by Doug Batchelor,
Speaker, Amazing Facts TV Program
When he began his ministry John the Baptist said, "I indeed baptize you with water…but there is One coming after me Who is mightier than I, Whose shoes I am not worthy to bear. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire" (Matthew 3:11).
Speaking of Jesus, the Bible says (John 3:34), "For God gives not the Spirit by measure unto Him." Jesus had the Holy Spirit without measure. He did not have a gas gauge that said, "You are full, that is enough. It was a limitless supply of the Holy Spirit that Jesus possessed.
When God launched the New Testament church, He poured out His Spirit. The seeds that Jesus had been sowing through His life sprouted and began to grow.
We have yet to see the latter rain. The latter rain is the rain, the outpouring of the Spirit that prepares the church for the great harvest when Jesus comes. He is coming to harvest the world, so we need this second outpouring of the Spirit to prepare the world for the return of Jesus.
In the same way that the former rain fell on those who already knew Christ, those who had a relationship with Him, the latter rain is going to fall on God’s people. We need that desperately now.
The Holy Spirit not only comes in different degrees, the baptism of the Spirit can come more than one time. For instance, in Acts 2 we see the Holy Spirit being poured out. Then again in Acts 4 and 5 the Holy Spirit is poured out. The place was shaken and they spoke the Word of God with power.
There is effort involved in seeking after God.
Not because God is not willing to bestow His blessings upon us, but because we are unprepared to receive them.
In the parables that Jesus tells in Matthew 24 and 25, He depicts the church’s condition prior to the Second Coming. One of those parables deals with the ten virgins. Fifty percent of those ten virgins are not prepared for the great wedding feast. What was it that distinguished between those who were ready and those who were not ready? The amount of oil they had. They all had some of the Spirit but some had more than others. Some did not have enough. A church with a form of religion and no power does not have enough of the Holy Spirit.
Our most desperate need is the filling of the Spirit. When you have a church that is filled with the Spirit, it will cover a multitude of other defects. If we could have the baptism of the Holy Spirit, we need that more than we need our buildings. If we could have the baptism of the Holy Spirit, we would get a lot farther spreading the message that we do using media. The disciples did much more without media than we are doing with television. What did they have that we are lacking? They had the baptism of the Spirit, the fullness of the Spirit. If you wait too long before you thirst for the Holy Spirit, it could be too late. It is when you are alive spiritually that you are going to crave the Holy Spirit.
We go forward Spiritless so often because we figure that we have made our plans. We need to move ahead. What would happen if we could have the baptism of the Holy Spirit? Romans 8:9: "Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. When Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, as He came to Peter, Peter said, "No, Lord, You are not going to wash my feet. You are the Lord. I am a fisherman. It should be the other way around."
Jesus said, "If I do not wash your feet, you have nothing to do with Me. You are not Mine. I am not yours." It made Peter shudder to think that he would not be Christ’s.
Peter then said, "Lord, wash my hands and my head. Wash everything, but please do not say that I do not belong to You."
The Bible says that if we do not have the Spirit of God, we are none of His. So do you want the Spirit? You cannot be God’s without the Spirit. Jesus said, "I am with you alway, even to the end." How is He with us? God is with us through the presence of His Spirit. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is the most desperate need of the church.
We have many substitutes for the Holy Spirit. If we could have the Spirit we could probably do away with a lot of programs. I think we are depending on substitutes too often, so the Holy Spirit cannot do for us what He might do.
Here are some of the reasons that we need the Holy Spirit. First of all, We should not only be praying. We should be fasting and praying. If the Holy Spirit is our most desperate need, then how deeply, how earnestly, how sincerely should we plead for this most desperate need.
The Holy Spirit is very powerful, and God cannot trust that power to those who will abuse that power.
Jesus asked that if you have a son who is hungry and he asks for a loaf of bread, will you give him a stone? If he asks for a fish, will you give him a serpent? If he asks for an egg, will you give him a scorpion? If you, then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more will your Father in Heaven give the Holy Spirit to them that ask? This is the only thing Jesus mentioned that we should specifically ask for. "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness." What was He saying? "Seek the Holy Spirit."
When Solomon asked "that I might have wisdom," what was he saying? Wisdom is one of the gifts of the Spirit. When Elijah asked Elisha, "What do you want?" what did Elisha ask for? A double portion of Elijah’s Spirit. It was not as though Elijah had a special patent on the Spirit. Elisha was asking for the Holy Spirit when he said, "I want a double portion of your Spirit." So what is the thing we should be pleading for to God? It is the Holy Spirit.
