Congratulations on staying the course! Coming to Christ is just the beginning of this journey. Salvation has come and so has freedom from the penalty of sin and death. This is the experience of “justification.” A great way to understand that term is to think of it like this: It is “just-as-if” those sins never happened. How awesome is that! Everyone likes a reset, a clean slate and a fresh start.
After salvation, a new work now begins called sanctification. This term means, being made holy or set apart unto God. The process of being molded into the image of Christ is also a work of sanctification. The new believer is now connected to the Local church and forming new relationships with fellow believers in Christ. Life is headed in the right direction, but there is still so much more ahead. Many more blessings from God are coming!
Much like the children of Israel, new believers have escaped the bondage of Egypt. When least expected, however, young Christians may encounter a bad thought, say something, or do something undesirable, and find that even though Egypt has been left behind, some of the traits of Egypt may still be hanging on. What is needed is breaking free from the past.
Second Corinthians 3:17 (NIV) tells us, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” Galatians 5:1 (NIV) affirms, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Grasping and experiencing this freedom is the purpose of the Freedom Encounter weekend. It is designed to reveal any areas where the enemy (Satan) may still have a foothold in a believer’s life. The aim of this book is to prepare the reader for this amazing opportunity to experience complete freedom.
More great news is that God sent a traveling companion. His Holy Spirit, to help on this journey. In the book of John chapter 14 and verse 16 Jesus told the disciples that He would send a helper (the Holy Spirit) who would never leave them. At the Freedom Encounter, participants will have the opportunity to receive the Holy Spirit and be filled with His Power. As someone once said, “The work of the Holy Spirit is to make believers a holy spirit.”
Satan cannot stand the idea of Christians being free from the grip of his power. He will try everything to draw them back into the old life. He does not want God’s children to live free and victorious in Christ. Because Satan cannot force new believers into the slavery of sin, he will try to lure them back to “the good old days.” Instead, of looking back, however, Christians are encouraged to stay focused on Jesus and the amazing journey ahead that God has planned for them (Hebrews 12:2). So, don’t stop now! The best days are ahead and the future is filled with God’s plan.
Jesus regularly freed people from yokes of bondage. One man He set free went to ten towns preaching the Good News (Mark 5:1-20)! Experiencing freedom will inspire a person to do things like that. Mary Magdalene, who traveled with Jesus and the disciples, had been bound by seven spirits but was liberated by the power of God. Through the blood of Jesus, Satan’s power has been broken over every believer’s life as well.
The enemy will try to keep people bound with bad habits and addictions. One of Satan’s most successful tactics is to lie to believers using the “fiery darts” (thoughts) of insufficiency and fear. After that, he tries to implant bitterness and unforgiveness. Whispered in the ears of offended believers is, “That person does not deserve forgiveness.” Understand, all of Satan’s intentions toward God’s children are purely evil. But know this too. Jesus won freedom from the plans and attacks of the enemy (Acts 10:38).
The apostle Paul said, “Do not give the devil a foothold” (Ephesians 4:27 NIV). After salvation, there may be areas of a believer’s life that grieve the Holy Spirit and give Satan a legal foothold in which to freely operate. This amazing Freedom Encounter weekend is an opportunity to address these areas. At the event, the power of the Holy Spirit is present to liberate and break bondages for those longing to experience such freedom. God gives grace to the humble and sees and responds to the desire to be transformed. Expect God’s grace to be fully operational, removing sinful ways as they are fully surrendered.
When a person is saved, the spirit is now swept clean and free from the stain of sin. However, if there is not a thorough housecleaning and an invitation for the Holy Spirit to fill the new believer, Satan will attempt to return, and the final condition of that person will be worse than at first (Matthew 12:44-45). This is why new Christians often go back into bondage.
Do not remain comfortable with any sin. Keep in mind that Jesus died on the cross to free people from sin’s grip. Remember the Freedom Encounter weekend is an opportunity to receive the infilling of the Holy Spirit, ensuring power and guidance for this journey.
Even after the Freedom Encounter, this newfound freedom will be tested. James 4:7 (NIV) says, “Submit yourselves, then to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” To the believer walking in obedience to God’s Word, Satan is an illegal intruder and can be commanded to leave! As Prov. 26:2 (NIV) says, “Like a fluttering sparrow or a darting swallow, an undeserved curse does not come to rest.”
Jesus said, “Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity” (John 12:25 NLT). God’s desire is to give real freedom, but to receive that freedom will require a new believer to release some things that are still holding on to.
