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THE HOLY SPIRIT IS NOT FOR SALERekindling the Power of God in an Age of Compromise
By J. LEE GRADY
Chosen BooksCopyright © 2010 J. Lee Grady
All right reserved.
Chapter OneHot Coals from Heaven's Altar
Moriah Chapel in Loughor, Wales, is not a fancy building. Constructed in 1898 and surrounded by crumbling tombstones, the church is plain and uninviting except for a monument near the front door that might be mistaken for a war memorial. It is, in fact, one of the few tributes to Evan Roberts, the young Welshman who preached in the chapel in the fall of 1904 and triggered one of the greatest Christian revivals in modern history.
In the fall of 2008 I stood inside the chapel and studied its plain walls and the rickety stairs leading up to the narrow balcony. I got behind the wooden pulpit and looked over the empty pews, some carved with initials. I stood beside Roberts's modest grave, which was in a small, crowded cemetery behind the chapel. I was reminded that God uses the weak things of the world to confound the wise.
There was nothing outwardly remarkable about Roberts or the place his ministry began. He was the simple son of a coal miner. He worked as a blacksmith yet aspired to be a minister. After he uttered his famous prayer, "Lord, bend me," at a conference in nearby Blaenannerch, he felt overwhelmed by a burden for Welsh souls. His first revival service at Moriah Chapel touched only a handful of people. But crowds began to pour into the church from nearby villages after the Holy Spirit fell on the place in November 1904.
Within a year it was estimated that 100,000 people had come to Christ. Hardened men who normally spent their families' incomes on liquor suddenly were running into the churches and repenting. Coal miners stopped cursing. Teenagers gathered at train stations and sang hymns or testified publicly of their conversions. Crime stopped.
Wales was transformed.
To be fair, it's important to note that the Welsh revival did not revolve around Roberts, at least not in its early days. It was not a man-centered movement-even though newspaper reporters tried to place all the attention on the young preacher. Years before the revival erupted at Moriah Chapel, spiritual birth pangs were felt in other towns in Wales in meetings led by nameless Presbyterian and Salvation Army evangelists who never appeared in newspaper articles. In short, the fervor had been building. An altar had been prepared, and dry wood was waiting for a spark.
That spark happened when Roberts visited Blaenannerch. God took a hot coal from His altar and touched Roberts at age 26. Roberts was gloriously baptized in the Holy Spirit there while others watched him kneeling in a pew. By his own account, he wept so much that three women came over to console him and to wipe the perspiration from his face. The love of God, he said, was boiling inside him.
Roberts described the experience this way: "After many had prayed I felt some living energy or force entering my bosom; it held my breath; my legs trembled terribly; this living energy increased and increased as one after the other prayed until it nearly burst me.... I cried-'Bend me, bend me, bend me; Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh!' ... What came to mind after this was, the bending in the day of judgment. Then I was filled with sympathy for the people who will have to bend in judgment day, and I wept. Afterwards the salvation of souls weighed heavily on me. I felt on fire for going through the whole of Wales to tell the people about the Saviour."
Two profound characteristics marked the Welsh revival. First, waves of conviction drew people to repentance. Often sinners wandered into the meetings and immediately knelt at the altars. Second, Christians felt an urgency to share Christ with everyone around them because of the reality of hell and God's judgment. They seemed almost possessed by the love of God for the unconverted.
In his meetings Roberts often shared a four-point plan for living the Christian life: (1) confess all known sin, (2) deal with and get rid of anything "doubtful" in your life, (3) be ready to obey the Holy Spirit instantly and (4) confess Christ publicly.
After visiting Moriah Chapel and rereading the accounts of the Welsh revival, I also long for an authentic move of God. I want what Evan Roberts felt in his soul. Yet as I think of what so much of today's movements in the church are known for, I become weary-weary of the fake and the fabricated. We think we have true power. We boast about the size of our crowds. We brag about supposed miracles, though many are not substantiated. We are ready to declare a revival if Christians swoon under the influence of a preacher or give big offerings. But when the music stops, the TV cameras are turned off and the money is counted, what do we have?
Where is the God of Evan Roberts? Where is the true power of God, which can sweep over a city and bring backslidden Christians to repentance and hardened sinners to experience the greatest miracle of all-the miracle of new birth?
