There are two classes of Christian: the bride of Christ (144,000) and the wedding guests (saved, but not fully sold-out and dedicated to God). This is shown by the construction of the Jewish temple which had and outer and inner court. And the New Testament teaches the temple is symbolic of the church. To become part of the bride requires a radical commitment of total obedience. An irrevocable vow. This will be discussed near the end of this article.
The reason why I'm writing on three topics is because you can't do one without the other. You can’t separate loving God with all your heart, repenting from a “good-enough” attitude, and experiencing the Holy Spirit throughout your life. We can either get on the journey for all of these, or we won't be able to do any of them.
Sometimes we get the idea that the first commandment is to love God. But its not. Simply having some love for God is easy when we look at all of His goodness. But that is not the commandment. The commandment is to love God with ALL your heart, with ALL your soul, with ALL your mind, and with ALL your strength.
The commandment is not to simply serve God with all your heart. That’s the Martha interpretation. We need to be like Mary though, who understood the most important thing God seeks is our total love of Him. The first and greatest commandment means that until we have that immense love in the core of our being, we are disobeying the FIRST and GREATEST commandment. there's a thought for us.
We substitute all sorts of things for growing to fullness of a love of God. Being busy with ministry is one of the worst. We say that we’ll show our love for God by being busy for Him, but sometimes if we are really honest the busyness can be motivated by human ambition, for instance to have a large ministry. In this case we are missing the first commandment.
A lot of times we think we can compensate for failing the first two commandments by keeping more of the rest of God’s instructions to us, since the first two require so much transformation. I used to find it hard to pray and to worship in private, so I would try to compensate by reading extra bible and using that as an excuse to not do the others. When God pressed it on me to love others with a total love, I would compensate by getting extra strict in other areas. This doesn’t work of course. Obedience is better than sacrifice and God demands totally yielded vessels, rather than vessels that will get rid of some sins, but keep their favourites. That is what phariseeism is. The pharisee problem wasn’t that they wanted to uphold God’s law in every aspect, but that they compromised in the important areas, and went extra strict in the minute matters, using that as an excuse. We have to constantly be seeking growth in the first commandment, its a lifelong process, and even in heaven we’ll still be growing in the first commandment as we worship and grow in relationship with God.
The early apostles are proof though, that we can get pretty far even while still on earth when it comes to the first commandment. You read the biblical letters and see them break into spontaneous praise to God in the middle of a thought, especially Paul. They just could not stop thinking of God. Once and a while in these modern days we find someone who has grown to this kind of love and total commitment to God. It will take a process, but we really can get to that place where we love God with all our heart. There are a few things that will need to be overcome first off.
The first step in loving God with all your heart is to surrender every aspect of your life and circumstances to God for transformation. Ask Him to even bring whatever trials are necessary for purification of the things holding you back. It is a painful journey, but if we want the prize, we’ve got to pay the price. Really, total dedication of your life, is just as much about yielding to God, as it is about striving. Obedience is better than sacrifice. We cannot humanly strive a true 100%, but we can yield 100%. The giving your all is yielding every aspect of your time and life to God’s will. We need to remember that giving our all, cannot be just being constantly busy with godly activity if that activity is human-directed and is our choice and not God's leading.
There are two main enemies of loving God with all our heart. The first is that there is often a feeling of distance between us and God. It can feel as if God is just somewhere way off in heaven, and talking to him can feel empty. The second is boredom. Prayer gets boring after 15 minutes or however long. Both of these are solved by the same thing, you need to be being baptised in the Spirit. As Pentecostals, we have failed severely in guarding this doctrine from error. I am dumbfounded and angered at how much false teaching there is as a such a basic part of our faith as this. Part of the reason this doctrine has been muddled in error is because of its clash with the cheap grace heresy. Now there is this idea that you can just believe in Jesus and be baptised in the Spirit without dedicating your life. So then people are getting partial baptisms, or the gift of tongues, but not actually the real thing.
1. Baptism in the Spirit is not not not not not…. Not… just about tongues. Its primarily about intimacy with God. You experience God in the deepest way where his Spirit takes over your whole being. People usually will call this awesome bliss “joy.” so when you hear people say “joy unspeakable” it is more than just a feeling of happiness. Now, there is a lot of false teaching going around that the baptism is all about tongues, or that that is the initial evidence. That is baptism by sprinkling, not immersion. You want the full deal. The reason the apostles were so joyful and full of the love of God was because they knew God’s intimate presence, the Holy Spirit. The benedictions to epistles are always talking about the fellowship with the Spirit.
Nowadays we talk about fellowship like its buddies sitting around a table having a good time. But the Greek word is “koinonia” and this was a favourite word the Greeks used to describe a the intimacy of marriage. When the apostles end their letters talking about the fellowship with the Spirit, they are not talking about some kind of allegorical or metaphoric relationship. There talking about the intimate relationship we need to be having with god by constantly experiencing His Holy Spirit throughout our being. Remember, the Greeks used this word to describe marriage intimacy, its not some kind of distant, metaphoric relationship.
