Holy Conviction

If John the Baptist were around today, he would not be someone that our culture would be attracted to. Actually, I imagine that people probably weren’t too attracted to him when he was around. I mean, the man walks around in weird clothes, diets on weird foods, and preaches on the theme of “REPENTANCE!”

Face it—we’d all be uncomfortable.

But occasionally in life, a madman like John appears and the anointing is so heavy upon them that we all find ourselves attracted to what they have to say. And sometimes their words have such authority that it even grabs the attention of those in secular society and power:

For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” And Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death. But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed, and yet he heard him gladly. (Mark 6:18-20)

Herod seems a little mixed up in general. Not only has he stolen and married his sister-in-law, but he soon offers his niece/step-daughter anything she wants because she performed a dance that “pleased” him on his birthday (Mark 6:22-23). My guess is that the kind of dancing he was into wasn’t ballet or tap.

But regardless of Herod’s immorality, how did he react when a holy man called attention to his secular ways? “He was greatly perplexed, and yet heard him gladly.”

Holy conviction.

Have you ever experienced it? That odd moment where God calls attention to the crap in your life and you embrace it? Where you actually hope He will pour out more conviction upon you?

If not, ask for it. See what He does.

Be wrecked by holy conviction and love. He only gives it because we need it.

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Apollos: Coming Soon

I’ve been working ahead on my discipleship class. It’s about growing in intimacy and supernatural power with the Holy Spirit, as well as deeper in the Bible and theology. Here’s my flyer/explanation for the name (click to enlarge):

 

Starts Monday, September 19th. Feel free to join us if you’re interested. I may be uploading a PDF introduction packet in the upcoming weeks to help get your mind thinking (if you are thinking about checking it out).

Apollos

If you’ve ever read Acts before then you should be quite aware of the signs, wonders, and phenomena of the Holy Spirit. I mean this book is packed full of power from beginning to end—so much so that a few weeks ago my entire message nearly consisted of just mentioning chapter after chapter of phenomena.

But amidst all of these signs and wonders, I have to say that there is something normal mentioned in Acts that is well practiced in the church today that really stuck out to me.

Q. What is it?
A. Bible study.

Check out Acts 18:24-28.

Now a Jew named Apollos, an Alexandrian by birth, an eloquent man, came to Ephesus; and he was mighty in the Scriptures. This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately the things concerning Jesus, being acquainted only with the baptism of John; and he began to speak out boldly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. And when he wanted to go across to Achaia, the brethren encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him; and when he had arrived, he greatly helped those who had believed through grace, for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, demonstrating by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.

And just as I read through that again, I was hit. Apollos’ character really just does something to me. Consider his personality:

  • He’s super intelligent about the Old Testament.
  • He was able to make the connections between prophecy and Jesus.
  • He had the boldness to preach a Jesus that most did not accept yet, putting his reputation for intelligence (and possibly even his life) on the line.
  • Despite his incredible intelligence, he was willing to be corrected by two random Christians who approached him (if you don’t think that’s crazy, take a few ministry classes sometime and pay attention to your classmates and yourself).
  • He left his home for ministry purposes.
  • He must have been an amazing debater since He could win Messianic debates through Scripture. Furthermore, he was debating against the Jews under the pressure of public display.

You just really don’t come by people like Apollos that often, but when you do your eyes are illuminated to Jesus. Several times now I’ve heard people degrade the Bible by emphasizing the fact that they have the Holy Spirit. Somehow they think that doing so makes them as infallible as the Holy Scriptures themselves. In doing so, they completely devalue the sacredness and beauty of the Bible while perceiving that they have mouthpieces of gold.

Seek to be like Apollos. Become mighty in Scripture.

On a somewhat related note, I am currently listening to a new album I just bought by the band Pas Neos. There have only been a few albums that I have latched onto over the past few years. As of late I was actually giving up on music entirely, but their new release, The Wheat and Tares, restored my hope in music. I highly suggest looking into it.

Oh yeah, and it’s somewhat related because their songs are very, very Scripture based which is pretty obvious as you listen to it. At the moment they have a free track on bandcamp and you can also stream the album there before buying it. You can also buy the album there, or on amazon or iTunes.

The Little People (Video)

I preached at Communidad Agua Viva this past Sunday on the little people in the Bible who made a big difference because of God’s work in their life. I’ve uploaded the video so if you’re up for a quick message, check it out! And yes I am preaching with a translator as this is partially a Spanish church (as you might have guessed from the name of the church).

