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Saturday, October 13, 2012

Holy Spirit Baptism

When writing the previous article entitled "Attributes of the Holy Spirit" the focus was on the goal of receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit for the ultimate, millennium goal of ruling and reigning with Jesus at a future time. But there is a more pressing need right now in these last days here on earth before Jesus comes. Being filled with the Holy Spirit is crucial for every believer, especially these days as we see so many signs of economic and natural disasters, wars and rumors of wars, persecution of Christians and a satanic new world order being put in place. Matthew 24 records the words of Jesus when he warned of the end of the age and the signs of his coming. 
  
“For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now-- and never to be equaled again. If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of he ELECT those days will be shortened. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the ELECT-- if that were possible. See, I have told you ahead of time” Matt. 24:21-25, NIV.

The word “ELECT” is capitalized in the above scripture to make a very important point. Only the elect who have been baptized in the fire of the Holy Spirit will be able to survive what is coming on the earth in the last days. All other people who call themselves “Christians” but have failed to crucify their carnal flesh through the power of the Holy Spirit will be part of the great falling away from the faith. Only the Holy Spirit's enabling, indwelling power will keep the elect from being deceived, from being tempted by evil and from denying their faith in Christ. 

Richard Wurmbrand, 1909-2001
Richard Wurmbrand, founder of The Voice of the Martyrs wrote an inspiring book entitled, Tortured for Christ. He was a Romanian Christian minister of Jewish descent who endured months of solitary confinement, years of periodic physical torture, constant suffering from hunger and cold, the anguish of brain-washing and mental cruelty during the fourteen years he spent in Communist prisons. He was arrested for preaching the gospel message to the Russian soldiers when they invaded his country in 1944. If it had not been for the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit, he would never have survived and lived to write about it. After the Communists came into power and took over the Church, Wurmbrand personally witnessed four thousand pastors, priests and ministers of all denominations pledge their allegiance to Joseph Stalin as the new, honorary president of their congressional assembly.

Both orthodox and protestant church leaders yielded to Communism and even became officers of the secret police. The deputy bishop of the Lutheran Church began “to teach in the theological seminary that God had given three revelations: one through Moses, one through Jesus, and the third through Stalin, the last superseding the one before” (Wurmbrand, 1998, p.16). Those who became servants of communism, instead of Christ, eventually began to denounce the Christian brethren who did not join them. It was at this time that the Underground Church of Romania was formed in homes, basements and in the woods. 
  
Is it possible that this tragedy could happen in America? Unfortunately, ultra liberals and atheists with humanistic and socialistic policies have been succeeding at their plan to influence our culture for decades now. They have already managed to get the Bible and prayer removed from our schools, as well as legalized abortion and same sex marriages. They are a real threat to our freedoms of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Being a born-again, Spirit-filled Christian is not as popular as it used to be in America even 25 years ago due to the influx of non-Christian religions, far-left liberal agendas and the abandonment of the United States Constitution. In God We Trust is no longer accepted as our national motto and many want to remove it from the walls of our courts and our currency. Now is the time to pray and to get prepared for whatever the future holds.

The problem with the modern, westernized Church in America is they view Jesus' command to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit as an option they don't particularly want or think is needed. Believers who love God and serve Christ have come to the mistaken conclusion that they don't think it important to have their own personal, Pentecost experience. They have fallen for Satan's delusion, are not discerning the signs of the times and are putting their time and energy into careers and personal achievement ahead of their devotion to Christ. According to Jesus' warning in Matthew 24, they will be the very ones who end up denying Christ and attacking the Church in America for holding on to outdated, irrelevant morals and biblical standards.

The Azusa Street Revival was a historic Pentecostal revival meeting that took place in Los Angeles, California, and is the origin of the Pentecostal movement here in America. Led by William J. Seymour, an African American preacher, it began with a meeting on April 14, 1906, and continued until roughly 1915. According to a recent internet post by Andre Lefebvre, founder of www.soaking.net, "The downstairs area was set up as the assembly room. Another upstairs room was designated as the “tarrying room.” It was the place where persons went who desired to be baptized in the Holy Ghost. The tarrying room contained a sign that read, “No talking above a whisper.”


