May 21

Rev Gav

What does it mean to be baptised in the Spirit?

Love changes everything. It has the power to transform, and as God is love, so the Holy Spirit in our lives has the power to transform us and the world around us.

Pentecost was the festival that took place fifty days after the Jewish passover, and it was during this festival that Jesus’ disciples were filled with, or baptised with, the Holy Spirit. You can read all about it in the Book of Acts, Chapter 2. This is why, today, Christians celebrate Pentecost as the birthday of the Church. The coming of the Holy Spirit was, in a way, the final act in the story of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, and the first act in the ongoing story of God in the world — our story.

You see, the whole purpose of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection was not so we could go to heaven when we die, nor was it so we could have a nice set of Christian morals by which to live. No, the purpose was so that we could be filled with the Spirit of God and continue to participate in God’s mission in the world.

God is love, and what does love do? Love transforms things and people. Climie Fisher and Andrew Lloyd Webber got it right: Love changes everything! Love transforms people and love transforms situations. Can you think of someone you find difficult or someone who is ‘prickly’? Love them. You will not feel like doing it, but it is love that softens hearts, brings healing, and restores relationships. God loves the world so much that God is in the process of redeeming it, restoring it, and renewing it — and that includes us and all creation.

God is holy (the clue is in the name — the ‘Holy’ Spirit) and because God wants to make home in us, we need to be made holy too. We need to be cleansed or sanctified and only God can do that. This is exactly one of the things that Jesus did through his life, death, and resurrection. It was, once and for all, for all humanity, and for all time, to make us holy. Even Jesus himself said that he needed to go back to the Father so that he could send the Holy Spirit. The incarnate Jesus, who could only be in one place at one time, returned to the Father so that the Holy Spirit could come, and where welcomed, enter every human heart.

When you become a Christian — when you choose to become a follower, disciple, or apprentice of Jesus — you invite Jesus into your life and the Jesus who comes into your life is the Holy Spirit, the spirit of Jesus. Therefore when you become a Christian you receive the Holy Spirit. God literally comes and makes home inside you. The simplicity of the gospel of Jesus Christ is, that to become a Christian, all we need to do is ask. Even Jesus said, “If you, then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

Now, being in very essence love, the Holy Spirit is not pushy nor arrogant. The Holy Spirit does not barge into our lives and take over. No, the Holy Spirit is gentle and does not override our wills, however we can open ourselves up to the transforming power of God in our lives. In fact, we do not become ‘better’ people by reading our Bibles more, or praying more, or doing good deeds more. We become ‘better’ people — more patient, kind, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled — by allowing God to transform us from the inside out. It is what the Apostle Paul called being, “changed from glory to glory.”

And this is the first role of the Holy Spirit, to help us become more like Jesus, more God-like, and all Christians are on this journey of spiritual development. For some, the transformations are swift and radical, they become changed people overnight, yet for others, including me, it is a long and slow process! Yet, all of us can experience this process of being ‘saved’ for this is what salvation is — a life being transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit of Jesus.

The thing is, I for one, keep messing up. I keep putting myself — my needs and wants — first, before God, others, and the world around me, and as the whole gospel message is about relationship, it is through regularly confessing my sins that I put myself back into that right relationship with God. It is why, in church worship, we often have a time of confession. Think of our relationship with God a bit like a marriage. The wedding day was when we were brought together and nothing changes the fact that we are married, however, I can definitely mess up and become distant from my partner. For example, I could do things like put my smelly fishing rags in with our regular washing making all our clothes smell like rotting squid. Of course, cough, in reality I would never do something like that! But if I did, to be reconciled and for the relationship to be restored, I would need to say sorry and take my darling wife out to dinner… for a week.

This transforming power of the Holy Spirit in our own lives bears fruit and we call the resulting patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control the ‘Fruit of the Spirit’. Yet, there is a second role of the Holy Spirit in our lives and that happens when we are ‘Baptised in the Spirit’.

You see, love is designed to be given away. The Holy Spirit is always outward-looking and looking to the interests of others, therefore, when that love is poured into our hearts, God is, by very nature, going to overflow from us to others and the world around us, and the Holy Spirit gives us ‘spiritual gifts’ to enable us to do just that.

In the same way that God is in the process of redeeming, restoring, and renewing the world, so we, harbouring the very presence of God in our lives, join in with that mission and purpose. The Christian is not only a living example of the transforming power of God but also to be an agent or conduit of that love to and for the world.

The Gifts of the Holy Spirit include wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miraculous powers, prophecy, distinguishing between spirits, and speaking or interpreting different languages. If you think about it, they are all things to be ‘given away’. They are all gifts for the benefit of others. They might sound like hyper-spiritual things, but they are very much grounded in the human experience.

I remember praying with a young mum after a church worship. She was very upset and crying, and as I sat next to her I asked God to give me a word of knowledge for her, a word that would encourage her. Sure, having the gift of the gab, I could pray with lots of my own words and they would no doubt sound strong and eloquent, yet just one word from God would change everything, and so I waited. A picture of a jack-in-a-box appeared in my mind. Oh great, I thought! I am not sharing that! But as I prayed I could not get the image out of my head, and so, reluctantly, I shared the image with the young mum. She looked at me in astonishment, for her daughter’s favourite toy, and sitting at that moment in the middle of her living room floor, was a jack-in-a-box. What she was crying about was that she was struggling with being at home with her little girl, feeling alone, and distant from God. She told me, “Now I know that God is present with me.” One word from God changes everything.

The Holy Spirit lives in every Christian and all bear fruit. Some exercise the gifts of the Spirit without even realising it, yet others have never discovered that the power of God is able to radiate through them for the sake of others and the world around us.

Today, if you are able, find somewhere quiet and still, and ask the Holy Spirit to come and fill you, to transform you from the inside out, and as you allow God’s love to be poured into your heart, allow that love to overflow to others and to the world around you.

Amen.


Spiritual Gifts

What are the Spiritual gifts that God wishes to impart to you through the Holy Spirit?

Is it wisdom — the ability to weigh up situations and circumstances and be able to plot an appropriate course of action; able to see a path through the tangle of people’s complicated lives and relationships?

Is it knowledge — the ability to know things that God reveals to you to help speak into the lives of others, especially when people are struggling or going through difficulty? I

Is it faith — the ability to hold on to God even when things are going wrong, and having a supernatural ability to lean into God for and on behalf of others?

Is it healing — the ability to pray for people, laying on hands and anointing them, to enable them to find emotional, spiritual, or even physical healing; able to see what people need and to enable them to get the support they need?

Is it miraculous powers — where you pray and things just seem to fall into place around you, where things seem to happen at the right place and the right time?

Is it prophecy — the ability to communicate visions of how things could be when God is involved in the lives of others or in the world around us?

Is it distinguishing between spirits — where you have the ability to sense if something is or is not from God, and identify the root causes or underlying influences behind situations?

Is it the ability to speak in different languages — to pray in a heavenly language and commune with God when we cannot find or fail to find our own words?

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