Wednesday, July 09, 2008

4 Minute Devotions: Ablazing Grace

If we were more open to the Spirit and passionate about our beliefs, perhaps more people would be attracted to Christ.

Podcast version here

My very first Pentecostal experience occurred during an evening worship service in Glasgow, Scotland. A group of my Christian friends had heard about the new charismatic movement and we wanted to see what happened at Pentecostal meetings. The worship music was loud and lively. The prayers were long and tedious. The scripture readings were read from the Authorized version, and the whole service seemed to be a blend of the old and the new. The preacher preached passionately and we all felt it would be time to go home soon. We were totally unprepared for what happened next.

During the preaching, someone stood up at the front and started to heckle the preacher, or at least that’s what it sounded like to us. Within a couple of minutes, people in the congregation were standing up all over the place, babbling forcefully. It was amazing in a weird way and when some people in the pews next to us started to speak in tongues, a few of the girls in our group became hysterical and wept uncontrollably.

I had no idea of what was happening. There didn’t seem to be any control and at first I thought the people were bewitched. Eventually, everything was quiet and the pastor began to interpret what had been spoken through the tongues.

1 Thessalonians 5:19 Do not put out the Spirit's fire;

Although I was uncomfortable with the whole process, I recognized the Spirit’s fire in the people. They were spiritually ablaze for Christ and their worship of Him was passionately sincere. Since then, I have experienced the same process, although I have never used it in the ministry God has called me to fulfill. In fact, it’s been many years since I have let myself be fully taken over by the Spirit in that way. It makes me wonder at times, if I am guilty of putting out the Spirit’s fire in order to conform to my Calvinist ways.

I think we all need to be passionate about our belief in Christ and allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by the Spirit from time to time. There are so many things about God that we don’t fully understand and there are many ways of being open to the bidding of the Spirit, including speaking in tongues. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to publicly speak in tongues amongst my church family and Christian friends, but I also would never undermine anyone’s right to experience and vocalize the same.

Perhaps if we would allow the Spirit to work more in our hearts and minds, we would accomplish more for Christ and God’s Kingdom. I am so glad to be part of a church that is not blown about by current trends or fashionable fancies. All that we achieve and accomplish at Erin is through the work of the Spirit, to the glory of Christ Jesus. If it was ever anything else, it would be time to pack up and leave.

Prayer: Holy Spirit, You are wild and untamable, uncontrollable and without boundaries. You come and go as You please, seeking to fill hearts with Christ and churches with God’s presence. Permit us to experience this privileged presence and guide us all in God’s way. In Christ’s Holy Name, we pray. Amen.

John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to comment on today’s message, send an email to pastor@erinpresbyterian.org

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