Welcome into the great family of God. Jesus Christ paid the debt of our sins at the cross. By faith in that Name, you have just accepted the Father's gift of eternal life. This is without doubt the most important decision a human being can make in this life time. Thank you and again welcome, on behalf of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. He has been waiting for this moment before time began.
This article is designed to jump start you into an eternal and fruitful relationship with God. I encourage you to read it thoroughly and do the things suggested. A common mistake of new believers, and sometimes older Christians, is to hear the Word but not actually do what it says (Luke 6:47-49). God says the Truth will make you free (John 8:32), and that His Word (the Bible) is Truth (John 17:17). But the only truth that will make you free is the truth acted on. After reading this article and doing the things stated, you will be well on your way to a new and exciting adventure with your Creator. In addition, you will experience the in-filling of the Holy Spirit Who empowers to "will and to do of His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13).
In Christ and His love,
Dennis K. Reschke, Ph.D.
What Have You Just Done?
When you accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you received many things. When a human is born into this world, the spirit of that person is dead (Ephesians 2:1). It stands condemned before a holy God (John 3:18). By receiving Jesus as Lord, God gives us His Spirit that is altogether holy and righteous (Colossians 1:22). We don't receive a spirit, we receive His Spirit (Ezekiel 36:26, 1 Thessalonians 4:8). The Spirit is not a feeling, nor is it subject to feelings. Feelings are in the realm of the soul. The moment you accepted Jesus as Lord of your life, you may have felt great elation or peace or joy; or you may have felt nothing. Feelings can be effected by the Spirit. If you did not feel anything (as was my experience), do not consider this an inferior experience. Jesus likened being born again to marriage (Matthew 25:1-13). Some people become very emotional during their marriage ceremony, while others do not. Both are legally married. Humans are individuals. We experience different emotions and sensations given the same situations.
One pot hole new believers can fall into is believing the feeling they experienced is the born again experience. This is not so. Just because a spouse may not feel married does not mean the marriage does not exist or is dissolved. When you were born again and received God's Spirit, it is forever and is not dependent on feelings. Feelings come and go.
I encourage you to start a spiritual journal. As a first entry, write down the time and date you became a Christian, just like you would write down the time and date of a matrimonial ceremony. Also write down the reasons you chose to receive the salvation of Jesus Christ. (There are many reasons. All are valid). Six months from now, the freshness and newness of the experience might wear a little thin. It is good to remind yourself, by reading this entry, why you got born again in the first place. Have these issues changed in six months? Probably not, so why back out?
Preeminently, the born again experience is a relationship with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit (Colossians 1:21). Like any other relationship, communication and interaction with your heavenly Father is essential to keep it alive and vital. There are three principle ways to maintain this new relationship with God. The first is to pray. Prayer is simply talking with God. Speak your mind and heart to God. Do it every day. God says we should pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Every free mental moment you have, take the opportunity to speak and commune with God. This is not something we have to do, it's something we get to do. Pray to the Father in the name or authority of Jesus (John 16:23,24).
The second way to maintain your relationship with God is to read your Bible every day. The Bible is God's word of instruction, of correction, of encouragement, of revelation and enlightenment to believers while here on earth (2 Timothy 3:16). They are the very words of God! Jesus said He is the Word (John 1:14). The words of the Bible, which were inspired writings of God's chosen people through history (2 Peter 1:21), are Life itself. Jesus said, "My Words are spirit and life" (John 6:63). As you read, note verses or phrases that seem to "bounce off the page" at you. Write these down in your journal and meditate on them frequently. Tell others about them. Jesus said, "Man does not live on bread alone but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God" (Matt 4:4). God speaks to us in many ways. One of His primary methods of speaking to us is through His written Word (the Bible). Take these words seriously, but remember, the "sum of His Word is truth" (Psalms 119:160, NAS). We must understand individual Scripture verses in context with the rest of the Bible. The Bible is a coherent whole. Taking Scripture out of context or out of balance with other Scripture can lead to wrong thinking about God.
Start with the book of John in the New Testament. For the first year I suggest confining your reading to the New Testament. Someone has said, the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed, and the Old Testament is the New Testament concealed. The Old Testament is difficult to understand outside an understanding of the New Testament. The New Testament is relatively simple and straight forward. You have to "dig" a little, though. God encourages us to study the Word (Proverbs 25:2; 2Timothy 2:15), not just read it like a newspaper or novel.
The third way to maintain your relationship with God is to get together regularly with other Christians. In other words, go to church. God said that He has placed everyone in a specific church (1 Corinthians 12:18). Ask God which one He has placed you in and then go to it faithfully. Go to a church that teaches the Bible and that you feel "life" in. Jesus is Life (John 14:6). If there is no life there, it is possible that Jesus is not there. There are many dead churches out there, and there are many live churches. Expect God to lead you to a live church that will feed and nourish you spiritually. It will be the one that makes you feel like you're "home", that challenges you, that encourages, teaches, and loves you. God has said we should assemble with each other in this manner regularly (Hebrews 10:25).
