As I prepare to preach this Sunday at Warrenville, the thought of the filling of the Holy Spirit is heavy on my mind. While I’m certainly no expert on this topic (but I long to be…), I’m deeply aware that anything I want to become in Christ is impossible without the Spirit’s infilling power. In general, like Dr. Lyle Dorsett and Francis Chan, I believe the simple teaching on the critical work of the Holy Spirit is noticeably absent in the pulpits of evangelical churches in America today.
I think we’re much more interested in cognition than a commitment to everyday life with Jesus: well-grounded theological, expositional preaching, intellectual constructs rather than the desperate seeking of the filling of the Holy Spirit as our fundamental power source as Christians to become like Christ and trust that God’s immutable Word alive in us is enough to change the world and our decaying culture for the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Christian and Missionary Alliance has long taught that a critical growth point in the life of Christians becoming mature are “crisis experiences” with the Holy Spirit–whether one or many over the course of a lifetime–a moment in time where a Christian has a unique experience of sensing the Holy Spirit’s presence and power which radically reshapes that person’s life direction and ability to live the life God has created them for as His followers. D.L. Moody had one such experience and he described it like this:
Well, one day, in the city of New York — oh, what a day! — I cannot describe it, I seldom refer to it; it is almost too sacred an experience to name. Paul had an experience of which he never spoke for fourteen years. I can only say that God revealed Himself to me, and I had such an experience of His love that I had to ask Him to stay His hand. I went to preaching again. The sermons were not different; I did not present any new truths, and yet hundreds were converted. I would not now be placed back where I was before that blessed experience if you should give me all the world — it would be as the small dust of the balance. (You can read more about Moody’s inspiring, Spirit-filled life in Dorsett’s great biography A Passion for Souls)
I don’t know that my crisis experience at 24 compares with Moody’s, but I had an encounter with God like that on the shores of a lonely lake in Three Rivers, WI, while preparing to start grad school at Wheaton College in the summer of 1995. I sensed the Holy Spirit asking me a simple, clear question: “Am I enough?”. As a young grad student who had grown complacent (lukewarm, at best…) in my relationship with Christ over my two years since graduating from Wheaton College, I was suddenly terrified at being thrust back into an environment as a Graduate Resident Advisor, responsible for mentoring and spiritually guiding eight Resident Assistants in Fischer Hall. But for the Holy Spirit’s infilling for the task ahead of me, I knew I would miserably fail–let alone trust God as a single man with an already-stated commitment to fulfilling God’s long-established calling in my life to be a missionary.
So that afternoon in Wisconsin, I gave my life away once again for the Holy Spirit to fill me and renew me with power to make me more like Jesus for the residence life staff at Fischer to see. I long for a fresh crisis and infilling like that again–to be so devoted to seeking the Holy Spirit that He accomplishes in me the great works He has already planned for me (Eph. 2:8-10).
The focus of my message this Sunday will be centered on Eph. 5:18
Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery, but instead be filled with the Spirit
The tense of the verb “filled” really speaks of a continuous, ongoing need for the filling of the Holy Spirit to become like Christ. I’m challenged by this radical, daily commitment to fervently seek the Holy Spirit’s power in my life. Much like Jesus taught in Luke 11, Luke notes the object of asking, seeking and knocking—the gift of the Holy Spirit from the Father in heaven.
I’m a devoted seeker in crisis these days. How about you?