Moved By the Spirit
December 6th, 1981 @ 10:50 AM
MOVED BY THE SPIRIT
Dr. W. A. Criswell
12-6-81 10:50 a.m.
It is a joy for us in the First Baptist Church of Dallas to welcome the uncounted multitudes of you who are sharing this hour with us on radio and on television. This is the pastor of the church. We have been preaching and shall for years yet to come in a long series on the “Great Doctrines of the Bible.” I have divided them into fifteen sections. And the section in which we are now involved is pneumatology, the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. There is one more sermon which will be delivered after the Christmas holidays entitled The Gifts of the Spirit. Then we begin in the section on soteriology; the doctrine of salvation; how the blood of Christ, the grace of our Lord saves us. But today, the sermon on pneumatology, on the Holy Spirit, it is entitled The Moving of the Spirit; the presence of the Spirit in our midst. In the thirteenth chapter of the Book of Judges and the last two verses, after an Angel appeared unto the wife of Manoah [Judges 13:3, 9], then the Scripture says:
And the woman bare a son, and called his name Samson:
and the child grew, and the Lord blessed him.
And the Spirit of the Lord began to move him at times in the camp of Dan.
“And the Spirit of the Lord,” the Holy Spirit of God, “began to move him at times in the camp of Dan” [Judges 13:25]. This verse characterizes the whole dispensation, the whole Old Testament covenant days. The Spirit of God fell upon, moved upon, a certain person there; or one yonder, or one here. Like the striking fire of lightning, we could not know where, or when, or how. So the Holy Spirit came upon a Samson [Judges 14:6], or a Samuel, or a Saul [1 Samuel 10:10], or an Isaiah [Isaiah 61:1], intermittently, at chosen, elective times in the providence of God.
But Joel, in his tremendously meaningful prophecy in Joel 2:28-29, prophesied of a more glorious day yet to come, “It shall come to pass that I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy.” Now to us, that means “foretell”; but the word has no connotation like that either in the Old Testament or the New Testament. Pro phemi means to glorify God, “to speak forth,” to lift up your voice in praise or witness to the Lord, to prophesy,” to praise God, “Your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions: and upon My servants and upon My handmaids in those days will I pour out of My Spirit” [Joel 2:28-29].
Then the great John the Baptist, in the third chapter of Matthew, announced the coming of that new oikonomia, that new dispensation, that new day of the age of grace. “There is One here now,” he says, “who will baptize you in the Holy Spirit, and in fire” [Matthew 3:11]. Then the Lord spoke of the coming of that outpouring of the Spirit in 14 [John 14:16-17, 26], 15 [John 15:26], and 16 [John 16:7-15] chapters of John. And He spoke of it again in the last chapter of the Book of Luke. He called it “the Promise of the Father” [Luke 24:49]. If He went away [John 16:7], He would come, “that He may abide with you for ever” [John 14:16], the outpouring of the Holy Spirit of God.
Then in Pentecost, the great second chapter of the Book of Acts, Simon Peter stands up with the eleven and the one hundred and twenty [Acts 1:15], and he says of that marvelous outpouring:
This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel;
It shall come to pass, saith God, I will pour out of My Spirit upon all flesh: your sons and your daughters shall prophesy—
shall praise God—
your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions:
And on My servants and on My handmaidens I will pour out in those days of My Spirit; and they shall prophesy.
This is the day and the dispensation in which our life and lot are cast. We live in this outpouring of the Holy Spirit of God. In the second chapter of the Book of Acts, not upon Simon Peter alone, but upon all one hundred twenty gathered there in the upper room: men and women filled with the Spirit of God [Acts 1:12-15].
In the fourth chapter of the Book of Acts, the Holy Spirit of God poured out upon the whole church [Acts 4:31]. In the sixth chapter of the Book of Acts, the Holy Spirit of God poured out upon those laymen who were set aside and ordained as deacons in the church [Acts 6:3-6]. In the eighth chapter of the Book of Acts, the Holy Spirit of God poured out upon the half-breed Samaritans [Acts 8:14-17]. In the tenth chapter of the Book of Acts, the Holy Spirit of God poured out upon the Gentiles in the household of Cornelius in Caesarea [Acts 10:44-47]. In the nineteenth chapter of the Book of Acts, the Holy Spirit of God poured out upon those in that heathen, pagan city of Ephesus [Acts 19:2-6]. The Spirit of God poured out upon all flesh [Acts 2:17]. And we shall follow that in its meaning to us who live in this day of the Spirit.
