Healing Line

Healing Line

How to Have Your Own Personal Pentecost

by J. Lee Grady
Winter 2015/16

One of my life goals is to stay "hot" for God. When I look at the spiritual giants of the Bible, I see men and women who carried a holy fire inside them — a fire that produced much more than personal piety. After heaven's coals touched their lips, the flames drove them to pursue God's radical agenda.

The prophets of the Old Testament knew this fire. Jeremiah felt as if God's flames were shut up in his bones (Jeremiah 20:9), and his spiritual passion drove him to weep in the streets as he confronted the sins of Israel. Elijah called down God's fire from heaven and relentlessly opposed Jezebel's plot against God's faithful remnant. Huldah's fiery prophetic zeal provoked King Josiah to destroy all the idols in the Temple. King David said the zeal of the Lord "consumed" him (Psalm 69:9) — and Jesus cited that verse when He drove the money–changers out of the Temple with a whip.

This fire blazed in the hearts of believers who were torn apart by Caesar's lions in the first century. It burned in the hearts of the Reformers who risked their lives to publish the Bible. If more recent spiritual heroes such as Charles Finney, George Whitefield, John Wesley and Catherine Booth had anything in common, it was their white–hot zeal. Lukewarm Christians never changed their world.

You may think that such unusual fervor is an emotion reserved only for full–time evangelists or missionaries. But the apostle Paul tells us that all Christians should have a spiritual temperature that reaches the boiling point. In Romans 12:11 he commands us to be "fervent in spirit." The Greek word for fervent is zeo, which means "to boil like hot liquid or to glow like hot metal."

I see this boiling hot zeal in Christian heroes of the past two centuries. These are my true heroes. When I read the writings of John Wesley, Charles Finney, Charles Spurgeon, Andrew Murray, William Seymour, E.M. Bounds, Watchman Nee, Oswald Chambers, A.B. Simpson, Brother Andrew or Corrie ten Boom, their words speak more deeply to me than most contemporary authors. For these people, the baptism of the Holy Spirit was not just a momentary experience or an emotional high. They walked through serious trials and suffering. Total surrender was their lifestyle.

As we seek God for a new season of spiritual renewal (and none of us at this point knows what the new movement will look like), I believe we need to look backward as we move forward. There is something from the past that we must recover. We can learn it from these fire–tested saints.

The charismatic renewal of the last forty years has been a time of refreshing for the Church, to be sure. But I fear it was short–lived because we allowed it to be shallow. And this is because we have trivialized the message of Pentecost. We cheapened it. We made it easy for anyone to come to a church altar, stand in a line and have hands laid on them. They could fall backward, speak in tongues and — bam! — they've been anointed by the Spirit. Is it really that easy? I am not suggesting that we have to work for the anointing of the Spirit. The grace of God is free. But a sanctified life is not something we receive in a line. It is something we wrestle for. If the early disciples tarried for weeks before the blessing of Pentecost, why do we encourage people to pray for this blessing before they've had a chance to even count the cost of discipleship?

During the holiness revivals of the late 1800s, America's preachers called God's people to embrace the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Their focus was not on speaking in tongues or the gifts of the Spirit; churches in those days did not understand that revelation from God's Word. But they proclaimed convincingly that God had a second blessing for His people. They saw the baptism of the Holy Spirit as an act of full consecration. They saw it as a step into the sanctified life. They cherished it as a pearl of great price.

This same understanding permeated the early Pentecostal revivals of the twentieth century. Preachers such as William Seymour, C.H. Mason and Gaston B. Cashwell did not view the baptism of the Holy Spirit simply as a momentary experience of empowerment. They saw it as an introduction into a life of holiness and consecration. They expected the baptism of the Holy Spirit to transform weak, hesitant, sin–sick churchgoers into courageous, impassioned, holy, fire–breathing disciples.

