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The Secret of Success in the Christian Life
By D. L. Moody
Moody PressCopyright © 2001 Moody Bible Institute
All rights reserved.
SECRET POWER: ITS SOURCE
SOMEONE UNKNOWN ONCE SAID, "Without the soul, divinely quickened and inspired, the observances of the grandest ritualism are as worthless as the motions of a galvanized corpse." I quote this sentence as it leads me at once to the subject under consideration. What is this quickening and inspiration? What is this power needed for success in the Christian life? From whence its source?
I reply: "The Holy Spirit of God." This is the "secret" power. I am a full believer in The Apostles' Creed, and therefore say, "I believe in the Holy Ghost."
A writer has pointedly asked: "What are our souls without His grace? As dead as the branch in which the sap does not circulate. What is the church without Him? As parched and barren as the fields without the dew and rain of heaven."
There has been much inquiry of late on the subject of the Holy Spirit. In this and other lands, thousands of persons have been giving attention to the study of this grand theme. I hope it will lead us all to pray for a greater manifestation of His power upon the whole church of God. How much we have dishonored Him in the past! How ignorant of His grace and love and presence we have been! True, we have heard of Him and read of Him, but we have had little intelligent knowledge of His attributes, His offices, and His relations to us. I fear He has not been to many professed Christians an actual existence, nor is He known to them as a personality of the Godhead.
The first work of the Spirit is to give life—spiritual life. He gives it and He sustains it. If there is no life, there can be no power; Solomon says: "A living dog is better than a dead lion" (Ecclesiastes 9:4). When the Spirit imparts this life, He does not leave us to droop and die, but constantly fans the flame. He is ever with us. Surely we ought not to be ignorant of His power and His work.
IDENTITY AND PERSONALITY
In 1 John 5:7, we read: "There are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one." By the Father is meant the first Person; Christ, the Word, is the second; and the Holy Spirit, perfectly fulfilling His own office and work in union with the Father and the Son, is the third. I find clearly presented in my Bible that the one God who demands my love, service, and worship has there revealed Himself, and that each of those three names of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit has personality attached to it.
Therefore we find some things ascribed to God as Father, some to God as Savior, and some to God as Comforter and Teacher. It has been remarked that the Father plans, the Son executes, and the Holy Spirit applies. But I also believe they plan and work together.
The distinction of persons is often noted in Scripture. In Matthew 3:16–17, we find Jesus submitting to baptism, the Spirit descending upon Him, while the Father's voice of approval is heard, saying: "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." Again, in John 14:16, we read: "I [that is, Jesus] will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper." Also in Ephesians 2:18, "Through Him [that is, Christ Jesus] we both [Jews and Gentiles] have access by one Spirit to the Father." Thus we are taught the distinction of persons in the Godhead and their inseparable union. From these and other Scriptures also, we learn the identity and actual existence of the Holy Spirit.
If you ask do I understand what is thus revealed in Scripture, I say no. But my faith bows down before the inspired Word and I unhesitatingly believe the great things of God when even reason is blinded and the intellect confused.
PRESENCE AND POWER
In addition to the teaching of God's Word, the Holy Spirit in His gracious work in the soul declares His own presence. Through His agency we are "born again," and through His indwelling we possess superhuman power. Science, falsely so-called, when arrayed against the existence and presence of the Spirit of God with His people, only exposes its own folly to the contempt of those who have become new creatures in Christ Jesus. The Holy Spirit who inspired prophets and qualified apostles continues to animate, guide, and comfort all true believers. To the actual Christian, the personality of the Holy Spirit is more real than any theory science has to offer, for so-called science is but calculation based on human observation, and is constantly changing its inferences. But the existence of the Holy Spirit is to the child of God a matter of Scripture revelation and of actual experience.
Some skeptics assert that there is no other vital energy in the world but physical force, while contrary to their assertions thousands and tens of thousands, who cannot possibly be deceived, have been brought into spiritual life by a power neither spiritual nor mental. Men who were dead in sins—drunkards who lost their will, blasphemers who lost their purity, libertines sunk in beastliness, infidels who published their shame to the world—have in numberless instances become the subjects of the Spirit's power, and are now walking in the true nobility of Christian manhood, separated by an infinite distance from their former life.
Let others reject, if they will, at their own peril, this imperishable truth. I believe that divine, miraculous creative power resides in the Holy Spirit. Above and beyond all natural law, yet in harmony with it, creation, providence, the divine government, and the upbuilding of the church of God are presided over by the Spirit of God. His ministration is the ministration of life more glorious than the ministration of law (2 Corinthians 3:6–10). And like the eternal Son, the eternal Spirit, having life in Himself, is working out all things after the counsel of His own will and for the everlasting glory of the triune Godhead.
