According to a 2010 article in Charisma Magazine, there is a step-by-step process we can take to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. This will be our last look at the book of Acts for now. Of course, there is so much packed into this narrative that we could not possibly cover it all adequately. We remember that Acts is the story of the Holy Spirit’s work in the early church. If we are going to rely on the Holy Spirit in our lives, it seems we need to know how we can be filled with the Holy Spirit. So, that becomes my question for tonight: How can we know if the Holy Spirit is moving in our church or in us as people?
Charisma Magazine gives these simple steps:
- Prepare your heart. Confess sin and make your heart ready for the filling of the Holy Spirit.
- After preparing your heart, ask Jesus to fill you with the Spirit.
- Focus on God as you receive the filling of the Spirit.
- The moment you are filled, you will receive the ability to speak in your heavenly prayer language; or speak in tongues.
- Take advantage of the new boldness you have in the Spirit!
I want to begin by saying that being filled with the Holy Spirit may not be what we think because we witness in Scripture that things begin with the work of the Holy Spirit and that the Holy Spirit was at work even before Christ’s incarnation. Without the work of the Holy Spirit, we cannot genuinely confess. We are incapable of making our own hearts ready for the filling of the Holy Spirit; then the rest follows. Because of this, there seems to be something fundamentally wrong with the approach that Charisma Magazine takes.
Yet, I notice in our lives that we take much the same type of approach to pleasing God altogether. We try and clean up our own lives before we come to God, not realizing that God is the only one who is capable of saving us and sanctifying us. No degree of preparation can ready us for the Holy Spirit in our lives because the Holy Spirit is a gift, much like salvation and in conjunction with salvation.
So for a few minutes together, let’s take everything we think we know about the movement of the Holy Spirit and put it to the side so that we can explore Scripture together. How can we truly know if the Holy Spirit is moving?
Acts 19:11-20 (HCSB)
God was performing extraordinary miracles by Paul’s hands, so that even facecloths or work aprons that had touched his skin were brought to the sick, and the diseases left them, and the evil spirits came out of them.
Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists attempted to pronounce the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I command you by the Jesus that Paul preaches!” Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. The evil spirit answered them, “I know Jesus, and I recognize Paul — but who are you?” Then the man who had the evil spirit leaped on them, overpowered them all, and prevailed against them, so that they ran out of that house naked and wounded. This became known to everyone who lived in Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks. Then fear fell on all of them, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified. And many who had become believers came confessing and disclosing their practices, while many of those who had practiced magic collected their books and burned them in front of everyone. So they calculated their value and found it to be 50,000 pieces of silver. In this way the Lord’s message flourished and prevailed.
Work of the Spirit
As we have looked through the book of Acts this month, we’ve seen a few amazing things that the Holy Spirit has done and I wish we had more time to look at it. Let me encourage you to be reading through this amazing narrative on your own. After Pentecost, we witness the presence of the Holy Spirit accompanying salvation. People will be baptized and receive the Holy Sprit in conjunction and it is impossible for us to separate salvation from the filling of the Holy Spirit. We might be able to say that everyone who is saved has the Holy Spirit, but that is something basic. The question we are asking here is: Is the Holy Spirit moving?
We have also seen that, in the midst of a great persecution in Jerusalem, the Holy Spirit moved the saints to share the Gospel as they fled. He used a negative circumstance to perpetuate the message of the Gospel and that is a beautiful thing. From this we might infer that any work being accomplished for God’s kingdom is being accomplished by the power of the Holy Spirit. This would include miracles and, on occasion, the gift of tongues throughout the book of Acts. As we examine this passage together, we are going to learn exactly how we can tell if the Holy Spirit is moving in our midst.
Failure of people
In this passage, we see the Holy Spirit working through Paul in such a way that Paul is healing people and performing extraordinary miracles. The Holy Spirit was doing great things. After seeing Paul casting out demons in Jesus’ name, some Jews decided they would also try and they failed miserably. The evil spirit they tried to cast out leaded on them and caused them to run away naked and wounded.
Here is the first thing I think we should realize about the work of the Holy Spirit. He does not work at our command, follow our instructions, or simply give us the abilities that we want.
By reading this passage, I realize that it is the Holy Spirit who equips us for a position that He has for us. He will give gifts according to the specific call upon each of our lives. Not everyone will speak in tongues. Not everyone will be able to teach well. Not everyone will be a good counselor. Not everyone will be a people person. Not everyone will be a foreign missionary. Not everyone will be a preacher. The Holy Spirit led Paul to fill a role that these other Jews could not fill.
Here is the danger when we follow the advice of Charisma magazine in this instance: we place our own desires and our own purpose before the desire and purpose that God has for us. So, my first challenge is this: we must not try to command the Holy Spirit in our lives. Instead we must follow the direction of the Holy Spirit. We cannot pray hard enough or have enough faith to make the Holy Spirit do something for us. We are to follow the direction of the Holy Spirit.
Success of the Spirit
As we continue in the story, we see that despite the failure of the people, Christ was magnified and people who had received salvation began confessing their sins, humbling themselves and burning all of their sinful stuff. Here is where I want to really focus.
I am so glad that the Holy Spirit does not depend on me and, instead promises to direct my paths. When we follow the direction of the Holy Spirit, we see the Spirit moving. Evidence that the Holy Spirit is moving is not found in a human show of power like the Jewish exorcists in this passage might have thought. Evidence of the Holy Spirit moving was found in the newfound humility of the group.
If we want to see a place where the Holy Spirit is moving, we only need to submit ourselves to the direction and the conviction of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We accept the gift of salvation and resolve to deny ourselves in order to follow the Spirit; who is God in us and through us. Evidence of the Holy Spirit moving will be that people are humbling themselves before God asking forgiveness and getting rid of their sinful things voluntarily. This is the way, according to Scripture, the Lord’s message flourished and prevailed: not by great shows, productions, programs, ministries, style of worship or preaching. The Gospel flourishes and prevails when we become repentant and humble: submitting ourselves to the direction of the Holy Spirit.
So, imagine that you get a new basketball goal to put in front of your house and it needs to be assembled. It looks simple enough but for some reason you just can’t get it right until you look at the instructions. Such is the Holy Spirit’s leading in our lives. Life seems simple enough and we think we know what is best, but things just don’t seem to fit right for some reason. We must humble ourselves and rely on the direction of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit speaks in Scripture and convicts us as we live. Without prayer we will likely not hear the Holy Spirit in our lives. We become guilty of holding on to our sinfulness and the things we want and here I am simply going to ask that you pray and ask God what is present in your life that is keeping you from honoring Him more.
Perhaps it’s a boyfriend or girlfriend that is not good for you. Maybe you do care way too much about finding a significant other. Do you care more about your grades than about living a life that honors Christ? Are you waiting until you are good enough to ask Christ to save you? Do you dedicate way too much time to work and, in doing so, neglect family and neglect Christ? Do you even have a personal time set aside for prayer and for Bible reading? Now is the time for us to humble ourselves and confess those things. Getting rid of everything that will keep us from honoring God more. This is how we recognize the work of the Holy Spirit and how the Gospel flourishes and prevails. This is what the Holy Spirit is doing here and now.
 Grady, J. Lee. “How to Be Baptized in the Holy Spirit.” Charisma Magazine. 23 Mar. 2010.