About Jesus Steve Sweetman
My First Experience With Intimacy
I grew up as a young person in a family that regularly attended an Evangelical Church. We were in church meetings Sunday mornings, Sunday nights, Tuesday nights, Wednesday night kids group, then later, Thursday night youth group.
I had many emotional times of prayer at the front of the sanctuary in those days. I have always said that I got saved every other Sunday night, whether I needed to or not. I just had to be sure. The call would go out at the end of the service while we sang all seven verses of Just As I Am. If no one responded to the call there was a good chance that we'd start the hymn all over again. If I went up to the front before we sang verse seven that would save us from going through whole hymn again. Maybe people didn't mind me getting saved every other week after all.
I went up front regularly to get rid of the guilty feelings I seemed to always have. I know better now. I know that guilt is not a feeling, but a position in which we stand before our Lord. I now know that I am not guilty. I once was guilty, but I have since been acquitted of my guilt. So "feeling guilty" is irrelevant to me.
Anyway, I had many emotional times of getting saved over and over again. For some reason they never took. As I look back, I still don't know if those times were really encounters with the Lord, or just times of an emotional response to an emotional appeal. Whatever the case, I finally got things right with one short five second prayer one night in the quietness of my bedroom. There was no emotion, just a short prayer. I simply said, "Lord, if I am not forgiven, please forgive me now". That was it. I then went to bed. I woke up the next morning a changed person. I wanted to follow Jesus and do what He wanted because that was my desire. I no longer did Christian things to get rid of my so-called guilty feelings. I now read the Bible because I wanted to. I now prayed because I wanted to.
One day Jim Williams, a good friend of mine invited me to go on a trip to a place called Christ Centre in Lexington Kentucky. I had no clue what I was getting myself into, but that trip changed my life. I do not say this lightly. Often we say that if you do this or that, or if you go here or there, it will change your life, but seldom ever does. This event was indeed a life changer for me.
While at Christ Centre I attended a Tuesday might meeting. Right away, one of the things that stood out to me was who was actually in that room. Christ Centre was where a group of people had a ministry in a large old school. This meeting was in one of the classrooms. In that room were old bald headed men in suits, young long haired guys in jeans, ladies in dresses, and girls in slacks. The room was packed, so packed that I saw one fat man in a suit sitting on a window sill. Growing up we seemed so segregated. We had kid's night, youth night, seniors night, young couples night and so on. We were all set apart in our own little world. This meeting was different. We were all together. I subsequently learned that the Holy Spirit unites people, no matter who they are and what they look like. How nice for a change.
The meeting began with singing. We sang choruses that I had never heard before. Everyone sang with all of their hearts. Then came a quiet time. No one said anything. I was not used to down time in a church meeting. Usually all the time was filled with words, filled with someone saying something. I was used to church being like radio stations. Radio stations hate dead air space for fear someone might move past their spot on the radio dial as they look for a new station to listen to. These people were comfortable with quietness. Then it came, something I had never heard in my entire life to that point. This is what changed my life.
I had never heard anyone speak in tongues before. Our church was not all that excited about tongues. As a matter of fact one of my friend's mother had opening pronounced that her kids would never be allowed to go to a Pentecostal youth meeting because people in that church spoke in tongues.
Anyway, back to my story. These people began to quietly sing in tongues. Wow! This was something else. How powerful this was. They sang no particular tune, just a simple one chord melody. They quietly sang in tongues. The longer they sang, the louder they got. Then after a few moments the song faded into a peaceful bliss. I could feel the presence of God in that meeting as these people were singing in tongues. I had never quite experienced God's presence in a church meeting that way before. I knew for sure that this was for me. Whatever these people had that caused them to worship like this, I wanted. I more than wanted it. I felt like I needed it, and indeed I did.
That was my first experience with intimacy in worship. That was my first experience with singing in the Spirit. I left that meeting a changed person, wanting the next time to actually enter into worship, not just observe.
Paul, in 1 Cor. 14:15 says, "I will sing with my spirit...". In context, it is clear that Paul is speaking about singing in tongues. I saw this take place for the first time on the second Tuesday of March 1971. I since then have been blessed with this gift of tongues myself and worship our Lord both with my intellect and with my spirit. As Paul says in 1 Cor. 14:15, "I will sing with my spirit and I will also sing with my understanding". I do both as well.
The admonition to the church today is to allow such to happen in our meetings. The Holy Spirit comes in a real and special way when we open ourselves to Him in intimate worship. Singing with my spirit as Paul puts it should never get old, should never be outdated. It is one very important aspect of intimate worship. An interactive exchange between our Lord and us in worship is fundamental to the health and growth of a church.