How earnestly should we ask for the Holy Spirit? Think about how many problems we bring on ourselves because we do not have enough Spirit. Five of those virgins ended up in the dark because they ran out of oil. How often have we been groping spiritually in the dark because we do not have an adequate presence of God, the Holy Spirit?
We need to pray. Here are some examples in the Bible. Deuteronomy 11:14: "I give you the rain in your land in due season, the first rain, the former rain and the latter rain, that you might gather in your corn and your wine and your oil." Zechariah 10:1: "Ask ye of the Lord rain in the time of the latter rain."
I want to pause right there. I have already set the stage that before the harvest of Jesus’ coming there is going to be the latter rain and outpouring of the Spirit. What is God telling us we should do during that time when it is to be expected? Ask for it. Now we should especially be asking for it. "Ask ye for rain of the Lord in the time of the latter rain." That is now. "And the Lord will make bright clouds, flashing clouds" (this text is talking about clouds that are flashing with lightening and thunder) "…and then they will give showers of rain to everyone."
Jesus has sent the promise of the Holy Spirit. He said, "If I go to the Father, the Comforter will come." He has promised to send the Spirit, but He has also said we must seed the clouds. We must pray. We must ask. The greatest gift is worth seeking for, and does not the Bible say, "Seek earnestly the best gifts"? God’s Spirit would be that gift. Luke 11:13 says: "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more will your Father in Heaven give the Holy Spirit to them that ask?"
"A revival of true godliness among us is the greatest and most urgent of all our needs. To seek this should be our first work. There must be earnest effort to obtain the blessing of the Lord" (Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, bk. 1, p. 121).
There is effort involved in seeking after God. Not because God is not willing to bestow His blessings upon us, but because we are unprepared to receive them. So when we are praying for the Holy Spirit, what are we praying for? That God will prepare our vessels to receive the Spirit. "Our Heavenly Father is more willing to give His Holy Spirit to them that ask Him, than our earthly parents to give good gifts to their children. But it is our work, by confession, humiliation, repentance, and earnest prayer to fulfill the conditions upon which God has promised to grant us His blessing. A revival need be expected only in answer to prayer" (ibid.). Would you like a revival? You can only expect it in answer to prayer.
Historically, every revival can be traced to somebody or to a group praying. When Pentecost took place, what were the disciples doing in the upper room? They were praying.
"While the people are so destitute of God’s Holy Spirit, they cannot appreciate the preaching of the Word; but when the Spirit’s power touches their hearts, then the discourses given will not be without effect" (ibid.).
The most urgent need that we have is the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Would you like to pray for the outpouring of the Spirit? Do you know what you are really praying for when you pray for the latter rain? When you pray for the latter rain, you are praying for a storm.
Have you noticed that the storm comes to everybody in the last days? The question is not whether the storm is coming. The questions are, Just what are you building on? Is your house going to stand? Do you have enough oil in your lamp?
Now, back in the days of Elijah, when there was a terrible famine for three and a half years, people were dying. They were in desperate need of rain. They needed that rain, a symbol of God’s Spirit. How earnestly did Elijah pray for rain? He prayed until it came. He got on his knees. He not only prayed, he looked, he expected it to come. He sent his servant to the coast and said, "Do you see anything yet?" The moisture typically came from over the ocean. They could always look towards the west and know when the rain was coming. The servant’s answer: "Not yet."
Elijah prayed again. And he prayed again. He prayed again seven times. He kept praying until finally there was a cloud coming. Just a little cloud. That is all he needed for his faith. About the size of a man’s hand. And that tiny cloud grew into a great storm.
Was that a blessing? What happened to Elijah when the storm came? He got wet. Listen. Let us read 1 Kings 18:45, 46: "Now it happened in the meantime…" that is, after the sky became "black with clouds and wind, and there was a heavy rain. So Ahab rode away." He had to ride away. The rain was so heavy he could not see where he was going. The sky was so dark he went to the nearest city, Jezreel, and "the hand of the Lord came upon Elijah."
What does the hand of the Lord mean? That is the Spirit of the Lord. The two terms are used interchangeably in the Bible. The Spirit "of the Lord came upon Elijah; and he girded up his loins, and he ran ahead of [the king] to the entrance of Jezreel."