 

The Spiritual Power of Forgiveness

There are many important subjects to research when it comes to Christian counseling, but I believe that there is one subject in particular that ranks much higher than the majority. This is the subject of forgiveness. This is an attribute that every Christian is supposed to have in their life, and yet few ever operate within its power. But when they do, I believe they will find that this topic is freeing, life giving, and restorative—even if it is an incredibly difficult to do at times.

Forgiveness is one of the things that we as Christians are commanded to do. In the same way that Christ forgave us, we are to forgive those around us, lest we be handed over to our torturers (Mt. 18:23-35) or unforgiven by God Himself (Mt. 6:14). We are to forgive one person over and over again should they transgress against us, even up to seventy times seven if need be (Mt. 18:21-22). It truly is a big deal, and if we do not treat it like one, we will find our lives full of bitterness, depression, and pain.

“But why forgive?” asks the secular world. “Surely there is a better way to deal with those who have wronged you rather than release them from the anger they deserve?” It is an odd concept to most, and it can hardly be understood without Jesus Christ as the focal point. This is partially because there is a literal power within Christian forgiveness. It is the work of the Holy Spirit

This spiritual work has been seen time and time again in a person’s life when they truly forgive. And the power becomes more tangibly seen especially in the charismatic realm. Don Dickerman writes of a girl in who was abused in “all kinds of ways imaginable by everyone in her life… She still had anger, bitterness, and resentment toward all those who abused her throughout her life” (61-3). After this assessment, Dickerman led her through a demonic deliverance, part of the process being “repenting of unforgiveness, anger, bitterness, hatred, resentment, and kindred sins” (63).

It is also not uncommon for the Holy Spirit to release people from sickness and physical infirmities after they have been led through forgiveness. This reminds us of Jesus’ warning to the man He healed at the portico: “Behold, you have become well; do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse happens to you” (Jn. 5:14). It even reminds us of the disciples’ accusation towards the blind man: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” (Jn. 9:2).

But healing can come from forgiveness in other ways as well, especially in the realm of emotion. One study, for example, found “evidence of robust individual differences in the forgiveness-anger relationship… Thus, it is possible that some individuals exhibit a significant relationship between forgiveness and subsequent reductions in anger” (Wilkowski, 836).

I would suggest that one of the reasons there is a difference between forgiveness and anger-reduction in individuals is because some people’s forgiveness may be more genuine or complete than others. Sometimes we can say the words “I forgive you” and not truly mean it; just when like a child says “I’m sorry” when their parents force them to. Sometimes we can truly want to forgive and even say the words out loud, but still hold onto something deep inside that we really haven’t given over. Forgiveness can at times be partial and incomplete, but any release of the bondage of unforgiveness in a person’s life (even if partial) is at least a step in the right direction and brings them closer to freedom.

Another possibility I would suggest for this difference in anger reduction is related to what I said earlier (this may not be the case very often, but I will suggest it nonetheless). I think there is at least a possibility that a person may continue to suffer anger after forgiveness has taken place, due to demonic oppression—especially in those who have suffered extreme situations, such as sexual or physical abuse. Since deliverance from spiritual forces is not widely thought of (or even accepted) by many Christians, I think there is a possibility that counselors may lead someone through all the steps of forgiveness, all the while leaving behind an oppressive and angry spiritual force for a person to suppress rather than be freed of.

I think another reason for the difference in anger reduction is the method in which forgiveness is achieved. I have found in my own life that by confronting the person I am angry with (whether by email or face to face), I am much more able to forgive in full. I have attempted to forgive these same people mentally before I ever confronted them and the difference is astonishing. When all I do is forgive with my mind, I leave a rather large portion of pain within me. It is not that I have not truly forgiven a person, but rather that I have left the situation in a state that screams for attention. I have no physical situation of forgiveness to call upon—just a metaphysical state of mind to think of. But when we at least attempt to mend a situation rather than solve the issue with our mind alone, the burden is lifted with much greater ease.

That is not to say, however, that every situation can be mended. If a transgressor has passed away, then the state of forgiveness will more or less have to be mental. But I think that that in even some of the most extreme situations, at least writing a letter to a transgressor could prove incredibly beneficial to the forgiveness process. It may even move the transgressor into a better life, which is something we should be able to hope for if we have truly forgiven them. That does not mean that we have to trust the person or that we should even ever be around the person again (pending on the extremity of the problem), but I think there’s always room to attempt to make amends.

