Last week was a whirlwind of learning. I won’t try to relate it all in this blog post. Instead, my new insights will surely filter into upcoming posts as seems intuitively and spiritually appropriate.
By the way, that’s newspeak for, “as the Holy Spirit leads me” and it’s evidence that I’m in the early stages of learning about the Holy Spirit. (Also, I’m not a fan of Christian platitudes. Some phrases have been tragically used and abused, the “Holy Spirit’s leading” being one.)
It may seem odd that I’m just now learning about the Holy Spirit. In hindsight, yes, it is odd.
I was baptized in 1995.
According to Peter, we receive the Holy Spirit when we are baptized: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38 NIV)
So… The gift of the Holy Spirit seems like a pretty big deal. Oughtn’t the baptizee know they are receiving the Holy Spirit?
In fairness to the one who baptized me, he may have mentioned the Holy Spirit. It was an emotional day and my newb Christian ears no doubt lost a few things in translation.
I recall standing in front of the church congregation, recognizing my inherent weaknesses and my need for a savior. But did I recognize those weaknesses that were self-inflicted (newspeak for “sins”), and did I repent of them?
In hindsight, I would say…No, I did not. I did make an internal commitment to follow Jesus where ever He led. I also understood that if I was going to publicly submit to Jesus, it couldn’t be fake. I had to mean it. I knew I was better off remaining incognito than wearing His name and willfully shaming it.
With my baptism, then, came no formal repentance (I don’t think I truly understood what it meant), and no acknowledgement of the Holy Spirit (definitely didn’t know what that meant). However, I did gain a heart open to the idea of genuine repentance. I also understood that without God, the human heart can descend to very dark and depraved places. (And I didn’t want any of that!)
A more formalized repentance would come many years later, only after praying to God to illuminate my sins.
***Fair warning, if you pray for God to illuminate your sins, He will answer and you might not like what you see. He may even allow you to stumble in ways you’d never believed possible, just to make sure you get a nice long look at your faults.
Quite frankly, I need to repeat the above prayer daily (“God show me my sins”), but I’m still skittish from the aftermath. I obviously have much growth potential in this area…
My Denominational Roots
I feel blessed to have been influenced by one of the healthier Christian denominations. If you are one who likes to analyze inferred meanings as I do, you can infer from the previous sentence that I believe there are unhealthy denominations and no denomination is without its faults. I think genuine Christ-followers can come from any denomination, but I think some make it much more difficult than others.
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Acts 2:42 NIV
Many Restoration Movement offshoots are simply called Christian churches. They tend to shun institutional hierarchies, instead lifting the Bible up as the church’s primary authority. I appreciate the approach and feel it is possibly the safest and most rational approach to organized church.
Nevertheless, as I said before, no churches are perfect. After all, I received my “Holy Spirit-less” baptism at a Christian church.
(Ha! Yeah. I’d call that imperfect!)
To its credit, however, the Christian church taught me it’s not the church’s job to force feed me. The church is led by men and woman with finite capabilities. It cannot please all people at all times. It cannot fulfill all needs at all times. And that’s okay. I have the Bible. And I can read. And I can pray.
I will admit, when the reality of Acts 2:38 (Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.) set in, I questioned whether I ever received the Holy Spirit, but I’ve always had a counter sense that Jesus accepts us regardless of the scriptural misunderstandings we had when we were baptized.
And now for the weighty question: What about you? Have you ever doubted your salvation due to scriptural misunderstandings you had when you were baptized?