“And it shall come to pass in the last days, God declares, that I will pour out of My Spirit upon all mankind, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy [telling forth the divine counsels] and your young men shall see visions (divinely granted appearances), and your old men shall dream [divinely suggested] dreams. Yes, and on My menservants also and on My maidservants in those days I will pour out of My Spirit, and they shall prophesy [telling forth the divine counsels and predicting future events pertaining especially to God’s kingdom].” Acts 2:17-18
As I’ve already written and explained a little bit of my story of WHY I am a Christian, I also felt led to write a little something to say that my journey into more of God did not stop there. Here’s my personal story of when I was baptized in the Holy Spirit. May it be encouraging and inspiring for your own journey into more of God.
Since I became a Christian, and once I really started getting to know God, I always experienced Him (and still always do) by reading His Word. I never felt disappointed in my experience of God, and I was always very happy in my relationship with Him. However, there was always this one nagging question on my mind:
What is the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, and is it for me?
I read in Acts the stories of the disciples waiting in Jerusalem until they received it – that for some reason, Jesus thought this was so important that they stayed and waited before they went out into all the world to preach the Gospel, which was His original mandate to them. The disciples waited and He followed through on His promise, coming like the sound of a mighty rushing wind and with fire, equipping the disciples to serve and minister more than they ever had before, with a boldness as well as an effective power that actually made a lasting difference. They began to have a dynamic relationship with God that came with His authority, allowing them to hear His voice clearer and walk more in step with Him (just like Jesus did). Miracles happened everywhere they went, and their preaching was not just a matter of talk, but of power! God was bringing His disciples closer to Him than they ever thought was possible, even though they had walked closely with Jesus IN PERSON for three years. His Spirit was illuminating things of His Word and things in His world (people that needed to be healed and assignments that needed to be fulfilled) to them in order to bring more of His Kingdom to the earth.
Now, reading about this in your Bible is one thing, but I also had friends that had experienced God in this way and who actively walked in the gifts of the Spirit (prophecy, tongues, praying for healing)! These things weren’t only words on a page in history, but real, genuine, personal stories and interactions with the God of the Universe that empowered people to draw closer to and be used by Him in a deeper way. These things were still happening today! As I was surrounded by these friends, I first thought that they were just more spiritual than I was, but as I got to know them more, I realized that they were completely normal. They just believed God. This led me to pray: “If this is from You, God, then I believe it. If I believe it, then I want it. I’m not going to hold back – I will take as much as You are willing to give me.” I wanted to know and be empowered myself, so I began to search through the Scriptures to find out what God says about this baptism. This is what I learned:
“I (John the Baptist) indeed baptize you in (with) water because of repentance [that is, because of your changing your minds for the better, heartily amending your ways, with abhorrence of your past sins]. But He Who is coming after me is mightier than I, Whose sandals I am not worthy or fit to take off or carry; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” Matthew 3:11
John the Baptist says here that after the baptism of repentance in water, Jesus is the One who is going to baptize us with the Holy Spirit and with fire (just like the disciples in the Upper Room). Then, Jesus Himself tells us this:
“If you, then, being evil [that is, sinful by nature], know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask and continue to ask Him!” Luke 11:13
He wants us to have an intimate relationship with the Holy Spirit, along with the gifts of the Spirit, even more than we do! He says He specifically wants us to ask for it, and He will give it! I realized that if this was true, He was going to give this to me eventually if I asked Him. I KNOW my God is not a God who holds out on me, or dangles things that are not for me or that He is not wanting to give me in front of my face to tempt me. I just knew that, for some reason, I was having to wait for it. Jesus says to ask and continue to ask, so, I waited, and I prayed, and I asked…for nine months. Obviously, not every day, but every time I would think of it, I reminded God what I was waiting for, and I reminded myself that He would give it. What happened next is one of the most beautiful stories God has given me in my walk with Him thus far…
Towards the end of the nine months, I went to a prayer/worship night where one of my best friends came up to me and asked me if there was something I wanted prayer for. I wasn’t thinking about this topic at the time, so I said no, but she felt like God gave her a picture (just an image in her mind’s eye) of my heart that she wanted to share with me. She said that inside of my heart, there was a box, and inside of the box was something like a marble. She asked me what the marble could be, and asked (in a completely loving, non-intrusive way) if there was something that I was possibly keeping in my heart from the Lord. I couldn’t think of anything at the time, but right when she said the word “marble”, I heard in my spirit, “Pearl, Mother of Pearl.”
Super weird, but track with me…
I then get home and tell my Dad on the phone about the picture from my friend, and he said, “Amanda, I think the box is a Treasure Box” – even before I had told him about the Pearl! So, like any child who is seeking and wanting to learn something, I began to ask my Heavenly Father. I asked Him what the Treasure Box meant, as well as what the Pearl was in my heart. I also did some Googling. 😉 This is what I found:
Treasure Box – a box in which to keep all things regarded as valuable and precious
Pearl – jewelry that originates from a living creature, also called nacre; shimmering and sought after, tough and resilient, relatively soft and easily scratched
The amazing thing I learned about Pearls and Mother of Pearl is that they are created over time from mollusks that internally build layers in order to protect themselves! This constant effort from the mollusk insulates them from infection, parasites, and damage, sometimes creating Mother of Pearl, which is a calloused irregularity inside of the shell, and other times creating an unattached, spherical structure that is much prized by humans as a Pearl. I still didn’t fully understand it, but this prompted me to ask the Lord again, “What is the Pearl inside of my heart?”
