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Twelve years ago (1981), my heart was driven into a search to uncover the reconciling of two outstanding spiritual realities in the body of Christ. These realities seemed opposed to one another, but eventually I found that they were not. Still, the seeming oppositions have served as a great wall keeping two major bodies of believers apart, and keeping individual believers from entering into the full operation of both realities.
One Search Ends
My own personal search has its roots in a life-transforming event that occurred on or about October 4, 1976. Without warning or anticipation, but at the end of a rope of spiritual desperation, the power of the Holy Spirit invaded me to the core of my being. Instantaneously, I felt severed from the core of my remaining sinful nature and was given an inward abiding revelation of Christ. Jesus became a real person to me. Immediate fellowship with the indwelling Father became my new unmovable reference point for truth and righteousness. The Scriptures came "alive" to me. Every verse now pointed to the centrality of abiding in relationship with "Jesus Christ IN me, the hope of glory." (Col. 1:27)
What I have just described sounds like my conversion to Christ. It was
not. Eight years earlier, at the age of 12, I had given my heart in full
repentance to the Lord Jesus Christ. Though I was young, I was familiar with the
gospel message. My parents, who were already converted to Christ, witnessed to
me and my brothers quite clearly about salvation through the blood of Christ for
the forgiveness of sins. As well, I heard the message through the Conservative
Baptist Sunday School our family attended in
From that time until my 1976 encounter with the Lord, I was schooled in the Fundamentalist tradition. An ardent student of Scripture, I was faithful in church attendance and in whatever evangelistic programs were promoted at church. Being zealous for doctrinal truth, I endured persecution for my faith in the various public schools I attended. Meanwhile, I did my best to live up to the "do's and don'ts" that were expected of the true Christian. In 1973, I enrolled in what is still considered by many to be the foremost militant Fundamentalist university in the nation. My Bible knowledge continued to increase as did my efforts to live a righteous life. To paraphrase Paul, I could say that I was truly a "Fundamentalist of the Fundamentalists."
During these years however, I did not feel fulfilled as a Christian. In fact, it seemed that the more I studied Scripture and expended effort to live rightly and do the Lord's work, the less righteous I felt. I felt the more guilty for my inability to overcome lust, anger, and other sins of the heart. A corresponding leanness developed in my soul - a thirst for reality which study and good works could not quench.
All of this took place during emotionally troubling times for me as an adolescent. I had sought answers for these emotional and relational troubles, intently craving fulfilment from the Lord. But I could not find it. Neither could my studies or labors resolve my growing desperation. At some points, my emotional instability even led me to contemplate suicide.
It was into such a wretched heap of clay that the Holy Spirit poured Himself on that October day in 1976. His Presence entered upon the wings of the words from Psalms 63:8, "My soul followeth hard after Thee, Thy right hand upholdeth me." Overnight my life changed from a works-based Christianity to a fellowship-based life in Christ. No longer was my relationship with God defined by perceptions of legal obedience. My reference point for truth also was radically altered. My ability to interpret Scripture was instantly replaced by an inward knowing of Christ Himself, The Truth. The indwelling Presence of Jesus became my internal compass for guidance and gyroscope for maintaining spiritual balance. Knowing Him became my "final authority for faith and practice." The Scriptures became reflections and conduits for that inward Presence and Voice. They ceased to be mirrors of my own religious ideas based in my legal understanding of right and wrong. My search for love, peace, and inward reality had come to an end.
As one might guess, it was only a matter of time before my new reference point for spiritual reality forced my departure from the circles of fellowship I had known to that time. My new found certainty based in living Truth together with my energized zeal for spreading this "new realm of Life" was interpreted as pride and presumption. My inability to define my own sense of the Lord's guidance by using Scriptural proof texts was mistaken for "gnosticism" and "mysticism." Because I also now had a new love for believers that defied theological tests for fellowship, I was charged with "compromise with the unseparated."*
Not long after my encounter with the Holy Spirit, I was able to discover the fellowship of other believers and authors who shared the same experience and taught from it as a platform. Such authors included A. W. Tozer, Watchman Nee, and Andrew Murray, to name a few. I was also introduced to a small missionary training institute where the director taught about these realities of the "crucified life" and "experiencing the love of Christ."
These fellow believers did not so much add to what I had received, but confirmed it. Their teachings witnessed to what I had experienced and for the first time I found fellowship with saints who could relate to what I had entered. I soon learned that the general name for this teaching was the "Deeper Life" or "Victorious Christian Life." The heart of this teaching was the inward work of the cross in the life of the believer, a work that could set us free from sin by bringing us through a "death experience." Out of this we could enter a permanent resurrection experience of the full abiding Presence of Christ deep in our souls.
This teaching was life to me, ever-amplifying my sense of intimacy with the Lord. It was truly deep in that it went beyond the surface theology I had known. The praying of these believers was also deep - quiet, but intense. They taught on the life of self-denial and carried out lives of discipleship. To them, faith was the forsaking of money and goods and the sacrificing of natural relationships as necessary to advance the gospel. Fellowship with them was always marked by a peace and a holy reverence.
A New Quest Begins
Between the years of 1976 and 1981, I felt I had engaged the final truth concerning the work of the Spirit in the life of the believer and in the Church. My new relationship with the Lord had produced an unshakability within me that had proved it could withstand the opposition of men and organizations who did not draw water from the same well. An unquenchable fire had been kindled in my heart, a burning passion for God and for teaching other believers how to enter into the same intimacy.
But the search was not over. A new search was about to begin. It is about this search that this book is written. While I was at the height of my new inward spiritual security, God began to produce other stirrings in me. He confronted me with other spiritual realities which had been discredited to me in the past, but I had never witnessed or experienced personally.
