Lutheran Spokesman

"…the Scriptures cannot be broken." John 10:35

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Seized By The Spirit

When I was around twelve years old, I was walking home on a dusty Dakota road because the family tractor had quit on me. A neighbor stopped to give me a ride. Not much later he started gesticulating and speaking gibberish. I crowded the door, ready to bail out if necessary. Then suddenly he stopped the unusual actions and noises. Looking at me, he smiled and told me not to be afraid. He explained that he had been grabbed by the Spirit and was just speaking in tongues!

Though we conservative Lutherans are not of the gibberish branch of Christendom (at the time of the Reformation Luther called them “enthusiasts”), yet we do believe in and confess the Holy Spirit; we even live in the reality that He does indeed ‘grab’ people. When such a thing occurs, it’s a miracle of power and grace. The people whom the Spirit seizes and fills are generally not those whom either the unbelieving world or we ourselves might expect–not the wise or mighty but rather those whom He wishes to grasp securely—namely, the weak, the sick of heart, the poor, and the humble. Thus on a certain Pentecost Day it was fishermen and tax collectors who were filled with the Spirit, speaking the wonderful works of God—and three thousand souls were brought to faith (Acts 2:41ff)!

In Old Testament times the prophet Samuel tells of another who was seized by the Spirit. The person was Saul, the first king of Israel. In view of his later disobedience, unbelief, and suicide, we consider this with sadness. In outward appearance Saul was quite impressive: tall and handsome, looking the part of a king. Samuel, in fact, reports that Saul was ‘the desire of Israel’ (1 Samuel 9:20). But Saul was also timid and lacking in confidence. Despite the Lord’s assurances—even at his inauguration—Saul was found hiding among the donkeys. This called for a dramatic seizure of the spiritual kind. Thus God took hold of Saul and “gave him another heart” (that is, changed his heart; 1 Samuel 10:9). Saul obviously had not been inclined toward God and spiritual matters, yet by the power of the Spirit he was made ready to trust God and to serve Him and his own people as their king. Furthermore, we are told that the Spirit of God came upon Saul in power, and he began to prophesy with other prophets (1 Samuel 10:10). This was indeed shocking, for Saul had never had any theological training. It was so amazing, so out-of-character, so unexpected that questions came flooding in: ‘What has happened to the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?’ Nobody—but nobody— expected Saul to begin preaching like a prophet! But this is the result when one is seized by the Spirit and given power. This was Saul’s personal Pentecost day!

Centuries later on the Day of Pentecost, the disciples were likewise filled with the Spirit, speaking of the grace of God in Christ Jesus. Rather than talking in gibberish, they spoke in foreign languages understood by many. The people marveled and were amazed. Theyalso had questions such as: ‘Are these men not Galileans? What does this mean? Are they drunk?’

Have you and I been seized by the Spirit? If we trust in Christ Jesus as our Savior, we have—“For no one can say that Jesus is Lord but by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3)! To believe in Jesus and His offered forgiveness and serve faithfully in His kingdom as royal priests requires a ‘heart-transplant,’ a washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit (see Titus 3:5). But, dear Christian, take care! Heart transplants can be rejected by our sinful flesh—which obviously happened in Saul’s case. Celebrate Pentecost by daily taking your anti-rejection medicine–the humbling, healing, strengthening, preserving Word of God!

Have you been seized by the Spirit? One evidence that you have is a desire to prophecy–to proclaim your Christian faith, your spiritual hope and joy and the amazing mercy of our Savior-God. Celebrate Pentecost by joining the prophets, using your tongue to speak—not gibberish or worldly wisdom but—the gospel of the crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ. Yes, some may ask doubting questions, ‘What has happened to him/her? Is he/she now a prophet? A kook? Is he/she dangerous?’ By God’s grace the ‘three thousand’ even today will ask, “What shall we do?” And because we have been seized, we know what to say: “Repent, and let everyone of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).