What is Needed Most for Your Life? For the Church?
I am sure many will have their own opinion as to what matters most for Christians and Christianity at a time when both are negatively portrayed in virtually every medium. Some will say there needs to be a restoration of love. Others will plead that we must return to prayer. Some might say the most important thing for the Church is serving the community where each is planted. Others might add that welcoming society’s outcasts and becoming more inclusive may be what is needed most. All are appropriate answers. But not the right answer. Subjective? Maybe. But allow me to be the one who will propose what most would not answer as the most important need for today: the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. Before you associate me with fringe Christian individuals and write me off among those who have done bizarre, fleshly, and unbiblical things saying the “holy spirit” told them to do it; just hear me out and know that that is not me.
Let’s think for a moment. What was it that begun this entire thing called “the Church?” Of course we can point to Matthew 16 and Peter’s revelation of who Jesus was. And this being the beginning of the church since Jesus says literally, “Upon this rock (this revelation) I will build my church.” But we are talking after He resurrected.
So, was it radical inclusivity? Was it deep love and slogans about loving your neighbor? Was it a unifying push to see social programs be offered in every nook and cranny of Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and in the ends of the Earth? It wasn’t. it was none of those things. What put a “crooked generation” (Peter’s words in Acts, not mine) on notice was not one of these common items we often espouse as solutions to the lukewarmness of the Church. What it was, was this: the very power of God through the Baptism in the Holy Spirit which set the church ablaze with love; demonstrating the unquestionable power of God enabling them to add to their numbers daily.
No lights. No smoke. No podiums. No projectors. No committees. No buildings. No sermon series. No themes. No programs. No “catalyst”, “cutting edge,” or “dynamic” groups (or whatever catchy names we adore). No money. No building programs. No Awanas. No Christian cliches. No Christian Shirts or festivals. No bumper stickers. No freedom of religion. They had none of it. Only the Holy Spirit. They did more… with far less… and the more we have… we have done far less with.
Coming back to this thought of what is needed most; when we make the fruit of something the focal point we miss the place from where it stems. Things like love, welcoming our neighbor, sharing our goods, transforming our community, prayer and more—all of this is meant to come from individuals saturated and overflowing with the Holy Spirit of God, who was poured out upon the church for these very purposes. He is the vine where these things grow in our lives (Galatians 5 and the fruit of the Spirit). He and His power is where all of our common notions of what is needed most come from–granted they are biblical and from above. And so, we do not exist as social clubs on street corners turning our noses up at the masses. We exist as one entitity spread out across the globe unitied by a common Spirit who empowers, enlivens, and baptizes all Jesus followers for effective demonstration of the power of God–not eloquence of speech (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).
Whether it be the gifts of the Holy Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12 or the leadership gifts of Ephesians 4:11-12 or even the motivational gifts in Romans 12—the Church is gifted to make a difference. We have all of this at our disposal and yet we have often neglected Who catalyzes all of it—the Holy Spirit who sets us ablaze with His abilities. At the very least we pay homage to Him and slap His name on our agendas like He is in the distant background akin to a Buddha sculpture on a shelf in a local Chinese restaurant.
I laugh when I am often pidgeon holed as some “Pentecostal” or crazy “charismatic” because I teach and encourage that all should be baptized in the Holy Spirit, pray in heavenly language, and seek the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Why wouldn’t I? Its literally what Scripture teaches. It isn’t a status marker. One group is not better than the other. I am merely communicating there is a clear pattern in the Bible. So… you must teach in the flow of the Word and the Early Church. Because I am adamant about this, I have had people leave my own church because I emphasize the Holy Spirit in this way. I have had people mock me as the “Holy Spirit guy.” At each turn though, I go back to the Word, read it over, and find again and again—this is the normal biblical pattern for effective Christian witness. There is no other way.
Because we refuse to accept this is the only way to truly be effective HIS way, we are a powerless church in many places. We are lukewarm and adulterous preachers—forsaking the anointing of the Holy Spirit for the gimmicks of the world. We long to see God move and complain when He does not. We possess dreams and visions and yet forget only the Holy Spirit can bring them to life.
