The Holy Spirit: Baptism, Filling, Leading and Gifts

This week a number of our Living Churches (cell groups, house groups, life groups, put your particular name here!) have been studying the Holy Spirit.  Having been in three of these groups this week, the same questions have come up again and again.  It’s one of those areas where confusion abounds because of so much tradition and religion.  And it’s where we need to go back to the Bible and get answers from the Bible.

Let’s start by separating the two experiences of being born again and being baptised with the Holy Spirit.  They are utterly separate experiences.

Being born again is when your human spirit – the spirit that is inside you as a human being, the core of your being, the part of you that was breathed into your great, great grandfather Adam by the Lord Himself (Genesis 2.7) – is transformed from sin into righteousness, from death into life, from darkness to light.  This process is the reverse of the fall where Adam’s spirit went from life to death and light to darkness.

That transformation occurs when you believe that Jesus is risen from the dead and you confess with your mouth that He is Lord (Romans 10.9-10) and the end result of that process is you are saved.

To believe that Jesus is risen from the dead, you have to obviously believe that He died.  To believe that He is Lord, or Kurios in the Greek, you have to believe He is fully God.  So, when you believe that Jesus died on the cross, that He rose again, that He is fully God and fully human, then you realize and see that He took your sin and selfishness on the cross, then a divine exchange takes place and all the life in the spirit of Jesus is transferred into your spirit.  A transformation so dramatic and life-changing that Jesus calls it being born again.  From the moment you are born again, your human spirit is holy, blessed, anointed, pure and sealed.  It is the exact image of Jesus’ spirit (1 John 4.17).

Notice there is no filling of the Holy Spirit at all in the new birth.  You can argue that the Holy Spirit has a place in the new birth, either in initiating the process or in convincing you that Jesus died for our sins (John 16.7) but you cannot argue that the new birth gives you a measure or portion of the Holy Spirit.

In fact, I want to discourage very strongly any use of analogue language in reference to the Holy Spirit across the whole Tree of Life family.  He is not a force, He is a person.  I know that a lot of charismatics talk like He is a force: “Well, I need more Holy Spirit”, “I need another dose of the Holy Spirit”, “I have some Holy Spirit, I need a fresh filling because I leak”.  None of that is true.  Either you are full of the Holy Spirit or you are not.  It’s digital, not analogue.  There are two kinds of people in the world: those filled with the Spirit and those who are not.  There is no gradation or increasing measure or partial filling.

Now, you might live in the light of it in an increasing measure.  You might get distracted and harden your heart and forget about Him, but once you are baptized with the Holy Spirit you get 100% of Him and He will never leave you or forsake you after that happens.

I personally believe the reason why you will hear many Pentecostals say things like “You get some of the Holy Spirit when you born again, but you then need more with the baptism” is because they are afraid of upsetting evangelicals by pointing out to them that they need the Holy Spirit and do not have the Holy Spirit.  Of course, that is further aggravated by the Scripture saying that “if you do not have the spirit of Christ, you are none of his” (Romans 8.9) and people confusing the human spirit of Christ with the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is not the Spirit of Christ, and this reference in Romans is talking about the new birth.  At the new birth, your human spirit becomes one spirit with Christ (1 Cor. 6.20) and you have the spirit of Christ, a spirit that is righteous, pure and holy.  You do not immediately have the Holy Spirit.

Jesus was not afraid to say to his born again disciples that they needed the Holy Spirit, and nor should we.  Paul was not afraid to ask the question “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” (Acts 19.6).

You see the moment that Jesus met the disciples after rising from the dead, they believed in their hearts that He was risen from the dead and they confessed Him as Lord.  They were born again.  They were Christians.  But they did not have the Holy Spirit.  In fact, Jesus said you could not even get the Holy Spirit until He had ascended.  So for a few weeks, the disciples were born again and not baptized in the Holy Spirit.

