We Christians today don’t often talk about our spiritual experiences. There are all kinds of valid reasons for that. However, as the following section of my book Raised With Christ shows, Packer and the Puritans disagree with us. Now when Packer and the Puritans would seek to correct us, we should sit up and at least take note:
It is remarkable how infrequently experiences such as those described below are mentioned, either during preaching or in modern Christian books. Unfortunately, many Christians are reluctant to talk about their experience of God. In this we differ greatly from Christians in previous centuries. J. I. Packer said that for the Puritans,
“Communion with God was a great thing; to evangelicals today it is a comparatively small thing. The Puritans were concerned about communion with God in a way that we are not. The measure of our unconcern is the little that we say about it. When Christians meet, they talk to each other about their Christian work and Christian interests, their Christian acquaintances, the state of the churches, and the problems of theology—but rarely of their daily experience of God.” Read more at location 3688
The reference to the experiences below refers to a list of historical examples of people who knew their God in remarkable encounters that I share in that chapter, often in their own words. The way these stories are expressed if you read them should make you hungry for more of God, I know reading them again does that for me.
So, with some reluctance, let me share what happened to me this morning. This experience I describe below is not something unique to me. There are many that would describe similar accounts. I must also confess that such an encounter is not as common in my life as I would like it to be. Even the Puritans speak of “the dark night of the soul” and how God lovingly withdraws his presence at times for months or even years, so our faith grows strong. What happened to me today is by no means the first time I have had such an encounter, but it is the first time for a long while that it has had this degree of intensity. Remember, we are meant to seek the giver not the gifts, and God delights in us having faith without sight or even such encounters. He will be found by those who seek him, however, and so patiently and diligently taking time out to be with him is probably the single best way to pursue him. Because he is gracious and loving and longs to relate with us, just watch him come running towards you if you take a tiny step towards him.
If the truth be known, however, this morning I was not really seeking God at all when this happened. I was simply reading Twitter. As has been the case with me before, it was nothing complex that sparked this all off. As Piper says, it is often sentences that change our lives, well for me it was simply one word.
First up I read a Tweet from Jason Bradshaw who I had asked about a Church I wanted to find out more about, he said “@realityla Can’t praise God enough for what the Spirit is doing there! @timchaddick is an anointed Gospel preacher.” I read it and nothing hit me at all, except gratitude that clearly God was at work in that church. But there was a word there, which was also present in what I think was the very next Tweet I read. One of my favoriter Tweeps is @RickWarren and he simply said “Those anointed by God feel no need to prove themselves.”
As I read the word anointed this time, the sun came out from behind a cloud and hit my face, and simultaneously a powerful warmth filled my chest. Natural light was warming my face, but this was supernatural light warming my heart from the inside out. I felt like God was saying to me “Adrian I have anointed you.” The wonderful truth is that the Spirit is of course at work in every Christian, but awareness of his work is not so common today, and often even charismatics like me can grow less and less aware of his touch.
I could feel his love welling up within me. It wasn’t about any kind of anointing for service, it was simply his stamp of approval on me. He wasn’t asking me to do anything. In fact just sitting doing nothing was a major part of the blessing he had for me! How wonderful to know the love of God. I may not be anything special, but I am special to Him. The key factor about being anointed by the Spirit that struck me was simply that it was an act of God that was not dependent on anything in us, and that the measure of the blessing poured on us is determined purely by his grace, not by any merit in us. He poured out his Spirit on me not because I was good (I am not) not because I am disciplined (I need to grow in that) but simply because he chose to!
The Bible speaks of the love of God being “poured out into our hearts by the Spirit” (Romans 5:5). Truth be told, I had not yet read a Bible verse, I had not yet prayed, but God determined to meet with me. It was like dusty cobwebs being brushed off an abandoned room. I instantly realized that my quiet times had missed this element of encounter for some time. It is not that they were useless, for the discipline of reading the Bible when you feel least like it, or of praying even simple prayers appealing for help is of great value. But this, this was something different altogether!
I could have stayed in that seat all day. I prayed a little, with few words to say, so I mostly just muttered under my breath in tongues. As is often the way the Spirit hit me in several waves. I began to read the Scriptures and turned to James. My heart was still warm (or as people used to say “it burned within me!”) while I wrote these two tweets:
“Whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it” James 2:10. Its like a broken chain who can stand?
The answer? The law of liberty and mercy which triumphs over judgement! Thank God for the wonder of his undeserved free gospel of grace!
Then I was drawn back to that word “anointed” and thought of the story of forgotten David the youngest son, out in the fields. I remembered his anointing by Samuel with literal oil and how after that the Bible uses a curious phrase, the Holy Spirit rushed upon him.
If you feel it has been too long since the Holy Spirit rushed upon you, why not ask him to today? Jesus says that just as a Father gives good gifts to his children, so our Father will give good gifts to those who ask him. (Luke 11:13).
For further reading why not check out these blog posts, but don’t just read, SEEK:
- Lloyd-Jones on the Baptism with the Holy Spirit
- John Piper on the Baptism with the Holy Spirit
- Mark Driscoll on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit.
- Terry Virgo on Baptism in the Holy Spirit
- More from Terry Virgo
- Jack Hayford on Baptism with the Holy Spirit
Footnote: Just to be 100% clear, this description is not supposed to be prescriptive. Your own experience of God may be very different to this, for example, clearly not everyone would speak in tongues, and there are many mature godly men that know God who do not.