Sunday, May 28, 2006

C H Spurgeon on the Vital Necessity of the Holy Spirit.

Dr Ern Baxter said: "My concern is this: How will the establishment of the Kingdom which we talk about ever be brought about? As I have searched the Scriptures, I have become aware that the kingdom of God will become reality by the ministry of the Holy Spirit through us". We all do well at talking. We all have our pet doctrines and our pet theories - our pet rants and our pet passions. I am no more special than the next person or website you come across, simply because my passions happen to be mine. Yet I confess a slight and growing weariness at talking. That doesn't mean to say that certain topics and certain issues still don't cause my blood pressure to rise! But now I'm learning to vent my frustrations in other ways than through the keyboard. Men whose doctrines do not adorn their names (1 Timothy 4:3) should be grateful ...

I am hungry for action! I want to see God intervene in our society! I want to see Him rend the heavens and come down! Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones said that revival is the only hope for our declining culture! If it was true in his day, how much more now? I want to see the church move on! I want to see the Church enter the Land! When Terry Virgo said something like; "I'm giving you a possession! I'm giving you a land flowing with milk and honey! My beloved Bride! I'm bringing you in!" - I must confess my heart leapt! Then ached. When? When are we going to see it? Our only hope is the Spirit of God.

So when I found and read this sermon of C H Spurgeon's, it was like manna to a hungry soul - water to a thirsty desperate man. When you read this sermon, you will find the answer as to why, for example I am not particularly bothered by the advent of the Da Vinci Code and why I won't be discussing it on this blog. Come with Spurgeon and let him do you good!

"Is the Spirit of the Lord Straitened?".

Sermon: 2218 - Sunday August 23rd 1891.

Text: Micah 2:7: "O thou that art named the house of Jacob, is the Spirit of the Lord straitened?".

"Unless we have unction of the Holy One and are endued with power from on high, in vain shall we seek to preach good tidings to the meek, to bind up the broken hearted or to proclaim opening of the prison to them that are bound".

"If our religion be not supernatural, it is a delusion. If the Holy Ghost be not with you, you are like Jannes and Jambres attempting to work a miracle without Jehovah's aid and you will be baffled and detected as an imposter".

1. The Spirit of the Lord is not straitened by the commands of Men.

"The previous verse reads: "Prophesy ye not".

i) Beloved friends this can never be. The Spirit of God is not straitened for any man in whom He dwells must speak.

"If God has given it to him to speak, speak it he must and nothing can silence him".

ii) But even if those who believe in God's Name should die and no more were raised up, the Spirit of the Lord would not even then be straitened for He could find other ways of reaching men's minds.

"He could still call a Saul of Tarsus without a Bible and without a minister".

2. The Spirit of the Lord is not straitened by an conceivable cause.

i) The Spirit of the Lord is not straitened by any change in Himself.

"I am the Lord - I change not".

"He is today what He was at Pentecost".

ii) He is not straitened by the Spirit of the age whatever that may be.

"Although the spirit of evil is mighty, he must fly before the Spirit of God who is infinitely more powerful and not to be hindered, hampered or straitened by the spirit of the age".

iii) He is not straitened by the discoveries of science.

"It does not make the slightest differene what is discovered nor should any true revelation of science unsettle any preacher of the Gospel. The more than is known of God's works the better".

iv) He is not straitened by the worldiness of the great masses in the midst of whom we live.

v) He is not straitened by the skill of His enemies.

"The simple truth of God will win it's way. I cannot imagine anything that will diminish the power of the Holy Ghost".

3. The Spirit of the Lord must not be treated by us as though He were straitened.

i) If we act towards Him as though His holy Word would not now convert, sanctify, comfort and conquer as it used to, we are in this horrible position of practical unbelief.

"Never think that the Spirit cannot bless the Word to you as He used to. The meat is rich: You have lost your appetite".

ii) We behave as if the Spirit of God were straitened in the next place if we conceive the present state of things to be hopeless.

"The church to which you belong may be cold and dead and the ministry powerless but is the Spirit of the Lord straitened?".

iii) Do you not think again that we very much act as if the Spirit of the Lord were straitened when we only look for little blessings?

