I’m going to attempt to speak for a moment on something within the Church that we have to be careful about, but first, let me give a brief history of how I came to be where I am in my own walk with Christ. Ruach Ha-Kodesh is “Holy Spirit” in Hebrew, by the way.
I grew up from a baptist background. My mom and dad divorced when I was three years old. My mom remarried when I was five. I don’t remember much about her involvement with any church accept during my years from five up until a couple years before she divorced my step dad. My step dad was very physically abusive of my mom. He was also a church deacon. He had a Jekyll and Hyde complex. He was a completely different person around others…peaceful, meek, etc.. but at home he was this angry tyrant who sent my mom to the ER several times and cracked her ribs at least once that I can remember. I have memories of being woken up at 2AM by the sounds of my step dad hitting my mom and then being dragged out of the house by my mom as she ran off to my much older half sister’s house for a night or two. She divorced him just in time too, because at the age of 10 I was beginning to contemplate a plan on how to kill him and had every intention of executing it with zero remorse.
Later on, I would be diagnosed as being dislexic by 5th grade. My mom would pull me out of public school under the advisement of someone from Peabody University and I was placed into a school with a much lower student to teacher ratio, a private Christian school. This school was being run by an Independent Baptist church. My mom never got involved in the church…she was too busy working nights during the week and recovering on the weekends. Of course, I would get invited to church but never could go, so I would get proselytized in school. Under peer pressure, I ended up confessing the Lord as my savior in the 8th grade, but the facade didn’t last long.
My freshmen year of high school, I took biology. About half way through the school year, we were given an essay project. We were to write an essay picking one of several theories and defend the creationist side of the theory while debunking the evolutionary side. Well, I ended up doing the exact opposite and went into great scientific detail in my arguments. My creationist science teacher gave me a D for my scientific thoroughness, but pulled me aside and had a talk with me about my newly expressed views. Well, that turned into a concerned meeting with the principal of the school. Neither my teacher nor my principal could change my views on the subject. Eventually I ended up denouncing the existence of G-d because I had reached the same conclusion that countless atheists before me had. That if the universe appears to be old, based on our scientific observations, yet the bible says it was created in seven days and is the earth is only thousands of years old, then either a) G-d intentionally made the earth to look older than it actually was and is a great liar or b) G-d simply doesn’t exist and never did. I went with option b. It seemed the most logical conclusion at the time.
I debated the existence of G-d with my teachers, sometimes openly in class. I debated the existence of G-d with my Youth Pastor. I debated the existence of G-d with my principal multiple times. The ironic thing is that none of this ever got back to my mom, at least not that I know of. One day, I got my grandfather alone and tried to convince him of the lack of evidence of G-d’s existence. He was the only family member I did that with though, mainly because he was also partially suffering from dementia and I knew if I brought it up with him, it wouldn’t be discussed with my mom. Eventually, it got to the point where I was getting frustrated with people at my school who didn’t see things like I did. So I took my bible and I defaced it all through it from front to back as an expression of my disbelief and nonacceptance of G-d’s Word. My bible became titled the “unholy bible” as I mocked G-d in various parts of it. I felt better having gotten that off my chest. I shoved that bible in a drawer in my bedroom where my mom wouldn’t find it. I never really wanted to confront her with my views, no matter how correct I thought I was.
I began to come to the conclusion that people created G-d in the image of themselves. That, psychologically and emotionally, they needed the idea of G-d to explain away the things that they couldn’t understand or control. The idea of G-d was an emotional crutch for the weak minded. That’s exactly what I came to believe.
I went off to college at UT Knoxville. During the freshman orientation, the dean of the school gave a speech. In that speech, he said “as we become more educated, we tend to become less religious.” I was in atheist heaven. I couldn’t have agreed more. We were to be tolerant of the weaker minded among us and understand that they are just suffering from a form of mass psychosis. A mental anomaly in the evolution of man that would eventually be superseded by a more advanced level of intelligence. That is how evolution works, and if it didn’t, as a society we would find a cure for this mental illness.
After college I would befriend a Christian woman at my workplace. I found her to be equally as stubborn in her views as I was and we would debate back and forth on G-d’s existence until she was too frustrated to debate anymore. Then we would start the whole cycle all over again another time. No person could ever change my mind. No person ever did.
In December of 1995, I was driving from seeing my mom over the holidays in Nashville back to my home in Knoxville. Christmas had become a meaningless holiday for me. It was all about pretend and make believe as far as I was concerned. The more I thought about it, the more irritated I got. Somewhere on I-40 between Nashville and Knoxville and opened my mouth, thinking out loud like I often did, and I said “If there ever was a god, he would have to come down here and show me that he exists.” I’m not really sure why I said that. I didn’t even believe in a god or anything supernatural at the time. To me it was all a joke. Apparently, though, G-d held me legally accountable for opening that door with my words and He indeed revealed Himself to me. I had a Saul to Paul experience right there in the car going down the interstate.
