Have you even wondered what it must have been like to be in the upper room on the Day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came. Acts 2:2 describes it as ‘suddenly’ there came a sound from heaven, as of a mighty rushing wind and it filled the whole house . . ‘ While in Australia some years ago, I experienced in some small measure what it must have been like. I had been invited, by Pastor Doug Stanton, to minister in the church he was pastoring at the time, The Northside Fireplace, located in the city of Brisbane. One night, I had finished preaching, and before Doug and I began to minister together, it happened ‘suddenly.’ Without any warning, without anyone doing anything, the Holy Spirit just came, like a mighty rushing wind and filled the room and fell on the congregation. As Pastor Doug said later, ‘It was like a blanket covered the congregation.’ People fell to the floor. One man told me later he ended up two rows back from where he was sitting. Another person in the congregation described it this way, ‘God broke in on the Thursday night and surprised everyone. It was like people were shot and fell like dead men.’ This is what we have been waiting for.’ We experienced Pentecost that night.
Now, the tragedy today is that many people, even in Pentecostal Charismatic Churches, have not experienced the power of Pentecost.
THE NEGLECT OF TONGUES
Pentecostal historian Vinson Synan states, “the percentage of Pentecostals who pray in tongues has been declining for the last 30 years as Charismatic leaders taught that tongues are not the initial evidence of Spirit Baptism.” “In a ten nation survey of the Pentecostal Movement, the Washington DC based Pew Forum on Religious and Public Life found that in the US 49 percent of Pentecostals reported that they do not speak in tongues. Among Charismatic’s the number is 32 percent.” So, as Foursquare President Jack Hayford noted, “No matter where theologians fall on the initial evidence debate, if tongues is not practiced, there is no reason to label the movement Pentecostal.”
‘If tongues is not practiced’ – God has given Christians and the church a powerful gift – the gift of tongues, and it needs to be practiced. I always will remember one occasion in a meeting, in the old Minneapolis Convention Center. While praying for people at the end of the service, a lady asked me to pray for her to be filled with the Spirit. I asked her the question, “Have you been prayed for for the baptism of the Holy Spirit?” To which she answered, “Yes.” I asked another question, “Did you receive the gift of tongues?” To which she answered, “Yes, but I only use it when I come to a meeting like this one.” There it was, the classic example of people who have received a powerful gift, but neglect to use it.
WHAT IS SPEAKING IN TONGUES?
“Speaking in tongues is a form of prayer in which the Christian yields himself to the Holy Spirit and receives from the Spirit a supernatural language with which to praise God. It is a miraculous manifestation of God’s power, but one that combines both human and divine elements and expresses both human and divine initiative. It is truly a cooperation between the Christian and the Holy Spirit (Don Basham).”
Many people don’t realize the breadth of significance in the “diverse or different” kinds of tongues (1 Corinthians 12:10). There are at least seven different ways tongues operate.
A SIGN OF THE GOSPEL “And these signs will follow those who believe in my name. . . .they will speak with new tongues,” (Mark 16:17).
A SIGN OF THE BAPTISM OF THE HOLY SPIRIT “And they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance,” (Acts 2:4).
EDIFICATION OF THE BELIEVER “He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself,” (1 Corinthians 14:4, Jude 20).
A FORM OF PRAYER AND PRAISE “For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God,” (1 Corinthians 14:2, also 1 Corinthians 14:15, 18).
A FORM OF SPIRITUAL WARFARE “…praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit,” (Ephesians 6:18).
A MINISTRY IN THE CHURCH “And God has appointed these in the church. . . varieties of tongues,” (1 Corinthians 12:28).
A SIGN TO UNBELIEVERS “Therefore tongues are a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers,” (1 Corinthians 14:22).
I have always been impressed by the testimony of Paul who, when writing to the Corinthian church, a church that misused the spiritual gifts, declared, “I thank God I speak with tongues more than you all,” (I Corinthians 14:18). Obviously, Paul did do so in his own personal prayer life, and he knew the value of speaking in tongues.
Years ago, a colleague of mine, Dr. Mike Pilla, who has since gone to be with the Lord, passed on to me an interesting article that gave insight into the value of speaking in tongues.
“More Findings in Speaking in Tongues Study: Different from Meditation, and ‘Glossolalia Speakers’ Rarely Suffer From Mental Problems. The new findings contrasted sharply with images taken of other spiritually inspired mental states like meditation, which is often a highly focused mental exercise, activating frontal lobes.” Benedict Carey/TN (Nov 11, 2006)
As reported earlier on Breaking Christian News, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania took brain images of five women while they spoke in tongues and found that their frontal lobes were relatively quiet, as were the language centers. According to a recent N.Y. Times report, the regions involved in maintaining self-consciousness were active: the women were not in blind trances.
Donna Morgan, a co-author of the study, was also a research subject. She is a born-again Christian who is quoted as saying the ability to speak in tongues is a gift. “You’re aware of your surroundings,” she said. “You’re not really out of control. But you have no control over what’s happening. You’re just flowing. You’re in a realm of peace and comfort, and it’s a fantastic feeling.” Reporter Benedict Cary noted, “Contrary to what may be a common perception, studies suggest that people who speak in tongues rarely suffer from mental problems. A recent study of nearly 1,000 evangelical Christians in England found that those who engaged in the practice were more emotionally stable than those who did not. Researchers have identified at least two forms of the practice, one ecstatic and frenzied, the other subdued and nearly silent. The new findings contrasted sharply with images taken of other spiritually inspired mental states like meditation, which is often a highly focused mental exercise, activating the frontal lobes.” (Source – New York Times)
TWO TESTIMONIES ON THE POWER OF TONGUES
Let me give a couple of testimonies. Once, when I was ministering in Darwin, Australia, I was asked to pray for a deaf mute who wanted to be baptized in the Spirit. Through an interpreter I gave some biblical instruction and then laid hands on him asking God to baptize him in the Spirit. God did it and the deaf mute, who normally couldn’t speak, spoke in tongues although he still could not speak normally. Truly, he had received a God-given language.
In 1972, I went with a group of young people to be part of the Youth With a Mission outreach to the Munich Olympic Games. We all stayed in a castle, in a village called Hurlach. My sleeping accommodation was on a platform, in the attic, in a rather crowded room. Right opposite me was a guy from Scotland. Quite regularly, in the middle of the night, while he was fast asleep, he would give a message in tongues followed later by an interpretation. The interesting thing was he used to be a Scottish racecar driver who lived a very wild life and when he talked in his sleep he cursed and swore. Then he got saved and baptized in the Holy Spirit. Now, when he spoke in his sleep, he spoke in tongues and praised God. It shows you how this experience went all the way down into his subconscious.
A FINAL PLEA
Let me make a plea. If you have received this powerful gift but have neglected it and not used it regularly, then I challenge you to be like Paul, and pray in tongues regularly and consistently. I like to have, throughout the day, extended times doing just that. It is like a spiritual workout to build you up in your spiritual life and open yourself up to the ministry of the Holy Spirit in your life.