(From a message given at a Pentecostal church in February 2012)
God's promises and His commandments are like the two legs that we must stand on and walk with. If you try to live only by the promises, it will be like walking with just one leg. You won't experience all the promises and you will live in self-deception. On the other hand, if you try to live only by the commandments you won't be able to obey them without the promises - and you will get depressed and discouraged. So we need both the commandments and the promises.
But you can never know what God's promises and commandments are unless you study the Scriptures carefully. If you listen only to pastors and TV preachers, you won't know God's Word, because they don't often quote God's Word exactly or teach His commandments exactly. So you must study God's Word yourself. If you are a Christian you should know the Bible better than any other book in the world. If you are too lazy to study the Bible, your Christian life will be perpetually shallow. You may even think you are born again, when you are not. And you may imagine that you are filled with the Holy Spirit - when all that you had was a counterfeit experience. But you will never be deceived if you study the word of God.
Those who don't study the word of God deserve to be deceived - because they are saying to God, "I know You wrote a book for man, but I don't have the time to read it. I have many more important things to do like watching Television and surfing the Internet. So I can only give you a little time on Sunday morning." If that is your attitude towards God's Word, then you are probably not even born again. All healthy babies cry for milk every day. And all born-again Christians will long for the milk of the Word daily (1 Pet.2:2). I have to tell you the truth about this, because I don't want you blaming me on the day of judgment, for not telling you the truth. Many years ago the Lord told me that if I loved people, I would tell them the truth, even if they didn't want to accept it.
There are many wonderful promises in God's Word. The New Testament has even more wonderful promises than the Old Testament. They are called "precious and magnificent promises" (2 Peter 1:4). If you knew that a precious treasure was hidden under the ground, in a corner of your property, what a lot of time you would spend searching for that treasure. When you realize that God's promises are worth more than any earthly treasure, you will dig into the Word of God until you find those promises.
I gave my life completely to Christ in July 1959. I spent the next seven years after that studying God's Word thoroughly. I didn't go to a Bible-school. I was working in the Navy during those 7 years. Whenever I was off duty, I would sit in my cabin and study God's Word. That changed the direction of my life. I discovered many wonderful promises in the Bible - and as I claimed them, they brought the spirit of heaven into my life.
When I was married, God's Word brought the spirit of heaven into my home as well. Later, my wife and I claimed God's promises for our four children as well. We also taught them His commandments. As a result, all of them are following the Lord today. God wants us to live by His promises exactly like we live with the money we have in our bank accounts. If the company you are working for, offered you a bonus wouldn't you accept it? If they then tell you that they have credited the money to your bank account won't you check your account to see that the money is there? Most Christians check their bank accounts more eagerly than they claim God's promises - and that's why their lives are so shallow.
It is God's commandments and His promises together that can make us spiritually rich. If we really believed that, we would seek with all our hearts to discover all of them. We all have only one life to live and so we must have a clear aim in our lives. If our aim is only to go to heaven when we die, then we will have a lot of regret when we stand before the Lord one day.
Let me tell you what my aim in my life is. This is my prayer: "Lord, before I leave this earth, I want to obey every single commandment You have given for new-covenant Christians. I am not concerned with the commandments You gave the Israelites. But every commandment You have given for born-again Christians, I want to obey all of them before I leave this earth. And I also want to claim every promise that you have given for new-covenant Christians before I leave this earth."
That is just like my wanting my children to complete all their courses in college. I wouldn't be satisfied if any of my sons completed only half of their courses. In the same way, I want to complete every course in my spiritual education on earth too.
The great tragedy in the world today is that believers who are supposed to be heavenly-minded are mostly earthly-minded - and there is no difference between those who claim to be Spirit-filled and the others. Both are earthly minded. Both love money and both love the honor of men. God is now speaking to those who claim to be"Spirit-filled" Christians, saying, "Repent of your earthly mindedness".
John the Baptist, as the forerunner of the Lord Jesus Christ, asked people to prepare the way of the Lord. And when we invite Christ into our lives, we too must first obey the message of John the Baptist, which was,"Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near" (Matt. 3:2). Only thus can we "prepare the way" for Christ to be Lord of our lives.
