Our God is the hugest and most magnificent God, completely beyond our comprehension and yet we can 'know' him, isn't that amazing? Tonight at MUG (midweek us and God) we contemplated this from Ephesians and were all quite blown away:
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
At college with Stephen Travis this afternoon we were discussing whether there is controversy today over baptism in the Holy Spirit. We decided instead that it is better to communicate a being filled with the Spirit because it doesn't happen just once. It is ongoing. The Spirit empowers us for the bringing in of God's Kingdom. It was interesting to listen to a range of responses from students. We shared our experiences of cessationists, deciding it is definitely not Biblical to think that manifestations of the Holy Spirit are not for today.
We reflected on the fruits of the Spirit and how claims of experiential outpourings should also effect a transformed life and if they don't then perhaps they were not genuine.
Some shared the sadness they had experienced watching people disappointed on Alpha Holy Spirit weekends, that no matter how much they had been prayed over, they had felt nothing happen. It then became the job of the leader to pastor these people in their disappointment. We shared how the church has to very careful not to inadvertantly pressure people. I remember when I was 14 being pushed over by a worship leader who was so intent that I should be slain in the Spirit - it left me feeling very confused.
We also shared some of our experiences too of the Holy Spirit's manifestations and how God gives us these foretastes of Heaven through his Spirit when he wants to and usually for a specific purpose.
The hymn writer Isaac Watts speaks of it in this way:
"The hill of Zion yields a thousand sacred sweets before we reach he heavenly fields or walk the golden streets."
We decided it would be wrong to package these experiences, for God communicates with each of us differently but then again, the experiences should be checked against the Bible and Acts perhaps in particularly, for there at least, we can gain an idea of what might happen.
I must admit I do read of some accounts and wonder - roaring like a lion for instance, someone shared how they had been under pressure once to do this!
Someone shared the feeling of an overwhelming joy and the laughter that followed and infected an entire congregation. There are tears and heat and falling down and praying in tongues and all these things are very special to the person experiencing them, however we must not lose sight of the fact that these communications are about empowering us to take up our part in the missio dei - our God is a very corporate God - his message is to go out to the ends of the earth and whilst we are greatly encouraged by these experiences for how much the Spirit testifies to our spirit that we really our dear children of our abba Father, we are to take up our cross and speak boldly of his love for the whole world too in whatever form that might be.
Thank you Oh my father
For sending us your Son
And leaving your Spirit 'til the work on earth be done