I travel a lot. When I start a trip my suitcase is full of nice, neat, clean, folded clothes. By the time I am at the end of my trip everything is dirty, and I just throw it all in the suitcase and lug it back home. Before I venture out on my next trip, I have to empty the suitcase or there is no room in there for the clean clothes. Our soul is like a suitcase. Too often people are seeking God for more – more of his peace, more of his presence, more of his love, more of his joy – but there is no room in the suitcase of their soul because it is already full. Until we empty the suitcase of the dirty clothes of our souls, there is no room for all of the freedom and fullness of Christ.
D.L. Moody once said, “I believe many a man is praying to God to fill him when he is already full with something else. Before we pray that God would fill us, I believe we ought to pray for Him to empty us. There must be an emptying before there can be a filling.”
Years ago as a pastor, I realized that a lot of our people had a good theology of the Holy Spirit, but they were short on experience. I decided to start Holy Spirit Weekends where we would teach people about the things of the Spirit, and then we would create a lab time where people could experience these things. We taught about hearing God’s voice, and then we gave the attendees an opportunity to listen to God for others. Many people heard God for the first time in their lives. We taught about how God heals the sick, and then we trained people to pray for the sick and people were healed. We taught about the fullness of the Spirit, and then we prayed for people to be filled. I began to notice that many times people were encountering the Holy Spirit, but there was no life change. I asked God “Why?” I sensed the Lord say to me, “I can come upon them, but I cannot expand within them because they are already full.” I started helping people empty themselves of the things in the suitcase of their soul, so they could be filled with the fullness of God.
There are certain inviolable principles of the soul, and if we violate them, there are consequences that keep us from the fullness of God. For example, often our suitcase is filled with secrets. Where there are secrets, there is shame. Shame is like Teflon to the soul; nothing sticks to Teflon. We know about the love of God, but we don’t experience the revelation of God’s love until we empty the suitcase of secrets and shame. Other times the suitcase is filled with bitterness. We cannot experience the fullness of God when we are filled with bitterness. We must bless those who curse us and forgive those who sin against us.
This not only has implication for the quality of our lives, but also for the effectiveness of our mission. First, we must be emptied in order to be filled with the Spirit. And we will never be effective on mission without the filling of the Spirit. The baptism of the Spirit is not primarily given so we can feel good; it is given so we can be effective on mission. Second, I think Soul Care is a gateway to evangelism in this generation. More people are going to come to Christ today because they know they are broken in need of a Healer, than because they know they are sinners in need of a Saviour. Churches that learn how to heal people’s souls in the power of the Spirit will have two results, they will go deeper in Jesus and further on mission!
This story is taken from the Fall 2018 Alliance Connection magazine. You can get a free copy of the Alliance Connection at Alliance churches across Canada or view the digital copy online. We hope you will be encouraged and inspired to go deeper in Jesus and as a result, further on mission.
Dr. Rob Reimer is a Professor at Alliance Theological Seminary in Nyack, New York. He is the author of Soul Care, River Dwellers, Deep Faith, and Pathways to the King.