Someone emailed me recently, asking what I meant on the “About Me” page when I mentioned I was baptized in the Holy Spirit. I really can’t believe I haven’t blogged about this already, since there is so much to say on the topic. I’m going to post a few entries about this, trying to keep each one concise enough to be comprehensible; I’ll begin with my personal experience and move on shortly to the more important theological and biblical contexts.
I was first introduced to the idea of the baptism in the Holy Spirit in college. I had joined a campus ministry that happened to be under the Assemblies of God denomination, which is somewhat charismatic. Although I was incapable at that point of comprehending much of anything theological (because of my deep involvement in the occult and inhabiting demonic spirits), I do remember some of my Christian friends engaging in a long argument about the baptism in the Holy Spirit and, as they put it, the “initial evidence of speaking in tongues”. Not everyone in the campus fellowship came from an AG background (most, probably, did not); and it quickly became a big discussion, with both sides using scripture to defend their positions. I did not know what was going on, but I knew I wanted more of God, so I started praying that I, too, would speak in tongues. It didn’t happen, and eventually other prayers–for survival and basic needs–took priority.
Some years later, I had reached my “bottom”. It was our first year of marriage, and I was so troubled that my problems were affecting both of us. I was seeing a psychologist and psychiatrist and taking tons of medication for my various psychological diagnoses, with little positive effect. Through God’s divine providence, I was given the opportunity to meet with a deliverance minister. (Deliverance ministers are like specialized counselors: they do everything from “normal” God-centered counseling and reconciliation, to helping people connect with and hear God personally, helping people understand and renounce the lies that they have believed, to the more extreme cases of casting out demons.) My first meeting with the deliverance minister, he asked if I had been baptized in water and received Jesus as my savior. I affirmed that I had. Then he asked if I had been baptized in the Holy Spirit. I didn’t understand his question.
The minister explained to me on real simple terms the basics about the Holy Spirit, the importance of building a relationship with Him, and the “baptism in the Holy Spirit” that John the Baptist indicates as a separate experience from water baptism (Mark 1:7-8, Luke 3:16, John 1:31-34), and which is extended on in other places in the New Testament (especially: Acts 8:12-17, Acts 10:44-48, Acts 19:1-7) . Something like that… Honestly, I don’t remember much of what he said.
I decided to welcome the Holy Spirit into my life. But, as soon as I began to ask Him, I was overcome with fear, and wasn’t sure I wanted my life to change. I was still inhabited by multiple demons at this point, so it was a really intense moment and decision. My vision became completely red for a moment, and I was paralyzed with a fear that prevented me from calling on God. The pastor could see that something was going on and asked me what I was feeling. He told me I needed to be absolutely sure that I wanted more of God, because I would have to give up everything.
After a moment of thought, I was sure of my decision. I asked the Holy Spirit very simply and sincerely to come into my life, and He answered my prayer. I immediately fell over. It felt like slow motion–not that anyone was pushing me over (no one was touching me)–but that I could not stand up in the presence of such a mighty God. I felt His presence fall on my head, and travel through my body. I saw a translucent gold water rush through my insides; it stayed in my vision for some time. (Later, as I read the gospel of John, I read that the Holy Spirit is living water, and recalled my experience–I can’t think of a better way to describe this except that living water had rushed into me.) I also felt pure joy, and began to laugh uncontrollably as the joy continued to surround me. It was the first time I had felt freedom.
I did not begin to speak in tongues that day. (I do now, and will share that experience upon request.) It also took three months for the inhabiting demons to be cast out–not that it couldn’t have happened instantly, but that by dealing with it slowly, I was able to close the spiritual doors that should never have been opened, and to gain more understanding of the spiritual realm.
Here is what did happen right away:
- I received the fruit of the Spirit: most notably, peace and joy
- For the first time, I became absolutely confident of my salvation
- I became free from the bondage of sin (if and when I sin now, it is completely my own decision and rebellion)
- I was given a desire to read the Bible, especially the gospels and New Testament, which had never interested me in the past
- I became able to understand the scriptures (not completely, of course, but in a way that had not been possible before)
- I became able to hear from God and recognize His voice (not that He hadn’t already been speaking to me, but that my relationship with Him quickly developed into a two-way friendship)
- The Holy Spirit became my helper, my teacher, my comforter, and my friend–I could not have made it through the rest of my deliverance (or life thus far) without Him
There are so many ways that the baptism in the Holy Spirit comes about–sometimes in monumental experiences, and sometimes much more subtly. The initial evidences of this experience are also varied. I have been involved with a variety of churches, and have noticed that some Christians do not believe in a separate baptism of the Holy Spirit, and yet have experienced it unintentionally by sincerely pursuing God. Stay tuned: next time I’ll address the biblical context of the baptism in the Holy Spirit.