Turn from destructive habits, addictions, emotions, thoughts and relationships. Renounce Satan in any area where bondage lingers, and declare freedom. Forgive and release all those who have offended and contributed to past bondage in your life. And finally, rejoice in this new liberty! This is just part of the total house cleaning that can be experienced at the Freedom Encounter weekend. Begin preparing now for this amazing part of your journey with Christ.
Jesus’ death on the cross and His resurrection are the foundation of the Christian faith. What was accomplished there for all of humanity is not simply an important element, but rather the singular truth that lifts Christianity above all other world religions. On the cross, Jesus paid the penalty for the sins of the world and made a way when there was no way for sinners to be forgiven and experience eternal life. “When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross” (Philippians 2:7-8 NLT). “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5 NIV). The cross is where the price was paid, yet it was the resurrection that validated what Jesus did and assures believers that that they too will rise to life after death. “So you see, just as death came into the world through a man, now the resurrection from the dead has begun through another man [Jesus]” (1 Corinthians 15:21 NLT).
Without the victory of the cross, Christians would be totally helpless and powerless. Satan does not want believers to comprehend the awesome victory that occurred at the cross, but instead wants them to live in unbelief and despair. God has established promises and principles in the cross of Calvary. However, Satan wants to keep believers ignorant of the Father’s love and desire to provide for the church.
If God failed to sustain believers and meet them at every point of spiritual, physical, and material need, He would be denying the work He accomplished through His Son, Jesus (2 Corinthians 8:9). Understanding the need for the cross and being aware of the areas in which Christ triumphed on the believer’s behalf is key to walking in victory in this daily Christian journey. There are three main benefits in the cross of Christ.
Seven hundred years before the promised Messiah (Jesus) died on the cross, the prophet Isaiah saw the crucifixion. “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:5 NIV). Isaiah struggled with what he was seeing because crucifixion had yet to be practiced.
When the nails pierced Jesus’ hands and feet and the blood flowed, it was for the forgiveness of the world’s sin. Every sin that was ever, will ever, or could ever be committed was paid for that day. The blood of Jesus washes thoroughly those who come to Him in repentance and confession. God promises that this act of faith from the believer will never fail to cleanse from sin and bring freedom from tormenting guilt (1John 1:9). “Though your sins are like scarlet,” wrote Isaiah, “they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool” (Isaiah 1:18 ESV).
After cleansing from sin and guilt comes peace in emotions, mind and spirit. The punishment that brought peace was leveled on Jesus (Isaiah 53:5). The Savior was ridiculed and mocked. Soldiers made a cruel crown of thorns and thrust it into His precious brow. Thorns in scripture represent the curse, so Jesus took upon Himself the curse for a negative thought life in order to purchase freedom for all believers. There is no need to suffer from mental anguish or with addictive, destructive thought patterns. Even depression was dealt with at the cross. Isaiah 61:3 (NKJV) tells us He has given “the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness” This scripture declares that peace does not have to be continually tainted with heaviness!
Emotional deliverance and ministry are examined deeply in the Freedom Encounter. During that weekend, the past will be addressed and dealt with instead of just pretending that it did not happen. Painful rejections, abuses, and mistreatments were paid for on the cross so that believers can recover. Right standing with God makes peace possible because Jesus made “peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (Colossians 1:20 NIV). Peace with God and peace in the believer’s heart comes through the cross. What a difference having peace can make!
The work of the cross not only paid the price for sins, but also purchased physical healing. Before being crucified, Jesus was beaten with a whip called a scourge. By His precious stripes, physical healing was attained (1 Peter 2:24; Isaiah 53:5). It is not the will of God for believers to live in sickness. The cross proved that. Sickness and disease no longer have authority. “By His stripes,” wrote Peter, “you were healed!”
Imagine winning a contest and first prize was three appliances of the winner’s choice from the most expensive store in town. Human nature would be to pick out the most extravagant items. The winner did nothing deserving of these gifts, but they are part of the package. When the truck arrives from the store and unloads a huge TV but not the other two items, what would be the attitude of the prize winner? Do you think, he/she would say, “Oh well, I did not deserve any of this anyway, so I am at least glad to have this one item.”? Probably not. There would most likely be a conversation with the delivery driver, asking, “Where are the other two prizes?” That is how believers should approach the cross. Too much has been paid for, at too great a price for believers to settle only for forgiveness and not walk in peace or healing.
