Centuries ago there lived a young German monk. This devoted man took his holy orders seriously. His life was one of discipline. He had surrendered everything and viewed soberly the holy obligation of the church. Still, his struggling heart was empty. Finally, the young cleric decided that pilgrimage and penance was the way to God. He crawled up the high stairs in Rome where many made their pilgrimages, the staircase known as Scala Santa. Worn out and bloody from the journey, he still had no answer from God.
Returning home, the young monk was browsing in a library when he came across a complete copy of the Latin Scriptures. He was astounded, for he had never held the entire Word of God in his hands, in spite of years of Bible study as a monk. That day the light came powerfully to Martin Luther as one verse from God’s Word broke over his soul—
“The just shall live by faith.” ~ Romans 1:17
Luther knew that Paul had written those words, echoing the prophet Habakkuk, to the church at Rome. Now, 1,500 years later, the same truth that had become almost smothered by church traditions exploded in his heart. In that moment of revelation, Martin Luther had a profound conversion and filling of the Holy Spirit. He moved from religious ritual to a personal relationship with Jesus. Now, at last, his quest for life together with God was made possible by the journey to Jesus.
Luther went on to lead thousands of others to that same freedom!
Fast forward about 500 years…
Not unlike Luther, in 1989 I came to realize my own life had become one of religious works done to please God and to rise in denominational prestige and position. My early quest for life together with God had been swallowed by religious obligation. With a legalistic work ethic, I worked hard and achieved a measure of success — if nickels and noses were any measure in church life. After twenty-two years in the ministry I found myself empty and powerless. My walls were lined with books I had mastered, a few I had written, degrees I had earned, and awards I’d received. Yet I had no close relationship with God. I had received His salvation, had dedicated my life to ministry, yet my soul was emaciated, starved for spiritual things. My pride in my knowledge kept me from talking about my hunger. I was opinionated and mean-spirited to those who didn’t agree with me. Being right was more important to me than being righteous. God graciously began to allow disappointment and difficulty to exhaust my flesh. I became so miserable that I could no longer stand myself, nor did I feel I could continue as a pastor. My life had reached critical mass… something had to give.
It was then that my life was overturned completely by what some call the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Up until that heavenly invasion, I had my faith neatly stacked into an orderly package. I believed that God did great things in the past and one day in heaven I would see Him. I was thoroughly orthodox and adamantly opposed the “mystics” who believed God could speak, act, and touch people like He did in the Book of Acts. Like a Pharisee, I had turned the written Word into an idol. I was a “Scripture expert” but a miserable failure at life.
At the moment I was ready to tender my resignation from the ministry, God met me in a hotel room in New Mexico. Oh, blessed invasion! Oh, divine disruption! I had a literal and personal awakening in the long night of my despair! God spoke to me, baptized me, filled me, and called me to an authentic relationship with Him. From that new relationship would flow a new ministry, wild and free like a rushing river. This experience was not an end but the beginning of a fantastic quest for intimacy with Jesus. All my life I have been in hot pursuit of an intimate life dwelling together with God through the power of the Holy Spirit.
—from The Power of Agreement
by Ron Phillips and Ronnie Phillips, Jr.
Published by Charisma House, © Copyright 2014