Archives For baptism

Anyone who has seen the Veggie Tales video “A Snoodle’s Tale” has heard of Danish Immersion Camp. I’m sure you’ve heard of it even if you never saw the Veggie Tales video. It’s often used as a punch line of some kind. It’s real though, believe it or not.

Danish, or any kind, of immersion camp is an intense immersion into the culture, language and customs of whichever culture you are immersing yourself in. I suppose in Danish immersion, you eat a lot of Danishes, build stuff with Legos, and learn about Vikings.

I went through a similar experience when I started attending church at Gateway. You see, I was raised Baptist, went to a Baptist college, a Baptist seminary, served in Baptist churches for about 15 years. Gateway is not Baptist. And it was a little strange for me at first.

Gateway is a large, non-denominational, charismatic church. You may have heard of Gateway. They produce a lot of worship CDs, do a lot of missions, several pastors have written books, and they have helped a great many people in a multitude of ways.

The first Sunday I was there, they were talking about “water baptism.” That’s the only kind I knew about at the time. You get saved, you get baptized, you rock and roll. But what I learned, and it took a long time to sink in, is that there is another baptism – baptism in the Holy Spirit. It took a while for me to accept this teaching. It’s not mentioned in the Baptist Faith and Message. Not the 1963 version (which I used to have about 1000 of), not the 2000 version (which I only read because I had to). Not even the 1925 version.

What the BF&M does say is, “At the moment of regeneration [The Holy Spirit] baptizes every believer into the Body of Christ.” On this I think we all agree, but that’s as far as I was ever taught. Except for that the Holy Spirit doesn’t enable us to do things like it says in the bible anymore – no healing, no prophesying, especially no tongues. Anything but that last one.

Going to Gateway was a liberating experience for me. I learned that there is more to life, faith and the Holy Spirit than what I was taught in school. Here’s a few things I learned, by immersion -

You don’t have to be afraid of the Holy Spirit. He wants to empower you to live the life you were created and redeemed to live.

Believing in the Holy Spirit, and talking about him, doesn’t make you weird. Pastor Robert Morris has stated several times that it’s not like you will just break out into tongues in the supermarket check-out line. The Holy Spirit is not weird, the people who talk about him aren’t weird, and he won’t make you weird.

You invite him in. You surrender to him. And when you do, amazing things happen.

The Holy Spirit baptizes us into Christ, and Christ baptizes us into the Holy Spirit. At least that’s what John the Baptist said. Take it up with him.

Now for some specific Scripture references -

All of the gospels speak of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. See Matthew 3:11, Mark 1:8, Luke 3:16, John 1:33.

Jesus, as in all things, is our example. The Spirit came upon him, and remained upon him, after his water baptism by John. John 1:33, Matt 3:16.

Many verses throughout the book of Acts talk about the baptism in the Holy Spirit – Acts 2, Acts 8:12-17, Acts 10, Acts 19:1-7.

Many people point to Paul’s words about speaking in tongues in 1 Corinthians 14 as a prohibition. He is not prohibiting it, he is putting its usage into proper perspective. With tongues, we edify ourselves – and there’s nothing wrong with that! But in public, we should build others up.

1 John 5 talks about three witnesses – the Spirit, water and blood. Christians are saved by the blood of Christ; water baptism symbolizes the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, and the death of our old selves, and being raised a new, whole person in Christ; and the Spirit, who dwells inside us and give us the power to be witnesses and live as God intended – free and whole.

This is foreshadowed in the way the tabernacle was set up in the Old Testament. There were three parts to the tabernacle – the outer courts, the holy place, and the most holy place. To get to the most holy place, you had to do three things -  you had to sacrifice a lamb on the altar, you had to wash with water, and you had to be annointed with oil. Only then could you enter into the presence of God. The lamb represents Christ and his sacrifice for us, the water represents baptism, and the oil represents the Holy Spirit.

