How to move into the gifts of the Spirit
Learning to Listen & Hear the Voice of God
Talmadge Wilson, a friend of ours, returned from the African mission field and pastored a church in Bremerton, Washington. He called me up in1984 and said, "Jim, there are some very fine members of my church. Their names are Bob and Judy. He is a Navy captain, and his wife is a professional secretary, and they are moving to Los Angeles for his ship to be refitted. They need to find a church for the time they are going to be in Los Angeles. They've put their children in the school that your church operates and are planning to visit your church. Please welcome them and make them feel at home."
Well, we did that, and the first Sunday they attended my Sunday school class for adults. After that, they went into the sanctuary where there was tremendous worship and wonderful praise. The church was moving in the gifts of the Holy Spirit. There were tongues, interpretation, prophecy and singing in the Spirit.
Bob and Judy were unprepared for this, to them, unusual moving of the Spirit. This is not what they had experienced in their church, and they were wondering, after three Sundays, whether they should look for another church!
We were leading the Junior Children's Church at the time.
We had over a hundred children, and we had seven to eight teachers on the floor. We had to make sure that we kept recruiting for staff all the time, so every now and then I'd go down to the sanctuary in order to keep the children's ministry before the people, and let them know that there were ongoing needs for teachers. That third Sunday that Bob and Judy attended our church, I went in to speak for five minutes, to share with the congregation the opportunities in children's church, that we needed teachers; that tremendously exciting things were happening with the kids. I got up and said, "We need teachers! If God is speaking to you, come and see us in children's church, sit in on the meeting, and see what we do, and if you feel this is what you would like to do, we'll ease you in gradually."
Bob and Judy were sitting in the back of the church, and they saw a way to get out of those Pentecostal morning meetings. They looked at one another and gave a little 'nod' yes! They wanted 'out' from the Gifts of the Holy Ghost; they were scared. So they came up to children's church thinking, "This is wonderful; now we can do something with the kids and don't have to worry about all 'that stuff.'"
They just didn't know what was happening in children's church!
We had been teaching the children how to worship, and led our kids into salvation; into the baptism in the Holy Spirit; and also into the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We got to the place in worship time in children's church where it was normal for the gifts to be in operation, and the children were being used in many of the Gifts.
People ask, "Can children hear from God?" Little Samuel did in the Bible. Our children had been taught to listen for His voice. That Sunday morning Bob and Judy came into children's church and sat at the back. There must have been ten adults in the meeting.
A little girl of about 10 years old, who was usually as quiet as a mouse, was sitting halfway down children's church, and as we worshiped she spoke up, quietly, and said, "The Lord is saying to you that there is sin amongst us, and the sin is not in the children; it's an adult." About that time, you could hear a pin drop. She said, "It's not a man; it's a woman."
Now I'm the pastor of Children's Church, and I'm standing there, thinking, "Lord, what do I do now?" I remembered the words of Edgar Pettenger, a veteran Assemblies of God missionary to Africa, when I was in Bible school.
He said to me one day, "Jim, when you don't know what to do, don't do anything, because as sure as you do, you'll do the wrong thing and do more damage than if you just wait." So guess what I did? I didn't do anything!
I didn't understand it. I couldn't say that this child was not moving in the Spirit, but I sure didn't understand it. The prophecy was that the person must get right with God, and God would lay His hand of blessing on her life.
Tuesday morning my phone rang, and Judy was on the line. She said, "Pastor, we need to talk." I asked, "What's the problem, Judy?"
She explained, "Pastor, you remember on Sunday morning how that girl spoke in children's church? Pastor, I'm the one she was speaking about. Before I married Bob, there was sin in my life that even Bob did not know about. I've hidden it for years, and when I came into your church, I thought these gifts of the Spirit were just a lot of nonsense, hyper-enthusiasm, but God spoke to me through that little girl, and I knew that it was me that He was speaking to. I got on my knees, and I made it right with God and with my husband. I want you to know that we're coming back to children's church and will help you all we know how, and pastor, would you and your wife come and pray with me? I want the baptism in the Holy Spirit!" A week later, Judy got the Baptism in the Holy Spirit! She and Bob were two of the best workers we ever had.
Two years later, I was down in San Diego, and visited with Bob and Judy. He had been promoted to full Captain, U.S. Navy and was then Commanding Officer of the Surface Tactical Warfare School at Coronado Island, with four years left in the service. They told me they were going to go into ministry amongst children after leaving the Navy. They were preparing themselves, for that girl's prophecy was a turning point in their lives.
"How did that little girl know those things?" she asked. Well, you see, she was just worshiping and listening to God, and as she listened, God told her something. So she just told us what God was telling her. People can hear from God today, even children, if they know how to listen for His voice.
The Christian church has never before had the resources of knowledge available, that we have now, yet the church, worldwide, is more at a loss than at any time in its history.
Statistics indicate that the Christian Church is not coping with social problems, and interpersonal relationships.
The divorce rate is up. Child abuse is up. Substance abuse is up. We can go on naming one thing after another, and the church is at a loss to deal with the increasing problems. All this is in spite of the fact that we have outstanding seminars, films and counseling programs like we never had before. I believe that the church needs and must return to the Supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit if we are going to cope with these situations. If we are going to accomplish the task of changing lives and restoring people, we are going to have to move back into the gifts of the Holy Spirit. If we, the Church, are going to once again be all that we ought to be, we are going to have to hear from God directly and distinctly.
We in these 'modern times' tend to relegate the task of hearing from God to pastors. We've gotten to the place where we are skeptical when anybody, even the pastor, suggests he's heard from God. We can't believe that now. I know that there are people who have come along claiming they heard from God, and some weird things have been said. There are guidelines and cautions that must be observed, but it would be foolish to throw the baby out with the bath water.
We are learning! When you wash the baby, you keep the baby and throw out the dirty water. Because some people have done things that are not right and not in the Spirit, is no reason for us to reject the moving of the Spirit of God. God forbid that we should! The Bible abounds with examples of people who have heard from God, there are numerous lists of them.
Let me share something with you from the book of Galatians.
The law of sowing and reaping.
Paul writes to the Galatians in Chapter 6: 7, and says, "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall reap life everlasting."
Now, to go back to Genesis chapter 1. It is interesting to see that same Law in the very first chapter of Genesis, Vs.12. "And the earth brought forth vegetation and seed after its own kind."
You put an apple seed in the ground, and you get what? An orange tree? No! You get an apple tree. If you sow squash, you get squash; you sow corn, and you get corn. Every seed after its kind. Now, does that sound complicated?
If you have weenie roasts in the church, you will have people who have learned how to eat weenies. If you have a baseball team, you're going to have people who are probably going to get good enough to take the league pennant.
But if you want Spiritual Christians, if you want spiritual results, you're going to have to sow to the Spirit. Now, don't misunderstand me. Church socials and church entertainment have value. I'm not against that. But you need to understand that these things are the social life of the church. The entertainment, the good of fun, are byproducts of the church's primary task. The church's primary task is to produce people who are spiritual, who commune with God, who hear from God. These are the people who will help change this old world. And if we as the people of God can have some social times, with entertainment and fun, that's great. We do not, however, produce Spiritual Christians by carnal means.
Look at how we learn to listen.
To produce spiritual fruit we have to sow some spiritual seed.
Let's look at a couple of instances in the New Testament of people who heard from God.
In Acts 8, we have the story of Philip, the deacon.
Deacons, this is for you! He went down to Samaria, and he began to preach; that's the first thing. It's OK to preach, deacons, it's all right. God wants you to proclaim the good news as much as anyone else in the church. Philip began to preach and do miracles. And then one day an angel spoke to him. So you see angels can speak to deacons. Sure they can! Some preachers don't believe that deacons can hear from God. They can. Philip heard an angel speaking to him and saying, "Go down and get onto the road that leads down to Gaza."
Philip could have answered, 'Well, there's a youth meeting tonight I have to attend, and there are people that want counseling!' Did he say that in the Bible? No! He just got up and headed for the Gaza Road.
