"And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you." John 14:16-17
"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service." Romans 12:1
Because there exists in these days a great desire in the heart for, and a confusion in the mind concerning, the Spirit-filled life, or the path of consecration, it may help to clear this matter if I tell you of my own experience with the Lord, the Spirit.
It was my privilege to be raised among a group of believers who were quite orthodox in their teaching, and quite earnest in studying the Word. It was among these that I first trusted the Lord Jesus in December 1896. He saved me and changed my life. Immediately the Word of God became my constant companion. I loved it, studied it, preached it, and gave away tracts in large quantities. No apparent success followed my labours and much energy produced little fruit. This failure disturbed me greatly, but I assured myself, and was assured by others, that we were not to look for results, but only to be busy at seed sowing.
In 1913 the Lord sent to my home a godly man who had been serving the Lord in France. He said to me, "What is the Holy Spirit to you?"
I replied, "He is one of the Persons of the Godhead."
"Yes," he said, "that is who He is, but I asked you what is He to you?"
I answered this question by saying, "He is a Teacher, a Guide; He is the third Person of the Trinity."
My friend corrected me, saying, "He is the first two, but He is not the last that you mentioned. To call Him the third Person is to give Him a place of insignificance and inferiority which He should not have. He is just as great, just as precious, just as needful as the other two Persons of the Trinity. But still you have not answered my question, 'What is He to you?'"
I now saw the point Mr. Levermore was trying to make with me, and answered truthfully, "He is nothing to me. I have no contact with Him, no personal relationship, and could get along quite well without Him."
This fact and truth surprised my own heart. I knew it was true and yet dreaded the fact that it was true. My friend at once remarked, "It is because of this that your life is so fruitless even though your efforts are so great. If you will seek to personally know the Holy Spirit, He will transform your life. Read John 14:16and 17, and see whether you do really know Him, the Spirit, and if you find you do not, then come to Him immediately in faith and make Him the Lord of your life."
I was afraid to do as this brother suggested because for years I had been taught by those who ministered the Word in my circles that the believer can have nothing personally to do with the Spirit. God worked by, and with, His Spirit, but we should have no contact with Him whatever. I was told from the platform that if anyone yielded himself to the Spirit, that one was a heretic to be avoided. Because of the years of this training, three obstacles loomed large before me to prevent me from taking the Holy Spirit for myself. The first was my fear of becoming a religious fanatic; the second was a fear of giving Christ an inferior place and thus hurting His heart. (I did not know that there was no jealously in the Godhead); the third was that I should be giving to the Holy Spirit a position and place that should be occupied only by Christ.
These doubts and questions I made known to my Christian teacher. He was a wise man of God, and revealed to me from the Scriptures that only by the Spirit would Christ be made know to me and the beauties of Christ be revealed to my heart. He assured me that if the Spirit had all His own way in my soul He would do freely what He came to do—reveal the Scriptures, exalt the Saviour, magnify the Father, give power in service and victory in the battle with Satan. This encouraged me to study those passages which told of the privilege of the believer in receiving the Holy Spirit.
The preacher left the city before I had made a decision in my soul. Shortly thereafter that blessed man of God, the late Dr. James Gray, came to our city, and one evening expounded Romans 12:1. Leaning over the pulpit, he said,"Have you noticed that this verse does not tell us to whom we should give our bodies? It is not the Lord Jesus who asks for it. He has His own body. It is not the Father who asks for it—He remains upon His throne. Another has come to earth without a body. God could have made a body for Him as He did for Jesus, but He did not do so. God gives you the privilege and the indescribable honour of presenting your bodies to the Holy Spirit, to be His dwelling place on earth. If you have been washed in the blood of the Lamb, then yours is a holy body, washed whiter than snow, and will be accepted by the Spirit when you give it. Will you do so now?"
Mr Baker was sitting beside me at this service and he was in deep meditation, as I was. We said little as we went home together, for he was living with me. He went at once to his room, while I went to my study. There I lay upon the carpet, prostrate in God's presence, heart-broken over a fruitless life, yet filled with a great hope because of the words I had heard from a teacher in whom I had all confidence.
