How to Become a Christian: Chapter 17 - Step four - receive the Holy Spirit

How do we receive the Holy Spirit?

When we receive the Holy Spirit it is meant to be an event which you can't miss.  It is supposed to be very noticeable.  Indeed, one of the very purposes of being filled with, or baptised in, the Holy Spirit is to confirm conclusively to ourselves, and to others, that we really have become a Christian.  That is one reason why apostle Paul was so easily able to see, and hear, whether a person had, or had not, received the Holy Spirit. 

In the Bible this event of the baptism in the Holy Spirit is not presented as something quiet, such that you can't tell whether it has happened.  You can tell.  God doesn't want you to be left in any doubt about it.

So, if we have received the Holy Spirit there should, normally, be a clear sign.  Usually it is that we will be able immediately to begin to speak in tongues.  And/or we could begin to operate in one or more of the other gifts, though probably not all of them.  These other gifts will not necessarily come immediately.  Some of them could come immediately, for example prophecy or interpretation of tongues.  Others may come later, as and when we need them.  I have never heard of anybody having all of the gifts, except for apostle Paul.

The sign that most of us should expect to see straight away, is the ability to speak in tongues.  It is not just making babbling sounds. It is clear, structured, complex language.  It usually flows in full sentences without any effort. and without needing to think or construct it at all.

It has been suggested to me that I am being too dogmatic in suggesting that most people can and should speak in tongues.  The argument is put to me that there are some people who cannot and do not speak in tongues but, nevertheless, that they are genuine Christians and have received the Holy Spirit.  I wouldn't argue against that.  Indeed I know many people who are excellent Christians and mature disciples who have never operated in any spiritual gifts (so far as they know).  Many of these people that I know, and who are my friends, do not even believe in the gifts being for today. 

Are such people real Christians?  I'm sure they are.  Have they received the Holy Spirit, despite not having, or not using, the gifts?  It may well be so.  I don't know.  I'm not wise enough or clever enough to know such things. I think they have. If so, could it be that without realising it, they have been baptised in the Holy Spirit and could operate in spiritual gifts if they chose to do so?

It is quite possible that they have received the baptism in the Holy Spirit but just don't know it.  Perhaps, therefore, they could operate in the gifts if they chose to.  I don't know. What is clear is that they never choose to.  That is probably because of their theology, which rules it out. They don’t believe that they are supposed to, and they don’t see others doing so.  Therefore, they don’t do it either.

The Holy Spirit never forces you to receive or operate in any of His gifts

Let's address a common area of confusion, which I got wrong myself as a young Christian.  You mustn't imagine that the gift of tongues will be forced upon you, such that you don't have to do anything at all, or even to speak out.  Though the gift of tongues is supernatural, it still operates through your physical tongue.  Your tongue is, and always will be, entirely under your control. 

So, for the gift to begin to operate you do have to choose to speak.  You have to launch forth and say something.  You can't just sit there saying nothing at all and expect the Holy Spirit to take over or do it all for you.  He won't.  The same applies to prophecy, interpretation, and so on. You have to choose to speak.

The Holy Spirit is the most perfectly well-mannered, gentle, sensitive person you could ever imagine.  He does not take over or dominate you or use you like a puppet.  He gives gifts, but He gives them to you for you to use, or not to use, as you freely choose.  The Holy Spirit always respects your free will.  He never forces you to do anything.

Many people make the serious mistake (as I did) of never starting to speak in tongues because they wrongly imagine that if it is the real thing it will happen to them, without them needing to do anything or speak at all.  They expect to be "taken over" like a ventriloquist's dummy or to go into some kind of trance where they speak without any involvement from themselves.  That is all totally mistaken.  That is the Devil's way, not the Holy Spirit's.  Indeed, if it happens like that, you can be sure that it is not the Holy Spirit who is involved.  That is not His way, or His style. 

By contrast, the hallmark of the Devil and of all his demons is that they always seek to dominate, control and manipulate us.  The Holy Spirit never does.  So, a medium or spiritualist, when they speak, is under the power and influence of a demon.  That demon will, to some degree, take over and speak through the medium, even overriding their free will.  In some cases such mediums may be pure fraudsters, faking it and making it all up for themselves.  But, in many other cases, they really are under the dominating power and influence of a demon.

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