When you hear from an angel, it's a good idea to do what the angel says to do. So he got on the Gaza road, and I think it was something like the Antelope Valley Freeway to Los Angeles. It was the main road leading to Egypt. There was a lot of traffic on it. I believe he was standing there saying, "Here I am, just looking up and down the road." Then he saw a chariot coming down the road.
Probably a dozen chariots had passed already, but suddenly the Spirit of God instructed, "Join yourself to that chariot." Now, if he had been an Englishman, he would have felt in need of an introduction. You don't just join yourself with people you haven't been introduced to; I would never do that. Fortunately, he was not an Englishman. He was spiritual, and so he joined himself to the chariot.
The man riding in that chariot happened to be the Queen's Secretary of the Treasury, a Eunuch from Ethiopia. Philip heard him reading aloud from the book of Isaiah, and he asked, "Do you understand what you're reading?"
The Eunuch said he really needed someone to explain it to him, so Philip said, 'I'll tell you all about it,' and he led him to Jesus. In that year the Gospel was planted in Ethiopia, and that land has had a Christian heritage for nearly 2000 years. Why? Because Philip heard God speak and obeyed.
Acts 5 gives an account of Peter meeting with a group of Christians.
They were bringing in gifts to help the needy in the Church, and Ananias came along and brought some money and said, "Peter, we sold that property down there and we just want to give all the money."
Peter looked him straight in the eye and said, "The Holy Ghost is saying you're lying to God." How did Peter know that? Did the bank call?
No! The Spirit of God told him. Ananias fell down dead. When his wife came along, she didn't know what had happened, she thought she could pass off the same thing . The Spirit of God is able to give us direction that supersedes all natural ability, we don't have to reason through a situation. Folks, we need the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. We can't figure out on our own what's happening in people's lives.
Paul was on a missionary journey.
He wanted to go into Asia, but no, the Spirit of God told him not to go. He said, "All right, we'll go into the province of Bithynia," but the Spirit told him not to go there either. In obedience, then, they went down to Troy on the west coast of Turkey and there, waiting before God, in the middle of the night God gave Paul a vision! God still uses visions to direct people.
In Paul's vision God showed him a man from Macedonia, in Greece who said, "Come over and help us" (Acts 16). Thus began the saga of the great missionary journey that took Paul to Europe, and laid the foundation of the Christian Church there. God was moving by his Spirit in a supernatural way.
John, the beloved, didn't start out as John the beloved.
Jesus looked at him, and called him the 'Son of Thunder' because he had just come from a village where he asked Jesus to strike the people dead. Later John became the Apostle of love and was arrested for his Christian testimony, imprisoned on the island of Patmos, in the salt mine.
You know what John said? "I was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day."
You can be in prison and still be in the Spirit. In Revelation 1 he said he was in the Spirit, and he heard a voice behind him. God began to speak to John. He heard God's voice, and wrote seven letters to the seven churches, and in every one of them he instructed, "He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit is saying." John had learned to hear God speak.
Isaiah said in Isaiah 30:21, "And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee saying, 'this is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.'" This is the way. Isaiah 50:4-5 in the living Bible says, ". . . morning by morning. He wakens me and opens my understanding, to his will. The Lord has spoken to me, and I have listened." In Isaiah 55:3, He continues, "Come to me with your ears wide open. Listen for the life of your soul is at stake." I think maybe sometimes God is saying we need to learn to listen.
In Hebrews 3:15 in the New Testament the writer says, "Today, if ye will hear God's voice. . . ." We need to learn to listen for the voice of God! He wants to speak to us.
A visiting preacher said, "It is more important for us to hear from God than for God to hear from us." I believe it.
I'm not saying it's not important for us to pray; but it is important for us to hear from God.
Four things the Bible teaches about hearing God speak
Jesus is speaking and teaching in John 10: 4, "And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, And the sheep follow him: for they know his voice." Further in chapter 10:14 we read, "I am the good Shepherd, and I know my sheep, and am known of mine." Then in verse 27: "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me."
Now here are four things Jesus is talking about:
1) Required relationship.
Jesus said, "The people I'm talking about are my sheep." Jesus is saying in effect, the people who hear and understand his voice are his sheep. Not some other people. It is the people of God who are going to hear the voice of God.
If you have a need in your life and you get into a crisis situation, the very first thing you have to do to handle it, is to get down on your knees with penitential tears to the son of God and say, "Jesus save me, and make me one of your sheep. Take away my sins. I want to come into a right relationship with you to be one of yours. I want to come into the fold. I want the care of God on my life." My friend, if you haven't yet done that and you haven't yet given your whole life to Jesus Christ, that is the number one requirement before God is able to get you to hear His voice.
2) Required direction.
My sheep follow me, he says. They keep company with me. They walk where I walk. Those of you who have been on a trip to the Holy Land, perhaps you've had the privilege of seeing a shepherd somewhere, leading his sheep. He doesn't drive the sheep, he walks ahead of them. You see, we're so used to herding cattle, we drive them, but a shepherd in the Orient not only knows the sheep, but the sheep know him, and every day they are led out to pasture. So He walks ahead of us; and gives us direction.
3) Required proximity.
He will call them by name, one at a time, to himself. They keep close enough to hear him. The sheep will respond and come to the shepherd, and he will then look over the sheep to see if one has come to any harm or damage, and he will dress and bind the wounds. He'll care for that sheep, and the sheep have learned to stay close to the shepherd. If another person calls that sheep, it won't respond. It only responds to the shepherd.
4) Required familiarity.
My sheep hear my voice, he said, "My voice." The sheep know His voice. Do your kids ever knock at the door and find it locked, perhaps? You ask, "Who's there?" They answer, "It's me!" What does "It's me" mean? It means that when they speak, you recognize their voice. You know who it is, and you open the door because you know that familiar voice. That's what Jesus is talking about when He says, "If you listen to my voice long enough, you're going to get to know it, to recognize it, when I speak to you."
When Jesus said, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them and they follow me," this was not just for the first hundred years of history. What is written is what it says. Did you read that it is just for a certain length of time, in the tenth chapter of John? Did you read it anywhere else in your Bible? I didn't! There's no time limit. Jesus did not say it was only to a few of his sheep. If you have a relationship with Him, you can learn to hear his voice.
There are people who try to tell us that we don't need to hear the voice of God any more. They say, "We've gotten into modern times, we have progressed!" I believe we need to hear the voice of God more now than we have ever needed to in the history of this world.
What do I have to do to hear the Voice of God?
Well, you say, "What do I have to do? I haven't heard the voice of God. I don't know how to hear the voice of God. I'm a Christian. I love Jesus. What I don't understand is, how do I get to hear the voice of God?"
Perhaps this illustration will help you to understand.
There was a cowboy from Texas visiting a friend in New York. He had never been to the big city before but had spent all his life out on the plains, out among the cattle, and when he arrived in New York, he was stunned. The buildings went straight up, and the noise of the traffic, the street sounds, and everything else nearly overwhelmed him as he walked down Broadway with his friend. Suddenly, the cowboy stopped. He turned to his friend and said, "I hear a cricket!" His friend responded, "Oh nonsense, how could you hear a cricket?" "Sure," he said. "I can hear a cricket." He stepped over to the nearby entrance of some apartments where there was a big earthen pot and looked inside and sure enough there was a little black cricket. His friend asked, "How in the world did you hear that cricket?" The cowboy answered, "Well, I spent all my life out on the plains, so I'm familiar with the voice of a cricket. I just couldn't help recognizing it among all the other sounds."
The first thing you have to do is to learn to recognize the voice of God. Then become familiar with it, and when you get into a busy situation with everything pressing around you, you'll recognize that voice. You've got to start somewhere.You've got to start somewhere.
The best place you can start is in your private devotions.
Now, a lot of people think devotions old-fashioned, but God has something to say to us. "Morning by morning, he wakens me and opens my understanding to his will, and the Lord has spoken to me, and I have listened." Isa. 50: 4. Where do you think Isaiah got that?
I wake up in the morning and I begin to listen to God. I take time every day to hear what God is saying to me, and if we're going to get back to the power of the early church, we're going to have to get back to the prayer times, and private devotions, of the early church.
