BAPTIZED IN LOVE

Matt.3:16 – After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him.

Jesus was baptized in the Holy Spirit to begin His ministry. It’s as if the Father couldn’t contain His love for His Son as He proclaimed, “This is my beloved Son”. From this day Jesus began to move in a miracle anointing that lasted until His death. If you think about it, that’s really what miracles are, God’s love reaching out to hurting mankind. Here is how Jonathan Edwards describes the love of God and the Holy Spirit.

“It further appears that the Holy Spirit is nothing but the infinite love and delight of God, by his symbol, a dove; which is the symbol of love, and which is a bird beyond all other irrational animals in the world is remarkable and wonderful for its love to its mate, both in expressions of it by billing together (rubbing bills- like a kiss) and the like while together, and for its mourning for the loss of its correlate.

And ’tis evident that the dove is used as a symbol of love in the Scriptures: Canticles 1:15, “Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair; thou hast doves’ eyes”…

It was under this representation that the Holy [Spirit] descended on Christ at his baptism, signifying the infinite love of the Father to the Son, and that thereby is signified that infinite love that is between the Father and the Son; which is further illustrated by the voice which came with the dove, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” [Matthew 3:17].”

This gets to the reason why Jesus came. He created us to experience and display His love. The fall of man hasn’t deterred His love for us and His passion to display His glory. Because of the fall Jesus Himself became a man, a perfect man. He displayed His love when He died in our place as a sacrifice for our sin. Today, anyone who believes in Him not only has their sins forgiven, they also have access to the love Jesus has enjoyed with His Father from eternity. This is what the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is all about. Just as Jesus was immersed in the Spirit we can be too. Then we will hear His sweet voice, “This is my beloved son”.

SPEAK IN TONGUES AND PROPHESY

Acts 19:1,2 – 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.”

This description of the birth of the church in Ephesus is critical in understanding the purpose and the power of the Christian life and the Christian church. Christianity is not a creed or a system that we espouse, it is a dynamic life birthed and empowered in us through the Holy Spirit. In this chapter of the book of Acts we see the church in Ephesus birthed after an outpouring of the Spirit on twelve Christians. Paul laid his hands on them and prayed when he realized they had never been baptized in the Holy Spirit. When Paul laid his hands on them they began to speak in tongues and prophesy. This was the birthing of the power source in these twelve Christians that shook all of Asia Minor with thousands of converts and many churches that were birthed. Today’s world is no different. I feel like asking that same question to many churches and even pastors today, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit after you believed?” Our churches need to be baptized in His presence if we are going to effect our world today. Here are some comments from the Life in the Spirit Commentary on this passage.

“Paul perceives their need for the anointing and asks, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”. This question deals with their experience of the Spirit… Paul’s question does not deal with their receiving the Holy Spirit at the moment of conversion. From the time the Ephesian twelve were converted, they were indwelt by the Holy Spirit, as all Christians are. Thus, the question is not about receiving the Spirit in salvation, but about what is basic to Luke–Acts and to the immediate context, namely, the Spirit’s anointing with power subsequent to the experience of salvation… Paul recognizes, therefore, that the Ephesian twelve are lacking in regard to the charismatic gift of the Spirit…..”

Are you lacking the power of the Spirit in your life? The immersion or baptism in the Spirit is something that happens again and again in our lives. If you are thirsty and feel powerless find a place where the Spirit is moving and camp out, you too will speak in tongues and prophesy.

BAPTIZED IN WHAT?

Matt. 3:11 – As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

I was recently driving down Lakefront Boulevard with my pastor friend Sam Carr. We were passing by the very spot where Parris and I came to Christ and were water baptized the following week. We were baptized in Lake Ponchartrain on a Friday night in August of 1973. Before I was baptized in water the ministers were sharing with me about another baptism, the baptism in the Holy Spirit. You see I was baptized in water that night but not many days later I was baptized in the Holy Spirit. Have you been baptized in the Holy Spirit since you believed? I think many Christians don’t understand the magnitude, importance, and value of the Baptism with the Spirit. Actually water baptism is only a type or shadow of the real. Being baptized into God, the Holy Spirit, is a complete game changer. Here is how Watchman Nee described it.

