During the last several lessons in our series on the Ministry of the Holy Spirit, we have looked at many aspects of what is called the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. We have learned that there are many phrases meaning the same as the "Baptism in the Holy Spirit." Phrases like:
o The promise of the Father - Acts 1:4.
o Filled with the Spirit - Acts 2:4.
o Endued with power from on high - Luke 24:49.
o Receiving the Holy Spirit - Acts 8:13.
We have also notices that the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is not the same as baptism in water.
Acts 1:5 NKJV
5 for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now."
We have also learned that the experience of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, is distinct from, and subsequent to, the experience of Salvation. And this experience in the Holy Spirit is for every believer in every generation.
Acts 2:39 NKJV
39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call."
Elsewhere, the Bible has informed us that the experience of the Holy Spirit infilling is a most desirable blessing. More than that, it was for the 120 in the Upper Room, a command by Christ Himself, when He said, in Luke 24:49, "Stay in Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high." And that command has been extended to us in Ephesians 5:18, which reads: Be filled with the Spirit! That is, likewise, a command.
The logical question then is raised, "How does one receive the experience of this gift?" Someone else might also ask, "If the baptism in the Holy Spirit is a gift from God, shouldn't it be spontaneous? And if so, why the necessity for instruction in how to receive?" If there are steps that are to be accomplished, doesn't that imply that the person is 'earning' the baptism in the Spirit?"
We don't think it strange to help people in receiving Christ as their Savior. We gladly provide several steps to salvation. Millions of tracts have been distributed on "How to be saved." That by no means implies that people earn salvation, or that it is not a sovereign act of God's grace. But, neither does it mean that people cannot find salvation while reading the Bible alone, without any human help. But we do know that information can be furnished which will help an "inquirer," to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
The same thing is true about the baptism in the Holy Spirit. If we were as unbiased in our thinking about the Holy Spirit as the first Christians were, perhaps there would be less need for instruction. But most of us have ingrown prejudices to overcome. So instructions are given to help undo false ideas about the Holy Spirit, and to make people more receptive to encounter Jesus as the baptizer in the Holy Spirit.
So, again, how may we receive the Baptism in the Holy Spirit? It is one thing to give intellectual assent to a logical conclusion from one's biblical study. And to accept a doctrine as being theologically sound may be good as far as it goes. But these will be of little value to us personally unless we take definite hold of the promises of God, and personally experience that realm and blessing in which we have come to believe.
As a side note, what I just said is true of all the promises of God found in the Bible. We can give mental acceptance of a promise of God, but what good is it if we don't act on the promise and let is bless our lives?
Before I suggest some steps that may help in receiving the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, I want to take care of a couple of related, but different, issues. The first is a question I have been asked a number of times. It is this: "How can I become worthy to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit.? The second issue can also be presented as a question: "Are there things that I may do that would hinder my receiving the Baptism?" I would like to get these two issues out of the way first.
First, how can I become worthy to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit?
You can't! There is no way to become worthy. In the same manner in which I cannot become worthy to earn my salvation, neither will we ever be worthy to receiving the infilling of the Holy Spirit. They are both gifts. And they are both received by faith, which I will cover more deeply in a moment when going through the steps.
The baptism is not bestowed as a prize nor handed out like wages earned. If you could become good enough to earn it - you wouldn't need it. The idea that we earn God's gifts by our good behavior is really a huge stumbling block to receiving spiritual power today.
It is not our good works, but our faith in Jesus Christ which saves us. Redemption from our sins is ours, not by trying, but by trusting. In the same manner, it is by simple trust in God's promise, and not by striving to be "worthy," that we receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit.
Sometimes, we hear people say, "Well, I'm just waiting until God decides to give me the Holy Spirit," or, "God will baptize me with the holy Spirit when He decides I'm worthy." Such people could not be more mistaken! And they are being robbed of God's blessing by such thinking. The Baptism in the Holy Spirit is immediately available to all who are believers in Christ.
