Crossing the Jordan

He said to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants ask their parents, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The Lord your God did to the Jordan what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.”

Joshua 4:21-24

The people of Israel were to set up memory stones, a memorial, to help them and future generations remember the miracles of God. Just as God created a way through the Red Sea when they were getting free from slavery, God again created a way–this time through the Jordan River–as the people entered the Promised Land. The purpose for both miracles was less about Israel and more about the nature of God. These miracles demonstrated the power of the Lord.

The Red Sea crossing was a kind of water baptism. It was a type, a foreshadow, of our baptism in water when we trust in Jesus. Jesus saves us from slavery to sin. As we leave our old life behind, we go through the waters of baptism.

If the Red Sea crossing was a kind of water baptism, what was the Jordan River crossing?

This second crossing wasn’t about being set free from slavery but about entering the promises of God. It was about stepping into the fullness of the inheritance that God had for the people of God. The Jordan River crossing was a kind of baptism in the Spirit. It was a type, a foreshadow, of what we see in Acts 2 when followers of Jesus are filled with the Spirit.

This second crossing was necessary for Israel to step into the fullness of what God had for them. He didn’t just set them free from Egypt so they could wander around the desert. The purpose of the Red Sea crossing found its fulfillment in the Jordan River crossing.

The same relationship exists between baptism in water and baptism in the Spirit. We didn’t get saved from sin and death just so we could continue to wander around as a slave to sin. We must also be filled with the Spirit in order to experience the fullness of the inheritance that we have been given in the Kingdom of God.

The apostle Paul wrote to a group of Christians who had the Spirit dwelling in them and said, “…be filled with the Spirit“(Ephesians 5:8). In other words, having the Spirit dwelling in you because you are saved is not the same thing as being filled with the Spirit. Israel was technically “saved” in the desert, but they didn’t enter all that God had for them until they crossed the Jordan.

Baptism in the Spirit isn’t you getting more of the Holy Spirit; it’s when the Holy Spirit gets more of you. It’s when your surrender and obedience allows Him access to more and more rooms in your heart, mind and body. As He fills your house with His Presence, there is an overflow that happens. More and more of the Kingdom of God is not only within you but begins to pour out of you.

Have you crossed the Jordan? Have you been filled to overflow with the Spirit?

The baptisms of Jesus

As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

Matthew 3:16-17

Jesus goes out to the Jordan River in order to be baptized in water by John the Baptist. And yet, instead of one baptism, we witness here three kinds of baptism (or a trifold baptism) that Jesus experiences before His public ministry.

The first is a baptism in water representing repentance, cleansing, and forgiveness of sins. Jesus didn’t really need this baptism because He had never sinned, but He does it anyway to set the example for us. When John the Baptist protested, Jesus said, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness“(Matthew 3:15).

The second baptism happens just as Jesus comes up out of the water. Heaven opens up and the Spirit of God descends on Jesus like a dove. This passage is the only time the translators translated the Greek word “erchomenon” as “alighting.” Every other time it is used in the New Testament they use the simpler translation “coming.” So the Greek phrase used here (erchomenon ep auton) literally means “coming upon him.” The Holy Spirit in this moment did not “dwell within” Jesus, it “came upon” Him. I believe Jesus already had the Holy Spirit dwelling within Him (see Luke 1:35; Luke 2:40 & 42-47). Here at His water baptism we see Jesus also baptized in the Spirit as it rests upon Him.

The third baptism is the baptism of the Father’s love. After the Holy Spirit descends and rests upon Jesus, the Father’s voice from heaven speaks words of identity, words of love, and words of favor and blessing over the life of Jesus. The baptism of the Father’s love is when a person encounters the love of the Father (not just the love of Jesus) in such a tangible way that it forever transforms how they see themselves and the people around them. They become forever marked by love.

If you want to hear a great testimony of the baptism of the Father’s love, watch this video of Leif Hetland (a former Baptist pastor, now international minister, who was born in Norway). He has experienced all three of the baptisms mentioned above at different points of his life.

