having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!
(2 Timothy 3:5 NKJV)
I’ve made two huge theological transitions in my life in the last fifteen years. I don’t mean that I changed “religions”, but that I left one type of denomination or church and went to another. Each of these transitions involved major church “categories” where some of the most strongly held fundamental teachings were not accepted by the other. Leaving one meant that I really could not easily return to what I had left behind. Each of these two transitions involved a very similar process and pattern. They each started with questions popping up in my mind and a growing sense of restlessness and dissatisfaction with what I had been seeing. At first I didn’t even know what was bugging me, but as time went on, I began to see clearly many specific issues that I could no longer ignore.
The first time I made the transition, I felt that I had left everything that was wrong and arrived at what was finally right. For the most part, that was really true and it was good for about seven years or so. But then it happened again. The same restlessness and questions started popping up. Some of the issues were the same again but others were different. Having gone through this process once and feeling I had arrived at the “right place”, I couldn’t believe I was again going through this again. After all, I had left behind a lot of things that were just not Biblically correct. I still have today a distinct memory of going to and from my church every Sunday and leaving the same as I was when I arrived. It got so bad that I became completely disgusted with what I was seeing and didn’t even want to go anymore.
Some of the key things that really bothered me repeated themselves in both transitions. I saw so-called “Christians” that acted no different than worldly nonbelievers and they lacked any sign of transformational change in their life despite years of church attendance. But the thing that made the second transition different was that I was no longer going from one academic theology to the next. Instead, this time I was now stepping into a realm that was for the most part completely rejected by the others: the spiritual dimension.
I was confronted this time by the fact that I was no longer able to use intellectual arguments for what I was moving into. Sure, I had a few Bible verses that proved to me I was missing out on 90% of the true Biblical Christian experience, but it was so foreign to me that I felt like I was walking out onto a frozen lake where I had no idea if the ice was really going to hold me up. I had many stories of those in far away places and a a couple personal friends who were telling me I was on the right track but breaking past the intellectual barrier was a very big challenge to say the least.
One thing that stood out to me in this process was how intellectualized the American church is for the most part. I had been told by the mainline Protestant church that I needed a “personal relationship with Jesus” but to be honest, I didn’t really see that many people who actually had that. In my seven years or so in the Protestant churches, I had noticed some serious character flaws in me that were not changing year after year. I had gotten fed up with the hypocrisy in many (but not all) of the people I met in churches but now I was also seeing the same in me. And no matter how many Bible verses I memorized and how many teaching programs I listened to, I was not making any progress in fixing my issues.
Character Flaw Stranglehold
I had a problem relating to women in a proper or positive manner (the way I knew a Christian was supposed to and the way I wanted to). I grew up extremely insecure which led me to dig myself into a trench and become arrogant to cover up my deep rooted fear. I developed a very nasty habit of shooting out profanity and I had a temper that would occasionally get out of control in a short burst if my patience level was crossed. There were some other character and spiritual flaws to add to the list but these were some of the worst. Again, year after year, nothing inside of me ever changed. I was in many ways a total personal disaster and going nowhere good.
But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
(Acts 1:8 NKJV)
One day, while reading a book about Christianity in non-western nations, I began to notice some very unusual things. There were frequent miracles taking place in many forms. People got healed of severe physical sicknesses or disorders and there were divine interventions in other matters that totally defied anything I had ever seen myself. A fight now had begun in my mind. Either these stories were real or someone was making up quite a bunch of nonsense and I had to know the truth. One of the observations I made was that these miracles seemed to never happen without a thing that was never practiced in any of the churches I had ever been to: fasting. I’m talking about the kind of fasting that means you don’t eat anything for a pre-determined amount of time. I had heard of eating a piece of fish instead of a piece of meat on Fridays or skipping candy for Lent and I had heard pastors mock fasting as a thing we “no longer have to do”, but I had never heard of anyone going on a true Biblically correct fast.