One characteristic that was shared by the Fundamentalist Evangelicals and the Deeper-Victorious Life camps was a common disdain for all present-day claims to "charismatic" experiences in the Holy Spirit. Specifically, they denied the validity of any ministry that claimed to be able to directly impact the earth through supernatural manifestations. This included gifts of healing, tongues, prophecy, and all expressions of faith that carried immediate expectations of situation-changing results motivated solely by personal need or desire.
To this time, the Charismatic controversy was a non-issue to me. I just never paid much attention to it. My life was so sheltered spiritually that I never had cause for exposure to anything charismatic. I just accepted the hand-me-down explanations that none of these things were for today. Moreover, the general reputation of the Charismatics lent support to this belief. Especially from the Deeper Life perspective where a man's fruit is the "proof of the pudding," I felt justified in continuing to ignore this "emotional" wing of the Church fraught with charlatans and fakes.
It wasn't so much that I denied the possibility of these gifts for today. It was just that, even if they were for today, they were relatively unnecessary. And should God decide they were necessary, they would come without my seeking them, and certainly would only truly come to those with a deeper life experience who focused on Christ alone. The true gifts wouldn't come to all the televangel hypsters who sensationalized them as a way to build a name for themselves and keep people focused on temporal lusts.
But God wouldn't leave me alone. Yes, the same God who led me into a deeper relationship with Himself now challenged my heart with the mysteries of the charismatic realm. Despite my anchored deeper experience, there were still unsettled questions and matters of temporal import in my soul. I could not ignore or escape these matters and I felt arrested by the Lord concerning them. They were of a very personal nature, and could even be considered foolish by some. Though I sought to lay these personal areas down in favor of a more heavenly focus, I could not. It came to the point that I knew I must either encounter charismatic reality pertaining to my weaker "mortal" areas, or else begin stagnating in my love affair with the Lord.
My investigation earnestly began in the winter of 1981-82. I possessed a burning desire to see God translate my relationship with Him into practical situation-changing power that could bring direct visible answers to my prayers. I wanted to see faith affect the present world as well as in the hidden depths of human hearts. I wanted to see God's Kingdom come to earth in ways beyond transformed character alone. I desired to prophesy and even speak in tongues, and to know the earthly definition of my calling beyond "I love you, Lord."
But I was in a deep quandary. The only people I knew who had accessed charismatic reality had, from my viewpoint, precious little solidity or substance in Christ. Was it worth the risk to leave behind my Deeper Life enclave to explore this unknown wild jungle? The years of 1983-89 were years of wandering through a charismatic morass. I wanted truth concerning God's supernatural anointings, but it seemed I could only find it at the expense of sound judgment and teaching.
As I dared to approach outwardly anointed ministries, I could not deny their reality. Truly God was working... the miracles, the healings, the prophecies-- even in spite of the excesses, occasional fraudulent claims, and questionable motives. They were real. I couldn't deny it, nor did I want to.
Eventually, I was blessed to personally partake of these gifts. Yet I felt that I had to "hold my nose" spiritually to receive of these anointings at the hands of ministries which Deeper Life discernment told me were "off the wall." I will never forget the night in 1985 when I received my prayer language in tongues. I was at a house fellowship linked up by live satellite with a prominent Charismatic ministry where great manifestations of healing and miracles had been taking place for three weeks.
I was particularly turned off by the "circus" atmosphere, the arrogance of the leadership, and the cashing in on the outpouring of the Spirit to raise money. Yet I couldn't deny the miracles. Inwardly I began arguing with the Lord about this, at which He impressed my heart to reserve my judgment. Five minutes later, in response to a call for intercession for the president, I began to pray. But I couldn't get out any words. Then instantly, as if a cork burst out of my soul, I began to pray in a torrent of tongues! At last, a long-awaited manifestation had come to pass in my life, yet under such dubious auspices that it left me more disturbed than ever. (Today, the nationally televised ministry through whose anointing I received my gift has been reduced to absolute disgrace.)
Though I both witnessed and experienced the reality of Charismatic anointing, I remained deeply troubled that the only believers among whom God seemed to manifest Himself this way were saints who, for the most part, denied the deepest truths of discipleship by which my life was charted: suffering, self denial, the work of the cross. These concepts were utterly foreign to those moving in the gifts. All emphasis was on temporal blessing and benefit for the believer. "God," I said repeatedly, "How can this be? How is it You pour Yourself out on people who deny the cross? And how come my Deeper Life brethren who give all to You neither 'flow in', receive, nor even acknowledge the truth of these charismatic realities?"
For those seven years I wandered through a spiritual desert seeking the harmony between these two works of God. It seemed like God was totally working against Himself. He was giving outward power to what to me were His shallowest people while withholding it from His most deserving faithful. Everywhere I went, rarely did I hear the message of the cross and see the power of the Spirit to heal poured out in the same meeting!
My quest has been to see these realities reconciled. After years of
searching between polarized camps, I believe the Church is on the verge of
seeing the work of the cross and the power of the Spirit brought together as
never before in Church history. God is about to remove this wall of blindness.
But for the wall to come down, there must be a teaching and an understanding of
how the acts of the Spirit in the
earth complement His work in the human heart. Until now, men have felt compelled to
choose between one reality or the other. This book is a small attempt to reveal
the mystery between these works with an eye to abolishing the wall and bringing
to perfection a harvest from both camps.
*It is not the purpose of this book to accentuate the differences between the Fundamentalist-Evangelical wing and those who testify to a further work of the Spirit past conversion. Nor is this an attempt to reconcile these camps. Others are already doing this. I tell this only to set the stage for the greater story and search for reconciliation that ensued afterward.
Merrimack, New Hampshire
First Love Ministry
- a ministry of Anglemar Fellowship
Page updated December 3, 2010