What was John actually saying there? He was saying to the Israelites, "For the last 1,500 years, from the days of Moses, you have been occupied with earthly things. Every promise you have in your Bible is about earthly things. From Genesis to Malachi there is not a single promise of a heavenly blessing for you. Every promise is only of earthly blessings - that you will become materially rich, that your farms and businesses will be blessed, that you will be healed of your sicknesses, that your earthly enemies will be defeated and that your children will be blessed like you. Now repent - turn around. Turn around from seeking after those earthly blessings, because the kingdom of heaven is coming. Someone has come from heaven Who will baptize you in the Holy Spirit and bring heaven into your heart. But He can do that, only if you turn around from your pursuit of earthly things" That is essentially what John was preaching. And that is the message that we need to respond to, as well, before we can be baptized in the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit has come from heaven to bring the atmosphere of heaven into our hearts. The primary mark of a truly Spirit-filled Christian is that he is heavenly-minded and not earthly-minded. He will have the aroma of heaven about him. Can someone who loses his temper and shouts at his spouse say that he is filled with the Holy Spirit? Such anger comes from another spirit and not from the Holy Spirit. In heaven, no-one loses his temper.
I know what happened in my own life when God filled me with the Holy Spirit. Even after I was born again, the nature of Adam (what the Bible calls "the flesh") had power over me. When the Spirit of Christ filled me however, He began a process of transforming me little by little into the likeness of Christ. Jesus Christ is the perfect example of the Spirit-filled Man. And God wants to make us totally like Him.
John the Baptist said, "This Lamb of God will first take away all your sins". In other words He will clean up your cup first. But He won't leave your cup empty. He will fill your cup. He will cleanse your heart so that He can fill you with His Spirit, and then rivers of living water will flow out from your innermost being.
People were "filled with the Holy Spirit" in the Old Testament too. But that was not like the new-covenant filling. The Bible says in(John 7:39) that the Holy Spirit could not be given in this "new-covenant" way until Jesus was glorified.
Let me explain the difference. If you keep a cup upside down and keep pouring water on it, the water will flow endlessly over the cup in many directions. That is a picture of how God poured His Spirit on His servants under the old covenant and blessed thousands through them. The Spirit of God came upon Gideon and Samson and Saul and David - and they were used by God to deliver the Israelites from their enemies. But if you looked inside their hearts (their cups), they were sinful and dirty. The cups were upside down. They had adultery and idolatry inside their hearts. When the Spirit of God came upon Gideon (Judg.6:34) he delivered Israel from the Midianites. But after God used him so mightily, he went and made idols and began to worship them (Judg.8:24-27). The inside of his cup was dirty. The hearts of Saul and David were also dirty - in other ways.
But on the day of Pentecost, God turned the cup right side up and poured the Spirit into the cup (heart) and cleaned it inside first and then filled it. Then the water began to flow from the "innermost being" (Jn.7:38). Until that day, as the Lord told them, the Holy Spirit was only "with them". But from that day onwards, He was "IN them" ( John 14:17). That is the difference between the old covenant experience of the Holy Spirit and the new covenant experience of the Holy Spirit.
So if a preacher today, after being used mightily by God, falls into adultery, it would prove that he was not a new-covenant servant of God at all. He was just an old-covenant preacher who had the Spirit flowing over him, but not from his innermost being - because his heart was still lusting after women. A money-loving preacher has a dirty heart too - for the Spirit of Christ does not love money. One who loves money cannot be a Spirit-filled man. God may use such preachers. But it will be like water flowing over the top of their cups, while their inside remains unchanged. Such preachers are the ones Jesus said would come to Him in the last day and boast about their accomplishments in their ministry. But He would still send them to hell (Matt.7:22, 23) .
What are you looking for when you ask God to fill you with the Holy Spirit? Do you want God to use you or do you want Him to cleanse you first? If you only want to be used by God to prophesy or to heal the sick, etc., you are actually going back to the old covenant.
After David had sinned with Bathsheba, he wrote a psalm acknowledging his sin. But there is a little expression in Psalm 51 that shows his longing for something more than forgiveness - something that he did not have. God had used him in many ways. But he says, "Lord, I know that first of all You desire truth in the innermost being" ( Psa.51:6) . Truth here means reality! David knew that God wanted his inner life to be transparent and real. But it was not so with him. He longed for such a life but he could not have it under the old covenant. Do you long for such a life yourself? When a person's outer life is pure but his inner life is not, he is a hypocrite. He is living under the old covenant.
