By PKD Lee
Aldersgate Sunday is celebrated on the nearest Sunday to May 24th. This year it was celebrated a week earlier than it should have been in our church in Hyderabad, on May 19th. It commemorates the experience which John Wesley had at a Moravian meeting on May 24th 1738. In his words as found in his diary, he felt ‘strangely warmed". He describes the experience as:
“I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death. “
John Wesley was an Anglican priest at that time, and had studied in the seminary at Oxford. There he was an active member of the Holiness club in 1729. He sailed to USA for two years of ministry in 1736. On the outward journey the ship was caught in a storm and he was terrified. But he found the Mennonites who were from Germany and migrating to the USA were calm and not disturbed by the storm. This astonished him. On his return after two years of frustration in the USA, he found that his evangelical, holiness preaching was not appreciated by the Anglican church, and feeling down he went to this Moravian meeting at Aldersgate where he had an encounter with God.
How do we understand this experience? Some call it a second experience. Some would call it an anointing of the fullness of the Spirit. Is there a biblical basis for this kind of a second experience? In Acts the usual picture is that you believed and were baptised and received the Spirit of God. Except for those who only received the baptism of John there does not appear to be an example of a second experience. But if we look closer to the New Testament, you find that the church was mixed with people at different spiritual levels and paul, Peter and others are exhorting them in their epistles to reach for a higher experience of God.
In John 1:40-42 we read of Peter’s first encounter with Jesus, which did not seem to have much of an impact on him. But later in Luke 5:8-11, in Peter’s second recorded encounter with Jesus, we see a dramatic impact on Peter and it says, He forsook all and followed Jesus.
So, what is this second experience? Is it a salvation experience, or is it a deeper experience of Jesus?
In Galatians 3:2-3 Paul says that we receive the Spirit by faith. When we believe in Jesus we receive the Spirit of God. In this second experience, we surrender our life to the control of the Spirit of God, and we are no longer running our lives but the Spirit of God is. It is like a scooter where we were on the driver’s seat. When we surrender our life to the Spirit He is now in the driving seat and we are just going along with Him.
In a swimming pool, if we see the edge of the pool (which equals safety for most of us poor swimmers) as the security of the world, and the deep as where we are dependent on God, it is moving away from the security of the world to the control of the Spirit. The more we leave the world the more the Spirit is able to rule us.
Then we can say with Paul, Gal 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
We can understand what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:15, “and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.”
This leads to three major changes in our life.
First is an assurance of salvation.
Romans 8:1, There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.
We are no longer trying to earn our salvation or earn merit before God.
Romans 3:20, Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
This does not mean that we keep sinning, but the motivations for a holy life changes. Now we are following the Spirit and fulfilling God’s purposes for our lives, and so we do not sin, but are set apart for God. The focus of our life changes from not sinning to doing the works of God.
Romans 8:4-5, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.
We no longer carry guilt in our lives. God has forgiven us, and so we are able to forgive ourselves, and not carry the guilt to the grave. Many struggle with this, but when we surrender our life to the Spirit we experience a deliverance from this.
Romans 8:16, The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,
We have a confident relationship with God. Nothing can separate us from God.
Romans 8:38-39, For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Second is a change in our prayer life.
Romans 8:26, Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession [a]for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
Earlier, we prayed for all the material things we need to have security in this world, money, promotions, increments, jobs, fame, success etc. Now we longer pray for these things, since they are no longer a priority in my life. My priority is the kingdom of God and that is what we pray about.
Romans 8:8-10, So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
Jesus said, we need to love God and to love mankind. When our priority becomes the kingdom of God, we become involved in the lives of people. This becomes the centre of our prayer lives. We intercede for others, just as Jesus intercedes for us.
Romans 8:27, Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
Third is the presence of the power of God in your life.
Romans 8:11, But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies [a]through His Spirit who dwells in you.
We begin to live in the realm of the impossible. We bless others through our lives and help them in ways we did not think possible. It is like Moses who thought he cannot rescue the Israelites, but did. God will do the impossible through you and you will create history wherever you go.
Are you willing to let go of your life into the hands of the Spirit of God?
Romans 8:14, For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.