattern that each person seems to go through. Much like the pattern of salvation found in Romans 8:29-30. Consider the steps God undertakes to reconcile each of us to Himself.
First, there is the sovereign act of God accomplished before we were created and of which we were totally unaware. The Scripture says, “For whom He foreknew” (Rom. 8:29a), which means God placed His favor and choice on us before we even knew His name. And long before we ever took our first breath. It was an act of His will and not of our own. And it takes some measure of spiritual maturity to understand this momentous event. We tend to always look forward from the day we “believed in Jesus and asked Him into our hearts.” But this is a look back. It is best explained in Ephesians 1:3-5:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as (what) He chose us in Him (when) before the foundation of the world, (why) that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, (how) having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, (on what basis) according to the good pleasure of His will.
Next, God predetermined the outcome and future of those He previously had chosen and upon those He granted His favor. Scripture says, “He also predestined” (Rom. 8:29b) those “whom He foreknew” to something. But what is that exactly? God has predetermined those He chose in Him to be “conformed to the image of His Son” (Rom. 8:29c). We are to become like Jesus. And we will become just like Jesus. Once again, this was all determined without our knowledge or consent. It was part of God’s sovereignty in our salvation.
Then, to those “He foreknew” and “predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son,” God begins the process of drawing them unto Himself. This is known as a “calling” or, theologically, an “effectual call.” This is when we become aware of God and what He offers and the horrid sinfulness in our own life. In our testimonies, it goes something like this:
“I knew I was lost, and I needed God to forgive my sins and change my life. And I became aware of the fact that is exactly what Jesus said He would do. It was amazing. What I once thought was foolish now made perfect sense. And I knew I needed to give my life to Him.”
Finally, there is justification, “these He also justified” (Rom. 8:30a). This is the point in the pattern of our salvation that we become aware of the fact we are now saved. And we usually mark this down as the first day of our new life, not yet understanding our new life was determined by God in eternity past, “before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4).
And as a final bonus, “and whom He justified (all those who are saved in Him), these He also glorified” (Rom. 8:30b). Now, that’s quite a pattern God has established for receiving saving faith provided by His Son. Would you not agree?
A Common Pattern for Receiving the Fullness of the Spirit
In much the same way, we see a common pattern in those who deeply desire to receive the fullness of the Spirit, or the baptism of the Spirit, or the Higher Christian Life, or whatever you choose to call it. And this pattern creeps into almost everyone’s testimony who has been granted this blessing.
Let me lay out the key points almost everyone’s experience in the deeper life of the Spirit has in common.
One, salvation must take place in the individual and they must be born again by faith in the completed work of Christ. On Sunday, this was Assumption One.
Two, there comes a deep awareness of failure, of falling short of what we are to be in the Lord. It’s as if we come to know there is more to this life with Christ than what we are experiencing, yet we are powerless to live a life of overcoming victory on our own, no matter how hard we try. And the resulting guilt and failure makes one miserable.
Three, there is a definite meeting with Christ, a time of total commitment, of absolute surrender in Him that is necessary for Him to accomplish in us what we are unable to do on our own. Usually, this is brought on by a particular verse or spiritual crisis the Lord uses to bring us from where we are (pride, independence, self-sufficiency) to where He wants us to be (broken, repentant, dependent, surrendered).
Four, there follows a faith commitment, an appropriation by faith on the basis of His Word to believe His promise regarding the Holy Spirit regardless of our past experiences. And this is the same kind of faith we placed in Him that resulted in our salvation. Only now, it results in our deliverance from the power of sin and the infusion of His power for ministry.
And finally, there is the wonderful manifestation of “rivers of living water” (John 7:37-39) Jesus said would flow out of the heart of one now living the Higher Christian Life. And from this point on, you will find yourself ministering in the power of the Holy Spirit and not the power of our fallen flesh. And God will become more to you than He ever has before. As D.L. Moody said regarding this experience, “I would not now be placed back where I was before that blessed experience (the baptism of the Holy Spirit) if you should give me all the world – it would be as the small dust of the balance.”
Oswald Chambers and the Higher Christian Life
Today, we will look at the testimony of Oswald Chambers, the minister who is the author of My Utmost for His Highest. And when we do, see if you can pick out the pattern above in Oswald’s testimony of his life with the Holy Spirit.
By the way, Oswald Chambers said after his experience with the Higher Christian Life, “After He comes in, all you see is ‘Jesus only, Jesus ever.'”
Have a Christ-filled day and I will talk with you again tomorrow.