Deeper Life in the Spirit
Preparation for the Deeper Life
There is a great moving of the Spirit of God today among the
denominations that is unlike anything in the history of the Christian church.
It has been described by writers and religious leaders as the "Charismatic
Revival," "Glossolalia," "Revival of the Holy Spirit,"
"Spiritual Renewal," "The Latter Rain," and so on, which
are attempts to define the present-day, world-wide outpouring of the Holy
Spirit upon all flesh. A spiritual revolution is taking place in the world
today which is bringing about dramatic changes in our Christian experience so
profound that we find ourselves reliving the Book of Acts!
The Biblical basis and explanation for what is taking place is to be found in a little prophetic book in the Old Testament, for in Joel 2:28-32, God predicts that just such a phenomenon as we are experiencing will surely occur in the latter days. Peter quoted this prophecy on the Day of Pentecost, saying,
And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.... For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.
– Acts 2:17, 39
Countless thousands of Christians in all denominations are
finding that Pentecost is not a denomination, but a present-day
experience for all who will believe it and ask for the baptism in the Holy
Spirit (Luke 11:13). This is no longer just some dubious experience about which
the Pentecostals speak; but the Holy Spirit is being poured out among the
Baptists, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Catholics, Nazarenes,
Brethren, Methodists—in fact upon all denominations. In the historic churches,
pastors, teachers, missionaries, laymen, college and seminary students,
doctors, lawyers, businessmen, the educated and uneducated, the young and old,
are receiving the experience of the baptism of the Holy Spirit identical with
that described in Acts 2, with the evidence of speaking supernaturally in a new
language as the Spirit gives utterance.
For many years multitudes of Christians have been experiencing a spiritual void which the churches have been unable to fill. As a pastor and former seminary teacher, I was among them. I became increasingly concerned because I recognized that there was a "missing element" in contemporary Christianity. Preaching lacked the power to accomplish the results that Christ said would follow the proclamation of His Word. Missionaries were laboring for years to make a handful of dubious converts, which was so unlike the Book of Acts. Our witness was largely ineffective in our denominational churches. Christians were losing interest and had to be constantly "pumped up" with a new program to arouse their attention, and new methods and techniques were incessantly sought to make the Christian message relevant to the needs of today's society. The youth were looking for spiritual reality, and the church could offer little more than religious entertainment and church activities as an inadequate substitute. I saw that the church desperately needed new life, inspiration, and power.
What is the cause of this situation? It is the sin of neglecting the Holy Spirit! The church has made the baptism of the Holy Spirit a doctrine to be discussed by the theologians, instead of a personal experience for every believer. Without the life and power of the Holy Spirit, the church today is like a body without the spirit—a corpse without life. Without the empowering of the Holy Spirit, the church cannot effectively fulfill the commission as Christ gave it; namely, preaching the Word with the signs following to confirm it. When the church lost the power of the Holy Spirit, it was compelled to dissect the commission; but in severing the supernatural signs, given to confirm the Word (Mark 16:15-18), from the preaching of the Word, the Word no longer convicted and convinced the lost. Without the empowering by the Spirit, the church was left with only the "dead letter," and as a result has largely failed in its commission.
The church today may be weak because of unbelief, but Christ is not weak! The church may be spiritually poor, living below its privileges, yet Christ is not poor! Nor does He intend for His people to remain weak and poverty stricken, impotent in mind, body, and spirit. This is the significance of the present-day outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon all flesh. When Christ returns for His Bride she will be like her Head: strong and victorious, filled with His Spirit and power!
Although the present world-wide move of the Holy Spirit is among all denominations, it is, nevertheless, essentially outside the denominational, institutional church for the precise reason that our organized religious systems would try to institutionalize the work of the Holy Spirit! We would make it a Baptist outpouring, a Presbyterian work of the Spirit, an Episcopalian experience, or a Catholic movement. But Joel 2:28-29 is not a denomination, it is a personal experience. Could this be one of the reasons the "pentecostal" outpouring at the turn of the century diminished in power: the fact that it became a denomination, an institutional system of doctrine and organization under the control of men?
God is moving today outside the confines of institutional Christianity because He well knows that He could never break through the ecclesiastical barriers of established religion. Organized, institutional religion rarely recognizes or accepts any purely spiritual work or move of God that is not in line with what it has already established and systematically defined as correct doctrine and practice. This is why Israel rejected the prophets; it is why established religion in Jesus' day rejected His message; and it is also the reason that the institutional church today would reject the fulfillment of Joel 2 through its ranks, for this is precisely what it did at the turn of the century, in the early outpouring in America.