"Dear friends there is no reason that I know of why the sermon that brings one sinner into the light should not bring a thousand into the light supposing a thousand sinners be hearing it. The same power which saves one is precisely that power that would save a thousand".

iv) Do you not think that we also treat the Spirit of God as though He were straitened when we imagine that our weakness hinders His working by us?

"Do you not see that though you think such a confession is an expression of humility, you are straitening the Spirit of God? However weak and feeble you may be, He can use you. If you think He cannot, you deprive Him of power in your apprehension".

v) Do not believe that the Spirit of the Lord is narrowed by the smallness of the place.

"Some of the greatest works for Christ have begun in hamlets".

"Do not hunger for big congregations. Hunger to save those you have".

vi) A great many persons are guilty of thinking the Spirit of God to be straitened when they fancy He must always work in one way.

"If we begin to tie the Lord down to one way or work, we shall make a big mistake".

"God neither blesses the Calvinism nor the Arminianism but the Christ that is in the sermon".

vii) We act as if we did not believe in this divine truth concerning the Spirit of God when we think that some men are beyond His reach.

viii) We may treat the Spirit of God as straitened if we cannot believe that He can bless us today.

"Believe that any moment is a good moment with God".

4. The Spirit of the Lord will prove He is not straitened.

i) He will exact punishment for resistance.

"Continual rejection will at last result in the total withdrawal of His Presence".

ii) He will fulfill the divine decree.

"Man's obstinancy shall not frustrate the purpose of God".

iii) He will glorify Christ and prepare a people to welcome His advent.

"The gospel shall be preached among all nations and out of every tribe and people, witnesses shall be gathered to await the glorious appearing of the victorious Christ which cannot long be delayed".


Ols said...

I love this sermon!! What power! It really irritates me that people misquote and misuse C H Spurgeon to make him out to be some kind of Reformed, anti-Spirit theologian but actually these greats from the past had such a broad, God-honouring ministry. This is such a challenge in our view of the Spirit - even to us who call ourselves charismatics, that we must be so wary that we are not guilty of putting out the Spirit's fire!!

Thanks for working on this and typing it out. Is it available online or just in the Metropolitan Taberancle Pulpit books?

Baxter's Boy said...

I think you're right. What it spoke to me of so much is that quote of Ern Baxters that I put at the beginning. That basically our God is too small!! And by that I mean that our view of the Holy Spirit is far too small!! We have limited Him and His work to something to do with Christian beginnings (but we don't like to define quite how that happens because it's controversial) and we think that He has something to do with worship (but don't quite like to get too deep or we'll sound gnostic and mystical) and we know that He has something to do with tongues and prophecy ... and there we stop!!

And Spurgeon's sermon beautifully demonstrates how vastly inferior we are in our pneumatology. Evolution of theology?! Don't make me laugh! Both Ern Baxter and C H Spurgeon had a far larger view of the Holy Spirit and His work that we can even dream of!! So my quest is to "get" that vision.

I think it is available on Spurgeon dot org if you look under Micah.

James B said...

That's a very interesting point you make!! Evolution of theology! I think we ARE of that opinion aren't we?! That "smug contentment" that you mentioned before is so characteristic of the evangelicalism of our age. But have we really moved on from glory to glory in relationship with God?

Well Dr Lloyd-Jones answered that didn't he, when he compared us to the Old Testament saints in experience! And we do not fare well! Surely humility and a crying out to God should mark our attitude rather than a cozy contentment with our theological "achievements"!!

dr annette marshall said...

I love that ultimate hope - that surely is what it's all about!!

"The gospel SHALL be preached among ALL nations and out of EVERY tribe and people, witnesses SHALL be gathered!".

These are prophetic promises that are yet to be fulfilled! And surely it is on the agenda of the Holy Spirit to see the people of God get this job done!! What a tremendous sermon!

Yes - I loved in particular Spurgeon's point about "humility". How quickly can humility and books about humility become a front for pride. Let us be humble but let us remember that gifts and anointing is from God for HIS glory!!

Anonymous said...

I think that the particular quote that spoke to me was that God neither sees or is particularly bothered by the Calvinism or the Arminianism but the CHRIST that is in the sermon.

And this does indeed address something of the "smug contentment" that characterises the orthodoxy and the Reformed evangelicalism of our day. Well we are Calvinists! So God will bless us. Well we are complementarians! So God will bless us. We only allow men to preach in our pulpits! So God will bless us. We only baptise believers! So God will bless us!