You must know the feeling. Something deep down is missing. You read and study the same Bible I do. You read the same stories of people just like you and I. Is there not a part of you that longs to see the supernatural? Is there not a part of you that aches deep inside for a revival that spreads like a wild fire? Where you family, children, friends, spouse, co-workers and others—heck, even your fellow church members—come to radical life filled by the Holy Spirit? Filled and transformed just like those so long ago? I long to live within, serve under, and embody true revival in my own community. Shouldn’t all of us? We need the same Spirit poured out in the same way as so long ago.
That Day So Long Ago
The Holy Spirit was poured out in Acts 2 on the day of Pentecost. Following the ascension of Jesus, Luke (the author of Acts) tells us that the 120 were waiting and praying in one accord for the promise of the Father (Baptism in the Holy Spirit) for effective witnessing. Note that we also learn this small group of Christians (the Church) were also in one accord. They were unified in their pursuit of this promise from Jesus in Acts 1. This brings to the surface a principle in need of recovery for today: spiritual agreement in prayer is a prerequisite for receiving the power of God for the church collective.
As already said, this Feast of Pentecost occurred 50 days after Passover. It was one of three major Jewish feasts commanded by God:
1. Feast of Passover – a week of giving thanks for God’s deliverance out of Egyptian bondage.
2. Feast of the First Fruits – a day of giving thanks for the birth and growth of new crops and the beginning of the harvest season.
3. Feast of Tabernacles – a week of giving thanks for the end and completion of the harvest season.
Pentecost was also known as “Day of the First Fruits (Num. 28:26), the Feast of Weeks,” (Ex. 34:22) or the “Feast of the Harvest.” Is it not surprising that this is the day God chose for the birth of the Church. The early church begins and ends with a focus on the harvest. This was no coincidence. Especially when reading Matthew 28:18-20 and Jesus’ Great Commission of “Go into all the earth…”
And so on this day the Church was consumed with what God prescribed as the most important thing post-resurrection of Jesus. It was a day marked with an audible sound like a mighty wind in that upper room. On the 120 present there were “tongues of fire” within/upon each that appeared as resting upon them. There was a sudden release of known languages involving at least 15 people groups depending on who you ask.
Some witnessing this phenomenon were receptive and inquiring. Others were mocking which still holds true for today. Many will always resist and some will always receive. This is the reality of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. Shockingly, it continues to be an area of contention in many corners of Christianity except where revival is happening the most: the global south. Go figure.
Where Do You Land?
So, where do you land? I wonder how much of your understanding or reaction to the Baptism in the Holy Spirit been influenced by different church traditions? Assuming you have heard of this biblical experience and empowerment before. Many arrive at different conclusions. Perhaps it may be one or a combination of the following for you:
- I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets.
- Spirit baptism takes place at conversion and there is no subsequent Baptism in the Holy Spirit (1Cor. 12:13).
- The Baptism in the Holy Spirit is an endowment of power for service subsequent to salvation with praying/speaking in tongues (also known as heavenly language) as the initial physical evidence.
- Although tongues may accompany the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, any of the gifts may serve as evidence.
- The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity; additional awareness of the Spirit’s ongoing presence is available in the rite of confirmation.
- The Baptism in the Holy Spirit, tongues, spiritual gifts, signs, wonders, and miracles were temporary gifts unique to the primitive church and unnecessary after the canonization of Scripture (1Cor. 13:8-10).
- Baptism in the Holy Spirit is a specific experience and there is additional power available, but its optional and the role of praying in tongues is unimportant.
What Exactly is the Baptism in the Holy Spirit?
No matter where we fall, we must be wise to recognize what is shaping our conviction on a life filled with the Holy Spirit and to make sure it is in alignment with the Word of God. Scripture is clear that there is a subsequent experience to salvation. It is also clear that all who follow Jesus are to be baptized in the Holy Spirit for effective witness and anointing to do the ministry of Jesus. Yes, we have the Spirit at the point of new birth. However, the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is, as has already been stated, the literal immersion into the power of God, in His Holy Spirit for effective witnessing to the Kingdom of God. Not to mention the anointing to defeat the strongholds of the enemy in our own lives and to then walk in freedom and holiness.
It is not a one time thing we mark on a calendar. It is a continual refilling we seek to experience which is kicked off by receiving in faith, exercising the gift of heavenly language in prayer, and seeking to be filled daily or seek until we exercise heavenly language in prayer. The point is, we don’t stop. Acts 4:31 makes this clear as the same disciples were again baptized in the Holy Spirit and anointed just as Jesus was.