Jesus said in John 7:38 that those who receive the Holy Spirit in the new covenant would have rivers of living waters flowing "from their innermost being." The important thing here is not the rivers but the place from which they flow - the innermost being. This was the expression that David used in Psalm 51. The innermost being is the inside of the cup. David had only experienced the blessing of God flowing outside of him.
Is it like that in your life too? Do you have an old-covenant experience of the Holy Spirit or a new-covenant one? You get what you really long for! What you ask for, you will receive. If your only prayer is, "God use me", He may use you. But you will be like an upside-down cup, with your heart remaining perpetually sinful and dirty. He may fulfil a great ministry through you - but you will be like Samson, full of sinful lust in your heart. Is that what you want? That is not the new-covenant fulness of the Holy Spirit.
If you live in the old covenant, you cannot have reality in your innermost being. I know that from my own experience. After I was born again, I prayed that God would give me power to preach and use me. And God did use me. But as time went on, I found that the inside of my cup was dirty.
I could have continued like David and Samson all my life, because the water was flowing over me and blessing others. Many thousands of people were being blessed through my preaching at conferences in many parts of the world and through my radio-programs and books. But my own heart was dirty and I had no victory over sin. I was a hypocrite. And I cried out like David, "Oh Lord, You desire truth in my innermost being, but I don't have that". I was not at all happy with my condition. I longed for a new-covenant experience of the Holy Spirit. Finally, I decided to quit preaching, because I was a hypocrite. That is when God in His great mercy and compassion towards a sinner like me, met with me and baptized me in the Holy Spirit and fire.
What does fire do? It purifies. John the Baptist told the Israelites, "I can only baptize you in water. But Jesus can baptize you in fire ." And that fire will purify your life like nothing else can do.
When people come and ask me to lay my hands on them to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. I tell them, "If I place my empty hands on your head, nothing is going to happen. You will still remain as empty as ever. There is Another mightier than me. He alone can baptize you in the Holy Spirit and fire. Go to Jesus."
It was Jesus Who baptized me in the Holy Spirit and fire. It was He who turned my cup right side up, 16 years after I was converted, and filled me in my innermost being and made the rivers flow from there. He can do the same for you too. There is no partiality with God. So go to Him today.
But as we have already seen, John the Baptist told people to turn away from the kingdom of earth first (Matt.3:2). This Jesus, Who baptizes in the Holy Spirit and fire wants to bring the kingdom of heaven into our lives. The word"repent" is like the military command "About Turn" (or "About Face" ). It means to turn around 180 degrees and to face the opposite direction. We must turn around from seeking after earthly blessings and earnestly seek forheavenly blessings, if we want the genuine fulness of the Holy Spirit.
The problem with many who are seeking for the baptism in the Holy Spirit today is that they are still seeking for earthly blessings. The devil will give such people a counterfeit experience that looks like the baptism in the Spirit. There are people of many religions who speak in tongues! How then can we distinguish the true from the counterfeit? Only if we turn away from the earthly and seek the heavenly.
Every gift of the Holy Spirit has been counterfeited. That only proves that the genuine gifts of the Spirit must be very valuable. Nobody counterfeits worthless stuff like brown paper and newspaper? People counterfeit only what is valuable, like diamonds, gold or currency notes. Genuine tongues and prophecy and healing must therefore be very valuable! That is why Satan has counterfeited these.
If you want to buy diamonds but don't know anything about diamonds, you know you can be cheated easily. So you will take someone with you who knows all about diamonds. In earthly things like that, you are very careful. Shouldn't you be more careful when it comes to heavenly gifts - to ensure that you are not deceived by Satan with some cheap counterfeit? Did you receive the genuine baptism in the Holy Spirit and fire? The gifts that you have - are they all genuine gifts of the Holy Spirit? These are important questions that you must ask yourself.
I remember when I first sought for the baptism of the Spirit. I went to a church that was preaching it - and I heard many people there making a lot of noise. It was chaotic. And the pastors there were more interested in getting my money, because they knew I was a naval officer. I returned to my room disappointed and prayed saying, "Lord, I don't want what those people have. I don't want a spirit that teaches me how to make a lot of noise but leaves me enslaved to the love of money. I want what Peter, James and John got on the day of Pentecost - that freed them from this world and empowered them to be flaming witnesses for You. I don't want a cheap counterfeit. And if it takes me 10 years to get the real thing, I will wait 10 years."
