Coming to Christ

One Thing and One Thing Only

Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens.

Matt. 11:28 NLT

In the early eighties, I worked with the Agape Force in Tacoma, Washington. We all reached out to one older man and his family for several months. It was obvious that the Holy Spirit was convicting him and drawing him to Christ. However, he refused to yield his whole heart and soul to Christ’s Lordship.

Who would direct his life? Jesus or him. This tug-of-war was THE major issue. It was odd, he wanted to do spiritual things and think he was spiritually-minded, but he refused to give his whole heart to Christ. As an alternative, he joined the Mormons, then the Witnesses, then a motorcycle group, and then . . . . You get the picture, he did everything, but come to Christ. Salvation is simple, but not necessarily easy: yield your whole life to Christ and trust his finished work on the Cross. You see, God asks just one thing and one thing only–come to Christ.

When a person turns to Christ empty—that they may be filled; sick—that they may be healed; hungry—that they may be satisfied; thirsty—that they may be refreshed; needy—that they may be enriched; dying—that they may have life; lost—that they may be saved; guilty—that they may be pardoned; sin-defiled—that they may be cleansed; confessing that Christ alone can supply their need—then they come to Christ. This, and nothing more than this, is coming to Christ.

J.C. Ryle, Tract: Come!

HT: J C Ryle Quotes

 

 

My Baptism in the Spirit (Part Three)

Holy Spirit: Power for Service

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

Acts 1:8 ESV

The Holy Spirit is the Lord and giver of life: fully God working in the world bestowing life, empowering for service, purifying our hearts, providing God’s presence, and guiding God’s people. My story continues . . .

Later that morning as the team moved north, we began to walk down Commerce Street. We were very conspicuous in a crowd as we carried our Bibles in one hand and held on to our sleeping bags with the other. We turned and began to walk through a plaza where a number of executive-types were sitting on park benches eating sack lunches. Out from the crowd, a short, plump African-American lady stood up and yelled, “What are you boys doing?” We replied that we were from Lindale, Texas and we were out witnessing. At the top of her lungs, she cried out, “Have you ever been filled with the Holy Ghost?” I thought, “Oh, my goodness, we have got a live one.” My team leader, who was standing front of me said, “Yes, I have.” The team member bringing up the end said, “So have I.” I thought, “Good, maybe she will leave us alone.” Then without warning, the last member of the team shouted, “No, I have not!” I thought, “Why did you have to go and say that?” Immediately, she asked us to come over, so that she could pray for him.

This is the scene: four men in their early twenties knelling in front of a park bench as this lady is standing over the one young man praying loudly in tongues. She was praying very loudly in tongues. As she began to pray, I asked the Lord whether this whole thing about the fullness of the Spirit was for real. The denomination in which I was raised discounted the gifts of the Spirit. I told the Lord that I did not want to resist anything if it was genuine, even if it seemed a bit bizarre. At that moment, I began to speak in tongues. Very gently and without great emotion, the Holy Spirit began to touch my heart and bless me with the sweetness of Jesus. My emotions were so subdued that I wondered whether my ministry team understood what God had done in my life. I was experiencing for the first time, a fresh filling of the Holy Spirit with a manifestation of a spiritual gift. Already, God was answering my prayer from that morning; he was responding to my cry for his personal power, presence, and authority. Thank God for that little African-American lady who was willing to be bold for Christ.

Glenn E. Davis, “Who Is the Holy Spirit for Us Today?”, Pilgrims on the Sawdust Trail, ed., Timothy George (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004), 90.

My Baptism in the Spirit (Part Two)

My First Experience of the Holy Spirit’s Power

Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

John 20:22 NLT

Yesterday, I defined what I mean by the infilling or baptism of the Holy Spirit. Please allow me to reiterate. The Baptism of the Holy Spirit is an overwhelming experience of the Spirit’s presence, power, and purity: a total submergence within the person of God. This individual experience is instantaneous and can be reoccurring: one baptism, many fillings. The Baptism refers to the initial work of the Spirit in uniting believers to Christ as well as on-going encounters with the Spirit bringing refreshment and strengthening in the Christian life.

It was a hot summer in late August 1979. I was a member of a parachurch organization called the Agape Force, which conducted a training program named Crystal Springs Institute. As part of that program, each of us was required to participate in a mission trip. This mission trip was highly unusual. You and your team are dropped off in a Texas town with instructions to minister to whomever God brings in your path, to trust God for shelter and finances, and to rely on the Lord for safe return. The Agape Force ministry called the trip, the “Weekend Mission,” but the students called it the “Trust God or Die” weekend.

