Matt. 3:11 – 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.
I was recently driving down Lakefront Boulevard with my pastor friend Sam Carr. We were passing by the very spot where Parris and I came to Christ and were water baptized the following week. We were baptized in Lake Ponchartrain on a Friday night in August of 1973. Before I was baptized in water the ministers were sharing with me about another baptism, the baptism in the Holy Spirit. You see I was baptized in water that night but not many days later I was baptized in the Holy Spirit. Have you been baptized in the Holy Spirit since you believed? I think many Christians don’t understand the magnitude, importance, and value of the Baptism with the Spirit. Actually water baptism is only a type or shadow of the real. Being baptized into God, the Holy Spirit, is a complete game changer. Here is how Watchman Nee described it.
“God only gives good gifts to His children. Unfortunately we are apt to esteem them lightly because of their sheer abundance. The Old Testament saints, who were less favored than we are, could appreciate more readily the preciousness of this gift of the outpoured Spirit. In their day it was a gift given only to the select few, chiefly to priests, judges, kings and prophets, whereas now it is the portion of every child of God. Think! We mere nonentities who trust in Christ can have resting upon us the same Spirit who rested upon Moses the friend of God, upon David the beloved king and upon Elijah the mighty prophet. “Among them that are born of women,” said Jesus, “there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: yet he that is but little in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”
It wasn’t great men who have been historically used by the Lord. Think about who the Lord has used; Moses was a murderer, Amos was a farmer, Jonah was a deserter, Jeremiah was a child, Joseph was a slave, Peter was a fisherman, and Paul was a persecutor. These were common, flawed men that were empowered by the Holy Spirit to effect their world. How can we have a casual attitude about the Baptism in the Spirit? Pursuing Him and allowing Him to move in our gatherings is a game changer.
For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives. (Romans 6:4 NLT)
When I was a child, I loved to read about the adventures of Tom Sawyer. One of the stories that stood out to me was the time a funeral was held for Tom, he had been missing and assumed dead. The funny thing about the story was that Tom was not really dead, and he attended his own funeral. That day ended with a combination of being loved and being punished, no one knew quite how to respond when they found out Tom was not dead after all. I was recently thinking about my own funeral, the one that I attended myself, back in the summer of 1973. I had recently given my life to Christ. It had taken place after being witnessed to by some “Jesus freaks” out on the lakefront of Lake Ponchartrain in New Orleans. Shortly after that “Jesus freak” encounter, I found myself back at the lakefront, this time I was coming to be buried.
You see, baptism is a burial service, not much different from other funerals you may have attended. People gather together and sing some songs to the Lord, the preacher reads some scripture, prayers and comments about the deceased are made, and then you proceed to the graveside. The only real difference is that the dead person at a baptism is still breathing. I’ll never forget the evening I was baptized. My new Christian friends gathered to pay their last respects and the gathering crowd of mocking party animals assembled hoping to have a good time at my expense. I wasn’t aware of very much, I was caught up in the moment. You see, I was leaving behind my old life, I really had died. My life of foolish, sensual pleasure was over, a new life was about to start. You see, there was another guest, an invisible guest, at my funeral that night. Jesus was there, watching the proceedings. He was rejoicing with the angels at my new life, He was speaking to me about things to come. As I was dunked into the dark waters of Lake Ponchartrain that night, I knew my life would never be the same. I had some sense of the past events of my life passing through my mind, like a video on super fast forward. Everything I used to be was gone, all things had become new. The Christians on the bank rejoiced, the party animals shouted profanities, and Jesus and the angels shouted for joy. As I climbed the steps at the edge of the Lake, I was beginning my new life. I had left one party and joined another, but this new one will never end.
I kind of know how Tom felt that day. People act different when you are walking around after your funeral. Your earthly friends want to keep their distance, but your spiritual friends begin to embrace you. They know what you are going through, after all, they attended their funerals too.
If I go, I will send him [the Counselor] to you. He will bring glory to me by
taking from what is mine and making it known to you.
