The Holy Spirit has power and authority over all three realms: spiritual, supernatural and natural. He knows no other purpose or existence than to be an extension and expression of God; He is trustworthy and reliable and utterly consistent with the nature and intent of a holy God. So as we pursue knowing God, and learn to distinguish the activities of the Holy Spirit from all other sources, we can have confidence that the Spirit is in fact revealing the nature of God to us in the manner and timing established by the Father and made possible by the Son. Since we know by experience that the Father loves us, and we know by experience that the Son loves us, we also know by experience that the Holy Spirit loves us. And that love is so big that He spends every minute, of every hour, of every day, of every week, of every year, doing nothing but arranging every circumstance in our life to bring us into greater healing, wholeness and dependence on the Father and intimacy with the Son.
The Holy Spirit reveals Himself to each individual as He so chooses. The two most common ways we speak of His manifestation are baptism with the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit. Though the scriptures do shed some light on each of these, it is up to each of us to be taught by the Lord through experience. These are all relational aspects, reflecting our availability and dependence on the Lord, not on our knowledge, level of sanctification, anointing, calling or impartation.
Baptism with the Holy Spirit
What is the “baptism with the Holy Spirit”? Whole denominations have been built on differing interpretations of the scriptures that refer, directly or indirectly, to some form of baptism. Our focus will be on how baptism in the Holy Spirit contributes to our goal of knowing God. For our purposes, baptism with the Holy Spirit is the infilling or immersing of the believer with and in the Holy Spirit. This experience occurs many times over the life of the believer. One of the reasons we are “emptied” is to make more room for the “infilling” (figuratively speaking, of course). When we are born again, Jesus comes to live within, and our spirit is regenerated by the Spirit; by definition we are birthed and indwelt by the Holy Spirit, a one-time event. But throughout our life, subsequent baptisms, both infillings and immersions, where we are filled inwardly in our soul and immersed outwardly in the Spirit, will occur. The Lord has a specific relationship for each of us, and it is best to let Him reveal Himself as He chooses. So the best approach to learning about the baptism in the Spirit is the same as for knowing the Lord: Ask! Here are a couple of questions you may want to try out (remember the Lord is not nearly as concerned about asking Him the “right” way as we are—it is His nature to give good things to His sons).
“Lord, do you want me to be baptized in your Spirit?”
“Lord, is that you?”
“Lord, I ask you to baptize me in your Holy Spirit in whatever way you choose, whenever you choose, and now would be fine!”
Then give the Lord a couple of moments to make Himself known. By asking the Lord for the baptism, you have made yourself available to Him unconditionally in this area so that whatever He wants for you, you have acknowledged His right and authority to give it to you, in His manner and timing. Whether you sense a change at that moment or not is not relevant to the asking, though you can be assured that He will in some way acknowledge the asking by responding. So be aware, expectant and ready to respond with stillness, gratitude and rest. This doesn’t mean you will have a specific experience mentioned in scriptures. For instance, you may or may not experience speaking with other tongues, audible sounds of rushing wind, physical manifestations of fire, or the ability to preach in other languages! We know God is faithful, and in time and in His way will make Himself known. He doesn’t want us to be drawn to the baptism, He wants us to be drawn to Him.
Supernatural Gifts of the Holy Spirit
This is another area where a lot of teaching has been produced based on just a few scriptures. What we want to look at is what are the gifts, who are they for, how do we get them, and what do we do with them.
What Are Gifts of the Spirit?
The charisma, or gifts of the spirit, are often referred to as spiritual gifts. However, since they don’t function in the spiritual realm, but reside in the supernatural realm (our soul) and function in the supernatural and natural realm, it is more accurate to call them supernatural gifts given by the Spirit. These gifts can be described as one of the many ways the Lord impacts the supernatural and natural realms through the cooperation of a believer. For non-believers, these same capabilities, which were created in Adam and passed down to each successive generation, have either stagnated through lack of use or have been abused, or not used according to their original intent. This is where ESP, some witchcraft, divination, etc., comes from. As believers, we need to understand that the “gifts” themselves are not “holy”; they are not infallible or to be exalted in any way, though their activity in our lives is to be honored and sought after. We will go into more detail regarding some of the gifts described in scripture later, but for now in general know that supernatural gifts are real and for today. Also remember that just because some may have abused or mis-represented their use doesn’t mean that they can be ignored or dishonored. As the Spirit interacts with our spirit, the outflow will be expressed in some measure as administrations, extensions and manifestation of gifts of the Spirit.
Who Are They For?
Supernatural gifts already reside in every believer, and the Lord wants each of us to desire their enlivening in our daily life as well as stirring it up in others. Since this is one of the ways God shares His life with His world—through us, these gifts—to ignore or resist the necessary training is to deny God His throne rights in our lives, and in fact to deny our very nature, which is to give unconditionally what we have already received unconditionally.
How Do We Get Them?
Well, actually, you already have them, or at least they are already available to you from within. Rather than asking the Lord to “give” us these supernatural gifts, we can ask the Lord to identify and stir up those gifts or aspects of the supernatural that He would particularly like to focus on at that given time. The Lord may or may not use terms from the scriptures; it is His right to train you in the way He wants you to go. The purpose is not for you to be able to fit into a specific group at church or be equipped for a ministry. The goal is to be dependent on Him for all things, including life, fellowship and discipleship.