By necessity, therefore, God is moving by His Spirit outside the established hierarchy—in order to move inside and reach those who are hungering and thirsting for a deeper experience with Him. This is why the great outpouring today is essentially a "laymen's movement." It was and is among business and professional men, home prayer groups, house churches, laymen, and independent groups. It is not so strange that God has chosen to entrust these with the propagation of this great blessing, when one carefully notes God's promise in Joel. It was not to the ecclesiastical system with its professional "prophets" and organized "priesthood" that the promise was made, but God said,
I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out of my spirit.
– Joel 2:28-29
The Doorway into the Deeper Life
As we stand on the threshold of the consummation of the age, when the world's foundations are already beginning to crumble around us; as we stand in the midst of an increasing flood of satanic wickedness, when even the church seems almost overwhelmed by the powers of darkness; as we find ourselves living in an age in which the term "discipleship" has lost all real meaning, and Christians seem, all too frequently, little more than pale shadows of their earlier brethren, with neither the power nor the fruits of the Holy Spirit in their lives, the most vital question confronting the believer today is that asked by the Apostle Paul when he inquired of the disciples at Ephesus:
"Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?"
It is imperative that one, first of all, deal sincerely with
this question which confronts every believer, or it will be impossible to enter
into the deeper life in the Spirit. The Scriptures address themselves at this
point only to those men and women who, because of their deep hunger and thirst
for more of Christ (Matthew 5:6), and because of the awareness of their own
spiritual poverty (Matthew 5:3), are convinced that nothing less than an
outpouring of the Spirit from on high can deliver them from their present
lifeless Christianity and the spiritual wilderness in which they seem to be
The only question is: "How can the Christian, who has gotten over his doctrinal questions about the possibility of being filled with the Holy Spirit today, receive this experience?" For most Christians, the matter has already been settled by their denominational creed, whereby they are generally taught that the baptism of the Spirit is received at the time of regeneration and is identical with that received by the disciples at Pentecost, only without the tongues, which, according to them, was merely a temporary sign or experience of the apostolic church. Thus, the baptism in the Holy Spirit is, they believe, some dubious experience which they received more or less automatically, inevitably, and unconsciously when they were saved, or, as some contend, at the time of water baptism, or at confirmation. They are taught that after conversion they must strive to be "filled" more and more with the Spirit, and that to the extent they yield themselves to Him, they will experience His power, bear the fruit of the Spirit, and be effective in their witness.
It must be admitted, however, that in the actual experience of most Christians, the baptism of the Holy Spirit remains only a "doctrine" in the creed, and the hope of some day being "filled" with the Spirit always seems beyond their grasp. It is evident that something is amiss with an interpretation of the Scriptures which asserts that one has already received an experience about which he seems to know so little personally.
Therefore, we must point out at the beginning that the baptism in the Holy Spirit is a definite, personal experience subsequent to salvation, confirmed to the believer with the evidence of speaking in a new language supernaturally as the Holy Spirit gives utterance. In Acts 2:38-39, we are assured that the promise of this experience is not limited to the disciples and Jews at Pentecost, but is made "to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call." There is more confusion over the subject of the baptism of the Holy Spirit and its evidence of speaking in tongues than perhaps any other. Christians have been misled, mistaught, confused, and warned against so-called "pentecostalism," until they do not know what to believe. This tragic state of affairs is no accident! An Enemy has crept in and sown his tares while the church slept. Satan knows that a Christian has no real power over him without the empowering of the Holy Spirit, which comes as a result of the baptism experience, and that a church in which the members are not filled with the Spirit of Truth is open to his deceptions, and that it has no anointing to fulfill its commission as Christ intended. Thus, the powers of darkness have done everything they can to convince Christians, and with no little success, that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is not a personal experience subsequent to salvation, and that speaking in tongues today is inspired by the Devil! Perhaps Satan's greatest victory has been to create a fear of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of Christians. The Spirit's blessed work and ministry in the life of the believer is so misunderstood by our generation that the very mention of the baptism in the Holy Spirit in many churches is sufficient to frighten people into open resistance. We insist upon the need of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, as a definite experience for the Christian subsequent to salvation, because it is not just an arbitrary requirement, but is essential to the Spirit-led life. It is the doorway into the deeper life in the Spirit.