What happened to the disciples when they prayed for the rain? They were praying in the upper room. First of all, before the story is even over we notice that the Holy Spirit came in the form of tongues of fire. Fire can sometimes burn. Fire is a purging element. Fire is hot. It represents power, and power can be a dangerous thing. So we notice that the Spirit came. The baptism of the Spirit did not come like a gentle wind. It came as a loud noise and fire. The disciples were filled the Holy Spirit.
They began to preach, and immediately they were mocked. As soon as they got the Holy Spirit they were being ridiculed and they were being mocked. Acts 2:13 says, "Others mocking said, ‘They are full of new wine.’" So when you pray for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, you may be ridiculed. Have you ever noticed somebody when that person is full of the Spirit? He has that holy enthusiasm. People say, "Ah, he is crazy." You do not have to roll around on the ground to be mocked. You do not have to babble in tongues to be mocked. You live a holy life, a Spirit-filled life, and you will be mocked.
Another thing we notice is that the Holy Spirit is very expensive. After the Spirit was poured out, the Bible declares in Acts 2, "Now all who believed were together." This is the same chapter in which the Holy Spirit was poured out. "They had all things in common, they sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. No man said that aught that he had was his own." Great sacrifice. Very expensive. Many of them lost their jobs. Peter, James, John, and Andrew. We have no record that they ever went fishing again. Matthew could not go back to his tax-collecting booth. Paul lost a very promising career in the Sanhedrin as a Pharisee. It was expensive for them to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
The believers were imprisoned and persecuted when they received the Holy Spirit. Read Acts 2. The Holy Spirit is poured out. In Acts 3 they are put in jail. Are you ready to pray for the Holy Spirit? In those earliest days a great persecution arose against the church, that Spirit-filled church.
You know why it works this way? Most of us have easy sailing because we are no threat to the Devil. Which way would you rather have it? Would you rather have the approbation of the world and the disfavor of God?
What were the apostles doing in the upper room before Pentecost?
They were praying and putting aside their differences.
Jesus said, "Woe unto you when all men speak well of you! for so they did of the false prophets." If you are Spirit-filled, you are going to rile up the resistance of the enemy. Do you want the baptism of the Holy Spirit? The early believers were persecuted.
We notice something else. When the Holy Spirit is poured out, there is very little toleration for even a little sin. As soon as somebody begins to teach inappropriate theology, people jump all over him. You remember that Simon the sorcerer said, "Let me pay for the Holy Spirit" and Simon Peter the disciple came down on him very heavily. He said, "Do you think the Holy Spirit can be bought as though it is a commodity? Peter basically said, "You know where you can go with your money if you think you can pay for the Holy Spirit."
Ananias and Sapphira just told a little half-truth about their offering, and they dropped dead. They were members of the church. The Spirit of God was present in the church. The accountability level was very high. We would be conducting a lot of funerals if God showed that kind of accountability today for people who rob Him, for people being dishonest, for little things we wink at now when someone is full of the Spirit. Jesus said, "The Holy Spirit will convict you of sin."
Your sensitivity about sin is heightened when you receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and someone might call you a fanatic. Your love will be intensified, too, but you will not wink at sin. So when you pray for the baptism of the Holy Spirit, make sure that you know what you are asking for. Are you prepared to have the Lord do a purging work in your life? Sin is extremely offensive to God. Apostles were killed following the outpouring of the Spirit (see Acts 2). Acts 8 records that Stephen was stoned to death. Acts 12 recalls the death of James, who was killed by King Herod. It is a life-and-death issue. Of the 12 apostles only one died of old age. But all were Spirit-filled men.
So do you want the Holy Spirit? If you are going to pray for the baptism of the Holy Spirit, be prepared to get caught out in the storm as Elijah was. I want the baptism of the Holy Spirit, but what are my options? "He that does not have the Spirit of God is none of His." It is either Jesus, filling me with the Holy Spirit, or being separated from Christ and flowing with the world to oblivion.
Another thing we can do to be filled with the Holy Spirit is to evidence a willingness to obey God. Now you notice I did not say you have to be perfect to be filled with the Spirit. That is a misconception. I think a perfect surrender, yes, a willingness to obey God, is needed. In Ezekiel 36:27 we read, "I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes." It is God’s Spirit in you that causes you to walk in His statutes.