Will He?!

Dr S A J Burgess

Sheila said...

Comforting words here...."v) Do not believe that the Spirit of the Lord is narrowed by the smallness of the place.

"Some of the greatest works for Christ have begun in hamlets".

"Do not hunger for big congregations. Hunger to save those you have".

Confession: just this morning, in my own precious church, I hit my knees and the sobs just rolled out. We were singing the song,"Let it Rain"....

Let it rain!
Let it rain!
Open the floodgates of heaven...

My own intercessions surprised *me* just a little, I think! As the mascara ran, and my whole body was shaking with my own weeping, I heard myself saying, "So when? Huh? When?? Is a mighty amazing move of Your Spirit only for mega churches? Is it reserved for only certain persons? Is it only for those who will write a book about it? I find THAT hard to swallow, but if so, I'll do it. Just give me something to write about. Is an outpouring of Your Spirit held in check, to be given at only certain times in history, certain places, certain churches, certain super special men or women? Oh, God! HELLO! WHEN? There is a whole generation growing up here who have never seen one real miracle - (and this is where I really lost it - and just *could* *not* get it back. ;-) I'm partial to our little ones - my own and everyone else's. God touched me MANY times supernaturally as a child, and it marked me for life.) ....a whole generation who have not seen what I have seen, and *I* have not seen all I want to see! I want THESE little ones, I want THESE children to see the lame walk - I want these children to see demons cast out, THESE children to see people become born again by the scores - THROUGH THEIR CHURCH...IN THIS CITY. Oh, come ON, is this too much to ask?"

Ahem. Yup, I'm a little embarrassed myself to read it now, at this later point in the day. But that's what I said, and it cannot be unsaid.

Sure, yeah, I want other churches to experience Shekinah...I want God's glory to be seen over the whole earth. But I'm wholesomely greedy. And if it all must begin around HERE somewhere, why NOT me? Why NOT my city, why not my church?

It was all I could do, hearing over and over, family after family in MY church singing, "Let it RAIN, Lord!" was all I could do not to run outside seven times, looking for a cloud of ANY size...I want to be the one to cry out, "I hear the sound of the ABUNDANCE of rain!!"

Ohlord. Somebody lock me up and toss the key. I'm ruined. And a bit grumpy this evening, because I went one more Sunday without seeing all I want to see. It ain't for lack of asking, I'll tell you that much. And so I wait. And I watch the skies.

Baxter's Boy said...

That's amazing Sheila, I was just meditating on those exact words about "smallness" and logged on to make some comment just before I go home from work ... and there is your amazing comment!!

It must be of God! "The work of God can begin in small hamlets". Yes oh yes!! I worry sometimes that with my obvious passion for Church of Christ the King, Brighton and of course the conference in Brighton, that I can convey the impression that I'm a "mega" person. Only the big will do. Actually I have to confess that God has moved most mightily upon me, not at Stoneleigh but on a pastor friend's office floor!!

I think that is the purpose and will of God - to begin with one. Terry Virgo preached magnificently on the story of Gideon last year at Brighton and commented that very often God begins with just one!!

"I looked for a man and behold ...".

So those of us who are in small works should take heart!! We are candidates for God to begin with!! And it isn't about numbers. Nowhere nowhere nowhere does it say in the Bible, "Go into all the world and collect backsides for your pews!". I get so irritated when you ask how someone's church is going and they say, "Well we had 50 today". Great! But are those 50 baptised in the Holy Spirit? Are they exercising their giftings in the local church? Are they bringing non-Christian friends to Alpha? In short are they disciples? Which I believe is actually what the Great Commission asks us to do!!

Sheila ... that holy jealousy you spoke of is vital. I so believe that. I wrote that I'm tired of talking and endless inane babble. I'm tired also of travelling to find the Shekinah glory!! While I am stuck in Bristol, I want some glory IN Bristol!! I'm tired of living in a desert!!

Oh I thank God for the pools, the small pools of water that refresh. But that taste is actually more irritating and drives me more crazy for the river of living water that will quench my thirst forever!! The tastes are amazing and I never want them to go! I am grateful for God's small blessings!! "Do not despise the day of small things".

