Reading about the Holy Spirit and being baptized by Him are radically different things. When you experience the baptism of the Holy Spirit, your life is never the same. This was my experience and it has changed my life.
When I first became a Christian, the baptism of the Holy Spirit was something that I was familiar with, but only in an intellectual sense as I had never experienced it. I had seen videos of people speaking in tongues, lying on the ground weeping/laughing and shouts of praise, but at the time of seeing the footage, I thought it was something that happened when you were at a certain “level” or within a particular denomination. It wasn’t until I had my first baptism of the Holy Spirit, then subsequent baptisms, that I began to understand what had to be present for me to experience Him more frequently as well as the Holy Spirit being with me during my times of worship.
Before I get into this, you need to be brought up to speed. This will take just a minute.
The gap years
In 2008, I came to Jesus Christ. It was a powerful moment, one for which I will never forget. I came back into the family after years of kicking and screaming before I answered my particular call. During that time, I was most thankful for my wife as she was a very mature Christian and guided me through the period after my conversion. She answered many of my questions, kept me on the right path, and provided me with nurturing answers, all based in scripture to many questions I had. One of the things I understood at that time is that I was saved at the moment when I confessed Jesus as my Lord and believed in my heart about His resurrection (Romans 10:9), but I hadn’t been baptized (water). Seven years later, a brother in Christ had said that he and some members of our Bible study group were going out to Crowder lake and baptize other members and asked if I wanted to take part. I agreed and was fully immersed as my Lord had been.
A changed had occurred with the water baptism, one for which I won’t forget. It took a while for it to happen, but when it did, people started to notice.
There was this peace I experienced that I had never felt before. On top of that, I felt “clean”, like all the tarnish had been wiped off the silver. When I came home, I told my wife what had happened, then excused myself in my room as I felt like I needed to be alone. I wasn’t sad, but I just wanted to “experience the peace” for a while longer.
The Holy Spirit’s first entrance
I would like to say that I burst out in tongues, praising God at the top of my lungs in joyful heavenly extasy, but alas, that would not happen yet. What I did feel was His presence very near me after the water baptism. It was so overpowering that I wept. Again, not tears of sadness, but of joy.
…but no tongues. That would come later.
Recognizing the baptism of the Holy Spirit
When the first baptism happened, I was driving my car listening to a very uplifting choral song. Much of the music was giving praise and the arrangements were taken from the Psalms and prophets in the Bible talking about Jesus Christ. The choir was swelling to a crescendo when I could feel something inside me rise up. It seemed to partner itself with the music and the words of the song, ebbing and flowing as the song did. What I experienced was an eruption of heavenly language (tongues) along with very loud and bold exclamations of “PRAISE GOD!” The experience was powerful and even though I was driving, I was in full control. I could sense the presence of the Holy Spirit in the car, His unmistakable presence, and He stayed with me for a long while. As quickly as it began, it ended when I had to make a turn to get to my destination.
It was clear to me that I had been baptized by the Holy Spirit and the signs that Jesus had talked about with His disciples was evident (Mark 16:17). Alas, as much as I wanted this to happen again, to be in the presence of the third person of God, it would not happen again for several more years.
Understanding the absences
I had gone about my life, doing my day-to-day and growing in understanding of God’s Word. One day, I was listening to a paster on TV giving his message. He came to a point where I could tell that he was moving with the Holy Spirit, as the Holy Spirit was moving in me. It was like the choir all over again and man-o-man was I baptized by the Holy Spirit again. I leaped out of my chair, clapped my hands and lifted them up, boldly praising God, laughing and crying, all in the joy of my Lord and speaking tongues. I could feel him in the room, a presence as real as you would feel when a person stands next to you, but much more intense.
In the midst of that baptism, the Holy Spirit told me to listen and understand what was happening to not only myself but the minister. The Spirit’s Words were a match that struck my internal pilot light. In other words, the Holy Spirit was teaching me how to be in His Presence, to be baptized by Him anytime. it was hard to come down from that high, but I did, and it was there that I understood what I had to do (after much reading in the Bible) to be in His Presence, to experience the baptism of the Holy Spirit anytime, anywhere.
Ok, so what’s the difference between the baptism of the Holy Spirit and having the Holy Spirit?
This is a question that I struggled with for many years, which hindered me experiencing what the beginning disciples experienced. There is a difference between having the Holy Spirit and being baptized (filled) by Him.
Jesus gave His disciples the Holy Spirit while on Earth before His ascension (John 20:22). All people who come to Jesus have the Holy Spirit deposited on the inside of them (Romans 8:9-11, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20) and you have access from the Holy Spirit to His fruits (Galatians 5:22-25).
Now, even though you have the Holy Spirit on the inside of you, there is a distinct difference in His baptism.