So Jesus experiences a baptism of water, a baptism of the Spirit and a baptism of the Father’s love. After this experience at the Jordan River, Jesus will soon undergo a fourth baptism of sorts–a baptism of testing–as He is tempted in the wilderness by Satan. After Jesus’s first three baptisms (or trifold baptism) scripture says that He was “full of the Holy Spirit“(Luke 4:1). Yet, it wasn’t until after his fourth baptism, when He returned from the trial in the wilderness, that scripture says Jesus walked “in the power of the Spirit“(Luke 4:14).

If Jesus experienced all four of these baptisms before His public ministry, it seems to me that we all need each of these baptisms as well. If we are going to be followers of Jesus who also walk in the power of the Spirit, we’ll need to be refined by these encounters as well.

The baptism of water is a baptism of repentance and the forgiveness of sins. It is the baptism of Jesus. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is a baptism of power. The baptism of love is the baptism of the Father. It’s a complete immersion in liquid love.

D.L. Moody describes an experience he had (sometime at the close of 1871 and beginning of 1872) that completely transformed his ministry. This experience seems to be a combination of a baptism of the Spirit and a baptism of love:

Well, one day, in the city of New York—O, what a day! I cannot describe it; I seldom refer to it; it is almost too sacred an experience to me. Paul had an experience of which he never spoke for fourteen years. I can only say, God revealed Himself to me, and I had such an experience of His love that I had to ask Him to stay His hand. I went on preaching again. The sermons were not different; I did not present any new truths, and yet hundreds were converted. I would not be placed back where I was before that blessed experience if you would give me all of Glasgow.

D.L. Moody

The great evangelist Charles Finney had a similar experience of encountering both the baptism of the Spirit and a baptism of love on Wednesday, October 10, 1821.

…the Holy Spirit descended upon me in a manner that seemed to go through me, body and soul. I could feel the impression, like a wave of electricity,  going through and through me. Indeed it seemed to come in waves and waves of liquid love; for I could not express it in any other way. It seemed like the very breath of God. I can recollect distinctly that it seemed to fan me, like immense wings. 

No words can express the wonderful love that was shed abroad in my heart. I wept aloud with joy and love; and I do not know but I should say, I literally bellowed out unutterable gushings of my heart. These waves came over me, and over me, and over me, one after the other, until I recollect I cried out, “I shall die if these waves continue to pass over me.” I said, “Lord, I cannot bear any more”; yet I had no fear of death.

How long I continued in this state with this baptism continuing to roll over me and go through me, I do not know…

Charles Finney

Both of these men experienced these encounters many decades before there was any such thing as a “Pentecostal” or “charismatic” Christian (for Moody it was nearly a full century before). There was no such thing in their day. Those labels are 20th-century creations, often used to stigmatize the work of the Spirit.

If these baptisms were available to them, they are available to us now!

How many baptisms have you experienced?

He will baptize you…

“I baptize you with (or in) 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 (or in) the Holy Spirit and fire. 

Matthew 3:11

John the Baptist paved the way for Jesus, the Messiah, to come. He prepared people’s hearts by preaching a message of repentance. He baptized people in water as they came to confess and seek forgiveness for their sins. But John also declared that the Kingdom shouldn’t stop with repentance and forgiveness of sins. John pointed to Jesus, the One who would baptize with more than water.

So many of our conservative evangelical and liberal mainline protestant churches have people who are only baptized in water. The gospel that is preached is mostly about repentance and forgiveness of sin, which was the message of John the Baptist. Many churches have yet to move on to the gospel of Jesus which offers much more than that.

Some people believe that when you receive Jesus as Lord and Savior, when the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within you, that is what it means to be “baptized in the Holy Spirit.” Even if we assume that is true (which I’m not sure it is), then what about being baptized in fire?

