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Lowell Brueckner

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A Puzzling Phenomenon


 It is a phenomenon these days, I think, that men of God can be lauded, quoted, and used as examples from many pulpits, while the experience, which they themselves credit for their success, is heatedly denied and rejected. I don’t know what you call this, but I see it as somewhat hypocritical; certainly something that lacks consistency. These outstanding men are like David in Saul’s court, appreciated for their usefulness, but feared, because of the powerful anointing of God that rests upon them.

Puritans, Edwards, Spurgeon, Moody and Tozer

How many read Puritan literature and quote the Puritans from the pulpit? Allow me to quote a famous Puritan, John Owens: “(The Holy Spirit) so sheds abroad the love of God in our hearts… by an immediate act… filling (the soul) with gladness, exultations and sometimes with unspeakable raptures of the mind.”

It is the Spirit of God, who takes the things of Christ, and reveals them to us. Jonathan Edwards spoke of a walk in the woods: “The Person of Christ appeared ineffably excellent with an excellency great enough to swallow up all thought and conceptions, which continued, as near as I can judge, about an hour; such as to keep me a greater part of the time in a flood of tears, and weeping aloud. I felt an ardency of soul… to be full of Christ alone; to love Him with a holy and pure love, to trust in Him; to live upon Him; to serve Him and to be perfectly sanctified and made pure, with a divine and heavenly purity.” For her part, Mrs. Edwards, meditating upon the virtues of Christ, would at times be so overcome, that someone would have to help her to her bedroom.

Edwards was for a time president of Princeton University, a great theologian and dignified personality, to the extent that some misjudged his emphasis on Christian experience. The faculty of Yale University did so, when they brought in Edwards to calm the intense fervor among the students (including David Brainerd), caused by the visit from George Whitefield. Jonathan Edwards only fanned the flames. Many do not know that David Brainerd was expelled from Yale shortly thereafter, for questioning loudly, whether the University staff were really authentic Christians.

There are few places where C. H. Spurgeon is not appreciated. He challenged his congregation: “(The disciples) were to tarry at Jerusalem for a little while, and the Spirit would come upon them, and clothe them with a mysterious power… If now we were to be filled with the Holy Ghost, there are enough of us to evangelize London… Jesus promised that signs should follow, and so they did follow, and so they will. But we must get back to apostolic practice and to apostolic preaching.”

Possibly D. L. Moody is not so widely admired as Spurgeon and yet, he has many who appreciate the fact that he saw tens of thousands come to Christ. He said: “I kept on crying all the time that God would fill me with His Spirit.” He was walking down Wall Street one day in New York City and his prayer was answered. In the midst of all the hurried flurry, he felt the power of God coming upon him. He rushed to a friend’s house nearby and asked to have a room to himself. He stayed in that room for hours while the Holy Spirit was “filling my soul with such joy that at last I had to ask God to withhold His hand, lest I die on the spot from very joy. Oh, what a day!”

From that time on, Moody insisted that R. A. Torrey would follow his campaigns to preach to the new converts on the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. Torrey writes: “I don’t know how many times he asked me to speak on the subject. One time we met with some teachers – fine men all of them, but they believed that every child of God was baptized with the Holy Ghost. Moody was in deep thought after they left, then he said ‘They are wonderful teachers, but why will they not see that the Baptism with the Holy Ghost is just the one touch that they themselves need?’” In his biography of Moody, Torrey writes, “The secret of why God used D. L. Moody was that he had a very definite enduement with power from on high, a very clear and definite Baptism with the Holy Ghost.’”

Ian Murray mentions, in his biography of John MacArthur, the influence of the books of A. W. Tozer upon his life. Tozer’s books are reaching far more people today than he ever reached in his lifetime and have powerfully impacted many ministers in this century. I now quote A. W. Tozer: “I was 19 years old, earnestly in prayer, kneeling in the front room of my mother-in-law’s home, when I received a mighty infusion of the Holy Ghost… ANY WORK THAT GOD HAS EVER DONE THROUGH ME... DATES BACK TO THAT HOUR."

Finney, John and Charles Wesley, Whitefield and Lloyd-Jones

Charles Finney is not so loved by the Reformists, because of his sharp criticism of what he called hyper-Calvinism, but if you will read his autobiography, you will find that he was much kinder to those, with whom he disagreed, than many modern Calvinists are to him. Finney was actually a peacemaker, seeking peace with his own opponents, as well as bringing peace between factious brethren in his day, insisting on unity before he would hold meetings in certain places. Through Finney’s evangelism, it is estimated that a half million people, not only found Christ, but continued as Christians throughout their lives.

