My first experience with God’s Holy Spirit came at an age as early as I can remember, sitting as a young observer in our tiny little community Methodist Church as we’d go through the ritual of reciting The Apostle’s Creed. It wasn’t church if you didn’t say the creed in unision- even a 4-year-old could understand that well enough.
Reciting the “creed” located in the section of the hymnal labeled “Aids for the Ordering of Worship,” and “The Rituals,” was an uncomfortable thing for a youngster. Some of the phrases – “conveived by a Ghost,” “suffered under Pontius Pilate,” “descended into hell” and “judging the quick and the dead” weren’t exactly warm and fuzzy. Didn’t they teach me in Sunday School that God was all about love? Scary stuff for a kid.
Fast forward 35 years later.
My first experience with a “spirit-filled” church came at a paradoxical moment in my life. There had been a divorce, my business had crashed, friends had abandoned me, and for the first time in my life I couldn’t “see” the future. The depression was DEEP. There was no vision and “without a vision the people perish.” I was perishing, that was for sure.
And so after years of “membership” in such upright denominations as the Methodist and Baptist churches, I joined a non-denominational church that prided itself on being “spirit-filled.” It was the lifelong church of my fiancee. I didn’t know what spirit filled meant exactly, but I didn’t really care either. All I knew was that at certain times in certain worship services, the environment seemed to be a little more dynamic than at others.
There were predictable moments, by which you could set your watch, when at the conclusion of the “praise and worship” (or music and singing) that the pastor would step forth to the elevated pulpit and stand with closed eyes in silence as if waiting to see if the Holy Spirit would descend upon the place we had gathered.
Sometimes individuals would break out in song, others would speak in tongues, others would stand with closed eyes and raised hands.
Other times, there would be NOTHING.
It was hard to understand what this was all about. But I went along for the ride – wondering.
It wasn’t until a year or so ago that I re-committed myself to the study of God’s Word and determined I would find the best way to read and comprehend the Word. Before, I had tried reading the Bible from beginning to end, I had tried flipping to random passages, I had tried focusing on the New Testament, Proverbs, Psalms, but it never really sunk in. Finally, I found a way that was best for me, but that’s another post down the line.
The method I found worked and I began to understand with crystal clear revelation what God had to say in His Word. It was profound and I am thankful beyond measure. As I began to wrap my mind around scripture and learned lessons about “the church,” and what it means to “be the church” and that “I AM the Church,” I began to supplement my Bible study with the writings of such men as George Barna, Frank Viola, Kyle Idleman and Bob Buford.
The writings of these truly wise men enhanced the beginning of my spiritual journey, helping me to understand that “being different” wasn’t such a bad thing.
After all, Jesus was sort of a different dude.
Now, before going any further, I want to make this clear.
Can the Holy Spirit of God choose to descend upon a body of gathered believers in a church building at 11 a.m. on a Sunday morning?
The Mighty Creator of all things can descend on a body of believers just as easily as He can choose to rain down fire from hell.
Actually, I have see it.
Once, 10 minutes into a Southern Baptist church service (a group not exactly into “spirit-filled” notions and speaking in tongues,) I saw the church service come to a halt when one person chose to go to the altar and pray in the midst of the praise and worship. Another boy followed, then five more followed, then 15 more followed and for the next hour the service stopped and the Holy Spirit of God enfused the vast space of the “worship center.”
So, personally, I’ve seen it once. Why doesn’t that happen more often?
Let’s see what God’s living Word has to say about this:
- “Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot ennter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit.'” John 3:5-6.
- “For all who are beingled by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God.” Romans 8:14
- “Do you not know that YOU (emphasis mine) that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in YOU (emphasis mine again). 1st Corinthians 3:16.
- “There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you wee called in one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all in all.” Ephesians 4:4-6.
- “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with YOUR HEART (emphasis mine) to the Lord…” Ephesians 5: 18-19.
- “It is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.” 1st John 6-8.
Is there a pattern to what God says about the spirit-filled nature of OURSELVES?
I didn’t see a word in that scripture about a church building or a gathering time or carpet or choir robes.
My friends, the spirit-filled nature of God is in YOUR heart and it goes where you go, sees what you see, hears what you hear and says what you say.
If you are a born-again believer in Christ Jesus, the Holy Spirit permeates every cell of your body.
And if we are the Body of Christ, and Christ lives in us, then, my friends, WE are the church. You and me. And it doesn’t matter where we are on Sunday morning at 11 a.m. as long as you are in a growing relationship with the Christ.
Act with humility.
Pour out Grace.
Forgive, and accept forgiveness.
I’m not perfect with these things, but I’m trying.
If the Holy Spirit doesn’t “show up” in church on Sunday morning, it’s simply because we’re not taking him with us.
He’s there. In your heart.
Take Him along for the ride.
Because He wants to go.