About a week later, I went to church with my family for their Sunday night service. Referencing a beautiful story in Matthew 26, the Pastor said: “The woman BROKE her alabaster jar at Jesus’ feet.” Immediately, I heard the Holy Spirit ask me: “Why did she break the jar?” I genuinely wondered why. He then said, “So she would never be able to pick it back up and take it for herself.” It was now forever broken at His feet, and surrendered to Him. That was all He needed to say to me. On the way back home, I told the Lord that I was breaking my Treasure Box before Him, and whatever the Pearl was inside, I was giving it unreservedly to Him. It was then that He spoke to me again…
“The Pearl is the best of you.”
…WHAT. How can one sentence that seems so simple and small, be so profound that it actually changes your life? I realized in that moment that I used to be afraid of the Holy Spirit. I was afraid of what He would do to me, or make me do, and I didn’t really trust His heart or character. Therefore, I had shut myself out to Him doing something deeper in my life without even realizing it! I had kept the most vulnerable parts of who I was separate from Him, and instead, let merely the knowledge of Him replace my experience of Him. Knowledge is wonderful and absolutely necessary, but if you could also have experience to back it up, would you not take it? Both knowledge and experience of God are essential – especially in times of doubt or confusion. Wanting to experience God is never bad, or wrong to ask for. Why would He be disappointed in you for genuinely wanting to seek and know Him more? The Bible says, “Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7). Don’t ever let a lie keep you from your destiny.
God did not call what was inside of me due to my actions of protecting myself from going deeper with Him a calloused irregularity (like the Mother of Pearl), but He called what I had to offer, and in fact who I was, a precious and valuable Pearl that He desired. So, I told the Lord that He could have the best of me. I was giving Him full permission and access to the most vulnerable, and as He said, “the best” part of who I am, and I was not going to be afraid. I was surrendering my heart and my life fully to His will.
I wish I could say that immediately at that moment, God showed up and gave me what I was praying for, but no…I simply began to ask the Lord for greater depth in our relationship with greater fervency than I ever had before. For seven days I locked myself away in my room any chance I could get and prayed and sought His face alone. I was asking for God’s gifts to be awakened and activated in my life, knowing that He was going to answer me, and seven days later, through the prayer and laying on of hands of a friend, He met me in one of the most powerful moments with Him that, to this day, I have had. It was always about encountering His love. Because I sought Him first, He encountered me in a completely new way.
I believe that the moment we receive Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we have access to His Holy Spirit. He comes to dwell inside of us (to literally take up residence inside of our hearts) and we begin to be led by His desires and into a life of purity and holiness the more that we submit to His will.
After Jesus was resurrected from the dead, He appeared to the disciples and said, “Peace to you! [Just] as the Father has sent Me forth, so I am sending you. And having said this, He breathed on them and said to them, Receive the Holy Spirit!” (John 20:21-22). The disciples ALREADY had the Holy Spirit living inside of them, because Jesus had given Him to them once they believed! However, what is amazing to me is that He still told them, rather “commanded them not to leave Jerusalem but to wait for what the Father had promised” (Acts 1:4)! He said, “For John baptized with water, but not many days from now you shall be baptized with (placed in, introduced into) the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:5).
This shows me that there is an immediate deposit of the Spirit inside of us once we believe in Jesus (in His death and resurrection), but that there is also a deeper fellowship with His Spirit that takes place by praying and seeking. It is for those who want it. Sometimes it just takes asking and continuing to ask. The disciples at the time didn’t even know what to ask for, but once they encountered God in this way, they realized that this was a direct fulfillment of Joel 2:28-29 (brought up again by Peter in Acts 2:17-18). And this wasn’t even the last time! We see that there is a continual refilling of the Holy Spirit throughout the disciples lives in the book of Acts that proves that the more they wanted, the more God poured out. The more they asked for, the more He gave. And this is still happening today.
Once I prayed to receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, God not only opened my eyes to show me how much He loves and cares for me in order to answer my prayers in this way, but He also opened my eyes to the Scriptures in a way that I could never understand before. His Word came alive in my life as I began to see myself in it, and realize that the promises of more of His Spirit were always for me. I began to understand more of the gifts of the Spirit, as Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 12, and see how God was, and is still, giving them to me to be used when and how He desires. In fact, I believe they were already mine, much like the disciples in the Upper Room who had already received the Holy Spirit. God just wanted me to wait and pray for them to be activated in a deeper way in my life for His glory and my story. He was waiting for me to be hungry enough so that He could fulfill my hunger and expectancy for more of Him.
I’m still learning, and I’m still growing, but I am continually opening myself up to more of Him, more of the facets of His Spirit and His Word, and I have seen Him fill me in a way that I did not think was possible for me (see my testimony post on Why I’m a Christian). I believe that “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness” (1 Peter 1:3), but there are still such deeper places to go in our constant pursuit of the more of who He is, and there is even greater fellowship with Him that is possible for us.
I will leave you with this: If this is something that you want or are wondering about, why not ask God to take you on a journey into more of Him much like I did (and still do every day)? His heart is kind, and He loves you more than you know. He will never hurt you, or make you ashamed or embarrassed. You can never lose when you are seeking to know Him more. 🙂
Some Helpful Resources:
- Experiencing the Spirit by Robert Heidler is a book I read the week before I was baptized in the Holy Spirit. Written by a Baptist Pastor who previously didn’t believe in the gifts, but who was radically touched by God, I picked it up and couldn’t put it down for three whole days. When I finished reading it, I had all of my biggest questions answered about the gifts and what the Baptism of the Holy Spirit was.
- Hosting the Presence by Bill Johnson is a beautiful book that is all about living in closer communion with God. It talks about how the “gifts are free, but maturity is expensive.” God’s gifts are for everyone who believes Him enough to ask for them, but there is still always more to grow and mature in once you receive them. We are continually on a journey into more of Him!