Now, imagine the attitude of the one paying for the extravagant gifts. Imagine the disappointment and frustration. The sacrifice and expense were apparently in vain.
The cross of Christ is full of power. Available to every believer is victory over guilt, condemnation, and the oppression of the enemy. Also, there is power to overcome sickness, suffering, anxiety, and fear is possible because of the cross. Death itself was defeated at the cross. That is how colossal Jesus’ death on the cross is!
Over two thousand years ago, Jesus rose from the dead. The biblical account reads: “Very early on Sunday morning, as the sun rose, they went to the tomb. They worried out loud to each other, ‘Who will roll back the stone from the tomb for us?’ Then they looked up, saw that it had been rolled back—it was a huge stone—and walked right in. They saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed all in white. They were completely taken aback, astonished. He said, ‘Do not be afraid. I know you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, the One they nailed on the cross. He has been raised up; he is here no longer. You can see for yourselves that the place is empty’” (Mark 16:2–6 MSG).
Jesus went down into hell and took the keys to death and hell from Satan. This miraculous feat of defeating death ensures a believer’s entrance into a new life in Heaven after this life on earth ends. The disciples kept missing this point, however, even when Jesus plainly said, "The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise" (Mark 9:31 NIV). This is an important truth that believers cannot overlook!
A key to walking in victory is understanding what the resurrection of Christ Jesus means. Because Jesus rose again, so will believers. Looking forward to an eternity with Jesus because of His resurrection is a reality for Christians. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3 NIV). When Jesus spoke with Martha about the death of Lazarus, He said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26 NIV).
The death on the cross and the resurrection of Jesus from the dead are inseparable. There is not one without the other! When Jesus walked through the gates of hell and took the keys of hell and death, the victory was not His alone. Every believer who receives Him as Savior and Lord shares in it. Author Timothy Keller wrote, “If Jesus rose from the dead, then you have to accept all that he said; if he didn’t rise from the dead, then why worry about any of what he said? The issue on which everything hangs is not whether or not you like his teaching but whether or not he rose from the dead” (Reasons for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism, 2008 Dultin publishers).
The restorative work of Christ does not end at forgiveness of sin, but it also returns to believers their place of authority. God's original identity for mankind was to have dominion, not to be dominated by sin or become a victim of the enemy’s attacks. One of Satan’s greatest tactics is to convince believers to live below that place of authority. However, a healthy spiritual self-identity is part of God’s original plan for humankind. It is imperative for that lost identity to be restored in order to walk in the fullness of God.
After an encounter with God, Jacob’s name which meant “the trickster” was changed to Israel, which means “prince with God.” Abram’s name, “high father” was changed to Abraham, which means “father of a multitude.” Likewise, Sarai, “my princes,” was changed to Sarah, which means “mother of nations.” God loves changing people’s hearts and giving out new names (Genesis 32; 17).
In the Old Testament, when God gave a new name, it aligned with His vision for that person. Jacob would no longer see himself as a trickster, but now as a prince with God. Abraham and Sarah were to be the father and mother of a great multitude of nations. When believers have an encounter with God, a spiritual adjustment should take place that brings them into alignment with God’s original intent for them. God has an original intent for each of us that was disrupted because of the fall and sin. “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (Ephesians 2:10 NIV).
Imagine how powerful the Church would be if every believer embraced and was transformed into God’s original vision for them! One of Satan’s greatest fears is that Christians will live up to the full potential of their identity in Christ. Romans 12:2 (NLT) encourages us, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” God’s perfect will for every believer is wrapped up in identity.
People everywhere seem to be trying to “find themselves.” A simple solution could be, “Take your hands and place them on your head. There you are. Problem solved.” That is a facetious approach, of course, but the problem is not in the search for location, but for significance and purpose. “Who am I? Why am I here?” The answers to these questions begin at the place of identity. Sadly, all too often people identify themselves and others on the basis of physical appearance, relational roles, education, job, family . . . or failures, sins, or abuses.
Identity determines much about the way people respond to life. Those who identify as victims will respond to situations with a victim’s mentality, always living life on the defensive. Those who think they are superior to everyone may approach situations with overconfidence. Those who identify themselves as having little value may feel disqualified from much of what God has provided. However, when a person becomes born again, a new identity comes because all things are new. “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT). A new life in Christ means no longer being a slave to the past, but becoming a son or daughter of God and an heir with Jesus Christ---a new life, a new identity!
