Most of us young pastors in the 1940's were taught that portions of the New Testament lost their validity when the Apostles died. For example, I was instructed to ignore teachings about the Holy Spirit’s miraculous gifts in I Corinthians 12 and 14. Chapters 11, 13, and 15, were o.k. but not the others. Had I disobeyed and taught them anyway, I would have been excommunicated. As a result, I lost nearly thirty years of precious time before I fought my way out of that dark tunnel of unbelief. It only happened then because of tragedy.
On a momentous November day in 1977, the Holy Spirit forever changed my life. Walking across the parking lot at the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary, I faced its ominous building with a bit of apprehension. My destination was a young prisoner whom I had been counseling--but with whom the sessions had undergone a strange reversal. It was I, not he, who needed help. Secretly, I was in a black hole of suicidal depression.
A few months before, my wife, Laurie, had been in a tragic automobile wreck, suffered 13 broken bones, a concussion of the brain, collapsed lung, and so many injuries she could not be moved. She was slowly recovering but I was not. For the first time in my ministry I faced the stark reality that something vital–something strategic–was lacking in me. My doctrinal preaching was not meeting the need. As if looking into a bottomless pit, the wreck had shown me my spiritual void–which I felt helpless to change. My prisoner-friend saw it long before I and lovingly pointed me to the solution: I needed to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Acts 1:8. Every time he witnessed to me, however, two violent forces fought for control of my mind. First, I had been thrust into the most frenzied search for God I had ever known–a search where every effort seemed to fail. Secondly, a tidal wave of unstoppable depression crashed down on top of me.
For months I wept, sought God with every breath, but found no break in the despair. Slowly, I began to realize if I were going to survive that hellish nightmare, I would do so only by receiving the power of the Holy Spirit. The demon of religious pride screamed at me not to do it. But that November day was the absolute worst day of my life and I could not go on. Exhausted, I suddenly dropped face-down before the prisoner and he laid both hands on my head. As if I were listening from a thousand miles away, I heard him quoting Ananias’ words to Saul of Tarsus, "The Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road as you came has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit." Acts 9:17.
The scene must have been baffling to the Mafia inmates and wives who were watching. I was a well-dressed pastor–but one broken and unable to suppress my grief–and seeking help from a convict. Our roles were completely reversed. The prisoner had been miraculously born-again the year before, delivered from drug addiction, suicidal depression, and filled with the Holy Spirit.
The effects of his laying-hands on me were phenomenal. As soon as I got home I was snatched from the grip of depression like a child snatched from the path of an onrushing car. Anger, pain, confusion, wrong attitudes, that had stock-piled in me since boyhood were suddenly gone. Like believers in the Book of Acts, I was filled with the Holy Spirit. Spiritually, I stood under an invisible Niagara Falls with all the water of the cataract pouring into me. In a moment’s time the depression was gone, never to return. That was not only the most awesome day of my life--but it was the beginning of an amazing, new ministry. The Holy Spirit roared into my life like a Kansas storm and began doing His works through me. For the first time, I experienced God’s promise that "All Scripture (not part) is given by inspiration of God." 2 Timothy 3:16.
Soon after that, miraculous things started happening. People would sometimes shake my hand or hug me and drop to the floor under the power of God. Many were healed, delivered, filled with the Holy Spirit. Some of these fell publicly in malls, hotel lobbies, restaurants, parking lots--anywhere I went with the anointing of God on me. God didn’t seem to care where it happened. In the beginning, I knew nothing about this experience occurring in the ministry of Jonathan Edwards, John Wesley, Alexander Campbell, Augustine, the Puritans, early Baptists, Methodists, Quakers, and others throughout Christian history.
This I did know: Truth was in the Scripture; power was in the truth. That realization took me into another spiritual dimension; only as I looked back retrospectively did my personal history begin to make sense. Theologically, I went into over-drive in the attempt to understand the Holy Spirit’s radical manifestation. And many of them were very radical. Acts 2:12,13. The Glory that invaded me that bleak November day when the prisoner laid-hands on me was producing amazing results. Jesus said, "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you." And it happened! He came, I received, and the power rushed in. Acts 1:8.
As I had expected, my Ordination Credentials were canceled and I soon lost most of my pastor-friends. These were men I dearly loved and still miss 35 years later. But, God was gracious and began filling the emptiness with wonderful new brothers. I soon met Derek Prince, we became friends, and he asked me to become part of his Ministry Team for Pastors Conferences in Moscow, Kazakhstan, and Turkey. Our trips together were wonderful. Jack Taylor, the Spirit-filled former Vice President of the Southern Baptist Convention became my soul-partner. God brought R.T. Kendall, then concluding 25 years as pastor at Westminster Chapel, London, into my life.
R.T. invited me to preach at the Chapel and we witnessed intense manifestations of the Holy Spirit. He, Jack, and I, became inseparable brothers and soon began conducting Word, Spirit, Power, Conferences from London to Alaska, New England to Florida, and points in between. We have conducted more than 60 of these Conferences. John and Carol Arnott, pastors at The Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship–now "Catch The Fire," Canada, stepped into my life in an incredible way. I have preached a number of times at this church that has drawn more than 5,000,000 visitors from around the world and is impacting churches everywhere. Thank God, my wife recovered from the accident and supported me in intercession until her death in 2012.
Would I go back to my former ministry? Never! I miss the old friends but where I experienced consistent failure in the past I am now seeing thousands of lives be miraculously changed by the Holy Spirit. I want no more powerless preaching! One personal revelation that transformed me and has been translated into my preaching is this:
The Release Of Power Through The Death Of Ego
I was awe-struck. I knew the Shekinah Glory was the only Light in the Holy of Holies. That was the Holy Spirit Himself. With the Veil torn (in typology only) there was no longer an obstruction to keeping the Shekinah from coming outward to the rest of the Temple. In that moment, I saw two astonishing, parallel truths: In an identical way, the Holy Spirit’s flooding out of Heaven’s Temple into the Upper Room at Pentecost; Next, the Holy Spirit flooding out of a believer’s Temple-body to heal or bless another’s. Acts 2:1-4. John 7:38. The impact of truth was numbing.
The Spirit’s lesson continued, "Charles," He said, "Your Temple-body is flesh, soul, spirit. I Corinthians 6:19. It corresponds to the Outer Court, Holy Place, and Holy of Holies. Your hands are an extension of that Temple. With your Veil torn, I am free to move to your Outer Court and upon the person on whom you lay-hands. At the time of the wreck you went through a gruesome death--but in that death you finally committed your life ‘into My hands.’ That is when your Veil was torn." I was shocked.
The months that followed were apocalyptic. In part, I saw the beauty of "dying in Christ" as I had never seen it before. This death is not sacrificial and foreboding. God merely wants us to surrender our depraved self-will to His perfect will. When I finally emerged in 1977 from that long, religious storm, submitted to God, and better informed scripturally, I was a new man, had a new message, was anointed for new ministry. Today, at age 83, my health is excellent, my ministry more relevant, more powerful, more far-reaching, than in all previous years combined--and the end is not in sight.
My word to you is this: Come go with me! Say with Paul, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." Galatians 2:20