Boxing In The Spirit

I looked down to see a typewritten, single-spaced script outlining word for word what I was expected to say. I was stunned. Quickly I reassured the host I had given many invitations before, I had often encouraged people to give their lives to Christ, and I really didn't need a script to do that. The man kept insisting, but I told him I refused to restrict the Holy Spirit to a prescribed script. Later it struck me how common that man's attitude really is. How often we think our own way of doing things is the only way God can use. How often we question and criticize those who don't conform to our ideas or methods. But this attitude is profoundly unbiblical. The Lord's Spirit cannot be confined to a formula. He draws people to Christ in a variety of ways--as He chooses. My own wife and I came into the kingdom in different ways. I was converted in a powerful, emotional experience. At a single moment, in a flood of tears, I surrendered my life to Jesus Christ. But Patty went through a gradual process. She grew up in a Christian home, attended worship services from an early age, and can never remember a time she didn't believe in God. There was no sudden awakening, only a gradual deepening of her faith over the years. In the years right after my conversion, Christians used to swarm around Patty at public events and ask, "And when were you born again, Mrs. Colson?"--expecting another gripping conversion story. Caught off guard, Patty would say, "Well, I really don't know when. All I know is that I do believe, and always have." Sometimes her questioners would turn away and shake their heads, saying, "Poor Mr. Colson, his wife isn't born again." More than once Patty was driven to tears by such insensitive comments. The idea that there is only one way--my way or your way--to bring people into the kingdom of heaven is an example of the sin of presumption: It presumes that God's kingdom grows by human means and methods. But Jesus tells us the Spirit of God is like the wind blowing through the trees. We can see His work--just as we can see the branches swaying in the wind--but it would be foolish to think we can control Him. New life in the Spirit is conceived in the secret place of the soul, hidden from human eyes. Does this mean we should never use another tract, never invite people to say the "sinner's prayer"? Of course not. These can be useful techniques for presenting the Gospel. But they are just that--techniques. They should never become straitjackets on the Spirit of God. It is God alone who builds His church.


Chuck Colson



  • Facebook Icon in Gold
  • Twitter Icon in Gold
  • LinkedIn Icon in Gold

Sign up for the Daily Commentary