The ability to make decisions and determine direction are influenced by a person’s perceived level of authority. In the same way a government official’s title (mayor, governor, president) represents delegated authority to lead, Christians possess delegated authority as part of their identity in Christ! Jesus told His disciples in Luke 10:19 (NLT), “Look, I have given you authority over all of the power of the enemy.”
Today’s culture asserts that identity is unfixed and determined at the whim of any individual. This, however, is not true. Peers cannot decide identity; neither can culture nor its influence. God told the prophet Jerimiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you and before you were born I consecrated (had a special purpose) for you” (Jerimiah 1:5NASB).
Although believers are in this world’s system, Jesus said believers are not of the orld (John 17:14). Individuals are not bound to any identity based on either affluence or lack. No one has the authority to use statements like “wrong part of town”, “from a bad family” or “poor people” to label another person.
What is created does not have the authority to identify itself. The Creator alone has the authority to identify what He has created. From the beginning, God has determined the sex, race, gifts, and purpose of His children. The scriptures identify believers as:
God has established the identity of believers and wants the church to walk in that identity!
No authority, no power. Acts 20:11-20 (ESV) is the account of seven sons of a Jewish high Priest named Sceva who tried to cast out one evil spirit by demanding the spirit to come out “by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” The outcome was not what was expected, as the evil spirit answered, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” The evil spirit overpowered the seven sons and sent them home naked and wounded. No power, no anointing, because there was no relationship with Jesus. Spiritual authority comes only from the power given to believers by Jesus (Luke 10:19). “For this purpose,” wrote Paul, “also I labor, striving according to His power (Christ's power), which mightily works within me” (Colossians 1:29 NASB).
Adam was created and given dominion. However, when man sinned, that dominion was lost. Jesus’ death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead restored His children to a place of authority. He gave the church full authority over all the power of the enemy. God’s intent is not to have children that are forgiven of sin but are still in bondage to enslaving habits and addictions, trapped in cycles of sickness and want, living below the identity Jesus restored. He wants believers to walk in full authority over the kingdom of darkness.
There will be days when a child of God does not feel like “more than a c onqueror” or “the head and not the tail.” Those times require living out of truth, by faith and not by feelings. God has empowered believers to rise above the attacks of the enemy (who has been defeated) by giving them authority to use the name of Jesus. In preparation for the Freedom Encounter weekend, begin to exercise the authority given by Jesus Christ. Make a decision to no longer live in bondage and shame, and to step into the identity of a redeemed and empowered son or daughter of God!
On October 17, 1781, the British Commander Lord Cornwallis formally surrendered to the American army. This signified the end of the Revolutionary War, a conflict that had been waging for roughly eight years. The act of surrender marked the end of the conflict between the two forces. The war was over. One had surrendered to the other, thus submitting themselves to the judgement and authority of the conquering party. Surrender means to yield to the power, control, or possession of another.
There is a war being waged inside of every person. It is a war between the flesh and the spirit. Even the great apostle Paul struggled with the flesh. “But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind,” wrote Paul, “This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me” (Romans 7:23 NLT). This war inside the apostle was a battle between the desire to live holy and the desire of the old fleshly, sinful nature to rule. When a person is saved by trusting in what Jesus did at the cross, a surrender must take place. When Jesus is Lord, the flesh must surrender to the rule of the Holy Spirit that now lives inside the believer.
Actually, the reality of the internal war is a sign that the Holy Spirit is present. Where once an “old” nature ruled, now a “new” nature wants to rule and the two are in conflict. In victorious Christians, this resistance ceases as the old sinful nature submits to the authority of Jesus. This chapter will explore what a practical life of surrender looks like.
Surrender tends to be an unappealing thought for a lot of people. The liberty to control every aspect of life is perceived by most as a basic freedom. However, when the Holy Spirit brings illumination to the heart, a realization dawns that all this perceived freedom opens a door of bondage to the flesh. What follows is a desire for the Holy Spirit to turn surrender into real freedom. No longer is there a desire to control everything, but instead a willingness to submit to the leadership of Christ.