It is my honest belief that the reason we saw tremendous growth in First Assembly of God, in Lancaster, CA, during the late '80's, was because they sowed spiritual seed, in increased devotions, both at the daily 6 a.m. early morning prayer meetings and in their homes. The more we do that, the more we will see God move within our churches.
You may say, "I'm a busy person, but I do pray at times. I tell God all my needs, my friend's needs, my family's needs, my situation at work." We tell God all these things, and that's OK. We grab our Bible and we read a little of that, and then we close the Bible and we say, "Time's up; we've got to get to work." There's your problem; you left out one important item: listening time!
How did our Children's Church get to the place where we had kids moving into the gifts of the Holy Spirit?
One of our teachers in children's church woke up one Sunday, at first light. God said, "Get out of bed; I want to talk to you." She went to the living room and sat on her recliner; she praised the Lord and worshiped, then closed her Bible and said, "Now, Lord, I believe I'm in tune with you, and I can just shut my mind to everything else, and Lord if you want to talk to me, I'm listening."
She sat like that quite a while, and then God said to her, "This morning is Sunday, and you are going to minister in children's church, and I want you to call out the children that are depressed, even to the point where they would commit suicide, and have other children pray for them."
She said, "Lord, I'm a school teacher, and I know kids don't get depressed like that; they are just fourth and fifth graders!" The Lord answered, "You do what I told you to!"
So, she came to church that Sunday morning and in worship time she immediately stood up and said, "God spoke to me this morning. I was listening, and he told me that there are kids here who are depressed, so depressed they would like to commit suicide. God wants to touch your life and meet your need." She stood there amazed as nine or ten children came out of the audience. As they were walking forward, one little girl about ten years of age just burst into tears and said, "My daddy is out of work; there are fights going on at home, and I'm so miserable that sometimes I've seriously considered trying to take my life." Then the teacher called out other kids who were filled with the Holy Ghost, and told them to minister to these children. We saw God do miracles in the lives of those kids that day. We learned that if you start listening, God will start talking.
From then on we taught the teachers, as well as the kids, to practice listening by getting really quiet before the Lord in their daily times with Him.
I don't know about you, but when people start talking in a class that I'm teaching, I found a wonderful way to get them to be quiet. I just stop talking! When I stop talking long enough, they shut up. Then I can talk again. I sometimes wonder if that's not what the Lord does with us. We get so busy; we talk, talk, and talk! To each other, and to the Lord. We need to stop and let God speak to us. Start practicing 'listening' during your devotions; make time for it.
When you are in church, tune in and listen to God during a worship service.
Perhaps you've been in a service where God moved by the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Did you sense that there was going to be a Prophecy or a message in Tongues before it happened? You did! Why do you think you sensed it, and not just the person that brought that Gift? I'll tell you what I think; I think it's because God moves upon the whole congregation, and many of us, if we tune in, will sense there is going to be a ministry in the Spirit now, God is about to speak. We sense that familiar voice of God. We almost know it's going to happen.
You can bring a radio in here and turn up the volume. We'll not hear a thing if it's not tuned to the right station, but if you tune that radio to the right station, you hear the voice you were listening for. We come into church and we sit and visit with each other, and talk, and wonder what's going to happen next week and whether we are going to see somebody after the meeting, and sometimes we are not even tuned in when the worship is going on. You know, if we would get tuned in before the meeting began, we would be surprised what would happen in that meeting. You see, with practice, we become more and more familiar with the voice of God.
What are some of the ways God speaks to us?
God does sometimes speak to us with an audible voice. I've had that happen twice. Sometimes God speaks to us through the Word, the Bible. We are reading it and all of a sudden something just stands out. That's why I'm here in Lancaster. I was praying about what I should be doing because I had resigned from my position in Wilmington, Los Angeles, and I picked up Deuteronomy 2: 3 and read, "You've been around here long enough, move north." Since the only place I knew, north, was where our friends Lawrence and Joyce Brown lived in Lancaster, we started looking at Lancaster. We found out afterwards that God had led us here.
Sometimes God speaks to us through something the pastor says while he's preaching. Sometimes God speaks to us in a vision or dream. Sometimes it's a traumatic experience; at other times it's the word of a friend. Sometimes it's the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit. God has many ways of speaking if we are listening.
There are some tests you can apply to keep within safe boundaries. When you feel that God is speaking to you either directly or through somebody else, you need to ask yourself these questions:
First, does this word conflict with what I know to be in the Bible? Friend, if you are moving into this, you had better start reading your Bible. You must get to know what the Bible teaches, what it says. Does this word conflict with what I understand the Bible to teach? You see, the Word of God and the Spirit of God will never disagree. God is one.
Second, will this glorify God or will it glorify me? If it glorifies me I must be careful, for God says He will not share His glory with another!
Third, is this the familiar voice of God? Am I hearing the familiar voice of God, or is this some other voice I'm hearing? Do I have peace in my own heart about this voice?
Fourth, is this for now, or for some future time? Sometimes God speaks to us about things that are for the future. For example, a call to the ministry now may need time, perhaps years, to prepare for that work.
Fifth, should I seek counsel from my spiritual leaders before I undertake to do this? The Bible says in Proverbs 11:14 ". . . but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety." If you're not sure and you don't have peace in your heart that this is really what God wants, then it is wise to seek counsel. Don't just rush into things.
Don't get the Cart before the Horse!
The miracles that Jesus performed were usually preceded by a simple instruction to somebody to do something.
You know Jesus never got up and said, "Now, you know we are going to do a miracle today. Now let's get it all together." Jesus never did that. Jesus said to his disciples, "What's the problem? I hear that there is a discussion going on." They explained, "We've got 5,000 people here and everybody is hungry, and there is no food." "Well," Jesus asked, "what do we have?' One said, "There is a young fellow here with a couple of fishes and a few bread rolls." Jesus instructed, "OK, get the people to sit down." They argued, "What is the use in sitting them down? They've nothing to eat." He repeated, "Just get them to sit down." You see, Jesus didn't explain what He was going to do. He took the fish and the loaves, and when he had blessed them, he handed them to the disciples and said, "Go! Give it out." Perhaps one of the disciples said, "Well, Lord, I guess I can feed the first five people anyway." They took up bushels-full of the scraps. And then suddenly their eyes were opened and they exclaimed, "It's a miracle!" Jesus didn't announce ahead of time that there was going to be a miracle; He just gave instructions to the disciples to do a certain thing, and as they obeyed they saw results.
How did the miracle occur? They were listening to what Jesus told them to do. When you start learning to recognize the voice of God and begin to do what Jesus tells you to do, you will begin seeing the miraculous take place in your daily life. Only then will people comprehend what the church is all about. The Church is the people of God, doing what Jesus said for them to do, and the only way for us to do that is to learn to listen to God.
Jim's Experience in hearing God Speak
I was starting my very first church. We had moved from the Brakpan Bible School to the neighboring town of Springs, South Africa, thirty miles east of Johannesburg. We rented a vacant vegetable store, painted the cement floor and the walls, put in chairs and a pulpit and started the 'Ermelo Road Chapel.' I made the mistake of painting that floor red. I had to wax it by hand every week and then polish it, and I didn't have any deacons to help. I was it! This was a brand new church we were starting with only a handful of people.
One Saturday I was on my hands and knees waxing the floor when all of a sudden, a thought came into my mind as clearly as a voice speaking and said, "Go see Bill Watts." Now, we had led the Watt's kids to Jesus, and their father, Bill Watts, was an alcoholic. He'd had his last warning from the gold mine where he worked. They were about to fire him, the welfare was about to take his kids away, and his marriage was in a mess. His wife was at the point of leaving him.
Now, I was polishing that floor and I got this voice saying, "Go to Bill Watts." I said in my thoughts, "Well, Lord, I'll do that when I finish polishing this floor." I polished a little longer and the voice of God spoke to my heart and mind again, and said, "Go to Bill Watts Now!" I got up, still wearing my coveralls, put the lid on the polish tin, and closed the door. I got into my car and drove to Bill Watts' home.
