My Personal Experience
The church I attended as a child taught that without the baptism of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues, we would miss the Rapture - the second coming of Christ. There were weekly meetings for people to receive the baptism and children were not exempt. My parents were committed members and I couldn't avoid these meetings. I asked and asked the Lord, yet I did not receive the gift. Many times, during these meetings we were urged to weep and cry out loudly for this gift. This was not hard to do since we were instilled with the fear of what would happen if one got left behind at the Rapture. Church workers often described in detail the horrible tortures, killings by the coming Anti-Christ. I had no wish to be one of them. Some of these meetings continued late into the night. It was physically tiring and emotionally draining when all the prayers and tears amounted to nothing. Each meeting left me more disillusioned and discouraged than before. I used to envy those who would put up their hands when asked who had been baptized. I couldn't understand why God would grant the Holy Spirit to some but withhold it from me. I began to suspect that perhaps God had favourites and I was not one of them.
From the many teachings I heard on the subject, I understood the Holy Spirit was necessary in order to enter the Kingdom of God. The Holy Spirit would only fill a holy vessel; he would never associate with uncleanness. We were encouraged to be loud and vocal with our request for Him to fill us. People testified that an invisible power took control of their tongues before they started speaking a strange language. I also witnessed some strange behaviour - excessive clapping and vigorous movements among those who claimed they were under its influence. I thought these people must be very holy and spiritual for God to bestow His Holy Spirit on them and secretly envied them because it was obvious they would be allowed to enter the kingdom of God while I was going to be left behind.
As time went by, I resigned myself to the fact that I must be ineligible for God's gift. But the church didn't let up on their teaching of 'keep seeking, keep crying and don't stop begging' for it. To my eight old mind, the only way I could escape their constant harassment was to fake it. And so fake it, I did. Little did I know that that spur of the moment decision would spawn the beginning of a decade of deception. You see, once you 'had' it, you had to 'practise' it. I was doomed!
The guilt of what I'd done began to eat into me. Fear became my constant companion: the fear of being found out; the fear of the God I'd offended; the fear of satan who knew what I'd done. I read Matthew 12:31-32 and was convinced that I'd committed the unpardonable sin which meant I could not repent.
So much teaching and scripture quoted on the subject of the Holy Spirit and so little understanding of the Person of the Holy Spirit.
God was merciful. He didn't strike me with lightning. I continued my life still deceiving and being deceived but all that was about to change. Nine years had passed.
I was finishing high school. My sister had left to further her studies abroad. We had shared a room and now I had the room all to myself. Thoughts started to flood my head. What do I want to do with my life? Am I ready for adulthood? Could I deal with challenges life would bring my way? Maybe I would die young. Was I ready to meet my Maker? These thoughts were random but weighty and it brought a deep depression over me.My parents always taught us that God was loving and we could always run to him in our despair but my unpardonable sin was a constant reminder that I had blown it. For eternity.
I was filled with guilt and condemnation and whenever I tried to pray I could only hear the accusations of the evil one. Irrational fears controlled me. I wanted to ask God to forgive me but if it was unpardonable why would He listen to my plea? I couldn't confide in anyone. I had been very convincing in my deception.
I began to feel sorry for myself. How unfair to send someone to hell for something they did when they were eight? I studied those who had the real gift of the Holy Spirit. I saw their flaws and compared myself with them. I was better than them so why did I have to go to hell? It didn't make any sense.
In fact a lot of other things didn't make sense either. All the dos and don'ts in the Bible. The church rules - no short hair (women), no long hair (men), no wearing makeup, no watching television, no going to movies, no dating etc. Rules which I was taught God expected us to follow if we wanted to avoid going to hell. It seemed that being human was a crime worthy of eternal damnation! The injustice filled me with bitterness. I became angry and felt justified in my hatred of Christians and yes, of God. Wasn't God responsible for putting me in this position?
One day I had enough. With everything within me, I gave God a piece of my mind. I said," You gave me life but I didn't ask to be born. Now that I exist, I'm told I have to be holy in order to earn my place in heaven. No matter how hard I try, I will never match up to your holiness. So I must be forever damned to a godless eternity.' I was livid with rage. 'You dare call yourself a God of love? No, I refuse to acknowledge you as God. Who died and put you in charge anyway? I will never EVER call on you for the rest of my life!!'
I continued to attend church just biding my time until I was old enough to go against my parents' wishes. I secretly mocked those who sincerely worshiped God. I deliberately hardened my heart. I wasn't going to back down from my resolve. I had rejected God for good.
Not long after that, I was at a meeting in the annual church convention. It was at the close of the final sermon. The pastor was saying,"Let's thank /God for all His goodness to us!' I remember folding my arms and thinking, 'Yeah, right! Give me a break!' That was all I remember. Because I don't know what happened next. Was it a vision I had or was I teleported somewhere else? To this day, it remains a mystery. But I knew I was in the presence of God Himself.
No words were spoken. Yet we understood each other perfectly. He showed me my true self. I saw who I really was for the first time in years. I saw all my self-righteousness, hypocrisy and self-pity. I felt so sinful and unworthy. I saw Jesus on the Cross. And I knew it was on account of MY sin. The hopelessness of my situation weighed heavily on me and I began to weep bitterly. Then I noticed something strange but wonderful. I was floating in a vast ocean. Now I was actually afraid of water. But I realized that I wasn't afraid of THIS body of water. The waves were lapping against me and the ocean was deep very deep but it didn't feel ominous or threatening. It felt rather gentle and soothing and curiously I felt no fear. I had to know so I asked, 'What is that?' God, as if amused by my question, answered, 'Why, that's my love for you!' Love? I had hated and rejected Him but He was offering me His love? In a most unexpected way, God disarmed me of my anger and bitterness. He won me over with His Love. I was weeping but this time tears of gladness and joy!