Where do you stand today? You may have never asked God to baptize you in the Holy Spirit. Or perhaps you had this experience, but you recognize now that your fire has been left to smolder. Perhaps the flame burned brightly at one point, but you became distracted by life's challenges. Perhaps you had a moral failure. Or perhaps you dipped your foot into carnal pleasures and kept going back for more, lulled into spiritual apathy with the encouragement of a hell–bent culture. Or perhaps problems in your church or ministry soured your attitude and you became disillusioned.

Spiritual zeal must be rekindled regularly. It is your responsibility to fan the flames. Perhaps you would like to pray for a fresh baptism of the Holy Spirit. First, prepare your heart so that you can settle this matter with God.

What is Your Spiritual Temperature?

Many Christians struggle to live a life of faith because they have not surrendered their hearts fully to the Lord. They live on the proverbial fence, constantly wavering. They find it hard to believe that God loves them. They stumble into habitual sin constantly. They struggle with the simplest of spiritual disciplines.

The reason they seem to lack the ability to follow Christ wholeheartedly is that they have not fully yielded to His grace. Yes, they said a prayer of confession and asked Jesus to come and live in their hearts. But they are not fully convinced that Jesus loves them and that He gave His life for them on the cross. And they have not fully entrusted their lives into His care.

Other Christians serve Jesus faithfully for years but then crawl off of His altar. It is possible for any of us to run from God, just as Jonah did. Even some of the greatest spiritual giants of the past went through difficult times of wandering, doubt or discouragement. Sometimes because life's challenges hit us hard, we begin to backslide. Even if you have thrown in the towel, it is not too late to get back onto His altar and ask for a new visitation of His Spirit.

Perhaps you believe that Christ is your Savior, but you have never truly yielded to Him as your Lord. He cannot be one and not the other. He is both Savior and Lord. He purchased your life when He redeemed you; now, He asks that you surrender your will, emotions, disappointments, failures, fears, plans, goals and dreams to Him. Making this important decision will certainly increase the spiritual temperature in your life.

Yielding to Jesus' Lordship is an act of faith as well as of consecration. Consecration is defined as: "The devoting or setting apart of anything to the worship or service of God." In the Old Testament, anything used in the Tabernacle or the Temple had to be consecrated first. The priests, the furniture, the utensils and the offerings were all consecrated. Most of all, God desired His people to be consecrated as His. The Lord told Israel: "You shall consecrate yourselves therefore and be holy, for I am the Lord your God" (Leviticus 20:7).