When I got there, stuff was sailing out the front door. He was throwing the clothes and the belongings of his brother-in-law into the street. I counseled with him for hours, and then I went to fetch Rowena from work. We went back there, and continued into the evening talking to Bill. He would hold up his glass of liquor and defy and challenge God. This went on and on and on. We pleaded with Bill to give his life to Christ, to get right with God. All of a sudden Rowena had a flash; the Lord spoke to her, and she said, "Bill, one day you're going to stand before God's great judgment throne, and you're not going to be able to challenge God."
It was as if something hit Bill right between the eyes and he took his glass and put it down. He said, "I've had my last drink." Just like that! We prayed the sinner's prayer with him. His daughter said, "Daddy, let me pour that drink down the drain." Bill answered, "No, you leave it right there. I'm going to show you that I don't need it anymore." And he did. The next morning, he threw it down the drain himself, and he came to church and God healed him of alcoholism and saved him and he went on for God, and we saw that family come together and we saw God do a miracle of grace in their lives. Oh, what a privilege it was for me to baptize the whole family in water and see them go on to serve God.
A few years later we moved to a different part of the country, and Bill came down into my area on an assignment. He was away from his family and away from his church. He had gotten cold spiritually, and one day he was standing at a bus stop outside a tavern. The thought came to him, "I'll just go in and have a beer." He went into the tavern, ordered a beer, and when he put it to his lips; he said to the bartender, "There's something wrong with the taste of this." The Bartender said, "Well, I just drew it fresh; I'll get you another one." He got him another one, fresh glass, fresh beer, and he tasted it, and he said, "Oh, no, this is terrible." He paid for it and he walked out. He said he hardly made it to the sidewalk when he brought it all up! God had so healed him of alcoholism that even in a time when he got spiritually cold, he couldn't go back to it. God had done a work of grace in Bill's life.
That's what listening to God is all about. When you respond to God, you can go out into this world and begin to minister to the needs of people.
How do I move into the Spoken Gifts of the Spirit and into the other Gifts?
When we have learned to listen to God, God can speak to us and use us.
If we do not learn to listen to God, we may know all the mechanics of how the baptism in the Holy Spirit works and how we move into these things, but it will not do us a bit of good if we don't hear from God. The essential thing that we need to realize is that we've got to fix our gaze on Jesus. He is the center and focus of everything. If you have not had the baptism in the Holy Spirit yet you need to ask yourself, "Have I really come to Jesus? Have I found him as my Lord and Savior?"
You have to be saved, before you can have the baptism in the Holy Spirit.
If you haven't made peace with God, if you haven't found what we call the New Life, you haven't been Born Again, you can be. When you are, God will give you, as a free gift, the baptism in the Holy Spirit. It's for the believer. However, there are many Christians who have had the baptism in the Holy Spirit, and gotten nowhere beyond that. If you're one of those people, the good news is there is more.
You can move on into the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
A brother who grew up here in the church made an appointment to see us. He had married, moved away and recently came back; he had been longing for the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. We kept saying to him, "It's so easy; you can have it in just a minute or two if you want it." He said he had wanted the baptism for years and years, and as we sat and talked with him and went through his problems, it finally dawned on him that it wasn't God that was holding back, but he was holding himself back. We explained simply to him how he could take it.
Finally at about 10 o'clock we stood to our feet, and I said, "Let's pray together." We just lifted our hands together, began to pray and within two minutes the Holy Spirit came upon him with mighty anointing, and he began speaking in tongues. The tears ran down his face, he began to cry, and praise God at the same time. It is not difficult to get the baptism in the Holy Spirit.
God wants to give it to us for a purpose, so that we might become effective for God, as his people, in witness and in service for him.
Now, let's have a look at some scriptures.
Romans 12:5 - 8 "So we being many are one body in Christ, and everyone members one of another. Having then gifts, (now we're talking about gifts, right?) differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith." So, how do we prophesy? According to the proportion of faith. I want you to understand that; it is very important. "Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: Or he that teacheth, on teaching; or he that exhorteth, on exhortation. He that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that showeth mercy, with cheerfulness."
Paul, in writing to the Romans, said that you have to wait on your ministry. It takes time in the presence of God to become effective and to know what God wants you to do, whether it's teaching, giving or ministering. Somebody gave a beautiful testimony in a church meeting where I was present. She told that there were taxes to be paid, that she did not have the money for them, and everything looked dark. Somebody else in the same church was listening to God, and God said, "Give her so much money," and that person was obedient to the Spirit of God. That gift exactly met her need. That's what it takes, folks. It doesn't matter whether it's within the body of the Church, or outside the body, but when we start listening to God and hear what He says, we will hear more testimonies of deliverance and of God working like this. The one results from the other. In verse 6, he says, "Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion faith."
When the Spirit of God impresses us to do something or to give a message to somebody, we need to be obedient. We need to do so with a right spirit, humbly, recognizing our own fallibility. A lot of people have said to me, "I couldn't do that."
Very lovingly, and smiling, I said to one person, "You couldn't, or you wouldn't?"
Of course you can, you see, we prophesy 'according to the proportion of faith.' Now we're in trouble!
Well, how do I know when I've got enough faith to do it? You've got to get back to what faith is. Is it a warm fuzzy? No!
The Definition of Faith
There is a definition of faith that I found very helpful. It's Hebrews 11:6 To me it is the fundamental definition of faith.
It says, "He that cometh to God must believe . . . " What must you believe?
If you read carefully, it says you must believe "that He is," and second, "that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him."
Now, what does all that mean?
Faith stands on two legs.
Let's start with the first leg. You must believe that he is.
Well, what do you believe he is? Think about it. I've got to believe he is.
What does it mean when I say I believe that He is? What am I saying?
He is God. All right! Great! That's a good definition. What does it mean when we say he is God? We mean that he can do anything. Absolutely right. If God is God, he can do anything; he has all power. That's what it means to believe that he is.
If I cannot be convinced that God has the ability to do this thing that I need done, there is no way I can have faith.
The second leg on which faith stands and walks, is that I must also believe that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. What does that mean? Think about it. It means that if I come to God, and I ask him for something, I need to know that he's willing to give it to me.
So, you see, faith is based on knowledge, not a feeling. It is based upon hard facts.
Suppose I went to Pastor Bruce Miles and I said, "Pastor Bruce, I need $100, and I wonder if you could help me?" Pastor Bruce might be embarrassed. He might have to say to me, "Well Jim, I like you very much, you're a nice guy, but I really don't have $100 in my account." Did I come with faith? No! I was just hoping! On the other hand, I might come to Pastor Bruce and say, "I need $100," and he might have $2,000 in his account. He might think to himself, "I've got better things I can do with my hundred bucks." Did he have the ability? Yes, but the willingness was absent.
Now suppose I'm talking to Halliene Larimore, the minister of visitation, and she tells me, "I heard that Pastor Bruce Miles has a $100, and he said that if Jim ever needed it, he would be glad to give it to Jim." Guess what I'd do? I'd go right up to Pastor Bruce and say, "Pastor Bruce, I need $100, and I understand that you have it, and that you indicated you would be willing to give it to me. Will you please let me have it?"
The chances are I would get it, because I already know that he has it, and that he's willing to give it to me. My going and asking for it is by faith.
Now, I know that's kind of down-to-earth and simple, but that's what faith is.
You exercise faith every single time you get on an airplane to go somewhere. You have already ascertained that the airline can fly you there. They have a plane, one that's reasonably air worthy (maybe this is not a good example!), but basically the airline has the ability. They also have a schedule. You've bought a ticket and you present yourself to get on the plane. That's faith. You understand that they can do it, and that they are willing to do it, so when you get on the plane, you have exercised faith. You do it day after day, after day. You don't have any warm 'fuzzies' about it; you just do it, but you do it on the basis of your knowledge.