“God only gives good gifts to His children. Unfortunately we are apt to esteem them lightly because of their sheer abundance. The Old Testament saints, who were less favored than we are, could appreciate more readily the preciousness of this gift of the outpoured Spirit. In their day it was a gift given only to the select few, chiefly to priests, judges, kings and prophets, whereas now it is the portion of every child of God. Think! We mere nonentities who trust in Christ can have resting upon us the same Spirit who rested upon Moses the friend of God, upon David the beloved king and upon Elijah the mighty prophet. “Among them that are born of women,” said Jesus, “there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: yet he that is but little in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”

It wasn’t great men who have been historically used by the Lord. Think about who the Lord has used; Moses was a murderer, Amos was a farmer, Jonah was a deserter, Jeremiah was a child, Joseph was a slave, Peter was a fisherman, and Paul was a persecutor. These were common, flawed men that were empowered by the Holy Spirit to effect their world. How can we have a casual attitude about the Baptism in the Spirit? Pursuing Him and allowing Him to move in our gatherings is a game changer.

IN THE SPIRIT

Rev.1:10 – I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like the sound of a trumpet,

Do you ever take time and really examine what the authors of the Bible were trying to say? I mean to try to take yourself out of your predispositions, the things you automatically think the Bible says. What exactly did the Apostle John mean when he said he “was in the Spirit”? Was he describing something available to all Christians or just first century apostles? I believe John was describing the influence of the Spirit that began for John that day in the upper room when he and 120 other believers were baptized in the Holy Spirit. I also believe this same experience is available for all Christians today. The Baptism with the Holy Spirit is the root of the supernatural element in the Christian life. Here is how Albert Barnes describes John’s comments.

“The fair meaning of the passage is, that he was at that time favored in a large measure with the influences of the Holy Spirit—the spirit of true devotion; that he had a high state of religious enjoyment…. The state of mind in which he was at the time here referred to, is not such as the prophets are often represented to have been in when under the prophetic inspiration….but such as any Christian may experience when in a high state of religious enjoyment. He was not yet under the prophetic ecstasy, but was, though in a lonely and barren island, and far away from the privileges of the sanctuary, permitted to enjoy in a high degree the consolations of religion: an illustration of the great truth that God can meet his people anywhere; that, when in solitude and in circumstances of outward affliction, when persecuted and cast out, when deprived of the public means of grace and the society of religious friends, he can meet them with the abundant consolations of his grace, and pour joy and peace into their souls.”

This is incredible to me, the Holy Spirit is available to us today, especially when we are going through unusually difficult times. That’s exciting to me knowing the times we live in. I have a feeling the need to be “in the Spirit” is going to increase in the coming days. Just as John was in the Spirit during his exile, we can be in the Spirit no matter what difficulties we face.

EMPTY FIRST

He breathed on them —John 20:2

I remember a funny story about a pastor from another city who found himself in our extended revival meetings back in the summer of 1995. This pastor was actually on vacation in New Orleans when he heard about the services at Victory Fellowship. Those meetings were other worldly with hundreds of people being overwhelmed with supernatural joy. Young people and old people, rich people and poor people; they were all being consumed with the joy from heaven. This pastor came to service after service and no matter how munch he tried he couldn’t “get it”. Then after about a week of day and night services (I don’t think that was the vacation plan) this pastor got major really touched. I was in my office after midnight and I heard a commotion in the hallway. I went out to see this pastor drunk, laughing and being carried to his car. He was totally intoxicated with the Spirit. The next day he told us what had happened. He said he was kneeling and the Lord said that He couldn’t be filled because he was already filled with himself. He had to be emptied first. That was it, from that moment he was caught up in the glory of the Lord. Here are some thoughts from A.B. Simpson on being filled with the Spirit.

“The beautiful figure suggested by the words “He breathed on them” is full of simple instruction. It is as easy to receive the Holy Spirit as it is to breathe. It almost seems as if the Lord had given His disciples the very impression of breathing, and had said, “Now this is the way to receive the Holy Spirit.”

It is not necessary for us to go to the isolation room of a hospital to have our lungs contaminated with impure air. All we need to do is to keep in our lungs the air we inhaled a minute ago, and it will kill us. All the pure elements have been absorbed from it, and there is nothing left but carbon and other deadly gases.

Therefore, if we are to be filled with the Holy Spirit, we must first be emptied not only of our old sinful life, but of our old spiritual life. We must take a new breath every moment, or we will die. God wants us to empty out all our being into Him. Then we can take Him in-without needing to try too hard.”
So maybe there needs to be some emptying before you can really be filled with Him. Don’t wait, empty yourself out today and make room for the glory of the Lord.

