I am always faintly amused to hear in the secular media, or even in certain Christian papers, rather sneering reference to ‘born again’ Christians. My reaction is caused by the fact that in order to be a Christian, you have to be born again. There simply ain’t no such creature as an unborn-again Christian! When you put your faith in Jesus, the Holy Spirit starts a deep work of supernatural change in your life. Why not put your faith in him and experience this? It’s the new birth.
Christianity is essentially supernatural, from start to finish, as our reading today from Acts 1:23-2:21 shows. On the annual Pentecost Festival seven weeks after Jesus died and rose again, the twelve apostles ‘were gathered all together in one place’ when something spectacular happened. It was before all the divisions and denominations and theological wrangling and general stupidity began in the church.
There’s a lesson in that. God is doing something really special today, bringing Christians from widely different traditions and denominations to a new level of unity. It’s different from a few years ago. It’s very significant. And God is likely to do something spectacular when Christians meet together in unity.
On that Day of Pentecost something really supernatural happened to the apostles. It says ‘All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit’ It was a powerful experience.
Have you ever been filled with the Holy Spirit? Have you ever asked God to fill you with the Holy Spirit? The New Birth is a one-off experience at the beginning of your Christian life. We need to go on being filled with the Holy Spirit every day of our lives.
I can vividly remember the first time I experienced being filled with the Holy Spirit. Two ministers prayed for me with the laying on of hands. They were obviously expecting something spectacular to happen to me. But the more they prayed, the worse I felt. ‘Didn’t my mum tell me,’ I thought, ‘that we’d got the wrong name for anything good to happen to us?’ I still remember gazing in despair at the blue and white plastic table cloth on the kitchen table at which I was sitting.
What was worse, they’d told me that my wife had had a spectacular experience when they’d prayed for her in the next room. ‘Oh no!’ I thought, ‘Now I’m married to a nutcase!’
Eventually, after what seemed an age, they stopped praying and said: ‘Just believe God has answered the prayer and you will experience the blessing.’ ‘Yes,’ I thought, ‘and there are fairies at the bottom of the garden!’ I didn’t blame them. I thought they’d got fed up and given me up as a bad job.
Then I relaxed. I’d become quite tense. And the most beautiful experience dawned over me from the top of my head to the tips of my toes. I felt an exciting new sense of God’s presence and a thrilling expectation of him working in power. Scripture came alive in a much deeper way. A new love for God welled up inside me. And like the apostles at Pentecost I wanted to speak out his praise like never before. The multi-lingual crowd said of them ‘we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!’
Not everyone’s experience is the same. Some people have quieter, more gradual but equally definite experiences. But we all need to ask God daily to be filled with the Holy Spirit. The apostles suddenly received the supernatural ability to speak with inspiration, conviction and boldness. We need that today.
A Prayer Lord, fill me with your Holy Spirit that I might worthily praise you and effectively testify to your great love. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
© Tony Higton: see conditions for reproduction