Lalith Perera brings ‘four step retreat’ to B.C.
So you were baptized in the Holy Spirit 20 years ago? That’s not good enough, says Lalith Perera.
We need to receive the Holy Spirit all day, every day, for the rest of our lives, he told this year’s Vancouver Catholic charismatic conference Sept. 23-24. And there are steps we can take to make sure that happens—10 times a day if necessary.
Perera is head of the Community of the Risen Lord, a Catholic charismatic community based in Sri Lanka and operating a worldwide ministry, in person and electronically.
Perera said most Catholics today are “with Christ,” like the apostles during Jesus’ ministry, but not “in Christ” the way those same apostles were after the Holy Spirit was poured out on them at Pentecost.
What’s the difference? St. Peter’s first two sermons, recorded in Acts chapters 2-4, brought in 5,000 converts. “Today if you preach 5,000 sermons and get two people to convert, you’ll be lucky,” Perera said.
“Something has gone wrong. There’s no difference between Christians and non-Christians all over the world today, because we have gone back into the ‘with Christ’ experience.”
The conference was conducted as a “four step retreat,” teaching a way to get back to the “in Christ” experience. The steps are: Come As You Are, I Love You; Give the Truth of Your Heart to Jesus; Surrender Your Life to the Lord; and Be Filled with the Holy Spirit.
COME AS YOU ARE
For step 1, Perera said, Catholics need to give up the idea, learned by many in childhood, that Jesus only loves good children. Jesus loves everybody. We must run to him now, sins and all. “Don’t wait till you change. Come and be changed. Come to the Lord, and He will transform you.”
GIVE THE TRUTH TO JESUS
Step 2: Tell the truth, especially to God. We all tell three kinds of lies, Perera said: to other people, which destroys our peace and joy; to ourselves—better known as denial—which brings the truth out in other ways, such as mental, emotional and even physical illnesses; and to God, which means “our prayers won’t go beyond the roof.”
“Take these three curses, says Jesus, and give them to me. I will turn it into a blessing,” he said.
We must be honest in confessing our sins, and God will heal them as He has been doing since the time of the Bible—a book of “all broken people, and a mighty God.”
SURRENDER YOUR LIFE
Step 3 may be the hardest: surrender. Most people, Perera said, think that means loss of freedom and happiness, so “nobody wants to surrender to God. We are trying to buy favours from God.”
Jeremiah 29:11 says “I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Surrender means giving God permission to enact His plan in our lives.
In his own life, Perera said, he had been a charismatic leader for many years when God confronted him during a retreat in the year 2000. “You serve Me,” God told him, “but you serve Me on your terms, not Mine. Surrender to Me. If you do not surrender, I will still love you. I will still take care of you. But you will do little things for me, and grow old and die.” In tears, he surrendered—and soon a prayer group of about a dozen mushroomed to thousands of people.
Calling on the congregation to raise both arms in surrender, Perera said “in the army this is a sign: I give up. But in the kingdom of God it is another sign: Father, carry me.”
He said the surrender must include our money—“not only the money you drop in the plate but the money you have in your wallet, and the money you have in the bank, and your stocks and shares, belong to the Lord. You are the steward.” But if we ask God how to spend our money, and obey what He tells us, “I promise you, you will never be short of money in your life.”
Surrender must also include the way we treat other people, especially those close to us. “When you treat your family the way God wants, your family becomes the kingdom of God,” he said.
BE FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT
The first three steps we can do for ourselves, Perera said. Step 4 is something only Jesus can do: fill us with the Holy Spirit. We can’t live a Christian life without that. So we must start each day by turning to Jesus: coming as we are, telling Him the truth, surrendering to His will—and then He will fill us with the Spirit. And each time we fall away from this during the day, we should do the same steps, as often as necessary. Jesus will do His part.
Perera said the Spirit will give us peace and joy independent of our circumstances, will allow us to overcome the weaknesses of the flesh, and will enable us to love people that it would normally be impossible to love.
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