In Romans 5:5 Paul writes, “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” He doesn’t say ‘the gift of tongues has been poured out by the Holy Spirit.’ He says the love of God because Paul knew the tangible love of God by experiencing the Sprit, he didn’t just only get the gift of tongues and nothing more. Now let me share a personal example, one of the main reasons I did not see much importance whether I sought out the baptism or not, was because everyone said it was all about tongues. Now I had no clue it was the tangible love and intimacy with God, because where is all the emphasis? Its just tongues tongues tongues, that’s the evidence. But after experiencing it, it becomes clear that getting baptised in the Holy Spirit is the most important thing to seek God for after you are saved and have dedicated every aspect of your life. Saying the baptism of the Spirit is about tongues is like saying the purpose of worship is to relieve stress. Maybe that will happen, but its hardly an issue of importance compared to the real meaning of worship.
Now throughout church history, they would argue whether or not to baptise people by sprinkling or by immersion. When it comes to the baptism of the Spirit some people are touting sprinkling as the full meal deal, then someone maybe ends up speaking in tounges and think they got baptised. You don’t need to be baptised to have a spiritual gift. God even let Balaams donkey operate in prophesy and the discerning of spirits, besides all the other Old Testament examples of spiritual gifts. Because in the OT God gave his Spirit in the form of power, but not in the deep intimacy we can enjoy from Christ‘s ascension onward. So if tongues is all there is, and there's not a total, consuming love and not a deep intimacy, then that was baptism by sprinkling, not immersion. The true baptism of the Spirit feels like an intense pleasure comes over your whole being and sense of intimacy and oneness with God that could not be imagined without experiencing it.
The church at Corinth had a problem called “gift exaltation.” The one’s who were speaking in tongues thought they were more spiritual than the rest. Now that doesn’t sound familiar does it? Paul takes the chapters in Corithinans 12-14 to sort out their mess. He keeps emphasising that all gifts are important and does not link the baptism of the Spirit with speaking in tongues at all. No where in scripture does any of the apostles teach tongues to be the initial evidence of being baptised in the Spirit. In Acts 2:38 Peter tells the crowd that had witnessed pentacost. “repent, and let every one of you be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” it doesn’t say “and you shall receive the gift of tongues,” it says “you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” to be experiencing the Holy Spirit’s tangible love and presence is the gift.
Operating in tongues is a fun and its a versatile prayer language which everyone should have. But its not the same as the baptism. I only spoke freely in tongues six months after receiving the baptism.
2. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is not a one time thing. It is like communion, something scripture states we should do often. In Ephesians 5:18 Paul writes, “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit.”
When Paul says “be filled” The Greek tense is continuous, so if translators would really say it how it is, it would read. “be constantly filled with the Holy Spirit.” And anyways, this passage doesn’t make sense any other way. If baptism in the Holy Spirit was a one time thing, then how could Paul use it to make an entire lifestyle change appealing?
It is not a one time thing, it’s a central part of our relationship with God.
The first time you get baptised, you will likely need someone Spirit-filled to lay hands on you for the initial impartation. After that though if you stay fully yielded and committed to God, then it will be normal during times of worship, ministry and such, to be baptised again and again. Unfortunately, sometimes God takes us though dry times and withholds the full baptism experience from us for many years to test our faith and perseverance, to see if we will stay fully commited or give up. We just have to hold on and press through.
You are going to need to life a lifestyle dedicated to seeking God. Whether seeking Him through the word, in prayer, in worship, or in meditating and thinking about God. We cannot just give up and go back to only giving God the leftovers of our time.
Now this is one of the reasons I had only one experience with the Holy Spirit for two months after my initial experience, was because I had stopped giving God lordship over my time, and was spending most of it my way, rather than to serve Him. Once that was cleared up and I repented though, this one night I was praying to be taken into a vision and I didn’t get a vision but suddenly I got baptised in the Spirit again. I was surprised, because it is so often taught as if this is just a one-time deal. It was the first thing Jesus commanded when he ascended, and it is a critical experience to pray for and seek.
One other thing, to experience more and more of the Spirit you are going to want to be sometimes worshiping in private, not just in church. Whether its under your breath or out loud doesn’t matter. Worship and being filled with the Spirit are very closely connected. A lifestyle of worship is good and necessary, but not a substitute for verbally worshiping God on your own time. So unless you have an awesome memory for worship songs, your going to want to print a bunch of lyric sheets off.
Submit every attitude and all your circumstances for Him to work on. Tell Him to use the trials that are necessary to bring you all the way into his plan for you. The only way we can love God with all our heart, is to give everything to Him, regardless of the cost. In Jeremiah 29:13, God says “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” Living a lifestyle of seeking God is vital to keep getting baptised. As you grow in seeking God in everything you do, whether that's prayer, worship, studying and meditating on the word, God will let you live a life of experiencing His Spirit more throughout each day.