Another benefit of the new birth is forgiveness of sins. Even as Christians, we can still sin because our souls are still largely unaffected by the Spirit of God in us. When this occurs, God has instructed us to confess those sins to Him and He will forgive us (1 John 1:9). Be specific and be prompt about it. Sin separates us from a healthy relationship with God, just as it does in human relationships. Sin will not cause you to loose your salvation, but it does compromise our day to day relationship with God. Like a child that has been disobedient to a parent and incurs displeasure, the child is not disowned or abandoned by the parent. In the same way, neither are we abandoned by the Father when we sin. Let the conviction in your heart, or feeling of guilt, prompt you to ask God's forgiveness, and look to His Word to guide you into correct behavior. Once you confess your sin to God, He forgets it ever happened (Psalms 103:12).
Another thing that God provides the believer is health for the soul (3 John 2). The soul of a person includes the mind, will, conscience, and the emotions. The natural mind, God says, is at odds with the mind of Christ (Romans 8:7). Because the human mind has developed outside the influence and presence of God in an abnormal and fallen world, its thoughts are disparate from those of God. In the eyes of God, heaven is normal and earth is abnormal. God admonishes us to come up to His level and live victoriously over the sin of the world and the sin of our own lives. In the realm of thinking, we do this by "renewing" our minds (Romans 12:2). This process involves exchanging our thoughts with God's. As we read and meditate on God's Word, we are told to throw out our old thoughts concerning the various issues of life, and exchange them for God's. By doing this we begin to see the Life of God grow within ourselves. God said, "As a man thinks in his heart so is he" (Proverbs 23:7). Notice this verse says, "... thinks in his heart ...". Faith is essentially a heart issue, not an intellectual proposition. We believe from the heart, not from our heads or minds. God says we should trust Him with all our hearts and not to lean on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:4,5). This is not to say we throw out our minds, rather, we renew it and are led forth by His spirit (Romans 8:14).
The will of the born again believer remains in tact. The spirit of God influences us to exercise our will to obey Him (Philippians 2:13). God will never over ride your free will. God is a Gentleman. He acts by permission. In fact, He will allow anything you choose to do by your will, even if it harms you (Galatians 6:7,8)! If we choose to sin, He won't stop us. He will convict you before and after committing the sin, and He will forgive you those sins as you confess them to Him (1 John 1:9). But He will not make you do anything. God is love (1 John 4:16). Love and choice go hand in hand. True love allows even bad choices. The remedy to sinful desires is to build up the Spirit of God within you. You do this by maintaining a lifestyle of reading His Word, praying, and going to church. A healthy spirit should exert government over the soul and body.
Our emotions are affected by God. God has promised us peace in exchange for fear (John 14:27; Hebrews 2:14,15); love in exchange for hate, indifference, and anger (Romans 5:5); trust in exchange for distrust (1 Corinthians 13:7). The Word contains hundreds of promises that, when received by faith, change the emotions of the world for the emotions of God.
Who Are You?
As child of God, you enjoy rights and privileges (John 1:12). You are a king and priest before Him (Revelations 1:6). You are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:21). You are a new creation that never existed before (2 Corinthians 5:17). You are an adopted member of the family of God (Romans 8:15). You are justified or "just-a-if-I-had-never-sinned" (Romans 5:1). God loves us as much as He does His own Son (John 17:26)! He has a plan and purpose for your life (Jeremiah 29:11).
Receiving the Holy Spirit
The Scriptures describe three baptisms. The word "baptize" literally means to immerse into something. This can be physical, figurative, or spiritual. These three baptisms are available to all believers. They are experiences following the new birth. These are not mandatory for salvation but the Scripture clearly teaches us to receive all three after the new birth.
The first baptism is water baptism. This is a symbolic act of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is a symbolic and spiritual identification with Jesus Christ (Colossians 2:12). The early church believers were baptized in water soon after their conversion (Acts 8:36; 10:47). We are admonished to do the same (Mark 16:16).
The second baptism is a baptism of fire (1 Corinthians 3:13,15). This is an ongoing experience throughout the life of a believer. It is a purging by a figurative fire of conviction that burns out the flesh nature within our souls. As you grow in Christ, there will be issues that come up in your life that God wants to change. God always provides an alternative behavior in exchange for the old. This is called grace. As an example, if you have a problem with anger, God provides patience and selflessness in exchange.
The last baptism is the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised His disciples an endowment of power after His resurrection from the dead (Acts 1:8). They experienced this baptism fifty days after His final resurrection from earth (Acts 2:4). The same baptism is available to the believer today. When someone receives the gift of the new birth, he receives the Holy Spirit to capacity (John 20:22). This third baptism of the Holy Spirit, however, is a filling to over flowing (John 7:38). Millions of Christians all over the world have experienced this marvelous gift. God desires all Christians to experience the infilling of the Holy Spirit (1Corinthians 12:7, Ephesians 5:18).
What the Baptism in the Holy Spirit Does
1. The over flowing spirit allows us to speak to God by prayer beyond our own mental understanding. Romans 8:26,27 says, "We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will."
