The Mystic Baptist
I remember one of the greatest lessons of my life came during those times when I was fighting a big battle, and people wanted to get rid of me. They couldn't tell me why. They just said all I preached about was how to get saved, the coming of Jesus, and how to be filled with the Holy Spirit. I just laughed and thought, Well, God, I hope that's true!
In the middle of that, one day the Lord said, "If you want to win this battle, remember this: See everything that comes at you as coming from me. What they say, what they do, no matter what you see, it's coming from me, not from them. Then you can sit there with forgiveness, and it won't be a distraction. You won't defend yourself. See it as all coming from me."
As a result, I could walk out there and preach with the greatest sense of freedom and liberty and the power of the Holy Spirit, knowing that about three or four hundred of them were doing their best to get rid of me. So I can't take any credit.
As you come to the close of your own very successful ministry of many decades, what do you see when you look out at the contemporary church?
I'm excited about a lot of new life, but I'm concerned that there isn't dependence upon the Holy Spirit as much as upon music and other things. I've noticed the emphasis is more on leadership than on the Holy Spirit and the work of the Lord.
Theology gets lost in a lot of the fanfare. Who is this God whom we serve? We're to reverence him and love him. I grew up in a Pentecostal Holiness church, and reverence for God has always been a major issue with me. When I talk about praying, I usually talk about praying on your knees. You can pray anywhere, of course, but in my personal prayer life, I just sense that reverence for God, that I want to listen to him.
You often say in your books and preaching that God speaks to you, tells you things, and gives you messages. What is that like for you? Is it a thought? Is it a voice you hear?
For me, I get this strong sense of feeling that's so clear, so direct to me. Like this week, something happened and I thought, Well, I could do thus and such, and God said, "Don't do that." I don't hear a voice, but it's so crystal sharp and clear to me, I know not to disobey that.
I think that comes from early in life as you learn to listen. You make mistakes; after a while, you realize as you obey him, it turns out right, and whatever your reason was for not obeying him, it doesn't turn out right.
The way you talk about your relationship with God, the word mystic comes to mind. How would you feel if someone were to describe you this way?
I only say this because it's the only way I know to say it: My whole life has been wrapped in [asking], "Who is this God? How do I have an intimate relationship with him? How can I listen to him knowing that he's the one doing the speaking?" I want the Holy Spirit to interpret the truth to me.