It may seem like you have been immersed after all the Scripture I have referenced. I used my notes from church last weekend as the foundation for this post, and believe me, Pastor Robert really brings it – you can tell that the Holy Spirit is all over him – you can watch the sermon online here.

Last weekend, many thousands of people made a decision to be baptized in the Spirit. I have never seen anything like it in my life.  Please watch it for yourself, read the Scriptures, pray about it, seek God and the truth of his word. What is he saying to you about the baptism of the Holy Spirit?

(Cheryl continues her thoughts and experiences on baptism of the Holy Spirit.  See the first part here.)

What happened when my experience started to change? I had to re-evaluate my theology on this topic.

I began to start being open to the gifts of the Spirit. It’s funny how I thought I could pick and choose my spiritual gifts. Holy Spirit I want the gift of knowledge, but I’m not really interested in healing or speaking in tongues. It doesn’t really work that way. The spirit acts on our behalf and gives gifts when we need them.

When we are filled with the Holy Spirit, he will exercise spiritual gifts through us as we yield our will to His. So here are the spiritual gifts listed in 1 Cor 12. Wisdom, Knowledge, Faith, Healing, Miraculous powers, Prophesy, Distinguishing between spirits, Speaking in tongues and Interpretation of tongues.

When you are filled with the Holy Spirit, you will exercise one, two or all of these gifts at some point. I don’t believe you get just one.

Do I believe the Spirit can exercise all those gifts in His people today? Absolutely. Why? Because it’s easy to argue doctrine. It’s much harder to argue with an experience.

About 2 months after I had invited Jesus to fill me with the Holy Spirit, my younger daughter was very sick one night. She spiked a fever over 103 and was holding her ear and screaming. We had been through this once before. About 2 years ago, she got a staph infection in her ear and her eardrum burst and really gross stuff came out of her ear. When she was holding her ear this time, I thought we might be in trouble. I laid down by her in bed and she calmed down but she was burning up. I thought, “in 30 minutes we will go the ER if she’s not better.” I got up and laid down on the couch.

Then I heard these words: “I want you to get up, go to her room and heal her.”

Who me? I don’t know how to heal people. And there is was again -

“I want you to get up, go to her room and heal her.”

I decided at that moment I would trust and I went to her room.

So I went to her room and knelt by her bed. I put my hand on her ear and I began to pray. I really hadn’t spoken in tongues up to that point. I only had one phrase. But I prayed that phrase – out loud for the first time, and then something happened.

Power. Real power. I could feel it moving through me to her. And then something amazing happened. Her fever was immediately gone. Her pain was gone. I asked her “does your ear hurt” and she said “no.”

The next morning I went into her room and she was jumping on her bed singing at the top of her lungs, absolutely no sign of being sick.

She had been healed that night. (I have more stories like this!)

It took several months to really understand speaking in tongues. Speaking in tongues is a beautiful exchange between you and God in a heavenly language or unknown tongue. This is a whole topic in itself, but my perceptions and doctrine were holding me back on this. Holding onto false perceptions and other people’s opinion will squash speaking in tongues. This is truly about surrender and choosing to release all your preconceived ideas and perceptions and yield to the Spirit. And when I did that the Holy Spirit came in power and I spoke in a whole new language. If you will read scripture, speaking in tongues is for you as the believer. (I Cor 14:4-5 – these verses are often seen as a prohibition from Paul to not speak in tongues. What he’s actually saying here is tongues should be used privately. It may be used in group settings if someone interprets. I think the use of tongues in public settings without interpretation may be an invalid use of tongues, but obviously it depends on the context – Rich)

It’s not really a gift for the masses or congregation like the gift of prophecy. The use of spiritual language in prayer builds you up. It edifies, encourages the believer. This gift is for me and you in our prayer life with the Father. And it’s amazing.

I believe God still empowers His people today. Don’t let your past experience or your religious doctrine get in the way of you having an encounter with the Holy Spirit.