I tell you all this so that you will understand that, as we deal with the spoken gifts of the Holy Spirit, tongues, interpretation, and prophecy. When Paul says, you're going to prophesy, in the Greek the word prophesy is Naba. It means a bubbling spring, or to bring forth that which the Spirit of God in you wants to speak. When you prophesy, you do it according to the proportion of faith. We need to know how we can move into this. We need to have some knowledge about how it works.
There is an order of progression in the Scripture.
Paul says in 1 Corinthian's 14:39, "Covet to prophesy." That's the ideal. Oh that we would see more of the gift of prophecy. Paul says also that if anybody speaks with tongues, we need to pray that there will be an interpretation, vs.13. Paul says that "greater is he that prophesies than he that speaks with tongues, except he interpret" (vs. 5). There appears to be a progression wherein:
- "Tongues" is of God and is a starting point.
- Interpretation is better because it will help us to understand the message, that was brought in an unknown language.
- Prophecy is even better. Why? Because it does away with the time-consuming tongues, and the wait for the interpretation.
Basically, it's all part of the flow of the Spirit.
Well, why is there that progression?
Why did God have to give us the gift ministry of tongues and interpretation? Why couldn't we just move into prophecy? Some people fall into it, but they're not very sure of themselves. I believe that God has given us this order of progression, to help us to move into all the other gifts.
Here's how it works. When you get the baptism in the Holy Spirit, you begin to speak in tongues. In Acts 2: 4 the Bible says that when the Holy Spirit first fell on the day of Pentecost, "they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they began to speak..." I want you to notice who began to speak. Was it the Holy Spirit that was speaking, or the disciples that were speaking? It was the disciples. They began to speak. You can do it when you begin to pray in the Spirit.
Now, you come to church, and you're in a meeting and the people are worshiping around you, when all of a sudden, there's a hush. It's as if everything stops for a moment, and you feel the sense of the presence of God, a moving of the Spirit of God, and suddenly, if you tune into it, you just know there is going to be a message in the Spirit.
Have you sensed that before? Many people in a single meeting sense it, while usually, only one person spoke in tongues.
Why? Have you ever thought about that? The reason is that when the Spirit of God moves, He moves over the whole congregation. If your kid is digging in your handbag or drawing on the back of the pew with your lipstick, it could be that you weren't tuned in right then, but generally speaking, if you are tuned in and not being distracted, you will sense that moving of the Spirit, that prompting. That's what it is, a prompting of the Spirit. God wants to minister to us as a congregation. When you sense it, somebody will respond and will speak up in an unknown tongue and bring a message in tongues. This is a gift of tongues for the Church.
I believe that in church we are in the "School of the Holy Ghost."
Remember in school you were given exercises to do? We make mistakes from time to time. Some of you may have to think a long way back! Now, that's all right. You remember how you did those exercises and you got some of them wrong? I did! I've said many times the happiest four years of my life were the four years I spent in sixth grade. We learn by our mistakes. That's okay, but you need to understand that when the Spirit of God moves upon the meeting and a message is brought in tongues, we need to stop and wait for God to move upon someone to bring the interpretation. If it is a bona fide message in the Spirit, we need to have the interpretation. That's important.
Pentecostal people have a wonderful way with them. When they don't know what to do next, they sing a chorus. Five seconds of silence, then rule number one applies: sing a chorus! If anything unexpected happens, and there is a break in the meeting, rule number one applies: sing a chorus. We tend to rush in instead of waiting for God to move.
One of the reasons why the Charismatic Episcopalians, and the Catholics, have moved so easily into this area of using the gifts of the Spirit, and Prophecy, is that they have been trained in church to worship, to wait quietly before God. In the quietness we can hear the voice of God, easier than we can in the noise.
Now, what often happens is, that when a message in tongues is brought, somebody will come to me afterwards and say, "You know, I was disobedient to the Lord. I should have brought that message in tongues. I felt the prompting of the Spirit but didn't do it."
Somebody asked me just recently, "Will God punish me for that?" No, you see, you're not the only person in that meeting.
God is moving on others in the meeting, too. Just be willing to learn from the Holy Spirit. It's OK to make mistakes, for we have to learn from them. Just don't keep repeating them!
What to do to be used in the Gifts
1) Start with Tongues.
When you've had the baptism in the Holy Spirit, and you desire with all your heart to exercise the gifts of the Holy Spirit in the meeting, and when you feel that prompting, listen to it, and hold back. Yes! Hold back. Then, when you hear somebody begin speaking in tongues, say to yourself, "Yes, I recognized that prompting. I expected the message in tongues, and yes, it came."
The next time you feel that prompting in the Spirit hold back again, and you'll see somebody else bring the message. Do that a couple of times until you get familiar with the voice of God; with that prompting of the Spirit. The Bible says, "in the mouth of two or three witnesses a matter is confirmed." Then you'll know when to respond.
Now don't hold back forever; hold back a few times until you get familiar with the moving of the Spirit. When you sense it, and you know, yes, that's the Spirit of God, you will have become familiar with that prompting of the Spirit. The next time you have faith, and you get that prompting, go right ahead and speak out the message in tongues, because you know God is going to have somebody to interpret it. It's according to the measure of your faith.
What is God trying to do? He is trying to get you from grade one to grade two. You may have a long way to go. If you have had the Baptism, that's great. He wants to move you into the beginning of the Gifts Ministry. It's easy; you can't go wrong, because you are speaking in tongues.
Well, that's all right, but what about all the other things like Interpretation and Prophecy?
The same rule applies as you move and progress in the gifts of the Spirit. Listen for the prompting of the Spirit and obey Him.
2) Moving on to the Gift of Interpretation
How do I get the gift of interpreting tongues? 1 Corinthians 14:13: "Wherefore let him that speaks in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret."
There are people who feel that they must interpret their own tongue, and I think it means that, but I think it means a whole lot more than that. It means that when you've gotten to the place where you can minister to the congregation with the gift of speaking a message in Tongues, God wants you to move on. He wants to get you from grade two to grade three!.
What is interpretation of Tongues?
First of all, what it isn't? It is not translation.
Some of you, particularly those of you who are new in the things of the Spirit, may have just recently had the baptism in the Holy Spirit, and you may have noticed that sometimes a person will speak for a long time in tongues, and then there will be an interpretation, and it's just short; or somebody may just speak a few words in tongues and the interpretation is definitely longer than the person who speaks in tongues. And you wonder how that worked? The reason is it's interpretation, and not translation. You see, God does not overrule your personality; he allows you to express yourself and yet bring the message of the Spirit.
In Africa, we did a lot of ministry through translators. We call them interpreters for a good reason.
A visiting British pastor was preaching one Sunday morning in a black church. The interpreter had to say everything he said, in the Xhosa language, for the people to understand. Right in the middle of his sermon the pastor told a joke, it was a British joke.
British jokes are very special, but they are usually a little obscure, and certainly they are Western culture, so there was no way the African people were going to understand the joke anyhow. The interpreter politely waited until the Minister had completed the joke, and then he told the audience, "Our visitor has just told a joke, please laugh now," and every body began to laugh. That was definitely interpretation; but you see what I'm getting at. Translation is word for word, a careful carryover of sentence for sentence. Interpretation is generally bringing the essence of the thought of what the person has said.
When the Spirit speaks through the gift of Tongues and gives the Interpretation to someone in the audience, it is a seed thought.
Because we are different and have different personalities, we may express ourselves differently.
If someone with a rural or farming background is in the meeting and there is a message in tongues and that person is listening, suddenly that one may have an impression. They see a tree by a river, and the roots go out under the river and just draw up the moisture of the water, and the branches reach out and become lush and green and fruitful, and they realize God is saying, "This is what I want my people to be." So they begin to describe the tree and how it draws up the water and becomes fruitful.
Somebody else may be working in a factory and hasn't been out in the country and at the very same time that the other person is receiving that interpretation, that individual is receiving an impression in accordance with his/her own background and personality, and God is showing that person a factory and there is production going on. The production is dependent upon the flow, so basically you have the same message.
Therefore, if you hear someone talking about a river, a tree and its roots, you may say, "That's not what God gave me!" but the essence of the message was the same. The ways in which we express ourselves differ, so we need to listen, not for the words, but for the essence of the message.