My four-man team was assigned South Dallas, I did not know at that time what a rough area it was.  For the first time in my life, I did not know from where my next meal was coming from, with whom I would be staying, what was going to happen, and how I was going to get home. After getting off the bus, the first thing we did was pray.  We were desperate. As we prayed, we felt that the Holy Spirit wanted us to begin at the beginning. So, we decided to start by evangelizing the first people we met on the street. My partner and I began to talk with an African-American man who was obviously down and out.

As we shared, he grew more and more obstinate. The more we shared the less and less effective I felt we were in reaching him. In fact, it seemed as if my words were dropping out of my mouth and straight onto the ground. I felt that I was not communicating the gospel clearly, effectively, or powerfully. Finally, in desperation I said, “If a car hit you this afternoon, where would you go, to heaven or hell?” He just looked at me and began to curse. I walked away feeling empty and helpless. I had no authority and power in my witness. I began to pray anxiously that God would somehow help me to be an effective testifier of God’s grace. I did not want the weekend to be a waste (to be continued).

Glenn E. Davis, “Who Is the Holy Spirit for Us Today?”, Pilgrims on the Sawdust Trail, ed., Timothy George (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004), 89.

Holy Spirit Power For a Holy Ministry

The Holy Spirit in You

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses . . . .

Acts 1:8

In August of 1979, I attended Crystal Springs Institute, the training school for the Agape Force located in Lindale, Texas. We were on a mission of sorts, a “trust God or die” mission. Every semester the student body was divided into teams of four and dropped off in various locations around the state of Texas. We were to trust God for our lodging, food, transportation, and ministry.

Long story short, our four man team was in downtown Dallas when a petite African-American lady stopped us and asked what we were doing. We explained that we were on a short-mission trusting God for his provision, protection, and direction. She asked loudly and boldly, “Have you ever been filled with the Holy Ghost”? Two of my companions said, “yes” and one said, “no” and I hoped she would go away.

She prayed for us that day in a plaza located on Commerce Street and I was forever affected by the Holy Spirit’s person, presence, and power. That day, I first experienced the spiritual gifts, I felt power and authority for ministry, and I was freshly enabled by the Spirit to live a holy life. I was baptized in the Holy Spirit for Christlike ministry–a ministry that prayerfully would change hearts and lives for the gospel.

From that day to this, it has been the tendency of carnal Christians and a carnal Church to be more interested in power for performance, than it has been interested in power for purity. More interested in power for conquest than in power for Christlikeness. We need to stress that the power of the Holy Ghost is power for Christlikeness, before it is power to go out and do things that produce headlines in the newspaper. It is power to be like our blessed Lord in mind and motive and spirit.

Paul S. Rees, “Adequacy for Life and Witness,” Daily Thoughts from Keswick: A Year’s Daily Readings, ed. Herbert F. Stevenson (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1980), 363.

My Days in the Agape Force 2

af-days-tacoma2

af-days-tacoma

I was a staff member with the Agape Force Ministries from summer, 1979, to summer, 1982, exactly three years. I worked with other ministry teams assisting in establishing churches and leading outreaches in Turlock, CA., Tacoma and Olympia, Wa., Waco and El Paso, TX., and Columbus, OH. Those years were three of the most challenging as well as three of the most fruitful years of my Christian life. In the Agape Force, I first experienced the overwhelming love of the Holy Spirit, learned to get outside myself, and challenged to think theologically. I would not trade these people and those moments for any prize. Above are a couple of pictures from the past and more pictures are available on a previous post.

My Days in the Agape Force

Agape Force, 1979-1982

Just in case you were wondering that my days in the Agape Force were just a figment of my imagination, here are some pictures to prove that I actually served from 1979 to 1982. Thanks to Shawn Wallace and the technology of Facebook for the last two pictures.

1979-crystal-springs-institute_0001

Crystal Springs Institute Class of 1979

glenn-in-tacoma

Lunch Time in Tacoma, Washington

The Inward Content of Revival

Revival Begins on the Inside of Each of Us (Preface)

Over the next several weeks, I will be blogging my thoughts on the book, The Calvary Road, written by noted speaker and author, Roy Hession. The Calvary Road was written over fifty years ago, but the book’s sales never diminish. Why the lasting impact? Hession speaks to the great need of every believer’s heart–personal revival. Sin darkens my spirit. My selfishness steals away my joy in God and stifles my on-going experience of the presence of the Lord. I need healing, restoration, forgiveness, and renewal. Hession’s book brings me to the foot of the Cross, where Christ’s blood is ready and available for cleansing and heart-change.

