This week I have heard of yet more stories of people who had no knowledge of Christianity as they grew up, yet had an almost sudden conversion to Christ. This has included the stories of several Muslims (now ‘former Muslims’) who knew nothing to very little about Christianity, and had always been taught that Islam was the one true religion, who then heard a Christian explain the gospel and were then supernaturally converted to follow Christ. (Several of these Islamic converts to Christ also had supernatural dreams where they claimed that Jesus appeared to them!) I also heard of an atheist scientist who been taught that science could explain away the need for believing in a God, who then heard the gospel and was resoundingly converted to Christ. The other story I heard was closer to home and involved a young lady who had grown up in an atheist home where her parents were actually hostile to religion and forbad her from anything to do with Christianity. Years later, she ventured into a church one Sunday morning, heard the gospel, and was converted to Christ. Each of these stories confirm what Jesus taught about the work of the Holy Spirit and His mysterious and surprising dealings with people to undergird the church’s preaching of the gospel.
How different would your life be if you were filled continually with the Holy Spirit? This seems to have been the experience of at least the first Christians. We know that Jesus told His disciples after His resurrection to “receive the Holy Spirit” (Jn. 20:22) which may have been the moment that they were “regenerated” which is a fancy way of saying that they were born again (Jn. 3:3). But then Jesus told His disciples to wait for the outpouring of the Spirit (Lk. 24:39; Acts 1:4) which was yet to come. The effect on the disciples when this happened was dramatic — especially in the Simon Peter (Acts 2:14). He went from being a cowering timid fearful backslider to being a bold courageous fearless leader of the Christ’s Church (Acts 2:15-39). Then some days later, as Peter was about to bear witness before the rulers of Judaism, he was filled afresh with the Holy Spirit (Acts 4:8). When Peter met again with the other believers to pray, all of them were filled with Holy Spirit again (Acts 4:31). Thus, being filled continually with the Holy Spirit seems to have been the usually experience of the early believers. As the Church grew and spread, the early Christians’ understanding of who the Holy Spirit was and what He wanted to do in each believer and church also grew. They discovered that the Spirit didn’t just fill them to be bold proclaiming witnesses, He also enabled them to bear witness to the power of Christ by how they lived. The apostle Paul called this, the fruit of the Spirit.
The apostle Paul’s journey with Christ commenced on the road to Damascus. It was a dramatic, miraculous moment that led to him being knocked off his horse, being blinded for days by a supernatural light emanating from Christ with whom he had an amazing conversation about his destiny. Paul’s conversion to Christianity was profoundly supernatural, but so was the rest of his journey with Christ. While many believers can also claim to have had a dramatic and supernatural conversion to Christ resulting in much Holy Spirit activity in the early days of their conversion, sadly, not many could also claim that decades later these supernatural activities by the Holy Spirit have increased both in their frequency and intensity, as they did with the apostle Paul. Paul’s deepening charismatic experience throughout his life becomes a challenge to those of us who think that “being ‘on-fire’ for God” is only a new-Christian experience. Here’s why Paul’s spiritual journey should be a challenge for each of us. Let me explain.
THE EASTWARD SPIRIT
If he isn’t already, Peter FitzSimmons is fast becoming Australia’s Story-Teller. In 2007 he published a well written account of one of Australia’s greatest sons, entitled, “The Ballad of Les Darcy” (2007). FitzSimmons carefully chose the term ‘ballad’ in the sense that it is “a story of one generation passed onto the next” (although usually told in poetry) to describe this remarkable young man. Les Darcy was born in 1895 near Maitland, NSW. By 1915 he was a world champion boxer. In fact, even though he was a middle-weight boxer, he defeated Australia’s heavy-weight champion at that time to also become Australia’s heavy-weight boxing champion. But all this happened just as the first world war had broken out. He wanted to put his boxing career on hold and enlist, but being under 21 his mother wouldn’t sign the papers. This led to a vicious rumour among his opponents that he had refused to enlist. Around the time of this controversy he had a bout where one of his teeth was knocked out. After winning the bout, his saved tooth was reinserted back into his mouth by a dentist. This short and rather innocuous moment was to irreversibly change his life.