The Holy Spirit & Devil Are Symbolic

28 Feb

When you hear someone mention the baptism in the Holy Spirit do you get tense? If you do, I don’t blame you. I remember the early years of my Christian life, and how they shaped so much concerning my view of the Holy Spirit. I was nineteen the first time I ever heard of the Holy Spirit. Some people referred to Him as the Holy Ghost, which, according to my frame of reference, didn’t help the situation and freaked me out all the more. Who needs a hovering ghost in their lives, holy or not? Growing up in a totally un-churched home, my primary source of parenting was, you guessed it, good ole fashioned T.V., and I had seen enough movies to know I didn’t need any ghosts lurking around my house. Remember Poltergeist? That blonde little girl with her creepy little voice thoroughly convinced me beyond any shadow of a doubt, that the last thing I needed in my life was a Holy Ghost. As people talked to me about this thing called, being filled with the Spirit, I was unsettled to say the least. It wasn’t until I was invited to a men’s retreat that the Holy Spirit snuck up on me and blind sided me out of nowhere, and my life has never been the same since.

So it’s no big surprise that I was filled with the Spirit that weekend, but what was surprising, is that it wasn’t as strange as I had once thought. Now, I know some people might be thinking that I didn’t think it was weird because my weirdo meter is broken, which in the end may be the case, but all things considering, it was amazing I wasn’t scared stupid. It was a simple encounter, yet profound. The simplicity was in God’s gentleness. He knew I was freaked out by the whole idea, but He also knew that I wanted every promise and blessing he offered, even if it was uncomfortable. At the close of worship the leader asked if anyone wanted to be filled with the Spirit. My heart pounded in my chest as I raised my hand. A few men put their hands on my shoulders as worship resumed, and it happened. A deep thankfulness rose up from within me, and I was overwhelmed with the mercy and compassion of God who would die for someone like me. As I began to express that thankfulness, my words changed to words I couldn’t understand. It wasn’t the strange language that surprised me as much as the peace that enveloped my heart. It happened so simply, but the next few moments changed my life forever. During those moments of worship, God spoke words over my life that to this day are the most treasured words of love and direction I’ve ever heard. It was that day that he set his mark on me as a pastor.

My journey with the Holy Spirit didn’t end there though, in fact, it was only the beginning. I wish I could say that my experiences from this point with the baptism in the Holy Spirit were normal, but I can’t. I gave my heart to the Lord during a time when a lot of strange movements, that were deemed revivals, were popping up everywhere. Churches were going crazy with weird manifestations and doing strange things, all under the pre-text of the Holy Spirit. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure some of these things were genuine moves of the Holy Spirit, but A LOT weren’t. Much of what I experienced was nothing more than foolishness and people trying to make God their personal lackey. I went to services where people were peer pressured to roll around on the floor laughing uncontrollably (or at least acting like it), barking like dogs, or roaring like lions. I even went to one service where people were told to lay on the floor and act like babies. They were informed that you must become like children in order to inherit the kingdom of God. I saw some strange and outright disgusting things during those early days. I had such a hard time trying to determine what a genuine move of the Holy Spirit was. It was a confusing time to say the least.

Unfortunately, for many people in the church, the confusion has never subsided concerning the Holy Spirit, and many people have ‘thrown the baby out with the bath water,’ so to speak. Because the Holy Spirit has been associated with so many strange and manipulative things, many have distanced themselves from the conversation all together and pretend that the Holy Spirit was for another place and time. Whole portions of scripture have been completely ignored, and what’s even worse, is that 30% of professed believers in the United States believe that the Holy Spirit and the Devil is only symbolic (George Barna). This statistic scares me to death on so many levels, and is causing me to ask some really hard questions concerning my beliefs. Have I shaped my beliefs about the Holy Spirit more off culture and fear than scripture? Would I rather have a tame God that doesn’t do things that I would consider weird? Do I depend more on my own skills and abilities than I do on God’s power?

I realize the Holy Spirit has gotten a bad rap over the years. I myself have had incredibly hurtful experiences regarding the topic, but I don’t want to let those experiences distract me from the will of God for myself as a believer. Over the past couple of months I have become so burdened for a generation of believers who, either think the Holy Spirit is symbolic, or know nothing about the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Scripturally, we can’t escape this topic, and I personally don’t want too. This by no means is a deep theological treatise on the subject, because I’m not qualified. My hope, however, is to give a scriptural road map over the next few weeks for those whom have never really known what the scriptures say about this crucial topic.

Topics to cover:

What purpose does the baptism in the Holy Spirit serve?

Who is it for?

Are there conditions for obtaining it?

How do I receive it?

How do I know I have it?

Is it a one time thing?

Stay tuned, and I would love your feedback.


2 Responses to “The Holy Spirit & Devil Are Symbolic”

  1. Gwen March 8, 2012 at 5:30 #

    Hi Tom, I’d love to read your follow up to this! I’ve often wondered if the water baptism was meant to also be the baptism in the Holy Spirit – the new testament describes them as separate things. From what I’ve seen on the church website, it almost seems as if they reserve it for those about to embark on huge missions or life changes. I want to have the Spirit in my life, but do I need that baptism to have it? I’ve asked it several times to help me, to come to me, and sometimes I think it’s there and sometimes I don’t. There’s not many people to talk to about this.

    • tommuellerbooks March 13, 2012 at 5:30 #

      Hi Gwen,

      Thanks for responding and asking these questions. I will be doing more posts on the Holy Spirit in the future. To answer your first question. Water baptism is something different than the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Both are subsequent salvation experiences. All believer are commanded to be baptized in water after confession in Christ. This command to be water baptized is an outward profession of faith and it’s the believers first call to obedience.

      Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20 NLT)

      Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38 NLT)

      It’s important to note that a person can be saved and not have been baptized in water. Baptism however is a command of Jesus and the Apostles to all believers. Baptism in water is the outward sign of what has already happened in the believers heart. Many people today in churches (mega churches especially), have not been baptized. Most of the time it’s because people don’t know about it or understand that it is a command of Jesus. This is due largely to the fact that in larger churches, baptism is only done a few times a year, due often to logistics of services. With that said, if you have not been baptized, I would encourage you to look into during our next baptism services.

      Now, concerning the question of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. It is true that it often happens during water baptism, but it’s not the same thing. This is an extensive topic that I will continue to write on, but in a snap shat, the baptism in the Holy Spirit is something that Jesus promised to all of his followers. Before his ascension (Jesus), commanded his followers to wait for the promise of the Father.

      Once when he was eating with them, he commanded them, “Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift he promised, as I told you before. John baptized with water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 1:4, 5 NLT)

      This is a gift that all believers should seek and need. Jesus emphasized this fact strongly to his disciples. Hopefully in the coming weeks I will answer some of your questions concerning this promise of the Father.

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