The Holy Spirit has all the qualities belonging to a person: the power to understand, to will, to do, to call, to feel, and to love. This cannot be said of a mere influence. He possesses attributes and qualities that can be ascribed only to a person, as acts and deeds are performed by Him that cannot be performed by a machine, an influence, or a result.
AGENT AND INSTRUMENT
The Holy Spirit is closely identified with the words of the Lord Jesus. "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life" (John 6:63). The Gospel proclamation cannot be divorced from the Holy Spirit. Unless He attend the Word in power, vain will be the attempt in preaching it. Human eloquence or persuasiveness of speech are the mere trappings of the dead, if the living Spirit be absent. The prophet may preach to the bones in the valley, but it must be the breath from heaven that will cause the slain to live.
In 1 Peter 3 it reads, "For Christ also suffered once for all sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit" (v. 18). Here we see that Christ was raised up from the grave by this same Spirit, and the power exercised to raise Christ's dead body must raise our dead souls and quicken them. No other power on earth can quicken a dead soul, but the same power that raised the body of Jesus Christ out of Joseph's sepulchre.
If we want that power to quicken our friends who are dead in sin, we must look to God the Spirit, and not be looking to man to do it. If we look alone to ministers, if we look alone to Christ's disciples to do this work, we shall be disappointed; but if we look to the Spirit of God and expect it to come from Him and Him alone, then we shall honor the Spirit, and the Spirit will do His work.
THE SECRET OF EFFICIENCY
I cannot help but believe there are many Christians who want to be more efficient in the Lord's service, and the object of this book is to take up this subject of the Holy Spirit, that they may see from whom to expect this power.
In the teaching of Christ, in His last words recorded in Matthew, we find that the Son and the Holy Spirit are equal with the Father. "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." Here the Son and the Holy Spirit are one with Him: "baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit" (28:19).
Christ was now handing His commission over to His apostles. He was going to leave them. His work on earth was finished, and He was now just about ready to take His seat at the right hand of God, and He spoke unto them and said: "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth" (28:18). All authority; so then, He had full authority. If Christ was mere man, as some people try to make out, it would have been blasphemy for Him to have commanded the disciples to go and baptize all nations in the name of the Father, and in His own name, and that of the Holy Spirit, making Himself equal with the Father.
There are three things: All authority has been given to Me; go, teach all nations. Teach them what? To observe all things. There are a great many people now that are willing to observe what they like about Christ, but the things that they don't like they just dismiss and turn away from. But His commission to His disciples was, "Go ... teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you." And what right has a messenger who has been sent of God to change the message? If I had sent a servant to deliver a message, and the servant thought the message didn't sound exactly right—a little harsh—and that servant went and changed the message, I should change servants very quickly; he could not serve me any longer. And when a minister or a messenger of Christ begins to change the message because he thinks it is not exactly what it ought to be, and thinks he is wiser than God, God just dismisses that man. They haven't taught "all things." They have left out some of the things that Christ has commanded us to teach, because they didn't correspond with man's reason.
We have to take the Word of God just as it is; and if we are going to take it, we have no authority to take out just what we like, what we think is appropriate, and let dark reason be our guide. It is the work of the Spirit to impress the heart and seal the preached Word. His office is to take of the things of Christ and reveal them to us.
Some people have the idea that this is the only dispensation of the Holy Spirit, that He didn't work until Christ was glorified. But Simeon felt the Holy Spirit when he went into the temple. In 2 Peter 1:21, we read: "Holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit." We find the same Spirit in Genesis as is seen in Revelation. The same Spirit who guided the hand that wrote Exodus inspired also the Epistles, and we find the same Spirit speaking from one end of the Bible to the other. So holy men in all ages have spoken as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.
I was a Christian a long time before I found out that the Holy Spirit was a person. Now this is something a great many don't seem to understand, but if you will just take up the Bible and see what Christ had to say about the Holy Spirit, you will find that He always spoke of Him as a person—never spoke of Him as an influence. Some people have the idea that the Holy Spirit is an attribute of God, just like mercy—just an influence coming from God. But we find in John 14:16 these words: "And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever" (italics added). And in the next verse Jesus described that Helper: "the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you." Again, in verse 26: "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you."