Time stopped for me during those moments. I felt His presence fill the car and I broke down sobbing. Images of my life flashed before me and I saw many instances of where He was right there with me every moment of my life, protecting me from several near death moments in my life. I could give examples of those moments, but I won’t in this post. The feeling that I felt was so powerful that I didn’t want it to leave, but eventually I had to go back. I realized about 50 miles of interstate had passed by.
It took me about 4 years after that to begin to accept G-d’s written Word as authoritative. My female friend I used to debate so much helped with that, she gave me a book by Josh McDowell called “A Ready Defense” that approached scripture from the angle I needed it approached from…the intellectual skeptic. Using literary analysis, Josh proved the authoritativeness of the bible in an intellectually satisfying way. Later, I befriended a pastor/air force chaplin who would drag me off to these studies by Dutch Sheets called “Becoming Who You Are”. Part way through that study is where I uttered the word “metanoia” alone in the car, not knowing until my next Dutch Sheets class that metanoia was a Greek word that meant “a change in ones mind” and was the very topic of our next study. That really got my attention. G-d always does things like that when He wants to get my attention.
At the same time that I was doing this study, I had also become heavily involved in an internet Christian chat site called Worthy Chat. That is where I would eventually meet my second wife, Jenny, who would be a huge blessing in my life. Before I started talking to her though, I had become drawn to this older Orthodox Jewish lady who believed that Jesus was the Messiah. We talked a lot and she helped me in clearing a lot of the misconceptions I had about scripture from my Baptist Christian School past and I found that we were very much like minded in our views on doctrine, which I found very fascinating. There was a huge unorganized Jewish Messianic group of individuals on that chat site, and I was heavily drawn to that.
You see, some of the baptist doctrinal teachings were kind of wonky in the late 80’s and in fact, contradicted various parts of scripture. I was taught that dancing was a sin and yet David danced for example. There were many such anomalies in their teachings that only reinforced my atheist views and became ammunition for debate by using their own bible against them as it was “full of contradictions” as far as I was concerned. It took a Jew to help me reconcile what I was hearing from G-d with what I was reading from G-d. I knew what I was hearing was truth. I knew the truth and over time, I would find that the written Word that I had so much mistrust in would confirm what was already planted in my heart.
Ok, now that you know the path I have come from spiritually, let me say this. There is a segment of the Christian community that want to over spiritualize things. Yes, the gifts of the Holy Spirit are in operation today. I believe in the active operation of the prophetic, divine healings, etc. But those are not to be the main focus of our walks. It alarms me when people try to make them the main focus. There is this view that people don’t receive the Baptism of the Holy Ghost until after they are saved, as if there is another, extra layer to put on. Well, I received the Baptism of the Holy Ghost at the same time that I received my salvation, in that car going down the interstate in 1995.
Unfortunately, we have a tendency to become legalistic. That works with both the written law and making up our own laws like one saying that there is a second baptism of the Holy Spirit. No where in scripture does it say that at some point after we accept Christ that we receive a second baptism. Either His spirit is poured out on all flesh in the last days or it isn’t. You can’t have it both ways. The Holy Spirit was in the beginning and His Ruach is mentioned even in the very first part of Genesis. The only thing new about the Holy Spirit is that after Calvary, it was poured out onto all flesh.
What it does say in Matt 3:11, Mark 1:8 Luke 3:16 and John 1:33 is that after Calvary (one is coming soon), Jesus will baptize us in spirit and fire. Baptism, or immersion is nothing new either. People went to the ceremonial pools, which were present at every synagogue for a ritual cleansing through immersion before Calvary. I think what these verses are saying is that like everything else, the duties of the High Priest (which John the Baptist should have been by all legal rights if you research it out) were being passed on solely to Jesus for dispersion to all who follow Him. Not that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is something separate from water baptism, but in conjunction with the salvation experience.
This article says it quite well: http://carm.org/what-baptism-holy-spirit
What is says at the very end is what I believe:
“The danger of this phenomena is the potential division of the body of Christ into two categories: those who are “regular” Christians and those who have been baptized in the Holy Spirit. This, of course, would be an incorrect way of looking at Christians, and this is why. If you were to step outside into a soft mist, it would take a long time to get completely wet. On the other hand, if you were to step into a torrential rain, you’d be drenched quickly.
Those who have not experienced the Baptism of the Holy Spirit (meaning a sudden and powerful experience) are not second-class citizens by any means. They are the ones in the gentle mist who experience the Lord over a long period of time and get just as blessed as those who suddenly step into the torrent of the Spirit’s presence. In fact, the Baptism of the Spirit can be a pitfall since so many people who have experienced it long for it again–almost to the point of putting the validity of their faith in the experience instead of the clear teaching of the word of God.
We must all be careful not to fall in our strengths as well as our weaknesses.”