So when the disciples received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, what they were really doing was going on their knees in the upper room and confessing their faults to one another. They were praying for one another. They humbled themselves before God. And that made room in their hearts for the Holy Spirit. God filled them with the Spirit, and they were willing to obey.
But people who boast that they have the Holy Spirit while they are walking in high-handed disobedience to God are liars. "He who says, ‘I know Him’ and keepeth not His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. People who are saying, ‘Lord, Lord’ and they do not the things that God says, they are hypocrites."
Hypocrisy is a dangerous thing. In Acts 5:32 Peter says, "And we are His witnesses to these things; and so also is the Holy Spirit." The Holy Spirit is a Witness "Whom God has given to those who obey Him." Jesus said, "If you love Me, keep My commandments." We often stop right there. But ignore that first period, for Jesus goes on, "If you love Me, keep My commandments and I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He might abide with you forever—the Spirit of truth." If ye love Me, obey Me and I will give you the power of the Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is very powerful, and God cannot trust that power to those who will abuse that power. When you are rooted in God and led by His Spirit, you do not go whichever way the wind blows. You are being led, and it might be against the wind, but you are going with the current of God’s Spirit. So there is a willingness to obey God, a deeper power. Seeking Him in His Word, the Holy Spirit helps us understand the Word.
When we harbor and cherish and feel the anger and resentment that we hold for other people, we drive out the Holy Spirit. We grieve the Holy Spirit.
The filling of the Spirit often happens in concert with the proclamation of the Word. I want to say this again. The filling of the Spirit, (do you want to be filled with the Spirit?) not only comes in connection with prayer, but the filling of the Spirit often comes in connection with the study of and the proclamation of the Word. Acts l0:44 says, "While Peter was speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the Word." It could happen here now. While we listen to the proclamation of the Word our hearts are stirred, our hearts are prepared. The Word of God is like a cultivator, a holy Rototiller that breaks up the fallow ground and prepares us to receive the seed.
The filling of the Spirit not only happens in public settings. Have you ever felt the Holy Spirit come upon you while you were studying on your own? And all of a sudden through some promise in God’s Word or some passage you read, you just felt the Spirit of God present? If you have both the Word and the Spirit, you grow up. We need the two of them together.
Another characteristic, something to remember that we need for the baptism of the Spirit, is to humble ourselves. Never are we farther from God than when we feel self-sufficient. Jesus said to the church of Laodicea, "You think you are rich and increased with goods. You have no room in your hearts for Me."
God cannot fill those who are already full. It is recognizing our need that prepares our hearts. What happened when the rain came in the days of Elijah? What did the people do? They fell down after Elijah prayed and fire came down from Heaven and burnt up the sacrifice of Elijah. The people fell down, they did not just kneel. They did not kneel on one knee like someone proposing. They did not just kneel on both knees. They fell on their faces and they said, "The Lord is God!" That is the best form of humbling yourself.
When David repented, he got on his face before God. Humble yourselves before the Lord. Humble yourself unto the right hand of God. He will lift you up. All the people on Mount Carmel said, "The Lord, He is God! The Lord, He is God!" And when they humbled themselves and acknowledged the Lord, then He sent the rain.
What were the apostles doing in the upper room before Pentecost? They were praying and putting aside their differences. What had they been arguing about in the upper room prior to the Last Supper? Which of them was the greatest! You notice the Lord did not fill them with the Holy Spirit at the Last Supper. That is when they really needed it, but their hearts were not prepared.
Jesus humbled Himself. He washed their feet, and they still were not prepared. It wasn’t until they had spent some time confessing their faults and putting aside their differences that God was able to fill them with the Spirit. Great messages can be transmitted on thin wires. God can do great things through small lines.
A practical prerequisite for the filling of the Spirit is to get together in God’s name in God’s house. We should not forsake the assembling of ourselves together. When the apostles were all in one place, together, He waited until they were collected.
The Spirit of the Lord came upon an individual many times in the Bible. But the latter rain experience, if I read my Bible right, is going to come something like the former rain experience, when God’s people are going to be together, humbling ourselves, praying, putting aside differences. They may be small groups or big groups.