Observe the pronouns "He" and "Him." Whenever Christ spoke of the Holy Spirit, He spoke of Him as a person, not a mere influence. If we want to honor the Holy Spirit, let us bear in mind that He is one of the Trinity, a personality in the Godhead.
THE RESERVOIR OF LOVE
We read that the fruit of the Spirit is love. God is love, Christ is love, and we should not be surprised to read about the love of the Spirit. What a blessed attribute is this. May I call it the dome of the temple of the graces? Better still, it is the crown of crowns worn by the Triune God. Human love is a natural emotion that flows forth towards the object of our affections. But divine love is as high above human love as the heaven is above the earth.
The natural man is of the earth, earthy, and however pure his love may be, it is weak and imperfect at best. But the love of God is perfect and entire, wanting nothing. It is as a mighty ocean in its greatness, dwelling with and flowing from the eternal Spirit.
In Romans 5:5, we read: "Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us." Now if we are coworkers with God, there is one thing we must possess, and that is love. A man may be a very successful lawyer and have no love for his clients, and yet get on very well. A man may be a very successful physician and have no love for his patients, and yet be a very good physician. A man may be a very successful merchant and have no love for his customers, and yet he may do a good business and succeed. But no man can be a coworker with God without love. If our service is mere profession on our part, the quicker we renounce it the better. If a man takes up God's work as he would take up any profession, the sooner he gets out of it the better.
We cannot work for God without love. It is the only tree that can produce fruit on this sin-cursed earth, that is acceptable to God. If I have no love for God nor for my fellow man, then I cannot work acceptably. I am like sounding brass and a clanging cymbal. We are told that "the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit." Now, if we have had that love shed abroad in our hearts, we are ready for God's service; if we have not, we are not ready. It is so easy to reach a man when you love him; all barriers are broken down and swept away.
Paul, when writing to Titus (2:2), told him to be sound in faith, in love, and in patience. Now in this age, ever since I can remember, the church has been very jealous about men being unsound in the faith. If a man becomes unsound in the faith, those in the church draw their ecclesiastical sword and cut at him; but he may be ever so unsound in love, and they don't say anything. He may be ever so defective in patience; he may be irritable and fretful all the time, but they never deal with him. Now the Bible teaches us that we are not only to be sound in the faith, but in love and patience. I believe God cannot use many of His servants because they are full of irritability and impatience; they are fretting all the time, from morning until night. God cannot use them; their mouths are sealed; they cannot speak for Jesus Christ, and if they have not love, they cannot work for God.
I do not mean love for those that love me; it does not take grace to do that; the rudest pagan in the world can do that; the greatest heathen who ever lived can do that; the vilest man who ever walked the earth can do that. It doesn't take any grace at all. I did that before I ever became a Christian.
Love begets love; hatred begets hatred. If I know that a man loves me first, I know my love will be going out toward him. Suppose a man comes to me, saying, "Mr. Moody, a certain man told me today that he thought you were the meanest man living." Well, if I didn't have a good deal of the grace of God in my heart, then I know that hard feelings would spring up in my heart against that man, and it would not be long before I would be talking against him. Hatred begets hatred. But suppose a man comes to me and says, "Mr. Moody, do you know that such a man that I met today says that he thinks a great deal of you?" Though I may never have heard of him, there would be love springing up in my heart.
Love begets love; we know that; but it takes the grace of God to love the man who lies about me, the man who is trying to tear down my character. You may hate the sin he has committed; there is a difference between the sin and the sinner. You may hate the one with a perfect hatred, but you must love the sinner. You cannot otherwise do him any good.
Now you know the first impulse of a young convert is to love. Do you remember the day you were converted? Was not your heart full of sweet peace and love?
THE RIGHT OVERFLOW
I remember the morning I came out of my room after I had first trusted Christ, and I thought the old sun shone a good deal brighter than it ever had before; I thought that the sun was just smiling upon me, and I walked out upon Boston Common, and I heard the birds in the trees, and I thought that they were all singing a song for me. Do you know I fell in love with the birds? I never cared for them before; it seemed to me that I was in love with all creation. I had not a bitter feeling against any man, and I was ready to take all men to my heart. If a man has not the love of God poured out in his heart, he has never been regenerated. If you hear a person get up in prayer meeting, and he begins to speak and find fault with everybody, you may know that his is not a genuine conversion; that it is counterfeit. It has not the right ring, because the impulse of a converted soul is to love, and not to be getting up and complaining of everyone else, and finding fault.
Excerpted from The Secret of Success in the Christian Life by D. L. Moody. Copyright © 2001 Moody Bible Institute. Excerpted by permission of Moody Press.
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