THE GREAT PHYSICIAN

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If thou wilt diligently hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, . . . and wilt keep all his statutes —Exodus 15:26

Atmosphere is critical when it comes to physical as well as emotional healing. Living in a toxic environment is deadly. We obviously realize if someone is praying for healing from lung cancer it would be a pretty good idea to stop smoking. Just as cigarettes are toxic to our physical health there are toxic spiritual atmospheres that must be avoided. Placing yourself in a spiritual environment is critical to receive ministry from the Lord. The Holy Spirit is actually the atmosphere of heaven. In heaven we will be living in Him, breathing in and feeding on the Presence of the Lord. There will be no sorrow, pain, or sickness. Our lives will be completely whole as we live in the atmosphere of life. In this world, we can taste the edge of His great healing ministry. Jesus is the Great Physician and He wants to attend to us in our infirmities right here and right now. Here is how A.B. Simpson describes this incredible doctor.

“Sometimes people fall because they lack confidence in the Physician. The very first requirement for your healing is that you trust the Physician, and trust Him implicitly-so implicitly that you go forward on His bare word and act as if you had received His healing the moment you claimed His promise. You must also do what the Great Physician tells you, if you expect Him to make you whole. The pills prescribed by your doctor would do you no good if left on the cupboard shelf. You cannot expect to be healed if you are living in sin, any more than you could expect the best physician to cure you while you lived in a malarial climate or inhaled poison with every breath. So you must move from doubt into the pure air of trust and obedience before Christ can make you whole. And then if you will trust Him and respond to His directions, you will find that there is balm in Gilead and a Great Physician there.”
Everywhere Jesus goes there is healing and life. Submit to His heavenly ministry as the Baptizer in the Holy Spirit. There is a healing river that flows out of Him. Stay immersed in the River of God. Bath yourself in His written word. As you get under His influence healing is the sure result.

THE BLESSING OF THE GOSPEL

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Gal. 3:13,14- Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

One of the strangest things about the Lord is found in this statement, “Christ died to save sinners”. Another similar quote from Paul, “who justifies the ungodly”. Let’s face it Christ died to save sinners. The only thing more shocking is the results of what He did, this act of grace purchases for us the blessing of Abraham, the promise of the Holy Spirit. The most unfathomable of all gospel reality, the worst of sinners can receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit simply by believing in the sacrificial death of Christ. That is what the gospel is all about, that is why Jesus came. He wanted us to experience the love of God personified in the person of the Holy Spirit. Here is how Matthew Henry describes this shocking truth.

“A strange method it was which Christ took to redeem us from the curse of the law; it was by his being himself made a curse for us. Being made sin for us, he was made a curse for us; not separated from God, but laid for the present under that infamous token of the divine displeasure upon which the law of Moses had put a particular brand. The design of this was that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ—that all who believed on Christ, whether Jews or Gentiles, might become heirs of Abraham’s blessing, and particularly of that great promise of the Spirit, which was peculiarly reserved for the times of the gospel. Hence it appeared that it was not by putting themselves under the law, but by faith in Christ, that they become the people of God and heirs of the promise.”
So now all mankind has access to the fullness of the Spirit displayed on earth by what Jesus called the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. This is the very essence of our Christian life. This gift is for all people; former hustlers, drug users, alcoholics, sex addicts, liars, and thieves. No one is excluded, all that believe on the Lord can receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

TONGUES OF FIRE

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Acts 2:3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them.
Acts 2:4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
I am persuaded that the greatest sign of the last days is totally overlooked and even shunned by the Christian Church. You speak of the end times and thoughts of wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes, famines and signs in the heavens immediately come to mind. No one even mentions the sign that was the subject of Peter’s sermon on that first Pentecostal Sunday. The very focus of the great ‘this is that’ sermon was the gift of the heavenly language. It was the speaking in tongues that drew the crowd, it was those unusual languages that brought the sense of the supernatural on the scene. This was the fulfillment of the outpouring on all flesh that Joel spoke of as well as Isaiah’s stammering lips. Is. 28:11 “For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people.” What would prove to be our greatest weapon to win the most has been put aside as something unimportant or even irrelevant to this world’s culture. Here are some words from the 1800’s by Maclaren on the fire of God.