Think of how an ambitious kindergarten child is willing to wait even 20 years to get a PhD. Isn't the power of the Holy Spirit more important than getting a PhD? The Holy Spirit's power won't get you more money like a PhD will, but will make you more useful to God.
I want to ask all of you born-again Christians a straight question: "Are you interested only in going to heaven or in following Jesus Christ here on earth before going to heaven?"
When the Lord filled me with the Holy Spirit, I decided that I would not go around India looking for people who wanted to go to heaven, but rather for people who wanted to follow Jesus on earth. There are more than a billion people in India who would like to go to heaven. I have never met anyone who wants to go to hell! You are not spiritual just because you want to go to heaven. Every human being wants to go to heaven.
I am looking for people who want to follow Jesus Christ on earth and live for Him completely before they go to heaven. I know that there are very few people like that - but those are the ones I have spent the last 37 years looking for in many parts of the world. I am not looking for Christians who are seeking for a kingdom on earth and still wanting to be filled with the Holy Spirit. No. I am looking for those who want to obey John the Baptist's call to turn 180 degrees around from earthly things and seek for heavenly things. I am looking for Christians who desire purity more than money.
How many of you can stand before God today and say, "Lord, I realize that I need money to live here on this earth. But I need purity to get into Your presence. So Lord, I am more interested in purity today than in money. I am more interested in the fire of God in my life than all the honor and wealth of this world."
If you pray in sincerity like that, I assure you that you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit very soon.
I remember a man telling me once that he had been praying for 40 years for the baptism in the Holy Spirit, but had not received it. My answer to that is: If you keep seeking after the things of earth, then you won't get the genuine baptism of the Spirit even in 100 years. You may get some cheap counterfeit in a meeting and go away satisfied with that, but you won't get the genuine baptism. For the real baptism you have to pay a price.
There are many wonderful promises that God has given us in His Word. As I said, they are called "precious and magnificent promises" (2 Peter 1:4). But the promises all have conditions attached to them. When you apply for a job you have to fulfil certain conditions first. In some cases you have to be a college graduate, or have a certain number of years of experience. If you go for the job-interview without fulfilling those conditions, the interviewers will ask you, "Why did you waste your time coming here? Didn't you read the qualifications required? Go home."
So if you come to Jesus, and say "Lord, baptize me in the Holy Spirit and fire - as John the Baptist said You would," He will say, "Did you read the conditions that John the Baptist mentioned? Have you turned around completely from seeking for earthly things? Are you seeking for heavenly things now?" Otherwise, the Lord will tell you to go home and come back when you have fulfilled the conditions. I am convinced from what I have seen, that most Christians who claim to be filled with the Holy Spirit have had a counterfeit experience - because I see neither holiness nor power in their lives.
Jesus had only 11 disciples. That was a really small church. But when they were filled with the Holy Spirit they became radical disciples of Christ and made many thousands of others into disciples. Today we have mega churches with thousands of people claiming to be filled with the Holy Spirit. But they are defeated by sin and lovers of money and powerless. That's because their experience was a counterfeit. It was not genuine.
I heard a story once of a female rabbit talking to a lioness and saying "Last year I gave birth to 24 baby-rabbits. How many babies did you have last year?" The lioness said, "I gave birth to only one - but it was a lion!" I think of that story whenever I hear people talking about the large number of people attending their church and the number of people who were "baptized in the Holy Spirit" (as they claim). One disciple like those early apostles would be far more useful to God than thousands of today's shallow "tongue-speaking" Christians.
I am not devaluing the gift of speaking in tongues. But how can you know whether what you have is the genuine gift of tongues?
I have been speaking in tongues for 37 years now and I can tell you what it did for me. I was a born-again Christian for 16 years before I spoke in tongues. And in all those years I was frequently discouraged, depressed, angry and having seasons of bad moods. I would sometimes be on the mountain top rejoicing but most of the time down in the valley of depression. I was just like most "born-again" Christians!! Then I read in1 Corinthians 14:4 that "he who speaks in a tongue edifies himself". Well, I certainly wanted to edify myself. To edify means "to build up". If somebody put a bomb in this building it would be blown to pieces. Then if somebody built it up again, it would become a beautiful "edifice"- meaning a building with a beautiful, imposing appearance. So "to edify" is to build up an edifice. "He who speaks in a tongue builds himself up into something beautiful". I like that translation.
