I wonder if my father thought that what had happened the night I said I wanted to become a Christian had been real. I was so young; could I really understand it? Could this short conversation which ended in me praying really make such a difference to me? Could it be true that I had accepted Christ at such a young age?
I do remember being in no doubt about it the next morning when I had an argument with a member of my family. I wanted us to tell my two year old sister, but this grown-up believed she couldn’t understand yet. “No one is too young,” I argued.
Arguing. Sadly, there’s a theme for my life. For not only did I accept the gospel as true, I would spend much of my young adult life arguing about it, and about just what the Bible says, but more of that in another post.
I am sure my parents at times doubted the reality of my conversion- what parent of a sometimes rebellious child wouldn’t? But I resolved that day to prove anyone who ever doubted my determination to follow Christ wrong.
There was something inside that was driving me towards and not away from God. It would never go away. Years later I would realize that it was God who had put it there.
From a young age, as I mentioned before, I was fortunate enough to attend a new church- part of what was eventually to be called Newfrontiers. The group originally met in Nigel Ring’s house. It was what was then called a house church, now like many of those early charismatic churches it has grown to become a “warehouse church,” meeting in a converted commercial building.
Nigel had struck up a friendship with a man called Terry Virgo, who had trained at London Bible College and been exposed to Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ teaching as well as the charismatic movement. We joined the group just as they started to meet in the same building they would go on to meet at for decades – Clare Hall in Haywards Heath.
As a young child that church made a massive impact on me. Nigel’s wife was my Sunday School teacher and I watched her prophesy on Sunday mornings. Soon I desired to prophesy also, and at one stage wrote my life’s goals on the back of a postcard- one was to prophesy, and another was to score a goal in football- the second of which I never did quite manage.
Around this time, and while still very young I started to ask to be baptized. I wanted to join the many that were regularly baptized in what was a burgeoning church. My parents and the elders were at first reluctant.
Then, one year, at the first ever Downs Bible Week, I received the Holy Spirit and began to speak in tongues. I remember the experience vividly to this day. With arms raised to God during the worship, I was surrendering to him, adoring him, and seeking him. I suddenly felt as though my arms had become a funnel. The love which had been flowing from me to God, now returned much more strongly from Him to me. My heart raced. I felt a warmth. I was enveloped by God. I was caught up in an incredible sense that he accepted me.
I was being filled with the Spirit. I found myself feeling that the English words of the song we were singing just were not full enough to express what I was feeling back to God. I found myself sounding incoherent, but I didn’t care.
The words themselves were not important any more. I just wanted to praise him, and found that sounds and words I did not understand were coming out of my mouth. I was overwhelmed. The “tongues” weren’t the most important bit- rather it was the sense of being loved by God and marked out as being one of his. Somehow I knew that at that moment he was putting a seal on me, and I would be his forever.
I believe that receiving the Spirit is always a conscious thing, and it always has this element of “now I really know God loves me.” Many have described this as a form of direct assurance, or empowering for service.
Although I will never forget my first experience of the Holy Spirit, I have been blessed to have many such experiences since. Even as I write this I feel a yearning in my heart to know more of God and a greater sense of his empowering. Send more of your Holy Spirit, Lord, to me and the readers of this blog. As William Booth wrote years ago:
God of Elijah hear our cry
Send the fire
To make us fit to live or die
Send the fire today.
To make our weak hearts strong and brave
Send the fire today….
Look down and see this waiting host
And send the promised Holy Ghost
We need another Pentecost
The revolution now begin
Send the fire today