One day last week, a woman posted a comment on my blog on the internet. She wrote:
“Shawn, I was looking at your work “being poured out as a drink offering”. I am a Christian who have received the baptism of the Holy Spirit with the evidence following of speaking in tongues. I have been baptized in the Holy Spirit for 14 years now and I know its life changing. I have just one question to ask, “Have you received the baptism of the Holy Spirit with the speaking in tongues?” In (order) to be poured out as a drink offering as Apostle Paul has endured, we all must be baptized in the Holy Spirit. Only then can we truly please the Lord Jesus. I had many things going wrong with my health and would have died but because I was Spirit-filled and praying in tongues the Holy Spirit has cleanse my body from the evil that was trying to kill me. You have a health problem, well if you are Spirit-filled and pray in tongues for this health problem you will see your problem will not continue and you will be set free.”
Perhaps this woman means well, but that kind of teaching is wrong and it is hurtful to many people. But this is just an example of so much misunderstanding about “the baptism of the Holy Spirit”, so we are going to spend a few minutes more Matthew 3:11 this morning looking at this. John the Baptist said there of the coming Savior:
“As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
What does this mean? What was John saying that Jesus came to do?
I. The Significance of Baptism in the Holy Spirit
As we saw last week, John had been pointing the people he was preaching to, to Jesus. He said to them, “As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, BUT HE … will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
Last week we saw that there is a real contrast in this verse. John was saying, I am one thing, BUT HE is another. I have one ministry, BUT HE has another. I am baptizing you with water, BUT HE will baptize you with the Holy Spirit. He was saying that Jesus was going to do something far greater in their lives than he could do. John was saying, I am calling you to repent and get ready for something, but Jesus has the “something” — and that “something” is the presence of God through His Holy Spirit whom He would pour into the lives of those who follow Him.
The gospel tells us that God designed us to have fellowship with Him in His very presence. But when we sinned, we separated ourselves from God. Isaiah 59:2 says; “Your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God.” If God had not done something about it, we would all have remained separated from His presence forever. But God desires to dwell with us, that we might know and love and experience Him. So He promised in the Old Testament that one day, His Spirit would come into the hearts of His people. He told them in Jeremiah that His Spirit would come into their hearts and make them new. He promised in Joel that He would pour out His Spirit on all mankind, and that whoever would call on the name of the Lord would be saved, and His Spirit would come into their lives.
Then several hundred years after these prophecies, Jesus came to fulfill them. Jesus was God Himself who came to earth, to deal with our sins which had separated us from God, by dying on the cross and paying for our sins. Then He rose from the dead and He told His disciples to WAIT before they just went out and started sharing the message, because they needed the power of the Holy Spirit whom He would send into each of their lives. Then on the Day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit DID come, and those first disciples spoke in tongues as the fulfillment of prophecy, and they were empowered by the Holy Spirit to be bold witnesses and spread the gospel.
But the significance of all this is that now, with the coming of the Holy Spirit, GOD HIMSELF is in the lives of Jesus’ followers, through His Holy Spirit. The Bible tells us that God exists eternally as Three Persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. The Bible tells us when call on the Lord to save us, the Holy Spirit of God comes into our lives:
— Ephesians 1:13 says: “In Him you also, after listening to the message of the truth, the gospel of your salvation, having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise.” Paul says here that as soon as a person is saved, “the Holy Spirit of promise” — in other words, the Spirit that God promised in the Old Testament that He would send to His people — comes into the life of the believer, and “seals” them — puts His “mark of ownership” on them as belonging to Him.
THAT is the “baptism of the Holy Spirit” that John the Baptist promised that Jesus would give to those who follow Him. John said I’m gonna cover you with water; but Jesus is going to immerse you in the Holy Spirit! And that is just what the Bible says He does, for all of His followers.
I Corinthians 12:13 says: “For by one Spirit were were ALL baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.”
Paul teaches some very important things here:
— First of all, he says that when a Christian comes into the body of Christ, he is “baptized” into the body of Christ, by the Holy Spirit. Significantly, this is the exact same Biblical language that John the Baptist uses in Matthew 3:11! THIS is what John was saying that Jesus would do for us: baptize us in the Holy Spirit.
— And second, notice that Paul writes that by that Holy Spirit, “we” (speaking of Christians) were “ALL” baptized into Christ’s body. Not some; ALL. Everyone who is a Christian, has this.
— And he says we were all baptized “into” the body — that is, we got this when we first came into the body of Christ; not some time after.