“Submit to God, and you will have peace; then things will go well for you” (Job 22: 21 NLT). You can’t really get any clearer than that. Job understood the freedom of surrender. The New Testament puts it this way. “My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
Surrender means believers experience the true life that results from being in alignment with God’s perfect will. For example, an issue with an automobile necessitates a visit to a mechanic who has the tools and knowledge to repair the issue. Once the automobile is put into the hands of the expert, one very important step remains. The owner must hand over the keys. A refusal to release the keys (access) to the mechanic prevents the necessary changes from taking place. The answer to the problem lies in easy access, so the keys must be surrendered. When believers refuse to surrender to God, issues cannot be fixed and blessings are cut off. However when surrender happens, the Holy Spirit of Jesus has access to make something more beautiful than could ever be imagined.
The growing believer with true faith recognizes the humbling reality that when the flesh is in control, it leads to a life of bondage. To experience fullness of life with God, a believer must totally surrender the old nature and give Jesus control of the new nature. The believer who gives God only partial control has not truly surrendered, and it is impossible for that individual to live the fullness of life that Jesus offers.
Submission can be intimidating if there is uncertainty about the intentions of the power that is being submitted to. However, there is good news. When surrendering to Jesus, believers are submitting into the hands of the One who is faithful to do exceedingly and abundantly above all that could be asked, thought, or imagined. God is good, and when believers submit, their lives come into alignment, resulting in peace and fulfillment. God blesses and provides beyond what could be achieved by human effort alone. The Holy Spirit works in the heart of submitted vessels, crafting unique dreams and callings, making them fruitful beyond what they could imagine. The Christian family is blessed with unity and love. Hearts are filled with hope, joy and purpose. So many promises in Scripture point to the fruit that comes from a surrendered life.
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV).
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV, emphasis added).
“But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint” (Isaiah 43:31 NLT).
Those are just a few scriptures promising the future is better off in God’s hands, but there are many more. That being said, there is a cost involved.
Living a life for Jesus requires absolute surrender. Nothing should be held back. To hold back is to communicate to God distrust and unbelief. Remember, God’s great love for humanity compelled Jesus, His only Son, to die on to the cross (Romans 8:31-32). Even though equal to God, Jesus submitted Himself and was obedient unto death. There can be no reserved heart when submitting to God. Nothing should be off-limits when it comes to obedience. Some areas of surrender are as follows:
To surrender these things does not necessarily mean getting rid of them. Living a life of surrender does not mean owning nothing, but that all things are surrendered to God to control and direct. The beautiful thing about living a life of surrender is that oftentimes, when all things are surrendered to God, He does not take everything away, but improves them and gives understanding how they can be used for the advancement of the Kingdom of God. A life surrendered to God means all things are held with an open hand. God is in control. Using the previous examples given, here are some practical applications of living a life of surrender.
Make sure to be generous with finances and faithful in giving to the local church, even when money is tight. “And my God will meet all of your needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19 NIV).
Be willing to make Jesus the top priority in the daily schedule. Set aside time to pray, study, worship, and just be in God’s presence. Spend time serving at the local church and being with other believers. Balance leisure time with time spent ministering to others.
“Not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25 NIV)
“And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jer. 29:13)
“Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth” (Proverbs 10:4 NIV)
A life of surrender will refocus old aspirations and may change the concept of what success looks like and what life’s ultimate pursuit should be. Surrender those areas to God, believing that the old dreams will be replaced with new ones that will not only prove relevant and fulfilling in this lifetime, but will reap eternal rewards. “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20 NIV)
Surely when General Cornwallis surrendered all those years ago it was not a pleasant experience. While the concept of surrender is the same, the context is vastly different. God does not force surrender on anyone, but invites all into it. The decision to live a life of surrender is a decision to stop resisting God’s will. It is relinquishing control, and placing all into the hands of the Creator of the universe who has plans to prosper and not to harm, to give a future and a hope!
God’s Intent Is for Believers to Receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. When a person repents of sin and accepts Jesus as Lord, their whole life changes. Jesus referred to this as being “born again.” And rightly so, because everything takes on a new purpose. A believer’s worldview changes. The desires of the heart turn from sinful pleasures to godly things. True peace is experienced, as well as a sense of forgiveness that nothing else on earth can compare to. Jesus told His disciples that the heavenly Father would send a Comforter as well. The Spirit would indwell and empower His church.
When Jesus was about to ascend to heaven and leave His disciples to do the work of bringing the gospel to the ends of the earth, He gave instructions concerning the importance of receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit. On one occasion, while He was eating with them, He gave them this command:
“Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about” (Acts 1:4 NIV).
Imagine that! Jesus said the task of evangelizing the world had to wait until each of these disciples had been baptized in the Holy Spirit. Now factor that into life as a new Christian. Yes, believers also need to be filled with the Spirit to carry out the Great Commission.