Another study found that “forgiveness can be effectual in promoting well-being because it is associated with the ability to monitor one’s affective state and self soothe, thereby making it more likely to relate in prosocial ways” (Sandage, 175). This statement shows that the act of forgiveness itself was built to free and restore us. Not only can it reduce our anger, but it can also improve upon our personal life. God is a joyful God who is looking to bring joy to our lives (despite what some may think). For that reason, it only makes sense that He would command us to forgive others because the freedom that the cross represents is found when we do so. It is then that we are able to enter into the joy that the resurrection brings.

When we live in unforgiveness, we build an invisible barrier between God and ourselves that makes it difficult to access joy and its source. Breaking down those walls obviously requires us to forgive, but depending on the situation, it may also take God’s help. So often we tend to think of ourselves as a one-man team and we forget that we have the strength of the Holy Spirit on our side. We are the ones who built the barrier between God and ourselves, but He wants to break it down just as much as we do. Therefore, we must learn to ask for help and allow God to lead us through the process of forgiveness.

So far, we have addressed all of the positives of forgiveness and we have yet to see any of the negatives. And while I would like to address a few problems that tend to show up in forgiveness, I still want it to be clear that it is a necessity in the Christian life. That being said, let’s take a quick look at some of the problems that might arise due to forgiveness.

At times forgiveness can cause a continuation of sin. This is something that every Christian has at least realized in relation to God. He loves us unconditionally and will always forgive us when we do wrong. And while it is totally and completely unacceptable, there are times in many people’s Christian walk, where they may allow themselves to do something sinful knowing that God will forgive them. Now I imagine that most Christians really feel the pain of their sin after having intentionally done so, and so their repentance is real. But should we return with a fake apology, we have not really repented or searched for forgiveness, but have rather, like a dog, returned to our vomit and have even lied down in it. This same struggle we have with God can also be a struggle within forgiving marriages as one journalist discovered:

 

…forgiveness may increase the likelihood that offenders will offend again by removing unwanted outcomes for those offenders (e.g., criticism, guilt, loneli- ness) that would otherwise discourage them from reoffending. Consistent with this possibility, the current 7-day-diary study revealed that newlywed spouses were more likely to report that their partners had engaged in a negative behavior on days after they had forgiven those partners for a negative behavior than on days after they had not forgiven those partners for a negative behavior. Interpersonal theories and interventions designed to treat and prevent relationship distress may benefit by acknowledging this potential cost of forgiveness (McNulty, 787).

 

I believe that there are two things we should take away from this study. The first is to realize that the problem here is really within the offender. It is the same way with our relationship with God. The problem is not that God is too forgiving, but rather that we take advantage of His love. We decide to continually live by the flesh rather than by the Spirit and deny ourselves the decency and discipline to live correctly. Forgiveness is not an issue—flesh is. Flesh is not familiar with forgiveness, so when someone extends it to us out of their spirit, it may be abused.

The second thing we can take away from this study is that forgiveness does not always have to be void of consequences or lack conflict. There may, of course, be some situations in which we can move to forgiveness immediately (such as one’s spouse forgetting to the trash out once or twice or seventy times seven times), but there are also issues of greater offense that may not be truly comprehended without conflict. If one’s partner has done something truly offensive, forgiveness still needs to come, but with depth.

There is no reason not to discuss the pain and emotion linked to transgression. This takes us back to what I said earlier about mending a situation with someone from the past. Bringing it up and talking about it helps. It may hurt very much to address the situation (whether the situation is present or past), but it should be addressed and not pushed aside or deemphasized. Or as one article states, “The concept of forgiveness as a response to a transgression is not the same as overlooking or excusing an offense” (Schultz, 104). We may need to use the sharp edge of emotion in our forgiveness, but we who are spiritual should always look to restore anyone caught in trespass in a spirit of gentleness (Gal. 6:1).

As stated earlier, forgiveness is one of the most important subjects we as Christians can address in counseling. Not only does it stand as an important topic by itself, but it is also connected to almost every counseling situation you will be in. If someone is not coming to counseling because they need to forgive someone, it may very well be that they need to forgive themselves for something, which is sometimes just as hard. But it is through the spiritual power of forgiveness that we are able to offer freedom, life, and restoration, which are all reasons for Jesus’ death. When we deny each other these liberties, we deny each other (and ourselves), Christ.

