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A few weeks ago I was asking the Lord, “What do you want me to preach next?” And He said, “I need my people to know how to live filled with the Holy Spirit. They can’t accomplish what I need them to do without it.”
Then He gave me the four messages I need to preach. Today, I am going to show you how to prepare for the Holy Spirit. Next week, we’ll talk about the purpose of the Holy Spirit.
In week three, we will dive into the gifts of the Holy Spirit. And then we will wrap it up by talking about one of the most controversial subjects in church, praying in the Holy Spirit.
There’s a good chance you noticed a shift in how I preach right around the time when we started our Different series back in February. It’s hard to explain the difference. You could just recognize that there was something fresh, something powerful, something intriguing going on.
I’ve become open about my encounters with the Holy Spirit. The visions, the dreams, and the direction that He’s giving me on a frequent basis. I tell you what I heard from the Holy Spirit and what He asked me to do.
And if you’re more of a practical person, you’ve probably had a hard time believing it. Maybe even wondering if I’ve been making this stuff up.
There was a time where I was in your shoes. Not too long ago, really. I would hear all these “spiritual” people talk about their experiences with the Lord and think they were a little whack. Yet, I kind of wanted what they had.
Then last year, when COVID was kicking off, I got desperate. All of a sudden, I was the one in charge of deciding if we were going to have church or not. And if we did, I would be the one responsible if someone who came to church died of COVID.
Y’all, that was a lot of pressure. I was trying to be a good leader by following all the stats, and checking on the latest recommendations, and examining what other churches were doing. It all became very overwhelming.
A few weeks in, I was watching the news as I had been every day, and I heard the Holy Spirit almost shout at me from the inside, “Turn that off and never turn it on again.”
But, don’t you have to know these things to be a good leader? Don’t you have to follow every recommendation from the CDC to show you care about people?
These were the questions going through my head, but the Holy Spirit’s direction was so strong, I couldn’t get away from it. I turned the news off back in April of 2020 and never turned it on again. I don’t read it online either.
This was the beginning of a season where I learned how to hear from the Holy Spirit, not just occasionally, but all the time. And I want to lead you to the same place, where you hear from the Holy Spirit all the time.
Prepare for the Holy Spirit
So, here we are at the beginning of this series, and it all starts with preparation. There are some things you need to get in order first before you can be filled with the Holy Spirit. It was the same way for the disciples. Take a look:
Acts 2:1 NKJV – When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.
Notice it says when the day had “fully come.” This means there was a build-up to the day when the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit. They had to prepare first.
It’s like when you host a party. There’s a build-up to the event that starts many days before with planning and shopping. Then, you have to clean and cook and get everything ready for your guests to come over.
All this preparation has to take place before you can have the party, just like there is preparation before you can be filled with the Holy Spirit.
In the disciple’s case, they had been in the same place, all agreeing with each other, for 10 days leading up to the day of Pentecost. It was a 10-day preparation. They had to pursue and wait upon the Holy Spirit for 10 days before they were filled.
I was studying the book of Acts while on Summer break and discovered why there are many people, who want to be filled with the Holy Spirit, but just can’t seem to get there. The reason is simple. It’s just something we like to ignore.
With the disciples, you’d think it’s because they were all in agreement. But these days, if you were waiting for everyone to get in agreement, no one would be filled with the Holy Spirit.
So what does it take to be filled with the Holy Spirit? Let’s back up a bit in the book of Acts for clarity. This is after the resurrection but before Jesus ascended into heaven. He was about to head out, but had an instruction for the disciples first:
Acts 1:4 NKJV – He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
What was the command? Don’t leave Jerusalem, but wait for the Holy Spirit.
If the disciples would not have obeyed this command, they would not have received the Holy Spirit. Why?
Because obedience to God is required to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
The Word of God confirms it a few chapters later. In Acts chapter 8, one of the disciples went to preach the Word of God in Samaria. And he didn’t just preach, he worked miracles. He cast out devils and they came out screaming.
There was a sorcerer in the town named Simon. Everyone thought he was great and had listened closely to him for a long time because of his magic. But when he saw the power of Jesus, he abandoned his sorcery and believed in Jesus. He was then baptized in water and began following the disciples.
Not too long after that, Simon witnessed the disciples laying hands on people and they were getting filled with the Holy Spirit. When he saw this, he offered the disciples money to buy this power. Not a great call, but look at his motivation:
Acts 8:19 NLT – “Let me have this power, too,” he exclaimed, “so that when I lay my hands on people, they will receive the Holy Spirit!”
Wow! This guy is looking out for others. He wanted the baptism of the Holy Spirit so he could baptize others in the Holy Spirit. He was thinking about others! But take a look at the disciple’s response:
Acts 8:20-23 NLT – But Peter replied, “May your money be destroyed with you for thinking God’s gift can be bought! You can have no part in this, for your heart is not right with God. Repent of your wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive your evil thoughts, for I can see that you are full of bitter jealousy and are held captive by sin.”
Whoa. That was unexpected. Stories like this make me realize how silly it is for us to think that leaders in the church are always supposed to be calm and nice. Don’t ruffle any feathers. Don’t make anyone upset.
Well, that’s not how Peter operated. Yet he was the one who would walk by people, and if his shadow touched them, they would be healed.
I wonder if it has anything to do with his no-nonsense approach to sin? I’ll leave that one for you to ponder.
What you need to notice from this story is that Peter refused to give Simon the baptism of the Holy Spirit because Simon hadn’t prepared yet. Simon was still living in disobedience. Simon was full of jealousy and wanted what others had.
