Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Day 12: Tuesday: Baptism of the Spirit

I became a Christian outside the institutional church. At the age of 9, I was taught by a friend of the family how to pray. He told me praying was talking to God and that I should not only ask for things but spend time listening to God. I guess I had a contemplative prayer experience at a very young age.
    When I was 17 I suffered from depression. My grades at Year 11 were appalling and I felt everything in life was miserable. I confided my depression to Stephen, my closest friend and classmate, who told me to read the Bible starting at the Gospel of Matthew and to pray to Jesus because he can help me. As I started to read the Gospels my heart started to burn and I began to really believe Jesus was the son of God.
    One Friday night, Stephen took me to a street church in Malvern called “The Bridge”. They served coffee and raisin toast. I recall Geoff, one of the servers, asking me if I was a Christian.  I said “I was trying to be a Christian.” He said to me that I don’t have to try and that all I had to do was let Jesus come into my life. That night I invited Jesus to come into my life and I physically felt my body shaking. My heart was literally on fire and tears poured down my cheeks as I knew Jesus had come into my life, forgiven me of my sins and the Holy Spirit was dwelling in me.
    My exposure to institutional church came when I joined an Anglican charismatic youth group when I was at university. I couldn’t get my head around the idea of Baptism of the Spirit despite being “Bible bashed” by my peers. As a member of the youth group, there was peer pressure on me to receive the Baptism of the Spirit. So one Sunday night, the vicar and members of the youth group laid hands and prayed that I receive the Baptism of the Spirit. I again experienced supernaturally the power of the Holy Spirit as I felt a heat of fire descend into my body during the laying on of hands. I was expected to receive the gift of tongues immediately but it didn’t happen. That night as I was sleeping my tongue could not stop moving and I woke up the next morning speaking in tongues.
    The vicar said to me it is normal practice to receive water baptism first then the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, and he thought it would be appropriate for me to be baptised in water. I agreed to go ahead with baptism but looking back in hindsight, I chose the wrong time of the year. It was the middle of winter in Melbourne. The temperature was about 5 degrees centigrade and a Clarks’ rubber pool had been erected in the church car park. I was given a white robe to wear and together the vicar and I got into the pool which was about waist high. I could hear members of the congregation shudder and shiver in empathy for me. I can’t recall the exact words but I was tipped backwards to be fully immersed. I had never felt so cold in my life. I felt cleansed, my sins forgiven and recommitted again to follow Jesus.
    I still feel honoured today to be called by God to be a Christian. My Christian journey began outside the institutional church and although each church may have rules about admission and Christian baptism, Jesus continues to speak to me personally and calls me to be his servant.
How have you experienced the Baptism of the Spirit? What spiritual gifts have been given to you? (See 1 Cor 12:1-11 for some ideas.) Give thanks for your gifts, and pray that they continue to contribute to the common good.

Reflection by Steven Wong, South Yarra Community Baptist Church, 20 January 2016.

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