“Sovereign Lord…enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
And after they had prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.” Acts 4:24b-31
Have you ever seen an experience like this in the church? The responses I get when I ask that question vary from “No, not really,” to “Are you Pentecostal?” On occasion, though, someone will say “yes,” and you can tell by the expression on their face and the look in their eye that they know exactly what you are talking about. When the Holy Spirit shows up in your worship experience, you never forget it, it changes you, and you know it.
I’m not going to get into a discussion of whether or not the place where these believers in Acts were meeting actually experienced a physical shaking, or whether the writer is talking in a spiritual sense, or whether an earthquake occurred at the appropriate time. I’ve been shaken on enough occasions to relate to what these believers may have experienced, and to desire more such shakings by the Holy Spirit. We need them desperately. Or at least, I do.
The most recent experience for me was at a World Changers project in Nashville, where I serve as the project coordinator. Monday evenings, the worship at World Changers is a concert of prayer. There are no “up front” people in this service, the platform is covered with candles, the lights are dim, the prayer instructions appear on a video screen, as soft background music is played. The service begins with a couple of praise choruses, and then, the worshippers are instructed to focus on confession and repentance. We sang “Everlasting God,” and “How Great is Our God,” and were seated. On the platform were hundreds of squares of black paper. The worshippers were invited to step forward, use the paper to “confess” their sin, pray in repentance, asking forgiveness and return to their seat. I cannot explain what happened next, but there was an overwhelming presence of the Spirit in the room. Almost at the moment the instruction was given, people were lined up to confess. Perhaps sixty or seventy came forward at the beginning, and we had to leave the instruction on the screen so that everyone would have a chance. We ran out of black paper.
It is hard to describe what that service was like from that moment on. Just imagine being in a room with 300 people who have just allowed the Spirit to make them right with God and you will have the general picture. We heard testimonies from people in that room who were able to let go of things they had been holding on to for a long time. The worship was powerful and strong. and the end result was that a group of Christians left the room changed, and they went out and spoke the Word of God boldly.
There is an inward change that takes place when the Spirit’s fire falls on a group of believers. Things inside you change. Sin that you had blocked out, ignored, or dismissed as unimportant gets dealt with, you experience conviction and you let it go. There were things that I let go of that evening, including some stuff from a long time ago. I was surprised it was still there, but in the presence of the Holy Spirit, it stood out in stark contrast. And I was definitely shaken, by the awesome power of God. Apparently the embers of that experience were still burning, as I heard from several group leaders about their experiences from their own group devotionals later on that evening. A group of mostly high school students was turned loose in the city to speak the Word of God boldly, and they did.
I often wonder what would happen if the Spirit’s fire fell like that during a Sunday morning worship service in our church. There have been times that we’ve been close, and people have sensed the Spirit moving in their lives. We’ve had a taste of the healing that can come with the Spirit moving through his body. At the moment, we have a lot of hurting people due to their being beaten up by the things that can so easily get to you so quickly. We need the Spirit to move through us and over us and heal us.
Think about what would happen if that fire fell, caught the church, and then leapt from church to church, wherever the door was open. Having been shaken a few times, I pray for that to happen. The world needs to hear the message we have heard and responded to. I pray that we will be changed and shaken, and enabled to speak the Word of God boldly.