Well, I decided that I needed to try this fasting thing myself. I did not have any clear specific miraculous sign that I wanted to see, but I just began to feel very strongly that I needed to do this. So, I did. For six weeks, one day per week, I ate no food from Thursday at lunch time until Friday evening around 6:00 pm. It was the same day every week because that is what best fit around my work schedule. I used that day to spend extra time reading the Bible and praying. When I had finished six weeks of this routine, I remember suddenly realizing that the stranglehold of profanity had been broken off of me! I was in shock. I had never seen anything like this in my life. A very bad and completely unbiblical habit no longer had any power over me and there was no natural explanation for it!
Barrier Broken, Now A Battle Begins
And these signs will follow those who believe:In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
(Mark 16:17-18 NKJV)
One day during the six weeks that I was fasting one day per week, I decided to read the 16th chapter of Mark. Everything was fine until I got to verse 17, “and these signs will follow those who believe…” I distinctly remember my mouth dropped open and I stared at the page in shock. I had never in my entire life heard this verse read in any church or Bible study. Right there it said (without expiration date) that all those who believe in Jesus will speak in tongues and see healing miracles. This proved to me that the healing miracles I was reading about were real. It also proved to me that speaking in tongues was real.
This caused a number of reactions inside of me. I began to realize I that had been lied to in every church I had ever attended. I had been told healing miracles were only for the first 100 years while the first Apostles were still alive and I had never been told anything about speaking in tongues. Realizing I had been lied to caused me to totally lose respect for every pastor I had ever met. It also made me very angry.
But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
(1 Corinthians 2:14 NKJV)
But then began the war in my mind. How did I really know about this speaking in tongues thing? How did I know the people who did this were not making it up? This internal battle revealed that I had reached the limits of my intellect and further effort in this area was proving useless. I was completely incapable of reaching an intellectual understanding. I began asking a friend about this and even to the point of arguing about whether this was true or how was I supposed to do this myself. I decided that I must have proof of the validity of this because I was not going to jump into something that was a lie and make a fool out of myself. Finally, after several weeks, the proof came when I began studying the baptism of the Holy Spirit and I read a book on dream interpretation by Perry Stone. Finally I knew this was real and I needed to have all these things myself.
In the months that followed, I read everything I could get my hands on and began listening to everything on the topic of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. I prayed many times asking to receive this myself but it seemed that it was constantly out of my reach. One day while outside walking on a trail, I had a strong mental impression that there were words going over my head as if in a high speed jet stream but I was not able to understand them or reach up and put my hand in the flow. This really exasperated me and I decided that I was going to have to travel to Tennessee myself for an upcoming Perry Stone conference. This was my last resort; if I wanted the baptism of the Holy Spirit and all the miraculous gifts that came with it, then I had to go there myself to get it. And so I did.
Because of what I experienced, I have extremely strong convictions on this topic. In subsequent articles, I will be filling in more of the details. There is a lot more to tell about. What I am describing here all took place between May 2011 and April 2012. I have now been a Holy Spirit-filled Pentecostal since that time and have advanced spiritually in many ways that cannot be included here in this post due to my intent to limit the size of my articles.
Receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit completely change me on the inside literally overnight. Since April 2012, I have noticed constant huge changes inside of me on the order of about every couple months or less. Literally, I’ve seen more personal transformation in less than three years than I did altogether in the previous four decades of my life. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is absolutely real and no one was ever meant to live without it. But it cannot be intellectualized. God speaks to us in our spirit which manifests through our heart, not our mind. It’s taken me a while to really get a grasp on this but I’ve made huge progress which I will tell more about later.
If you’ve been feeling like I did that something is wrong with your experience of faith in your church, this should serve as a second witness that God is absolutely stirring up those questions in you and He intends to bring a major change to your life as He did with me. My process was very uncomfortable but became very exciting and led me to places I could never have imagined. Yours will be the same. Do not be complacent and do not block God from working in your own process. Keep moving forward and what you don’t see now will emerge as if through a fog. God has something waiting for you and it’s bigger than you can imagine right now.
But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.
2 Corinthians 3:18 (NKJV)