What is God saying to the church? What is the message of God to the church, because that's what the Spirit of God is saying!
Once you understand that, you're not going to have a problem with the interpretation of tongues. When you begin to hold back and listen and pray for the gift of interpreting tongues, you will begin to recognize the flow of the Spirit; you'll begin to understand that what God gave you was the same as what God gave that other person. It was just in different words and a different simile. When you begin to understand that, all you have to do is respond to the prompting of the Spirit next time, and bring the interpretation.
This is how you get to move into the gift of interpretation of tongues: the same way you moved into the gift of speaking a message in tongues to the church.
You listen for the message, then hold back and test it.
Do that a couple of times, and as the Lord shows you that you are correct, launch out in Faith, and begin to minister in this gift as God gives you that ability. Does that sound complicated? Not really. I don't believe so. I hope not.
3) Moving into the Gift of Prophecy
Well, what about prophecy? Prophecy is not very complicated or difficult.
Let me tell you about my wife, Rowena. She doesn't mind my using this illustration. When we were a lot younger than we are now, in the early days of our ministry, we were learning to move into the gifts of the Spirit.
One day she came to me and said, "I didn't know what to do this morning." I responded, "Why not?" "Well, God gave me the interpretation of a message in tongues!" she answered. I said, "That's wonderful." She said the problem was nobody brought a message in tongues, so she did not get a chance to give it.
I thought about that for a little while and then I asked her, "Since you have been praying for the gift of prophecy, do you think it's possible that God was trying to give you a prophecy? It's like giving an interpretation without the tongues. God gave you the message. You were waiting for the 'Tongues'. There was no message in tongues, but you had the prompting of the Spirit and you had the message."
She said, "I never thought of that!" A lot of us haven't. From that time on she began to be used in bringing prophecy. You see, when you move into the gift of interpretation, it is just a short step to move right into the gift of prophecy.
The process then is to learn to recognise the prompting. Next you learn to recognise the message. Last you learn to obey the Spirit of God.
4) Other Gifts of the Spirit
There are other Gifts of the Spirit listed in 1 Corinthians 12, and we are told that ultimately God is Sovereign. We are told to covet the best gifts. We are given the first gift with the baptism in the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues. We learn how to pray in tongues; then we learn how to use the gift in ministering a message in tongues in the church. We then progress through interpretation to prophecy, but there is more.
The first three are just building blocks to learning and knowing the prompting of the Spirit.
God is getting you ready for greater usefulness to Himself, outside the four walls of your church.
Rowena qualified as a Registered Nurse in Africa, and on coming to the USA she wrote the Board Examinations and was licensed to practice here. RN's are required to do continuing education classes, so Rowena attended a course at Arrowhead Springs, CA to earn her needed C.E. credits.
She was sitting in the main hall during one of the lectures, when all of a sudden, she heard that inner voice telling her, the dark haired lady a few rows ahead of her, was ready to accept Jesus, and she should approach her and lead her to the Lord. Rowena had never seen the woman before, but at the close of the meeting, in obedience to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, she went up to her and introduced herself. The lady said her name was Adele Ford.
Rowena told her that she had a message from God for her and would she like to hear it? Adele said she would, and they sat down on chairs in the front of the hall, and Rowena simply took out her New Testament and a 'Wordless Book', and presented the way of Salvation to her. When she was finished, Adele prayed and asked Jesus to be her Savior.
Adele was an R.N. and on returning home, she began to avidly read her Bible, found a good church where she began to grow in her faith, and within two years she had led a Buddhist and a Jewess to the Lord, started a string of Woman's Bible study groups around her city, and finally led her own husband to the Lord. It was several years later that we were sent a tape of Adele Ford speaking at a conference, telling what happened after she found Jesus at Arrowhead Springs. We realized that all this was just the result of obedience by Rowena, to a simple prompting by the Holy Spirit in the work place; a manifestation of the work of the Holy Spirit.
What happened? Well, all of a sudden, God dropped into her consciousness a 'word of knowledge' that she could not have had in the natural, and she suddenly knew something about someone who was in the meeting. She took time to minister to that person's need. It's the same thing with us. It all boils down to listening to God. When I hear what God is saying, I can minister to needs in other people's lives. Pentecost is more about Listening than it is about Speaking!
5) The Progressive Order in using the Gifts
The mechanics of moving forward in the gifts depends first of all on my hearing from God. If I've received the Baptism in the Holy Spirit with the speaking in tongues, and I become sensitive to the moving of God's Spirit, then on hearing God speak, I can begin to speak out a message in tongues. As I exercise the gift of praying in tongues in my prayer-time, I become comfortable with speaking in other tongues. Then when I come into the meeting and become familiar with the prompting of the Spirit, to the point that when it comes, I can minister a message in tongues to the church.
After that I am ready for the next stage.
I can now become familiar with the prompting of the Spirit and listen for God's message at the same time, and when I hear the voice of God and the message that God has for the church, I can move into the gift of interpretation of tongues.
From there it is a short step to dispensing with the tongues and letting God use me, and move through me, with the gift of prophecy.
As we become very sensitive to the voice of the Spirit, we progress in the other gifts, such as, a word of knowledge, and word of wisdom, etc.
6) The Purpose of these Gifts
Now what is this all for? First of all, it's to build up and to edify and encourage and comfort the Church. According to1 Corinthians 14:3 and 12, that's the first reason for the spoken gifts of the Spirit. However, there is more to it than that.
We are in the School of the Holy Ghost, and we need to realize that. This is the place, here in church, where we relax in God, and prepare ourselves to go out and do battle for God outside the walls of this church. That is the reason why God has brought us together and formed us into a body in a church. It is so that we might learn to become effective in our community and in the marketplace.
When we go out tomorrow morning, we're going to mix with people, some of whom have never seen the inside of a church.
People who have needs that are desperate, who have problems that we don't even know about. We can sit down and say, "Tell me about your problems." They may do so, or they may not. Perhaps they may not tell you everything, but when you have begun moving in the Gifts of the Spirit, God can tell you, "That person has a need and this is what I want you to say to them." You may not know anything about the need. God may just say to you, "Go to that person and tell them this." If you have learned to recognize this and become utterly familiar with the moving of the Spirit, you will recognize it, and you will be able to move into it, and God will make you effective as you minister to those outside the church.
In 1916, Pioneer Missionary Brother W. F. P. Burton, who became a personal friend of ours, went out from the Assembly of God in Preston, England, as one of the first Pentecostal missionaries to the Eastern Congo in Africa. He served with the Congo Evangelistic Mission. When Willie Burton got to Central Africa, he went into the village of Mwanza, which he determined was where he would start, and he began preaching, but nobody would listen to him. They virtually ignored him. He tried to raise his voice and call their attention. He said, "I want to tell you about Jesus," but they wouldn't listen. "'Who is this man anyway? Why should we listen to him?"
Suddenly he felt the prompting of the Spirit of God, and the Lord said, "Willie, do you see that crippled man on the corner of the square? Go, lay your hands on him." Willie Burton went up to that man, and he laid his hands on him and speaking in English, which the man did not understand, he said, "In the Name of Jesus, rise up and be healed."
That man sprang to his feet. Then whole village came to hear what he had to say! God opened up his ministry, and it went on and on, as a result of his praying for the sick. God had to prompt him to do that. He tried preaching, and it wasn't working, but when he did what the Spirit of God said, then they came and listened to the preaching.
My Personal Experience of the Gift of a Word of Knowledge in Operation
I was 19 years of age, worshipping in a church in Boksburg, South Africa, where people were moving in the Gifts of the Spirit. However, I wasn't! In fact, I'd gotten to a place where I hadn't been praying much. I was letting the dust gather on my Bible. I hadn't turned my back on the Lord, but I sure wasn't what I should have been. I was getting very cold spiritually.
