Receive the Holy Spirit

. 4 min read

Jan 2018, Christ Mountain Top
      Baptism of our Lord, Covenant Renewal
to Worship, Psalm 29
Genesis 1.1-5
Acts 19.1-7
and Charles Wesley, our founding figures
      Theology students
      Holy Club
      Missionaries in Georgia
a struggle
      For something more than faith in name only
            Vs something with power to transform
life & society
      For a warmed heart to go along with
            Works of piety and mercy
one point, a spiritual director counseled,
      “preach faith until you have it”
(Joe Iovino):
      In May 1738, Charles fell ill and was
concerned for his survival. Lying in bed day after day, he focused on his
spiritual well-being. If this illness were to take his life, was he ready to
die? He prayed, studied, and spoke to friends who prayed for him to feel the
presence of the Holy Spirit. …
      On Pentecost Sunday, May 21, 1738,
something amazing happened. Between visits from his brother, his doctor, and
those who were taking care of him, Charles had a personal encounter with the
Holy Spirit.
      In his journal entry for that day, he
reports experiencing “a strange palpitation of heart” that caused him to
exclaim, “I believe, I believe!” Several sentences later he continues, “I now
found myself at peace with God, and rejoiced in hope of loving Christ.”
      When John visited the next day, Charles
shared what had happened for him and together they prayed for John to have a
similar experience. Charles writes, “I almost believed the Holy Ghost was
coming upon him.”
Iovino. Retrieved 2018 Jan 13.

that same week, John Wesley records this in his journal:
      In the evening I went very
unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s
preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was
describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I
felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for
salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even
mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.
      I began to pray with all my might for
those who had in a more especial manner despitefully used me and persecuted me.
I then testified openly to all there what I now first felt in my heart.
in Acts: Disciples, committed in many ways, who were missing something – the
Holy Spirit. Sometimes folks read this passage and see it as evidence that God
offers a “second blessing” after our salvation, a blessing that is normally
both received and experienced after
our initial experience with Jesus. First, we receive Jesus. Then, we receive
the Spirit.
      Paul’s question exposes the error of that
thinking. “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?” He’s asking
because he is puzzled by something. He’s trying to understand why this has
happened. The story informs us that this is part of a transition period – these
disciples were disciples of John the baptizer. They had not yet been baptized
into Jesus. That is, they were living in expectation of Jesus, but had not yet
heard the word: He’s come! “Christ has died! Christ is risen! Christ will come
again!” So, they are baptized into Jesus and they receive the Holy Spirit.
      They speak in tongues and prophesy. These
are common New Testament indicators of the presence of God’s Spirit. They are
not the only indicators. Teaching, administration, mercy, healing, joy,
patience, kindness, wisdom, faith-sharing and more are all indicators of the
presence of the Holy Spirit. Paul himself tells us that love is the most
excellent way (1 Corinthians 12.31 – 13.1).
the thing: This story, once we move past the place it holds in arguments around
Pentecostal theology, this story is about those who earnestly seek God and are missing out on a crucial gift.
This story is about folks like John and Charles Wesley who went to church all
their lives and realized that they were missing something essential in their
own faith experience. Nevertheless, despite the fact that he was seeking
earnestly, there were ways that John Wesley was “unwilling” to submit, to
surrender, to the grace of God that was pursuing him.
      This story is about another pastor who
recently shared his story of how he became a pastor and had not yet had a
life-transforming encounter with Jesus Christ. He held back from God. He did
not fully surrender. He carried a grudge, nursed bitterness, for the pain he
had experienced as a young person. It was his child, on a Christmas Day, who
sang a private song to Jesus and helped awaken that pastor’s faith. He
resisted, and then he broke.
      “Going to church doesn’t make you a …”
      What makes you a follower is total
surrender to grace, complete submission to Jesus. The deeper the surrender, the
greater the blessing.
celebrating Jesus’ baptism and remembering our baptism:
      “Receive the Holy Spirit”
      “The Holy Spirit work within you …”

the tradition of the Covenant Service