"And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony..." (from Revelation 12:11)
"You can't put God in a box!" That's something I've learned in life and it's a saying I use a lot! People constantly think they've got God all figured out- that He has to act this or that way, or do this or that thing, or that God would never approve of this or that thing. In fact, that was the big problem with the Jewish religious leaders of Jesus' day. He did not talk or act the way they expected the Jewish Messiah to talk or act; and He certainly didn't even talk or act the way they expected a rabbi to talk or act. Thus, they soundly rejected Him. People in our day, whether Jew or Gentile, whether Catholic or Protestant or something else, frequently make the same mistake. Now, God doesn't tell you to go out and blatantly sin, but outside of that, in fact God may do something in a way you'd never expect Him to!
Once a month on a Saturday morning, I attend a Christian breakfast meeting which usually features a special guest who "tells his or her story" for about a half hour. Today, the guest was a (male) sixty-year-old pastor of a Congregational church. (Incidentally, the stereotype of a Congregational pastor tends to be a very theologically liberal man or woman, but this guy was thoroughly evangelical in theology and practice.) The gentleman had a very interesting life story including many, many interesting details. One of those details that stood out to me is where and how God brought him into his own "personal relationship with Jesus Christ", as we evangelicals say. I assure you, it's probably not what you'd expect.
This man grew up attending evangelical Protestant churches. As he tells it, he could recite the "4 Spiritual Laws" and all the typical teachings and doctrines you commonly learn in any evangelical church. He attended several well known Boston area evangelical churches, including First Presbyterian Church in Quincy and Park Street Church in downtown Boston. He knew all the stuff that you're supposed to know. But, as he put it, it was "all in my head"; there was no real relationship with Christ. In his early twenties, he began to attend a rather small Episcopal church. He liked the liturgy and the symbols of the Episcopal church. He also liked the fact that their services were rather short, and he also was attracted to a certain young lady at the Episcopal church. One Sunday morning, he went up and knelt at the altar rail (as is the custom in Episcopal churches) to receive Holy Communion. First, he received the bread from a deacon. Then, an elderly priest brought the chalice of wine. As the speaker told it, in the Episcopal church, the priest either says, "The cup of salvation" when he offers the wine to you, or the priest says, "The blood of Jesus, shed for your sins". As he went along serving the congregants, the priest kept saying, "The cup of salvation". But when he came to serve the young man, he said, "The blood of Jesus, shed for your sins." And, the instant the priest said those words and as he drank from the cup, the young man was dramatically shaken by the Holy Spirit! In that moment, he had the most powerful spiritual experience he'd ever had in his life! At that altar in that Episcopal church, he got it! In an instant, he understood the gospel, and in an instant he was transformed! He could hardly get up and walk back to his seat. It was a real "Book of Acts" moment. This young man, who went on to become a chaplain and a pastor, was never the same again!
He commented to the small group assembled this morning, "Usually we hear that someone went to the Episcopal church all his life but never heard the true gospel of salvation and never really understood it until he went to (say) a Baptist church without all of the religious trappings and heard the simple gospel and was born again. For me, it was all exactly the opposite!"
He also commented that (although many evangelicals disagree with this) the symbols in an institution such as the Episcopal church are very important, and that most evangelical Protestants have been too quick to dismiss that.
There was time for feedback from those who were present today. I made a few comments, but my first was, in regard to how and where this man experienced being "born again" and coming into a genuine relationship with the Lord, "You can't put God in a box!"
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