A friend of mine was going out with a girl who was not a Christian. He invited me to go with him, to take out her sister. They had a birthday party coming up, and I was invited. It was in a neighboring town, and I went. I knew it was not a Christian event. I had not tried to let on to them that I was a Christian. I was in the balances as to whether I was going to go forward with God or not. It was a crisis point in life for me spiritually. The others there were all unsaved people; it was definitely a worldly party. On one wall of the room where they held the birthday party was a funny little clock on the wall, with peculiar decorations. I returned home in the wee hours of the morning, caught a few hours of sleep, put on my Sunday best clothes, and went to church. I didn't say anything to anybody about where I had been, or what I had been doing, the night before.
I sat down in church, and as the people began to worship, all of a sudden Mr. Zeitzman, one of the members of the church, got up out of his seat and came over to me in the middle of the service and tapped me on the shoulder and said, "God has told me to tell you something; come out here!" He took me out into the vestry, in the back of the platform, sat me down, and said, "Jim, God has shown me....," and then he began to describe the room where I had been in the previous night. He said, "I don't know where this is, but it's in another town." He described that funny clock on the wall, and he described faithfully the whole atmosphere of the party where I had been. He told me it was a birthday party and he went into details, and as he told me, I bowed my head.
I knew that he was giving me a Word of Knowledge that he could not have had by any natural means. He said, "God has told me to tell you that you're at a watershed and whatever way you turn now will determine the course of your life".
I fell to my knees and began to weep and cry out to God because of a Word of Knowledge that somebody who was sensitive to the moving of the Spirit had brought me, and I was encouraged and directed to go on and serve the Lord. I thank God for that.
Shortly after that the Lord brought Rowena into my life, and we have seen many years of fruitful spiritual service as a result. That was the time when it was going to go one way or the other with me. I thank God for people who respond in the gifts of the Spirit of God.
Rowena and I have pastored for many years, been missionaries in various African countries, worked in different cultural and ethnic groups, and in the last years directed all our energies into working with children. I discovered that sometimes the most profound and deepest truth is the simplest. We sometimes think that the more complicated we get, the more profound we become. That isn't the Truth! Truth is simple, and for that very reason it's hard for us human beings to sometimes grasp the truth.
You can move into the Gifts, and progress in them if you are willing.
Do you want all that God has for you? Do you want to see God do all that He's ever done before? There are people out there, a world out there, that's in desperate need of God. God has no other hands but your hands. He has no other feet than your feet. He has no other lips than your lips to take the message to this lost and Hell bent dying world. Oh, may God help you to move into the Gifts of the Holy Spirit.
How to Receive the Holy Spirit
People receive the Holy Spirit in different ways; on some He just falls; others need a little help and instruction first.
I was a Baptist girl and grew up in church. I got to the point in my life, however, while doing Nursing Training, that I was expected to attend certain functions that I did not feel were right, and I was struggling with that; realizing I really needed something more from God than I had, if I was to remain a strong Christian.
My parents went to visit a meeting in the Assembly of God in our home town. Dad was a deacon in the Baptist Church. A friend invited them to come and hear a visiting lady preacher, Mrs. A. N. Trotter, who was an outstanding speaker. They went on a night which just happened to be my day off from the hospital, so I went with them. That night Sister Trotter ended her message saying, "If you need more from God than you've got now, come to this altar and seek God." I thought that's what I needed, so I went down to the altar and knelt, and the Holy Spirit just fell on me. I was baptized in the Holy Spirit with speaking in tongues. Nobody touched me or laid hands on me; I just had a touch from Jesus himself! After the meeting they put me in the car to take me the 20 miles back to the hospital, where I was working as an RN. I was filled with wonder at what God had done for me, and was never the same again. It was a wonderful experience!
I will let Jim tell his own story here.
"As a teenager, I got saved and heard about the Holy Spirit. I wanted it and went to meetings, and they said, you just have to 'Tarry' and wait for it. So I tarried and tarried and tarried!
The word tarry is an old English word that means to wait. I waited! Weeks turned into months, and it was almost a year, and I had not received the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Every time there was a meeting I'd be there to pray. Still, I didn't receive the baptism. At the end of the year that I got saved, I went on vacation to the city of Durban, some 900 miles away from my home in South Africa, where I stayed in a Christian boarding house. There was a Christian fellow there, Toby by name, and he asked me, "Have you ever had the baptism in the Holy Spirit?" I said "No." He asked me why not, and I said I didn't know, but I'd been tarrying for it.
Toby said, "I know a fellow here in town whose name is Paul Lange, and God is using him in a special way to pray with people for the Holy Spirit. It's Christmas Eve tonight, and I'm sure that he'll be there, and if we go over there, I know he'll pray for you." I eagerly agreed to go. We walked a mile or two across town, and sure enough, the lights were on, and he was there. As we arrived, three other young men came from another direction for the same reason. Apparently this had been happening all the time; young fellows had been coming there because they heard they could receive the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. Paul Lange said, "I'll be with you in a few minutes; go into the prayer room in the back, and I'll be with you shortly." We five went into the prayer room, and we began praying, "Lord, Here we are; Lord we are tarrying, Lord, we are waiting; Lord, here we are." Paul walked in the room and said "Stop!"Nobody ever told us to stop praying before! He said, "Let me share something with you from the Word of God." Then he began, very simply, to explain to us some Biblical principles.
When he was done, within three or four minutes, I was gloriously filled with the Holy Spirit. The others were too! So you see, on some it falls while others need counseling or a little scriptural help, to get it." That was how Jim got the baptism.
Now I'd like to share with you some of the principles that I believe will help you to get it."
Who needs the Baptism?
Acts 1: 8: "And ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth."
When God wants to use people to be witnesses, the first thing He wants to do is fill you with the Holy Spirit. If you want to be a powerful witness, you need to be filled with the Holy Spirit. If you haven't spoken in tongues and you haven't moved in the spirit in a long time, you need a new in-filling. Witnesses are the ones who need the baptism in the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit brings the power to witness. When you start to witness to people, the Power of the Spirit will work through you even if you are not aware of it. God wants to make us witnesses in the town where we are, and the district, and the areas beyond. He wants to use you in his kingdom, and without His power, you cannot be used fully. You need power to be a significant witness in this world today. Otherwise, people won't listen to you, especially on the campuses of our schools and colleges. Wherever you are, you need the power of the Holy Ghost. All of us need the baptism in the Holy Ghost because God wants to make us witness that will count in this world and make a difference for Him.
Who can be filled?
Acts 2:39:"For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call." It's believers that can be filled with the Holy Spirit. We know that as believers get the baptism in the Holy Spirit, then, just like the twelve in the New Testament and many others who had the baptism in the Holy Spirit, they can turn the whole world upside down. Can you imagine what we could do when there are more than twelve of us filled with the Holy Spirit? I can tell you we would make a difference in this city. God wants us, who've been filled, to keep filled, and not leak out. It's a daily process. It's not a one-time experience, and then we forget about it for a year. It is a daily experience.
Who baptizes in the Holy Spirit?
Matthew 3:11: John the Baptist says, "I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I'm not worthy to bear: He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire." Jesus is the baptizer, and there is nothing that Jesus does that is not for our good. If Jesus does it, it's good! When I got the baptism, people tried to talk me out of it. They tried to tell me all kinds of things. I said to my Pastor at that time, "That's something that is so glorious, so wonderful, it makes Jesus so real, it cannot but be real, cannot but be from heaven." So he couldn't talk me out of it.
How will I know when I'm filled?
Acts 10:45-46: Here we read of the household of the Roman Centurion, Cornelius, "and they of the circumcision, (the Jews), which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the Holy Ghost, for they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God."
The 'speaking with other tongues' is where many people stick. The speaking in tongues is so that you might know that you have the baptism in the Holy Ghost. I often tell the children that their mother has a cook stove, and on it is a label, maybe General Electric or some other brand name, that indicates quality. You know that it is a good stove. Does that label cook the food? No, it tells you it's a good product, but you have to turn the "fire" on, and the baptism in the Holy Spirit is just like that. It's not there just to speak in tongues. It's there to give us power to get the job done. Jesus has given us a job, to turn the whole town upside down for him because he's about to come back. When Jesus comes back, he is going to expect that you made a difference in your neighborhood, that you made a difference in your school, that you made a difference on your job. He is going to expect that you made a difference in your world.