When I first began to pastor I remember struggling to lead people into the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. I was confident in preaching about salvation and leading people to Christ but Holy Spirit baptism was a little intimidating for me. After several years of struggling with this I saw something in the scripture that really helped me. It was actually in Peter’s explanation of the manifestation of tongues that gave me the insight that I needed. He said in Acts 2:33, “Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing”. Peter was saying that the outpouring of the Spirit which resulted in the 120 receiving the Spirit was connected to the exaltation of Jesus. His crucifixion was connected to salvation, His glorification was tied to the outpouring. That was a huge breakthrough for me. Here is how Andrew Murray describes this phenomenon.
“After His ascension to heaven, the crucified Christ was glorified on His throne at the right hand of God. And from that glory He sent the Holy Spirit to His disciples, fulfilling His promise to them. It is the Spirit that searches for the deep secrets of God, who is an indissoluble part of God, who was with Christ during His life on earth and at His death on the cross. The same Spirit would now support the disciples and make them aware of the presence of the glorified Christ. The Spirit of God would be their power in a life of obedience, and their instructor in all for which they had prayed. It would be by the power of the Holy Spirit that the disciples would defeat God’s enemies and proclaim the gospel to the world.”
From that time on it became easy for me to lead people into the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. Look to Jesus, He is seated in glory at the Father’s right hand. There is a River flowing out from Him for everyone who is thirsty. You too can be filled with the Holy Spirit, His presence is being poured out on all mankind today.
Psa. 2:4 ¶ He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord holds them in derision.
I am convinced that heaven is an exceedingly happy place. As a matter of fact there is no sorrow at all, only joy found in that place we call heaven. Paul told us that the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is a foretaste of heaven, experiencing the power of His presence is the most joyful experience anyone can taste in this life. In other words, the more full of the Spirit you become, the happier you will be. In His presence is absolute fullness of joy. I am convinced that the last thing the devil heard when he was banished from heaven was God’s holy laughter. If God sits in the heavens and laughs at His enemies it only makes sense that He is laughing at the devil. No wonder the enemy hates joy and does his best to spread depression and misery. Here are some thoughts from Jonathan Edwards on the joyful worship in heaven.
“This doctrine may give us an idea of the glorious and happy state of the saints in heaven. It shows how joyfully and gloriously they spend their time. Joy is a great ingredient in praise. There is an exultation of spirit in fervent praise. Praise is the most joyful work in the world. And how joyful a society are they that join together, so many thousands and millions of them, with one heart and one soul, to sing a new song before the throne, that fill heaven with their glorious melody! How joyful they are in their work, appears in the text, by their fervency in it, so that their voices resounded as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder. What ineffable joy was there is those harpers whom John heard harping with their harps!”
Often, the sounds of laughter fill our church when the Lord is pouring out His Spirit. When this first began to happen several years ago I remember the distinct impression I had as I listened to the sound of joy. I felt as if I was hearing the very sounds of heaven breaking out among us. If heaven is as happy as I suspect, I can’t wait to get there. I can’t wait to get to that place of no more sorrow, no more pain; but only the beautiful sounds of joy.
JESUS AND THE POWER OF THE SPIRIT
Matt. 3:16 ¶ When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him.
Jesus loved these get-aways with family and friends. He had fond memories of the trip to Jerusalem with his village when He was twelve. He got to see Jerusalem and was also able to visit His Father’s house. That was one of the fondest memories that Jesus had. This trip was going to be different. Rather than going to the temple and visiting the city, they were headed out into the wilderness. The prophet John had been causing quite a stir. Everyone in Nazareth had been talking about him, everyone had their opinions. Some thought this would finally be the end of the Roman domination, others thought John was a religious huckster looking for his moment of celebrity, still others thought John had simply lost his mind. You know what happens when you take the scriptures literally and go too far, especially with all the fasting John was said to be doing. Still others hoped this was the time of awakening the scriptures spoke of, maybe John was the voice in the wilderness that Isaiah had prophesied.
When Jesus arrived at the Jordan, He knew His life was about to change. The Spirit of God was all over John, it was in his face and in his words. This was the moment Jesus had waited for all His life. Before you knew it, Jesus was in the Jordan River with John. “Baptize me John, we must fulfill all righteousness”. Reluctantly, John immersed Jesus into the dark waters of the Jordan River. What happened next began a revolution that changed the world. The heavens opened, The Father spoke, and the Holy Spirit came upon Jesus. His ministry was about to begin. The Fire Bible speaks about this incredible event, Jesus being baptized in the Holy Spirit.