As you prepare yourself to be freshly baptized in the Holy Spirit, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Have you broken all ties to your sinful past? Jesus commanded us not only to believe and repent but also to be baptized in water. In water baptism we demonstrate that we belong to Christ. We also are renouncing the devil and any idols we have served in the past. If you have been involved in a false religion, the occult or any form of idolatry, it is especially important to break their control through your obedience in baptism.
  2. Are you ruthlessly dealing with all known sin in your life? Many Christians live in a continual state of lukewarmness because they are not willing to lay the ax to the root of their sin. God wants you to bring all your sinful habits into the burning light of His presence. That will require you to be brutally honest by confessing to a trusted Christian friend who can pray for you.
  3. Are you grieved by the blatant sinfulness of the culture around you? Jesus never called us to isolate ourselves from unbelievers. But if we compromise with the world's values, we will grow cold. Our entertainment choices, close relationships or selfish pleasures can subtly lure us away from wholehearted devotion. If you have pitched your tent too close to Sodom, your friendship with darkness will snuff out your spiritual passion.
  4. Are you pursuing the things of God with more passion than other personal interests? During the days of the prophet Haggai, Israel was guilty of the sin of misplaced priorities. People were building their own houses while God's house lay in ruins (Haggai 1:2–5). You may have admirable goals that don't seem "wrong" in themselves, but your desire for a career, material success, recognition, a mate or a stress–free life may be what is sapping your zeal.
  5. Are you intimate with God? Spiritual zeal is not about how long you pray, how many times you go to church each week or how many Bible verses you have memorized. True passion for God is fueled when you are close to Him. If your faith has become a rote formula, a dry tradition or an empty shell, run back into His arms and let Him melt your cold, backslidden heart.
    You are called to be a worshipper, and intimacy with God requires devotion. Do the distractions of entertainment, work and relationships fill up your time? Does your heart beat fastest for Him, or have other interests replaced your first love? Do you truly live to please the Father alone, or have you become addicted to the praises of men?
  6. Do you harbor unforgiveness? Do you have resentment toward anyone who has wronged you? If so, a bitter poison is taking its toll — and you could infect others and start an epidemic. You must forgive every offense, release every judgment and drop every grudge. Are you jealous of another brother because he makes more money or seems more successful? You must rejoice with him instead of secretly resenting his blessings.
  7. Do you need an attitude adjustment? If you don't walk with the limp of humility, pride will cause you to strut. Do you radiate the love, joy and peace of the Holy Spirit — or are you better known for anxiety, rudeness, cutting remarks and irritability? What happens when you are under pressure? Do you manifest the sweet demeanor of a trusting heart, or throw a childish temper tantrum?
  8. Does your tongue need an examination? Does grateful thanksgiving pour out of your mouth regularly, or do you spend most of your time griping and complaining? Are you blessing people regularly with encouragement, or tearing them down with criticism and negativity? Have you grown so callous that you don't feel convicted when you malign a person's character by talking about him behind his back?
  9. What's happening in your most private areas? We can't view sexual purity as optional. You cannot be spiritually healthy if you don't hate sin. Does lust control any area of your life? Have you bowed your knee to the spirit of Baal, who controls our culture with pornography and perversion? Do you flee from sexual temptation the very second you are confronted with an image? Or do you toy with it as long as you know no one is looking?
  10. Do you have compassion for those who don't know Jesus? If it has been a while since you've shared your faith with a non–Christian, that's a good indication that your zeal has waned. When the fire of God rages inside us, we cannot hold it in! And nothing will stoke your spiritual passion more than leading someone to Christ.

Dealing with an Unwilling Spirit

The Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit is sensitive. He can be grieved (Ephesians 4:30) and quenched (1 Thessalonians 5:19). This means we can do things that cause Him to withdraw His presence and blessing in our lives. To quench the Spirit is to throw cold water on His flames.

I believe we quench the Holy Spirit in many ways. One is with doubt and intellectual pride. If we base all our decisions on what we know, we leave no room for the realm of faith. The Spirit speaks to us in spiritual terms that cannot be understood by the natural man. As long as we live in that realm we will never be filled wit the Spirit's power.

Another way we quench the Spirit is with religious tradition. Throughout history, religious people have persecuted believers who were led by the Holy Spirit. Just as the Pharisees hated Jesus and wanted Him dead, Christians who say they love God will criticize and oppose genuine spiritual renewal.

We also quench the Spirit with fear. You will never fully embrace the Holy Spirit's work if you are afraid of the supernatural. We must get beyond this. If you read the book of Acts, you will see that God did many strange and unusual things in the early Church! He not only healed the sick and raised the dead, but He shook buildings, caused doors to open by themselves, struck false prophets blind, gave people visions and transported a man instantaneously from one city to another.

The Holy Spirit's work can seem strange to us. But we must not let fear stop us from embracing His work. We must be people of faith who expect God to do miracles.

We can also quench the Spirit through unconfessed sin. This is why it is so important for us to be in close relationship with other Christians in a faith community. God never intended for us to walk alone. We need close friends who can help bear our burdens, share our struggles, pray for us and listen to our confession when necessary. Living a transparent life gives victory over any sin.

One of the most common ways we quench the Holy Spirit is by harboring an unwilling spirit. I had a dramatic experience in 1999 in which the Lord helped me overcome this. My church in Florida sponsored a conference on the Holy Spirit. At the close of one service I was lying on the floor near the altar asking God for a touch of His power. Several other people were kneeling at the communion rail and praying quietly for each other as soft music played in the background.