Acts 2: 4: "And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance." The baptism in the Holy Ghost comes with a new language. This is so you can know you have it. 1Corinthians 13:1: "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels..." suggests many different languages.
How can I get filled?
Acts 19:1-2:".....Paul, having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples, he said unto them, have you received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?"
This is a very significant question. Paul's question is, Have ye received? How do you receive something? You take it. When somebody delivers a box to your door, you have to take it; you receive it. The Holy Spirit was given on the Day of Pentecost. When we receive the Holy Spirit, the tongues will come, and the power will come, and you will become a powerful witness. Notice here that after the day of Pentecost, there is never again a command to "Wait" or "Tarry" for the Holy Spirit; we are told to "Receive" Him.
Now here is the Biblical pattern.
Acts 8:15 – 17: "Who when they were come down, (to Samaria) prayed for them, that they might RECEIVE the Holy Ghost: (for as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus,) then laid they their hands on them, and they RECEIVED the Holy Ghost."
They laid their hands on them. This is a scriptural pattern to help you receive. If you get into a fellowship of Holy Spirit filled, tongues speaking believers and seek the baptism, they will gladly lay their hands on you and help you receive the Holy Spirit.
Here are some other scriptures on the Holy Spirit that will help you. (We're doing this so that you will be ready to receive the Holy Spirit.)
Matthew 3:11: "I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but He that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I'm not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire." Here is a promise that Jesus was to come and baptize, or immerse, you in the Holy Spirit. You will receive this from the same Lord Jesus who saved you and washed away your sins in His precious blood shed on Calvary.
Paul got it. Some say Paul didn't have the baptism in the Holy Spirit with the speaking in tongues, but in 1 Corinthians 14:18, Paul says, "I thank my God I speak with tongues more than ye all:" He spoke in tongues, and prayed in tongues every day.
Cornelius got it. He was a Gentile, a Roman Centurion. When filled with the Holy Spirit, the Jews who came with Peter ". . . heard them speak with tongues . . ." Acts 10:46.
The Ephesians got it. Acts 19:6: "And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied."
You can have it. Luke 11:11: "If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?"
Now I'm going to give you what God gave me.
I said, "Lord, I don't know how to pray properly with people for the baptism in the Holy Spirit, especially with children. I don't know how to do it. Lord, how will I do it?" And this is what God gave me.
First of all, you must be saved. You have to be born again. You cannot receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit if you are not. Jesus makes this plain in John 14:16 - 17. "And I will pray the Father and He shall give you another Comforter that he may abide with for ever, even the Spirit of truth: whom the world cannot receive....."
If you belong to the world, you can't receive it. But the Lord says to you in Revelation 3:20, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and sup with him, and he with me." God is a perfect gentleman; He will never come into your life if you don't invite him. He will never stay with you if you don't welcome him into your life. God says, in effect, "I'm knocking, and I'll continue to knock until that trumpet sounds, and when that trumpet sounds, there'll be no more knocking." You'll be left behind to face the terrible things that are going to happen in this world if you do not respond. He's knocking at your heart's door, and he's saying, "If you open up I will come in." Not, I may come in. Not, I might come in. Not, perhaps come in, but I will come in. Once you invite him in, He then says He will baptize you in the Holy Ghost. God does not come into people's lives that don't want it. But he wants you to give yourself to him.
After you have received Him as Savior, He wants you to give yourself to him as a gift. Romans 12:1: "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service."
You see, he wants to use your tongue and your lips to speak for him. He wants to use your legs to take you on errands for him, to do something for God. He wants you to be a witness in this world. What is your answer going to be? If you answer him, "No, God," he will leave you alone. God is not going to force himself into anybody's life, and he's not going to force his Spirit on you if you don't want it. You have to give yourself to him as a gift. As you give yourself to him as a gift, he then has your tongue, and he's going to use that.
Now ask him to fill you with the Holy Spirit. If you're hungry for God, he will fill you.
These are the things you will find helpful when you get down to pray:
- First of all, close your eyes, and close out everybody else. Remember that Jesus is right there by you, to baptize you in the Holy Ghost. It's going to be you and God.
- Lift your face and hands to him; he will bless you. It's not going to come from below; it's going to come from above as you lift your arms in an attitude of worship. When you receive a gift from somebody, you reach out your hands for it. This is the most priceless gift of all. You reach out your arms to Almighty God, and Jesus will baptize you in the Holy Ghost.
- Start to praise Jesus, first in your own language, and at the moment when hands are laid on you, stop speaking in your own language and start speaking in tongues. You cannot speak two languages at the same time. You cannot speak English and Spanish at the same moment. God wants to give you his heavenly language, and you've got to be available to do that. As you praise him, he fills you with the Holy Spirit.
- Don't listen to anybody else, don't try to copy somebody else, and don't think of what to say. This comes from heaven. You don't have to think it out, just yield your lips to the Holy Spirit and start to speak. As the Spirit prompts you, he will give you the words to say. Don't tell me it doesn't happen; we've seen it happen again and again.
One time when we were training workers in children's church, God impressed upon us to pray with kids for the baptism in the Holy Spirit. So we arranged a receiving meeting. Jim put on a crackerjack program for the rest of the kids, so they would not come to be an audience. He had his workers scheduled to work with him, and I took the other kids to a separate location, with my workers, and taught them what God had given me.
This teaching has been used in all kinds of places has had the same effect when these directions were followed: God filled them. It was the same that day. I went through this teaching, as I am going through it with you now. About half the children's church had come with me and two of Jim's teachers, who were scheduled to help him, followed me! Then some teenagers drifted into my meeting. So I had the teenagers, the adults, and the children all in one room.
As they went down to prayer, the Holy Spirit fell on Richard Fitzpatrick, and he jumped to his feet and started to speak and praise God in other tongues, and then it was like an electric current that shot around the room, to Norman, another of our wonderful workers, who was getting ready to go on Navy 'West Pac' and needed the power of God on that boat, then to the teenagers, and then to all the other kids in the room. Every one of them was lost in the Spirit for hours!
I have seldom seen such a powerful move of God. Some of those kids had to be assisted to the motor cars several hours later. They were drunk in the Spirit of God. I was the most surprised person of all! I had not expected a move of this magnitude. God wants to baptize people in the Holy Ghost, and he will do it for you if you invite him to do it.
Here are two Scriptures that need to be looked at.
John 20:22: "And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, "Receive ye the Holy Ghost:"
After the resurrection Jesus appeared to his disciples, and the Bible says that "he breathed on them." Now, how do you breathe on somebody? You exhale, you breathe out on them. Then Jesus said to them, "Receive ye the Holy Spirit!" So, what is Jesus saying? He's breathing out, and now he's saying, you take it in, receive it in your spirit.
In John 7:37-38, Jesus cries out saying, "If you're thirsty, come unto me and drink." The Bible says, "this spake he of the Spirit," Vs. 39.
How do you drink? You take some water, and you receive it into you. You drink it. Now these are physical examples. You don't get the Holy Spirit by the drinking or the breathing. You get the Holy Spirit when your Spirit begins to do that. When you in your heart and spirit say, "Yes, Lord, I receive," the Holy Spirit comes in. That's what happened to Jim the night he received the Holy Spirit, there in the City of Durban in South Africa. A lot of people get down and pray, and they say, "Oh Lord, fill me, fill me, Lord!" instead of just receiving. Receiving is the way to get it. There's a difference between asking and receiving. Asking is passive, receiving is active! Yes, ask for the Holy Spirit, then begin to receive, just open up. Nobody else is going to come in except the Holy Spirit. Jesus is going to give Him to you. You just need to receive. The Bible teaches distinctly that it is a gift. You cannot earn it, or work for it. It is there for the taking. The Promise is for you, too!
To see more information on Jim Cole-Rous you may visit www.rousministry.org
(Originally delivered as an address to the First Assembly of God Lancaster, California in November 1986. Edited and revised 2006 with Part Three added from teaching given in 2005 at Bethany Assembly of God, San Diego.)