“Everything Jesus did—his preaching, his healings, his suffering, his victory over sin and Satan’s power—he did by the power of the Holy Spirit. Even though he was fully God, he willingly laid aside and limited his rights and privileges as God. In becoming fully human, he had to operate the same way we must—as people dependent on God’s Holy Spirit. If Jesus could do nothing apart from the power of the Holy Spirit, how much more do we need the Spirit’s power. The Spirit equipped and worked powerfully through Jesus to accomplish God’s plan of restoring his relationship with all people. Jesus himself would later baptize his followers with the Holy Spirit so that they too might have the Spirit’s power to accomplish his purposes for them.”
Jesus began His public ministry of preaching, teaching, healing the sick, and driving out demons from this day forward. He was totally dependent on the Holy Spirit for His work. How much more do we need His power today to effect our hurting world.
Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Years ago I preached at a conference in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Actually there were night time crusades with Egon Falk and a daytime leader’s conference where I was teaching throughout the week. It was an incredible time of ministry to the pastors and leaders during the day and a powerful evangelistic and healing crusade at night. There were large crowds in the evening with about 2000 people in the daytime meetings. As the week went on, Egon decided to have a water baptism. Many people were being born again and he wanted an opportunity for a public decision and testimony to take place. Of course we were in Africa, nothing is ever easy in Africa. After a lot of thought and searching, we finally came up with a plan. We took this giant cooking pot (we had been preparing meals for the pastors and leaders all week), filled it up with water, and set it up on the stage. It was quite a scene, watching several hundred people line up to be baptized in a cooking pot, only in Africa!
What an incredible scene began to unfold, there were the young and the old, male and female, farmers, businessmen, laborers, even a witch doctor. They all had one thing in common, Jesus had come into their lives, they were turning away from sin, they could never be the same again. Some were turning away from drug use, others were being freed from alcohol, some from a life of crime, and others from a promiscuous life style. They were all being baptized as they were giving their lives to Jesus. As they testified to their faith in Christ and repentance from their old life, it sent waves through the crowd of their families and friends. These new converts were having a profound effect on their community.
That public stand is very important. It is important for you because you are declaring publicly you are never going back. It is also important to everyone of your family and friends, your life is becoming a testimony to the amazing grace of God.
Baptism has always been special to me. Since that Friday night in August in 1973 on the lakefront in New Orleans, when I followed Jesus in baptism, my life has never been the same. It was as if I left that other person in the watery grave. That night, I considered myself dead to that other life, there was no going back. I had been crucified with Christ and buried with Him in baptism. Have you given your old, dead life a decent burial. Maybe it’s time for you to take a visit to that watery grave.
After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands,
Those beautiful creatures John saw in heaven were just human beings, they were humans who had been clothed with Jesus Christ. They are shining with a beauty that nothing in this world can rival, they are radiating Christ Himself. The amazing thing is that we who know Christ, are already clothed with these garments, we have put on Christ and are now different from the rest of the world. Jonathan Edwards speaks of these beautiful garments when speaking of the radiance of God’s glory seen in Christ. Here is what he had to say.
“Galatians 3:27 says, “For as many of you as are baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” Christ is a robe to them, not only to cover their nakedness but to adorn and beautify them. And if it be as we have heard in the doctrine that Christ is the brightness of the glory of God or the shining forth of his glory, then doubtless they who have put on Christ are thereby rendered most acceptable in the eyes (of God) for they don’t appear in their own worthiness.”
Let’s face it, we all like new clothes. They make us feel different, and sometimes, we even act a little differently. They somehow lead us to put on a new personality. All of us remember hearing the little child say “watch how fast I can run in these new shoes”. We have always wanted to put on a “costume” and be turned into superman. That is kind of what happens when we put on Christ. Not only do we become beautiful in the Father’s eyes, we take on the nature of Christ. Somehow, we begin to act like Him. There is a new joy, a greater peace, an unusual patience, and humility that is quite incredible. We don’t have to wait until we die to be clothed with these beautiful, heavenly garments, we can put on Christ today. What can we do? Heed the words of the Apostle Paul, “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the lusts of the flesh”.