Now when people mine for gold, there is thing called “fools gold.” its bright yellow and shiny, and if you’ve never seen real gold you might think this is it. Some people do this with tongues. Rather paying the price of a dedicated life, they just want to get the baptism and tongues because everyone else in Pentecostalism is getting it. So they end up moving their mouth around and there told that they are baptised in the Spirit. So then they don’t seek out the baptism anymore because supposedly they already got it.
So, to get baptised in the Spirit, your going to have to be a bondservant, a love-slave with a totally dedicated heart and life.
Revelations 14 talks about the bondservants and their reward: “Then I looked and behold a Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with Him, one-hundred and forty four thousand having His Father’s name written on their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven like the voice of many waters, and like the voice of loud thunder. And I heard the sound of harpists playing their harps. They sang as if it were a new song before the throne, before the four living creatures, and the elders; and no one could learn that song except the hundred and forty-four thousand who were redeemed from the earth. These are the ones who were not defiled with women, for they are virgins. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were redeemed from among men, being first-fruits to God and to the Lamb. And in their mouth was found no deceit, for they are without fault before the throne of God.”
This is how Christ sees those who have a fully repentant attitude about sin, and who have became love-slave bondservants to Him. We’ve all sinned, but if we’re fully repentant, and chose to give our all for Jesus, then he sees us as spiritual virgins, who are free from the defiling effects of sin. They enjoy a special relationship with Christ in heaven, and follow Him wherever He goes. Anyone can go to heaven by trusting in Jesus for salvation and having a heart somewhat after him. But if there’s only half-heartedness, and partial repentance, then we arn’t counted with the bondservants. There are two classes of Christian: Those who are only 'saved' (wedding guests) and those who are the Bride of Christ (the 144,000). Many people incorrectly teach that the entire church is the bride of Christ. That may have been true in the early church when everyone was sold out and on fire, but it is not true today. There are plenty of people who are repentant enough to be saved, but not sold out enough to be part of the bride of Christ. Only the bride receives the baptism by immersion experience that we have been talking about. On the other hand the wedding guest believer receives only the gift of tongues.
This issue of getting baptised in the Spirit cannot be understated, it’s hard to even begin the journey towards loving God with all your heart without knowing the intimacy of the Holy Spirit. When your really baptised there will be no question or doubt about the experience, none at all. A lot of people are content with getting the gift of tongues, and don’t realize that that alone is not the baptism. You need to dedicate every aspect of your life to God, and be a bondservant to experience this fullness of intimacy which is reserved for the bride.
Now that extra intimacy of being an all-out love slave still applies while here on earth, it is not only something we wait to experience in heaven. To get baptised in the Spirit, and enjoy that intimacy with God you have to be a love-slave. Its not about exhibiting flawless Christian behaviour, but it is about having an all-out heart attitude towards God, that you will do anything in obedience to Him, because you love Him so much.
Bondservant Irrevocable Vow
Here is an example of a prayer you can say. When you do this, God will take you on the most amazing journey of really loving Him with all your heart. By praying it you are irrevocably signing on with God as a love-slave. This is not for everyone and you really have to count the cost. But if you really want to go all the way with God you are going to have to make a vow similar to this. Here is an example:
“God, I dedicate every aspect of my being to you. Take away everything that is not of you, and replace it with Christlikeness. I give my entire body, soul, mind, spirit, and will to you, I am yours completely, no longer my own. God I want to go all the way to the closest relationship possible with you, and get to the best I can be in serving you. Help me learn this the easy way God, and learn and submit to you right away but for the things you need trials for, I give you permission and invite you to use what trials and hardships are neccessary to transform me to total Christlikeness. I surrender my time to you, teach me to use my time in accordance with your will and not mine. I surrender obedience over my finances to you. Help me obey and discern your voice in giving. I give you permission and invite you to transform me, just give me strength to make it through. Transform my heart to total love of you, and of others. Give me a humble heart God, do whatever it takes. Take me all the way Lord God. I put you in charge of our relationship. You own me fully Lord God, and I recognize that I no longer have a choice of whether to obey you in even the small things. With your total help I commit to following you fully all of my days. I say all this irrevocably, Amen.”
Now you can’t dedicate something, and undedicated it later. This is an irrevocable commitment of yourself, so remember to count the cost and understand that this cannot be taken back. So if you are willing to say this, God will take you up on it. He will do the most amazing work in your life. For those who are truly hungry, you will never regret giving this all to God. On the contrary, it is the best thing you can ever do. And if you give you all of yourself to God, then He will give all of Himself to you. Then you can experience the fullness of the Holy Spirit, and not just once!
To recap everything, here are the main points to remember:
- The first commandment is not to just “love God,” it is to love Him with ALL your heart, ALL your soul, ALL your mind, and with ALL your strength.
- This requires you to irrevocably dedicate full lordship of every area of your life to Christ, there are no shortcuts.
- Loving God with all your heart also flows from experiencing the Holy Spirit.
- Baptism of the Holy Spirit is not just about tongues, its about experiencing the intimate presence and love of the Holy Spirit in a tangible and powerful way.
- Baptism of the Spirit is not only a one time thing. Sometimes there is a dry season we go through but it is normal to experience the baptism many times. Especially during worship.