The apostle Paul came across a group of newly converted believers and was able to help them take the next step of receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit. While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul traveled through the interior regions until he reached Ephesus, on the coast, where he found several believers.
“Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” he asked them. “No,” they replied, “we haven’t even heard that there is a Holy Spirit” (Acts 19:1–2 NLT).
Now that may be your experience too. Perhaps you have never heard of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps, in your religious upbringing, you have even learned false teachings concerning the Holy Spirit. If that is the case, let these verses about the Holy Spirit transform your life. These men told the apostle Paul, “We haven’t even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” The Scriptures continue in verses 3–7 (emphasis added):
“Then what baptism did you experience?” he asked. And they replied, “The baptism of John.” Paul said, “John’s baptism called for repentance from sin. But John himself told the people to believe in the one who would come later, meaning Jesus.” As soon as they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then when Paul laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in other tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve men in all.
The Holy Spirit cannot fill an unredeemed heart, though. Jesus stated that the world could not receive Him. The baptism in the Holy Spirit can be experienced only by the redeemed. In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus once told a parable about filling new believers with the Holy Spirit:
“And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins” (Luke 5:37–38 NIV).
A new wineskin is the redeemed life of a born-again believer. The new wine, or the Holy Spirit, cannot be poured in until the old wineskin (old life) is replaced with a new one. Imagine that! Jesus has been longing for you to be redeemed so that He can baptize you with the Holy Spirit.
John the Baptist prophesied about this when he wrote:
“I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matthew 3:11 NIV).
Jesus repeatedly told His disciples that this was the normal course of becoming one of His followers:
“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you” (John 14:16–18 NLT).
Jesus even described His departure from the earth as necessary, or else His church would not be able to live as Holy Spirit–filled believers:
“But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because people do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned” (John 16:7–11 NIV).
Listen to the significance of Jesus’ words as He described the necessity of being baptized in the Holy Spirit following salvation. He also indicated that all would be received from heaven. Whether it be insight, revelation, joy, peace, healing, or conviction upon preaching, it will make its way to believers from Christ via the Holy Spirit.
Even a prayer language is provided by the Spirit! All the New Testament believers in the book of Acts spoke in tongues when they received the baptism of the Spirit. On the day of Pentecost, tongues of fire rested upon them all, fulfilling John the Baptist’s prophecy about being baptized in the Spirit and fire. The apostle Peter recognized that Gentile believers had received the baptism of the Holy Spirit when he heard them speak in tongues:
Even as Peter was saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening to the message. The Jewish believers who came with Peter were amazed that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles, too. For they heard them speaking in other tongues and praising God (Acts 10:44–46 NLT).
When believers are baptized in water, they are immersed in the water. Baptizō (βαπτίζω), the Greek word used, literally means “immersion.” So when believers are baptized in the Spirit, they are immersed in the Spirit. Baptizō can also mean “to dip repeatedly, to cleanse by immersion, to submerge, or to overwhelm.” What a powerful Greek word that perfectly describes the cleansing and overwhelming peace and joy that come from being baptized in the Spirit! No wonder it was such a priority to the Lord.
Please do not miss out on this gift promised by the Father, but be surrendered to God’s intent to live Spirit-filled and empowered. It is not necessary for believers to beg or convince God to fill them either, because it is His great desire that His people live this way. Remember how Jesus praised the generosity of His Father when He declared:
“If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" (Luke 11:13 NIV).
In fact, Jesus is actually at the right hand of the Father right now, and He is interceding for you to be filled with the Spirit!
“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate” (John 14:16 NIV).
Be encouraged today as you ask God to fill you with the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Better yet, ask your B-Group leader or campus pastor to lay hands on you and pray for you. You will follow in the footsteps of those believers in the book of Acts as Jesus baptizes you in the Spirit and with fire!
Lions in the wild kill prey by stalking deftly and patiently, watching for the slightest opportunity to pounce. The Bible tells us that Satan, the enemy, does the same thing, looking for ways to destroy the lives of believers. “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world” (1 Peter 5:8-9 NASB).
One of the foremost tactics the prowling lion (Satan) uses to attack and destroy Christians is temptation. In fact, as Jesus entered the wilderness in Matthew 4, Satan, the tempter, immediately confronted Him. Jesus, however, through perfect obedience, conquered temptation without sinning. Passing this supreme test opened the door for Jesus to fulfill the divine instructions God had ordained for Him.