Bibliography

Dickerman, D. (2009). When pigs move in . Lake Mary, Fla.: Charisma House.

McNulty, J. K. (2010). Forgiveness Increases the Likelihood of Subsequent Partner Transgressions in Marriage. Journal of Family Psychology, 24(6), 787-790.

New American Standard Bible

Sandage, S. J., & Jankowski, P. J. (2010). Forgiveness, Spiritual Instability,Mental Health Symptoms, and Well-Being: Mediator Effects of Differentiation of Self. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 2(3), 168-180.

Schultz, J. M., Tallman, B. A., & Altmaier, E. M. (2010). Pathways to Posttraumatic Growth: The Contributions of Forgiveness and Importance of Religion and Spirituality. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 2(2), 104-114.

Wilkowski, B. M., Robinson, M. D., & Troop-Gordon, W. (2010). How Does Cognitive Control Reduce Anger and Aggression? The Role of Conflict Monitoring and Forgiveness Processes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 98(5), 830-840.

Exorcism

I saw my first exorcism (in person) this past weekend and I already know a bunch of you are curious as to what happened. So I shall share, and as I do you will hear about the power of God.

One of my teachers, Ken Brewer, was asked to teach about the Holy Spirit at an event in the Chicago area, and so he brought a few of us along to help do ministry. It was our job to pray for people, play music, and do whatever other jobs came along.

And so we did so.

The first night was pretty much over and Brewer was praying for a few more people. Three people had already collapsed to the ground under the power of the Holy Spirit and were calmly lying down. In case you’ve never heard of this, this is a phenomena that happens sometimes when the Holy Spirit comes upon people. They will fall to the ground calmly or fall into convulsions brought on by the Holy Spirit. This was the first time it had ever happened to any of them.

Now a fourth person went down and she was crying very, very loudly. It was a little odd to me compared to the many, many others I had seen hit the ground, but I didn’t think too much about it. But then, as I was talking to my friend Jesse I thought I heard Brewer tell a spirit to leave the person.

“Wait…” I turned to Jesse. “Is this an exorcism?”

Silence. “I think so.”

Silence. “Oh.”

That explained why she was yelling and crying so incredibly loud (well, actually it was the demon inside of her crying so incredibly loud). A few others came around and held her down to stop her from moving in a serpent-like fashion. Brewer would tap her and tell the demon to leave in the name of Jesus and every time she was touched she would yell louder and louder.

No, this particular demon didn’t talk and no, it wasn’t like all the Hollywood movies you’ve seen. This demon just yelled for quite awhile, refusing to come out, which seemed stupid since it was obviously in such great pain, but it continued to fight regardless.

We grabbed Bibles and began to read scripture to the demon. I  randomly chose Mark 1 which I thought was quite interesting for this reason:

When we had left for Chicago, Brewer told me that he was reading in his Bible and he came across a passage that talked about the authority we have in Christ. He felt in that moment that God was going to have us do a deliverance at this event. And He did! And as I read Mark 1 this verse came out:

21They went into Capernaum; and immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and began to teach.

22They were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

23Just then there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit; and he cried out,

24saying, “What business do we have with each other, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are–the Holy One of God!”

25And Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be quiet, and come out of him!”

26Throwing him into convulsions, the unclean spirit cried out with a loud voice and came out of him.

27They were all amazed, so that they debated among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.”

Brewer had me stop reading and emphasized the demon of this passage:

“You hear that demon? Jesus has authority and you have to leave.”

It cried some more and others began to read out of Revelation, which made the demon cry even louder as images of the throne room of God were described.

Finally, after what was probably about half an hour, the demon left. The girl was at ease and as you might imagine, quite a few people had questions as to what had just happened. Just as you may have now.

The power of God is ALWAYS stronger and ALWAYS wins.

P.S. Video blog of the trip coming later today.

John Wesley and the Power of the Spirit

Very few people today are aware that John Wesley was a charismatic who experienced the power of the Holy Spirit in very real and very tangible ways. Most Methodists today are so unaware of this that if they ever experienced the Spirit in the same ways as Wesley did, they would write the experience off as emotion, science, or even as demonic before they ever considered the idea that God was interacting with them. But for Wesley, the Holy Spirit’s power was found not only in experience, but in almost everything related to the Christian faith.