A few decades ago, secular college students, surveying cities across America for their philanthropy and various other positive traits, settled on Syracuse, New York, as the prize-winning metropolis. A secular writer, curious as to why this eastern U. S. city should be so honored, traced the benevolence discovered there 100 years back to a Finney revival. The same afternoon, in which he was converted, Finney “turned and was about to take a seat by the fire… the Holy Spirit descended upon me in a manner that seemed to go through me body and soul." He spoke of those, who had been converted to Christ, who fell short of receiving an enduement of power that, he said, “is indispensable to ministerial success.”

Charles Wesley’s songs are sung universally in the evangelical churches across the world. John Wesley is often credited with saving England from moral ruin in his day. Months after their conversion, John and Charles, along with George Whitefield, were in a meeting described by John: “About three in the morning as we were continuing instant in prayer, the power of God came mightily upon us, insomuch that many cried out for exulting joy and many fell to the ground.”

We can end with the very interesting case of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. I have a DVD right here in my office, in which various well-known Christian leaders, including some prominent reformist advocates, sit down and praise the life and ministry of this great man of God. They speak freely of an unusual anointing in his preaching, noting that, on an average, 30 people a week came into his office, seeking salvation. The same people, who so admire this wonderful Welsh pastor of Westminster Chapel, successor of G. Campbell Morgan, oppose vehemently the possibility of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit as a second experience after conversion.

Westminster Chapel near Buckingham palace, London
Many do not know that Lloyd-Jones wrote an entire book on the subject and denounced the cessation teaching of his day, a little over a generation ago, as a relatively modern doctrine. He requested that the book be published only after his death, as it would cause serious controversy among the trustees of the Christian publishing company THAT HE CO-FOUNDED! There you have it… he was praised by many and yet feared, because of an experience, which would demand a drastic change in the theology of his admirers and even his co-workers. They were not willing to pay that price and so his book was finally published by another company.
I have not exhausted the examples by any means. No, no, these are not outstanding exceptions, but are the testimonies of men throughout church history, who were equipped by God for the work, to which He had called them. There can be no question, according to the Scriptures, that every believer has the Holy Spirit: “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His” (Ro.8:9). However, there were those in the book of Acts, who were singled out as being “full of the Holy Spirit” (Ac.6:3, 5; 7:55, for example).

Apparently, then, not every Christian could be described in that way. Does that mean that some had less of the Spirit of God? Of course not. You either have the Holy Spirit or you do not have Him. I like to think that the term, “full of the Holy Spirit”, rather than describing how much someone has of the Spirit, is showing how much the Holy Spirit has of that person. However, the book of Acts also shows that it was normal that the Baptism in the Holy Spirit followed conversion, and the promise was to “you and to your children (to the Jew first), and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord, our God will call” (Ac.2:39: Jew or Gentile, wherever and whenever).

A small, personal example and a few words of advice

Please, I am not at all putting myself in the same category with these great men. But I want to interject a similar experience, from my meager standpoint, to illustrate the theme of this short article. Just last year, I enjoyed being able to observe the activities of a certain mission and to become acquainted with the wonderful people, working under their auspices. I was asked to speak to the staff and also invited to preach at a nearby church. I would still like to promote interest in the mission, among the people that I know. I was so happy for the inroads they had made in the community, in which they serve, and the backing that they enjoy from the officials in the area.

However, somehow they learned of my doctrinal position, concerning the Baptism in the Holy Spirit and discussed, whether I should ever be asked to return. They feared that, if fellowship with me would continue, the mission supporters might go to my blogspot and learn of my convictions. They thought that, perhaps, these supporters would be offended by them and withdraw their financial help, Ah, money often enters into the equation and creates its own problems.

I hope that you have read this article carefully and with an open heart. I would be so bold, in the light of the immense effect of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit upon the lives of these epic soul winners, that you would reconsider your position on the subject. The Christian must always recognize that he might not have every doctrine right and in its proper place. To be absolutely fixed in our present state is not spiritually healthy for us or the people, to whom we minister. There are too many differences of opinion among good brethren for us to arrogantly suppose that we are right on all points and those who differ are wrong. It is truth that matters, far above our opinions.

God certainly does not demand an immediate change in views that we may have held for years. He does ask that we be open to the teaching of the Spirit, and as we ask for greater light, He will lead us from Scripture to Scripture, and from one providential circumstance to another. Then, we may see the need to adjust our stand in order that we might better serve Him and give Him greater glory through our lives.  We need to be willing to do that, whatever the cost.


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