He will empower you to heal the sick, cast out demons, speak with wisdom, to know spiritual truths, to prophesy, to do miracles, to speak to Him in a whole new way.

Being baptized or filled with the Holy Spirit means allowing the Spirit of God to breathe new life in us. To empower us to do things we could never do on our own. To speak to us, through us, heal us, comfort us. To be our friend and companion through life. To have direct one-on-one connection to the God of the Universe.

And all you have to do is ask. (Luke 11:5-13 – Jesus tells the Parable of the Persistent Friend – the point of the story is, if we want something, we need to ask God until we receive. You’ll notice in vs 13 that Jesus is talking about receiving the Holy Spirit! It’s funny how we can focus on one part of that passage and never see the rest of it – Rich)

(I asked Cheryl to help me with my ideas on the Holy Spirit.  She was so clear about it, and her ideas so well thought out, it didn’t make any sense to not let her tell you herself – the following is from my wonderful, beautiful wife, and some thoughts of my own added in a few places – Rich)

John the Baptist says “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. (Matt 3:11)

Jesus says, “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another advocate to help you and be with your forever – 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. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” (John 14:16-18)

When we came to Gateway church a few years ago, there was something different. You could feel God’s presence. His spirit was there and present among His people. I noticed in the bulletin where you take notes, it says, “What is the Holy Spirit saying to you?”

I thought, “I don’t know.”  I talk to God. I talk to Jesus. But do I really talk to the Holy Spirit? Does the Spirit of God speak to me? How do I know if I’m filled with the Spirit or that I’ve been baptized into the Holy Spirit.

It just so happened that same year I read the bible through in 90 days twice! And what I read about was men and women of the bible living in power. Not their power, but power beyond themselves. The ability to do things they could never do on their own. They had supernatural wisdom and knowledge, the power to comfort, heal, prophesy things to come, cast out demons, to speak in other languages. This was normal to the early church experience. It was also true of many greats of the Old Testament like Abraham, Moses, Joshua, David. The Holy Spirit worked in and through them.

When I would ask questions about this growing up the answer was always, “people don’t do that anymore. The spirit doesn’t work like that today.”  When I asked this question at a Christian college Rich and I both went to, I got the same answer.

The bible says that God doesn’t change. He’s the same yesterday, today, and forever. So if God empowered people by the Holy Spirit before Christ and then during the early church, why on earth would I think that He wouldn’t do the same for His people now?

So I began to read and study the word. Here are few scriptures you must read – John chapters 14 and 15, The entire book of Acts, 1 Corinthians chapter 2, 12-14 and Romans 8 for starters.

It seems that when you talk about Baptism of the Holy Spirit, people immediately think about speaking in tongues. That when you are baptized in the Holy Spirit you are going to get all crazy and people will think you are weird. Although that is one gift of the spirit there’s so much more to it than that. The enemy is using lies (and possibly the misuse of the spirit’s gifts) to prevent so many Christians from knowing and experiencing the Holy Spirit.

So I began to study. I read God’s word. I read our pastor’s book, The God I Never Knew (by Pastor Robert Morris). I read Jack Hayford’s book, The Beauty of Spiritual Language.  All books I recommend!

What I learned is the Holy Spirit is my advocate, my life line to the Father. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth and teaches me truth about the Father, not just through His Word, but by speaking directly to me. God speaks to me through the Holy Spirit. I never knew prayer could really be a two-way conversation. That the God of the universe speaks to me. The Holy Spirit is my helper, comfort, friend, and intercedes on my behalf, even praying for me when I don’t know what to pray.

When you explain it like that – I WANT that! Don’t you?

I went to a class offered by Gateway on Baptism in the Holy Spirit. They went through a lot of the scriptures that I referenced. I knew that this was the one thing I had been missing my whole Christian life. At one point in the class, there was an invitation. It’s just that simple. The word says Jesus is the baptizer into the Holy Spirit. It’s His gift and all you have to do is ask. And I did.

