A Southern Baptist reader finds a closer relationship with God through the Holy Spirit

A Southern Baptist reader finds a closer relationship with God through the Holy Spirit March 20, 2014

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Over the course of the last 3 or 4 years, I have come to the conclusion that God in no way rescinded those gifts.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!

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Nick Uva

    What a great line – “The God Who Doesn’t Do Anything.” That’s sadly the stance of some, though not articulated, of course. May we all of us have hearts to embrace His move.

  • Ben Thorp

    I was having a discussion with an older American friend in the wake of the Strange Fire conference a couple of months ago, who had also been a Southern Baptist, who remarked that even as a young believer she had noticed that quality, exegetical teaching, which she loved so much of the time, seemed to completely change it’s character (and quality) when it came to passages like 1 Corinthians 12-14.

  • JIZ

    Back in 1986, Pope John Paul II wrote a lengthy biblical reflection on the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church and the world. Its Latin title is “Dominum et Vivificantem,” which means “Lord and Giver of life.” It may be of possible interest to readers of the blog who wish to deepen their knowledge of, and relationship with, the Holy Spirit — the Person of Trinity Whom I at least am too inclined to neglect.


  • Denish Sebastian

    Adrian, I have a question regarding gift of tongues. Is it true that when one speak in tongues he should understand what he says? In other words, is there any evidence in the bible to support the claim that the gift of tongues that Bible describes was a gift in which the speaker also didn’t understood what he spoke in tongues without the gift of interpretation?