We receive the Holy Spirit through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. When we believe that He died for our sins and that He was raised from the dead, at that moment we are born again. At that same moment we receive the Holy Spirit. A Christian who has not received the Holy Spirit, does not exist. There are three verses in the Bible that clearly show that to us:
- “Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him” – Romans 8:9
- “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body” – 1 Corinthians 12:13
- “In him (that is Christ) you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit” – Ephesians 1:13
Need to be filled with the Holy Spirit
Yet, receiving the Holy Spirit when we become believers is not the end of the matter. After our conversion we can, and need, to be filled with the Holy Spirit time and again. The presence of the Holy Spirit is meant to be an overwhelming presence in our lives. Jesus’ promise ‘you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit’, with the result of ‘receiving power’ (Acts 1:8) testifies to that. But we are not always equally full of the Holy Spirit. As we are busy with everyday life, and especially when we start turning away from God, even in small things, we start losing the fullness of the Holy Spirit. When we start giving in to the luring of the flesh and shut our ears and eyes to what the Holy Spirit tells us through the Bible, we “quench the Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:19) and “grieve the Spirit” (Ephesians 4:30).
Therefore, even the apostles were not just once filled with the Holy Spirit, but they needed refilling! In Acts 2, on the day of Pentecost, the Spirit came with power on them. In Acts 4:31 we read that, after prayer, they were filled again in a time of special need.
What happens when you receive the Holy Spirit?
Many different things happen when people are filled with the Holy Spirit. When we read the New Testament, various things stand out.
- God gives boldness to proclaim the Gospel (see e.g. Acts 1:8, 4:31, 7:55)
- God gives a desire to praise Him (see e.g. Acts 10:46, Ephesians 5:18-20)
- God gives a desire to obey Him (see e.g. Acts 5:29-32, Galatians 5:6)
- Often God gives a word of prophecy and works miracles (see e.g. Acts 11:28; 13:2; 13:9; 19:6)
Strive for more
Clearly, it is a good desire to be filled with the Holy Spirit. The Lord wants us to strive to receive more of the Spirit (see 1 Corinthians 12:31). We are even commanded to ‘be filled by the Spirit’ (Ephesians 5:18). So how does that happen? It is not mechanical, because it is God who fills us, and we cannot command Him. Being filled with the Holy Spirit is God’s grace, not our accomplishment. Yet there are various things that we can do:
- Live in obedience to God. When we live unholy lives, we grieve the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:25-32) and we will not experience his power in our lives.
- Focus on Jesus, by praying, by reading your Bible every day. There is a very tight bond between Jesus and the Holy Spirit: Where we focus on Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen Lord, there the Spirit is at work, filling us with Himself.
- Pray with the expectation that God will do miracles and with the willingness to be used by Him (see Acts 4:28-31).
- Proclaim the Gospel. When we read that people were full of the Holy Spirit, often they are busy preaching the Gospel, or about to preach it (Acts 7:55; 9:17-20; 11:23-24; 13:9). God does not give his Spirit for us to enjoy privately, but to serve Him publicly.