Howard A. Snyder explains that “Wesley’s understanding of the church and Christian experience can be described as charismatic because of the place of the Holy Spirit in his theology and because of his openness to the gifts of the Spirit” (The Divided Flame 57). One will find this statement to be true just by reading Wesley’s journals. He references the Holy Spirit time and time again. Wesley walks so closely with the Spirit, that it seems he cannot be separated from God’s charismatic ways of presenting Himself.

Sadly, many Christians today are offended by the same kind of charismatic works the Holy Spirit did in Wesley’s time. This offense is not in any way new. There were very many people during Wesley’s time that were also offended by the Holy Spirit.

That is not to say that the Holy Spirit’s power in and of itself was offensive, but rather that those who did not believe or understand it were offended by it. That is part of the reason Wesley had a hard time with his opponents. They were people of reason who thought the “power of the Spirit” at these Methodist meetings was actually the power of emotion and in some instances, insanity. Wesley writes about one such situation in his journal:

We understood that many were offended at the cries of those on whom the power of God came, among whom was a physician, who was much afraid there might be fraud or imposture in the case. Today one whom he had known many years was the first (while I was preaching in Newgate) who broke out into ‘strong cries and tears’. He could hardly believe his own eyes and ears. He went and stood close to her, and observed every symptom, till great drops of sweat ran down her face, and all her bones shook. He then knew not what to think, being clearly convinced it was not fraud, nor yet any natural disorder. But when both her soul and body were healed in a moment, he acknowledged the finger of God (52-3).

This story is enough to baffle many Christians today, but even Wesley himself had experienced similar emotion and physical expression. One particular morning, he found himself in solitude when he had an encounter with the Holy Spirit. Wesley tried to put this experience into words by writing it down in his journal:

The love of God was shed abroad in my heart, and a flame kindled there, with pains so violent, yet so very ravishing, that my body was almost torn asunder. I loved. The Spirit cried strong in my heart. I sweated. I trembled. I fainted. I sung. I joined my voice with those that excel in strength (26).

This is hardly the weirdest thing that Wesley had seen the Spirit do in His lifetime. Even though he recognized these simple physical expressions (shaking, crying, sweating, fainting, trembling, and singing) to be caused by the Holy Spirit, he had seen in Scripture and in his own life that the Spirit was capable of doing much, much more.

One of the popular acts of the Holy Spirit seen among charismatic meetings today is known as being “slain in the Spirit.” Those who are familiar with this work recognize it when individuals fall to the ground. Once there, they typically enter either a calm state of bliss, or their body is sent into convulsions. Many understand this to be the work of the Spirit, while many others claim it to be the work of insanity. But if we look to Wesley to find an answer, we would see that he believed this to be the power of God.

In fact, in one particular situation, a Quaker was attending one of Wesley’s meetings and was growing angry with the supposed work of the Spirit going on around him. Wesley describes him as “biting his lips and knitting his brows, when he dropped down as thunderstruck.” God personally settled the debate for this Quaker by slaying Him. When he finally arose from the ground, he stated, “Now I know, thou art a prophet of the Lord” (53). This is an obvious change in mindset for this Quaker, who only moments ago was angry at what he thought to be fraud. God, however, showed him otherwise.

This is not the only time something like this has happened in Wesley’s life. In a similar situation Wesley watched some people convulse more violently than he had ever seen. Wesley prayed that God would not “suffer those who were weak to be offended,” but despite his prayers, one woman was very angry. But then, Wesley documents her having “dropped down, in as violent an agony as the rest,” despite her disposition towards the act. Altogether, at least 26 people endured these violent convulsions during one service on June 15, 1739.

And this is not the only time Wesley references this act of the Spirit. On April 21, of the same year, Wesley documented a man trembling violently and then sinking down to the ground (50). In another situation a “three persons almost at once sunk down as dead” (57). And then, on a wider scale, the Spirit performed this same type of work on New Year’s Day, 1739. It was approximately three in the morning and John and Charles Wesley were in prayer with about sixty other men. Wesley wrote that “the power of God came mightily upon us, insomuch that many cried out for exceeding joy, and many fell to the ground” (29).

On April 26, Wesley felt the Spirit urge him to say something he had not planned on saying during one of his sermons. Wesley, certain that this was of the Spirit, obeyed and as a result saw the power of God come on different individuals.