Then I 'woke' and found myself back in church but instead of folded arms, they were raised in praise to God! Surprisingly the crowd was gone. There were only a handful of people putting away the chairs and mats. I was amazed that no one missed me. It was as if I was completely invisible.
I discovered what it was like to be forgiven. The sins of the past no longer haunted me. I awoke everyday feeling fresh, feeling clean, feeling free! I was truly born again. I started reading my Bible and the verses simply leaped out at me. 'As far as the East is from the West, so far has He removed my transgressions.' I had a new relationship with God. He spoke to me often through the Bible. It was a joy to know God at a very personal level.
Since I had been forgiven, I wanted to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Not the imitation. But the genuine article promised to me in His Word. I told the Lord that I would do anything for Him only please just baptize me. God was silent and then He asked me to do the one thing I was hoping He would never ask - Confess what I had done. I couldn't believe it. The cost was too high. I couldn't do it. I argued, I begged, I tried to negotiate with Him but every time I went to church, they always sang this song Trust and Obey. Every single time!
I started to hate that song but I knew I had to obey. I did it but not without a long and hard struggle for a long time. I was learning what it was to follow Christ. I calculated what was at stake and I realized that even if I could live with the lie, I couldn't live without His peace. God was faithful and gave me someone who was discerning and understanding to receive my confession. That step of obedience did something eternal in me. The enemy's power over me was broken once and for all. And it gave me a love for the truth and an aversion for hypocrisy and falsehoods.
But still I hadn't received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. I wanted it badly but it eluded me still. About this time, a young pastor who had a ministry with the youth visited from France. He had a message to share with the young people in our church and my parents were keen that we go. I made up an excuse that I was too tired because I didn't want to be disappointed yet again but just as I said that, I heard a voice, 'If you go today, you will see something wonderful!' I knew I had to be there at any cost.
Can you guess what Pastor George wanted to talk about? That's right, the baptism of the Holy Spirit! Truth be told, I learnt more about the person of the Holy Spirit that day than all the sermons I had ever heard on the subject of the Holy Spirit. But I want to share just 2 things he said that spoke directly to me.
Pst George quoted Jesus - If any man thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He explained that the invitation was for all. If we wanted it, we had to go to Jesus. Receiving the baptism was as easy as opening our mouths and drinking. There was no need to beg or ask special permission or discern His will in this matter. Jesus wants us to have this gift! We just had to take it. Pst George then asked us a very pertinent question.
Pst George: When someone speaks in tongues, is it the person or the Holy Spirit speaking?
Without hesitation, all the youths including me answered confidently - The Holy Spirit.
Pst George : Are you sure? When someone speaks in tongues, whose voice do you hear?
This time there was a small confusion. Some still stuck to their original answer but others said - the person's voice.
Pst George: Correct! It is we who are speaking but the Holy Spirit gives utterance.
I was intrigued. I had always believed that the Holy Spirit supernaturally took over our voice box but Pst George was saying it is we who activate our own voices. He made it sound so.. so natural!
Then he said if we were ready to receive the Holy Spirit, we had to at some point stop speaking in English and start speaking in another language. Like any of God's gifts, we could only receive the Holy Spirit by faith. It was our responsibility to speak and trust the Holy Spirit to give us the words. Trust and obey! I recognized the truth of those words.
I knew my moment had come! This was the day I was going to receive the gift that Jesus promised his disciples 2000 years before! I admit I was a little fearful because of what I'd done in the past but I knew God had brought me to this place.
There was no emotion. No hype. Just a matter of taking God at His Word with the trust of a little child. I prayed and then I stopped speaking in English and spoke. The first word that came out of my lips sounded like TELAH (tay-la). I said it once and I didn't get any other words so I said it again. My hand felt a little light so I let it 'float' up. I raised my head and my shoulders because they were feeling the lightness too. The shame of the past was evaporating. As I felt the lightness spread, I started smiling and couldn't stop. Was this the Holy Spirit baptism? I just kept repeating the word.
At this point, Pst George had his guitar out and he was singing the chorus to the song -There's a Sweet Sweet Spirit
There's a sweet sweet spirit in this place
And I know that it's the spirit of the Lord
And I know that it's the spirit of the Lord
There are sweet expressions on each face
And I know that it's the presence of the Lord
And I know that it's the presence of the Lord
It seemed so normal, so natural yet the sweetness of the Lord's presence was undeniable! There was no doubt in my mind that I had received the Holy Spirit baptism and spoken in an unknown tongue.
3 days later, I was running a fever but I wanted to attend the prayer meeting to exercise my gift. I opened my mouth to speak that one word and found a torrent of words roll off my tongue. I was surprised but I let it flow and found that I was expressing something quite articulately but in a different language which I had not learnt. The gift was developing in me. It was my voice speaking but it was not me but the Holy Spirit praying through me. In that half hour, my fever left me and I was completely healed. Praise God!
That was only the beginning of my 'biking' adventures with the Holy Spirit. I've seen the timely manifestations of that gift in different places and circumstances with different people. The adventure never ends!
I am so glad God didn't leave me in my deception but gloriously delivered me and established His truth in its place. This was my experience. The details of my experience may differ with yours but the truth remains - the gift of the Holy Spirit is for everyone and it is for now.The Spirit of God is ONE. The manifestations of that gift are many, and absolutely necessary for building up our faith individually and collectively.
I found out the Holy Spirit is not for holy people but to make ordinary people like you and me holy like Him. We receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit by faith in Christ Jesus. There is no place for pride or falsehood. The Holy Spirit is the spirit of Truth. May He lead you to Truth and may Truth set you free.