John prophesied that Jesus would baptize in both the Holy Spirit and fire. Where is the baptism of fire? Where are the messages that preach and teach about the baptism of fire? Unfortunately, it gets glossed over and lumped in with the salvation experience. I’m convinced there is more available to us because I’ve experienced it firsthand.

In the Gospel of John (John 20:22), we see the resurrected Jesus breathe on the disciples in the upper room, and we see them receive the Holy Spirit. Jesus’s very next words were about forgiveness of sins. Receiving the Holy Spirit within us is about being forgiven of our sin and being able to forgive others when they sin against us.

Then, before ascending back to the right hand of the Father in heaven, Jesus says to His disciples (who’ve already received the Holy Spirit within them), “I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high“(Luke 24:49).

Luke, the writer of the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts, reiterates this same point in Acts 1 and brings meaning to the words of John the Baptist. Speaking about the resurrected Jesus before He ascended, Luke writes,

On one occasion, while he (Jesus) 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. For John baptized with (or in) water, but in a few days you will be baptized with (or in) the Holy Spirit.”

Acts 1:4-5

Then in Acts 2 we see the disciples “baptized with the Holy Spirit.” This experience in Pentecost was very different than what the disciples experienced in the upper room when Jesus breathed on them. This was a much more powerful and violent experience of the Holy Spirit. There was a sound of a violent wind, tongues of fire and speaking in tongues. This was the disciples being “clothed with power from on high.” This wasn’t about forgiveness of sins like the upper room experience in John 20. This was about the Spirit empowering the disciples for purity and powerful ministry.

One way to say it is that first the disciple received the Spirit within them and then they received the Spirit upon them. The first was the breath of God; the second was the wind of God. The first was for their own salvation; the second was for the salvation of others. The first came gently, intimately, and quietly; the second came powerfully, outwardly, and loudly.

If one still wants to maintain that we as Christians are baptized with the Holy Spirit at salvation when we receive the Spirit within us, then we could still call the event that happened to the disciples at Pentecost a baptism of fire. It was still something more. John’s words stated that Jesus would baptized with the Holy Spirit and fire.

For others, it is clear that baptism in the Spirit is a second event that results in us being “filled with the Spirit“(Acts 2:4; Ephesians 5:18) similar to what happened at Pentecost. Some experience this second event months or years after salvation and others experience it simultaneous with conversion. I didn’t experience it until over two decades after my conversion experience.

Either way, (whatever you want to call it – baptism of the Spirit or baptism of fire) the truth remains: There is more available to us than most Christians are experiencing! There is more power of the Spirit, more gifts of the Spirit (1 Cor 12), more supernatural encounters, and more freedom from sin.

So many churches in American have stopped at the ministry of John the Baptist. They preach a message of repentance and baptize with water, but never introduce their people to the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit. They have a room full of people on Sundays baptized in water but hardly anyone (if anyone) baptized in the Holy Spirit and fire.

No wonder the world is so skeptical of the gospel message. We claim to proclaim the message of Jesus but only experience the ministry of John the Baptist. We proclaim a supernatural God who came in the flesh in Jesus, performed signs and wonders throughout His ministry, and rose from the grave. Yet, people come to our churches and don’t see any of this: no supernatural gifts of the Spirit, no healings, no casting out demons, no supernatural encounters with God. It’s not too hard for people to see that, while we preach a supernatural God, there is nothing supernatural happening in the lives of many Christians or in the life of the church.

We need to be teaching our people that the Christian life is more than water baptism, repentance, and the forgiveness of sins. There is more than the ministry of John the Baptist. Jesus made available to us a baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire.

Have you had that kind of baptism?

Renewal by the Holy Spirit

At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior,

Titus 3:3-6

Paul believes in the “before and after” power of the gospel. We see Paul write a few different times in the New Testament the reality of real transformation from one way of life–our old self–into a completely new way of life–our new self. We see him lay this out similarly to the Corinthian Christians who formerly lived as pagans:

 Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11

When God’s mercy and kindness step in, when we receive Jesus as Savior, we are transformed by grace. Paul tells us in his letter to Titus that the Holy Spirit does two things: 1) rebirth and 2) renewal. Rebirth is when the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us and justifies us–makes us in right standing before God.