Evidence of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit
The Apostle Paul asks a question in Acts 19:2 about which no Christian should have any doubt as to the answer. Yet most do not have any real assurance, from an experiential standpoint, whereby they could reply in the affirmative beyond any question of doubt. He asks, "Having believed, did ye receive the Holy Spirit?" (This is a literal rendering of the Greek.) Most denominational Christians, if they are honest with themselves, will give the same reply as the disciples at Ephesus: "We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost" to be received as a personal experience. In some instances, there have been those who have had an unusual spiritual encounter with God, experiencing such things as deep emotion or unspeakable joy, visions and revelations, or a great anointing by the Holy Spirit, and have concluded that such glorious experiences must have been a "baptism" in the Holy Spirit. Usually, however, they state categorically that they have not "spoken in tongues." Therefore, the majority of believers either accept the question of their baptism in the Holy Spirit as a matter of doctrine based upon the teachings of their creeds, or in a few instances believe that they have entered into this experience because of some deep, personal, spiritual experience. Is there any definite scriptural evidence and sign of the baptism in the Holy Spirit, whereby one may know conclusively whether or not he has received this experience? We believe that there is.
1. If one has the baptism in the Holy Spirit
he will know it.
This is not "begging the question" (i.e., assuming the point raised in the question). It should be obvious that unless one knows positively that he has experienced the baptism in the Holy Spirit, and has the evidence, then he has not. Just as the Christian can know by experience, from a personal encounter with Jesus Christ at a definite point in his life, that he is saved, or know, from experience, that he is married, or know that he has been baptized in water; in the same manner he will know if he has experienced the baptism in the Holy Spirit. In Acts 19:2, it is evident that the disciples at Ephesus knew that they had not yet received the baptism in the Holy Spirit; but unlike most today, they did not have to examine their creeds to determine this fact. They knew how to answer the Apostle's question, for the simple reason that they lacked the experience. But after the Apostle had laid hands upon them, they then knew that they had received the baptism in the Holy Spirit, inasmuch as they had just experienced it with its evidence, for we read, "And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues and prophesied" (Acts 19:6). It is the same today: when one receives the Holy Spirit he will know it because he has experienced it. If there is any doubt, then it is evident that he has not.
2. If one has the baptism in the Holy Spirit
he will know when he received the experience.
No one was ever filled with the Holy Spirit gradually. This is to confuse the baptism of the Holy Spirit with the "fullness" of God, which is a growth (Ephesians 3:19; 4:13-16). The baptism in the Holy Spirit is a definite, personal experience into which one enters at a specific time. Because the contemporary church has lost this personal encounter with the Spirit, it now teaches a gradual "filling" based on Ephesians 5:18. In this view, as one empties himself and yields to the Holy Spirit, which he received at the time of conversion, he will find that his life is gradually "filled" more and more with the Spirit and under His control.
However, in the New Testament the terms "baptized" with the Holy Spirit and "filled" with the Spirit are synonymous (compare, for example, Acts 1:4-5 with Acts 2:4). Therefore, when one is "baptized" in the Holy Spirit, he is "filled" with the Spirit. No Christian is baptized or filled gradually over a period of time. The baptism is an instantaneous, complete filling with the Spirit at a definite, specific time in the life of any believer who in faith asks for this experience.
3. If one has received the baptism in the Holy Spirit,
it is because he asked for the experience.
Almost without exception, those who have entered into this experience have done so as a direct result of their having asked the Lord in faith for His Holy Spirit. In Luke 11:13, Jesus invites the believer to ask for the Comforter, saying: "If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?"
Often I have heard Christians say, "If the baptism in the Holy Spirit were for today, I believe I would have received it, because I have told God that I want all He has for me." Such a prayer will never be answered by God, for the simple reason that it is not a prayer of faith. We must never condition our prayers with "if" when asking for that which God has specifically promised us in His Word, as He has clearly done concerning the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:9-13; Acts 2:38-39). These same Christians who say they have prayed, "If this experience is for me I want it," concerning the promise of the Holy Spirit, certainly did not pray this way concerning the promise of salvation in John 3:16, saying to God, "If salvation is for me, I want it." On the contrary, salvation, as they well know, came as a result of their making a specific claim in faith on the promise of God. All the promises of God are, without exception, received in the same manner—by a definite act of faith. Paul likewise tells us that the Holy Spirit is to be received by faith when he asks the Galatians: "Received ye the Spirit by works of the law, or by...faith?" and then concluding, "We...receive the promise of the Spirit through faith" (Galatians 3:2, 14).
