"Because of his great love for us, God - who is rich in mercy - made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions; it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus."
Tonight, like last night, I went to a tent meeting; a revival of sorts, if you will. An alumna of the seminary delivered an insightful message on being baptized in the Holy Spirit. Last night's message, delivered by one of our seminary's professors, was about the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. And both tonight and last night, the Holy Spirit was there. Both nights, I could feel the Spirit upon me - though as a Christian, the Spirit is with me whether I feel him or not. That's a lesson I'd really do well to learn. There is nothing I have to do to 'earn' God's Spirit; there is nothing I have to do to 'earn' God's favor. Why? Because in Christ, I have already been raised up from death (spiritual, not physical - physical resurrection from physical death is what God has yet in store for me); in Christ, I have already been seated with Christ in the heavenly realms. I - however relatively insignificant or completely unworthy I'm so often tempted to feel - have a throne already reserved for me in heaven as Christ's joint-heir, as someone adopted by the Father through participation in the Son's natural sonship by virtue of the Spirit of sonship that the Father has poured out into my life through his beloved Son. I have been called by grace to share by grace in the overflowing of the Trinitarian mystery of love. There's nothing I still have to do to 'earn' that. What room is there to speak of earning anything, when God's incomparable riches are promised as grace?
But as I said, the Spirit was with me and upon me tonight. Tonight our speaker - who spoke a fair deal on Ephesians 2:6-7 - invited us to step out into the aisle or to come up front and to pray for one another. That aisle, that front, represented - and in some inexpressable way, I might say, partook in - the river of baptism. (As our speaker says, when it comes to the baptism of the Spirit, God does not merely sprinkle us, he drenches us and soaks us and immerses us. God does not seek to dispense his Spirit with an eyedropper.) And as I stood in that aisle, worshipping God and crying out for his Spirit, one of my friends here came to me and prayed over me and with me for that Spirit to be present in me in a new way. And when I, in turn, laid hands on him and prayed for him to likewise receive the Spirit... I could tell that something fresh was happening. The words I spoke came welling up within me from somewhere I simply couldn't locate; the words I spoke took me completely by surprise, rushing out with power I could never have mustered from within myself alone, from within my dryness, my inner wastelands; the words I prayed were, I believe, words set into my heart to be spoken as a blessing for him. And I hope that they richly blessed him indeed, for I know that the speaking of them certainly blessed me. (Last night, too, some of the words I spoke felt as if they carried a power not my own.)
Our speaker, too, prayed over me later to receive greater assurance and to be drenched in the Spirit of God. She prayed, too, that I might be filled with a consuming love for those around me, a consuming love for those I encounter, a consuming love for others. And that caught me by surprise a bit, because to be perfectly honest, I've always struggled so much with having a passion to love others. For large stretches of my life, I've honestly felt dead inside. My natural state towards the world around me is a gray-tinged apathy. Even towards God, I find it terribly difficult to muster up much feeling. And that has been perhaps one of the things I've struggled with most in my Christian walk. (That, and the fact that I have faith perhaps one percent the size of a mustard seed, but that's perhaps for a different time.) But tonight, as I looked around and my community engaged in worship and prayer and encountering the Spirit of God, I couldn't help but feel my heart cry out, "This is family. These are my brothers, my sisters, in Christ. These are fellow children of God."
I have no idea right now what this post is 'about'. I'm not even certain that's any of my concern anymore. But I feel that if I don't take the time to put these words down... well, I fear I might lose them to the murky mire of my oft-splintered memory. And I don't want to lose what I gained tonight, what I found tonight. I don't want to lose that timeless time gripped in worship of our God. I don't want to lose the fact that, for the most part, everything beyond that tent seemed to pale in comparison with what was going on there. What I want to do is somehow to take what was in that tent and bring it with me to share with the world.
Heavenly Father, God who reigns in majesty and marvelous light from the throne of grace, surrounded by legions of angelic servants and the vast throngs of your children, send your Spirit down upon us through Jesus, your Son, with whom we died and with whom we were buried and with whom we were raised and with whom we were seated in the heavenly places.
Let our hearts and souls be not dry, but let this unimaginable thirst be amplified as we cry out for more and more of your Spirit. Send your Spirit down upon us, and let us forever yearn for more of it - for however much of your life is in us, you promise us always more.
Lord, let us never forget who you've made us to be; let us leave darkness and shame behind as you bring us into your kingdom of endless light, and let us forever look at the world from that vantage point.
Anoint us, O great God of heaven, anoint us and soak us and drench us and baptize us with your Spirit - not for our sakes along, but so that your Spirit might overflow from our hearts into the lives of those around us, so that we might spread your light and your glory and your holiness throughout the world.
In the name of Jesus Christ our risen Lord and everlasting King, we cling in faith to the promise you gave to us, Father, and we plead earnestly with you to baptize us with your Spirit of Glory so that we might become all flame.