For those of you wondering did I break out in tongues at that moment – No. Does it happen for some – yes.

All of a sudden I was able to read the Word with clear understanding. Scriptures that I never really understood became clear. I would be reminded of certain scriptures at the right time. When I was discouraged, I could feel the spirit comforting me. I began to hear the Spirit of God. Not like I’m crazy and now hearing voices. But words, phrases would come to mind. I would wake up before my alarm and feel happy, content, at peace, literally surrounded by His presence. Where the Presence of the Lord is there is JOY!

I had only felt that a few times during my 20+ years being a Christian. I had felt the Spirit, but only in small doses because I was quenching the Spirit.

Holding to the beliefs and doctrines of my youth, I wouldn’t allow His work in my life for so long. It’s even harder when our experience matches our doctrine. If I believe the Spirit doesn’t empower anymore, and my experience matches that well then it must be true. But what if it’s not true?What if I framed my entire Christian life on the lie that the Spirit doesn’t move in power anymore?  Then what I end up with is a performance doctrine. Working out my own salvation on my own accord and my own strength. That’s in effect saying the cross wasn’t enough. And for years I said no to a free gift from Jesus! That was His promise to me – being empowered by the Spirit of God. Living and walking in absolute freedom.

Cheryl will post part 2 tomorrow – in the meantime, what is the Holy Spirit saying to you? What preconceived ideas about how God works and the presence of the Spirit in our lives do you need to let go of? If you ask God, the Holy Spirit will show his presence and his power in you!

Today I would like to talk about my personal experience with the Holy Spirit.  I apologize ahead of time for how long this is -

I grew up listening to my Grandmother talk about her relationship with the Lord.  She had been a missionary to Mexico for a Pentecostal church for some time before I was born, and after I was born she made sure I went to church every week.  We lived in a lot of different places when I was very young, but no matter where we were, we were in church.

I spent a lot of time in Harrah, OK growing up.  My Great Grandma lived there in a little farm house that I lived in more than any other place in my life.  She was a great Christian woman as well.  I remember being in her garden with her and my Grandmother, pulling weeds, tilling the soil, planting seeds.  My Grandmother told me that the seeds were like life.  You had to die before you could be born, and you had to be born before you could grow.  You had to be watered and fed and pruned and when all that occurred, you would grow strong and produce fruit.

She prayed over me often, and sometimes I didn’t know what words were coming out of her mouth.  She had lost her husband to cancer several years before this, and my mother was never around.  My Grandmother was all I really knew at that time in my life.  She often told me that I would be a servant of God.  I didn’t know what that meant, really.  I remember thinking that maybe he was hungry and I would have to take him a tray of food.  I tried to imagine if God would like corndogs as much as I did, or if maybe he preferred grilled cheese.

What I did understand was that I was loved and cared for, and that my Grandmother loved the Lord.  Many times I would go into her room and she would be praying beside her bed.  I would get on my knees and just listen.  Sometimes I understood what she said, sometimes I didn’t.  If there was a better Christian woman, I haven’t met her yet.  She gave sacrificially to me, to the church, to God.

Several years later I was adopted by my Grandmother’s brother and his wife.  He had been my “daddy Dan” and now he really was my daddy.  When I went to live with them, they were active in a Baptist church.  We went often and I learned to love singing hymns from the tattered old books in the back of the seats.  My dad was a deacon, and my mom was active with her Sunday school class.  I asked my mom and dad why nobody prayed like Grandmother, and they told me that nobody really did that anymore.

Years later, after moving many times, we found ourselves back in Harrah, OK.  I had attended FBC Harrah off and on for many years, and when we moved back, it was just like I never left.  I had many friends there, and felt at home.  It has always been a great church and I love it to this day.

