‘THE BAPTISM OF THE HOLY SPIRIT’ IS ACCOMPANIED BY UNUSUAL ASSURANCE, POWER AND JOY…
We’ve already explored this in the life of Jesus: see my previous post and Lk. 4:1-2a, 14-22.
We now turn our attention to the Apostles. Peter and John are brought before the Sanhedrin, ‘the church board’ of that time. This august body is severely rattled by the apostles’ bold proclamation of Christ and healing of a crippled beggar at the temple gate. In response to the Sanhedrin’s charges and full of the Holy Spirit, Peter let loose: “‘Rulers and leaders of the people, if we have been brought to trial today for helping a sick man, I’ll be completely frank with you – we have nothing to hide. By the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the one you killed on the cross… by means of his name this man stands before you healthy and whole… Salvation comes no other way; no other name has been or will be given to us by which we can saved, only this one!’ (Acts 4:8-12/MSG). The clergy are transfixed by the apostles’ boldness and certainty. Their fascination deepens when they realized these two were ‘mere laymen’ with no formal education. “They warned them that they were on no account ever again to speak or teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John spoke right back, ‘As for us, there’s no question – we can’t keep quiet about what we have seen and heard!’” (v. 18-20). After prayer with their fellow-disciples, ‘the place where they were meeting trembled and shook. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak God’s Word with fearless confidence… The apostles gave powerful witness to the resurrection of the Master Jesus, and grace was on all of them…” (v. 31).
Back to the present. Many in the Body are concluding, against this backdrop of Acts, that a large majority of Western Christians have been ‘saved’ but manifest little, if anything, of the primitive Church’s assurance, confidence and joy in the Holy Spirit. How many of us can whole-heartedly sing ‘Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine! O what a foretaste of glory divine!?’
I recommend three remarkable scriptures as a kind of test-case. First Eph. 1:13-14, where the Apostle Paul is carried away with the saints’ ‘Spiritual Blessings in Christ’ (v. 3ff): ‘It’s in Christ that you, once you heard the truth and believed it (this Message of salvation), found your home free – signed, sealed, and delivered by the Holy Spirit. This signet from God is the first installment on what’s coming, a reminder that we’ll get everything God has planned for us, a praising and glorious life!’ (MSG). Second, 1 Jn. 5:13-15, where the Apostle John revels in the life of the Son, ‘My purpose in writing is simply this: that you who believe in God’s Son will will know beyond the shadow of a doubt that you have eternal life, the reality and not the illusion. And how bold and free we then become in his presence…’ (MSG). Third, 1 Pet. 1:8-9, ‘You (the persecuted believers of Asia Minor) love him, although you have not seen him, and you believe in him, although you do not now see him… you rejoice with a great and glorious joy which words cannot express because you are receiving the salvation of your souls…’ (GNB). C’mon, let’s be honest, where do we witness this today?? Give me an African-style worship any old day – even in dire poverty, believers express their joy in the Lord, their bodies moving and faces shining!) 
This is not mind-less enthusiasm. Take the example of Blaise Pascal, the 17th century French genius, mathematician, inventor (of a crude but working mechanical calculator in his time) and philosopher.
Raised a Roman Catholic, Pascal came to an intellectual faith in God. After suffering the loss of his father, he sought a more vital faith in God. He set aside a day to seek him. Nothing happened all day. He prepared for bed, and then it happened beween 10:30 pm and 12:30 am. He penned in his diary, ‘FIRE! GOD of Abraham, GOD of Isaac, God of Jacob, not of the philosophers and of the learned. Certitude. Certitude. Feeling. Joy. Peace. GOD of Jesus Christ, my God and your God. Your God will be my God. Forgetfulness of the world and of everything, except GOD. He is only found by the ways taught in the Gospel. Grandeur of the human soul. Righteous Father, the world has not known you, but I have known you. Joy, joy, joy, tears of joy. I have departed from him: They have forsaken me, the fount of living water. My God, will you leave me? Let me not be separated from him forever. This is eternal life, that they know you, the one true God, and the one who sent, Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ. I left him; I fled him, renounced, crucified. Let me never be separated from him. He is only kept securely by the ways taught in the Gospel. Renunciation, total and sweet. Complete submission to Jesus Christ and my director. Eternal in joy for a day’s exercise on earth. May I not forget your words. Amen!’ He sewed these notes into his jacket-hem, where it was discovered after his death. Our experience of the Spirit may be very different, but have we encountered the Lord in at least something of this dynamic and intimate way, bringing us his glorious assurance, power and joy??