Hindrances to receiving the Baptism in the Holy Spirit
When we first began to study the Holy Spirit, we needed to establish that the Holy Spirit was a person - not just an inanimate "force." From the Scriptures, we saw that the Holy Spirit has personal attributes. Like any person, the Holy Spirit has a mind and a will. He convicts, He intercedes, He teaches, He speaks. He loves and performs miracles.
But, because the Holy Spirit is a person, albeit the Third Person of the Holy Trinity, if follows that there are also negative ways He can be treated.
1. He can be resisted Acts 7:51.
2. He can be lied to Acts 5:3.
3. He can be tested Acts 5:9.
4. He can be grieved Ephesians 4:30.
5. He can be blasphemed Matthew 12:22-30, Mark 3:22-30.
All of the above can serve to hinder our receiving the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. But one of the largest hindrances to receiving the Baptism is fear - especially the fear of what others might think or say - the fear of public opinion.
Until we want the Holy Spirit more than we want the approval of others, until we want the power of God more than we want respectability, until we are so spiritually hungry (thirsty), we don't care what other people think, we may not find ourselves very receptive.
Too often, we have wanted God on our terms, and have steadfastly refused to let Him have us on His terms. Perhaps the basic question we need to ask ourselves is whether we want to be prim, proper and powerless, or faithful, yielded and powerful. It seems nigh impossible to be both.
Steps to Receive
So now let's look at helpful steps to receiving the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. The steps I will cover are not requirements, but helps. And they are not to be thought of as the only way to receive the Baptism. Investigation of all the accounts in the Bible of where people received the Spirit, makes it clear that there is no single technique or method of preparation for receiving.
Let me hasten to say, however, there is one prerequisite which is absolutely essential. The first matter that must be settled as we approach God to receive the Baptism in the Spirit, is that of being right with God. If you have not done so, you must accept the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.
By no means should anyone who is not a believing Christian pray for the baptism in the Holy Spirit. It is impossible for an unsaved person to receive the Holy Spirit. When speaking to the Disciples in John 14, He tells them He will send another comforter, the Holy Spirit, "whom the world cannot receive" (John 14:17). The Holy Spirit baptism is only for the blood-bought sons and daughters of God. No other cleansing is necessary or possible.
Now, let's look at some helpful steps to receiving the Baptism.
1. THIRST (WHOLEHEARTED DESIRE)
In our lesson last week, we covered this. I want to look at it once again.
John 7:37-39 NKJV
37 On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.
38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his belly will flow rivers of living water."
39 But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
Yes, Jesus was referring to the gift of the Holy Spirit. And He compared the receiving of the gift of the Holy Spirit to the act of drinking. He said, "If anyone thirsts...," which means, "If anyone has a deep longing in his heart." He then said to him or her, "...let them come to Me and drink."
I believe Jesus is describing how to receive the baptism. Jesus said, "If any man thirst..." The first requirement is to be thirsty. In other words, it is to feel you need more of God than you presently have.
I have discovered that when you are thirsty, you want only one thing, and that is to drink. You are not at that moment interested in food. You are not interested in pleasure. You are not interested in sleep. You want to drink. That's what it is to be thirsty.
2. COME TO JESUS
The same verses we read a moment ago tells us where to go when we are thirsty for the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, "Come unto me" (John 7:37). That is very simple. There is only one Baptizer in the Holy Spirit, and it is the Lord Jesus Christ. That distinctive ministry belongs to Christ alone.
John 1:33 tells us it is Christ "who baptizes with the Holy Spirit." If you want the baptism, you have to come to the Baptizer. And Jesus also said, "The one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out" (John 6:37). If you come, He will receive you.
Also, keep in mind that the faith to receive the Holy Spirit is unmistakably centered in Jesus Christ. Believing in Him - not in an idea, a doctrine, but a person, serves as background for the reception of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit in the Book of Acts is the Spirit given by Jesus Christ, and comes only to those who believe in Him.
In an earlier lesson I asked if you knew that Jesus received the Holy Spirit twice. We know the Holy Spirit descended on him when baptized in water by John the Baptist.