Since the beginning, Satan has had one chief goal: to separate men and women from the love and care of God the Father. Temptation is one of the methods he uses to entice people to disobey God and fall into the bondage of sin and unbelief. This was true with Eve in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:1).
Although Satan is called the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4), believers have authority over him (Luke 10:9, Romans 16:20). Christians can defeat the enemy and reign victoriously because of the authority Jesus won on the cross. “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments [lies] and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled” (2 Corinthians 10:3-6 NKJV).
“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever” (I John 2:15 NIV).
Satan uses three main realms of temptation to try to lure believers away from God: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.
“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24 NIV). The flesh possesses appetites, desires, and attitudes that oppose the nature and character of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:19-24). The lust of the flesh can be placed in one of the following five categories: uncontrolled sexual appetites, rebellion, false religion, hatred, and envy. All of humanity is born into a broken and sinful world, with a strong desire to satisfy the flesh. Scripture teaches believers to put the desires of the flesh to death by nailing them to the cross and crucifying them there (Galatians. 5:24). However, the flesh wants life to be completely controlled by its desires.
“Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness” (Luke 11:34ESV). The lust of the eyes can include fleshly appetites or can be as simple as focusing on that which is unholy, unlovely, and unworthy. Paul wrote in Philippians 4 that believers should fix their thoughts on what is true, pure, righteous, and admirable. Additionally, King David said, “I will set nothing wicked before my eyes” (Psalm 101:3 NKJV). To have pure thoughts, the believer must be ever aware that the eyes are the lamp of the body.
“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom” (Proverbs 11:2 NIV). Sometimes the most difficult temptations to overcome re the ones that are not visible on the outside. Fleshly desires, and lusts of the eyes often have tangible attachments. Pride, however, is a silent temptation which creeps in through the most innocent means. Though pride may seem harmless, or remain unnoticed, it is followed by dishonor and a long fall.
The most immediate response to temptations should be talking to God. The Holy Spirit gives power to fight sin. In prayer, Scripture can be used as a weapon in the battle with temptation. The Word of God is the sword of the Spirit. Just as a sword is both an offensive and defensive weapon in a physical battle, so is this spiritual sword of God’s Word.
Resisting may seem like a passive approach to temptation, but if done correctly, it is an aggressive attack. Submitting to God and resisting Satan will cause him to flee (James 4:7). To resist the enemy, the believer must first submit to God. Jesus’ time on earth revealed a submission to the Father first, which strengthened a resistance to Satan’s attacks. Spiritual resistance is rooted in a future hope of what is to be: an eternity free from sin and in the presence of the Heavenly Father. Use this hope as a firm stance in resistance to temptation.
Temptation is part of the believer’s life. Being tempted to sin does not mean regression; it only means that this is still a fallen world. However, it is not necessary to live as a victim of constant temptation, forever succumbing to sin. As has been stated before, through Jesus’ death and resurrection, the adversary, Satan, has already been defeated. As children of God, believers can walk in victory over temptation and assault. Be encouraged by Paul’s words: “The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, He will show you a way out so that you can endure” (1 Corinthians 10: 13 NLT emphasis added).
Prayer, the Word of God, and fellowship with other believers will encourage strong growth and build resistance to temptation. Solomon, in Ecclesiastes 4, observed that people who live a life isolated from others are prone to more attacks. Those who are standing alone can be attacked from any side; however, when a second person comes alongside them, they are protected on all sides, especially from blind-side attacks. Strength comes in a community of like-minded believers and through the testimonies of others. Being connected to others in this life can help believers endure the duration of the temptations they face. “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death” (Revelation 12:11 NKJV).
Building on the foundation of the last chapter, it becomes clear that God's design is for human beings to live in fellowship, first with God and then with other believers. The early chapters of Genesis mention two things regarding fellowship: God spending time with Adam, and then finding a companion for Adam. Humankind was created to interact and relate.
Interestingly, Genesis 4 reveals that one aspect of punishment from God was being denied the pleasure of other people’s company. After killing Abel, Cain replied to the Lord, “My punishment is too great for me to bear! You have banished me from the land and from your presence. . .” (Genesis 4:13-14 NLT). The eternal punishment of damnation in hell also means being alone, never seeing another soul ever again. Therefore, a lifestyle of being alone is not something to seek after.
“Friendship is unnecessary,” wrote C.S. Lewis, “like philosophy, like art …. It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.” It is fascinating to see how God knits believers together until they become as close as family. “So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family. Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord” (Ephesians 2:19-21 NLT).