I was sensibly led, without any previous design, to declare strongly and explicitly that God ‘willeth all men to be thus saved’ and to pray that if this were not the truth of God, he would not suffer the blind to go out of the way; but if it were, he would bear witness to his Word. Immediately one and another and another sunk to the earth: they dropped on every side as thunderstruck (51).

Stories similar to these are documented all over Wesley’s journal, as are other works of the Spirit. But as these stories continued, so did the criticism. Many people still did not feel that these supernatural events were of God and so they rejected them completely.

But despite their rejection, John Wesley saw both spiritual and emotional healing come from people’s experience with God as they fell to the ground and convulsed. Many times they would rise to their feet with a true understanding of God’s forgiveness of their sins. Wesley also was privileged to see actual physical healing happen. Wesley, it seems, “was convinced that the Great Physician is committed to the ultimate healing of both body and soul, and that some degree of physical recovery is available even in this life—if we allow it to begin” (Maddox 147).

In one such case of physical healing, a woman by the name of Ann Calcut “had been speechless for sometime.” Wesley and some others began to pray for this woman and just about as soon as they had started, her speech returned to her. She was apparently healed of some other problems too, since Wesley speaks of a fever leaving her and that “in a few days she arose and walked, glorifying God” (258).

In another story, a middle-aged woman was “restored to a sound mind.” Many were able to testify that only a few days earlier she was “really distracted, and as such tied down in her bed” (100). But Wesley believed the power of the Spirit to be greater than the pain and sickness of the world, and so he prayed for this woman regardless of what many saw as a dead end. God heard the prayers of Wesley and others and He restored the woman to health.

Even Wesley himself had experienced physical healing! On May 10, 1741, Wesley had become quite sick. He had pain in his head as well as his back, a fever, and a cough that was so great that he could hardly speak. But then a miracle happened to Wesley as he “called on Jesus aloud.” As he spoke, his pain disappeared, his fever left, and his strength returned. And on top of that, he felt no weakness or pain for many weeks after (194).

But perhaps one of the craziest healing miracles Wesley ever saw was at the deathbed of Mr. Meyrick, on December 20, 1742. A doctor had told Wesley that this man was not expected to make it through the night. This word was confirmed when Wesley arrived at Mr. Meyrick’s side:

I went to him, but his pulse was gone. He had been speechless and senseless for some time. A few of us immediately joined in prayer. (I relate the naked fact.) Before we had done his sense and his speech returned (306).

Wesley was obviously impressed by the finger of God upon this situation as he then wrote in his journal, “Now he that will account for this by natural causes has my free leave. But I choose to say, This is the power of God” (306). It was a miracle! God had answered prayers and raised the dead! But this was not the end of the story. Five days later, on Christmas, Mr. Meyrick was expected once again to not make it to the morning. And so, on December 25, Wesley recorded in his journal the continuation of a miracle.

I went up and found them all crying about him, his legs being cold and (as it seemed) dead already. We all kneeled down and called upon God with strong cries and tears. He opened his eyes and called for me. And from that hour he continued to recover his strength, till he was restored to perfect health. (306)

Another work of the Spirit that many Christians today either caution against or do not believe in is that of dreams and visions. But, just as Wesley believed in the Spirit’s power to heal, slay, or simply bring a person to tears, so did he believe in the supernatural power of dreams and visions. We are able to read his opinion on this matter in his journal. There he includes a summary of the letters he wrote to an opponent who had advised him against believing in dreams and visions.

What I have to say touching visions or dreams is this: I know several persons in whom this great change [being free of sin to do the will of God] was wrought, in a dream, or during a strong representation to the eye of their mind, of Christ either on the cross or in glory. This is the fact; let any judge of it as they please (59).

Towards the end of his response to his opponent, Wesley grows stronger in his opinion of the existence of this work of the Spirit:

…God does now, as aforetime, give remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Ghost, even to us and to our children; yea, and that always suddenly, as far as I have known, and often in dreams or in the visions of God. If it be not so, I am found a false witness before God. For these things I do, and by his grace will testify (60).

As we have seen already, the Holy Spirit made Himself known to John Wesley in many ways. But what we have not yet talked about is Wesley’s involvement with the Spirit in liberating demoniacs. Christians have read in their Bible’s about the Spirit’s power to do such a thing, yet many today have not seen anything like it (outside of Hollywood’s representation). But Wesley saw it in his own life many times.