First, we speak of the pouring out of the Spirit of life in us. We are under commandment to be filled with the Spirit. Ephesians 5:18 has in it an imperative word, and present, continuous action: “Be ye continually filled with the Spirit.” God expects it of us; we are to be filled with the Spirit of the Lord. A carnal, worldly man is motivated by selfish and fleshly interest, but the child of God is motivated by the Spirit of the Lord poured out in his heart.
In the fifth chapter of the Book of Galatians, Paul says that “The flesh warreth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these two are contrary the one to the other” [Galatians 5:17]. We may have that battle, that civil war in our lives, but always, the child of God is to yield to the directive, and the power, and the leadership of the Holy Spirit; doing things he never thought he was able to do; attempting things he never thought he could achieve; saying things he never thought he could say; like an empty cup, lifted up unto God; filling, filling the life with the power of the Holy Spirit.
And all creation has a right to complain against Christians who are not filled with the Spirit. God has a right to complain against them. It is His will for us that we be moved by the Spirit. The preacher has a right to complain when his congregation is not made up of Spirit-filled men and women. And the congregation has a right to complain about a pastor who is not a Spirit-filled and godly man. It is Christ’s will for us, and we are under commandment to be filled with the Spirit [Ephesians 5:18].
Again, our life of ministry is dedicated unto God in the ta pneumatika, ta charismata, the grace gifts of the Spirit [1 Corinthians 12:1-11]. And they are many, and diversified, and multifaceted. The whole church is made strong, and witnessing in powerful degree, when each one of us dedicates his grace gift, his Spirit gift, to the Lord; and we are all different.
There is a way that a man can open a door that glorifies God. There is a way that an usher can show a stranger to a seat that will open his heart to Jesus. There are men who can preach; God has called them. There are men who are evangelists; God has given them the gift. There are men who can park cars to the glory of God. There are men who can cook and women who can serve to the glory of God. There are those who can teach, and conduct assemblies, and visitation programs, and decorate; and in a thousand marvelous ways does God endow our differing people with differing gifts, that the church might be glorious and full-orbed—dedicated, gifted ushers, cooks, car parkers, as well as the ministries of the preacher and the evangelist.
“Well preacher,” you say to me, “you have absolutely lost your equilibrium. You mean to tell me that these humbled ministries of cooking, and serving, and decorating, and car parking, and ushering are gifts of the Spirit like that of the preacher and the evangelist?” What you don’t know is that sometimes the beauty of the translation of this Elizabethan English, in the King James Version, hides away the rough, jagged word that God is trying to speak to us, and I will give you an example: “It will come to pass in that day… I will pour out upon all flesh My Spirit…and your young men shall see visions, and your old men,” your elders, your patriarchs, “shall dream dreams” [Acts 2:17]. These are these that we think as being the upper echelons of our religious community. But He didn’t stop there, and you didn’t see it; and the reason you didn’t see it is because of the beauty of its translation: “And on My servants and on My handmaidens I will pour out My Spirit” [Acts 2:18]. That’s beautiful. The only thing is, the word there is ho doulos, which is a male slave; and ha doule, which is a female slave; translated here, “My servants and My handmaidens.”
In the hierarchy, in the caste system in the civilization and culture of the Greco-Roman Empire, the slave was at the very bottom of the social status. The Christian church was at first made up largely of slaves. “And you mean that the Bible says that upon those humble slaves, those men and women who were chattel property, who were doing common, menial tasks, that upon them God was pouring out the fullness of His Spirit?” [Acts 2:18]. I don’t invent the message, I’m just an echo; I just read the Word and try to expound it to the hearts of the people.
That’s what God says: pour out His Spirit upon a Chrysostom—a golden mouth—the marvelous preacher; pour out the Spirit of God upon a monk, Martin Luther, who lead the Reformation; pour out the Spirit of God upon a John Wycliffe, who began this ministry of placing the Bible in the language of the people. That’s right, but pour out the Spirit of God in fullness upon the cook down there in our kitchen, and upon these who clean up these buildings, and upon these who do the humblest and most menial services for God in the house of the Lord. “Upon all flesh [Acts 2:17], even My slave-men and My slave-women, will I pour out My Spirit” [Acts 2:18]. All of us have a gift, all of us. Our gifts are not the same, and God made it that way that the church might be beautiful and glorified. There is a way that a man can do any thing; there is a way that a woman can do any thing, if he or she is full of the Spirit of God, that will glorify our Lord.
I read of two men who were walking down the streets of New York City. They were strangers. And this man was walking this way, and this one walking that way. And when they passed, this man spoke. He said, “Hello, how do you do?” which is a strange thing in New York City, in itself. And the other man replied, “And God bless you, sir.” After they had passed and gone just a few feet, this man who first spoke, “Hello,” ran up to that man who said, “God bless you, sir,” and he touched his arm and stopped him and said, “Sir, do you know God?” And the man replied, “Yes.” He said, “Can you show me the way to God? I so desperately need Him.” And they sat down there on the curb in a street in New York, and that godly man, who said, “God bless you, sir,” won him; opened the doors of heaven; won him to the Lord.