The baptism of the Holy Spirit is clearly promised the believer in the Word of God, but one cannot receive this blessing until he has gotten over any doubts or doctrinal questions about the possibility of being filled with the Spirit today. All of God's promises are to be appropriated by faith. To remove doubts we recommend a study of God's Word on this question, for where there is no faith, there is no expectation for anything to happen, and where there is no expectation, nothing can happen. If one has received the baptism in the Holy Spirit, it is because he has asked for this blessed experience in faith, believing that it is promised to him in the Word of God.
4. If one has received the baptism in the Holy Spirit
he will have the scriptural sign and evidence.
Is there a scriptural sign that one has been baptized in the Holy Spirit? We believe there is. Occasionally there are those who believe that the baptism in the Holy Spirit is a valid experience for the believer today, but who claim to have received the baptism without speaking in new tongues. They tell of "an inward experience," of "being overwhelmed with a great sense of love," of "feeling deep emotion," of "experiencing an awareness of God's Presence," of "an unusual anointing," of "being beside themselves with joy," of "seeing a vision," and so on. All of these experiences, as precious as they are to the recipient, are, nevertheless, based upon feeling, emotion, or other subjective factors of which the Bible says nothing in regard to the baptism. This of course is not to discredit such sacred, personal experiences with God; but we must not confuse such subjective encounters with God with the baptism in the Holy Spirit, accepting them as evidence of the baptism. We must evaluate our experience in the light of Scripture. When we do this, we find that speaking in a new language or tongue supernaturally is the scriptural sign of having received the baptism in the Holy Spirit.
a. Speaking in tongues was predicted in the Old Testament.
(1) Joel 2:28-29. Peter quotes this to authenticate the divine source of the ability to speak the new languages at Pentecost. Joel had predicted the outpouring or baptism. Peter said the new tongues were the evidence or sign. Note carefully it was the phenomenon of speaking in new tongues that excited the Jews, causing them to inquire: "What meaneth this?"
(2) Isaiah 28:11-12. Paul cited this prophecy to indicate that speaking in tongues in the church had been predicted by Isaiah. See I Corinthians 14:21-22.
b. This sign was incontestable proof to the Jewish church that the Holy Spirit had been given to the Gentile Christians.
Acts 10:44-46. It was when they heard them speak with tongues that Peter declared that they "have received the Holy Ghost as well as we." In Acts 11:16 he calls it the "baptism with the Holy Ghost."
c. This sign was doubtless missing from the Samaritans' experience; thus it was evident that they had not received the baptism in the Holy Spirit.
Acts 8:4-8, 12-19. Moreover, verse 18 says that Simon "saw" something which caused him to offer money for the power to give the Holy Spirit to others. Neither Philip's healings, exorcisms, nor miracles caused Simon to offer money for these. Evidently he had heard them speak with new tongues when they received the baptism in the Holy Spirit.
d. The 120 disciples all spoke with new tongues and they accepted this alone as evidence that Christ had now fulfilled his promise to baptize them in the Holy Spirit.
Compare Acts 1:4-5, 8 with Acts 2:4, 33. This is their own interpretation of their experience; namely, that the baptism in the Holy Spirit results in speaking in new tongues.
e. Twenty years after Pentecost speaking in tongues was still the sign and evidence of receiving the Holy Spirit.
f. Speaking in tongues was a commonly accepted phenomenon in the churches and considered a manifestation of the Holy Spirit.
I Corinthians 12-14; Romans 8:26-27; Ephesians 6:18; and Jude 1:20.
We conclude, therefore, that speaking in
tongues, and this alone, can be considered as scriptural evidence confirming
the baptism in the Holy Spirit. The writer has ministered to some of those who
thought they had received the baptism in the Holy Spirit without tongues. When
shown their untenable position from Scripture, they received the baptism with
speaking in tongues. Without exception, those who want to speak with tongues
always do when they yield their tongues and will to the Holy Spirit. Obviously,
some have experienced "anointing? of the Holy Spirit. But they mistakenly
equate the "anointing" with the baptism in the Holy Spirit, in order
to avoid the stigma that has come to be associated with speaking in a new
God would not base the assurance of having given us His Holy Spirit on mere "feelings" or "emotional experiences," no matter how precious or sacred these may be. Feelings and emotional experiences are too subjective and variable from individual to individual. He chose the sign of speaking a new language supernaturally as the evidence of the baptism because it is (1) outward evidence, (2) uniform evidence, (3) universal evidence, and (4) supernatural evidence. Emotional, physical, or spiritual manifestations may also occur and sometimes do accompany the sign of tongues, but the Bible does not tell us to look for these as they are too unreliable and variable. Look for the sign God has given.