DO YOU KNOW WHEN HE RECEIVED THE HOLY SPIRIT A SECOND TIME?
The second times is mentioned by Peter in his sermon on the Day of Pentecost. Peter tells the people how Jesus was unjustly killed, and then in verse 32, says:
Acts 2:32-33 NKJV
32 This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses.
But, now notice the next verse.
33 Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear.
Yes, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is called the Promise of the Father, but here, we are told Christ received from the Father "the promise of the Holy Spirit." This is the second time He receives the Holy Spirit from the Father, but this time not for Himself. This time He turns and pours it out on His followers, because He knows they (we) cannot do the work before us in our own strength.
I want to make sure that when it comes to the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, Jesus is always to be the center of our focus. Everything centers in Him. He is the One who baptizes us in His Spirit. There is no Spirit baptism without the direct activity of Jesus Christ. It is Christ the Crucified, Risen, and exalted Lord who pours forth the Holy Spirit.
However much one may rightly stress the activity of the Holy Spirit, our lives should still be a Christocentric life. And the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is a Christocentric event. It is not the Holy Spirit that baptizes us - but Christ Himself. God the Father is the ultimate source, but it is through Jesus Christ the Lord that the Holy Spirit is given.
Luke 11:13 NIV
13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"
This verse underscores the importance of actively seeking the gift of the Spirit. But it also shows the generosity and the impartiality of our heavenly Father. He is able to give the Holy Spirit to all that ask Him. He says He is more willing and anxious to give than we, as parents, are willing to give to our children. The only restraint that can be placed upon God is the lack of desire on our part. He gives the Holy Spirit only to them that ask for it. Hebrews 4:16 tells us to "come boldly unto the throne of Grace."
Asking is a form of prayer. But it is impossible to pray well without living obediently.
John 14:15-17 NIV
15 "If you love me, you will obey what I command.
16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever-
17 the Spirit of truth....
When Jesus was about to leave this earth and return to His Father, He told his followers to stay in Jerusalem until they had been endued with power from on high. Do you think they would have received the Holy Spirit if they had not obeyed? We know that Jesus was seen by more than 500 of his followers after His resurrection. I suspect that he told more than the 120 that actually were in the Upper Room to receive the Spirit. But on that Day of Pentecost, only the 120 received the Holy Spirit.
In Acts 5, we find Peter and several other disciples being dragged before the religious council for proclaiming the name of Jesus. Earlier they had been commanded by this same council not to teach in this name. But the disciples said, in verse 29, "We ought to obey God rather than man."
Peter then speaks to the validity of the resurrection of Jesus, and the fact that Jesus was now at the right hand of the Father. And then they say, in the next verse:
Acts 5:32 NKJV
32 And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him."
From these Scriptures we see the importance of obedience in preparing us to receive the Holy Spirit. This by no means says that we have to be perfect and sinless. If that were the case, none of us would ever receive the Spirit. The Holy Spirit baptism is given to imperfect believers. And, recognizing that, we need to confess any known sins to God.
5. RECEIVE THE BAPTISM IN FAITH
Galatians 3:13-14 NIV
13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree."f
14 He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.
The basis for the reception of the Holy Spirit is faith in Christ. Our faith changes and matures as we come to know God more clearly and receive more from Him.
Notice Paul's question in Acts 19:2 - "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" This shows that faith is the foundation for receiving the Holy Spirit. But this Passage also corroborates a statement I made earlier, namely, it shows the reception of the Spirit for salvation is different and subsequent from the reception of the Spirit for empowerment.
In our last lesson, we look extensively at John 7: 38-39. Let's review it again.
John 7:38-39 NIV
38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.
39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.
This tells us directly that those who believed in Him (had faith in Him) are the ones who would receive the Spirit when Jesus sent Him.
I need to reiterate another statement I made earlier. It will enforce the need for faith in receiving the Holy Spirit. The Spirit's baptism is called by Peter, "The gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38). Gifts are not earned or won by price or merit. Gifts cannot be forced from the giver. And there is no way we can pay for the gift.