When I was 14, during a revival service, I felt something I had never felt before.  I knew about God, I read the bible, I prayed all the time – just like my Grandmother taught me.  But I had a feeling like I was alone, or empty.  After the service ended, I was still sitting in my seat.  The janitor came to clean up and shut off the lights and he saw me and asked me if I was ok.  I told him I thought I was dying.  He went to the office and got the pastor and he came and talked to me and gave me a ride home, since I had been sitting there and missed the church bus.

On the way, he told me all about Jesus, about how I could know God, how I could be a child of his.  He came into my house and there in my room on that night in March 1980, I accepted all that he was telling me.  I said my own prayer, I repented, believed, I confessed, I became a child of God.

I was baptized at FBC Harrah about a month later after going through a class for new Christians.  I already knew the answers in the little book they gave me.  I knew most of the bible verses by heart already too.  I tried not to be a know it all, but there you have it.  It’s just how I was raised.  From there I started going to discipleship classes on Sunday night and Youth on Wednesdays.  We hired a new youth minister named  Vernon, whom I admire and love and who was a great mentor to me.  A few years later, he transitioned to music ministry and we hired a new youth minister, Jeff, who also took an interest in me.  These were the greatest men in my life, then and now.

These two great men poured themselves into me.  I was at the church office every day after school.  I was the first one there on church days and the last to leave.  I would come to the church at 4 pm on Sundays, before anyone got there, and I would stand behind the pulpit and imagine I was preaching to a full house.  It excited me to think that I could do that some day, and I even prepared sermons and would preach them to the empty pews.  Once I was in there, really laying it on to nobody in particular, and Vernon came in and asked me what I was doing.  I was so embarrassed I just ran out of the room.

About 2 weeks later, I was with Jeff and Vernon, driving around in the church van, I can’t remember what we were doing.  Vernon told me that I should seriously consider that God was calling me into ministry.  We discussed it again and again over the next few weeks and months, and during youth camp I went down front to talk to a counselor about it.  I discussed the crazy dreams I had been having, the strong desire to preach the word.  That night I accepted God’s calling in my life.  That night I knew that he was calling me to be a pastor.

The next 20 years were a whirlwind of activity.  I preached some at my church, taught classes, even led music.  I went to Oklahoma Baptist University, then Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and served in several churches as a youth minister, associate pastor, music minister, and whatever else they needed me to be.  Things changed over time.  I never really was happy doing what I was doing.  I wanted more but there wasn’t anything more.  I taught, led people to Christ, baptized, discipled.  And I was really good at it, believe it or not.  But I was never fulfilled, never content, never happy.

Now you might be asking, “I thought this was about the Holy Spirit?”  Right.  He was never really mentioned.  From the time I was adopted at the age of 5, until 2 years ago when I was 45, I went 40 years without knowing anything about the Holy Spirit.  I knew he was a part of the Trinity, I knew we baptized in his name, I knew he was in some of the songs we sing.  Outside of numerous and sundry spiritual gifts inventories that are basically worthless that was it.  I never learned about him at church, in college, or in seminary.  He was the third wheel of the Trinity.  The weird one nobody ever mentioned, like that uncle you have from Schenectady.  I knew “Holy Spirit” people.  They wore weird suits, floor length denim skirts and kept their hair pinned way, way up.  I had been to a Carmen concert and that’s all I needed to know.

What I didn’t know was how much my life was about to change.  Everything was ok – not great, but ok.  I was working, and it seemed like God was using me to do good things.  Then things got really bad.  Health issues, job issues, several surgeries in just a few years time, a high risk pregnancy (not my own lol).  My wife and I lost just about everything including the people in our lives.  We were devestated, and we ended up turning in on ourselves and against even each other.  Then one Sunday, seemingly for no reason at all, we went to Gateway church.

If I had known what was going to happen I might have chosen to stay at home.  I was comfortable in my hatred toward God and everybody.  He broke through all my defenses before the singing was over.  The new message series was on The Wilderness.  I cried through the whole thing.  We were on the second row, and the lady in front of me got me a box of kleenex, then another.  I talked to a great guy named Bob afterward.  He never met me, didn’t know me.  He said, “The Spirit is all over you, my friend.”  And I cried some more.  A lot more.