Once again we see that obedience to God is required to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
Let me show it to you in one more place. We’re going to head back to the book of John where we just spent sixteen weeks in the Different series. So, this should sound familiar to you.
John 14:15-17 NKJV – Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—the Spirit of truth.”
For clarity, Jesus reiterates the same thing just a few verses down:
John 14:21 NKJV – “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.”
Oh! So, apparently, obeying God is a prerequisite for seeing the power of God.
It makes total sense why we never see miracles in the woke church. Obedience to God is not pursued but rather ignored in the name of inclusion.
In case you are still not getting it, Jesus explains it a third time:
John 14:23 NKJV – “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.”
If you want the power of God to manifest in your life, just like it did through Jesus, obedience to God is required.
When we choose to tolerate sin in the name of grace, we dismiss the power of God. After all, the power of God cannot exist alongside disobedience. Let me put it to you this way:
Grace without obedience invites human weakness.
Obedience because of grace invites the power of God.
After working so hard to get this across to us, Jesus reveals that living a life of obedience is going to cause the world to hate us. But wait a minute… I thought we were supposed to try to get the world to like us so they would come to our church?
Well, according to Jesus, if the world loves you, it’s because you belong to it. But if you belong to Jesus, you will obey His commandments.
And as you walk in obedience, not only will the world hate you, but the woke church will hate you too.
This isn’t very encouraging, but Jesus reveals these things for a reason: so you won’t abandon your faith when things get tough.
Persecution isn’t fun. It can make you think that you are doing something wrong. But you’re not. It’s actually an indicator that you are doing something right. When persecution comes because of your obedience to God, be encouraged and keep moving forward.
But you will always struggle with obedience if it is coming from the wrong place.
Performance vs Identity
By default, obedience is a performance. We learn it at a young age. To avoid negative consequences, we perform according to our parent’s script even when our true desire is to do something else.
We carry this into our relationship with God. We perform for Him by doing our best to live according to His script. Quite often, we miss a line or two (sometimes even missing the entire act), but we always seem to find our way back into the performance.
We think God’s impressed when we get it right. We think He yells at us when we get it wrong. But it turns out,
God doesn’t want us to perform at all.
When it came time to write my new book, Jesus Ain’t Woke, I set aside a few days in my schedule to go to a secluded cabin and focus. In my mind, I envisioned getting to the cabin, opening my computer, and writing nonstop until the book was done.
That’s not what happened.
I started the day like normal, getting quiet before the Lord. After prayer and reading His Word, I said, “Alright Holy Spirit, you ready to write this book?” To my surprise, the answer was no.
I knew that I needed to spend more time being quiet and listening to His instructions. Only, He wasn’t giving me instructions other than to be quiet.
I sat on the back deck for a while and watched the trees. Then I laid on the deck for a while and closed my eyes. I did my best to eliminate thoughts of guilt for not producing anything while my wife was at home caring for our four young children.
About an hour passed, and I asked again, “Ready to write this book?” The answer was still no.
So I walked down to the lake, sat on the shore, and watched the waves. I could sense the Holy Spirit nudging me to get in the water, but I didn’t want to. The lake is gross.
Then I remembered my goal at the cabin was absolute obedience. So I found a clean rock to put on top of the slimy rock and sat on it in the water.
As the waves were rolling over the top of my thighs, I sensed the Holy Spirit say, “Wave after wave of blessing is coming into your life.” The waves started small and then they got bigger.
Then the Holy Spirit said, “Look up.” I looked up and noticed the beautiful, wispy clouds in the sky. As I looked closer, I realized that they were in the shape of three different angels. Immediately, I was reminded of the scripture, “He shall give His angels charge over you.”
After these two experiences, I was overcome with the goodness of God. I sat there in awe of who He is. I was amazed that He chose me to write the book and promised to protect me from the opposition that will come because of it.
Then I heard, “Now you’re ready. You came here to perform. I wasn’t looking for a performance. I’m looking for obedience that comes as a result of knowing who you are to Me.”
For the first time in my life, I realized that obedience to God comes in one of two ways. Either you are performing, or it is an overflow of your identity in Jesus Christ.
We aren’t capable of a flawless performance. But obedience comes easy when we know who we are to God.
The only way to know who you are to God is to know His Word. Let me give you a few scriptures to show you what I mean.
Romans 3:22 NLT – We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.
It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done, when you put your faith in Jesus Christ, you are made right with God. That’s who you are in Christ. You are right with God. Go ahead and say this out loud:
“I am right with God because of Jesus.”
Here’s another one:
Romans 5:2 NLT – Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand.
There’s a lot of fuss today about white privilege, but this is what’s called God privilege. You don’t deserve anything, yet God gives you everything He has because of your faith in Jesus Christ. So, say this out loud:
“I live in a place of undeserved privilege because of Jesus.”
I could go on and on sharing scriptures about how valuable you are to God, but it would do more good for you to seek them out yourself.
And I encourage you to do so because obedience is your secret weapon. It’s required for you to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
Really, this isn’t even a big deal when we understand what God wants. He doesn’t want us to perform. He wants obedience to come as a result of knowing who we are to Him. Let me put it to you this way:
Obedience is not something we do; it’s who we are.
When we embrace and live out this truth, we’re ready to be filled with the Holy Spirit. And when that happens, we won’t just do the same works as Jesus; we will do greater works.
Now that you know how to prepare for the Holy Spirit, I am going to do what Jesus did and command you to wait. I am not going to invite you to be filled with the Holy Spirit today because you need to prepare first.
Don’t abandon your desire to be filled with the Holy Spirit just because you aren’t getting it today. But while you are waiting, prepare yourself with obedience by getting into God’s Word and learning how valuable you are to Him.