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“Be aglow with the Spirit.”  Romans 12:11, RSV

That may or may not be the most accurate translation.  The ESV prefers “Be fervent in spirit,” which is different but not incompatible with the RSV.  “Be aglow with the Spirit” is certainly a biblical thought.  “Those who look to him are radiant” (Psalm 34:5).

My dad was aglow with the Spirit.  Look at him there, sometime in the 1970s, preaching at Lake Avenue Church in Pasadena.  A glad sense of God is pouring out of him.  And this was not a professional persona he adopted for public display.  It was real.

Not everyone has the privilege of growing up with a dad like that.  I did.  I didn’t deserve him.  But God gave him to me.  I feel honored and humbled.  I saw up close what it looked like to lead a church not by punishing them with the law but by attracting them with the magnetism of Jesus.  It was New Covenant pastoral ministry.  It was powerful.

When younger pastors ask me about the ministry, I don’t think of formulas, systems or strategies.  I think of my dad.  Radiant men, not angry men, not men determined to set others straight — radiant men draw people to Jesus with a power they themselves may be unaware of, because it isn’t a calculation.  It’s just who they are in the Spirit.

May God give us pastors today the high privilege of being aglow with the Spirit.  As we preach, may we put away all thoughts of church problems, think only of Christ, and be lifted up.

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13 thoughts on “Be aglow with the Spirit”

  1. Terry says:

    Thank you for sharing this. It encouraged my spirit today.

  2. Dave Wilson says:


    I heard a message from John Piper on this passage once. Seemed like he rendered “fervent” as “boiling.” It looks like your dad is boiling in the Spirit.


  3. Tim says:

    Ray, you have just described the impact the Lord has had on so many of us Immanuel men through you.

    On behalf of the guys that haven’t had that kind of father in their lives – but have had the privilege of seeing this in you – I thank you.

    1. Ray Ortlund says:

      Thanks, Tim. You and the other men are a joy!

  4. Mark Redfern says:


    Is Re:Train still available in Nashville? I am considering enrolling.


    1. Ray Ortlund says:

      Thanks, Mark. We are doing something very like it — the Immanuel Theology Group. You can see this year’s offerings, on missional leadership, at Next year, 2011-12, starting in August, is on biblical studies. Bringing in Doug Moo on Romans, Dane Ortlund on gospel hermeneutics, Bruce Waltke on the Psalms, Bob Yarbrough on Hebrews, John Woodbridge on the Bible in the modern world, and others. More info coming.

  5. Monica P. says:

    “I saw up close what it looked like to lead a church not by punishing them with the law but by attracting them with the magnetism of Jesus.”

    Wow, this sentence hit home! I’ve seen how the former looks in practice, I’m afraid I’ve yet to see the latter (I’m sure there are still people like this, I just haven’t seen it…)… You were so blessed!

    1. Tim says:


      Your welcome to look and see what going on here at Immanuel Church Nashville. We’d love to have you! We’re just sinners, but it is gospel-beautiful here.

      1. Monica P. says:

        Thank you so much for the kind words! I’d love to, only I’m from another continent altogether :-) (not even a native speaker of English). If I ever do get to visit the States and I am in the area, I’ll look you all up. :-)

        1. Tim says:

          Sounds great! :)

  6. bob hust says:

    That was true of your dad! I had the priviledge of hearing him preach and corresponding with him. You can’t deliver truth with novacaine, but truth delivered without love is obnoxious and is ineffective in winning people.

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Ray Ortlund

Ray Ortlund is senior pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville, Tennessee, and serves as a Council member with The Gospel Coalition. You can follow him on Twitter.

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