‘THE BAPTISM OF THE HOLY SPIRIT’ IS ACCOMPANIED BY UNUSUAL LOVE…
God imparts his love to his people in abundance! There is a difference between a light drizzle and a mighty down-pour. The apostle Paul writes to the Roman believers concerning the peace, joy and hope following on their ‘justification by faith’: 5:5, ‘And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us!’ (NIV) This ‘love’ refers in the first place to the love of God for us, not our love for God. It refers to our sense of God’s love for us as his people. Paul probably had in mind Is. 44:3, ‘For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants…’ (W. Sanday & AC Headlam, ICC). The image is that of a cloud-burst, a flash-flood, in a desert-place. I recall a vivid childhood experience of mine, aged 5/6. My father, a police officer, had to write an exam in the nearby Karroo town of Cradock, a very hot and arid part of the East Cape. I begged him to take me along. Providentially he didn’t. Along the way, crossing an absolutely dry river bed, he was caught off guard by a wall of water from a cloudburst in the mountains. This flash-flood carried our family car down-stream for quite a way. He managed to escape – I would have drowned. I have an old photo of the family car sunken in the sand with just the roof protruding. That’s what a flash-flood can do, it’s something overwhelming and unforgettable. Some time or another, perhaps in different ways, every true believer will sense such a flood of God’s love in Christ poured into his/her heart by the Spirit! Have you known that, my friend?  [PS, this encounter is not to be confused with the ‘filling of the Holy Spirit’ as commanded in Eph. 5:18ff. The latter, and the ‘fruit of the Spirit’ described in Gal. 5:22ff, refer more to a slower process-experience, as we daily submit ourselves to Christ’s lordship. The Romans experience indicates something that happens to us, even unexpectedly, once-off or from time to time]
The great 19th century American evangelist, DL Moody, having found Christ by faith, desired ‘something more’ from God. One day in NY City he felt so overwhelmed by God’s love, that he felt he would explode – his mind and emotions just couldn’t cope with the glory of God’s love out-poured!
A century earlier, the English evangelist George Whitefield’s journal reveals that, one night, after just six minutes of his preaching, a man in the audience cried out, ‘He has come!’ The people praised God all night. Whitefield went home at midnight and wept at his own vileness and, on the other hand, God’s everlasting love for him.
For the encouragement of the more ‘average believer,’ here’s a little sample of my own experience of God’s gracious Spirit many years ago. I grew up in a very nominal Christian home. In my early teen years I became restless under a creeping awareness of God’s holiness and glory. I began to seek God in a very childlike way. I felt strongly that somehow I needed to please my Maker and earn his favour. One day, on an errand to the corner-store to buy bread, as I was returning home, the truth broke on me in an absolutely overwhelming way. God brought to mind a verse that I had read but not grasped, ‘For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God…’ (Eph. 2:8). I tell you, I went home ‘walking and leaping and praising God!’ On my arrival, after contemplating God’s revelation to me, I felt totally immersed in the Spirit’s love and power. At age fourteen, I knew, simultaneously with my new birth, an unmistakable call to Christian ministry and preaching the Word. Besides my Bible, I started reading two books: James Hudson Taylor’s epic biography ‘The Man Who Believed God,’ and ‘Teach Yourself Preaching!’ (Since then I’ve often joked that the latter didn’t help my preaching much). With some new-found Christian friends, we started a Sunday School of sorts in a very poor area. My friends and I felt the Lord’s anointing as we reached out to others in different ways. Sadly, at High School, I lost the plot somewhat amid academic and sporting achievements. Following High School I started out on a career as Chemical Engineer. However, within my first year, I was powerfully reminded of my call to ministry. After three years of secular employ and study, I undertook four years of theological training and then went on to pastor four congregations over a period of thirty eight years – until God sovereignly called me out of the institutional Church fourteen years ago. I now teach and strive to enact the kingdom among the poor and via ‘organic house churches,’ roughly patterned on Acts 2:42. Over the years I’ve been privileged to witness to the Gospel on all the continents of the earth, Antarctica excepted, brrrr! Be encouraged, my fellow-pilgrims, what God’s done for others he can do for you!
Please join me again for PART 3 of this series and see Footnotes and hymn below the pic…
 In his book, ‘Joy Unspeakable,’ Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones relates the story of a sceptical woman invited to a packed croft meeting during the Hebrides revival: she could only peek through a window, but the sight of a radiant child’s face shining with the glory of God led to her immediate conversion!
 Do yourself a favour and listen to the 1904/5 Welsh revival ‘love song’ attached below, first in Welsh and then in English.