I have the privilege of teaching the first 9-week phase of a 36-week discipleship program at my local church. It is an engaging time of sharing the foundational truths of the scriptures with believers from all walks of life.
During these first 9-weeks we teach things like the doctrine of God, the doctrine of Christ as well as subjects like, sin, salvation, repentance, faith, water baptism, righteousness, prayer, the laying on of hands, the church, the resurrection from the dead, angels & demons, the doctrine of Holy Spirit and the baptism in the Holy Spirit.
These subjects are so vast that I can only really introduce the foundation of each subject from the Bible in the allotted time; hoping to provide the believers with the tools and resources they need to study the Word. One of the most exciting weeks that we go through is always week 6.
During Week 6 we teach the Doctrine of the Holy Spirit and the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. During the Baptism of the Holy Spirit lesson we always pray for the believers asking God to fill them with the Holy Spirit after the fashion of Acts, chapter 2.
It is always the week of the discipleship that requires the most preparation in prayer. It seems strange to write this because regardless of the subject we always rely on the anointing of the Holy Spirit to communicate the truths of God’s Word. However, only the Holy Spirit can do what we talk about during this session. I can teach the class correctly but I can’t fill anyone with the Holy Spirit. It is one of those moments of living by faith. You step out on faith in what the Word says knowing that God has to fulfill His end of the promise or things just won’t work. It’s like the trapeze with no safety net (it is awesome to depend on God).
I have learned over my time following Jesus that He wants to fulfill His promises and move in the lives of people for more than I want Him to. He gave His life upon the cross so that we could be freed from the curse of sin and receive the promise of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 3:13-14). My prayer is always that I will not be in the Lord’s way, that He will pour Himself out in the lives of the believers in spite of me. I rely on this verse:
Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God. (1 Corinthians 1:27-29 NLT)
The class normally begins with a few different groups of people sitting in the class:
- “I’ve already received, and I want more”
- “I’ve been praying and believing God for this, I am ready”
- “We never talked about this at my other church”
- “I believe this is true but maybe not for me”
- “I may have joined a crazy church, OMG”
Receiving the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is important for each of us as believers. It is a promise given to every believer on the Day of Pentecost.
The New Testament church began with 120 believers being filled with the Holy Spirit followed by a short sermon after which 3,000 more believers were added to the church. The Holy Spirit caused quite a stir. People wanted to know what was happening. God used Peter to declare to them that the New Covenant was in effect; salvation was available to all through Jesus Christ and that all who received Christ would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This promise is to you, and to your children, and even to the Gentiles—all who have been called by the Lord our God.” (Acts 2:38-39 NLT)
Repentance from sin, faith in Jesus Christ and receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit is the biblical model. Our life with Christ is not a life of blind faith. When we believe in Christ for salvation, we receive the Holy Spirit. The Apostle Paul teaches us:
It is God who enables us, along with you, to stand firm for Christ. He has commissioned us, and he has identified us as his own by placing the Holy Spirit in our hearts as the first installment that guarantees everything he has promised us. (2 Corinthians 1:21-22 NLT)
And now you Gentiles have also heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you. And when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago. The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people. He did this so we would praise and glorify him. (Ephesians 1:13-14 NLT)
We cannot earn the baptism in the Holy Spirit just as we could not earn salvation. We receive by grace through faith.
This is one of the largest obstacles for some believers to overcome. Some believers can readily accept that God wants to fill “special” people with His Holy Spirit but they are unsure of the fact that God wants to fill them too.
Sometimes this belief comes from unbiblical religious traditions espoused by well-meaning church leaders, friends or family members who have not studied the scriptures for themselves.
Regardless of the source of a feeling that you are unworthy to receive God’s gift of the Holy Spirit in your life I would encourage you to think about the cross. Jesus Christ, through His death on the cross has declared each of us worthy to receive the gifts of grace, salvation and the Holy Spirit. These things could never be earned. We could never qualify. They can only be received through faith in Him.
I speak with fellow believers who are sincere in their relationship with God but are unsure of about receiving the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. They are unsure about speaking in other tongues. The concerns I hear them express are legitimate and heartfelt. People want to be sure that they are not stepping out into weirdness or into a “cult” like activity. My counsel is always the same, study the Word.
Over and over in the New Testament we read about the power, fulfillment, refreshing, and strength that comes from the Holy Spirit. We read the prophecies of the Old Testament concerning the Holy Spirit. We hear the words of John the Baptist, calling Jesus the one who would baptize us in the Holy Spirit. Jesus, on multiple occasions referenced the need for His followers to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Then we have the testimony of the Apostles and First Century Christians who receivedthe Baptism in the Holy Spirit.
The simple truth is, until we are convinced that an experience is Biblical, we should not pursue it. My encouragement or challenge to you is to study the Word concerning this wonderful promise Jesus Christ has given to us. I believe that you will end up seeking the Lord and I know that when you do He will give you what you are seeking.
“You fathers—if your children ask for a fish, do you give them a snake instead? Or if they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion? Of course not! So if you sinful people 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.” (Luke 11:11-13 NLT)