The reason that story stayed in my heart: as you know, the YMCA is right across the street, right there, and I go over there each day and exercise for a few minutes. There was a man who came to me, to whom I had just spoken. He was a stranger, and he began to pour out his heart to me; unburden his soul to me. While he was talking, and I asked him, “Do you know who I am?” He said, “No, I don’t know who you are, but there was just something in the tone of your voice when you just spoke to me, and there is just something about the look in your face, I felt that I could share my burden with you.” I said, “My brother, I am so grateful. I am the pastor of the church right across the street; and we will pray together.”
There is a way to do any humble ministry, and in it, glorify God. Our gifts greatly differ. They are in God’s sovereign choice, the Scriptures say that. We don’t ask for them. They are given to us in the omnipotent, elective purpose of the Lord. And your gift may be so humble, but in God’s sight it is as beautiful, and needed, and vital to the kingdom as any other gift. It may surprise us who is seated on the right hand and the left hand of God someday. It may be some humble servant of Jesus whose name we never heard of. That’s the Spirit in its outpouring upon all flesh [Acts 2:17].
Again, the Spirit of comfort: in the fourteenth [John 14:16-17, 26], fifteenth [John 15:26], and sixteenth chapters of John [John 16:7-15], our Lord speaks of Him who is to come, “the Promise of the Father” [Luke 24:49], and He calls Him paraklētos. Paraklētos: I do not know how many translations have tried to take that word, paraklētos, and to find an equal to it in the English language, but it never quite measures up. Paraklētos; para, “alongside”—kaleō, “to call,” the one called alongside. In the King James Version, paraklētos is translated; translated, “Comforter” [John 14:26]. In some translations they just spell it out: Paraclete. He is our exhorter, He is our fellow pilgrim, He is our encourager, He is our sympathizer, He is our understander, He is our helper, He is our comforter. And to have a friend like that, to be a fellow pilgrim with you through all the vicissitudes and fortunes of life, is the richest endowment that any one could ever posses.
I was talking to a father in the Second World War. His boy had been killed. He didn’t know where, he didn’t know when, he didn’t know how. It was just that he had lost his boy in the war, in the conflict. But his voice to me was filled with words of triumph and victory, “We know where our boy is, he is in heaven!” The reason I had thought of that is, tomorrow at 2:00, in the afternoon in this sanctuary, we shall have a memorial service for a sweet family in our church. And their wonderful son, a senior this year at Baylor University, was killed in a tragic car accident. But the father, talking to me last night, said, “Pastor, when the service of memorial is held, make it triumphant. Make it victorious, for our boy is in heaven.” This is the strength that is given to us by the Paraclete, the Spirit of comfort, of promise, and encouragement.
And last of all, the Spirit of salvation, of conversion: the Bible is very plain, and you know it. It is the Spirit of God who regenerates us. The Bible will even use the word; we are “born of the Spirit” [John 3:5-8]. As the first birth created us in the image of God [Genesis 1:27], the framing of our physical structure—God gave us these hands, and our eyes, and our feet, and our hearts, and our minds, and our souls—God also recreates us [John 3:3-5]. We become new creations by the Spirit [2 Corinthians 5:17]. We are regenerated by the Spirit of God [Titus 3:5].
And in those chapters, especially the sixteenth chapter of the Book of John, the Lord taught us that the Holy Spirit “will not speak of Himself; but He will take of Mine and show it to thee. “He shall glorify Me” [John 16:13-14]. The Spirit never calls attention to Himself. The Spirit always leads us to Jesus. He guides us like a paidagōgos, He guides us to the Lord Jesus [John 16:15]. And that wonderful work of the Spirit enables us to confess our Lord and thus to become new creatures in Him. “I want you to understand,” writes Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:3, “that no one speaking by the Spirit of God can call Jesus anathema.” The way it is written there is Anathema Iēsous, “cursed is Jesus.” “And no one can say Jesus is Lord,” written here Kurios Iēsous, “but by the Holy Spirit” [1 Corinthians 12:3]. No man can curse Jesus, Anathema Iēsous, by the Spirit of God. And in like manner, he says, no man can say Kurios Iēsous, “Jesus is Lord,” but by the Spirit of God [1 Corinthians 12:3].
