Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 25, 1970
NUMBER 8, PAGE 3,5b-6a

From A Dead Formality To A Living Reality!

Dean Dennis

Former Minister, Northside Church of Christ, Santa Ana, California

On a beautiful day, my wife, Joyce, and I were driving toward the home of Pat and Shirley Boone, in Beverly Hills, California. I had heard about Pat and Shirley giving their testimonies at a David Wilkerson Rally in Melody-land Theatre in Anaheim. There also were rumors concerning Shirley having received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. I had called Pat to make an appointment to talk to them regarding this situation. I had filled my briefcase with books to set Pat and Shirley straight, if the rumors proved to be true. Many thoughts passed through my mind as I maneuvered through the Los Angeles freeway traffic.

For twelve years, I had preached for congregations of the Churches of Christ, and for the past four years I had been the minister for one of the largest congregations in the west, the Northside Church of Christ, Santa Ana, California, where my elders considered me a successful preacher. However, there was something missing in my life, and this void caused me to feel empty and unfulfilled. I had seen some of my closest friends in the ministry leave their pulpits, and two of them left Jesus Christ and forfeited their original faith.

I realized how the Bible overflows with words of joy, power, peace, and love. The New Testament, that part which tells of the life of Jesus and the doings of the early Christians, tells of very human, ordinary people who made mistakes, ran into difficulties, had to be reprimanded, but they knew that God had allowed them to become His children, citizens of Heaven, and tasters of the powers of the world to come. I pondered, "What has happened to this joy, power, peace and love? What has happened to the gifts of the Holy Spirit that were promised in the Bible?" I had to frankly admit that they are not in much evidence in the institutional church: I did not see them in my own ministry!

Jesus said that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. He did not promise a life without troubles, but He did say that our hearts would rejoice, and that no man could take away our joy.

I recalled having talked with several in our congregation who had found joy, power, overwhelming love and peace that were so lacking in the lives of most Christians, my life included. As they testified of the transformation that had taken place in their lives, I thanked God, but I was still unwilling to yield myself to the Holy Spirit. It was easier for me to chalk up their experiences to psychological phenomenon.

I had been taught all of my life that the power that existed in New Testament times was not for today, so it was difficult for me to fully accept the testimonies of those who came to me. It was not that God had not worked in my life and in the life of my family, but it was so difficult for me to give God the full credit for what was happening.

I remembered the time, several years ago, when my wife, Joyce, had been severely burned in a kitchen accident. She suffered second and third degree burns on her arm and leg. The doctors said she would be scarred permanently and there was little chance of her arm and leg healing completely. The Lord intervened and healed her in such a marvelous way, but I was unwilling to give God all the praise.

Another incident happened about two years ago when Joyce lost our unborn child. While at home one morning, she went into shock from hemorrhaging. We rushed her to the hospital, where she underwent an emergency operation. Again, the Lord was there to heal in a powerful way. Joyce later wrote the following statement that I read from the pulpit and published in the church bulletin:

"This morning, I am with you in spirit. My soul is so filled with the presence of Jesus and He is real and has worked a mighty miracle in my life. What can I say? In Psalm 46 I read, 'God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth be removed, though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; ... Be still and know that I am God.' Tuesday, when my body was very, very still, God entered with all of His power. He gave me life. He loved me and rocked my soul in His arms. Our loss was great, but the vacuum has been filled with Jesus. I must say that I know now that we cannot plan our lives beyond the next minute. We must love our husbands and children now, and praise Jesus for the blessings that we have. I now give thanks and praise unto God for being my schoolmaster!"

Even after this experience, I refused to totally and unequivocally give my life to Jesus.

My retrospective thoughts were interrupted as we reached the Boone home. Pat, Shirley, Joyce and I, along with another minister, met in the den to talk. As I sat in a large, comfortable chair, Shirley began her testimony. As she spoke, I began to weep for one of the very few times in my life. The Lord convinced me of some wonderful truths that day, and I never opened my loaded briefcase!

I began then to realize that what was missing in my life was precisely the power of the Holy Spirit. We can talk about Him, even say that He indwells us, and not really know Him or recognize His work in us. We do not always credit the joyful transformation in the lives of others to the power of God and the Presence of His Holy Spirit.

I had refused to completely yield to God and be filled with the Spirit, as the Bible says. Paul asked the Ephesians in Acts 19:2, "Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?"

As the days passed, I began to hunger and thirst after the Word of God. I had read the Bible to prove doctrinal points or to get sermon material, but now I began to read the Word with abandon!

The week after having the session with Pat and Shirley Boone, I attended a Bible study conducted in the home of Bill Luedtke, in Huntington Beach. About fifty were present that evening, representing all age groups, including some "long hairs." After a two-and-a-half-hour study of the first two chapters of John, some of the young people gave their testimonies. What a joy it was to hear from these living miracles! Lives had been transformed as they had been in the first century. Young people, enslaved by Satanic chains of dope, were changed by the power of Jesus Christ. My study of God's Word was being confirmed by twentieth-century miracles. It was now time for me to step out on faith and meet Jesus Christ as my Baptizer!

About midnight, after a long prayer service and Bible study, I asked the Lord to baptize me in the Holy Spirit. I wanted Jesus not only to be the Lord of my life, but to fill me gloriously with His Spirit. He did! It was like an anointing with liquid fire from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet. No longer was my life empty or unfulfilled. From that moment on, my job as a preacher changed into a living ministry for Jesus Christ, because Christ is revealed to us by the Holy Spirit! I experienced a love that is beyond description. Barriers that had existed between close members of my family and friends were broken down. I found that no one needs to leave the Church of Christ in order to have the fulness of the Spirit, but it is important that the Spirit be allowed to work freely in our congregations. It is to this truth that I witness, and continue to bear witness!

Now, I wanted everything God had to give: everything but the gift of praising God in tongues! I still was not convinced that God would work in that dimension today. I had a difficult time saying, "Praise the Lord," in English, much less in tongues. My difficulty in accepting tongues was based on I Corinthians 13:10. I had been taught by my Church doctrine that the words "when that which is perfect is come" meant the completion of the New Testament. However, the Greek scholar, Thayer, states concerning this verse that the word "perfect" means the "perfect state of all things ushered in by the return of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ."

After five days of fasting and praying, I asked the Lord for this new means of praising Him. In the home of George Otis, in Van Nuys, I received this gift of an unknown language, and I praised God in this new tongue for an hour and a half!

I thank God that since Jesus baptized me in The Holy Spirit, my life has been blessed, and my ministry has changed from a dead formality to a living reality! I have seen God heal a man who was stricken with cancer who had only a few days to live. I have seen God instantaneously heal a woman of arthritis. I have seen the miracle of miracles: the transformation of a life by Jesus Christ!

As in the first century, we also can have a personal encounter with a living, risen Christ and, like those early Christians, can receive the infilling of the very Spirit of God!