But renewal is a different process. Renewal by the Spirit is a process of sanctification. One of the things that can happen in this renewal process of the Holy Spirit is a flooding of the Spirit often referred to as baptism of the Holy Spirit.

There’s been a lot of confusion and misinformation about the baptism of the Spirit in the Church. What is it, exactly?

I had been a Christian since I was 9, called into ministry at 17, I had a degree in Biblical Studies, a Masters of Divinity from seminary, and had been a pastor of a church for a decade. And while I had experienced the gradual process of sanctification in my life over those years, I had not experienced the baptism of the Spirit. And then I did.

The baptism of the Spirit is not when you get more of the Spirit, but when He gets more of you. And because He floods your life in ways that are new, it feels like you have more of Him.

What is the baptism of the Spirit like?

For me it was like walking out into the ocean of the Spirit. At first, the water levels rose gradually the further I went. But then I got far enough out that a wave crashed over me and overwhelmed me. Many people identify this moment when a wave of the Spirit crashes over them as their baptism in the Spirit. I tend to think it was the whole process (the walking out, the gradual increase and then the crash of the wave). That process started in June of 2014 and the wave crashing happened March 4 & 5 of 2016.

So what happened?

When the Spirit flooded my life, a few different things happened:

  1. I experienced what are called “manifestations of the Spirit.” This is the tangible presence of the Spirit in or on your body that causes physical reactions in your body. Some traditions believe that, for one to truly be baptized in the Spirit, you have to experience the manifestation of speaking in tongues (like what we see in Acts 2 and Acts 10), but that is not true. I did not start praying in tongues until 6 months later. But I did start experiencing different manifestations of the Spirit.
  2. I experienced a massive increase in intimacy with the Lord. He felt close all the time, tangibly close. He still does.
  3. I experienced a renewal of the mind. Unbelief, cynicism, and skepticism were washed away in the flood and uprooted from my thinking. I now had a greater understanding of God as the loving Father that He really is.
  4. I experienced deliverance. I had some demonic attachments in my life that were removed. Victory over sin was no longer hypothetical but became a reality in my daily life.
  5. I experienced a massive increase in hunger for the Lord. I couldn’t get enough time in worship, time in prayer, time reading His word. I craved more and more time with Him. I still do. God’s word came alive to me in ways that it hadn’t in decades.
  6. I experienced brand new gifts of the Holy Spirit. I began to experience the seedling form of a few different gifts (gifts listed in 1 Corinthians 12) that up until that point I had never experienced. I also knew that I had to grow in these new gifts to see these seedlings become trees that bear fruit.
  7. I experienced the power of the Spirit. I began to see the power of God flow through me, especially as I spoke and as I prayed for people. I began to see people get healed instantly, right in front of me. I began to see demons leave people at the name of Jesus.
  8. I experienced the authority of Christ. As I began to understand who I really was in Christ, my sonship to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, I began to walk in greater authority. This means my confidence in seeing God’s Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven was greatly increased.
  9. I experienced the love of the Father. I began to have encounters with the Lord where I would actually feel God’s love for me. This was not just the knowledge that God loved me unconditionally. This was way beyond that! This was an experience of His love. It was, and still is, completely captivating and overwhelming.

So, yes, baptism of the Spirit is a real thing. It often is a secondary event (after salvation), but I believe it was never meant to be that way. I believe God always intended the baptism of the Spirit to happen with our baptism in water, but for so many of us that is not the case. Baptism of the Spirit, like most parts of the renewal process, must be pursued. It doesn’t just happen by accident. We must pursue it, seek it, and ask for it.

And the flooding of the Spirit is not a one time event. I believe that the first of these floodings (or fillings) can be called our baptism of the Spirit. But there are more available to us after that and so we must continue to pursue Him.