The baptism of the Holy Spirit is for power (Acts 1.8) and is accompanied by speaking in tongues (Acts 2.4).  There is no incidence of anyone getting baptized in the Holy Spirit in the New Testament who did not speak in tongues.  We must not ignore and must not minimise speaking in tongues.  We absolutely must not forbid it for to do that is to directly disobey Scripture.  Now, Jesus told the disciples not to go and minister until they had that power.  Evidently three years of being discipled by Jesus Christ Himself was not enough – they needed to be filled with the Spirit and speak with other tongues before being permitted and commissioned to preach the gospel and pastor and minister.

Tree of Life is a tongue talking church, and we want everyone who comes to our churches to be baptized in the Holy Spirit and speak in tongues just like the book of Acts.  It’s that simple.

I wish I could go to every Bible College in the country and say what Jesus said to people: until you are filled with the Spirit and speak in tongues, shut your mouth.  Do not go and preach.  Do not pastor.  Do not go anywhere.  It is that important.  It is the way Jesus said to do things.  Save us from ministers who do not have power!  Save us from false doctrines about the Spirit that cripple the church and make the kingdom all about talk without power!

So in recapping here: being born again is an encounter with the risen Christ and transforms our human spirit and the purpose of being born again is righteousness.  The baptism of the Holy Spirit is an encounter with the ascended Christ and filled us and immerses us with the Holy Spirit and the purpose of the baptism is power to witness.

They cannot be the same experience.  Sometimes they are virtually simultaneous in time (like in Acts 10), other times there is a gap between them (like in Acts 2, Acts 8 and Acts 19).  The phrase “filled with the Spirit” is synonymous with baptised in the Spirit.  You do not need a third (or fourth or fifth) experience or blessing.  You do not need to be being filled.  Once you are baptized in the Holy Spirit you are filled.

If someone is not born again, my number one goal is to get them to be born again.  If they are born again, but not baptized with the Holy Spirit, my number one goal is to get them baptized in the Holy Spirit.  If they have both, my number one goal is to get them to renew their mind and guard their heart.

You need to be born again.  You need to be baptized in the Spirit.  You do not need a fresh touch and fresh fillings all the time after that, you just need to live in the light of what you have received.

Finally, let’s talk about tongues quickly.  I could say a lot more but the truth is that praying in tongues is for every single Christian.  God wants you to speak in tongues.  It’s that simple.

Not every Christian has a ministry in tongues – of giving messages to the church in tongues, but all of us should be speaking in tongues to edify ourselves, build ourselves up and open the door in our life to the supernatural.  Tongues is the Holy Spirit bypassing our minds and speaking through our mouths.  That is life changing.  It is impossible to describe how life changing this is.

Every Christian should be speaking in tongues as part of their personal prayer and devotional life.  Every church service we have, Celebration or Living, should welcome and encourage people to speak and sing in tongues to the Lord.

We are truly a church full of the Spirit!  Let’s celebrate that and never be ashamed of it.

When To Use Your North Wind Face!

Those of you who know me know I often talk about the fact everyone – especially leaders – should have a north wind face.  The Scripture tells us:

As the north wind drives away rain, so doth an angry countenance a backbiting tongue (Proverbs 25.23)

You need to develop a face that says to people: this conversation is over.  We are not having this discussion, I don’t talk about these things.  Developing a north wind face can save your life, your spirituality, your career and your church.  It is very important.  There will always be people who want to backbite others to you.  There will always be people who want to criticize others to you.  There will always be Absaloms wanting to draw you into their rebellion against God and His appointed leaders.  Always.  And a little leaven can leaven the whole lump.

It only takes 2mg of rat poison, an amount that weighs next to nothing, to kill a man who weighs over 15 stone.  It only takes a little bit of backbiting to destroy a whole church.   And the way to stop it is to develop this face that shuts people up.  The north wind face.

I am adamant that we are going to build a church culture that is unfriendly.  Unfriendly to scoffers, mockers, legalists and false prophets that is!

