In the book of Acts in Chapter 19 the Apostle Paul wanders into Ephesus and finds some religious folks and asked them “Have you received the Spirit since you believed?” They said, “ No, we haven’t even heard that there was a Spirit!”.
This was certainly the story of my life in my cult-like church. I had never heard of the Sprit growing up. In part one 1 of this series also explained that when my family became regular evangelicals, whom places the Holy Spirit in equality to God and Jesus in regard to the trinity, the Holy Spirit still remained a mystery. It was undeniably less emphasized when compared to veneration in worship of God the Father and God the Son as Jesus in church life, and how they taught the baptism of the Spirit was typified by an intangible silent experience that automatically happens to you when you believe in Jesus. Being baptized in the Spirit was basically taught as another way of describing the moment at which you first believed in Jesus.
Before I go into my personal encounters with the Holy Spirit that came about in my twenties let me give you some back story about my relationship with God: I was different than most kids. I was a true God-a-holic. The kind of kid a fundamental Christian parent would dream of inregard to zeal for God. I was well trained in the Old Testament. My cult-like church engrained just about every Old Testament bible story into my little head. I tried to read the bible as kid and memorized scripture. I took sermon notes from the time I was 7 years ago. I even took my own briefcase to church. I prayed in public school openly and would ofter get on my knees to pray in class (especially before tests, lol!). I talked to God with my parents and non-believing friends constantly and never doubted His existance. I had beleived from a very young age that God had sovereignly called me into His Kingdom to be a tele-evangelist. Even though I fell into some reckless behavior in my teens I would still talk about God and faith to all my friends even while we were getting drunk, getting high, or doing whatever. I simply thought about God all the time. In college I continued seeking God and would often read the Bible for all to see and could quote many passages from memory.
But I was as miserable as they come. Depressed and lonely. I was trying with all my strength to be a good boy for God and not do things I knew were wrong but trouble and sadness always seemed find my way. I was sincerely devout but joyless.
In my third year of college my mother started putting preaching/teaching cassette tapes on the counter at home – hoping I would take some to listen too. My parents were encouraging me to get water baptized, and I had been resisting that for a long time, which is whole another story. Afer a few months I finally grabbed a tape entitled “water baptism”. The teacher on the tape described what water baptism looked like as found in the book of Acts. The part I remember the most is when he was talking about different baptisms in the Bible. He of course talked about being fully immersed into water for a water baptism after you profess your faith in Jesus, but he also talked about a baptism of the Holy Spirit. I don’t remember what he said exactly about the baptism of the spirit, other that it is a differnt baptism, but I remember thinking, “I’ve never heard this before? This sounds awesome.” I was totally open to the idea of being baptized in the Spirit. It was the first I heard of such an experience. I can remember exactly where I was when I heard this teaching: on a bridge on interstate 94 gong over the St. Croix river from Minnesota to Wisconsin. In that moment I actually felt something different. The strong sensation lasted only a few minutes but I have never been the same since. It was definitely a “Ah ha!” moment. As if my eyes we opened up to something I had never knew before.
From that moment on my Christian life changed. Reading the Bible was completely different for me. It seemed like I had WAY more understanding. I had boldness. The depression and loneliness I was fighting against mostly went away. Although I had always been over enthusiastic about God as a kid I had a whole different kind of fire about me. I began seeking and experiencing God in ways that were far deeper. My intimacy with God went through the roof and His voice seemed easier to hear and discern from the other junk in my life.
I continued to listen to more teaching tapes and hearing more about the Holy Spirit. A few months after I had this experience I met a girl – and to make a long and beautiful story extremely short, I later married her 18 months later. A month or so after we were married I was in our apartment by myself. It was a absolutely gorgeous sunny day outside, my last year of school was going great, we were newlyweds in love, the birds wer chirping, and I was happy! I got on my knees and started thanking God for ths day and all His awesome blessings. And as probably most Christians do when they pray, after a few minutes I totally ran out of stuff to say. But at the same time I felt like I had more to say. So I opened my mouth and blurted out a few words – but to my surprise they weren’t in English. “What the heck was that?” I thought. At the time I just kinda left that experience alone. I came to figure out that I must have been worshiping God in what the book of Acts calls tongues. But being the intellectual guy I was this made absolutely NO sense to me. The words sounded like gibberish and nonsense. As the weeks and months progressed I would say a sentence or two in tongues every now and then but that’s as much as I could go without my head saying this is total crap. I wasn’t involved with a church that believed in this experience so I was kinda on my own. So it took definitely me a few years to really let this experience let loose to where I could bypass my brain and pray in tongues at length. The rewards since have been off the chart – see my other post: Tongues – The Gift of Intimacy with God
At the time I didn’t formally label this experience. When I graduated college I deiced to apply to work at a church to do their music. I had to write my testimony of faith to accompany my resume. In doing so gave my life’s story and when I arrived at this part of my story I wrote that up to this point I had a dead spirit (whatever that meant) and that after listening to some teaching cassette tape I had a transformation. I didn’t call it the baptism of the Holy Spirit because I wasn’t familiar with that term. My testimony said that I was living my life as a Christian for years but my life was pretty much dead UNTIL I had this transformation. So based upon my own written testimony from 2003 it would be correct to say that this experience was pivotal in having success in my faith, joy, further understanding into the Bible, and deeper intimacy with God. It was powerful!
I later came to identify this experience with what the Bible calls a baptism by the spirit. The experience went counter to what I was taught by both of the two church movements I had been a part of. There was apparently more out there about the Spirit than what I had been hearing or taught.
Let move onward to part 3 and talk about what I found in the Bible about the Holy Spirit. It gets more fun!!
*As always, I’d love to hear what’s on your mind so please drop your thoughts in the comment section below!