Peter says in Acts 10:38 that “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.” Are we better than Jesus that we do not need to be filled and anointed with the Holy Spirit? Or when Jesus says in John 14:12 that we (his disciples) will do greater things because He goes to the Father—don’t we need to be equipped as Jesus was? Who also said in Acts 1:8 to wait for the promise from the father. For it was then he said that we “will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses…”
I have always modeled, taught, and instructed that this is an additional experience stemming from the initial work the Holy Spirit began at repentance and salvation. I have wavered at different times in the past due to my own wrestling. However, I no longer can. Scripture is clear. This is the clear biblical pattern. For example, look over these five key examples: Acts 2:4 // Acts 8:14-15 // Acts 9:17-22 // Acts 10:44-46 // Acts 19:6-7.
So what essentially does all of this mean for the Church of today? The following…
- Gods plan and purpose is for all followers of Jesus to be baptized in the Holy Spirit, pray in heavenly language, and employ the gifts of the Spirit as He distributes for effective ministry and the tearing down of strongholds internal and external. Those who say this isn’t for them: why deny or refuse to seek all God has for you? Only that person and the Church at large will suffer in the end.
- This baptism (apart from salvation and apart from water baptism) is the fulfillment of the prophet Joel from 800 years before Pentecost. In the book of Joel he writes there would be (5) key elements of this out pouring that began in Acts and continues today: 1) the outpouring of the Spirit on ALL flesh, 2) prophecy, 3) visions and dreams, 4) signs and wonders, 5) and salvation to all who follow Jesus.
Lest we try and think all of this was exclusive to those early believers. I beg you not to forget what Petersays to those who were “cut to the heart” asking what they should do after hearing the mighty things of God being declared in numerous unknown and known languages in Acts 2. He says, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.”
The promise is still here. The Baptism in the Holy Spirit is still here. Heavenly language in prayer with God is still here. Physical healing is still here. Signs and wonders are still here. Prophecy, visions, words of wisdom, faith, words of knowledge, and more—all is still present under the guidance and infilling of the Holy Spirit. Nothing has changed. Repentance and submission is still the key. The promise was for them and all who were to come.
I pray we are filled with radical faith and trust to rekindle our passion for Him–the Holy Spirit who alone can enable us to effectively minister to a lost and dying society steeped in identity confusion, godlessness, and moral corruption. But may it begin in our churches first.
So, it only makes sense then to affirm that what is most important and needed for the church of today is that which was given to the Church first and foremost: a Baptism of fire in the Holy Spirit.
Want to reach your neighbors? Want to know how to communicate with boldness? Want to experience the clarity of the voice of Jesus internally and the Scriptures come to life? Do you dream of your church living with such deep and unconditional love that permeates your surrounding neighbors and community? Societal ills combatted? These and more… we must be filled with the Holy Spirit and lead the way.
Lastly, I encourage you whether alone or in your next time of prayer with others. Review Acts 2. Ask the Holy Spirit to baptize you as Jesus did them with the Holy Spirit and fire. Accept and receive in faith. Yield your vocal chords to the Holy Spirit and begin to speak and pray aloud as you feel the Holy Spirit moving through you. Remember that Acts says they began to pray in 2:4 as the Spirit gave them utterance. In other words, it takes two to tango. Begin to accept the Gift and walk with boldness nurturing your newfound relationship with the Holy Sprit with times of prayer and reading of Scripture. Begin to testify immediately with the new boldness you have received! Need help in this? Email me at NoahDSchumacher@gmail.org.
And remember, if any of this seems odd to you… especially praying in an unknown heavenly language…just remember this: you believe a dead guy came back to life and came out of a locked stone tomb three days after being dead. Is this not the epitome of supernatural? As much as some would like to, we do not get to pick and choose which supernatural parts of our faith are acceptable and which are not. I pray that the Church in the West would be set free from our closed in, non demonstrative, and at times boring approach to the greatest news the world has ever known.
So I beg you. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit. Do not quench His activity in your life and the Church. He is all we have. He is what we need most. And currently, His fire and baptism is what is needed most in the Church at large if we have any hope to bring in the harvest; to bring as many into the Kingdom of God as possible. Isn’t that the point?