Over the last  two years I have learned about who the Holy Spirit is, what he is all about.  He is everything about heaven and he’s sitting right inside you.  He’s the down payment.  He’s who God gave us so we can function in this world until this world ends.  We don’t need anything else, and for so long I never knew he was all I needed.  I needed friendship with him, and when I realized that, everything changed.

I told you it was long – sorry.  I’ll talk more later on specifics, but I had to get to that point through my testimony on where God has taken me.  Until next time, think about where you are in your relationship with the Holy Spirit.  Do you talk to him, pray to him, interact with him in any way?  It may seem weird, but try it – pray to him, give him some attention.  Things can only get better if you do.

 

So far, I have written about baptism into Christ, which is the work of the Holy Spirit, who convicts us of sin, leads us to salvation and regenerates our spirit, and water baptism, which is a symbol of the work of Christ on the cross and the death, burial and resurrection of our old lives when we accept Christ.  The last baptism I want to write about is baptism of the Holy Spirit.

For many people, this is a controversial topic.  Many Christians believe, because they were taught to believe, that when we follow Christ, the Holy Spirit dwells within us, and that’s it.  That’s mostly correct – when we are saved, the Spirit is grafted into our spirit, and our spirit comes to life.  The Holy Spirit is always a part of us from that time forward, guiding, directing, encouraging, revealing, illuminating.  But is that really the extent of the work of the Spirit?  Or is there more?

Some evangelical denominations hold to a cessationist view, which basically states that the baptism of the Spirit and the signs of this baptism were only for the early church, to help establish the church, and show people the power of God.  These gifts are said to have passed away before or shortly after the death of the last Apostle.

Recently, at a denominational seminary, a prominent pastor spoke of his relationship with the Holy Spirit during chapel.  The content of the message indicated that although he was a member of the denomination that teaches cessationism, he had experienced the baptism of the Holy Spirit on many occasions, and regularly spoke in tongues during times of prayer.  This message was denounced by the seminary president, the audio and video of the message destroyed, and a statement from the seminary was sent out stating that the message was “ill-timed, inappropriate, unhelpful, unnecessarily divisive, and contrary to the generally accepted understandings and practices of [this denomination].”

I think there is a misunderstanding of the work of the Spirit in general, and more specifically, the baptism of the Holy Spirit, behind all this.  It is a divisive topic – it need not be.  I grew up in this particular denomination.  I went to a private college and seminary of that denomination, and for all its faults, I feel deep love and loyalty to it.  I was saved and called to ministry as a baptist.  I served on staff in many baptist churches.  I may well do so again, in spite of the things I am about to write.  It’s part of who I am, and I am proud of my baptist heritage.  What makes me stop short is the denominational stance on something so basic, so Scripturally true, so profound, and so needed in our daily lives.  Again, I think there is a huge misunderstanding of what the baptism of the Holy Spirit is all about.

My pastor, Rober Morris, of Gateway Church has written a wonderful book called The God I Never Knew: How Real Friendship with the Holy Spirit Can Change Your Life.  If you want to know more about the Spirit, read this book.  I did, and it changed my life.  Your life can be changed, too.

Over the next few days, I will look more deeply into this final type of baptism, discussing the arguments for and against, discussing the how and the why.  But beyond these things, ask yourself, has there ever been a time when, as a Christian, you felt like something was missing, or not right?  Have you ever noticed a lack of spiritual boldness, a lack of God’s presence?  We all go through these times of feeling apart from God, but if this characterizes your whole experience as a Christian, what do you think is missing?  Pray that God would open your spiritual eyes to see and your spiritual ears to hear what will follow over the next few days.  Maybe what you are missing is the power of the Holy Spirit in your life.