The Toronto Revival in Canada during the 1990s had hugh crowds attending their services to hear the preaching of the Word each evening in the main sanctuary. During the day they also had “soaking rooms” for quiet meditation, reflection, worship and prayer. Ministers were available to pray with anyone who wanted to receive more of God, or experience the baptism of the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands.

The Brownsville Revival (also known as the Pensacola Outpouring) was a widely-reported religious phenomenon that began on Father's Day June 18, 1995 at Brownsville Assembly of God in Pensacola, Florida. Our family was living there during this time and visited the services numerous times. It is reported that over 2.5 million people attended the Wednesday through Saturday evening services which ran uninterrupted until the year 2000. People came from all over the world to spend time “on the carpet” receiving a touch from God. When the altar call was given people literally ran down to the front of the sanctuary to be prayed over by Pastor John Kilpatrick, evangelist Steve Hill or other trained and designated prayer team ministers. Our teenage daughter and her friends spent many Friday evenings there until midnight having carpet time so they could experience this modern-day outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

Thanks to modern internet technology, you can see a video taken at the Brownsville Revival in 1995 where Charity James sings the now famous song, Mercy Seat. This will give you a sense of what it was like for those five years while the Holy Spirit was poured out in this place. Click the link or copy and paste it into your internet browser. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HTj3c4pDsfM

Today many churches around the country, such as The International House of Prayer in Kansas City (also known as the IHOP), have regular services where worship teams take turns providing intimate worship music for ushering in the Presence of God. Scripture tells us that God dwells in the praises of his people. Christians come expecting the Holy Spirit to show up and reverently sit in chairs, or lay on the floor soaking in God's love while they have extended “carpet time.” They still their minds and bodies so they can soak in His Presence and perhaps hear His still small voice, receive a word of encouragement or receive a prophetic vision from the Lord.

Even young children have felt God's Presence there and fallen passionately in love with Jesus at the IHOP. We are friends with a family in Hattisburg, MS who take the trip up to Kansas City periodically to enrich their walk with God. Many have experienced healing and deliverance during this quality time with the Lord. The Spirit of the Lord is only being poured out like this in select places around America today, and not many churches experience this kind of refreshing.

Perhaps you would like to see a more recent worship service featuring Misty Edwards on the keyboard recorded on October 2, 2012 at the IHOP. As you will see, people again come to wait on the Lord, to tarry in His Presence so that they may receive a greater measure of the Holy Spirit. Once you have experienced such a supernatural phenomenon like this, you are changed from the inside out. You are addicted to His love.    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VqqJRSQR-HM

Jesus praying in Gethsemane, Heinrich Hofmann, 1890.
Matthew 26: 36- 46 records Jesus' last night on earth while he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. He asked his disciples to, “Stay here and keep watch with me.” Essentially, he was asking them to “tarry” with him and spend the night in prayer. Going a little further, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (NIV). When he returned to his disciples, he found them sleeping. “Could you not keep watch with me for one hour?” He said to Peter, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”

The Body of Christ still has the same problem now in these last days as the disciples had. The spirit maybe willing, but the body is weak. And that is exactly why it is so crucial we obey Christ's command as it is written in Acts 1:4-8. “Do not leave Jerusalem, but WAIT for the gift my Father promised...in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit... you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem...and to the ends of the earth.”

[Inserted later on 12/13/12. "During the last days no person will be able to serve the Lord in his own strength. Only those saints who are filled with the Presence of God in Christ will be able to offer deliverance to the peoples of the earth who flee from the ungodliness of Antichrist." a quote from Dr. Robert Thompson, Word of Righteousness newsletter].

By the Spirit of God, I implore you today-- make it a spiritual priority in your life to wait in prayer for God's precious gift, ask Jesus to baptize you in the Holy Spirit and receive power to stand with Christ in these last days no matter what kind of tribulation or temptation may come your way. Be filled with the Spirit so that you will not fall away!

Wurmbrand, Richard. Tortured for Christ. Living Sacrifice Book Company, Bartlesville, OK, 1998. 
Photos in this article were obtained from www.wikipedia.org. "Soaking" was from Facebook, 10-10-12.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Attributes of the Holy Spirit





















Holy Spirit Baptism
While reading through the books of John, Acts and Romans recently, the Holy Spirit began to point out to me the numerous times his name was mentioned in various ways. First of all, I noticed that the work of the Holy Spirit is mentioned 24 times in the book of Acts alone which seemed significant. Luke, who is the author of Acts, tells us that Jesus' last words to the church were, “Wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” And then, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:4-5 and 8, NIV). The work of the Holy Spirit has always been one of my favorite topics and I wrote a paper on this subject when in graduate school. So here I am re-visiting it now as we learn about His attributes.