2. He helps us to understand Scripture by revealing the Truth to our minds (1 Corinthians 2:12).
3. He gives us gifts of power, discernment, and utterance (1 Corinthians 12:1-10).
4. He causes us to be powerful witnesses to others (Acts 1:8).
Why Do We Need The Baptism of the Holy Spirit?
Jesus was born into the earth as a man. He chose to put off all powers of divinity during His earthly ministry (Philippians 2:6-8). Before He began this ministry, Jesus was baptized in water by John the Baptist and simultaneously baptized in the Spirit (Luke 3:21,22). After this event, Jesus began to display acts of supernatural power. Before this event no such works were recorded. The difference was this baptism (Acts 10:38). Jesus healed sick people, cast out demons, and did other supernatural things to accomplish the will of the Father. God wants us to do the same things Jesus did (John 14:12). Your motive should not be one of arrogance or ego, but of love and a selfless desire to help others (1 Corinthians 14:12).
The Early Christian Church Received This Baptism
There were several instances described in the book of Acts describing this baptism coming upon various people (Acts 8:5-17; 10; 19:2-6). This baptism is available today to all believers. God does not play favorites, giving certain people more than others (Romans 2:11). His pleasure is for all to receive the entirety of His kingdom (Luke 12:32).
How to Receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit
Ask! Luke 11:13 says to ask to receive Him. God does nothing in our lives but by permission. This permission is called faith. Asking God in faith gives Him permission to give you the infilling of the Holy Spirit. Asking in faith is the same way you accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. As was described with the gift of salvation, the infilling of the Holy Spirit is not something that is necessarily felt. It is a spiritual phenomena not a soulful one. After you ask God for this baptism, you probably will not feel anything. God said if you will ask, He will give. Taking God at His Word is called faith. Faith is the evidence of things not seen or felt (Hebrews 11:1). Faith comes by reading and meditating on the Word to the point that it becomes real to you in your heart (Romans 10:17). Stop now and ask God for the infilling of the Holy Spirit.
Having received something by faith, the proper response is to say, "Thank you". Thanksgiving is an act of faith. Take a moment now to thank God for having received the Holy Spirit.
The next step is to speak. The act of speaking involves making sounds in the vocal cords, and moving the mouth, tongue and lips. Scripture says we do the speaking while the Holy Spirit gives the words to say as we speak (Acts 2:4). This is awkward at first. A common mistake Christians make at this point is to wait for words to speak before making any sound with their voice. This is like putting the cart in front of the horse. The way of God is to speak first, then He will provide the words.
The words will be in a language either of human or angelic origin (1 Corinthians 13:1). It will be in a language that you personally do not understand, although someone else listening may understand if they happen to know that particular language. This happened to the first group of Christians that experienced this (Acts 2).
Why Speak in Tongues?
The purposes for speaking in tongues are several. The Scripture says we don't know what to pray for in our natural thinking (Romans 8:26). God always deals with the root of a problem, not the symptoms. As Christians, we do not always know what the root of any given issue is in our lives. God, however, does. He wants to deal with the root of all our issues, not just the symptoms. Speaking in tongues allows a believer to bypass the mind and allow the Spirit to pray directly through us. This is a very powerful tool in the arsenal of a believer (see also Ephesians 6:11-18). I like to think of the infilling of the Holy Spirit as a soldier and his gun. A soldier is still a soldier if he looses his gun, but he becomes less effective without it.
Another purpose for speaking in tongues is to build up spiritual "muscle". Jude 20 says, "But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit." The apostle Paul encourages us to speak in tongues much (1 Corinthians 14:5,18). By doing this, a believer empowers and maintains a strong spirit to exercise government over the soul and body.
Another reason is to reveal the nature, power, and direction of God in our lives. As you speak in tongues the Scripture says the mind is unfruitful (1 Corinthians 14:14). This simply means as we speak in tongues we do not understand the language being used. The verse before this says that we can ask God for the interpretation of what we say while we are speaking in tongues (vs. 13). Interpretation is not a transliteration, or a word-for- word translation. It means an impression, a sense, a word-picture, or an idea individually expressed. Although speaking in tongues is in another language, the sense of what is being said can be discovered if we will ask God for the meaning. This can be done in a church service or privately. Warning! What you receive from God through this gift can never supersede or contradict the written Word of God (the Bible). The Scripture says that the Scripture is more sure or trustworthy than the word of prophecy (2 Peter 1:19).
A Final Word: Be Patient
Any relationship takes time and energy to develop. As a new believer, you have the opportunity to grow as far and as fast as you want in this new relationship with God (James 4:8). The Scripture encourages us not only to hear but to do what He instructs in His Word (James 1:22-25). Continue to read your Bible with the intent of doing whatever it says to do. Make a habit of praying every day. Start with ten or fifteen minutes. Get involved at your church. Be a faithful attender. Get with another believer more mature than you who will help you grow. And should you sin, quickly confess that sin to God (who already knew about it before you even did it!) and believe that He forgives you (1 John 1:9).
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