Monday, September 7, 2015

A personal testimony on being filled with the Holy Spirit

Ephesians 5:18 "And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit."

I rarely share anything of a personal nature in this blog. My tendency is to avoid poitning too much attention to myself. The goal of every post in this blog is to point the way to Jesus by providing Christian resources for the practical, doctrinal and supernatural aspects of the Christian walk. With that said, I felt that perhaps some readers would benefit from a personal testimony, since we have been exploring the Spirit-filled life for the past week. It must be stated from the onset that my experience of being filled with the Holy Spirit will differ in the details from another Christian. Nonetheless, every truth and principle expounded upon in these last several posts undergird every Christian's experience of the Spirit-filled life. 

To begin, I was converted to Jesus Christ in saving faith when I was but 10 years old. Two years later my family and me moved on to another church. At age 12 or 13 I was baptized by immersion in obedience to what Jesus tells every new Christian to do in Matthew 28:18-20 and as per the pattern in Acts 2:38-41, Romans 6:4-11 and other passages. 

I understood in the simplest of terms what it meant to become born-again and I was able to discern the purpose of baptism. Our family went to several churches in my teen years, with seasons and stretches of me not going to church. In short, I understood the Christian life to be nothing more than me believing on Jesus and getting baptized. Regarding what I was to do beyond the baptistry, I had no idea. I knew at that point I should probably read my Bible, but I didn't know where to begin. Furthermore, my prayer life mainly was at meals. My scant knowledge of what to do as a Christian would be challenged through my teenage years.

By the time I was 17, I had been studying computer repair at the vocational technical school in our area. I had reached my Senior year of highschool and had no real idea of what my purpose was in life. My parents desired for me to go further in the computer field, however at the time I had a keen interest in auto-mechanics. Here I was, a Christian who had been saved for 6 years, and yet I evidenced little growth. I had tried to fit in with my friends, but found myself becoming more miserable.

I became involved in a Bible club after about a month into my Senior year. For the first time I witnessed young people my age reading their Bibles and praying. My parents had started us going to a new church and the time in my life seemed ripe for change. 

As I got involved in the Bible club in school, God began to show me how lax I had become. Near the end of that particular month, I was in my room at home and began to pray to God. At that poin I had no idea what to pray, since it had been so long since I had prayed! Nevertheless I asked God to forgive me for neglecting Him and I then asked for Him to open my heart to whatever He had for me. Suddenly I had the strong desire to pick-up my Bible and begin reading! I began at Genesis 1:1 and read for the next four hours! I promise you that the day before, I had hardly any thought I truly wanting to read the Bible, but the Lord turned on the switch inside of me. 

I was getting into Deuteronomy and I honestly thought: "The Bible is bigger than I thought!" So I decided to flip to the New Testament and kept thumbing through various books of the Bible until I arrived at 2 Timothy. My logic was that it was sort-of-near-the-end. 

As I neared the end of 2 Timothy I came to 2 Timothy 4:2 which states - "preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction." As I read that verse, it was as if time stood still. I stared at the verse and suddenly I found myself weeping. The power and presence of God filled me and those words "preach the word" lept off the page and I literally felt like God was calling me to do that very thing. God poured into me in that moment the equivalent amount of desire for Him that I should have had the six years prior. I knew I could not go back to the compromising teenager that I had been. There were no tongues nor flickering of the lights in my room. All I knew was that the Holy Spirit of God brought to me the power of His presence and implanted in my heart a greater desire for Jesus Christ. 

I cannot tell you when I finally fell asleep that night, but all I can tell you is the next morning I woke up as a new 17 year-old young man. I can look back and truly identify that moment as the first time I experienced the filling of the Holy Spirit. Over the course of the next several months God began to shape my desires. I wish I could say I had stopped sinning. I didn't. However how I viewed my sin changed. I hated everytime I chose to sin. I found that God had given me the desire to share my faith and with my dad's help and my grandmother's aid, I began to better understand the Bible. Although I stumbled in ackwardness at times, the Lord was gracious and patient with me. Several months later God gave me opportunties to begin preaching and by the Autumn of the following year I was enrolled in Bible College. 

Since that time nearly 25 years ago, I have had many more opportunities to experience the Spirit's filling ministry. Each time has been a little different and at times not as dramatic as that initial experience. In other cases, the Spirit of God has filled me in the tough seasons of life. If anything, the times of greatest difficulty have been the seasons wherein I have went from experiences of the Spirit's filling to understanding it as an ongoing lifestyle. I wish I could say that I have never stumbled nor given God a hard time since those early days. Trust me, God has had to break my will and even to this day is continuing to refine my character to be more like Jesus. With that said, I cannot imagine living daily for Jesus nor serving Him without the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. 

Closing thoughts
One of my favorite authors and preachers, A.W. Tozer, has aided me greatly throughout the years. I one time heard him speak on how one can practically and regularly experience the filling ministry of the Holy Spirit. I leave today's post with his simple outline, which I think represents the Biblical teaching on the Spirit-filled life and approximates what I have experienced in my own life:

1. Present. Come to God as a child. Simply present yourself to God. Romans 12:1-2

2. Ask. Request God to fill you with the Spirit. Luke 11:13

3. Obey. The Spirit-filled life occurs in the context of obedience. Acts 5:32

4. Have faith. Believe that God will fill you with the Spirit and that the Spirit will lead you in accordance to the continual exercise of you faith. Galatians 3:2. 

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