Jesus' last words to the early church were a command to WAIT before they attempted to take the gospel message all over the earth. When the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost 50 days after Jesus' resurrection, the apostles “were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” Later the apostle Peter stood up to explain what had just happened to the crowd that had gathered in the street outside the upper room. He quoted Joel who prophesied that God had promised to pour out the Holy Spirit in the last days on all people, that WE would prophesy, see visions and dreams, that WE would see signs and wonders and that everyone who called upon the Name of the Lord would be saved. (Acts 2:17-21). Therefore, God's instructions to the church through Jesus, Joel and Peter were: to WAIT, to RECEIVE God's promise, to be FILLED with the Holy Spirit, to speak in other tongues, to be filled with power, to be enabled to prophesy, see visions, dreams, wonders, signs and THEN everyone who called on the Name of Jesus would be saved. (Note. The word “saved” in the Greek means delivered from sin, not the current understanding of allowed to go to heaven.)

The word “baptized” used in the scripture above means immersed in a chemical fluid until the material is saturated with it permanently. Through out history hanks of fibers or strips of cloth are dipped into large vats of hot, chemical dye and allowed to soak for hours until the desired color is reached. The color you want to achieve depends on the particular chemical used and how long it soaks. Believers need to SOAK in God's Spirit to the point that we are saturated with his holy attributes. Of course, soaking in the Holy Spirit for Christians has to become a lifestyle, not just a one time event. This means quality time in the Word, prayer and worship before the Lord asking Him to permeate our body, soul and spirit removing all the darkness and replacing it with His light.

Vats of dye for coloring batik fabrics in the Middle East

 
Most of today's modern churches and it's believers have not waited to be filled with the Holy Spirit before trying to make disciples for Christ and live for Christ. We have become a weak, powerless, anemic excuse for another world religion. No wonder the world does not want anything we have to offer. For the most part, the power of God is missing from our services and programs. People come and go through the revolving church doors without being brought under the convicting power of the Holy Spirit, like in the days of Acts, or being set free from their spiritual bondages. The people of God have not been enabled to do the works of God, nor experience the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit to heal and deliver us.


Holy Spirit Potential
How do we enter into this great potential for truth and power? First of all, by expressing genuine sorrow for how we've ignored, neglected, disobeyed, stifled and/or grieved the Holy Spirit when He tried to abide in us. Believers are suppose to be His temple, a place where He can tabernacle with us, but if we do all these things He will not stay where He is not wanted. When we invite Christ to live in us, we receive a measure of the Holy Spirit in order to begin the process of regeneration and sanctification. But the scriptures make it plain we need to be FILLED with the Holy Spirit. This is not just a one time experience, which Jesus called the baptism of the Holy Spirit, but a daily, continual, on-going filling with the Spirit of God in order to live the Christian life God commands us to live and that we need to deliver the gospel message to the world around us.

Think about those helium balloons we buy to celebrate a birthday or anniversary. They float in the air really nice for about a week and then gradually loose their ability to stay aloft. That's us, Christians! We may get off to a great start with our spiritual walk with the Lord, but then we loose our divine enablement to walk in the Spirit. We leak down! Another analogy is that of a motorized vehicle, we use up our battery power and can't function in the fruit and gifts of the Spirit. The farmer's tractor which has a dead battery can not accomplish much work in the field. It may look good on the outside, but it's lifeless on the inside. It's useless to the farmer who is dependent on this essential machinery to prepare the soil and bring in the harvest.

You may ask how have I come to these foregoing conclusions? 30 years of being in the ministry and trying to help thousands of God's people overcome childhood issues, struggles with addictions, besetting sins, spiritual bondage, conflict in marriages and families, church divisions and church splits- all of which immensely grieves the Spirit of God. The church has made a good faith effort at preaching the gospel message, that Christ died for our sins so we could be saved and not go to hell. But they have done a poor job of getting the people filled with the Holy Spirit so we could experience sanctification and do the works of God. The divorce rate for Christians is the same as the world--50%. Research also says that 50% of our nation's pastors drop out of ministry and find work elsewhere due to disillusionment, depression or burnout. 