So Paul makes it very clear here in I Corinthians 12:11, that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is something that happens to every believer when they are saved and come into the Body of Christ. It is not a subsequent experience that happens later and is always accompanied by speaking in tongues, as that lady was trying to tell me, and many others try to teach. And significantly, in this very same chapter, Paul goes on to say in :30 “All do not speak in tongues, do they?” And then in Chapter 14 he goes on to tell them that in the church he would rather speak 5 words that people can understand than 10,000 words in a tongue. That is a strong statement! He is saying, it is not that important! NOWHERE does Paul ever say: “you must be baptized with the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues”. In fact, there is NO command anywhere in the whole New Testament for a Christian person to be baptized with the Holy Spirit and speak in tongues. That is because a Christian person has already been baptized in the Holy Spirit, when they were saved, as I Corinthians 12:11 says, and the scripture clearly teaches that not everyone will speak in tongues.
Now I know we could take several weeks clarifying this point, but I hope I have made it clear enough. But please listen to me: the important thing we need to take away here is NOT the misunderstanding about what the baptism in the Holy Spirit is NOT; the really important thing for us to take away is what it IS: that when a person is saved, the Spirit of God Himself comes into their heart, and saves and changes them. We often call it “asking Jesus into your heart” (and that’s ok because it is the Spirit of Jesus Christ) but technically it is God the Holy Spirit who comes into your life. And really having God in your life is LIFE-CHANGING!
This is what Jesus came to do. Jesus didn’t come to earth just to start a new “religion” where people would try to do their best to come to God. Jesus was God Himself who came to save us, and through His Holy Spirit, personally inhabit our lives:
— Jesus told His disciples just before He went to be crucified, in John 14:16-17, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; the Spirit of truth … He abides with you, and will be in you.” Jesus was telling them, I am WITH you right now, but when I have ascended to the Father, I will send the Holy Spirit, and will be IN you, giving you the power and presence of God in your life.
— I Corinthians 6:19 says “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God?” If you are saved, GOD is in you, Paul says, and if He is, you will act like it!
— Colossians 1 says the significance of Christianity is “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
The teaching of the whole New Testament is that when a person is saved, God comes to live inside of them through His Holy Spirit. And that Spirit in a person’s life makes all the difference.
Many of you know the name of Joni Earickson Tada, who has maintained an amazing Christian testimony for the last 50 years after becoming a quadriplegic during a diving accident. But she has shared another testimony of what has happened in her life more recently. She said all that she had experienced previously was just “a walk-in-the-park compared to my battle against stage III breast cancer.” With all the doctors visits, the hospital stays, the five months of chemotherapy, she said: “I felt absolutely overwhelmed. After all, I’m a quadriplegic. Plus, I deal with chronic pain. I often thought, Lord, this feels like way too much for me to handle. Are you sure you know what you’re doing? Where you’re leading me? Yet sitting there, hooked up to an IV with a steady drip-drip of poison being infused into my veins, I knew the answer: “Who have I in heaven but you, Lord? There is nothing on earth that I desire above you; My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever” (Psalm 73:25-26). She said “Whenever I’ve prayed that way, the most extraordinary peace would wash over me.”
Folks, THAT is the difference that the presence of the Spirit of God makes in a life: GOD is in her heart, giving her peace and patience, and love and joy — in the midst of that kind of pain — THAT comes from God’s Spirit being inside of you. (As I told a woman this week who is suffering from a chronic illness, but who is maintaining a godly testimony in the midst of it: what is the greater miracle: being healed of an illness, or continuing to suffer greatly, but miraculously demonstrating, love, joy, peace and patience through it all?! ONLY the Spirit of God can do that in a life!)
That is the significance of the baptism of the Holy Spirit: that Jesus came to bring the very Spirit of God Himself to live in our hearts, Who will make a dramatic difference in our lives!
II. Our Need for the Power of the Holy Spirit
So we need to recognize our need for the power of God’s Holy Spirit in us.
A few years ago, working at his computer company’s help center in Houston, technician John Wolf said: “A frustrated customer called, who said her brand new (computer) would not work. She said she had unpacked the unit, plugged it in, opened it up and sat there for 20 minutes waiting for something to happen. Wolf said he asked her: “What happened when you pressed the power switch?” She was quiet for a second, and then she asked, “What power switch?” That’s a true story! (Wall Street Journal article, March 1, 1994)
Unfortunately, this same story could be repeated by the MILLIONS of people today, spiritually:
A. First of all, there are millions of people who come to church, but who have never really had the Holy Spirit of God come into their life. They are doing their best to try to be “religious”, and “do all the right things” but it is exhausting, and frustrating, and tedious, and there is no joy in it — because they have never really received the life-changing POWER of the Holy Spirit into their lives. If you are one of these people, what you need is to really get saved, and get the Holy Spirit into your life, and He will “turn on the power” and change your life!
Every one of us today should ask ourselves: Is the Holy Spirit of God in my life?
— II Corinthians 13:5 says “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you — unless indeed you fail the test?”
— Romans 8:9 says, “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.”
DO you belong to Him? IS the Holy Spirit in your life?
