Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’” (When he said “living water,” he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him. But the Spirit had not yet been given,because Jesus had not yet entered into his glory.)
This month in The Basics With Beth, I am sharing excerpts from my new book, The Spirit Empowered Life. Here's a bit more of my story to encourage you in yours. Once we are born again and in a personal relationship with Jesus, He wants us to be filled with the Spirit. This is my journey...
For the first three years of my Christian life, I was soaring high with the Lord internally; meanwhile, the Lord was working a serious overhaul on my exterior––habits, lifestyle and choices. The closer I got to the Lord the more I desired to eliminate things that were contrary to Him.
I remember having to make some tough choices, like: walking away from a few ungodly influences who were trying to pull me in the wrong direction, getting rid of my trashy novels and most of my music albums and 8-tracks. (Obviously, this was before the Internet and digital music. Who am I kidding? This was before the invention of the home computer, CDs and DVDs––around the time the last Tyrannosaurus rex faded from earth.) One day as I read Acts 19, I began to have a desire to get rid of paraphernalia that didn't honor the Lord––so, I grabbed my stack of secular albums and flung them like Frisbees into the trash. (A true test of my faith as that music stash was probably half of my net worth. Thankfully, I was able to spare my Carpenters album and a Barry Manilow 8-track tape.)
While the Lord was working on my exterior habits, He patiently and simultaneously worked on my inner desires and habits to sanctify (clean up) my language, my love affair with cigarettes and alcohol, my pride, fears, and judgmental attitudes and––shall we say, my over-the-top sarcasm. (My apologies to the angels assigned to my case.)
What a season of life change it was (and continues to be!) I loved Jesus, loved reading His Word and I loved getting to know Him better. When I got involved with a campus ministry, I learned how to share my faith––and even led a few people to the Lord, including most of my family. I was as “on fire” for the Lord as I knew to be and YET, I noticed a few Christians who seemed to have a different type of joy and freedom in their relationship with the Lord––different than what I had––and I got thirsty for more.
The only problem? I heard they were “charismatics” and I had been told by well-meaning mentors and friends that I should steer clear of––well, actually run from––those weird, “emotional” charismatic Christians who believed in being filled with the Spirit and speaking in tongues.
The fear of ending up like a spiritual weirdo, a trance-like zombie or crazy Aunt Matilda who lives alone and talks in tongues to her sixteen cats, successfully kept me away "those charismatics." That is, until Andi, the one who led me to the Lord, was filled with the Spirit and began to speak in tongues! I couldn’t believe it! She wasn’t weird. She wasn’t emotional. She was normal. In her, I saw the fruit of the Holy Spirit in love, joy and peace, but I also saw the power of the Spirit flowing in her life––she had boldness I desired. She (and her fiance, Mike) had been "filled with the Spirit" and her ability to talk about Jesus with others and her freedom to worship the Lord was attractive to me.
Andi and Mike explained what being “filled with the Spirit” was all about, but because I had been taught to stay away from “those people” and from “speaking in tongues,” I had to "unlearn" some things in order to actually learn new things. I was thirsty for all the Lord had for me and I really wanted to learn the truth, so I read all the books I could find on the subject of "being filled with the Spirit" and speaking in tongues. To be honest, the authors each differed in their opinions and all of the reading just confused me! I decided to set all of the books aside and I picked up my Bible and prayed, “Father, I am not a Bible scholar, but you know my heart and I desire the truth. I want everything You want for me and I don’t want anything You don’t want for me. As I read the Bible, please show me the truth. In Jesus Name. Amen.”
I began to read the Book of Acts, 1 Corinthians, and other books in the Bible that contained passages about the Holy Spirit. After weeks of reading, I came to the conclusion that there was indeed such a thing as being filled with the Spirit (also called being baptized or receiving the Holy Spirit) subsequent to being born-again of the Spirit. I also came to the conclusion that I had not yet received this baptism or infilling of the Spirit. Mainly because I didn’t know how to get it! Until one night…
One Thursday night, Michelle, (a Christian friend of mine) and I, decided to visit a Bible study in town where we knew several people. The man in charge welcomed us to the group and asked us to share our personal testimonies. I shared my salvation testimony with the group and then Michelle did the same. When we finished the man asked us, “So, when were you girls filled with the Spirit?” My eyes grew wide and I said, “Uh, well that’s the thing, I have been reading about this experience and I don’t think I have been filled with the Spirit. I don’t how to receive it.” My friend Michelle said the same thing. The man smiled as if to say, “You girls have come to the right place!”
At the end of the Bible Study, he asked Michelle and I to sit in two chairs in the middle of the prayer circle and he and his wife and the other college kids gathered around us, laid hands on our shoulders and began to pray. Immediately, I heard people around us praying in foreign languages––which I took to be tongues. The man leading the Bible study asked me and Michelle to repeat a prayer after him and we said something like, "Father, I am born of the Spirit and Jesus is the Lord of my life; now, I am thirsty for more of You. I ask You to fill me with the Holy Spirit now––from the top of my head to the soles of my feet. In Jesus' Name. Amen."
When we said “Amen.” I was excited because I believed I received the very thing we just asked for. I was ready to open my eyes and stand up from the circle when the man said, “Ok girls, just yield to the Spirit and speak in tongues. Go ahead and speak in the words that are bubbling up from the river inside of you.”
I remember thinking, “What river? I don’t have any words to say and I don’t feel any river bubbling up inside me.” The group continued to lay hands on us and pray in tongues. I kept looking for a bubbling river, but I felt like a dried up creek! Then, like a rebel, as I sat there in the middle of the circle, I prayed that they would stop praying!
I honestly didn’t feel any type of river bubbling up––and even if I did, I wasn’t going to speak in tongues in front of everyone! Eventually the group stopped praying for us and removed their hands from our shoulders. I think they may have been disappointed that I didn’t speak in tongues. But, I left the Bible study that night on cloud nine and certain that I had received the baptism of the Spirit.
Five days later, on a Tuesday...
So, where are you in your journey? Thirsty? Interested? Intrigued? Curious? If you are born again and thirsty to be filled with the Spirit, just pray this prayer and receive:
Say It: "Father, I am born of the Spirit and Jesus is the Lord of my life; now, I am thirsty for more of You. I ask You to fill me with the Holy Spirit now––from the top of my head to the soles of my feet. In Jesus' Name. Amen."
You can read the rest of my story in The Spirit Empowered Life book.