“I believe, dear brethren, and I am bound to express the belief, that one of the chief wants of the Christian Church of this generation, the Christian Church of this city, the Christian Church of this chapel, is more of the fire of God! We are all icebergs compared with what we ought to be. Look at yourselves; never mind about your brethren. Let each of us look at his own heart, and say whether there is any trace in his Christianity of the power of that Spirit who is fire. Is our religion flame or ice? Where among us are to be found lives blazing with enthusiastic devotion and earnest love? Do not such words sound like mockery when applied to us? Have we not to listen to that solemn old warning that never loses its power, and, alas! seems never to lose its appropriateness: ‘Because thou art neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of My mouth.’ We ought to be like the burning beings before God’s throne, the seraphim, the spirits that blaze and serve. We ought to be like God Himself, all aflame with love. Let us seek penitently for that Spirit of fire who will dwell in us all if we will.”
Lord, I don’t want to be an iceberg, make me one of your burning ones. I think the world is longing for passion. It wants to feel strongly about something. Why not let our passion be an unbridled fire for the Lord.

PETER’S REFLECTIONS

Acts 10:37,38 you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.

What a strange turn of events; Peter was resting on the rooftop, listening to the ocean waves when everything changed. He found himself in a trance looking at a bunch of unclean creatures coming from heaven in a sheet. Next, there were Gentiles knocking on the door asking for him. They were babbling on about an angelic visitation and a house full of Italians expecting God to show up. All that happened just a couple of days ago and now Peter was preaching to a house full of Gentiles at a Roman legionnaire’s house. Could things get even weirder? As Peter continued to preach suddenly the atmosphere in the room changed. It was strangely familiar to Peter. This was that same thick presence he felt at the beginning, the rushing mighty wind and the glory of God. Before he even finished his preaching those same familiar sounds filled the air. There were shouts of joy and cries of repentance. There were those unmistakeable, un-fake-able belly laughs and all sorts of languages and singing all mixing together. The preaching was no longer necessary, the glory had come.

Now what? What would James and the others say? The cat was way out of the bag. The Gentiles were baptized in the Holy Spirit. How was Peter so sure? They were all speaking in other tongues. This was unmistakeable, the same things the disciples had experienced that first day was now beginning to make its way to the nations. The world could never be the same.

As Peter made his way back to Joppa he reflected on what had happened. This was what Jesus had meant when he said go into all the world and preach the gospel to all people. This was just the beginning.

Today, Pentecost is still alive and well. While some try to deny it, quench it, or relegate it to the back room, the power of His presence is still falling on whosoever will. Have you been baptized with the Holy Spirit? How will you know? You will know all right! You too will be singing, laughing, and worshipping in those mystery tongues of the Angels.

RECEIVING POWER

Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

This is one of the greatest of all Bible promises. It seems all most unthinkable, Jesus is promising His followers the same power for ministry that was on Him. He had told them that they would do greater things than He had done in His lifetime, they had no idea how anything like that would be remotely possible. This was the game changer. The disciples were being suddenly launched into a ministry that seemed impossible. It would have been impossible if they did not receive the promised power of the Holy Spirit. The thing that is even more amazing is this, that promise is still in effect. It wasn’t just for the early church and the apostles. This promise is for us. It was given to men, women, the young and the old, it was even given to all of the ethnic groups of the world. This power is available for you. Here are some thoughts from Albert Barnes on this promise.
“But ye shall receive power, etc. Literally, as it is translated in the margin, “ye shall receive the power of the Holy Ghost coming upon you.” This was said to them to console them. Though they could not know the times which God reserved in his own appointment, yet they should receive the promised Guide and Comforter. The word power here refers to all the help or aid which the Holy Spirit would grant; the power of speaking with new tongues; of preaching the gospel with great effect; of enduring great trials, etc. See Mark 16:17, 18. The apostles had impatiently asked him if he was then about to restore the kingdom to Israel. Jesus by this answer rebuked their impatience; taught them to repress their ill-timed ardor; and assured them again of the coming of the Holy Ghost.”
The church today needs this power. Somehow we often settle for far less than New Testament Christianity. This generation needs to see the power of God for itself. Its time for all of us to shake off our preconceived ideas about what church should look like. It’s time to wait again for power to fall upon us from on high. This will take us out of the realm of human effort and orchestration to the arena of the power of the Holy Spirit.