This is an extract from an email from a reader, who kindly agreed for me to share it with you. This is a fairly typical story of what happens when someone begins to encounter the Holy Spirit in a more personal way. To me this is what the Bible means when it speaks of us “receiving the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit is at work in all Christians. It is just that some are more aware of his work than others. And all of us are in any case encouraged to “be being filled” with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). I found this story encouraging, and I hope you do too:
I am Southern Baptist, grew up with the cessationist mindset. Spent 10 years on the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ, mostly in the 1970s when charismatic gifts were totally rejected. In fact, in one of my New Testament classes (which I took as part of the required training) part of the final exam was to show from 1 Cor 13 that the charismatic gifts had been “done away” by the canonization of Scripture. I dutifully spelled out the argument as it was presented to the class, then wrote at the bottom of the page, “And I don’t believe a word of it!” Even then I felt like the argument was proof-texting at its most obvious. Still, I had a deep-seated prejudice against those gifts.
From time to time down through the years I have asked God for the gift of tongues — if it’s a legitimate gift — never to receive it. Still don’t have it….. But that’s jumping ahead.
Over the course of the last 3 or 4 years, I have come to the conclusion that God in no way rescinded those gifts. I think 1 Cor 12-14 teaches quite the opposite. The amazing thing for me is how coming to that conclusion has impacted my understanding… that our God is an awesome, amazing, supernatural God. Before, quite honestly, He was basically “The God Who Doesn’t Do Anything” …. very much the mindset that regardless of what Paul might say about prayer, “God doesn’t do that anymore”… doesn’t get directly involved in answering prayer. When I embraced the idea that tongues and prophecy in particular are still gifts of the Spirit, I realized that miracles and healings and all the others mentioned in that passage also had to be “allowed” as gifts of the Spirit, distributed where and when He chooses, to whom He chooses, in the frequency He chooses.
This embracing of those gifts has had a profound impact on my relationship with God. It had been growing in intimacy before that time, but now has reached new levels of intimacy. Not emotionalism, but the intimacy that comes with actually believing in the God of the Bible, the One who loves us (me) and gets directly involved in our lives. My worship has taken on new meaning, and is more real than it has ever been. I still don’t have the gift of tongues, although I frequently ask God for it. The closest I have ever come to it was when I was singing a song that I love in Spanish. I understood the sense of the words — it was joyful heartfelt praise. As I sang the Spanish, without knowing the exact translation, just the general meaning, it was perhaps the purest time of abandoned worship I have ever known. Not frightening at all, just sweeter than anything I have ever experienced. If that is what speaking in tongues is like ……. God, grant it!