We need to realize the church has the God-given right to exclude people whose presence is unhealthy and undesirable to our services and our culture.  God is love, and we have to have an atmosphere of love in the church.  Anyone causing unnecessary rain and storms should be driven away with our north wind face.

Jude 12 tells us that our love feasts can have spots in them.  People who intrude into the church and impose their hatred on our love, their bitterness on our love, their strife into our harmony.  Jude tells us the hallmark of these people is “they speak evil of those things which they know not”.  Jude also tells us that they are carried away by winds.

If something can be moved with the wind, it is not substantial.  It is light, and unweighty. So don’t start worrying that we might scare off people who are supposed to be with us – they can’t be moved by the wind of your face or mine!  But those who are here to cause trouble will be blown away off to cause trouble elsewhere.

So what kind of people do we show the north wind face to?  Who do we want blown away?

  1. Backbiters.  That’s what Proverbs 25.23 says.  We want people who do not have the courage to run us down to our face out of the church.  If someone comes to you to run me down, give them your north wind face.  You can be assured I do when they come to run you down!  Backbiters become Absaloms quickly!
  2. Slanderers.  It is no mistake that the devil is the slanderer.  People who use their tongues to abuse the character of another are not working for God!  Psalm 31 tells us slander broke David.  If it can break David, it can break any man of God.  Help your pastor – when someone comes with slander give them your north wind face
  3. Double tongued people.  One of the qualifications for deacons is that they not be double tongued, saying one thing then saying another.
  4. A murmurer.  The Bible is clear: do all things without murmuring or complaining (Php. 2.14).  People who are always speaking out what is wrong with the church, the worship, the preaching, the services, the leaders.  Give them your north wind face.  Don’t make it hard on your pastor to have them lead the unwilling, discouraged, murmuring, complaining people.
  5. Talebearers.  These are the people who invent stories.  It happens.  If you haven’t seen it yet, hang on!  They separate friends, they pollute the church.  You have to get them looking at your north wind face if they come to you.  Where there is no wood, the fire goes out, and where there is no talebearer, the strife ceases (Proverbs 26.20).  I don’t know about you but I want to come to a church without strife.
  6. Liars.
  7. Those who cause divisions and fights.  “Now I beseech you brethren, mark those which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine you have learned and avoid them” (Romans 16.17).  It is important to know the history of people – people don’t change, they do the same in every church they have been in.  I never get overly excited when someone comes to us from another c hurch.  I want to know why they moved, I want to know what problems they had in the old place.  Because they will arise again, I can assure you.
    Some people love causing offenses!  They just love fighting.  If you say A, they will say B because they want to fight.  They will disagree over the most minor of points, they love fighting over frivolous issues.  Mark those people and avoid them.

I want to create a culture of transparency and love.  Where people are happy to come to church.  Where we are not easily offended.  Some people will never get with the program.  Some people are ravenous wolves.  Some people are here to spy out our freedom.  Love them, but when they backbite and slander show them your north wind face.  Either they will grow up and change for the better or leave.  That’s between them and God.  We have a duty to honour the Word, honour our church and honour our church leaders.

Flowing With God 02: Beware of Natural Christianity

One of the greatest dangers for grace Christians is the danger of natural Christianity.  

The leaders of the grace movement across the world are some of the greatest Bible teachers who have ever lived, and we have never had access to so much good teaching.  Some days I can listen to hours of teaching and be fed so well.  No generation of Christians has access to the amount of teaching we do, and it is awesome.

But it is also dangerous.  And I want all of you, especially the elders and pastors reading this, to know there is a real danger.  I have fallen into the trap, and so has Tree of Life as a whole from time to time.  You see when your leaders are teachers, you emphasise the Word of God.  And we have to, there is a reason that the first four words of our church’s cultural maxims are “Full of the Word”, through the Word of God we learn how to have a personal walk with God, we learn about the importance and power of the Word, and the integrity of God as He keeps every promise in the Word.