What are some evidences that the Spirit of God is in your life? The Bible gives us a number of them:
— Galatians 5:22-23 says the “fruit of the Spirit” is “love, joy, peace, patience …” those kinds of qualities that Joni exhibited in her battle against cancer — are those fruits present in your life?
— Bible scholars tell us that the #1 sign in the Book of Acts of the filling with the Holy Spirit is not speaking in tongues, but spirit-filled witnessing. Every time Acts says they were filled with the Spirit, they shared Christ! Do you share your faith, because the Spirit of God is in you?
— And then I Corinthians 12:7 says: “To each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” “To EACH ONE” — again, EVERY believer has this! “The manifestation” is a gift the Holy Spirit gives you to serve with. If the He is present in your life, He empowers you to serve in His church: you’ll teach, or encourage, or counsel, or give, or lead. If you are filled with the Spirit of God, you will USE the gift He has given you to serve in His church in some way.
— And Jesus said in John 16:8 that when He came, the Holy Spirit would convict of sin, and righteousness, and judgment. John said here that Jesus would baptize us “with the Holy Spirit and FIRE”: The Holy Spirit will bring “fire” into your life that will “burn up” the chaff, the sin, in you, so that you will live a holy life. Is the Spirit of God in you? Don’t tell me how you speak in tongues; don’t tell me how you get “goosebumps”; show me your holy life! That is one of the most certain evidences that God’s Holy Spirit is in you. After all, He is not called the HOLY Spirit for nothing! If He is in you, and controlling you, then you will be holy like He is holy. But if you are living a life of blatant, unrepentant sin, then you and those around you have every reason to doubt that God’s Holy Spirit is in you at all.
So what about you? God said in II Corinthians 13: “Test yourself … examine yourself.” Have you been baptized in the Holy Spirit? Is God’s Spirit really in you? Ask yourself: Do you have those inner qualities of love and joy and peace? Are you serving in His church? Do you tell others about Jesus? Do you live a holy life? If not, then you need to be saved. You need to admit your sin to God, and ask Him to forgive you because of what Jesus did on the cross, and ask Him to send His Holy Spirit into your life and save you and change you and help you to follow Him from now on.
B. But Secondly, there are also millions of genuine Christians who really DO have the Holy Spirit in their life, but they are not turning on their “power switch” every day. Ephesians 5:18 says, “And do not get drunk with wine … but be filled with the Spirit”. That Bible verb means “keep on being filled”. Even as Christians, we need to be re-filled with the Holy Spirit, by purifying our lives from sin and by seeking Him in His word and prayer.
Many Christians have no power in the Holy Spirit because they are “grieving the Holy Spirit” as Paul said in Ephesians 4, by sin in their life, and it is blocking His power. Paul said in II Timothy “If a man therefore cleanse himself from these, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master.” But you cannot be a vessel that is filled with God’s Holy Spirit when you are purposefully living in sin.
And so many Christians are not spending time in prayer and in God’s word every day so that they can be filled with the Holy Spirit and His power. Listen, Christian; that morning time with God is not just a nice “religious ritual”; that’s when you “turn the power switch on”! As you spend that time with Him, God’s Holy Spirit takes His word and changes you and empowers you. It’s no coincidence that the disciples in the Book of Acts were filled with the Spirit when they had been spending large amounts of time with the Lord in prayer. And it should be no surprise to us that we are so dry spiritually, and show no evidence of the Spirit and power of God when we have gone for days without spending any meaningful time with Him!
Many of us as Christians need to call out to God this morning and say, Lord, forgive me for not meeting with You every day, to get the power I need to live the Christian life and to glorify You!
Church, what we ALL need today is the power of God’s Holy Spirit.
We do NOT need just another man-made program
We do NOT need just another denominational emphasis
We do NOT need the best worldly wisdom
We do NOT need “the best that we can do” in our own self-efforts
What we DO need is the power of the Holy Spirit in our individual lives and our churches!
We have got to stop thinking we can do it without Him! Jesus said in John 15:5, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in Him, HE bears much fruit, but without Me, you can do NOTHING”! Jesus said without the power of His Holy Spirit, we can’t do ANYTHING — and unfortunately, many of us are unwittingly proving this verse with our lives. We aren’t doing ANYTHING of eternal and lasting value because we are not filled with His Holy Spirit.
If you do not have the Holy Spirit of God in your life today — and you can tell by the evidence of your life if He is or not — then ask Jesus today to save you, and baptize you in His Holy Spirit and come in and change your life.
And if you are a Christian, and you do have His Spirit in your life, but you’ve been neglecting Him, and grieving Him with your sin, then you call out to Him, to cleanse you, and burn up the sin in your life, and fill you again with His Spirit and power today.
We need to understand that this is what Jesus came for: He didn’t come just to set up just another religion where everybody just does the best they can in their own strength. Jesus came to bring the very power and presence of ALMIGHTY GOD into our lives. As His prophet John said: “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”