Am I filled with the Holy Spirit? pt. 2

One immediate question that we need to ask ourselves as we think about whether we have received the Holy Spirit is what we must do to receive him. As I mentioned back in the first post in this series, I don’t believe that there are recipes – first I do this, and then he does that – when it comes to the Holy Spirit, but I do believe that there are some important things that we must do in our relationship with God if we want him to be with us.

The first is that we must be repentant. Our attitude before God must not be proud, but instead understand that we are sinful and that it is our sin that has made us unclean and caused us to be separated from God. We were the ones who disobeyed, revolted, and walked away from God and his commandments, so my first step is that I must stop insisting that my way is the best way and instead admit that God’s way is right and do what he wants us to do.

When Moses initially went on the mountain to receive God’s laws, he came back down to find that the Israelites had built an idol, a golden calf, and were in complete disarray as a people. The result was that God told Moses that he would send an angel to go with the people but that he would not go because of the wickedness of the people. Moses pleaded with God to go with them, but the first thing that he had the people do was to remove their ornaments and the people mourned over what they had done. In the end, God relents and shows himself to Moses, showing that God will be merciful and will come near to the people who will be repentant before him. (Read the story in Exodus, chapters 32-34).

I think that this is why both John the Baptist and Jesus also called for repentance as they started their ministries. They knew that the first step to come into relationship with God is to be repentant before him.

As Jesus returned to heaven, it was now the disciples’ turn to continue in the same vein, calling people to repentance before God. On the day of Pentecost, as Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit, he spoke of the Messiah and explained that the Jesus was the one that the Jews had been waiting for, the Messiah, and that the Jews had killed him. When asked what they can do, Peter immediately returns to the same square one:

“Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 2:38

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God, so he requires the same attitude that God the Father and Jesus required: an attitude of repentance. If we desire to be filled with the Holy Spirit, the first step is absolutely clear. We must be repentant before God. Only then can we be able to move forward in our relationship with him.

As Jesus began his preaching, he called people to repentance, plus even one step more. He said that the kingdom of God is near, so we must repent and believe. I believe that this means that we must have faith and believe that God has come near to us in human form through Jesus, and now, looking back to his time in history, have faith and believe that his sacrifice was intended by God to be the punishment for our sins.

If we will believe this, the apostle Paul then says that we will receive the Holy Spirit:

And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

Ephesians 1:13-14

To receive the Holy Spirit, we must be repentant, turning away from our sins, and believe in Jesus as our Savior and Lord, the one to whom we give our lives.

But what about these other teachings, that we must have an additional experience beyond our point of belief, and potentially also other steps in receiving the Holy Spirit?

I don’t discount these possibilities, because we do see situations in the book of Acts where people have believed, and then they subsequently receive the Holy Spirit. For example:

  1. The disciples received the Holy Spirit in Acts 2 after previously believing in Jesus.
  2. The apostle Paul receives the Holy Spirit after having seen Jesus and through Ananias laying his hands upon him.
  3. When Paul was in Ephesus, he found some disciples who had received the baptism of John the Baptist for repentance, but were not aware of the Holy Spirit or of Jesus. They were baptized for their belief in Jesus and then Paul placed his hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.

However, in addition, we also see the situation at the Centurion’s house where Peter and the believers that were with him saw the Holy Spirit come upon the Gentiles who were listening and then they were baptized, making this situation even different from each of the previous three where the Holy Spirit came after baptism.

But one thing seems clear in each of these situations: God found each of these people in repentance and belief in Jesus Christ which made room for him to enter their lives in the form of the Holy Spirit coming upon each of them. So a question that we must ask ourselves as we are considering whether or not the Holy Spirit lives in us is whether we have been – and are still! – repentant for the things that we have done in rebellion against God and his ways, and turn to believe that Jesus is both our Savior and the Lord of our lives, giving him control over all parts of our lives. This is the first step toward receiving the Holy Spirit.

Am I filled with the Holy Spirit? pt. 1

This is the first of what will probably be a few posts touching on this topic. Like all things that I post to my blog, this is the result of study that I am doing, so feel free to let me know where you think I’ve gone wrong and we can think about it together!

I think this question is difficult to answer for a few reasons:

First, the Holy Spirit is invisible and typically doesn’t speak audibly, so to always be certain that you are connecting with him in the moment, without the advantage of hindsight, can be difficult.

Second, I’ve found that the Holy Spirit doesn’t operate according to step-by-step recipes that people try to create. While I believe we can know his character, he is not, and will not be, put into a box that will allow us to say how he will act in each situation. People might say that you can expect him to do certain things in a certain way or in a certain order, but I’ve just never found that he works that way.

Third, Jesus even seems to tell us that the Spirit moves as he pleases and you know him by the effects that he leaves behind. Like the wind, for example, you can hear its sound, but you don’t know where it is going. So also with the Holy Spirit, you may find yourself seeing that he is working based on the effects of his work.

There are several other reasons for these difficulties, including differences in teachings about whether the Spirit is still operating today, the gifts of the Spirit, etc.

Despite all of this, I think it is important to try to understand as much as we can about the Holy Spirit, according to the Word of God, and be able to help other people understand it as well. In this way, we can try to work together with the Spirit, with him in the lead, to see the Kingdom of God come here on earth.

Jesus seemed to think it was pretty important as well:

Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.

John 3:5

So, given all of this, I think we should dig in and learn more, so here goes…

How can I know that I am filled with the Holy Spirit? John gives us a direct test to consider:

This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.

1 John 4:2-3

And then a little bit later, he says:

This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God.

1 John 4:13-14

From what I’m reading here, I think this means that a good starting point to know whether or not we are filled with the Holy Spirit is to ask who we believe Jesus to be. John says that every spirit that acknowledges Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.

Beyond this, John goes on to say that if anyone acknowledges Jesus as the Son of God, God lives in them.

This is a good start, but God’s Word has much more to say about how the Holy Spirit works, so let’s go one step further in this post. I heard a recent podcast on this topic suggesting that we consider the opposite viewpoint: What would I be like if I didn’t have the Holy Spirit? Here are a couple of additional scriptures, this time from the Apostle Paul as he wrote to the church in Corinth:

The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.

1 Corinthians 2:14

Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.

1 Corinthians 12:3

Paul seems to go one step beyond John, beyond acknowledgement of Jesus’s divinity in the flesh, saying that it isn’t possible to say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit. In other words, only by having the Holy Spirit inside of me can I humble myself underneath Jesus, submitting to him and what he commands of me and my life. Otherwise, the things that Jesus says, and those things that come from the Word of God, which at the least are the things that come from the Spirit of God, seem to be foolishness to me.

These are a couple of ways to get started to know that I am filled by the Holy Spirit. The scriptures have much more to say on this topic though…stay tuned!