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A Song Written In Our Church And Sung In Our Hearts

Acts 2:1-4

One of my favorite hymns is one I first learned when I was a boy. It’s called “Spirit of the Living God” and it has these poignant prayer words:

Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me
Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.

What you may not know is that that hymn was written here in our church, the First Presbyterian Church of Orlando. The hymn was written by a Presbyterian minister, Rev. Daniel Iverson. He was visiting our church to assist in a great evangelistic crusade which our church was sponsoring in this city. The crusade featured the evangelist, George Stevens, and Daniel Iverson was here to assist the evangelical effort.

A part of the crusade program involved a seminar for men taught by a medical doctor from Columbia, South Carolina, Dr. William Barron. Daniel Iverson attended Dr. Barron’s seminar, and was taken by the fact that several times during his address, he repeated the words: Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me. Daniel Iverson could not get the phrase out of his mind. Later on, he was visiting with Dr. Blanton Belk, the minister here at First Presbyterian Church, and he asked if he might use a piano. There he set down some words and then picked out a tune on the keys of the piano. Later on, with the help of the music director, they put the words and the music together to compose a hymn. At the next session of the crusade, attended by some 4,000 people, the words of the hymn were sung, interspersed with readings from Scripture and brief testimonies. Again and again through the course of the service, the people sang “Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me.” The record states that at the end of that crusade service, 400 people came forward to make a commitment to Jesus Christ. Thus it was that that hymn, written right here in our church, began to acquire an amazing spiritual power.

During the second World War, the Church of England wrote to Daniel Iverson and asked for permission to include his hymn in their hymnbook. They changed the wording slightly from “fresh” to “afresh”; spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me- and altered the music slightly as well. It is that version of the hymn which is now sung in 100 different languages around the world. It is a song written in our church and sung in our hearts and in the hearts of Christians all across this earth. It’s a great song for Pentecost, the birthday of the church, because the song describes precisely what the Holy Spirit does for us. The Holy Spirit melts us, molds us, fills us, and uses us. Let me show you what I mean.

The Holy Spirit melts us.

The Holy Spirit warms us and melts our cold, cold hearts. There is a little parable which makes the point.

Once upon a time there was a piece of iron which was very strong and very hard. Many attempts had been made to break the iron, but all had failed. “I’ll master it”, said the ax, and his blows fell upon the piece of iron, but every blow only blunted the ax’s edge. “Leave it to me”, said the saw, and it worked back and forth on the iron’s surface until its jagged teeth were worn and broken. “Ahh”, said the hammer, “I knew you wouldn’t succeed. I’ll show you how to do this.” But at the first fierce blow, off flew the hammer’s head, and the piece of iron remained unchanged. “Shall I try?”, asked the small, soft flame. “Forget it”, everyone said, “What can you do? You’re too small and you have no strength.” But the small, soft flame curled itself about the piece of iron, embraced it, and never left it until it melted under its warm, irresistible influence. That’s God’s way; to melt the human heart with the irresistible warmth of His love and His grace. So the Holy Spirit melts us.

And the Holy Spirit molds us.

The Spirit changes us, shapes us, redeems us. In the early part of this century, a loud, obnoxious, outspoken atheist in London named Charles Bradlaugh challenged one of the noted preachers of the day- a man named Hugh Price Hughes to a public debate. The preacher accepted the challenge with one condition- that he would bring with him to the debate 100 men and women who would be witnesses of the redeeming love of God and what it can do for the human heart. They would show how God changed their lives and turned their lives around. The minister asked his atheist challenger to do the same thing- to bring a group of persons who had been similarly helped by his gospel of atheism. The debate never happened. The preacher showed up with his hundred transformed persons. Bradlaugh, the atheist, never appeared. The proposed debate was turned into a worship service, as one by one these Christians shared the Good News of how, through the power of Jesus Christ and the presence of the Holy Spirit, God had remade and remolded their lives. The Holy Spirit melts us and molds us.

And the Holy Spirit fills us.

You know that I am a great lover of the world of sports, but I think that the strangest sporting event of them all is what is called the “demolition derby”. In this crazy event, automobiles race around the track and intentionally crash into one another. The last car moving is declared the winner. When you watch a demolition derby in process, you discover that many parts on an automobile are not necessary to its moving. Doors, hoods, mirrors, hubcaps, litter the track or the field as the derby progresses, and yet the cars continue to move. Only one thing is essential- an engine. A car must have power. No power, no movement. In a similar way, the Christian life has many parts, many components, but there is one essential- the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit provides the power, the energy to move us ahead in living the life Christ wants us to live. The Holy Spirit melts us and molds us and fills us.

And then the Holy Spirit uses us.

Erasmus, the famous Renaissance scholar, once told a classic story which was designed to emphasize how important it is for us to take up the torch of Christ’s ministry with great commitment. In the story, Jesus returns to heaven after His time on earth. The angels gather around Him to learn all that has happened during His days on earth. Jesus tells them of His miracles, His teachings, His death on the cross and His resurrection. When He finishes His story, Michael, the archangel asks Jesus: “But what happens now?” And Jesus answers: “I have left behind eleven faithful disciples and a handful of men and women who have faithfully followed me. They will declare my message and express my love. My faithful people will build my church.” Michael, the archangel, then says: “But what if these people fail? What then is your other plan?” And Jesus answers: “I have no other plan.”

My friends, Jesus is counting on you… and you, and me. But the good news is that we are not alone. The Holy Spirit is here to melt us and mold us and fill us and yes, use us. The words were written right here in this church in February of 1926. The words were are now sung by Christians all over the world. I hope today you will sing them in your heart:

Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me
Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.

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