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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

Baptism in the Holy Spirit

By Alton Garrison
June 13, 2010

For nearly 50 years, coal has been used in our country to generate the lion’s share of electricity for our homes, businesses and industry. This electricity has provided us with power for lighting, heating, cooling, cooking, washing, communicating, entertaining … well you get the idea. Electricity is essential.

At a typical power plant, a string of coal cars arrives every few days. That coal is sorted, ground into a fine powder, and burned at a high temperature. Water running through a network of pipes at the furnace becomes steam. The steam drives a turbine, turning an electrical generator.

Most people don’t realize this process is ongoing, creating power every day, 24/7, 365 days a year. And it all starts with a lump of coal.

When you think about it, the process of generating electrical power illustrates the process we must follow as Christians for having spiritual power.

When we receive Christ at the moment of salvation, each of us becomes a new creation. The Holy Spirit indwells our being and resides within us. At that moment we are given a great resource. But like any resource, to be of any good it must be processed and put to use.

A lump of coal is of little value if I simply hold it. But if I process and use it correctly, it becomes a great tool.

It’s the same for us as believers. If we have the Holy Spirit inside us but we never tap into His power, we too are missing a great opportunity to do more and reach the full potential God offers us beyond our own talents and gifts.

Jesus said, “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 1:8, NIV). These final words of the Savior describe a powerful experience that we as Pentecostal believers hold dear. The Bible refers to this experience by many names. Jesus and others called it “the baptism in the Holy Spirit.” He also called it “the promise of the Father.”

One of the first things we need to realize is the baptism in the Holy Spirit is for every Christian. On the Day of Pentecost the Bible says, “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:4). Peter told the crowd on that day, “The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off — for all whom the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:39). Peter was talking about us, about all who are in Christ Jesus, including those then, those now, and those yet to come.

Second, we also must realize that the Bible teaches that the baptism in the Holy Spirit is a separate experience that follows salvation. It is not a requirement of salvation, but rather a benefit made available to us as members of God’s family. The baptism in the Holy Spirit is not a saving experience for the non-Christian; it is an empowering experience for the Christian in order that he or she may be supernaturally equipped to perform their ministry.

In speaking of this experience, Jesus said, “The world cannot accept him [meaning the Holy Spirit], 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). Furthermore, the record of Acts clearly demonstrates a pattern — believers were baptized in the Spirit only after they had truly accepted Christ (salvation). Before you are saved, the Holy Spirit convicts you of sin and draws you to Jesus. That’s salvation. The Holy Spirit resides in you after you become a Christian. However, there is an additional and distinct ministry of the Holy Spirit called the baptism in the Holy Spirit. This provides believers with an empowering to witness and to live lives pleasing to God.

The historical record of the Book of Acts shows the Baptism always being accompanied by speaking in tongues as the Spirit gives the utterance. On the Day of Pentecost “all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues [or languages] as the Spirit enabled them” (Acts 2:4). This is the recurring sign of Acts, and we believe that it is the “initial physical evidence” that one has been baptized in the Spirit. Everyone who is filled with the Spirit should expect to “speak in tongues” as the Spirit enables them.

I personally view the Baptism much like the furnace chamber at a power plant, or for that matter, even a steam kettle on the stove. Once the water gets hot and starts to boil, there’s no containing it. It’s going to release, and with it will come a sound. So it is when we approach God in brokenness with a heart filled with love for God and with mouths full of thankfulness for His wonderful salvation and the gracious work He has done in our lives. There will come a point when we are full and cannot contain what the Spirit is doing. At that moment, it will be released. It will not make sense to our human understanding, but it does to God. And that’s what matters. It’s not about us. It’s about God and our need to worship and express our highest praise to Him.

Let me share with you my own experience.

I was saved at the early age of 6 and immediately began to pray for the Holy Spirit baptism. Although I was young, I had been taught Scripture about the importance of having a special power to help me become a strong witness to my friends. Today there are more than 600 million Pentecostals in the world, but in our little town back then there seemed to be just a few, and it didn’t seem cool to be one. Dad kept saying that the Holy Spirit would help me with an inner strength. I really wanted something to help me live my faith and at the same time “fit in with my friends.”

For about a year and a half, I would pray in every service to be baptized in the Holy Spirit, but just couldn’t seem to receive. I didn’t realize it at the time, but my inability to receive was a pretty simple problem to solve. The Holy Spirit is a gift that the Father desires to give everyone, but you have to receive. My problem was I just wouldn’t open my mouth. I would clinch my teeth so tightly I couldn’t speak in English, much less speak in a heavenly language.

One night in a prayer service I was really moved and began to cry. Dad was praying with me, and I needed his handkerchief to wipe my eyes. When I started to ask him for it, guess what? I opened my mouth. That was all the freedom I needed. I received and have been using my prayer language since that moment. I know what it is like to experience a personal intimacy with God by praying in the heavenly language of the Spirit. When I don’t know how to pray, I pray in the Spirit for needs I am unaware of. For me, there is no greater form of communion and communication with God.

Out of this Baptism process, when our spirit is full, we are empowered beyond our abilities as our spirit overflows with His Holy Spirit. Human timidity is gone, replaced with boldness to share the gospel. Lethargic spiritual commitment is energized with an excitement for God and a deep devotion to serve Him. Love for Christ becomes active and foremost, bringing a desire for holiness, with a longing to read His Word and win the lost. In other words, as a result of the Baptism we are supercharged with the mind and the heart of Jesus and enabled to do His work more effectively. That’s the purpose of the Spirit-filled life. We are filled so we can empty ourselves in serving others. Why? So that we can win them! It’s not about the tongues — it’s about winning the lost.

That’s the reason for the Baptism. That’s the purpose of the Holy Spirit. That’s why we preach it, and that’s why we speak it. But listen, the Baptism is not a one-time event. It’s a continuous process, a gateway to fuller life through the Spirit. A life of being filled and expended in service to others, then refilled and expended in service to others … that’s the cycle of the process.

There’s another energy resource that’s once again being harnessed to help power our country — wind energy. Wind generators once found on old family farms have been reinvented and are now dotting the deserts of California and Texas and the rolling plains of the Midwest. Wind is great. It’s free for the taking, and it’s a renewable energy resource, meaning it’s never going to be diminished.

If that doesn’t sound like the Holy Spirit, what does? The mighty wind that was heard and filled the Upper Room at Pentecost still moves among us today with an unlimited supply of fresh and powerful wind. But the question is, are you open to it?

What you may not know about the new wind generators is that they can be locked down at any time to keep from turning. The greatest winds can blow, and the blades will not turn. And so it is with any believer who resists the Spirit and does not avail himself or herself of Him.

The choice is yours. Are you going to be a resource for the power of God’s promise, or are you going to lock Him out? I believe all followers of Christ are given the Holy Spirit for a purpose, to live beyond our natural abilities.

The day we accepted Christ, we were given a great opportunity: the power of His Spirit to be unleashed through His baptism in our lives. It’s power to live, to serve and to win others for eternity. Let’s not squander it. I don’t know about you, but my heart’s cry is, “Lord, send the Wind and the Fire.”

ALTON GARRISON is assistant general superintendent of the Assemblies of God. Adapted from the iVALUE video series available online at Used with permission.

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