We Need the Fire Again
The Bible is full of accounts of people who encountered God's holy fire. When the Lord visited Abram and promised him an heir, "a smoking oven and a flaming torch" appeared (Genesis 15:17). Before Gideon could enter battle, the angel of the Lord appeared to him and consumed the sacrifice with a burning fire (Judges 6:21). Before Elisha began his miraculous ministry, he watched his mentor Elijah rise to heaven amid "a chariot of fire and horses of fire" (2 Kings 2:11). And Isaiah's commissioning occurred after an angelic creature touched his lips with a burning coal from heaven's altar. The prophet's speech was forever transformed.
This is heaven's pattern. God's fire always precedes power. Spiritual revival cannot be generated by man's clever intellect, inspired talent or personal charisma. This is why Jesus told His disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the promise of the Holy Spirit (Luke 24:49). The early Church needed a baptism in the Holy Ghost, even though they had been with Jesus for years, memorized His sermons and witnessed His miracles. That was not enough. They needed more than just a touch on the lips-they needed flames of fire on their heads and a total infilling of dunamis power.
No Christian should view the baptism of the Holy Spirit as optional. It is not an experience reserved for an elite few. When Jesus said, "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you" (Acts 1:8), He wasn't making a suggestion or offering a single item from a menu in a spiritual cafeteria. He was laying out His divine plan. And there is no Plan B. If the Church ignores the necessity of the baptism in the Spirit we will never fulfill the Great Commission.
The writings of great revivalists from recent centuries reveal they all concur. Not one of them cautioned their followers to avoid the fire of God. They viewed it as a requirement for service.
John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, taught his early followers to seek the baptism of the Holy Spirit. His own experience was marked by what he called "groanings too deep for words," a reference to Spirit-empowered prayer in Romans 8:26. (Some claim that Wesley actually practiced glossolalia, or speaking in tongues, which we will discuss further in Chapter 10, "The Fire of Prayer.")
Founders of the Holiness Movement also emphasized the need for this second baptism. While they did not view speaking in tongues as normative, they urged Christians to "tarry" for the baptism of the Spirit in order to obtain spiritual power over sinful habits-an experience and process they called sanctification. A. B. Simpson, a holiness leader who founded the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church, wrote: "There is no truth that needs to be more emphasized in this age of smartness and human self-sufficiency than the imperative necessity of the baptism in the Holy Spirit as the condition of all effective Christian work. We must tarry before we go."
R. A. Torrey, who helped evangelist D. L. Moody found his Bible college, taught that the baptism in the Spirit was a unique experience, subsequent to conversion: "In regeneration there is an impartation of life, and the one who receives it is saved; in the baptism with the Holy Spirit there is an impartation of power and the one who receives it is fitted for service."
South African revivalist Andrew Murray wrote often of the need for the "second blessing." He constantly reminded believers that conversion to Christ is only the first step into faith. It must be followed by the baptism in the Spirit. "I fear there is a terrible, terrible self-satisfaction among many Christians-they are content with their low level of life. They think they have the Spirit because they are converted, but they know very little of the joy of the Holy Ghost, and of the sanctifying power of the Spirit.... Oh, friends, do not be content with that half Christian life that many of you are living, but say, 'God wants it, God commands it; I must be filled with the Spirit.'"
What we know as the Pentecostal revival burst on the scene in 1901 in Kansas and was popularized during the Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles during 1906-1909. The leader of the Azusa meetings, William Seymour, took the holiness teaching of the Holy Spirit one step further. Here is how he explained it in an early sermon given at Azusa:
Before Pentecost, the disciples were filled with the unction of the Holy Spirit that sustained them until they received the Holy Ghost baptism. Many people today are filled with joy and gladness, but they are far from the enduement of power. Sanctification brings rest and sweetness and quietness to our souls, for we are one with the Lord Jesus and are able to obey His precious Word, that "Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God," and we are feeding upon Christ. But let us wait for the promise of the Father upon our souls, according to Jesus' Word, "John truly baptized with water, but ye shall receive the Holy Ghost not many days hence.... Ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me, both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth" (Acts 1:8). Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! O worship, get down on your knees and ask the Holy Ghost to come in, and you will find Him right at your heart's door, and He will come in. Prove Him now. Amen.
The Pentecostal movement fueled a surge of missionary activity around the world that continues to this day. Its leaders taught that every Christian must be anointed by the Spirit so he or she can be empowered to do the supernatural work of Christ. Azusa was followed by subsequent moves of the Holy Spirit: the Latter Rain Revival of the 1940s, the healing revival of the 1950s and the charismatic renewal movement that emerged in the 1960s. It could be said that the experience of Pentecost dominated the previous century.