I read Hession’s book many years ago (July 1979 to be exact) at Crystal Springs Institute, the training school for Agape Force ministries, Lindale, Texas. However, I have been asked to read the book again. Bishop Chuck Jones, Diocesan Bishop, Central Gulf States Diocese, C.E.C., has directed the presbyters and deacons of our diocese to read The Calvary Road as preparation for our up-coming clergy Lenten retreat. The retreat is scheduled for the first week of March, so I thought I would get started reading Hession’s book now.  I am excited about what God will do in my heart, as well as, the change that the Holy Spirit will bring in all our clergy’s lives.

I begin this series with Hession’s definition of revival. Hession’s definition is important because we often confuse revival with excitement, falling out, dramatic healings, and/or powerful worship. All these outward manifestations can and do occur during a genuine revival, but these outward signs are not necessarily a sign of revival. Revival is personal heart change: confession, repentance, joy, Spirit-baptism, and gospel-driven evangelism. Revival is the restoration of God’s glory in his church. Revival is the manifested presence of the kingdom of God in and among his people actively bringing the lost to salvation and the lukewarm to renewed passionate devotion in Christ.

The outward forms of such revivals do, of course, differ considerably, but the inward and permanent content of them all is always the same: a new experience of conviction of sin among the saints; a new vision of the Cross of Jesus and of redemption; a new willingness on man’s part for brokenness, repentance, confession, and restitution; a joyful experience of the power of the blood of Jesus to cleanse fully from sin and restore and heal all that that sin has lost and broken; a new entering into the fullness of the Holy Spirit and His power to do His own work through His people; and a new gathering in of the lost ones to Jesus.

[Roy Hession, The Calvary Road (Fort Washington, Penn., Christian Literature Crusade, 1950), 11.]

John Piper has a similar definition of revival that is also helpful:

Revival is the sovereign work of God to awaken his people with fresh intensity to the truth and glory of God, the ugliness of sin, the horror of hell, the preciousness of Christ’s atoning work, the wonder of salvation by grace through faith, the urgency of holiness and witness, and the sweetness of worship with God’s people.

[John Piper, A Godward Life: Savoring the Supremacy of God in All of Life (Sisters, Ore: Multnomah Books, 1997), 111.]

Dear Lord,

We ask that you would change our hearts: convict us of our sins, forgive our many transgressions, and renew your Holy Spirit in us. We beg you to use The Calvary Road to bring us into personal revival.

Amen.

“We Need the Light of the Holy Spirit to Teach Us the Character of God”

 

Charles G. Finney on Sanctification

When I was a young Christian working as a staff member with the Agape Force Ministry (Lindale, Texas), we were required to read Finney’s Systematic Theology as a condition for seeking ordination. Little did I realize that the Holy Spirit would use Finney’s section on sanctification to set me free from several long-standing struggles. Imagine that a systematic theology would be used by the Holy Spirit to set someone free. That is exactly what God did in 1980 with the vital truths of sanctification by faith.

I learned from Finney that not only was my justification (getting right with God) was by faith, but also my sanctification (Christian growth) was by faith (1 John 5:1-5). My victory over sin came as I trusted in a particular attribute of Christ’s character or by standing on a particular benefit of Christ’s finished work on the Cross.

We need the light of the Holy Spirit to teach us the character of God, the nature of His government, the purity of His law, the necessity and fact of atonement to teach us our need of Christ in all His offices and relations, governmental, spiritual, and mixed. We need the revelation of Christ to our souls, in such power as to induce in us that appropriating faith, without which Christ is not, and cannot be, our salvation. We need to know Christ, for example, in such relations as the following:

1. As King, to set up His government and write His law in our hearts; to establish His kingdom within us; to sway His scepter over our whole being. As King He must be spiritually revealed and received.

2. As our Mediator, to stand between the offended justice of God and our guilty souls, to bring about a reconciliation between our souls and God. As mediator, He must be known and received.

3. As our Advocate or paracletos, our next or best friend, to plead our cause with the Father, our righteous and all prevailing advocate to secure the triumph of our cause at the bar of God. In this relation, He must be apprehended and embraced.

4. As our Redeemer, to redeem us from the curse of the law, and from the power and dominion of sin; to pay the price demanded by public justice for our release, and to overcome and break up forever our spiritual bondage. In this relation, also we must know and appreciate Him by faith.

5. As the propitiation for our sins, to offer Himself as a propitiatory or offering for our sins. The apprehension of Christ as making an atonement for our sins seems to be indispensable to the entertaining of a healthy hope of eternal life.

(Section Thirty-Seven)

More from Finney’s Systematic Theology here.

More about theologian, pastor, evangelist, Charles G. Finney here.