I was sharing my testimony not long ago and thought afterwards that it is strange how God uses incidents or remarks that seem of little or any significance to further His good will for our lives.
In 1979 I was in a New Testament class. There was a bit of a battle going on between some of the evangelical students and the lecturer, Professor Ernest Best. At one point he dropped a comment, which I think was probably deliberately provocative: “The trouble with you evangelicals is you don’t actually read what the bible says!” Well, if it was intended to inflame things, it did!
Back at home that evening, I thought of the Professor’s remarks. I decided as best I could to read the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles as though I had never heard them before or heard anyone teaching on the material. The result of that was I became a Pentecostal at least in belief though not at that point by experience; but then it is not experience that is to be the guide to doctrine, but the Word of God. So thanks to Professor Best, I ended up believing that there was a Baptism in the Holy Spirit, distinct from conversion, though they could happen at the same time; believing too that the gifts of the Spirit are for now, not just then. The bible let me see that I had to let go of the many versions of “These things are for special times or special people” that I had heard over the years.
Come to think of it, I had always believed that these things are for all God’s people in every age since starting to read the bible after my conversion at a Scripture Union Camp. Scripture Union taught me to read the bible every day, which I tried to do. I saw the ministry of Jesus, read about Pentecost, saw the life of the early church but somehow picked up the impression that was for then and not for now. I didn’t really understand that, but I trusted the genuinely godly people that told me so.
However, the fire of desire for Pentecost never went out and within a short while of my conversion I started seeking for the life that I read of in the early believers. If I remember rightly, I had begun to flag in keeping believing for this and seeking for this. Professor Best’s remark and a fresh reading of the bible relit the fire, the hunger. I had begun to think, “Ah well, maybe I was wrong, maybe this is not for me…” but now sought with a fresh hunger a fresh thirst… and discovered what I saw as a baby Christian was indeed true.
It is amazing what we see when we put aside what we have been taught to believe and read the bible with an open mind and the eyes of a child of God. Sometimes it is a real challenge and creates a tension. However as I said earlier, as those who believe the bible is the Word of God and not any particular theological system, our approach should be to ask God to lift us up into what the bible actually says rather than make the bible fit our experience or lack of experience.
Morag has just asked me if I was wrting a blog, which I confirmed to be the case. She then asked what it was about and my reply was, “I don’t really know yet. I won’t know until it is done!” So now that this blog is nearly done, I am wondering, “What am I saying?” Am I saying that if you read the bible as openly as I did as a theology student you will all become Pentecostals. Well, I was going to write, “No of course I am not saying that…” which would make this blog more comfortable reading, but come to think of it, you know what? Yes, I want us all to become Pentecostals by conviction and experience, and I want to be more Pentecostal than I have ever been. There is always more! What blasphemy to believe we experience all there is to experience of God the moment we were converted.
Friend, will you read in the gospels about the ministry of Jesus Himself, all that He began to do and to teach and then read on to what He continued to do and to teach through his chosen Apostles? You and I are part of that ongoing story of Jesus. I want more of the overflow of the Holy Spirit that happened around Him and around the Apostles for me, even if you are happy with where you are. Maybe I am writing this blog to myself more than anyone. Whatever it is saying to you, it is saying to me, “It is time to seek the Lord.” I sense “deep calling unto deep” in my own spirit and pray that some of you at least may sense the same.
By the way if you want to make comments against this, please don’t waste your time. Get your own blog page. For me this is too precious a truth for debate. Oh don’t get me wrong, I love a good debate and fight about things, fuelled by an arrogance that I am of course right! However, that is my flesh more often than not and rarely of the Spirit. If some stop reading this blog, well God bless you as you do that, just don’t join the angry folk who speak one way or other about all of this or read their unedifying and at times dishonest web sites. It won’t profit you at all. These sites will just put you further out of fellowship with part of the body of Christ, the part that you think is wrong, the part which Jesus loves as much as those circles you feel comfortable in.
Oh that someone may get on their knees as a result of this blog. Just your agreeing with anything I say, or disagreeing with anything I say is not why I write. I write in the hope that from time to time someone even to their own surprise will start to seek the Living God of the Bible with Jacob like tenacity: “I will not let you go unless you bless me!”
I am basically a Calvinist by theology, though not where he or his followers disagree with the Scriptures as best as I can humbly and honestly understand them. However, I really do believe that each one of us is as close to God and as full of the life of God as we have chosen.
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