“Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further.” (Job 38:11)
Forget, if you will, any argument that is too difficult to comprehend (although later it may be easier to comprehend). Let’s look at it now from the standpoint of jurisdiction, for jurisdiction, I say, is what it is really all about.
The Holy Spirit has by decree limited himself to not “touching” a fallen angel (or demon, if you will) unless He has been given His proper rights to do so. Now you say, “The Holy Spirit can do anything He wants to do,” and quite right you are. However, this does not mean that he has not established a set of “binding rules” by which he has chosen to operate. And I say that if you read the New Testament, you will discover that these rules and principles are quite in effect.
For example, Jesus did not heal all people, but only those people who asked him for it. (Matthew 7:7, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”) And although Jesus would have wanted to see everyone delivered of their diseases and infirmities, and to have performed miracles and deliverances in every city where he visited, he neverless laid this charge against the city of Jerusalem: “You would not (cooperate by welcoming Me)!” (Luke 13:34) Thus, his willingness remained strong, and continues to remain strong today, but it is our own willingness that suffers.
Again, I bring you back to this injunction (mentioned yesterday), “Quench not the Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:19). This statement actually means that we have the power to “control” God who is living inside of us! It sounds so preposterous (on the human level), but then, again, it is a matter of jurisdiction: God has decreed that he will not force his will upon us; he will not enter into a region of your life — and that includes regions of your heart — where he is not welcomed. You say, “But nay, I have welcomed him in, and he is there completely!” But what then of this injunction to Christians — not non-Christians — that we are not to quench, or put out, the fire of the Holy Spirit?
If then the injunction is given not to quench him once we have come to put our faith in Christ, what then are we to say, for example, about the newborn babe who has just learned to walk by faith? (For he has certainly not learned to walk very far; he is still crawling, for he is a babe.) Does the babe have more, or less, of the Holy Spirit’s presence, if he is just learning to walk by faith? He has less, although he may feel that he has more. But in reality, he has less; that is, in terms of an abiding presence. The Holy Spirit has only begun to work in that person’s heart. There is much work to go — that is, in the outworking of it all (not positionally, as we have already discussed; that was taken care of at the cross, and at the moment of conversion).
So then the Christian who has just become one has not learned to walk very far; he is but a babe! The faith by which he walks is new faith — it is good faith, but it is nevertheless new, and inexperienced; he is but a babe, and the depths to which the Holy Spirit has travailed in his life are but small by comparison to the more experienced believer; that is, we should certainly hope so! The Holy Spirit now begins to work alongside that newborn infant to draw him closer to his side, so that he may begin to pursue him with an unending passion. The cycle has begun — a neverending cycle of wooing and drawing close, of pursuit and passion, on the Lord’s part and on the part of his follower. And this, really, is true Christianity. It is the drawing close of the church, who is the bride of Christ, with the bridegroom himself, Christ. “This is a great mystery,” Paul writes (Ephesians 5:32).
The babe then may welcome the advances of the Holy Spirit (for this is a work of the Holy Spirit and not of man) and ask him to come closer and closer — even to that place where no one has come before in his life, to that place of deep intimacy, and deep abiding with Christ. This takes vulnerability and honesty, ongoing confession and repentance, humility and a disregard for the approval of others who would scorn and laugh at him. The heart then must be steadfast and resolute at pursuing this relationship. The newborn babe, then, begins to grow, and grow, and grow, and, if he is of the type just mentioned, soon discovers that within him dwells no good thing (Romans 7:18), that is, in his flesh, and that God must become his “all and all” if he is to amount to anything at all in this life (John 15:5). Thus, the hunger continues evermore.
The newborn babe of this calibre the Lord seeks to be his follower (John 4:24). To him he will disclose many things, because he has ventured to forsake all in order to follow Christ; he has sought to be a true “follower” of Christ, not merely one who goes by the name “Christian”. “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.” (John 14:21) The issue, then, is one of juridiction: God will go as far as we will allow him to go in our lives, but no further. That other part is reserved for the flesh, and the devil. How far, then, are we allowing God to go in our lives? And what is the alternative to allowing him to have complete reign in our lives?