Holy Spirit Lifestyle
When I began to write this article today, it seemed important to begin with an introduction of the importance of being filled with the Holy Spirit. Christians need to understand that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is NOT an option for the body of Christ, as many have believed it to be. How can we experience regeneration, sanctification and equipping by the Holy Spirit if we have not invited Him to live fully inside us, to be our Counselor, our Teacher, our Comforter, our Convictor of sin? We can't! It's impossible! We have not been enabled by His power and His truth working from-- within us. We may know about the Holy Spirit, and even speak in tongues, but He does not fully abide in us guiding us into all truth and holiness. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is not an end in itself, but the beginning of a holy lifestyle dedicated to serving our loving Father and His Son Jesus Christ.

One more thing to add. The baptism of the Holy Spirit does not guarantee we'll be free from suffering or pain, nor is it a panacea for all our problems. In fact, just the opposite may happen for a time while the Spirit of God is busy getting our temple cleaned out so He can live there. We are to be holy vessels for His service and conduits of His supernatural, agape love.

Holy Spirit Attributes
Today the Divine Teacher who lives within enabled me to discover 23 attributes mentioned in the Word which we can have abiding in us-- if we are continually being filled with the Holy Spirit and are obedient to His instructions. These are listed as attributes of the Holy Spirit himself, but we can attain them as well. If someone finds more, please let me know so I can add them to the list. For now I am just going to list them along with one or two scripture references. Given enough time, one could do a larger study on each attribute and how it effects our life in Christ. They are merely listed in the order in which they came to mind this morning and subject to revision in the future.
  1. Spirit of Truth- John 14:15, 16:13
  2. Teacher- John 14:16
  3. Counselor- John 14:15, 26; John 15:26
  4. Comforter- II Cor. 1:4
  5. Peace- Rom. 8:6, 14:17
  6. Holiness- Rom. 1:4
  7. Power- Acts 1:8
  8. Convicts of sin- John 16:8
  9. Wisdom- Proverbs 8
  10. Spirit of Life- Rom. 8:2, 6, 11
  11. Gifts of the Spirit- Rom. 6:12, Eph. 4:11, Acts 2:4
  12. Fruit of the Spirit- Gal. 5:22
  13. Sanctifies- John 17:17
  14. Worship- John 4:23-25
  15. Grace- Heb. 10:29
  16. Guide- John 16:13
  17. Circumcises our heart- Rom. 2:29
  18. Indwells- Acts 2:4, 5:18, Rom. 8:11, Eph. 2:22
  19. Righteousness- Rom. 14:17
  20. Joy- Rom. 14:17
  21. Love- Rom. 5: 5-8
  22. Sonship- Rom. 8:15
  23. Intercession- Rom. 8:26-27

As mentioned earlier in the book of Joel and Acts 2:17-33, the Holy Spirit has been poured out upon the earth to enable us to be the people of God and to do greater works for God than even Jesus did (John 14:12-14). We are His ambassadors, His change agents in the earth whose purpose is not just to die and go to heaven, but to usher in the kingdom of God here on earth! Scriptures also tell us that during the millennium reign of Christ, we will rule and reign with Him judging the people who have not come to know God. How can we accomplish this supernatural responsibility unless we have first achieved a higher level of sanctification and equipping through the power of the Holy Spirit- in this life? This life we are experiencing right now-- is our proving ground. This life is our testing ground. This life is our training ground for how we will live throughout eternity. Now is the time for maturing as sons of God and preparing to rule and reign with Jesus Christ.

Salvation, Sanctification, Sonship
Let me summarize the process of becoming children of God for you. Here is the big picture, plain and simple. When we have acknowledged that Jesus Christ died for our sins, we invite Him to live His life in and through us. Then we begin the process of being born again and growing as new creatures in Christ. The Holy Spirit living in us becomes our counselor and leads us along the straight and narrow path of righteousness and holiness before God. We become joint-heirs with Christ as we mature in the faith and the knowledge of God's will and ways. We are given gifts and callings in order to advance the kingdom of God and His purposes in the earth.