You find that poignantly, in Greco-Roman history. For the first three centuries the church was persecuted, and all that it took for any man, or woman, or child, arrested for worshipping Jesus, was just to say Anathema Iēsous, “cursed be Jesus.” But by the Spirit of God, they couldn’t say it. Some of them were fed to the lions, some of them were thrown into boiling cauldrons of oil, and some of them were burned at the stake, and some of them were crucified; but by the Spirit of God, they were able to say, Kurios Iēsous, “Jesus is Lord” [1 Corinthians 12:3].
Now you say to me, “How could such a thing as that apply to Dallas and to America, where the saying, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ is flippantly said; casually presented, indifferently subscribed to? How does that apply to us?” Just the same, even though it doesn’t cost me now my life. We are converted, we are saved, by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit that leads us to see in Jesus our hope and our Savior [John 15:26]. Any time I am persuaded—or any academician, or any philosopher—any time any man is persuaded that he can remake himself, and reform himself, and recreate himself, and adopt himself into the family of God, he is a haughty, and lame, and feeble creature. It is in the power of the Holy Spirit that we come to know Jesus as our Savior [John 16:8].
I have said to you, dear people—I guess, a thousand times from this pulpit—I never feel so weak and helpless as when the smallest, littlest child is brought to me and the little fellow says, “I want to be saved, I want to be a Christian.” How do I convert the heart? How do I save the child? How can I recreate the soul? I cannot! All I can do is just point to Jesus and pray, it is the work of the Holy Spirit of God to lead us in faith to the Lord [John 16:8-11]. And without that leading, and convicting, and recreating of the Holy Spirit, we never see it. But oh, dear! How wonderfully does God do it when we open our hearts to the witness of the Spirit and we receive Jesus for all that He said He was and is able to do.
When Satan accuses us, Jesus is Lord and we are forgiven! When we are bewildered and don’t know the way, Jesus is Lord and we are enlightened. When we are suffering with burdens and heartaches unbearable, Jesus is Lord, and we have Someone to carry our sorrows with us. When we face duty, we say, “Jesus is Lord,” and we have strength for the assignment. It is a new day, it is a new way. It is a new creation [2 Corinthians 5:17], when the Holy Spirit brings us our Savior in all of His glory, and might, and power. No one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” but by the Holy Spirit [1 Corinthians 12:3]; and that gift is so aboundingly and freely poured out upon us [John 3:34].
I got to thinking about that. Every universal gift of God is just like that, freely poured out upon us. What price would you set on sunshine? God just pours it out upon us. What price would you place upon breath? To breathe, to live, God just gives it to us! What price would you assign to the vernal showers? God just rains them down like blessings upon us. Thus with the Spirit of appeal, and conversion, and strength, and comfort along the way, God just pours it out upon us, and all I need to do is to open my hands and God fills them; open my heart and God fills it; open my life, and I cannot bear up under the blessings He pours out upon us. O Lord, what a wonderful God! What a wonderful day, what a wonderful Savior! What a wonderful life. What a glorious promise, blessed, blessed Jesus. Now, may we stand together?
Our Lord in heaven, oh! that we could empty ourselves of ourselves and just open our hearts to Thee; less and less of self and more and more of Thee, until there is nothing of us and everything of Thee. Dear Lord, if we were to try to count the goodnesses of God that enrich our lives, it would be like counting the stars in the heavens or the sands on the seashore. How wonderful God is to us. And our Lord, thank Thee for the Holy Spirit that taught us in the way [1 John 2:27]; that opened our hearts to the saving grace of our blessed Jesus, and that brought us and borned us into the family of God [1 Corinthians 12:13]; wrote our names in the Lamb’s Book of Life [Revelation 20:12, 15, 21:27]; put a song in our hearts and praises on our lips. O God, this is a work of the Holy Spirit beyond which we cannot enter into; it’s too deep for us, it’s too wonderful. Just thank Thee, Lord, for saving our souls [Acts 4:12] and for giving us some kind of a gift [1 Peter 4:10]. Lord, whatever it is, for each one, may we use it beautifully, preciously for Thee.
In this moment nobody leave, but we all stay, and stand, and pray, and wait, and believe, and trust. A family you, coming into the fellowship of this dear church; come, and welcome. A one somebody you, to accept Jesus as Savior; a thousand times, God bless you. A couple you, joining hands, walking down that aisle together, welcome. As the Spirit shall make appeal to your heart, in this moment that we wait, answer with your life; down a stairway, down an aisle, “Here I come, pastor, this is God’s day for me, and I am here.” Just a while, just a moment, and then I will let you have opportunity to leave; I promise you that. Without any embarrassment, you will have opportunity to leave. Just stay now, and if you move, move toward the front, toward God, toward us, and God bless you as you answer. Come now.
And thank Thee, Lord, for the sweet harvest You give us; in Thy saving name, amen.
While we sing, come.