In my search for truth I was associated with the Pentecostal Church in British Columbia, Canada, for a period of two years. I was under conviction that the Lord was leading me to be a missionary, and was most anxious to understand their beliefs so that I would not only know for myself but be able to teach them to others.
On the surface the Pentecostal Church was much like the Baptist Church in which I had been converted. Their plain teaching of the fundamental truths of the gospel attracted me. Their added zeal and infinite patience, together with their high Christian standards, challenged me. Lacking power in my own Christian experience, I had my heart open to learn of them.
Certain Bible texts prevented me from uniting wholeheartedly in their activities at the outset. "Let all things be done decently and in order," cautioned me against the praying of more than one person at a time, the evident jazz in hymn singing, and the misplaced emotion. Later, when I stayed in the aftermeeting, the same text prevented me from dropping to the floor and losing consciousness. "God is not the author of confusion."
In one aftermeeting the leader, a single woman in her forties, was flat on her back in the center aisle, moaning. The superintendent walked past her and said to the people, "The Spirit itself rnaketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered." I shuddered, for it was revolting to think such was the manifestation of the lioly Spirit. There was no edification, no purpose in such manifestation. I read, "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." The hours passed, and there was no further explanation of the Word. Where, then, was the increased faith?
Their regular service was much like that of any other evangelical church, but the after-meeting, held for those who were seeking a deeper experience, was more sensational. I saw others dropping on the floor and heard some speak in "tongues." There was a real supernatural power present that held me; I too felt the urge to drop down. I wanted power in my experience, and here it was! What lacked I yet? They told me that my pride was stopping me from receiving the Spirit, and that troubled me greatly. I wanted to join in with them, but something restrained me. How could I glibly repeat, "Praise the Lord," or, "Blessed Jesus," as they did, when the Bible says, "Use not vain repetitions"? Silently I poured out my heart to God, and often in those very aftermeetings He blessed me, greatly sustaining me by His sweet presence.
I continued to take part in their gatherings in the same limited way. The leaders soon became more concerned over me, and asked me to come to the tarrying meeting. These are private meetings usually held in the homes of the most earnest. Attendance is by invitation, and only those are invited who have received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, or who are very definitely seeking it.
I had found the aftermeetings so emotional that I had no desire to expose myself further to more of this type of gathering. I had seen those who had received the baptism surrounding my girl. friend and praying for her, and I feared hypnotism. The rumors about these tarrying meetings were not respectable. After such meetings I would hear those who had been present joking and laughing at the indiscreet things that were done by a mixed group, supposedly under the influence of the Spirit. These meetings always lasted till two, three, or even five o'clock in the morning, and this further justified my decision. I reasoned that the Lord would give me the baptism even more readily in the church than elsewhere, and therefore never thought of going. I was firmly convinced that I should not attend them.
Seeking for Baptism of Spirit
I continued to seek God earnestly, and attended all the public meetings and aftermeetings. From the Bible I could see that there was a baptism of the Spirit, and there was also a speaking of tongues, but I could not see why they necessarily had to come at the same time. They explained that the first time one was so baptized he spoke in tongues as a sign that he was completely yielded, the tongue being the most unruly member. I often asked about having actual experiences, only to receive the same reply: When one completely believes in the baptism of the Spirit and seeks for it without reserve, he becomes so desperate that he will insist on staying until he receives it, even if it takes all night or days. Then they do receive some kind of power. But why this abandonment? I reasoned that God was anxious to give us good things. Are we not told to prove these demonstrations of gifts?
Suddenly my plans were changed, and I went to Vancouver. There my Baptist friends straightened me out. Through reading their booklets on the Spirit-filled life I dedicated myself unreservedly to God for the first time. I now accepted His simple command, "Be filled with the Spirit." From that moment dancing, shows, cards, and novels had no place in my life. Now I was truly happy. Here was purpose and meaning to the baptism of the Spirit. I read the Scriptures with real desire for truth, and rejoiced in my Saviour.
Confused and Baffled Again
Later, returning to the same Pentecostal church in my home town, I witnessed joyfully to my experience, only to receive the answer: "You have not received the Spirit's baptism because you did not speak in tongues."
What was this gift of tongues in comparison to the larger value—complete victory in my life? Again I became confused, yes, baffled. These people were the best type of Christians I knew at that time. As I attended their Sunday night meeting the Spirit of God used the leader to give me so definite a call to the mission field that I had to say yes. To me God had . spoken as definitely as if I had signed a contract. Yet, in spite of my experience, they would not accept my testimony. What did all this mean?
I went home about eleven o'clock feeling very much upset. I knelt down and confirmed my decision to be a missionary. "O Lord, if every step is as clear as this one, life would indeed be simple !" I prayed. Then suddenly I felt the same urge upon me that I had often felt in the aftermeeting. Heretofore I had resisted. My pride had always prevented me from falling down in a mixed group. Now I thought, "This is my opportunity to try the Spirit to show the Lord I truly desire to know His word."
I was alone, so I could be neither indecent nor hypnotized. Silently I prayed for my new Friend to help me. I would be passive, neither assisting nor resisting, and somehow I should know at last whether it was God's will for me to receive the gift of tongues. I did not drop to the floor, but very gradually, through no effort on my part I found myself sinking lower and lower, until I was flat on my back with part of my body under the bed at which I had been kneeling. My left arm was raised from the floor and moved in a circle. To myself I wondered, What good does this do? But I continued praying passively that God would control me.
Finally this force, this seeming electric power, focused in my vocal cords. I wondered, Was I to speak in tongues? Obedient to the text not to speak "vain repetitions," my mouth was closed. I am now certain that if I had been mumbling as they advised, I would then have spoken in tongues. That power stayed a few moments, as if to test me. Would I now give in to the thrill of such an experience? For two years I had been steeling myself against this nerve-racking emotionalism. I prayed silently and calmly, and soon the power left me completely. I then rose, and noticed that it was two o'clock in the morning! With a sense of relief I realized that three hours had passed, and I understood better than ever the futility of it all. I knew that this experience was not of God. I turned out the light and retired. Peace filled my soul.
Before going to sleep I felt an urge to open the Bible. So I rose, turned on the light, and opened the Book. My eyes fell on Matthew 24. Five times in that chapter I read the admonition, "Take heed that no man deceive you." Satan "shall shew great signs and wonders." Ah, now I understood for the first time that Satan is very real ! I had never understood his personality. It was a supernatural power I had been battling against. It was of Satan. Angels of God had helped me, true to the promise, "If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine." I now bowed in reverence to the great power of God.
Surely He who had begun a good work would complete it. Former doubts as to God's guiding hand forever left me. Shortly afterward I became an Adventist, accepting the truth during an effort that was conducted soon after this experience. Six months after graduating from college at Walla Walla I received my call to the mission field. Happily I accepted it immediately. It was the fulfillment of my lifelong desire and covenant with God. God had been more than faithful to His promises. Trust in God and in His Word will overcome any device of the evil one. We must press close to Him, for Satan will deceive all but the very elect.