The Holy Spirit is a gracious, glorious, God-send Gift, and we receive Him by faith and by faith alone. In every case where the baptism in the Holy Spirit occurs in the Bible, the essential background of the experience was faith.
CLOSING REMARKS AND FURTHER HELPS
Remember, we must seek the Lord, not just the experience. We must be willing to yield to the leading of the Spirit, even regarding speaking in tongues.
Also, you need never fear receiving something evil or anything less than God's promise. If you come earnestly seeking and praising the Savior, asking for the Holy Spirit, that is what the Lord has promised.
Luke 11:11-13 NKJV
11 If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish?
12 Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?
13 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!"
That seems to be straight forward and clear. If you ask for a blessing from God, He cannot respond with a counterfeit from Satan. I have never yet seen anyone receive a counterfeit. I don't believe I ever will.
Additionally, we should not try to "work up" our emotions or "work down" a blessing from Heaven. Rather, yield to the Lord and relax in His presence.
Let me read a Passage that relates to "working up" or "working down" a blessing from God. Most of you are aware of Romans 10:9-10. If you have memorized Scriptures, this is probably one of them.
Romans 10:9-10 NKJV
9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
But have you noticed the preceding 3 verses?
Romans 10:6-8 NIV
6 But the righteousness that is by faith says: "Do not say in your heart, 'Who will ascend into heaven?'" (that is, to bring Christ down)
7 "or 'Who will descend into the deep?'" (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).
8 But what does it say? "The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart," that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming:
No one has to go up to heaven to bring Christ down as though He had never been here in the flesh already. And no one has to into the grave to bring Christ up from the dead, because Christ had already been raised from the dead. If we begin by trusting God, we discover He is to found right where we are. We don't have to "work down" or "work up" the blessing of the Baptism in the Spirit.
It should be remembered that the degree of our hunger and thirst determines the depth of our experience. Jesus said, in Matthew 5:6: "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled."
Also, there may be a period of waiting on the Lord and seeking the infilling. This is never time wasted. Hunger is not always a pleasant experience, but the appetite is necessary to the partaking.
Also, it must be remembered that this experience is not an end, but, rather, it is only the beginning to new levels of satisfaction in the Lord. It is not the completion, but the commencement into the realms of the Holy Spirit. It is not as much a goal as it is a door.
A prayer for inviting the Lord to fill you with the Holy Spirit (From Jack Hayford)
I thank You and praise You for Your great love and faithfulness to me. My heart is filled with joy whenever I think of the great gift of salvation You have so freely given to me, and I humbly glorify You, Lord Jesus, for You have forgiven me all my sins and brought me to the Father.
Now I come in obedience to Your call. I want to receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit. I do not come because I am worthy myself, but because You have invited me to come - because You have washed me from my sins. I thank You that You have made the vessel of my life a worthy one to be filled with the Holy Spirit of God.
I want to be overflowed with Your life, Your love and Your power, Lord Jesus. I want to show forth Your grace, Your Words, Your goodness, and Your gifts to everyone I can.
And so with simple, childlike faith, I ask You, Lord, to fill me with the Holy Spirit. I open all of myself to You, to receive all of Yourself in me. I love You, Lord, and I lift my voice in praise to You. I welcome Your might and Your miracles to be manifested in me for Your glory and unto Your praise.
I don't tell people to say "amen" at the end of this prayer, because after inviting Jesus to fill you, it is good to begin to praise Him in faith. With full praise, worship Jesus and simply allow the Holy Spirit to help you do so. He will manifest Himself in a Christ-glorifying way, and you can ask Him to enrich this moment be causing you to know the presence and power of the Lord Jesus. Don't hesitate to expect the same things in your experience as occurred to people in the Bible. The spirit of praise is an appropriate way to express that expectation, and to simply make Jesus your focus as you praise. Glorify Him and leave the rest to the Holy Spirit.