While the baptism of the Holy Spirit is usually done with the laying on of hands from another disciple (Acts 8:17, 9:17, 19:6), it’s not always the case (Acts 10:44-48). The act of baptism of the Holy Spirit can manifest itself in many ways including tongues (see previous verse examples in this paragraph), bold declaration of God (Acts 10:46), being knocked over (John 18:4-6, Acts 9:3-4), joy inexpressible and full of glory (1 Peter 1:8), or known as “holy laughter.” All of these things I’ve experienced as well as feeling the presence of the Holy Spirit, and I’m not talking about “sensing”, but actually feeling his presence like you would feel if a person walked up beside you.
Ok, great! Now you said you can make this happen all the time, so how do you do it?
Before proceeding in this area, it’s important to get a clear motive here. We seek the baptism of the Holy Spirit NOT to get our “spiritual fix”, but to be in the presence and commune with the third person of God. He’s a gift, not a candy bar out of a vending machine that you get, chug down and throw away the wrapper as soon as your satisfied. This is God, our Father, who sent His Son to die for us.
Now, with that in mind, let’s get to it.
Having the presence of the Holy Spirit, to be baptized by Him is something that happens when we enter into His gates with praise and thanksgiving. This means that we take ourselves away from things and distractions. Psalm 100 is a very good blueprint:
Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands!
Serve the Lord with gladness;
Come before His presence with singing.
Know that the Lord, He is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.
Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,
And into His courts with praise.
Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.
For the Lord is good;
His mercy is everlasting,
And His truth endures to all generations.
We come before God through His Son, Jesus Christ, giving thanks, blessing and praising God. For me, I quote back passages and make them my own of the things He has done for me. I sing to him and I WILLFULLY stir up the Holy Spirit, and it is a willful act (2 Timothy 1:6-7) and not one where you wait for the stars to align or you to “feel right.” It’s when I combine all these things in my own way (but elements that you can incorporate) that bring about the presence and baptism of the Holy Spirit. Even if you don’t feel like doing these things, YOU DO THEM ANYWAY, and that match that you willfully strike, that match of singing, praising, speaking (not thinking) God’s Word(s) clapping, blessing the Lord will strike up the pilot light and roar to life the holy fire of the Holy Spirit. God said that if you draw closer to me, He’ll draw closer to you (James 4:8). Notice how it’s our job to take that first step.
If you want to know what God has done for you, read 66 Confessions That Every Christian Can Make.
But I don’t want to lose control and look silly
This attitude is something I used to have, but not anymore. Yes, the third person of God, the one who was present at the very beginning, the one who dwells on the inside of every Christian can be stifled (1 Thessalonians 5:19). I would encourage you to read on how many Christians (including myself) can quench the Holy Spirit by reading “Seven Ways to Quench the Spirit” by Sam Storms.
In all the times I’ve experienced the baptism, I’ve cut it off when I willfully stopped being in His presence. God understands that we have lives, but when we willfully stop being in His presence because we’re afraid to look silly, well, that’s a totally different matter.
Many churches want to see growth. They try new media, websites, programs to help the community, music, modern sermons, but all of these WILL FAIL if the Holy Spirit is not allowed to manifest Himself within a service. Too many people want to get out of service at a specific time so they can do…whatever. Many more people don’t want to lose their dignity, or they don’t want those “holy rollers” in their pews. Again, I will say that any church that doesn’t allow the presence or baptism of the Holy Spirit is a dying church.
Alright, but doesn’t the Bible talk about an order of service somewhere?
It sure does:
“How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret. But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God. Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge. But if anything is revealed to another who sits by, let the first keep silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged. And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.” ~1 Corinthians 14:26-33
I would encourage anyone and everyone to read chapters 12-14 of 1 Corinthians to fully appreciate and understand the passages I put above. When it comes to the baptism of the Holy Spirit, this is, for the most part, for you to come into the presence of God so you can just….be with God.
All Christians that truly desire to be in the presence of God will not ignore or quench the Holy Spirit. If you are wanting to be in His presence, it will “feel weird”, especially if you are not used to this type of worship. It was difficult for me at the beginning, but that was only because I didn’t know how and I was vain. Always remember, you are never out of control. Another thing to remember, you do not have to “be pure” before you worship in the Holy Spirit. During that time, you can come to God through His Son, Jesus Christ and ask for forgiveness of things you’ve done/not done. Many people think they have to go through fasting or some purification ritual to get the baptism, but that’s not true as we fall short of the glory of God every day (Romans 3:23). Yes, it’s good to confess to Jesus before you worship, but don’t let that stop you from worshiping. All of the things discussed are based in scripture and it’s what God wants from all of His Kids through Jesus Christ. Don’t let anyone tell you that speaking in tongues is of the devil or that this type of worship done in private and in the church is “not what we do.” Trust me, once you experience the baptism of the Holy Spirit, you will never be the same and you won’t want to be like you were before.