Monday, 29 June 2020

Receiving the Holy Spirit

 This is a three-part series on the Gift of the Holy Spirit taken from my Book “Painting the Picture”. I believe that we need to move in the power of the Holy Spirit more than at any other time in history as we await the return of Jesus. Remember, the Holy Spirit is not an ‘it’, but He is the third person of the Triune God.

Leonardo da Vinci had started work on a large canvas in his studio. For a while he worked at it, choosing the subject, planning the perspective, sketching the outline, applying his own natural genius. Then suddenly he ceased, the painting still unfinished, and summoning one of his students he invited him to complete the work. The student protested that he was unworthy and unable to complete the great painting the master had begun. But Da Vinci silenced him with these words: "Will not what I have done inspire you to do your best?" 

That which God has started, may we be inspired to complete with excellence and reverence, using the gifts given to us by our Divine Teacher to His honour and glory. Just as the early disciples were to continue the work of Christ throughout events described in the book of Acts, so we are to continue His work as His body, the Church, here on earth. We do this, as they did in Acts, through the enabling and empowering of Christ's gift, the Holy Spirit:
Jesus said in Luke 24:49, “Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.”
And in Acts 1:8 He said, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

But We must firstly realize what Christ’s gift is.
In John 14:16-17 Jesus says,  “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.”
When I first became a born again Christian if you had asked me what Christ’s gift is, I would have answered “Salvation”. Now I know that salvation is the Father’s Gift (Salvation through His Son, Jesus). Jesus’ gift to His Church is the Holy Spirit. Yes, the Bible passage I have quoted (John 14:16-17) says the Father is the one who “gives us another helper”, the Holy Spirit, but it is at the request of Jesus, so is ultimately His gift to us.
At first this gift was forbidden to me by the teaching I had in my first Church, which taught that speaking in Tongues was of the devil and Spirit Baptism happens at New Birth. It was not until I left my home and went to university in London that I would realize what Christ’s gift really is and, indeed, how important it is.

We must freely receive this gift.
In Acts 2:38-39 we read, Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  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.”

Legendary Spanish artist Pablo Picasso was virtually unknown when he painted his famous portrait of American writer Gertrude Stein in 1906.  Picasso gave the portrait to Miss Stein since, as the artist himself recalled with a smile, at that time in his career "the difference between a gift and a sale was negligible."  Some years later, the portrait attracted the interest of millionaire art collector Dr. Albert Barnes, who asked Miss Stein how much she had paid Picasso for it. "Nothing," she replied.  "Naturally, he gave it to me." Dr. Barnes was incredulous that such a priceless work of art could have been a gift.

If you have ever thought about the gospel for very long, you can probably appreciate Dr. Barnes's incredulity. Think of what we have been given in Christ: forgiveness, eternal life, and all the riches of heaven, all at a cost we could have never paid!  But that is not all; we have the privilege of sharing this treasure with others. But the greatest gift of grace is the Holy Spirit Himself. In Him are all the gifts. The Holy Spirit is the seal bearing the image of Christ (Ephesians 1:13), enabling us to paint the image of Christ, the Master Artist, in our lives and in His creation. The Holy Spirit endows and empowers us with His gifts of grace.

After backsliding in my Christian life for about four years I finally came back to the Lord in 1985 when I was in Imperial College, London. Simon, my next door neighbour in Tizard halls of residence, was a born again, spirit-filled Christian and I saw something in him I did not have in my Christian life. One night I was really depressed and felt compelled to go and speak to Simon. As I was about to knock on his door it opened, and I almost knocked him on the head! He was going for the Christian Union meeting and asked me to go with him. That night the speaker was talking about what Jesus has done for us in His death, resurrection and the sending of the Helper, the Holy Spirit. I felt like the speaker was speaking just to me the whole time and at the end I recommitted my life to Jesus and decided to find out more about the Holy Spirit.

Soon after my recommitment I started going to Holy Trinity Brompton Church, right behind my halls of residence. It was there that I enrolled in an Alpha Course (an informal course for pre and new believers). At the end of the Alpha Course we had a Holy Spirit Weekend where we went to a big mansion in the countryside to have teaching on the Holy Spirit, ending with a time of praying for the Baptism with the Holy Spirit, a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit over our lives to equip us with the power gifts of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:4-11) and empower us for witnessing for Him (Acts 1:8). 

All the way through the book of Acts you see this two-step experience (conversion then a later baptism with the spirit) – Acts 19:1-6 gives us just one example:
“And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”
So they said to him, “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.”
And he said to them, “Into what then were you baptized?” So they said, “Into John’s baptism.”
Then Paul said, “John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.”
When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.  And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied.”

This promise was not just for the early Christians but for every subsequent generation (Acts 2:38-39).
It was during this time that I realized I needed to be baptized with the Spirit as John the Baptist says in Matthew 3:11, “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (see also Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33).

Water Baptism is full immersion in water, but Spirit Baptism is to be fully immersed in the Spirit. Yes, when we are Born Again the Spirit of God lives in us and we are baptized into the body of Christ, the Church (1 Corinthians 12:13), but there is a “second blessing” after salvation where not only does the Spirit live in us but we live and move in the Spirit. This is called Spirit Baptism or Baptism in or with the Holy Spirit.

On the last day of the Holy Spirit weekend we all gathered in the main meeting room in a large circle to be prayed for to receive the Baptism with the Holy Spirit. I was ready to receive and knew that if I asked in faith for the Holy Spirit, I would indeed receive Him:
Just as Jesus says in Luke 11:11-13, “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? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? 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!” 

Nicky Gumbel, who was teaching us during this weekend, just came through the door to the room and stood at the opening. He simply said, “Come Holy Spirit!” In an instant I saw a white light bathe all of us and I saw a vision of a huge dove coming to rest in the centre of the circle. I felt waves of joy and power come over me and a sensation like harmless but powerful electricity pulsating through my body. What I can remember of that time is that I just could not stand still for the joy that I was feeling, and I started running around the room. Then the room seemed too small, so I went outside and started running around the circular gravel driveway. There was a bubbling up within my spirit and I opened my mouth to find a new language starting to burst forth.
It was at this point I stopped dead in my tracks.

Was this the dreaded “Speaking in Tongues” that I was starting to utter and had been taught was from the Devil? At that moment I quenched the Spirit and although I continued to experience breakthroughs in understanding the Bible, deeper times of prayer and fellowship with the Lord and witnessing my faith to others with boldness, I was not fully opening up this new gift.

Next week I will continue to share how I broke through to keep on using this wonderful gift but now I would like to lead you in a prayer to receive the Baptism with the Holy Spirit.
  • Even if you have received it before, you can pray for a fresh infilling.
  • Lay your hand on your heart or your forehead.
  • Ask the Father for the baptism of the Holy Spirit in the name of Jesus.
  • Expect to be filled with His power.
  • You receive by faith, but just like anything else, you need to put your faith into action. After praying for the baptism do not resist any unction of the Spirit to speak in Tongues or jump or run or dance.
Dear Heavenly Father, I am a believer in Jesus Christ, and I ask you in His name for the baptism of the Holy Spirit with power. I believe and receive from You.  In Jesus' name, amen.
Now open your heart and respond in faith to the Spirit’s outpouring.

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