These signs shall follow them that believe;...they shall speak with new tongues.
– Mark 16:17
How to Receive the Baptism in the Holy Spirit
with the Scriptural Sign Following
Two basic steps are necessary to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit: the first concerns preparation of the heart to receive the Holy Spirit; the second is the act of faith whereby one receives the baptism with the accompanying evidence.
Preparation of the Heart
In order to reap a harvest the farmer must first prepare the ground to receive the seed. In like manner one's heart must first be conditioned and prepared to receive the blessed Comforter. Some who have desired the baptism in the Holy Spirit have not received it because they have not prepared themselves beforehand. Receiving the Holy Spirit is not something to be taken lightly and rushed into without serious consideration. The basic purpose of God in giving us this anointing from heaven is not merely so we can speak in new tongues, as great a blessing as this experience is; but the baptism in the Holy Spirit is the doorway into the deeper life in the Spirit and the fullness of God. What then is necessary to prepare .the heart for this experience?
1. Believe that the Scriptures teach that the baptism in the Holy Spirit is a personal experience subsequent to salvation which is promised to every believer.
One cannot go beyond this point until the matter of
the validity of the baptism in the Holy Spirit as a personal experience for the
believer today is settled. God will not surprise a doubting heart with the Holy
Spirit. One must have resolved any doctrinal questions as to the possibility of
being filled with the Holy Spirit in the same manner as the disciples at
Pentecost, or such doubt will act as a hindrance and one's faith cannot be
released sufficiently for this experience. All of God's promises are appropriated
by faith, and the promise of the baptism in the Holy Spirit is no exception. We
must ground our faith in the Word of God, for faith comes by hearing (Romans
10:17) and believing the Word. To remove doubts and correct wrong teaching, we
recommend a sincere study of the Scriptures on this subject. This is how the
writer received this experience, and I have been privileged to instruct and
lead hundreds of others into this blessing. There is, we believe, sufficient
scriptural evidence set forth in this chapter to inspire the necessary faith to
receive the Holy Spirit.
The baptism in the Holy Spirit is a clear Scriptural promise to every believer.
a. Old Testament prophecy.
Joel predicted that in the latter days God would pour out His Spirit upon all flesh:
And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy.
– Joel 2:28
This was first experienced on the Day of Pentecost, when the 120 disciples were all filed with the Holy Spirit and spoke with new languages or tongues (Acts 2:1-4). The fact that the promise was not limited to this initial outpouring is seen from Peter's words of explanation of their experience in Acts 2:38-39, where the same gift of the Holy Spirit is promised to all those who receive Christ: "For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call." The promise of the baptism in the Holy Spirit is without question for all believers who will exercise the faith to appropriate it.
b. New Testament promise.
The classic passage where Jesus promises us the gift of the Holy Spirit is Luke 11:9-13. Verse 13 reads: "If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?" The willingness of our heavenly Father to give us the baptism of the Holy Spirit is clearly indicated here, since, as a child of God, we already have received the work of the Spirit in regeneration (Romans 8:9, 15-16). The writer has seen many, many Christians come into this blessing merely by quoting to them this verse of Scripture, which was then appropriated by them in faith. Christ also promises the baptism in Acts 1:4-5, 8.
2. Recognize your need of the baptism in the Holy Spirit.
Jesus said to His disciples in Matthew 5:3, "Blessed are the poor in spirit." As long as one is satisfied with his present spiritual level of life and testimony; as long as he is content with his present degree of holiness, faith, and power; as long as he is satisfied with his present mediocrity and fruitlessness, or his inability to fulfill his responsibilities to the commission as Jesus intended (Mark 16: 15-20), then the baptism in the Holy Spirit will not hold sufficient interest for him to receive it.
A most tragic situation is when the Christian finds himself satisfied with his present level of spiritual growth and attainment. Occasionally there are those who will ask, "What you say concerning the fulfilling of Joel's prophecy today may be true, but what do I need with the baptism in the Holy Spirit?" This is tantamount to asking, "What do I need with more of the power and presence of God in my life?" To ask such a question reveals an abysmal lack of spiritual perception into the teaching of Jesus concerning the need and purpose of the baptism, and is itself an indication of such need of the Holy Spirit by this individual.