So I asked the Lord, "Lord can You really rebuild this blown-up, backslidden life of mine? I am born again but I often have bad moods. I can't control my tongue and when I get angry I speak like the devil himself. Can You really give me a heavenly tongue? Can You really build me up into something beautiful? If so, I want You to do that in me - at any cost." I was desperate.
God then filled me with His Spirit and turned my life around completely. He not only gave me the gift of speaking in other tongues but also empowered me to control my mother-tongue! That is how I knew that the gift I had received was genuine. If you claim to have the gift of speaking in an unknown tongue but cannot control your known tongue, then your gift may not be from the Holy Spirit at all.
I also found then that I could overcome discouragement and bad moods - and "rejoice in the Lord always". I am still tempted to be discouraged. But I resist it and keep speaking in tongues until the temptation goes away. Thus the gift of speaking in tongues keeps me fresh at all times and prevents me from becoming dry, so that I can always have the anointing of the Spirit in my ministry to others. And so I find that even this gift, like every other gift of the Spirit, is given primarily to make us a blessing to others.
But above all, the presence of Jesus became real to me, since I was filled with the Spirit. I know now that the One living in me is more powerful than Satan. Earlier, I was scared of encountering demon-possessed people. But now I can help such people, by casting the demons out of them. Once I was afraid of the devil. Now the devil is afraid of me.
I am not anyone special. But I got real, genuine Christianity when God filled me with the Holy Spirit. I have given my all to Jesus and now I have no ambition on earth, but to do the will of God every day until I see my Lord, face to face one day.
When I look at the lives of most Christians around me, who say they are born again, I see them in exactly the same state that I was in during the first 16 years after I was born-again. I do not despise such Christians nor do I criticize them. How can I? I too was exactly like them once. I only tell them, "God has something better for you. Turn around from seeking after earthly things and seek for the heavenly. Then Jesus will fill you with His Spirit. The new covenant life is a million times better than the old covenant life."
Jesus did not come to make us rich with earthly wealth, Neither did He come to give us honor - either in this world or in the church, He came to make us like Himself - loving, humble and holy. At the same time, He will allow us to be despised and rejected by men, as He Himself was. He may allow us to be poor in material things, but spiritually rich.
The God who made Abraham rich, and Job and David and Solomon rich with earthly wealth, could easily have made Jesus and Peter and Paul also rich with earthly wealth, if He wanted to. But He did not - because Jesus came to open the kingdom of heaven to man and to give him heavenly wealth. And so Paul describes his state in (2 Corinthians 6:10) like this: "As poor yet making many rich, as having nothing yet possessing all things". That is true new-covenant, Spirit-filled Christianity.
Do you hear a voice coming to you from heaven today? It is a very loving voice. The Lord says, "My son, my daughter come up higher. I don't want you to continue living at the low level that you are living at right now. Don't be happy that you are better than other Christians around you. Don't boast in your knowledge, or your experiences, or in the good opinion that others have of you, or in how spiritual you think you are. Don't even rejoice in how much you have been used by Me in the past. Come up higher."
God wants to fill you with His Holy Spirit. Will you say to Him, "Lord I want the genuine power of the Holy Spirit. I have lived long enough with a counterfeit."
Let me tell you one more thing: You don't have to wait. If there is a waiting period, it is because God is waiting for you to yield everything to Him - all your life and all your ambitions, etc., Perhaps there is something in your life that you still have not yielded to Him, some door in your heart that you still have not opened to the Lord, some habit that you are still not willing to give up. Are you willing to give it up now?
Are you willing to throw away those movie-DVDs that you have that you cannot let Jesus watch along with you? Are you willing to throw away those rock-music-CDs that Jesus would never listen to? Are you willing to throw away those pictures and magazines that you have, that you would be ashamed to let Jesus see? Are you willing to let Jesus examine your financial affairs and tell you how to use your money? Are you willing to let Jesus always be between you and your wife so that every time you speak to her, you will be speaking with Jesus standing in front of you?. And the other way around, if you are a wife?
If that is the life you are longing for, I can tell you, that you can be filled with the Holy Spirit today.
But if you are still seeking for the things of earth and asking Jesus for a better house and a better car and other things like that, then I have to tell you that the Lord has nothing to give you, until you repent and turn around.
May the Lord help you to see that and be wise!