In part 1, I said that in order to be filled, we desire, we pray, and we relax. Then…
We receive. The Christian life is more about receiving than doing. Children do that well. Jesus one day thanked the Father for hiding things from the wise and prudent and revealing them to little children (Matt. 11:25). Reason is not opposed to revelation, but it is not the same as revelation. People who compare how they are trying to receive the Spirit with how their friend did are not acting like children. Nor are those who analyze the words and sounds coming out of their mouths and wonder if they are truly speaking in tongues.
To be on the receiving end of a gift does not mean that we remain passive. If someone hands you an envelope and says, “This is for you,” you take it and open it. The Bible says that we receive “by faith.” So we assume the outlook of a child rather than the scrutinizing mindset of an adult. How do children receive? Simply, openly, confidently, and without a battery of doubts.
Manifestations are accepted. We don’t produce or prohibit them. They are one way that the Spirit may work. After Jesus spoke peace to the fearful disciples, “he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (John 20:22). The disciples most likely did not say, “This is weird. Why did he do that?” Weeks later, the Spirit blew down from heaven and sat on each of them like a fireball. We can’t pull off manifestations, so we don’t try. And we don’t get weird by shoving or shaking—but by receiving. If we shake or fall or laugh, we don’t think that we are suddenly more mature. Otherwise, we would start trying to make things happen rather than letting things happen.
It would be foolish to make a pattern out of manifestations. Cornelius didn’t say to Peter, “Aren’t you supposed to breathe on us?” We are not looking for formulas. We are living by faith and submitting to the Lord, the Spirit. Some may think the Holy Spirit is not dramatic enough and need to push someone, so it looks like God is on the move. Bad idea!
We step in the water. Faith always does something. “By faith Noah…built an ark to save his family” (Heb. 11:7). “By faith the people passed through the Red Sea” (29). Had the priests east of the Jordan said, “We’re not stepping into the water until it parts, “ they would have waited a long time! To step may mean opening your mouth and speaking out a word of prophecy, or it may mean offering up unintelligible sounds. After the disciples were filled with the Spirit, we are told that they “began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them” (Acts 2:4). They opened their mouths and spoke. The Spirit gave them the language, but they had to exercise their vocal chords and let the words out. Exercising any gift is a divine-human partnership. We prophesy “according to our faith” (Romans 12:6). When we pray for the sick, we extend our hand and offer a prayer or declaration of faith.
So do we need to ask for the Spirit to receive the Spirit? Sometimes. Jesus encouraged us to ask (Luke 11:13), but sometimes the Spirit comes when we surrender. I’ve heard people say, “We’re not supposed to do anything to receive the Spirit.” That could be true in some instances, but in other situations they are praying or surrendering or receiving the laying on of hands with someone else praying on their behalf. My suggestion to people desperate for the Spirit: ask and keep on asking, surrender and keep on surrendering! Come, Holy Spirit!