Yes I don't despise it! But I want MORE!! I want the rivers!! I want the abundance of rain!! I want to see a cloud as small as a man's hand!! That will grow bigger and bigger till I have to sprint to try and keep ahead of it!!

Yes Sheila. Another Sunday passed and we didn't see what we hoped to see. Sure Christ's work is accomplished. That is the foundation for our hope. But I'm grumpy too. Because I join you in searching the dry and barren skies, desperately hoping that cloud will appear ... soon.

SJ said...

AMEEEEEEEEEEEEENNNNNNNNNN!!!!!!!!! There's another "Let it Rain" song from Stoneleigh Bible Week I think.

"We have prayed that you would have mercy. We believe from heaven You've heard. Heal our land so dry and so thirsty. We have strayed so far from You Lord.

Your cloud appeared on the horizon, small as a man's hand! But now You're near filling our vision - pour out Your Spirit again!

I've felt the touch of Your wind on my face, I feel the first drops of rain!!".

michaela j said...

I don't want to sound a note of caution but surely we must beware of getting into a "revivalist" mentality. Isn't that hyper-Calvinism where we just sit back and wait for God to do something and not move until He does?

I love the desperation that is being aired in this forum, but as Dan quoted the Great Commission so must I. The command was to "go" - the Spirit has already been poured out! What mandate is there for an expectation of revival?

jul said...

Go Sheila! For the past few months I have had this urge in church to stand up and yell, "Lord, rend the heavens and come down!!!!" but I haven't done it. Partly of course due to the fact that in the church I'm in right now I would most likely be politely escorted out...Anyway, we went yesterday to church and my husband (thank God!)finally had enough too. It's literally painful to be there. Sheila, even if you're not seeing what you hope and pray for (yet) you are not content with that and you're not pretending something is happening that's not. That is so important. When God is really present and doing amazing stuff, then the music, the words spoken, everything is used by Him to work in people's lives. But when we do all the same things, say all the same things when nothing is happening, it's all a lie. I don't mean we shouldn't meet together and appreciate what God is doing (he's always doing something) but let's leave shallow emotionalism out of it. I am the first one to respong emotionally if God is working, but if not then I'm not pretending. Sorry for all this, I'm just very frustrated,disappointed, tired, discouraged, even depressed, and mostly I can't understand why out of all our pastors, not one ever stands up and says the truth about what is not happening. We cannot conjure up the Holy Spirit, but we can acknowledge our desperate need and cry out until he does what we're asking! Hey, who do you think put that desire in us in the first place? Of course he's going to answer! So at this point we may be looking for another church in our area until we get back to Canada. If anyone can recommend any, let me know. We're in northern DE, not to far from Philadelphia, PA. Pray that God shows us what to do for this few months of transition, sometimes pain is good and maybe we should just stay put...I'd appreciate any godly words of wisdom any of you might have.

Sheila said...

Oh, are expressing the very things I have said - and I have heard this said OFTEN in my circles. One tired pastor, my husband's dearest friend besides me, has said, "I'm DONE with the revivalist mentality." I'm certainly not talking about waiting around until God moves - my whole LIFE is "going and doing". (My husband is a pastor - that does not make me better, but it does make me busier than some, as far as the command to "GO" is concerned. "GO" is just about all I know to do in life. ACK!)

But I've seen more, I've tasted more, I've certainly read of more. What you read in ME is just hunger for God. That's all. I really don't care what that visitation looks like, could care LESS if it "grows my church", God is my witness, and insofar as any woman can know her own heart, I know mine in that. What's more, the Scripture, particularly the Psalms, are filled with prayers that could be misconstrued as being merely "revivalist."

Some sit back and do nothing, waiting for revival. Me? I'm *preparing* for it - which means doing all I'd otherwise be doing and MORE. So I promise you, there is a "ready" sword (the Word) and some very dirty dusty shoes (preparation of the Gospel) behind my prayers - they are not just words....they are the overflow of maybe too MUCH "doing".

If I live out my last breath NOT seeing what I long to see, what saints in past generations have experienced - so be it. That won't change a thing, and I'll die w/ my boots on, carrying out said Commission. But I just might die of a broken heart. ;-)

(And I see many places in Scripture where saints longed mightily for some level of restoration...and where God Himself makes some pretty delicious promises! And so I continue to long for what my eyes do NOT see, all the while, not being moved by what they DO see.)

