I love a story from the Alpha course about a woman who was in an Anglican church in England. She was raising her hands, moving to the music, and crying out, “Hallelujah!” Quickly, a flustered church official ran down the aisle to tell her to hush, that she wasn’t behaving properly in a church. “But I’ve got the Spirit in me!” she said joyfully. “Well, you didn’t get it here!” he replied.
In my book, Jesus and the Addict, I wrote this about the Holy Spirit:
“For many, understanding of the Holy Spirit is narrow, shallow, or plain absent. It’s not unusual to go into many a Western church (North American and European) and hear talk about God the Father and Jesus the Son, but have the Holy Spirit rarely mentioned…I often tell people that the depth of my own acquaintance with the Holy Spirit in my growing up years in the mainline church was to hear ‘in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen. The end. Time for lunch!'”
I am joking, of course, but there was not much teaching about or hunger for the Spirit in the places I grew up. He seemed to be just a part of ‘churchy’ slogans. The churches I attended as a child were proper and kindly, but very traditional and sedate. We were there to sit still and learn to behave. The Holy Spirit was extremely quenched. Many have had the same kind of Holy Spirit deficit in their upbringing.”
I also wrote that, “unfortunately, sometimes the culturally derived understanding of the Trinity [goes] something like this: Jesus is a really nice guy, a little short of divinity; the Father is grouchy and has a hair trigger temper, and the Holy Spirit is, well, just strange and better left rarely mentioned because He’s not quite understood and perhaps dangerous.”
All of this is way off the mark from who God is and what God has for us. Each member of the Trinity is God, is Love, and so full of love for us. Each is worthy of worship. God wants us to know Him in all His fullness, as Father, Son, AND Holy Spirit. God wants our total transformation into being the people He intended us to be. It begins with our repentance and salvation through Christ, but then there is MORE. John the Baptist, when he was baptizing by the river Jordan said, “There is one coming after me whose sandals I am not fit to tie. He will baptize you with the Spirit and with fire.”
How good and necessary it is to have the fire!
Jesus spoke of this baptism when He appeared to His disciples after dying on the cross and rising from the grave. He said, “Wait in Jerusalem until you receive the promise of the Father.” That promise was an experience called the “baptism of the Holy Spirit,” an experience in which the disciples were filled with power, had flames above their heads, and spoke in the languages of the crowds that gathered around them – languages that they only became able to speak by the supernatural work of the Spirit in them. They didn’t know the languages naturally. After this, they became fearless, bold, able to preach, heal, drive out demons, etc. They went from being timid men and women to being extraordinary heroes and heroines of the faith – by their encounter with God the Spirit and His filling of their spirits.
And we, today, can have the same experiences.
So, who is the Spirit and what does He do?
Some more from the book:
“Like the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit is God…It has been said that the Holy Spirit is like Jesus, but without skin on. He has the same heart but can be everywhere with anyone…He teaches us about Jesus and reminds us of the words of Jesus. In fact, He is most happy when Jesus is being glorified. He helps us grow step by step. But, here is one of the most stunning things. Jesus said, ‘He is the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept Him because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you.'” (John 14:17) In you…God the Spirit can be in us!
And in us, He burns away sin, bad habits, old ways. He teaches us truth. He comforts us, guides us, reshapes us. He reveals the love of God to us and makes us over into the children of God that we were intended to be. He fills us with power so that the very acts of Jesus become the things we do – in this Age. He produces miracles through us. He supplies us with gifts for ministry. He gives us revelation about the Bible’s words and about God’s heart. He helps us, comforts us, produces fruit in us of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. And so much more.
This age of the Spirit is a wondrous thing.
In the days of the Old Testament, people experienced Holy Spirit now and then for particular tasks that needed to be done. But in this era, the Holy Spirit is available to all people who are open to Him. He has been “poured out” for all people. “Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.” Joel 2:28-32
The baptism with the Holy Spirit and the constant relationship available to us with Him is nothing to shy away from. “Christianity is impossible without the Spirit of God,” a leader once said. So true! But everything is possible when we say yes to Him. Come, Holy Spirit.”
“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 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?” Luke 11: 11-13
I will add this last thing from the book, as my ministry is with addicted people and their families: “While getting free of drugs is often a process of healing, it must be said that, at times, the Holy Spirit’s sanctification can completely knock out the craving for drugs immediately. The body and mind can be simultaneously delivered from the spirit of addiction and all mental and physical dependencies. I have seen it and heard this testimony given by addicts. ‘I was completely delivered when the Holy Spirit came upon me.'”
It was Bill Wilson, the founder of AA himself, who told of an experience he called his “hot flash” in Towns hospital where he encountered the Spirit of Christ and never drank again. And afterwards, he burned with the desire to help others like himself.
How Can I Baptized in the Holy Spirit?
What appears to lay the groundwork for this experience is hunger for God. Prayer, scriptural study/foundation, and trust that God is good and won’t hurt His children, but will give good gifts when we ask, are also helpful. It is good to be in an environment where people have experienced the baptism of the Holy Spirit and are open to it, and where the Holy Spirit is freely spoken of and worshipped along with the Son and the Father.
However, sometimes, as people simply seek to be closer to God, as they worship or reflect on God, they may be baptized in the Spirit without someone praying for them or very much preparation. The main thing is:
Trust that you have received even if nothing dramatic happens at the moment.
Jesus said, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” By this he meant the Spirit…John 7:38-39