One man, by the name of John Haydon, was reported to have been reading a sermon, when “he changed colour, fell off his chair, and began screaming terribly and beating himself against the ground.” Wesley arrived at the scene only to be accused by the demon as “a deceiver of the people.” The demon pretended to be a manifestation of the Holy Spirit in hopes to turn people against Wesley, but Wesley fought back. He and all the others there began to pray. Soon, Haydon’s “pangs ceased and both his body and soul were set at liberty” (55).

Sometimes these demonic deliverances did not take too long. For example, it only took about fifteen minutes to deliver one particular woman from “the pangs of death” (94). But other deliverances lasted much longer, such as Wesley’s encounter with the young woman from Kingswood. He describes in his journal not only the physical manifestation of these demons, but he also records what the demons spoke to him (109).

I found her on the bed, two or three persons holding her. It was a terrible sight. Anguish, horror, and despair, above all description, appeared in her pale face. The thousand distortions of her whole body showed how the dogs of hell were gnawing her heart. The shrieks intermixed were scare to be endured. But her stony eyes could not weep. She screamed out, as soon as words could find their way, ‘I am damned, damned; lost forever. Six days ago you might have helped me. But it is past. I am the devil’s now. I have given myself to him. His I am. Him I must serve. With him I must got to hell. I will be his. I will serve him. I will go with him to hell. I cannot be saved. I will not be saved. I must, I will, I will be damned.’ She then began praying the devil (109).

Wesley and the others with him began to sing a hymn that was popular at that time, which was written by John’s brother, Charles. “Arm of the Lord, awake, awake!” they sang, which caused the demoniac to immediately sink down. But then, the demon manifested again, this time even more intensely. Charles joined John in prayer around 9:00 and together they prayed past 11:00. Over two hours were spent on this exorcism alone. These are only two examples of deliverances that John Wesley took part in, but he documented many others in his journals as well.

Perhaps we can even find the Spirit’s work in Wesley’s shift of emotions. Author John White seems to understand these moments to be divine in nature as he reflects on Wesley’s famous experience at Aldersgate, where his heart was strangely warmed.. “Wesley has been accused, and perhaps rightly, of too great a concern with his subjective states. But were those feelings of warmth, of trust and of assurance merely the psychological result of the reading, or were they the results of divine illumination, imparted by the Holy Spirit at that very moment?” (53).

It seems that from day-to-day, Wesley took part in God’s supernatural ways. The Holy Spirit worked through him constantly, whether it was through an exorcism, through a message, through a healing, or through many of the other miracles the Spirit performed. The power of the Spirit was a constant in Wesley’s life. But it is important to note that just because Wesley was charismatic, does not mean that he lived without reason. Snyder points this out in his book The Radical Wesley:

Wesley was a man of reason in an age of rationalism; yet he was roundly charged with enthusiasm or fanaticism because of his stress on experience and his openness to the expression of emotion… He was always clear as to the priority of Scripture, especially from 1738 on, and his experiential emphasis was guarded from pure subjectivism not only by his respect for Scripture but also by his emphasis on the witness of the Spirit, the work of the Holy Spirit testifying to and confirming the Word in present experience (71).

If we decide to ignore all of the supernatural encounters found in Wesley’s life or even if we choose to write them off as insanity or mere coincidence, we will find ourselves admiring an incomplete and fictional John Wesley. This revivalist, so it seems, was quite charismatic in his approach to church, because he allowed the Holy Spirit room to work through him not just in the natural, but the supernatural as well. And if Wesley had not done so, it is possible that many would not have been touched by God in the way that they had been.

Works Cited

Maddox, Randy L. Responsible Grace: John Wesley’s Practical Theology. Nashville,Tenn.: Kingswood, 1994. Print.

Snyder, Howard A., and Daniel V. Runyon. The Divided Flame: Wesleyans and Charismatic Renewal. Grand Rapids, Mich.: F. Asbury, 1986. Print.

Snyder, Howard A. The Radical Wesley & Patterns for Church Renewal. DownersGrove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 1980. Print.

Wesley, John, William Reginald Ward, and Richard P. Heitzenrater. The Works of John Wesley. Vol. 19. Nashville: Abingdon, 1990. Print.

White, John. When the Spirit Comes with Power: Signs & Wonders among God’s People. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 1988. Print.