Suddenly I began to have a vision. In my mind I could see a large pipeline, at least eight feet in diameter. I was looking at it from the inside, and I could see a shallow stream of golden liquid flowing at the bottom. The oil in the giant pipe was only a few inches deep.

I began a conversation with the Lord. "What are You showing me?" I asked.

"This is the flow of the Holy Spirit in your life," He answered.

It was not an encouraging picture; it was pitiful! The capacity of the pipeline was huge — enough to convey tons of oil. Yet only a trickle was evident.

Then I noticed something else: Several large valves lined the sides of the pipeline, and each of them was shut. I wanted to ask the Lord why there was so little oil in my life. Instead I asked: "What are those valves, and why are they closed?"

"Those represent the times when you said no. Why should I increase the level of anointing if you aren't available to use it?"

The words stung. I wondered — when had I said no to God? I was overcome with emotion and began to repent. I recalled different excuses I had made and limitations I had placed on how He could use me.

For example, I had told Him I didn't want to be in front of crowds because I wasn't a good speaker. I had told Him that if I couldn't preach like T.D. Jakes does, then I didn't want to speak at all. I had told Him I didn't want to address certain issues or go certain places. I also knew I had a fear of flying because I did not like turbulence on airplanes. I recognized that this fear had become a blockage in my life.

After a while I began to envision something else in my spirit. I pictured a huge crowd of African men, assembled as if they were in a large arena. I saw myself preaching to them.

Nobody had ever asked me to minister in Africa, but I knew at that moment I needed to surrender my will. All I could think to say was the prayer of Isaiah: "Here am I. Send me!" (Isaiah 6:8). I told God I would go anywhere and say anything He asked. I laid my insecurities, fears and inhibitions on the altar. I repented of my unwilling spirit.

You can probably guess what happened. Two years later, I stood behind a pulpit inside a sports arena in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. As I addressed a crowd of eight thousand pastors who had assembled there for a training conference, I remembered seeing their faces in that vision. And I realized that God had opened a new valve in my life that day in 1999. Because I had said yes, He had increased the flow of His oil so that it could reach thousands.

Since that day I have traveled to more than 24 countries, preaching in churches, conferences and outdoor meetings. I had always considered myself a shy person and never dreamed I would be involved at such a level of public ministry. I saw myself as a journalist and preferred to hide behind my pen. But God had other plans. And He had to fill me with His Holy Spirit — and deal with all my excuses — to take me where He wanted me.

I encourage you to ask God for more. To do this, make sure you have surrendered every condition that you have ever placed on your obedience.

Those of us who call ourselves charismatics have a habit of asking for more of God's power and anointing. But what do we use it for? We love to go to the altar to get a touch from God. We love the goose bumps, the shaking, the emotion of the moment. We love to fall on the floor and receive prayer for more anointing. But I am afraid many of us are faking it. We get up off the floor and live just the way we want to.

If we truly want to be empowered, we must offer God an unqualified yes. We must crucify every no. We must leave our fears, insecurities and unwillingness at the cross.

Search your own heart today and see if there are any closed valves. Before you ask Him for a fresh baptism of the Spirit, make sure all is on the altar. As you surrender, the locked channels of your heart will open, and the flow of His oil will amaze you.

Receive His fresh anointing. I pray that the flame of the Spirit will become a raging fire shut up in your bones. I pray that, like Jeremiah, you will not be able to contain His zeal. And I pray that this fresh fire will fall from heaven, consume all the dross of our past mistakes and grant the Church a new grace to fulfill the Great Commission in our generation.

Written by J. Lee Grady, excerpt taken from The Holy Spirit is Not for Sale, copyright 2010, with written permission from Chosen Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group (http://www.bakerpublishinggroup.com).

J. Lee Grady J. Lee Grady is a contributing editor and former editor of Charisma.
Winter 2015/16 Issue