The Three Rs

Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.

1 Corinthians 3:16-17

As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him—you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood…

1 Peter 2:4-5

The three “Rs” of education have classically been reading, writing and arithmetic. The Church also has three “Rs” of transformation. The three “Rs” of transformation in the Church are Renewal, Revival, and Reformation.

Renewal is the term that describes when the Holy Spirit begins to refresh and renew individuals in a church through a fresh outpouring of the Spirit. People begin to have new encounters with the Lord that they’ve never had before. The gifts of the Spirit are renewed in the church and people begin to experience the supernatural in their midst. When a whole church goes through “renewal” it means they collectively begin to be refreshed and renewed by an outpouring of the Spirit throughout the congregation.

Renewal tends to be disruptive as new wine gets poured into old wineskin. Things break and tear and a new wineskin is sought after to hold the new wine being poured out. As individuals get brought into a fresh intimacy with the Lord, the whole church starts to feel different. As individuals have personal visitations of the Presence of God, this gets brought into the corporate worship setting. The whole atmosphere of worship begins to increase in the Presence of God. But this is only the first “R.”

If Renewal continues, it leads to Revival. Revival happens when there is a transition from visitation to habitation of the corporate Presence of God. Revival happens when there is no longer fighting about the Renewal and instead a unity in pursuit of more of God. Revival happens when there is corporate repentance and corporate pursuit of holiness. When there is unity in the Body of Christ, the church functions as a holy Temple of the Lord inviting a continual habitation of His Presence. Each member of the church carries His Presence into their homes and workplaces.

As Revival spreads from local church to local church, it begins to bleed out into society and culture. This is Reformation. Reformation is when society is changed because of the Revival culture that is spilling out of the Church in the region. Reformation is when there are mass salvations, healings, and deliverances that happen on the streets, in the bars, and at the schools. During Reformation, laws change as a response to God’s outpouring. Societal structures change. Politics change. Even those who don’t know Christ begin to adopt the ethic of the Kingdom of God because of the fruitfulness that they witness around them.

We as the Church are described in a variety of ways in scripture. We are the Bride of Christ and the Body of Christ. Yet, we are also described collectively as a Temple, a spiritual house, where the Spirit of God dwells.

The Temple had three main areas: 1) the outer courts, 2) the Holy Place, and 3) the Most Holy Place. The Most Holy Place was where God’s Presence dwelled. Only the High Priest could enter there and only once a year on the Day of Atonement. The Holy Place is where the priests would minister inside the Temple. The outer courts were where the offerings and sacrifices were made among the people.

Renewal is when we experience the Presence of God in the Most Holy Place for ourselves. Revival is when the Presence of God in the Most Holy Place breaks out into the Holy Place and fills the whole Temple. Reformation is when the Presence of God breaks out of the Temple entirely and breaks out into the outer courts and throughout the city of Jerusalem.

Many churches have yet to experience any of this. They are dry. They are dying. Yet even those experiencing Renewal in their midst have only just begun the journey of transformation. The purpose God intended for the Church was never just about getting renewed and refreshed in the Spirit. God wants His Kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven. He wants to do this through the conduit of the Church if we are willing. This means we must pursue not only Renewal but also Revival and Reformation.

The three Rs–Renewal, Revival, Reformation–must be pursued in their fullness and in that order. Pursuing Reformation without first pursuing Revival becomes another failed social gospel. Pursuing Renewal without Revival splinters the Church into “haves” and “have nots.” Pursuing Revival without Reformation leaves no lasting impact on the world. We need all three.

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.