Marilynne E. Foster
The Scriptures exhort believers to "be filled with the Spirit" (Ephesians 5:18) and to live a holy life. In this brief testimony I would like to share with you some of my pilgrimage in that direction.
I grew up in a Christian and Missionary Alliance Church and heard preaching on the subject of being filled with the Holy Spirit ever since I can remember. The speakers often used terms like "the deeper life," "the higher life," "being crucified to self' and "Christ in me" - all of which sounded good, but seemed very spiritual, almost ethereal, and not too practical - something that might sometime happen to me if I was in the right place at the right time.
However, in 1971, God broke into my life in a dramatic way, and it has -I have - never been the same since. The key to the change, from a human perspective at least, was that I said one big "yes" to the Holy Spirit. I did not realize then the pain or the joy that that commitment would bring.
Sometimes we define the filling of the Holy Spirit as being a crisis and a process. Billy Graham once said, "No one has been filled with the Holy Spirit and doesn't know it." That sounds like a crisis to me! My "yes" to that commitment was a crisis of faith that led me first through what could be called two negative steps. What a painful process it was! The Scriptures say, "Do not give the devil a foothold" (Ephesians 4:27). Giving place to the devil is much easier to do than we think, and there is no doubt that he greedily takes the territory we give him.
I thank the Lord that I grew up in a Christian home and in the church. I gave my heart to Christ when I was nine years old. My life was lived for the Lord. I was not rebellious (at least not outwardly) and I was involved in ministry as long as I can remember. I was a "good" person. But I began to see that God was not so much impressed with what I did as with who I was. He was more interested in my "being" than my "doing." The real question was: Who was I inside? Who was I when I was alone before Him? It was a scary thought to realize that God didn't look at the outside but at the inside. What other people saw was good. I made sure of that! But what did God see when He looked at me?
I began to devour God's Word on a daily basis, like a desert after years of drought. I was making a commitment not only to read it but also to obey what I read.
I remember during those summer and fall months of 1971 as I washed the floor one day, praying, "Lord, I am continuing to say "yes" to You, but I don't have time to go on a spiritual retreat and get everything looked after. If You will bring things to my mind that have stained my heart, areas where I have given the devil a foothold in my life, I will confess them and make them right before You and, if necessary, before other people."
And so, He did. And I did. Every day it seemed there were new things. I was like an onion - when one layer was peeled off, lo and behold there was another layer. I sometimes wondered if it would ever end. But a "yes" was a "yes," and finally, one day there were no more layers. In fact, we had reached the core.
Ah yes, the core! This second step involved coming to grips with self - putting Christ on the throne of my life instead of me.
I don't know if you have ever faced up to your "self," but it's a painful process. You won't like what you see. When self was challenged, I found out that there was something very strong and very unyielding inside of .me that wanted its own way, that wanted to be in control, that wanted run the show. It did not yield very easily when told that it had to die.
Here's what finally made sense to my mind in this matter of being filled with the Spirit. I knew that the Scriptures said that when I became a Christian the Holy Spirit came in and took up residence. But how does one put that together with this matter of being filled with the Spirit?
About that time I heard a message on being broken. The preacher talked about the Israelites marching around the walls of Jericho and how the light couldn't shine out of their pitchers until they were broken.
He also talked about the alabaster box that Mary broke over Jesus' feet and how the aroma - the beautiful fragrance - couldn't fill the room until the box was broken. I knew that that was what I needed - I needed to be broken. The power of self needed to be broken so that the Holy Spirit could shine through, so that His fragrance could become the aroma of my life.
I don't know if you have ever been broken, but that too is a very painful experience. People often pray for revival, and I think to myself, "They wouldn't pray so easily for revival if they knew the pain it can cause.
Then, about four long months later, the pain was over. It was like the Lord said, "OK, now you can be My channel. The way is clear. The desert has been watered. And from now on you will be filled - the living waters will flow - as you keep the channel open to Me on the one end and to people on the other. You're not to be a lake, but a river."
The overwhelming sense was one of love. I remember the day we received word from Saskatoon where the Canadian revival had broken out. The word was, "We are wading knee-deep in love." I said, "Praise the Lord! I know what they're talking about!"
I also noticed that other fruits of the Spirit were being evidenced in my life. I remember going to a seminar where we were asked to give our impressions of the other participants. At least one person described me as "gentle." I felt like shouting, "Praise the Lord! If you had known me just a few months ago you wouldn't have said that! That's not me - that's God!"
Oh yes, there were spiritual gifts and there was power. But the power was not the "zap" kind of power - it was a power, a strength, a force coming from a pure life, filled with and walking in the Spirit.
The process goes on. Paul said, "I die every day" (I Corinthians 15 :31). Self always squirms when confronted. But the process isn't so painful anymore because the root has been cut. The commitment to walk in the Spirit, to keep short accounts - with God and with people - has been made. It is a path of love and joy and peace and power and all the things the Holy Spirit - not self-represents.
I concur with the sentiments expressed by another: "The cross must interfere in my life. I dare not allow it to be reduced to a pendant around my neck or fine artwork in the sanctuary of my church. . . . For each of us the circumstances will be different, but the bottom line is the same: death to self and life in Christ. Hallelujah for the cross!'1
1Lisa M. Rohrick, "The Daily Cross of Jesus Christ," in Voices on the Cross, compiled and edited by K. Neill Foster and Douglas B. Wicks (Camp Hill, Pennsylvania: Christian Publications, 2002), 85.