Hope deferred indeed makes the heart sick. And so for a season in my life, I tried to quit with all this stinking hoping and longing, and just "do" the Great Commission. I tried. It made life easier for a time. But - I had forgotten the second part of what WAS for me a dreadful Scripture..."Hope deferred makes MY heart sick....(second part)..."but when the DESIRE IS GRANTED, it is a tree of life.." (healing)

The Lord has wounded me, because He intends to heal me.

Sheila said...

Jul - I'm probably not the one to ask, because I'm looking through the "wrong end" of the telescope. My perspective is that of pastor/pastor's wife, and local church advocate. I often find myself saying (to others, thinking of leaving other churches, sometimes to even "try out" mine - GAH!) I say, "Stick and stay. Be part of the answer, not part of the problem."

However. I understand your dilemma, if what you are saying is that NO ONE, leadership included, is building or working for increase. (By that, I don't mean "numbers", I mean overall increase of salvations, quality of worship, missions, levels of benevolence giving to the needy saints - all the stuff that makes the church the **CHURCH**)

Could you start a prayer meeting in your home? Get someone who can play simple, heart felt worship tunes on a guitar, and gather a few who want to seek the Lord in your home for a weekly time of prayer for your church - not fault finding - just prayer. Accompany that prayer and weave it in with worship - it makes the time fly, and the prayers flow. (You already know that!!)

~sigh~ Again. Ask someone else. *giggle* You almost never find me saying to someone, "Leave your church." To me, that's like saying, "Leave your family because it ain't perfect."

Baxter's Boy said...

Whereas I, Jul, would come at it from the other end of the telescope (I'm not sure I get that illustration Sheila! Is it American?! ;) ). I do totally agree that there is a phase for giving it all you've got. But I do think there's a time when God says "You have been round this mountain long enough".

We mustn't make the mistake of thinking that God's purpose is to stay put in the local church you are in until He returns again - this is even more definite if you aren't being used in the ministry that He has for you - and you "know" deep in your spirit that He is tugging and pulling you on.

Jul, you are a mature, wise and somewhat prophetic Christian. You won't have reached this step lightly I know that.

I remember Terry Virgo was preaching at Stoneleigh Bible Week 2001 and he was using the analogy of the eagle from Deuteronomy. He was asking questions about the mother eagle and when she stirs up the nest. One point he makes was that she stirs up the nest "WHEN SHE KNOWS IT WOULD BE DANGEROUS TO STAY ANY LONGER".

I have come to believe that God was tugging at my heart to get out of the SGM church long before I did, and I stayed through fear of man. Well in my case fear of mum ;). So He had to allow what happened, to happen. In other words the mother eagle booted me out of the nest and I fell.

Yes God is for the local church!! It is His Plan A! And always will be. But let's not forget that He is in the business of sending to the nations. Your heart is for the local church and always will be I believe. So my prayer is that you find that "interim" church that will feed you and build you until God says "Now".

So much prayers and love.

Baxter's Boy said...

By the way - in answer to the question about "revivalism", I do agree that is a danger. But speaking for Newfrontiers I must say how encouraged I am at their desire and passion to "go" to the nations.

Our call is to go and scatter the seeds. But that's all we can do. We can't guarantee success or fruit. Only He can do that through rain.

So we go - in prayer that He will come and bring rain upon the seeds we scatter.

Sheila said...

Dan, your thoughts to Jul are great! *This*, I believe, is what the Scripture means when it says, "In a *multitude* of counsel, make your plans." It is all well and good when a person seeks that multitude of counsel, and the Spirit of God causes all the various voices to agree. But in my experience, that is the exception to the rule. Often, God allows the counsel to conflict and oppose one another...and THAT is a "God thing". How? Why?

Well...because we need to hear (Jul needs to hear) all sides of the issue. When the multitude of carefully sought counsel does NOT come together in concert, it becomes our job to wrestle with the various perspectives. The beauty of it is that when we do come to a decision, we usually "own it". We've heard the Lord. We can look anyone in the eye and say, "This was not an easy decision, and I *did* consult Godly counsel, and I *did* consider alternatives. But this is what I now must do."