When Jesus said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit," He was saying, "Blessed is that individual who recognizes his spiritual poverty; who is aware of his own insufficiency to fulfill My will in his life, and to give an effective witness, or to minister to the needs of the whole man." When one sees himself, as it were, a spiritual pauper and in dire need of power from on high, then in humility he will cry out for divine enablement, desiring above all else the baptism from heaven. This will never occur until one comes to the end of himself and sees himself helpless before a dying world which is in dire need, which he in his pathetic feeble efforts is unable to meet effectively because he lacks the anointing of the Holy Spirit.
The primary reason multitudes in the organized church of our day do not see their need of the baptism of power from on high is that the church has substituted religious organizations and institutions, church activities, and dynamic programs for the power of the Holy Spirit. If the Holy Spirit were taken out of the world tomorrow, most of the program and work of the churches would go right on and they would not know the difference! Therefore, until one is aware of his spiritual poverty and need of the Holy Spirit, attempting to persuade him with scriptural argument is useless.
3. Receiving the baptism in the Holy Spirit
must be the greatest expectation of the heart.
One must have a deep hunger and thirst for the Holy Spirit. This thirst must be the most important thing in his life, the greatest expectation of his heart, and the deepest longing of the soul. For now it must be more important than work, friends, eating, or sleeping. One might say, "I don't feel such an urgency or longing, although I would like to have this experience." Then my advice is: do not ask for the Holy Spirit until you feel the need and desire due to your spiritual poverty—until you make it as important as the experience is.
The Christian will not receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit until he recognizes his need for this empowering (point 2, above), but one may be all too aware of his need and still not have a deep desire to receive this experience. A man may be quite conscious of his need of deliverance from alcohol or drug addiction, for example, but at the same time be totally lacking in any desire to give up these things. One may be weak, sickly, and suffering from malnutrition due to an inadequate diet, and still have no real desire to seek a change. Many Christians recognize their spiritual weakness, fruitlessness, ineffectiveness, and need of the baptism, but experience no deep hunger and thirst for the Holy Spirit. God cannot fill one who is not hungry, nor quench the thirst of one who is not thirsty. Jesus said, "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness; for they shall be filled" (Matthew 5:6). Spiritual blessings, by their very nature, cannot be forced upon one, and for this reason Jesus invites only the thirsty to come unto Him and receive the Holy Spirit, saying,
If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him would receive; for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.
– John 7:37-38
In my ministry I have seen hundreds receive the Holy
Spirit, entering into a new spiritual dimension which has gloriously changed
their lives. In only a few instances, those who have come for the laying on of
hands have not received the baptism in the Holy Spirit; but in each case it was
not difficult to determine the reason. Generally, it was due to a lack of faith
on their part or a lack of deep-felt hunger for this experience. I have been
privileged to pray for Christians who came sometimes from long distances with
such yearning in their hearts for more of God's life and power in their lives
that they could not rest until they had received the gift of the Holy Spirit.
In one instance, two Catholic women had sought this experience for four years without success. When they heard of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Notre Dame in March 1967, in which I had the privilege of participating, their hunger for the Holy Spirit was such that they left their employment in Canada and flew to South Bend, Indiana, for the purpose of receiving the baptism! It was also my privilege to pray for one of these. She received the Holy Spirit immediately, speaking in new tongues. The other woman, to the best of my knowledge, had already received when she arrived at the meeting.
On another occasion a woman who lived in another state had such a hunger that she arose early one morning and drove to my residence, knocking on my door at 9:30 a.m. asking for prayer for the baptism in the Holy Spirit, Needless to say her thirst was quenched by the Lord. One brother, a missionary from Africa, although aware that receiving this experience could mean his dismissal from fellowship with his denomination (which actually occurred later), nevertheless felt such a need for the baptism of power in his ministry that he deemed the cost was little enough to pay.
Many instances of the satisfaction of this deep-felt hunger for the Holy Spirit could be given; but where such a hunger was lacking, these individuals have not received the baptism. A case comes to mind of a pastor, who, as most Christians, believed that he had received the baptism in the Holy Spirit at the time he was saved. However, upon being shown from the Scriptures that he did not have the baptism because he did not have the scriptural evidence of speaking in tongues, he asked for prayer to receive the baptism, stating that he wanted all God had for him. But he then added, "However, God has blessed my ministry so much that I must admit that I do not have a real hunger for this experience as probably most of those for whom you have prayed." Needless to say, he received nothing. In fact, I make it a point never to pray for those who do not express a real need and desire to receive the Holy Spirit. These individuals never receive, and it only increases their skepticism and indifference toward the whole experience. Without a genuine thirst for the experience, one cannot exercise sufficient faith to receive the promise. Moreover, God cannot be expected to take one seriously who asks for His best gifts, but who, in turn, manifests no real love and hunger for them.