Think of the believer’s life as one of the many building blocks in God’s church or temple. Oftentimes God even uses those that have been scarred and abused. When Nehemiah was endeavoring to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem the enemies mocked and shouted, “Do they actually think they can make something of stones from a rubbish heap—and charred ones at that?” (Nehemiah 4:2 NLT). God delights in building beautiful things out of broken people. Believers spend way too much time wallowing in past hurts, forgetting that Jesus brings deliverance and acceptance into his family.
Imagine a believer knowing all of the above yet still setting out to do life alone. First of all, think about how much that person would miss out on because of the choice to live in isolation. Second, that person would be going directly against God’s intent and design, and this disobedience would cause the believer to never come into fellowship with all of the other incredible people that God is shaping into lively stones. Third, choosing to do life alone would rob others of the gifts and friendship that a believer carries.
One of the true signs of a renewed life is the desire to befriend and hang out with other believers. The current societal trend, however, is leaning more and more toward isolation---people online scrolling through screen after screen and all the while becoming more skeptical and cynical. Research, however, has shown that laughter indeed is contagious and that smiles and human interaction result in positivity.
To the one who may be uncomfortable with stepping out and meeting new people, take courage. Young Ann Frank said, “Everyone has inside of him a piece of good news. The good news is that you don't know how great you can be! How much you can love! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is!” Keep in mind, a large number of people who have not experienced the transformation that comes from a relationship with Jesus. These may be the most welcoming people yet to come across! “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son” (Colossians. 1:13 ESV).
How does a believer engage? First, attend church services. Become a fixture at a particular service and campus. Do not go flitting around like a hummingbird from flower to flower. Be attentive as God guides with His peace at church services. Be intentional by sharing names when meeting people and do not forget to smile. William Arthur Ward said, “A warm smile is the universal language of kindness.” Trust God to assist when meeting others, “God sets the lonely in families” (Psalm 68:6 NLT).
This is God’s plan and will. Cooperate with God’s grace to carefully join together His family. The reward will be looking back months from now and giving thanks when recalling how God has built many prized friendships! After settling on a church home, do not stop there.
“Day after day they met as a group in the Temple, and they had their meals together in their homes, eating with glad and humble hearts” (Acts 2:46 GNT). It is one thing to get to know people at church, but it is even more pleasant to know people up close and personal at someone’s home. Small groups take place in living rooms and coffee shops and at workplaces. It is worth the effort to discover where these groups are meeting all around the city.
Do not underestimate the power of these small-group settings. Growth happens in the context of these relationships. “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17 NIV). It is even more rewarding knowing a small group at a deeper level than the larger group at a church service. It is exciting to see the diversity of people God brings into His family. Be ready for the unexpected!
The culture of the early church was unique. Coming from a background of segregation and exclusion within the Jewish belief system, the early church merged into a remarkable union of Jew and Gentile. These young believers were so impacted by the arrival of the long-awaited Messiah and the power of the resurrection that unity such as had never been known before resulted. The early church ate together, worshiped together, and shared possessions with one another without church buildings for the first 150 years!
This is a powerful model of unity for the modern church. All believers should embrace this example of Christ-based harmony and unity. Be encouraged to pursue this level of friendships through B-Groups. Many new friendships are also formed at the Freedom Encounter. Be open to meet many new believers that are walking through the same challenges and seeing victory through Christ.
One of the reasons that God facilitates relationships is to teach the church how to be more loving, giving, and selfless. In friendships, three major investments need to take place. The first is time. Relationships will never be healthy unless there is an investment of time. Second is transparency. Relationships that are strong and rewarding are open and transparent. The third is resources. Being cheap never helped anyone develop a healthy relationship.
Remember, God has equipped believers with the things necessary to be a good friend. New believers will find it helpful to connect with a mentor to help them grow in Christ. It is amazing how quickly a new believer can grow spiritually and draw strength from other Christian friends, who in turn draw strength from the new believer.
As Thomas Aquinas so rightly said, “Friendship is the source of the greatest pleasures, and without friends even the most agreeable pursuits become tedious.”
Be sure to spend some time in prayer as you prepare to attend the Freedom Weekend. The chapters of this book are designed to prepare believers for what can be expected at this amazing experience. Countless numbers of lives have been transformed as Jesus is lifted up and His power is displayed. Get ready to encounter Him!