Then finally, one day when Jesus returns those Christians who have lived the crucified life, who have been victorious overcomers of sin, Satan and the world; and who have submitted to the control of the Holy Spirit-- will rule with Him as sons and daughters of God, servants of the Most High. We will be given newly resurrected bodies and new assignments on the earth. The old will have passed away and God's new world order will have come to the earth. Jesus Christ, the true Messiah, will be acclaimed the world over as “King of Kings and Lord of Lords”. The holy city, the new Jerusalem will come down from heaven prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be established in this glorious place, the true, everlasting church of God. His Name will be on our foreheads and we will worship the Lord of all creation with the multitude of heavenly hosts for the rest of eternity (Rev. 21:2).

Warning! Ruling and reining comes at a great price to our selfish agendas in this lifetime. Only IF we have washed our robes in the blood of Christ, IF we have been filled to overflowing with the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit and IF the tree of life, Jesus Christ has been manifest in us, THEN we will be eternally saved and allowed to enter the city of God. So it seems that being baptized in the Holy Spirit is essential for life in Christ today and for our future destiny tomorrow. Being filled with the Spirit of Christ is therefore not an option, but an imperative command by the Lord Jesus Christ himself. Without it, we will fall short of seeing the glory of God manifest in the earth, fulfilling our destiny in Christ and being allowed to enter the New Jerusalem.




Accomplishing the Goal
This article all began as a discussion on the attributes of the Holy Spirit and how if we allow Him to lead and control us, we can have those same attributes developed in us over time. Let us look back over the list mentioned above. Now let us ask ourselves if we have all the power, love, grace, truth, wisdom, spiritual gifts and fruit, righteousness, peace and joy of the Holy Spirit (to name just a few) that we need in our character and personality. Are we missing some of these attributes? Are we doing pretty good with some on the list and falling short on others? Ask the Holy Spirit to help you rate yourself honestly on your progress. It is His job to convict us of sin, to lead us into all truth, to empower us, to equip us and prepare us for ruling and reigning as the bride of Christ without spot or wrinkle.

Since we all fall short of God's ultimate glory and grace for various reasons, we need to take action now. His mercies toward us are new every morning and we can begin again. Therefore, humble yourself before God and He will exalt you in due time. Here's three easy steps to consider if you have been born-again and accepted Christ as your Savior. 1. Ask Jesus to baptize you now with his Holy Spirit, if you've never done that according to the teaching in the book of Acts. 2. Ask Jesus to fill you with power from on high once again-- if it's been a long time since you prayed that prayer. 3. Put this personal request on your prayer list and ask DAILY to be filled to overflowing with His love and power. Make being Spirit-filled and under the control of the Holy Spirit a goal you work toward every day.

Finally, don't keep the good news to yourself. Share your life changing experience with others and encourage them to do the same. You will be blessed above and beyond all you could ever hope for or expect from your Father God. Like Jesus told his disciples on his last day on earth, “WAIT for the gift my Father promised.” “Receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you and will be my witnesses in Jerusalem...and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1).

One more comment about receiving the Holy Spirit. You don't necessarily need someone praying with you to receive. Derek Prince, a tremendous Bible teacher and writer, tells how he received while lying on his bunk one night in his Army barracks during WWII. When the Spirit came in he was literally thrown out onto the floor where he continued praying and praising God in tongues for hours. It is scriptural, however, to ask someone to pray with you and lay hands on you to receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:14-25). That way another Spirit-filled believer can agree with you in prayer and impart the Spirit of Holiness to you. It's just like using battery cables to get your dead tractor battery hooked up to another vehicle full of power! As members of the body of Christ, we are in this thing together. Let us not fail to call upon others for this enabling when we need it.

An excellent resource for “tarrying” time in God's Presence is found at www.soaking.net. Andre & Kimberly Lefebvre from Alberta, Canada, have developed a ministry designed to provide encouragement and comfort to listeners through soaking music, timely words, prophetic art and more. 
  
If this message has been meaningful to you, please leave a comment or send me an email. I will be glad to talk and pray with anyone needing personal assistance with the very important goal of being baptized in the Holy Spirit. May God fill you with His grace and peace today as you seek to do His will and walk in His ways.