The Word is vital, and it is great the teachers we have, but some of us have listened to the words of the teachers, and got great teaching, not great life!  That leaves us with a form of doctrine, and not the power of God.  It’s not the teachers’ fault – they are doing what God has called them to do, but it is us – we are not plugging into serving, and local church, and discipleship – we just plug into teaching, as if great doctrine makes great Christians.  It’s part of it, but only part.

The foundation of the Word is vital, and I want to lay that foundation in every heart in the Tree.  I want every Christian that comes into my sphere of influence to be solid and founded on the Word of God.  I do not agree with, do not want, and will not flow with anything that is not in the Word of God.  I am nothing but grateful to God for the foundation that has kept me right on track, even to today.

But I am not a teacher of the Word, though I often operate in that realm.  I am first and foremost a pastor of a local church, though my secondary role is the apostolic founder of a network of churches.  Within that function as a pastor, I have to be supernatural and flow with the Spirit.  The foundation of the Word has to be a springboard into the supernatural flow of the Spirit.

You have to learn about the dimension of the supernatural.  You don’t have an option, in fact if you take all the supernatural out of the Bible you end up with a very small book indeed.

Right now there is a divide in the charismatic church – those who build the foundation of the Word and those who flow in the Spirit.  The problem is you need to do both – you need to dig down on the foundation of the Word and see that the Word is supernatural and let the supernatural power of the Word lead you to flow with the Spirit.

It amazes me still that there are people who are committed Christians who do not believe in miracles – it’s like I don’t know what Bible they are reading!  Do not let anyone take you away from the power of the Spirit.

The greatest thing that will keep you from flowing in the Spirit is not demons, it’s not witchcraft, it’s not the devil.  It’s being so planned, so natural, so used to doing things without the flow of God that it doesn’t matter:

But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness to him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned (1 Cor. 2.14)

This is the Word of God and it is true: the natural man cannot flow with the Spirit because the flow of the Spirit looks stupid to him.  To be natural means to think like a normal human being.  It means to limit yourself to what you can see and feel.  It means to be logical, normal, analytical.  That attitude is absolutely something that cuts us off from the flow of the Spirit.  You need to realize this.

Speaking in tongues is not logical, it’s not normal, it’s not analytical.  As long as you think like a normal human, you will never speak in tongues. You will never prophesy, you will never pull someone from a wheelchair.

It’s only a small small step from logical and analytical to judgemental!  In the natural mind you cannot flow with the Spirit!

You have to learn how to flow with the Spirit of God.  You have to learn to see with your spiritual eyes, hear with your spiritual ears, and feel with your heart.  The supernatural is not normally dramatic or spectacular.  It’s subtle, you hear it, you see it on the inside, and you step out in faith.

To do this, you have to be able to reject natural thinking, and the data from your natural eyes or ears.

Many years ago I was asked to preach in a church I knew well.  I got the train there, and started to walk to the church.  But I just had the inclination to walk the other way, so I followed the inclination.  It wasn’t a deep sense, just a slight feeling, but I have learned to listen to that.  So I started walking away from the church.  My natural mind was saying “no, go to the church, be on time, be reliable” – it was using logic to determine my path, but I was following the Spirit’s path.  I had to ignore my mind to follow the Spirit.

After walking so far, that I could not make it to the church on time, I saw a car showroom.  I felt led of the Spirit to go in – again, no flashing lights or burning fires – just a sense.  I could have easily ignored it.  I went in and I saw an old friend of mine, who I used to go to church with.  They asked me what I was doing and I told them about everything that had happened to that point.  They said they weren’t walking with God any more, but would be happy to drive me to church so I made my meeting.   They drove me, came to the meeting and rededicated their life to God.

I could have listened to my mind.  I would have got to church and taught a great message.  But there is another path, a higher path, for you to walk down.  It can easily be ignored.  Samuel thought the voice of God was Eli.  I could have thought it was just pizza.  But I am glad I flowed with the Spirit that day.

You have to learn how to flow with the Spirit.  Next week we will do some teaching on this in the realm of healing.  Get ready!