At Pentecost it was a hundred and twenty, but they were together. Acts 4:31: "And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the Word of God with boldness." The place where they were assembled. It is even in the Old Testament. God was getting ready to baptize the leaders of Israel with His Spirit, and He told Moses. "So Moses… gathered the seventy men of the elders of the people and placed them around the tabernacle. Then the Lord came down in the cloud, and He spoke unto him, and the Lord took of the Spirit that was upon him, and placed the same upon the seventy elders" (Numbers11:24).
God said, "Gather the people together." They gathered at the tabernacle. He took the Holy Spirit that He had given Moses, and that same Spirit of God’s presence came on the people. Two individuals named Eldad and Medad did not feel worthy to come with the 70 elders. They stayed in the camp. They thought, "We are not worthy to have Moses’ Spirit." The Holy Spirit fell on them too. So it can happen to individuals that might be separated, yet whom God tells them to come together. Would it not be a tragedy to have the latter rain experience fall upon the church on the day that you stayed home? You would feel awful to think that you had missed the pouring out of the Holy Spirit.
Another prerequisite for the filling of the Spirit is to forgive. We have blisters in our vessels that render us unfit to receive the Holy Spirit. When we harbor and cherish and feel the anger and resentment that we hold for other people, we drive out the Holy Spirit. We grieve the Holy Spirit. As Jesus forgave us, so we ought to forgive one another. In Acts 2, the apostles were not only in one place, they were of one accord. They were in unity, whereas they had been divided. They had put aside their differences. We need to forgive each other.
Probably the most important recognition we need, is a hunger and thirst for God. "O God, You are my God; early I will seek You; my soul thirsts for You; my flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water" (Psalm 63:1). Are you thirsty for God? Isaiah 44:3 says, "For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, and floods on the dry ground." God says that if you recognize your need, He will give the Holy Spirit to him that asks. "He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty." We need to know we are hungry. We need to feel that thirst and that hunger for the Spirit of God, so even though we know it may cause trouble, we still yearn for God. You want Him even if you know that it might cost you your life. What is the alternative? Easy sailing into oblivion, or a storm clear into eternity. These are your choices. It is a terrible choice, but you can at least have peace because you know that you are with God and you are going the right way.
He does not squirt, He does not sprinkle— He pours. "I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; and your sons and your daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men shall see visions."
One of the last things Jesus said to the people was, "Receive the Holy Spirit" (John 20:22). Mark, Luke, and John talk about the great commission. It is the receiving of the Holy Spirit. The Lord wants you to have the Holy Spirit. Jesus died to purchase for you that greatest gift of Himself in you, the hope of glory. That is what the Holy Spirit is—God’s presence in you. God our King wants to refresh His people. He wants to give us the sweet perfume of His Spirit. He is infinitely more willing to give than we are to ask.
The promise is that God will give water to him that is thirsty. "Ask ye of the Lord rain in the time of the latter rain; and I will give you bright clouds." Joel 2:28 promises (and it is also a prophecy): "And it will come to pass afterward (in the last days) that I will pour out My Spirit." He does not squirt, He does not sprinkle—He pours. "I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; and your sons and your daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men shall see visions. Also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.
And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth: blood and fire and pillars of smoke." The terrible day of the Lord is not far off. How urgently we need, how desperately we need to have the Spirit poured upon us. We need to be asking, we need to be calling. Those who are calling for the Spirit will be delivered, as God said, "among the remnant whom the Lord calls." Who comprise this remnant? We are the remnant. It is the right people. It is the right time. It is the right place. Are we doing the right thing? We need to be praying that God will pour His Spirit upon us, that sweet fragrance from above.
Do you want to be filled with the Spirit? Are you aware of what you are praying for? If you pray for the rain, you may get caught out in the storm. Do you want the Holy Spirit? He will send the water to those that are thirsty. If you really want it, you can expect it.
Father in Heaven, Lord, we know that this is our most desperate need. We are praying for what Solomon asked for. We are praying for what Elisha asked. We are praying for what the apostles prayed for, and if ever a people existed that needed the outpouring of the Spirit, this is that people. Lord, we need this more than we need anything. So please come into our hearts now. We thank You for hearing our prayer. We believe this is something You want to give us even more than we want to ask. Lord, fill us with Your Spirit that we might walk with Jesus, that we might love and forgive others, that we might have the power to witness. Everything in the Christian life is made possible, is strengthened, by having God in us. So bless us to this end, Lord, that we can be a people who really know what it means to have You with us always. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.