One last word of counsel (if I may be so bold)! Jul, once you and your husband have sought God and Godly counsel, and come to a decision together - do not look back. Don't second guess yourselves. God's Word says, "It is a snare for a man, after vows to make enquiry." Meaning: It is a snare (not a "SIN", but a "snare", which in some ways is a worse thing!) is a snare to make a committment to a course of action, and THEN question yourself. Don't commit yourself, and THEN second guess the whole thing.

The wise thing to do is to seek an abundance of solid counsel - be GLAD when that counsel sometimes conflicts (to be glad is easier said than done, I know) - wrestle through until you come to the peace of God, and then DO IT, commit to the course of action where the peace of God lies, and do not look back. Ever. To "make enquiry" at that point is indeed an immobilizing snare.

jul said...

Thanks Sheila and Dan for your wisdom and encouragement. I think that what God is doing is making it so clear to us that he is calling us to leave that we won't look back. I was actually telling a friend that yesterday. I'm thankful that no matter what happens in the future I will not be tempted to question this decision because we are so convinced that we are hearing God. But therein lies this awkward time for us. We have known for some time now that we are leaving for the place and church our heart has loved and longed for all the years we've been down here. I'm not saying I haven't loved this church, but there was always a sense that it wasn't 'home'. We have met with pastors and worked through all of this and have their blessing. In fact, most people are excited for us (once they hear the whole story) because all we have talked about since they have known us is Canada Canada Canada. So the decision to leave is very final at this point, the only question is when. I can see some benefit to staying til the end of our time here, and some to leaving. In fact, every new struggle I have here brings up another whole issue to think about in regards to what I believe the church should be and how it should be built. Most recently I'm pondering the concept of our individual private relationship with God and our corporate relationship with God, wondering if we don't overemphasize the private (putting our eggs all in one basket so to speak) with the view that what church we're involved in doesn't matter so much because "the church (and pastors) aren't responsible for our spiritual lives". My husband has said this many times, as well as my Dad, ironically both have been pastors and felt extremely responsible for the spiritual lives of the people in their church. Go figure. I'm wondering if Scripturally there isn't more of an emphasis on our corporate relationship with God sometimes. Obviously we must have both, but is one more important that the other? I was talking with my friend about this too, but she couldn't help me much because sadly she has never really experienced being in the manifest presence of God in a large group and seeing the fruit of true fellowship it produces. She relies almost solely on her own personal experience alone with God or with her husband. I know from my own experience it'v very difficult to maintain a vital relationship with God in the midst of dead or legalistic churches. There must be some very important connection between the life of the local church and the life of the individual believer right? I would rather believe that God will provide good churches for those that ask than that he will magically preserve those in bad ones. And by good, I only mean basically trying to build the church according to Scripture and humbly seeking the face of God. Not looking for perfect, but Biblical as much as is possible. If God has called us to the church and has told us what church is, then we should believe that he'll provide what he's called us to commit to. I'm just not for settling, though, Sheila, I understand your passion for committment to the church. When we became members here, I felt it was almost like a marriage committment, for better or for worse. And I think it's right to view church membership that way. But you can't settle when God is so clearly leading you further on and you shouldn't. I'm sure this will be a difficult thing in ministry as we watch some of the people we grow to love so much be called to different places and churches. But it's also exciting! It means God is doing things bigger than we understand, and it's knowing that that makes me want to keep going when my life seems so mundane and small. Thanks for listening to all my ramblings. It helps me to see what's going in my thinking so I can separate the good from the bad.

Baxter's Boy said...

Yes that is excellent advice and counsel. Once you've made the decision don't look back. I think that there is a lot in the Bible on not looking back - look at Lot's wife for example!

What are the dangers in looking back? Well the children of Israel did it - surely that's the ultimate example. They forgot the slavery and the cruelty and the mass genocide of babies and just remembered the cucumbers! The mind can paint such things in a rosy picture.

I feel the same way re: Bristol. When the time comes to go, safety in what we know can be a powerful thing. Even though I know Bristol isn't the place for me (and maybe never was) - it can still become a place of security because the other option is the unknown!

Yet again throughout the Bible that's what God calls people to. The unknown! But it's okay - because He is walking ahead in a cloud and a pillar of fire. The scary thing is that if He is setting off where He's told you to go - what happens if you disobey and stay behind? Because He has gone!