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Now what about the look ahead? I hear today that the charismatic movement is dying down. Some say the Pentecostal and charismatic movements have both passed their prime and are to be replaced by a “third wave” of the Spirit that, however, denies there is any experience of a baptism in the Holy Spirit after salvation and claims it all happens when we accept Jesus. It also maintains that it is not necessary to speak in tongues to be baptized in the Spirit.
Either of these lines of thought show that the purveyors thereof have not grasped what this Pentecostal or charismatic renewal was and is all about. This is mainly and usually because people have not themselves received the baptism in the Holy Spirit, and therefore are sympathetic and well-meaning brothers and sisters commenting on something they have not entered into.
Many have the impression that the charismatic renewal is simply one among several programs for strengthening the church. But the charismatic renewal isn’t one choice among several. It is the renewal of the experience of Pentecost as people respond to Jesus Christ’s instructions to all His followers that they are to be empowered before they go out to the world with the good news.
The charismatic renewal is not an evangelical revival; although more than anything else it has fueled the current interest in evangelism. It is highly important that we see the difference between revivals—which are occasional and short-lived upsurges of response to God—and this global renewal of the experience of Pentecost, which has been going on with increasing momentum for nearly a hundred years.
This is the breaking forth of the Holy Spirit from the religious prison in which He has been confined through much of Christian history, so He can begin to make Christians what they are supposed to be: centers of power and joy for the refreshing and healing of the world.
Evangelism is the initial offering and proclamation of forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ, and the receiving of new birth in the Holy Spirit. After this has happened Jesus commands us to receive the freedom and power of the Spirit, to release the Holy Spirit who has come to live in us, so that He can bless us and work through us (see Acts 1:4-5).
We can be so near to seeing this truth and yet so dangerously far away. The Holy Spirit comes to live in us when we receive Jesus as Savior, that is absolutely true; but we do not necessarily receive Him, that is, allow Him to rule in our lives.
Through the baptism in the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God is allowed to extend His influence over our outward lives—our will, intellect, emotions and bodies. Not surprisingly He begins with our speech, and begins to tame the unruly member, to make it usable by our Lord so He can give us words to adequately express our praise and love to God in “words which are not in our power to say” (Rom. 8:26, Basic English Version).
Thus we can pray and intercede for ourselves and others in words that precisely express God’s will. This taming of the tongue also makes it possible for God to speak through us to His people, in prophetic utterances and also in gifts of tongues, which are then understood through the companion gift of interpretation.
I haven’t changed my essential convictions about all this. I’m still saying the same things I did 30 years ago, although, I hope, with much more understanding of what it all means.
What is happening to people today when they receive the freedom of the Spirit is just the same as at the first, except that now we understand much more about it. The church is not primarily a preaching or teaching institution. It must be charismatic. It must manifest the gifts and fruit of the Spirit, for they are the continuing signs that Jesus is alive and ready to bless people now.
People are weary of talk about religion, whether by semi-believing intellectuals or arrogant fundamentalists, and they are especially weary of ill-natured Christians who condemn everything and everyone, including one another. (This includes the so-called liberals who use social concerns to bring people under condemnation.)
But if people see the glory of the indwelling Spirit in their friends and neighbors and experience His fruit and gifts pouring out of God’s people to heal body, mind and spirit, they will be drawn to the love of Jesus, and they will indeed receive His complete healing. Jesus did good works, healings and deliverances, and these are what showed people the kingdom of God was “at hand”—that is, right here and now.
He tells us to do the same. It isn’t any different today. If people see Jesus doing these things through His followers, how can they refuse to accept Him?
Evangelism brings people to receive Jesus, and then the Holy Spirit can come and live in them. The baptism in the Holy Spirit is letting the power of the Spirit flow out to bless, first of all, the individual and then the world around.
When Peter was challenged by the other apostles and brethren because he had ministered to the Roman centurion, Cornelius, and his household, Peter responded: “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them as upon us at the beginning. Then I remembered the word of the Lord, how He said, ‘John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?” (Acts 11:15-17, NKJV).
This is what Jesus promised at the first. Let us not be found with those who withstand God but with those who will stand with God so that this great response to His love and grace in the Holy Spirit can continue unhindered in our day.
THE STORY CONTINUES
Read our May 1980 cover story detailing Dennis Bennett’s extraordinary life at Bennett.charismamag.com.
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