Jesus commanded His disciples to wait for Holy Spirit empowerment. This means that being filled with the Spirit is a command, not an optional extra we can accept or refuse. It’s a must have, but it means surrender to His will and purpose as servants in His kingdom.
who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. (Acts 8:15-16)
One of the saddest things I all too often encounter is believers who have never been filled with the Spirit. Some of these belong to churches where Holy Spirit empowerment is not taught or even frowned upon. Some have simply not been taught or have somehow garnered a mistaken understanding that this was only for the apostles and their modern-day equivalent. Still others believe that they received the Spirit when they were born again and that’s where it ends. Ignorance, in general, is a terrible thing. But spiritual ignorance, and especially on such a crucial issue, is tragic. God has made His Spirit freely available to every believer through Holy Spirit empowerment. Each of us has full access to our own Pentecost and the power it brings. Yet a large portion of the church still struggles to live according to the Word and to be obedient without the Helper.
We receive the Holy Spirit twice.
It’s critical that believers know and understand what it really means to receive the Holy Spirit. Many aren’t aware that we actually receive twice – once at new birth and again in Holy Spirit empowerment. The first instance is the spiritual regeneration we receive when we are born again. It is our transformation from a natural man to a spiritual man, the awakening of our spirit by the Holy Spirit. This is made very clear when Jesus appeared to His disciples after His resurrection. And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit,” (John 20:22). This ‘in-breathing’ was the spiritual act of being born again. This happens automatically when we surrender to Christ. It’s a spiritual event that results in spiritual regeneration. It is, in essence, our ‘resurrection’ into life in Jesus and every born-again believer has therefore received the Spirit.
This, however, is regeneration not power. It is new life, not the Holy Spirit power evident in Acts following the Holy Spirit empowerment at Pentecost. The first is to bring us into the kingdom and the second is to empower us to live and work in the kingdom. One is for us alone and the other is for us and for everyone else. A lot of believers aren’t even aware of the first impartation mentioned in John. I have been born again since 1976 and have never once heard a teaching on this. Be that as it may, it’s the second infilling by the Spirit that is so critical to our lives in the kingdom. Jesus Himself told His disciples to wait until they had received it. The relevance here is that it is so important that they were to do nothing without it.
Holy Spirit empowerment is power to live.
God has set numerous natural laws in place to govern His creation. One is that anything that is alive must continue to grow, mature, and reproduce. While this is a natural law, it is also a spiritual principle that applies to every believer. Paul touches on this in his letters, and we ‘reproduce’ by obeying Christ’s command to go and make disciples. When we first receive the Spirit at our new birth, the purpose is to make us alive, to resurrect us from the natural man into the supernatural man – the citizen of a supernatural kingdom. Grow, mature, and reproduce is still a driving principle. We are expected to grow supernaturally, mature supernaturally, and reproduce supernaturally. The power that resurrected us is insufficient to fulfil this expectation. We need the Holy Spirit empowerment to provide the power to live this new supernatural life.
Because everything looks the same, we don’t always grasp the enormity of new life in Christ. It’s a radical transformation from natural to supernatural and from fleshly to spiritual. Unfortunately, we don’t shed the flesh. We’re still restricted by our bodies and the natural laws of our physical environment. The world still surrounds us and temptations and pressures continue. Self and things of the old life make demands and strive to root us in the physical. God’s purpose, however, is that we now live supernaturally. Because of the flesh, it’s impossible for us to meet this expectation. Holy Spirit empowerment is the power to live our new life as a new supernatural creation with perfect liberty from the restraints of this world. Without it, we live a ‘half-life’ at best with one foot in each kingdom and a good dose of frustration at our limitations.
Holy Spirit empowerment is a command not a suggestion.
There are those believers who think that Holy Spirit empowerment is kind of an ‘optional extra’ which we can either accept or refuse. The Bible, however, presents a different story. Jesus tells the disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they have received it. The location isn’t the critical fact, here. He specified Jerusalem because God’s plan was that the city should be the epicentre of the new church. It would start there and spread outward in the face of persecution. What is critical is that they were commanded to wait for it. The message here is that none of us should do anything without it. This is not negotiable. Nowhere in this instruction is the suggestion that we can do otherwise. The implication is that we can do nothing effectively unless we have it. It’s a determining factor, whether it’s to live in the kingdom or work in the kingdom.
The reason becomes evident when we see the transformation Pentecost brought. From fearful to bold, from ineffectual to powerful, and from confusion to commitment. Holy Spirit empowerment moves the believer from new life to abundant life. It’s a radical, dynamic transformation that reaches beyond our personal resurrection to impact the world. This is the kingdom of God come to earth, the supernatural impacting the natural to reveal the glory and power of God. It is everything we could ever need to live supernaturally and to serve supernaturally. He doesn’t ask us if we’d like it, just as He doesn’t ask us if we’d like to go and make disciples. We don’t get to choose. He says we must go, we must have it, and we must wait until we have it. Anything else is disobedience. It’s our greatest blessing, but it’s also an imperative we should not refuse.
Holy Spirit empowerment is the place of surrender.
For many believers, Holy Spirit empowerment is a kind of me-myself-I privilege. There’s a perception that it’s only available so we can live the abundant live. At a surface level, this is true, but the abundant life is the life of Christ. Once glance at His life reminds us that it was a life of servanthood and surrender. God does not generously and graciously release His Spirit so we get to feel good. He does it so we get to live good, which means in surrender to His will and purposes. Holy Spirit power isn’t for me. It’s for us, for all, and for everyone else as well. To surrender means to be willing and obedient to be a servant. It means doing His will. That is the purpose of the Holy Spirit power released to believers at Pentecost – that same power we are commanded to receive.
Sadly, while many abjure Holy Spirit empowerment for various reasons, others pursue it for their own ends. They seek the power without wanting to surrender to the God in the power. Both of these extremes reveal ignorance about the purpose of the Holy Spirit and the will of God. It’s an incredible, indescribable privilege to have the power of God Himself available within us. That He would entrust it to frail, sinful human beings defies comprehension. It cannot be something we desire and hold onto for ourselves. Having it requires surrender. It means a willingness to go that is as radical as the power itself. While we desperately need it as the power for life, we must also be willing to step out into the absolute yieldedness of vessels set apart for the purposes of God. Holy Spirit empowerment is an all or nothing privilege and responsibility.
We must desire Holy Spirit empowerment.
The incredible truth is that the infilling of the Holy Spirit isn’t a ‘once-off’ even that gives us a limited measure. It’s abundant, eternal, and continual. We are to be ‘continually filled’ with the Spirit. Pentecost is possible every moment of every day. To receive it, we must desire it. But we must also desire the purposes behind it. The abundant life we have in Christ is the same life that He had as the Son of Man and has as the Son of God. But the two cannot be separated. We must desire to live in surrender as Jesus did and in victory as He does now. Both are available to us through Holy Spirit empowerment. To desire it, though, with pure motives means to desire God in it. His power is who He is. It is not something we should ever take lightly.
Forgive us, Father, if we’ve lived with wrong truths or resisted Your precious Holy Spirit. Stir up a desire in us for Holy Spirit empowerment, a right desire of willing surrender and obedience. Grant us the grace, Lord, to come with right motives to seek Your will and purposes, and to rejoice in the power You give so freely to live as You have commanded. Sovereign Lord, we yield to You today, and receive Your Holy Spirit so that we might go, grow, mature, and multiply.