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Despite a great revival in Samaria, Philip was not responsible for the follow-up labor of strengthening. He must leave immediately for the desert in order that a “heathen” eunuch might be saved. Ananias had not heard of Saul’s conversion, but he could not refuse to go to pray for Saul when sent, though by standards of human judgment he was casting his life away by walking directly into the persecutor’s hand. Peter could not resist what the Holy Spirit had set forth, even though Jewish tradition forbade Jews from visiting anyone of another nation and associating with him. Paul and Barnabas were sent by the Holy Spirit; yet He retained the authority to forbid them from entering Asia; subsequently, though, He did lead Paul to Asia and established the church at Ephesus. All acts are in the hands of the Spirit; believers simply obey. Had it been left to human thoughts and wishes, many places which ought to be visited would not have been, and many others would have been visited which ought not to be. These experiences from Acts inescapably tell us that we too must follow the guidance of God’s Spirit in our intuition and not follow our thoughts, reasons or wishes. They also indicate that He does not guide us by our counsels, desires or judgments because these often contradict the guidance of the Holy Spirit in our spirits. How then dare we follow our mind, emotion or will if even the Apostles did not move on that basis?
All works which God calls us to accomplish are revealed in the intuition of the spirit.∗ We shall deviate from God’s will if we follow the thought of our mind, the feeling of our emotion or the desire of our will. Only what is born of the Spirit is spirit; nothing else is. In all their labors Christians must wait on God until they receive revelation in their intuition; otherwise the flesh will assert itself. God will undeniably grant us the spiritual strength for the task He calls us to execute. Here, then, is an excellent principle to remember: never extend beyond the strength of our spirit. If we undertake more than what we there have, we will draw invariably upon. our natural strength for help. This shall be the beginning of vexation. Overstretching in work hinders us from walking according to the spirit and disables us from achieving true spiritual accomplishment.
How people today have seized upon reason, thought, idea, feeling, wish and desire as the governing factors in work! These emanate from the soul and contain not an ounce of spiritual value. These can be good stewards but they most assuredly are not good masters. We shall be defeated if we follow them. Spiritual service must emerge from the spirit: nowhere else but here shall God reveal His will.
Workers must never permit soulical sensations to transcend spiritual relations while helping others. They should minister spiritual help in all purity; any soulical feeling can be harmful. This often is a danger and a snare to workers. Even our love, affection, concern, burden, interest and zeal must be entirely under the spirit’s guidance. Negligence in keeping this law causes untold moral and spiritual defeats. If we allow natural attraction and human admiration or the lack of these to govern our efforts we will surely fail in our work and our lives shall be ruined. To obtain genuine fruitfulness we frequently need to disregard fleshly relationships or, in the case of those dearest to us, at least relegate them to a subordinate place. Our thoughts and desires must be offered completely to the Lord.
We will undertake whatever we know intuitively through the guidance of the Holy Spirit; the flesh has no possibility of participating in God’s service. The measure of our spiritual usefulness depends upon how penetratingly the cross has cut into our flesh. Do not look at apparent success; rather, look at how much is done by God’s crucified ones. Nothing can cover the flesh, not even good intention, zeal, or labor and though they be in the name of the Lord Jesus and for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. God Himself will work; He brooks no interference from the flesh. We should realize that in the matter of serving God there is even the possibility of offering “unholy fire,” that which is unspiritual. This arouses God’s wrath. Any fire which is not kindled by the Holy Spirit in our spirit is but unholy fire and is deemed sinful in God’s sight. Not all deeds done for God are His deeds. Doing for Him is not enough; the question is, who is doing the doing? God will not recognize any labor as His if it simply reflects the believer’s activity and is carried out in his strength. God’s recognized work must be done by God Himself through the spirit of the believer. Whatever comes from the flesh shall perish with the flesh; only what comes from God remains forever. Doing what is ordered by Him can never fail.
Spiritual work aims to give life to man’s spirit or to build up the life in the spirit. Our labor will be nil in worth or effectiveness if it is not directed towards the spirit lying in the very depths of man. What a sinner needs is life, not some sublime thought. A believer needs whatever can nourish his spiritual life, not mere Bible knowledge. If all we communicate are excellent sermonic divisions, wonderful parables, transcendent abstractions, clever words, or logical arguments, we are but supplying additional thoughts to people’s minds, arousing their emotions once again, or activating their will to make one more decision. With a moribund spirit do they come and with just as moribund a spirit do they depart despite our heavy labors on their behalf. A sinner needs to have his spirit resurrected, not to be able to argue better, shed profuse tears, or make a firmer resolve. Likewise a believer does not require outward edification, since his real lack is inward life more abundant—how he can grow spiritually. Should we focus our attention on the outward man and neglect the inward man, our work will be utterly vain and superficial. Such work equals no work at all, and perhaps it is even worse than no work, for a lot of precious time is undeniably wasted!
Man can be moved to tears, can confess his sins, can consider redemption reasonable, can profess his interest in religion, can sign a decision card, can read the Bible and pray, can even testify with joy; but still his spirit has not received God’s life and therefore remains as dead as before. Why? Because man’s soul is capable of performing all these things. To be sure, we do not despise these motions; nevertheless we recognize that except the spirit is quickened these pious acts are but rootless blades which will be totally withered beneath the scorching sun. When a spirit is born anew it may display these same manifestations in the outward soul: in the depth of its being, however, it receives a new life which enables the person to know God and to know Jesus Christ Whom God has sent. No work possesses any spiritual effectiveness save that which quickens the spirit into an intuitive knowledge of God.