Monday, July 18, 2011

Charles Finney and The Second Great Awakening (Part 1)


"Without any expectation of it, without ever having the thought in my mind that there was any such thing for me, without any recollection that I had ever heard the thing mentioned by any person in the world, the Holy Spirit descended upon me in a manner that seemed to go through me, body and soul. I could feel the impression, like a wave of electricity, going through and through me. Indeed it seemed to come in waves and waves of liquid love; for I could not express it in any other way. It seemed like the breath of God. I can recollect distinctly that it seemed to fan me, like immense wings." (The Autobiography of Charles Finney. Pg. 20.)
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This was the conversion experience of one of the greatest evangelists that ever walked the earth. He had been crying out to God that whole day and in the evening all heaven dropped down and filled his soul. Soon after this experience, every time he talked about God, people got convicted and found a secret place to give their lives to Christ. It only snow balled from there. Millions came to know Jesus through his ministry. The presence of God surrounded Finney's life because he lived in His presence. God did the work, not Him. He just surrendered and let the Holy Spirit have his way.

I do not like formulaic Christianity because it never works. William Seymour spent years praying for more of God's Spirit, but Finney spent only one whole day, or very little time in comparison, and received his baptism of fire. Why the difference in experiences? I do not know; nor will I try to figure this out. God is just good and He will do what he wants to do when he wants to do it. Romans 9:16 states, "So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy."

The only similarity between the two was a hunger for more. God fulfilled his promise found in Deuteronomy 4:29, "But from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul." They found God, not religion.

Both were not formally trained at seminary or received the equivalent of a college degree. They were self taught. For those who have similar backgrounds, be encouraged. God will empower any willing vessel to accomplish His will. For those who have received formal training, be encouraged, too. God chose Saul of Tarsus and turned him into a spiritual wrecking machine against the works of the devil. The guy had the equivalent of a Phd or more before embarking on his role as an apostle for Jesus. Yes, knowledge can puff up, but God is good at humbling and squeezing out the pure oil from our lives. Don't worry about not being humble enough. That's God's job. Just go for it.

This will be a very brief article because I am still finishing up the autobiography, but I would like to share these truths from the pages already read. Finney was firmly convinced that without an encounter with the Living God, there could be no power to do ministry. What do I mean by encounter? I mean an empowerment by the Holy Spirit to do the greater things. I am also convinced of this truth. Not only is it Biblical (Acts 1:8); it's also very practical.
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He states, "But there was another defect in brother Gale's education, which I regarded as fundamental. If he had ever been converted to Christ, he had failed to receive that divine anointing of the Holy Ghost that would make him a power in the pulpit and in society, for the conversion of souls. He had fallen short of receiving the baptism of the Holy Ghost, which is indispensable to ministerial success." (pg 55.) The proof is in the pudding. With the Holy Spirit you produce fruit. Without the Holy Spirit you produce nothing. It's that simple. It's not rocket science. Brother Gale was the Princeton trained Presbyterian pastor of Charles Finney's village. He had no power. He ate from the tree of knowledge rather than from the tree of life (God). 

Jesus, Paul, the disciples, Seymour, Finney, Moody, Sung, Whitefield, Edwards, Wesley, and every minister that eventually kicked okole (butt in Hawaiian) for God had an encounter with the Living God through the Holy Spirit dropping on them in some fashion and form. D. L. Moody's experience was mild in comparison to Finney's. He was just walking on the streets of Boston when The Dove landed on his life with greater power. Joy filled his soul. Everything looked brighter! Jonathan Edwards had the same experience. John Sung, the Chinese evangelist, met the Holy Spirit at liberal Union Theological Seminary. He was then thrown into an insane asylum because he was preaching Jesus and rebuking his professors for preaching lies. God discipled him amidst the schizophrenics for months. He cried to be released, but God used these humbling experiences to shape the vessel for the Holy Spirit to use.

Please understand, I am not talking about the Holy Spirit coming upon your life at conversion (Ephesians 1:13), but a second or third or fourth or fifth or sixth or....... experience. God can infill many times (Acts 1:8, 9:17-19). He's God. He can do whatever He wants. God nailed me with his Spirit in the fall of 1993, but since then, He has filled me on more than one occasion. He saved me in 1984, but I only started to move in a level of power in 1993. It's been increasing as I walk with Him, but I want more. I want the Holy Spirit to consume my life. How about you?

Why am I writing this? Being honest with you, if you do not want your share of the Holy Spirit I will take your portion. Ha! It's Biblical. The first shall be last and the last first. The person who didn't use their talent forfeited it to one who used theirs. Just read the parable of the talents. It's in black and white. So, if you don't use your talents, I will take it when offered by God.

I am playing off of Pastor Dean's rascally message that spurred the congregation on to want more of the Holy Spirit and God's blessings. Rest assured, the gifts and blessings of God are inexhaustible. He has more than enough to give everyone their fair share or more. The defining issue is this: How hungry are you? How hungry are you for pure octane God?  He will meet your desire. He promised (Numbers 23:19, Deut 4:29).

I will share more later when I finish reading this autobiography. Love you guys. Drink deeply from the fountain of God.

4 comments:

Fuego Bob said...

I posted this on my blog site... I too am hungry and want more... no turning back now.

Johnny said...

Bless you, Bob!!!! Go for it!

Deb ito said...

Blessed article Pastor John! I want more
Too:) God Bless you.

Johnny said...

Bless you Debbie! God will answer your prayer!