“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
Whenever I tell people that the Lord has taken me through a journey of deeper engagement with the Holy Spirit, people often assume something about tongues or becoming charismatic. But this kind of assumption totally misses the point.
In order to give a more holistic picture of what has really happened in my life, I tend to say that I got a download of the “DNA of the Spirit.” This happened at God’s initiation and invitation, not my own. Using language from the charismatic stream, we might call this a filling of the Spirit or “baptism” of the Spirit. But many people are uncomfortable with that language for various reasons.
Using language from the spiritual formation/contemplative stream, we might say that this DNA of the Spirit is often the result of Jesus moving us from mansion 3 to mansion 4 or 5 in our interior life with God (according to the seven mansions laid out by St. Teresa of Avila in her Interior Castle paradigm of spiritual formation [read this if you want to learn more about this paradigm]).
In order to bring greater clarity to what I’ve experienced, I list here some of the common characteristics that I’ve noticed accompany a download of the DNA of the Spirit. This DNA is not just about having the Spirit or interacting with the Spirit. This is something more. I write this as a person who for many years did not operate with this DNA and now does (I was a Christian for 25 years and a pastor for 10 years before experiencing this).
A person who embraces the DNA of the Spirit will often experience:
1. An increase in awareness of and prioritizing of the unseen realm/spirit realm
2. An increase in deep intimacy with the Lord, often accompanied by supernatural encounters with the Lord
3. An increase in two-way conversational dialog with the Lord, often accompanied by a desire to spend more time with Him
4. An increase in the sensitivity to the Holy Spirit’s tangible presence and the Holy Spirit’s activity in the room, including a desire to notice and obey spontaneous promptings of the Spirit
5. An increase in the use of the supernatural gifts of the Spirit (1 Cor 12)
6. An increase in the power of the Spirit and the authority of Christ
7. An increase in the awareness of spiritual warfare as a regular part of the Christian life (including demonization and casting out demons)
8. An increase in the conviction that the gospel is true and that Jesus is the only way (any residue of unbelief gets washed away)
9. An increase in the amount of God’s Kingdom that is believed to be available to us “already,” this side of heaven
10. An increase in prioritizing ministering to the Lord (rather than just to people) and hosting His Presence (rather than just hosting people)
11. An increase in willingness to obey God even when it might seem weird to the people around you and you might be misunderstood [an increase in boldness is often a result of a “filling of the Spirit” (see Acts 4:31)]
12. An increase in a desire for holiness and purity, often accompanied by a reduction in desire for sin
13. An increase in expectancy as it relates to God moving supernaturally
14. An increase in the desire to speak about the above realities so that others may become awakened to them in similar ways
Most Christians can relate to one or two (or even a few) of the above characteristics. But imagine if you experienced all of these at once (or in a very short amount of time). That’s what a download of the DNA of the Spirit feels like. For me it was both a process and an event. It was a year and a half process of wading out into deeper waters of the Spirit (like slowly walking out into the ocean) followed by an event of being overwhelmed by the Spirit (like a wave of the Spirit crashing over me). This, then, was followed by a lifestyle of living in the deeper waters and experiencing continual wave after wave of the Spirit crashing upon my life. Once you’ve experienced these things, you want them for everyone you love and everyone around you.
Yet, there is another reality to experiencing the DNA of the Spirit that’s not all rainbows and unicorns. There are some difficult aspects of it as well.
Here are some things that are difficult that also tend to accompany a download of the DNA of the Spirit:
1. An increase in misunderstanding from people: I don’t think I’ve ever been more misunderstood than I have during this time. The amount of misunderstanding that has come from the DNA of the Spirit in my life has been disorienting. When one begins to try to explain this new engagement with the Holy Spirit, it is often met with skepticism, confusion, and false assumptions. When one becomes a Christian, it is difficult to describe to your non-Christian friends what exactly has happened to you. When you’re married with kids, it’s difficult to describe your new life to your single friends. There are certain things in life that will be misunderstood until they are experienced firsthand, and this is one of those things.
2. An increase in attacks from the enemy: The enemy will begin to recognize you as a greater threat to the kingdom of darkness and will respond accordingly. He will launch all manner of attack against your life including illness, grief, loss, betrayal, false accusations, and an increase in temptations. The goal is to ruin your reputation and limit your impact for the Kingdom of God.
3. An increase in testing from the Lord: The strangest thing to experience is that God allows the above things to happen, both misunderstandings and attacks, in order to test your character. He begins to test the clarity of the “well water” of your soul, not at the surface but at the deeper levels. And down in the depths of your soul is where you will find sediment that you didn’t know was there. It’s a painful process as you get As on some tests from the Lord and Fs on others. Your character is pressed and stressed to see where it is weak. The gold of your heart is thrown into the Refiner’s fire in order to clean out the dross and purify your desires. The point of all of this is so that God can trust you with the weight of “more” without crushing you under it. He has to sure up the weak parts of your character so that it won’t break under the weight of His glory.
You may have noticed by now how often I’ve used the word “increase.” And that is the main theme of receiving a download of the DNA of the Spirit. You get “more.” You get more intimacy and connection with God; you get more gifts; you get more passion, conviction, revelation and insight. But you also get more challenges and testing. You get an “increase” and an “upgrade” on all fronts.
So, this is the best I know how to describe what has happened in my life. It still doesn’t do it justice, but it’s a good summary of the experience. What is most amazing to me about it all is that it was initiated by the Lord. It wasn’t something I was interested in or something I was asking for. It was an invitation that He initiated on His own for His own purposes.
The only way I know how to describe this humbling feeling is to imagine being a first century beggar on the side of the road as Jesus and His disciples come into town. I know all too well that Jesus could have passed me by. He could have kept walking (and probably should have). Instead, on His own initiative, He decided to stop just for me. And in doing so He forever changed my life, my family, and my ministry. And he’ll do the same for you if you’re willing.