These gifts can also be “imparted” by others. This doesn’t mean that someone gives, or prays for you to receive, something that you didn’t have before. Rather it is the process of discernment at work, where another is able to identify a gifting in you that the Lord wants to encourage you to focus on. By the expression of encouragement, whether through prayer or laying on of hands, the Lord often takes the opportunity to baptize or immerse the receiver in an additional level of His movement. This is perhaps an explanation of why there is often either an emotional response or a clear manifestation of His presence as the gift is stirred within.
Just by way of a broad example, say you’re among believing friends, one of whom expresses to you that the Lord wants you to begin moving in a gift of healing. Perhaps this gift has been on your mind, or perhaps this just sounds right when he suggests it. (You are never obligated to let anyone pray for you just because they say they have something for you from God.) You agree. Your friend places a hand on your shoulder, and simply asks the Lord to stir up the gift of healing within you. You may even feel a warmth, or shock, or nothing at all where he is touching you, and you may or may not sense any response from within. What is happening is that the Spirit, flowing to your friend’s spirit, through his soul via a gift, by means of his body (his touch), is breaking through whatever log-jam there may be in your soul (mis-beliefs, fears, etc.) that is hindering the resident gift within from freely flowing. Meanwhile, the Holy Spirit is rising within your spirit to your soul to break the log-jam on your end. That particular attribute of the Spirit, healing, now has a way to freely pass from spirit to soul through body, which is when your training begins in that area.
Some of you may have a hard time with this explanation, and that’s fine. This description accommodates the scriptures just as clearly as any other, it makes sense and works when tested. But if you want to abide by another teaching, that’s fine as well. Consider, though, that if you want to grow in exercising the gifts, wouldn’t you rather rely on God’s sovereign desire and ability to stir up and train you in the supernatural gifts, than on being in the right place at the right time to receive from the right people in the right way? (One test is, would an approach work if you were stranded alone on a desert island without the scriptures or anyone else to help you but God? If you need God plus something else you are not submitting to His full sovereign authority.)
What Do We Do with The Gifts?
Whatever God wants! Part of our training is learning to depend on God for instructions on what to do with them, and when. For instance, with our healing example, Jesus passed by many people whom He did not heal to get to the one the Father wanted to heal. We learn the discipline of dependence in using the gifts; they are not for us, they are not for others, they are an extension of God’s will and purpose, which is to give His love. HE ALONE chooses how this is done! Very often we interrupt God’s purposes in others’ lives because we step in with encouragement, financial help, even prayer—right when God is getting them to the place where He can break their independence! So the more we are tuned to His small voice, the more we see what the Father is doing, and join Him in His purposes; the more we will tune out the cries of the people, and our own needs as well.
The Best Gifts?
Let’s say you’re stranded in the middle of a desert, without food or water, for days, and are about ready to expire. Two fellows come along, one with a sack full of gold, another with a canteen of water. Which is the best gift? The water, of course! As far as the gifts of the Spirit are concerned, which is the best gift? That which meets the need at the time! So if knowledge is needed, the gift of healing is of no effect. If teaching is needed, the gift of hospitality is of no effect. This is why we need to depend on the Lord to meet our needs and those of others; He alone knows the need!
As you grow in dependence on the Lord, and learn how He moves through the operation of the gifts, you will become more and more comfortable to be available to be used by Him in whatever capacity He chooses. Say the Lord has been flowing through you in the gift of healing, but gives you the discernment that what is needed for the person is a word of wisdom, understanding, to enlighten his situation. Ask the Lord, “What do you have for this person?” The Lord may choose to give Himself through you, or through another person. The point is that, from your point of view, this may be an opportunity to begin letting the Lord minister through you in the gift of a word of wisdom. There is a danger in becoming “specialized” and in letting others decide how you should minister, to whom, and when. God doesn’t appreciate it when others usurp His authority, and His “order” is not like ours.
By Whose Authority?
If the best gift is the one that is most needed, can we extend that valuation to the person being used in that gift? Does the person who has the most and/or best gift have the most authority? Again most structural religious organizations have been built to accommodate certain beliefs. If the Lord wanted us to use the scriptures as a pattern to set up a church structure, they would be so clear that there wouldn’t be 2,000 official denominations in the United States alone, each of them “scripturally based.” So the gifts are operated out of “functional authority.” We are quickly approaching a time when most of the moving of the Spirit of God in and through His people will occur outside organized religion of any kind, simply because those in legal authority—according to a name on the door—have usurped the Spirit’s authority over what happens inside, and are therefore unwilling to let the Spirit have His way, because it could be “out of order.” This is not to say that there is no order in the church! There definitely is. And it’s very simple: Jesus is in charge! If Jesus Himself approached the church in physical form, how many churches would turn Him away from the pulpit either because He hadn’t cleared His message with them beforehand or because He wasn’t a member of that church organization?
When someone is dying of cancer, or is wounded in heart or head, or in the depths of despair, they want to be set free by God. They don’t care whether the one setting them free is “under an approved, ordained authority,” neither does God, and neither should we.
Likewise, just because someone is growing in the operation of the gifts doesn’t mean they are more dependent than someone else and should be listened to more closely. Our standard is dependence, not power. The power follows! It doesn’t lead! But if what is being preached and taught is truth, change will be taking place.
Because of His compassion, the Lord may continue to use someone’s gifts even though that person has again asserted his independence and is living out of his flesh, pushing God off His throne. Authority is non-transferable; God does not share it with our self or with others.
Our God has a great sense of humor, and draws us by His goodness, not by His sternness! Don’t be surprised if He occasionally likes to have fun with us and with His power! Let Him be and do whatever He likes, and whatever needs to be done will be done!
Adapted from Knowing God by Dianne Thomas