Finney on Intimacy With God
As some Fire On Your Head readers may have noticed by the direction of my recent postings here–a blog site intended to motivate readers towards revival–I’ve been focusing a lot in my own contributions to the site on intimacy with God, and His love. I’ve personally been having a paradigm shift where I’m realizing unless we individually have a personal revival, there’s not much point in seeking global or national revival.
The reason and my motivation for taking so much time to do so is important. If we’re going to see the fires of revival spread, then we need to understand what the fuel for that fire is: intimacy with God. And statistically and anecdotally speaking, many of us struggle in that one area of our lives. Many Christians skip books like the Song of Solomon in their Bible because of not understanding Scriptures through a Bridal paradigm. Or many of us have struggled in our relationships with our earthly fathers, and have a hard time viewing God as a loving Father.
At any rate, for whatever the specific reason, it’s not uncommon for many Christians to struggle with their intimate relationship with Christ. I personally used to struggle with approaching my prayer and quiet time from a place of enjoyment, but instead out of duty and obligation, or out of the desire to find something to study so as to have good material to blog or preach about. It took a long time for my stubborn heart to be open to the idea God was pursuing me; that God delights in me and wants to have a relationship with me just because He’d like to, not just because He wants to ‘use me’ to fulfill a purpose.
That all being said, one of the greatest revivalists in Christendom knew this secret to intimacy with God: Charles Finney, a man credited with being responsible for the Second Great Awakening. He had a deep intimacy with God that most people don’t know about, which also is why He was so effective in ministry and revival. I’ve been re-reading a favorite book of mine I got years ago called “Finney On Revival” by V. Raymond Edman.
Check out what Finney says of his conversion experience:
…I returned to the front office and found that the fire I had made of large wood was nearly burned out. But as I turned and was about to take a seat by the embers, I received a mighty baptism of the Holy Spirit. Without any expectation of it or ever having a thought in my mind that there were such a thing for me, and without any recollection that I had ever heard of it mentioned by anyone before, the Holy Spirit descended upon me in a manner that seemed to go right through my body and soul like a wave of electricity. Indeed, it seemed to come in waves and waves of liquid love, for I could not express it in any other way. It seemed like the very breath of God. I can recall distinctly that it seemed to fan me like immense wings.
No words can express the wonderful love that was shed abroad in my heart. I wept aloud with joy and love, and literally bellowed out the unutterable fullness of my heart. These waves came over me and over me, one after the other, until I cried out, “I shall die if these waves continue to pass over me!” I said “Lord, I cannot bear any more”; yet I had no fear of death. (p.34)
“At home, I soon fell asleep, but almost as soon awoke again on account of the great flow of the love of God that was in my heart. Then I fell asleep again, and awoke in the same manner. Thus I continued till late into the night, when I obtained some sound repose. “(p.35)
One thing that interests me about the account of Finney’s conversion experience, is how much it underscores the God who was pursuing him. God was after Him before He realized it to be so. Just like Adam in the Garden, Abraham, Gideon, the Apostle Paul, and scores of other Biblical and historical men of God, the Lord was the one who initiated the relationship. How much more so we could each look at our own salvation experiences and see God at work in the same manner!
He goes on to continue to describe a new baptism that he experienced again the following morning when he awoke, stating:
“In this state I was taught the doctrine of justification by faith as a present experience. I could now see and understand what was meant by the passage “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” I could see in the moment I believed all sense of condemnation had entirely dropped out of my mind, and that from that moment I could not feel sense of guilt or condemnation by any effort I could make. My sense of guilt was gone; my sins were gone and I do not think I felt any more sense of guilt than if I had never sinned.
This was just the revelation that I needed. I felt myself justified by faith…my heart was so full of love that it overflowed. My cup ran over with blessing and with love…I could not recover the least sense of guilt for my past sins. Of this experience I said nothing at the time to anybody.” (p.35, emphasis mine)
Later in his life:
In those days there came a profound desire to search out his heart and test his consecration to all the will of God. It was at that time that Finney had the soul-searching struggle of a deeper consecration than ever before, which included his dear wife and family. With utter and unreserved yielding to all that the will of God might be, he came to a perfect resting in that will as he had never known before:
“At this time it seemed as if my soul was wedded to Christ in a sense in which I had never had any thought or concept before. The language of the Song of Solomon was as natural to me as my breath. I thought I could understand well the state of mind he was in when he wrote that song; and concluded then, as I have ever thought since, that that song was written after he had been reclaimed from his great backsliding. I not only had all the freshness of my first love, but a vast increase to it. Indeed, the Lord lifted me so far above anything that I had ever experienced before and taught me so much of the meaning of the Bible of Christ’s power and faithfulness, that I often found myself saying to Him, “I had not known or conceived that any such thing was true.” I then realized what is meant by the saying, “He is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think.” He did at that time teach me infinitely above all that I had ever asked or thought. I had had no concept of the length and breath, and height and depth and efficiency of his grace.”
After that meeting with his Master, there never came to Finney the great struggles and protracted agonizing prayer over the will of God; rather he had come to a calmness and perfect confidence in the fulfillment of the divine will, and to say,
“He enables me now to rest in Him and let everything sink into His perfect will, with much more readiness than ever before the experience of that winter. I have felt since then a religious freedom, a religious buoyancy and delight in God and in His Word, a steadiness of faith, a Christian liberty and overflowing love that I had only experienced, I may say, occasionally before…It seems to me that I can find God within me in such a sense that I can rest upon Him and be quiet, lay my heart in His hands, nestle down in His perfect will, and have no worry or anxiety. (p. 54-55, bold emphasis mine)
Finney learned that only a few seem to understand the experience of rest in God:
“But in preaching, I have found that nowhere can I preach those truths on which my own soul delights to live, and be understood, except it be by very small number. I have never found that more than a very few, even of my own people, appreciate and receive those views of God and Christ, and the fullness of His free salvation, upon which my own soul still delights to feed. (p.55)
Father, don’t let us become a people who seek to mimic methods and styles of evangelists and revivalists of the past, but without an intimacy with You. Grant us this understanding and revelation of rest that so few seem to understand and know about You. Draw us into that deeper place, for only there will we have any efficacy in our labors for You–if they’re born of love and from the secret place alone with You. Make of us a people who delight to feed on You and Your Word
Draw us in Father, for we desire to have it said of us that we are first and foremost a people who delight ourselves in You!