4. Finally, there must be a willingness to
receive the Holy Spirit on God's terms.
This means, first of all, a willingness to receive the baptism with its evidence—that is, speaking in new tongues. Had the disciples on the day of Pentecost been as prejudiced and uncooperative as some Christians today who attempt to set the "conditions" for receiving the baptism, Pentecost would never have occurred. Receiving the sign of the baptism in the Holy Spirit, contrary to the misconception held by some, is not optional. Occasionally some recognize their need of the Holy Spirit and seek the baptism; but due to a lack of understanding of the need and purpose of speaking in tongues, they ask, "What do I need with the tongues? I just want the empowering of the Spirit." Others, wishing to avoid what they feel is the stigma associated with speaking in tongues, seek the baptism on their terms, without the vocal evidence. But this would be like inviting Jesus into your home because you recognize the need of His presence and power, but forbidding Him ever to speak! It is as if one should ask, "Can I receive Christ as my Savior without having to witness to this fact to others? They would doubtless laugh and ridicule, or perhaps persecute me for my testimony." Obviously, one cannot receive Christ who does not care to pay the cost, and in the same manner one does not receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit who would seek to conceal the evidence and testimony of his experience: supernatural utterance given by the Spirit of God. To reject the sign of the baptism, because one fears the so-called stigma of tongues, betrays a lack of awareness of the basic teachings of Jesus concerning discipleship, for He repeatedly emphasized that His disciples are called to suffer tribulation and persecution for His sake (John 15:18-21; 16:33; Acts 14:23; 2Tim 3:12; 1Pet 2:19). One need not think that receiving the baptism in the Holy Spirit is any exception to this. On the day of Pentecost, did they not accuse the disciples of being drunken with wine?
For those who question the need of speaking in tongues as evidence of one's baptism, it is well to ask, "How could one know whether or not he had received the baptism in the Holy Spirit, unless he received it in the same manner as the disciples at Pentecost?" Sometimes Christians, who feel that they have received the Holy Spirit without speaking in tongues, have stated that they do not believe that speaking in tongues is the only evidence of the baptism. Often these are sincere Christians who have had some supernatural experience in their lives, in which God has spoken audibly to them, or they have had a heavenly vision, or some other deeply moving spiritual experience with the Lord, which they identify with the baptism in the Holy Spirit. In one such instance, a young man, while in conversation with the writer, insisted that he had received the baptism because of just such an experience, in which the room where he was praying was suddenly illuminated with heavenly light and Jesus spoke to him audibly. This he was sure was his "baptism in the Holy Spirit." However, we may point out that the Apostle Paul had almost an identical experience to this on the road to Damascus, in which he too saw a great light which "shined round about him from heaven...and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul..." (Acts 9:3-4). But we read that it was not until three days later that he received the baptism in the Holy Spirit (9:9-17). And there is no question as to whether or not Paul spoke in tongues, as 1 Corinthians 14:18 clearly indicates. Evidence that speaking in tongues is definitely the "sign" of having received the baptism in the Holy Spirit has already been sufficiently set forth earlier in this chapter. It is worth noting that this same young man who thought he had received the baptism of the Holy Spirit without speaking in tongues at the time of his supernatural encounter with the Lord, later when shown his error received the baptism with its evidence, as others have done.
Frequently, Christians wish to be filled with the Holy Spirit because they are all too aware of their spiritual ineffectiveness, weaknesses, fruitlessness, and failure. Out of real spiritual concern, such individuals wish to be more successful and effective as a pastor, evangelist, missionary, or teacher, or desire to live a more victorious Christian life. They sincerely desire the power of the Spirit in their lives, but on their own terms. These individuals will find, however, if they will carefully examine their motives, that their primary concern is not so much God's glory as their own failures! Too often, if we are really honest with ourselves, we are really asking God to change our lives if we do not have to change our beliefs in the process. We have a subtle way of sanctifying our desires many times by telling ourselves that what we wish from God is for His glory, as well as for our good, when in reality, if we would examine our motives, God's will and purpose may play a very minor role in the matter.
