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Sunday, August 05, 2007

Tongues of Fire, Part I

Symbol of the United Methodist Church

John Wesley (1703-1791), along with his brother, Charles, and others, started the Methodist movement. He was an Anglican minister and theologian. In college he and his brother helped form the "Holy Club of Oxford" and they were called Methodists because of their methodical habits, their methodical study and devotion. That term stuck. Although there were many pentecostal type revivals that occurred, they were not as sweeping in movement. The Welseys were part of the first widely successful evangelical movement in the United Kingdom. His greatest theological achievement was his promotion of what he termed "Christian perfection," or holiness of heart and life. Wesley insisted that in this life, the Christian could come to a state where the love of God, or perfect love, reigned supreme in one's heart. In 1739 Wesley followed George Whitefield to Bristol, where a revival broke out among the miners of Kingswood. The revival continued under Wesley's direct leadership for over fifty years. The teachings of Wesley also served as a basis for the Holiness Movement, from which Pentecostalism, parts of the Charismatic Movement, and the Christian and Missionary Alliance are offshoots. Many Pentecostal denominations are descended from Methodism. According to Wikipedia, Charles Fox Parham, a minister of Methodist background in Topeka, Kansas, formulated the doctrine that tongues was the "Bible evidence" of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Wesley's call to personal and social holiness continues to challenge Christians today. The flames of their symbol represent the Holy Spirit's work in the world as shown in Acts 2:4.

We know when Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River, a dove descended...
Matthew 3:1-17 When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."

But why do flames also represent the Holy Spirit?

Act 2:1-4 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Hebrews 12:29, For our God is a consuming fire.

Fire represents God's purity and power. It represents the rapid spread of the Gospel on the Earth. Our pastor, Barry Shepps of Bethel Assembly of God, had an excellent sermon today on why speaking in tongues is part of our Assemblies of God beliefs. He presented it in such a way that I finally understood why speaking in tongues is a necessary evidence of being baptized in the Holy Spirit.

Pastor Barry pointed out that language is verbal communication that enables us to communicate with others. Speaking in tongues is the language of the Holy Spirit and angels. In fact, the word "tongues" means languages (of men or of angels). The heavenly language is not taught to us by other men. It is supernaturally given by the Holy Spirit who enables us to speak in languages we have not learned (whether of men or of angels). The Holy Spirit enables us and then begins to teach us as we begin to practise it. It is a supernatural gift. Sometimes we may be enabled to speak in a language such as Spanish or German...but we were never taught Spanish or German, it was gifted to us by the Holy Spirit in order to reach someone who would understand it. But, mostly, pentecostals are referring to our heavenly language.

When we become believers our spirit is born within us and given eternal life in heaven. At that time the Holy Spirit comes to live within us and begins training and maturing our spirit. This is called sanctification and is a lifelong process. But there is a second experience called the Baptism of the Holy Spirit which means our full submission to the Holy Spirit's move in our hearts. He is in control. He supernaturally gives us gifts of the Spirit in order to minister to others such as healing, prophesy, words of wisdom, teaching, preaching, etc. One of the gifts is our heavenly language. We ask for the baptism of the Holy Spirit, we seek it, we wait for it with expectancy. In God's timing He pours it out. I wish I could explain this better but I've experienced it and know it to be real and one of the best experiences of my life. Once you are so totally filled with God it is something you never want to stop.

The evidence of being baptized in the Holy Spirit is speaking in tongues. It is a supernatural manifestation of the Holy Spirit. Because our tongues can be the most unruly member of our body, it shows that God is in control. Once we are filled with the Spirit, we don't have to "work ourselves up" in an emotional frenzy in order to speak in tongues. It comes naturally. It's just a part of who we are. I'm Southern and saying "ya'll" is natural to me. I can speak in tongues at any time without having to work myself up.
How do we know that someone is baptized in the Holy Spirit? By the evidence of speaking in tongues. Let's look at some scriptures.

Cornelius and his household were Gentiles in Caesarea. He was a devout man who feared God, gave alms generously to the poor, prayed to God always and received a vision from God.
Acts 10:44-47 While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed (Messianic Jews)were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?

How did Peter and the other believing Jews know that the Holy Spirit had been poured out on Cornelius and these Gentiles? By the evidence of speaking in tongues.

Acts 11:15-17 And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning. Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost. Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God?

Acts 19:1-6 And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples, He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John's baptism. Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.

In Acts 2:4, God gave the physical evidence that He had filled the Apostles with the Holy Spirit. That evidence was speaking in tongues. In Acts, we see that the Apostles and Early Church leaders recognized speaking in tongues as the evidence. Believers had confirmation they had been filled with the Holy Spirit by this physical evidence. Others saw this evidence and knew it confirmed believers had been filled with the Holy Spirit. Read the story of Simon the Sorcerer who saw this experience and begged the Apostles to show him how to do this. Acts 8:12-25.

Pastor Barry says our tongue is the birthing agent to blessings and curses.

Psalm 10:7 His mouth is full of cursing and deceit and fraud; under his tongue are mischief and vanity.

Psalm 12:3-4 Jehovah shall cut off all flattering lips, the tongue that speaks proud things, that has said, With our tongue we shall do much; our lips are our own; who is lord over us?

Psalm 35:28 And my tongue shall speak of Your righteousness, of Your praise all the day long.

Psalm 139:4 For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O Jehovah, You know it altogether.

Proverbs 6:2 you are snared with the words of your mouth, you are taken with the words of your mouth.

Proverbs 10:11 The mouth of a righteous one is a well of life; but violence covers the mouth of the wicked.

Proverbs 10:31-32 The mouth of the just brings forth wisdom; but the perverse tongue shall be cut out. The lips of the righteous know what is pleasing; but the mouth of the wicked what is contrary.

Proverbs 18:21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.

Romans 14:11 For it is written, "As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God."

James 1:26 If anyone thinks to be religious among you, yet does not bridle his tongue, but deceives his own heart, this one's religion is vain.

James 3:2-10 For in many things we all offend. If anyone does not offend in word, the same is a full-grown man, able also to bridle the whole body. Behold, we put bits in the horses' mouths, so that they may obey us, and we turn about their whole body. Behold also the ships being so great, and driven by fierce winds, yet they are turned about with a very small rudder, where the impulse of him steering desires. Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. Behold how little a fire kindles how large a forest! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. So the tongue is set among our members, spotting all the body and inflaming the course of nature, and being inflamed by hell. For every kind of animals, and of birds, and of reptiles, and of sea-animals, is tamed, and has been tamed by mankind. But no one can tame the tongue, it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. By this we bless God, even the Father. And by this we curse men, who have come into being according to the image of God. Out of the same mouth proceeds blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.

James 4:2-3 You desire, and do not have. You murder, and are jealous, and cannot obtain. You fight and war, yet you have not because you ask not. You ask and receive not, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it upon your lusts.

The Holy Spirit having control over our tongue is evidence of complete submission.

Tongues of Fire Part II

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