There in the quiet of that late hour, I said to the Holy Spirit, "My Lord, I have mistreated You all my Christian life. I have treated You like a servant. When I wanted You, I called for You. When I was about to engage in some work I beckoned You to come and help me perform my task. I have kept You in the pace of a servant. I have sought to use You only as a willing servant to help me in my self-appointed and chosen work. I shall do so no more. Just now I give You this body of mine; from my head to my feet, I give it to You. I give You my hands, my limbs, my eyes and lips, my brain. All that I am within and without I hand over to You for You to live in it the life that You please. You may send this body to Africa, or lay it on a bed with cancer. You may blind the eyes, or send me with Your message to Tibet. You may take this body to the Eskimos, or sent it to a hospital with pneumonia. It is Your body from this moment on. Help Yourself to it. Thank You, my Lord; I believe You have accepted it for in Romans 12:1, You said 'acceptable unto God.' Thank You again, my Lord, for taking me. We now belong to each other."
During the night I had seen the light burning in the room of my father-in-law, so in the morning when he came to breakfast I said, "It is too bad you were ill during the night, father. Why did not call me?" He replied, "I was not sick last night, but all night long I sought to get to the Lord and to give my body to the Holy Spirit. I was unable to do so because business kept intruding. Tents, camp furniture, flags, advertising, factory problems—all pressed upon my mind and demanded my attention. It was four-thirty this morning before I could really get to the Lord. Then I did give this body to the Holy Spirit and accepted Him as the Lord of my service. At five o'clock I retired. You go down, Walter, and open the mail and get the work started, for I am going to a luggage shop to buy a traveling bag. Since I have given my body to the Spirit and He has accepted it, I know He will have work for me to do, and I want to be ready to go."
At the luggage shop, Mr. Baker was waited on by a young lady. As he told her of his need, she said, "Are you the Mr. Baker of the awning shop?" " Yes," he replied. Immediately her face flushed and she was choked with emotions. She told how just a few weeks before her mother had died, and on her deathbed had requested the daughter to find Mr. Baker and ask him to lead her to the Lord Jesus, as she herself had been led by this same friend some years before. Thus, before he arrived at the office, the Holy Spirit had proved His acceptance of that servant by giving him this soul the first thing in the morning.
As I left home that morning, I said to my wife, "Lover, this is to be a wonderful day with me, for I gave my body to the Holy Spirit last evening. I have quit asking Him to help me do things and shall today see Him as Lord of my life, doing things through me. I will call you up and let you know what happens."
About ten o'clock two young ladies entered my office, selling advertising. They had often called for that purpose before and I had given them some large contracts. Never had I spoken to them about the Lord Jesus. My lips had been my own and I used them for business purposes. Now, however, these lips had been given away, and the Holy Spirit made use of them at once. "Are you girls bad enough to be lost?" I said. The older one answered immediately that she was and had been sitting up the previous night until two in the morning reading her Bible and seeking the Lord. It was only a short way to Calvary for this girl. She soon met the Saviour and found peace in her soul. The younger sister was not so easily led. She said, "You must think I am a very bad girl," upon which I handed her my Bible, open at Romans 3, and requested her to read the chapter, verses 9 to 19, and see what God said about her. She denied that this passage referred to her at all and would not accept it. I handed her my scissors and requested that she cut it out of the Book in order that I might not have an untrue statement in my Bible. This she refused to do, saying that her mother had taught her that all the Bible was true. This part, she said, referred to someone else, but not to her. From this passage I turned her to Mark, chapter 7, and had her read verses 20 to 23. In this portion she admitted that the last two items did refer to her, but certainly the other items were not true in her life. We next turned to Matthew 13 and read the story of the wheat and the tares. As we read the explanation, verses 37 to 43, the tears fell from her eyes as she acknowledged that she was like the tares. She was quite like a Christian, but knew in her heart that she did not have the life of Christ. Having thus admitted that she was a hypocrite and lost, she too, like her sister, trusted in Christ Jesus.
The gracious Spirit of God, having obtained the mastery and control of these lips and eyes and brain, began at once to use them. These two precious souls were the first fruits of this "life more abundant." After the two sisters had gone I called up on the telephone to tell my companion of the great honor given me and the blessed assurance granted that the Holy Spirit had accepted my body for His own purposes.
Since that eventful time, He has proved in a multitude of ways His authority and His power, His wisdom and His knowledge in bringing about many such miracles, showing Himself to be indeed the Leader of the life, the Lord of the harvest. I entreat each of you to go directly to the Holy Spirit Himself, give Him your body,and then look to Him constantly to do what He wants with that body for the glory and the honor of our Lord Jesus Christ.
A message given at the Canadian Keswick Conference, reprinted in "The Evangelical Christian," October 1936 issue, and also in the tract "The Secret of Soul Winning" by Walter L. Wilson.