For example, a minister once asked me to pray for him to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit, after he had heard me speak to a group of Christians, telling them of the tremendous change this experience had made in my life and ministry. He confessed that his ministry had been largely unsuccessful, without fruit, and that he needed and desired the baptism. However, he added that he wanted to receive this experience "without the tongues," because the denomination to which he belonged accepted the baptism as valid, but taught that speaking in tongues was not for our day. One who desires the baptism in the Spirit should not ask God, "How can I receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit without tongues?" but "How can I receive the identical experience that the disciples at Pentecost received in the identical way in which they did, so that I might be what they were and do what they did?
So, to receive the baptism on God's terms, we must first be willing to receive with the evidence. But we must also be willing, in the second place, to fulfill God's purpose in giving us the Holy Spirit. This purpose is to bring us into the deeper life in the Spirit and to fill us with all the fullness of Himself (Ephesians 3:19). Our motive must be that we desire this experience in order that we might become holy temples for habitation by the Spirit. To desire the baptism merely to be empowered, whether to speak supernaturally in new tongues, to witness more effectively, or to be endowed with the gifts of the Spirit, fails to take into account the fact that, while these blessings are to be desired, they are not ends in themselves. The Holy Spirit comes to make us what He is: HOLY. The Holy Spirit does not care to indwell one whose basic desire is not the same as His. While receiving the Holy Spirit is by a simple act of faith, and is not dependent upon our reaching a certain degree of perfection first, nevertheless, there must be a willingness to walk in the Spirit and manifest the fruit and character of the Holy Spirit.
In Acts 1:8 we read that when the Holy Spirit comes He empowers the disciple to witness. Significantly, this is why the Holy Spirit is reluctant to fill one whose primary desire is not holiness of character and life, for one can only witness to what he is. Thus, the Holy Spirit does not want to empower anyone to witness to the wrong things. If one desires to be empowered, but wants to live at about the same spiritual level as before, and does not wish to pay the cost of disciplining himself for the deeper walk in the Spirit, submitting his life completely to the Spirit for His control, then the Holy Spirit would be empowering him to be a witness against Himself! We have power enough already to witness to our spiritual weaknesses and failures. If the Holy Spirit gave us power to witness without changing us, we would only publish our weaknesses and shortcomings before the world.
The heart must be prepared to receive the blessed Holy Spirit. The Christian must be willing to ask himself if he is really willing to be filled with One who will take over the control of his life and be his Lord; One who will not accept rationalizations and excuses for sin in his life; One who will no longer tolerate the self-life he has been living, but will require him to submit himself to His pruning and refining work in order to be crucified with Christ. Unless one can sincerely answer in the affirmative that this is his desire, then he does not want the baptism in the Holy Spirit, but merely the empowering of the spirit to serve his own religious ends.
Receiving the Baptism in the Holy Spirit
1. Believe God's Word which promises
you the Holy Spirit
The terms "baptism," "filled," and "gift" of the Holy Spirit are used synonymously. Cf. Acts 1:5; 2:4; 10:45; 11:15-17.
2. Ask for the baptism in the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:9-13).
3. Confess that you have received the Holy Spirit
For example, say: "Heavenly Father, on the authority of your promise, I now ask for, and by faith receive, the gift of the Holy Spirit, in Jesus' Name."
4. Act on your faith (James 2:17).
The scriptural evidence of having received the baptism in the Holy Spirit is the sign of speaking in a new tongue (Acts 2:4; 10:44-46; 19:1-6; Mark 16:17). In Acts 2:4 we read, "They...began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance." God fills you, but you must begin to speak. Determine not to speak a word of English at this time (for you cannot speak two languages at once). Lift up the sound of your voice and the Holy Spirit will give you utterance in a new language supernaturally.
Do not be concerned about "what to say," as the language is spoken supernaturally and does not come through the mind or intellect, but through your spirit quickened by the Holy Spirit. In faith, put your speech faculties into operation (vocal chords, tongue, lips) as in speaking any language, and the Holy Spirit, now indwelling you, will give the utterance.
Remember, receiving the Holy Spirit is an act of faith, and this promise is to be appropriated in the same way as all God's promises are, such as salvation, healing, etc. Some who have not understood this fact have failed to receive because they were looking for some "feeling," "emotional experience," or "special anointing" before they would believe they had received the Holy Spirit. We are to receive the Holy Spirit by faith, and as we act on our faith, the evidence and assurance will follow.
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