Today I’m launching a new feature which I’m going to call “Ask a Blogger.” One day most weeks I will be posting one or more questions I have been asked. These questions can literally be about anything. To submit a question e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will then endeavor to answer the questioner, although my answers will often be quite short. Today, however this is not the case! In fact, this week’s “Ask a Blogger” will run for a few days, although I will interrupt it to share a Piper Friday and an MLJ Monday.
The plan for some of my answers to be short is deliberate as I would like to give you, my readers, a chance to expand on my answers, or indeed to disagree with them! If you have a blog, simply post your answer with a link back to the post and I will try to track them, adding the best ones to the post. If you don’t have a blog, feel free to e-mail your answers at email@example.com and I may post some of the best replies. Think of it as a community pooling its knowledge to try and come up with the best answers.
This week’s questions are on a subject dear to my heart, although it is one that I’m sure many of my readers would disagree strongly with me about.
I received the following e-mail from a reader who will remain anonymous. In it, my correspondent refers to a message he has listened to on the subject of receiving the Holy Spirit by Terry Virgo, which is available to download or to play right here on my blog:
I will share the entire e-mail, and will answer my readers’ questions as we go through them, spreading this to several days worth of blogging.
I wonder if you might be available to answer a few questions on baptism with the Holy Spirit. I listened to a talk by Terry Virgo on the baptism, and have also appreciated your series of posts.
They have come at a very “coincidental” time in my life. I have grown up conservative as conservative can be. I feel a bit like John’s disciples, believing, but never having received the Holy Spirit (see Acts 19). Even as recently as three months ago I was trying to convince someone that a second baptism isn’t necessary. And then, in the last two months, God has done an amazing work in my life to open my eyes to the very possibility that the gifts are still for today and that there is a second baptism. It makes sense, especially after reading Acts, that I am missing something. I read about the boldness and the courage and the suffering, and I feel like I am missing something. (It feels blasphemous to even talk about it—I even wrote a seminary paper on how tongues is not for today!) So, I humbly come before you as a minister for many years, to ask if you could answer a few questions for me:
First of all, let me say that my own experience is not in any sense “normative” for other Christians. I have known people to receive the Spirit in many different ways. I first received the Holy Spirit as a young child. I had made some kind of commitment to God a few years previously and was convinced that I was a “proper Christian.” I had been trying to persuade my family of this fact, and of my genuine desire to follow Jesus by wanting to be baptized. They felt I was quite young. The event I now describe convinced my parents that I could, indeed, be baptized, since I had now received the Holy Spirit even as they had.
I was in a children’s meeting at the Downs Bible Week (an early Newfrontiers event). No one laid hands on me. No one prayed for me. We were simply worshiping. We had been taught that worshiping with raised hands was like forming a funnel through which God could pour his blessing on us. Suddenly I was aware of a warmth inside me. I was conscious of the presence of God. I felt his love. I knew that he had chosen me and marked me out as one of his own. I felt joy well up within me. I was so full of this experience that I found my words just run out. I knew not how to express myself in English as I was so overwhelmed. All I knew was that the words of the song we were singing no longer felt adequate to express my worship and love for the God whose love for me I was now feeling so tangibly. I found that my mouth began to utter strange sounds, although I was not really focused on them. It was as though my English words having run out, God was helping me to praise him with these strange new words. A friend of mine at the time was similarly so overcome that when our break time arrived, he couldn’t ask for what sweets and drinks he wanted—all that came out was these strange sounds we called “tongues”! I have had many such experiences since, and each of them have had at their core a feeling of being specially loved and accepted by God.
I will continue with my correspondent’s next question on Saturday.