This is why it is surprising that few evangelical Christians today observe the actual Day of Pentecost on the traditional Church calendar. We have a strange way of treating Pentecost, which falls seven weeks after Easter each year. Even those of us who wear the Pentecostal label rarely commemorate it, neglecting to place importance on a date that often gets lost between Mother's Day and Memorial Day.
This is especially odd when we consider that the apostle Paul and the early disciples attached great significance to this date. During his third missionary journey, Paul hurried to reach Jerusalem in time for Pentecost (Acts 20:16), and he told the Corinthians that he planned to stay in Ephesus until Pentecost (1 Corinthians 16:8). Paul had Pentecost on his mind; he marked time with it; it provided a sacred rhythm for his spiritual life. He was, without a doubt, the ultimate Pentecostal.
Before the coming of Christ, Pentecost was a joyful Jewish festival celebrating the wheat harvest fifty days after the first fruits offering. But the Old Covenant version of this holiday was just a foreshadowing of the great spiritual ingathering that would occur after the dramatic outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Jesus' first followers. Pentecost was heaven's inauguration ceremony for the Church, complete with rushing wind, flames of fire and an astounding display of glossolalia. In that moment the men and women gathered in the Upper Room were visibly endued with supernatural power-and three thousand people were converted in response to Peter's Spirit-empowered preaching.
Pentecost was no small miracle. The fire described in Acts 2 was not unlike the fire that fell from heaven on Mount Carmel during Elijah's contest with the prophets of Baal. It came to show us that in the era of grace, God fills frail human vessels with His powerful Spirit-and anoints a new priesthood that is not based on race, gender, age or economic status.
How desperately we need a fresh anointing of Pentecost today. But if we want it, we must go back to the original formula.
Beware of Cheap Substitutes
John the Baptist prophesied that God would endue His Church with power. He also announced that Jesus Christ would give His Church a double portion of His Spirit. John said: "He [Jesus] will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire" (Matthew 3:11, emphasis added). When the Day of Pentecost arrived, sure enough, both wind and fire were evident. True Pentecost has both. Let me explain.
We've known the wind during the past forty years of the charismatic movement. We have felt "times of refreshing" in the Holy Spirit's renewing presence. We've enjoyed His healing, basked in His joy, learned about the gifts of the Spirit, claimed His prosperity and received His supernatural power. But I wonder if our experience has been diminished by a selfish focus.
At times we have trivialized Pentecost and made it smaller than it is. We've invited people to come to the altar and receive a slap on the head. Bam! Zap! Take it! We reduce a holy experience to the spiritual equivalent of a fast-food drive-through. We've also turned this experience inward and made it all about us. If we aren't careful, genuine Pentecost can be vulgarized into an emotional frenzy. Some of us have spent a lot of time on the floors of our churches, soaking in His miraculous anointing. We "saturate" and "marinate" in the anointing. We experience "Holy Ghost goose bumps." And sometimes, because of our immaturity, we use the Holy Spirit's power to feed selfish desires or meet emotional wants.
But genuine Pentecost is not just about noise or feelings. John the Baptist said Jesus would baptize us in fire as well as power. What is the fire of the Spirit?
Fire has a refining element. John the Baptist said: "His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire" (Matthew 3:12). When it comes to Pentecost, holiness is not a side issue. It is the essence of the Holy Spirit's work. When He comes in power, He also comes to burn up the sin in our lives. He comes with conviction, searching our motives, uprooting our unforgiveness and shattering our pride.
Our problem is that we treat the whole scene in Acts 2 as if it were a party. We want hoopla instead of the fear of God. We spend our time splashing in the shallow end of His river when He has deeper things for us-things that require godly character and a crucified life. The truth is we are afraid to embrace Jesus' winnowing fork, and we resist when the fire of His Spirit comes to burn up our selfishness.
The Bible says wind and fire appeared on the Day of Pentecost. We will not see Pentecost-style harvest without both. We shouldn't want His anointing without His character.
One subtle way we charismatics cheapen the Holy Spirit's power occurs during altar ministry times in many churches. You probably are familiar with the drill. People line up in the front of the church and ministers lay hands on them, either for healing or for a special anointing. Then, as if on cue, everyone begins to fall on the floor. They have been, as we like to say, "slain in the Spirit."
Excerpted from THE HOLY SPIRIT IS NOT FOR SALE by J. LEE GRADY Copyright © 2010 by J. Lee Grady. Excerpted by permission.
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