Jesus, my Lord and Savior...
When I was 15 years old, I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. After attending youth group and church for many months with my two cousins, I knew deep down in my heart that God was very real, and that He sent His Son to die for me. The youth leader led me through a prayer of salvation, and I took my “Amen” very seriously - I walked in my freedom and believed I was cleansed by His stripes.
Not long after becoming a Christ follower I attended a youth conference with my church. It was there that I had a very real encounter with the Holy Spirit. Being new to my faith, and still very young in my years, I had no idea what to do with this experience. I tucked it nicely in a box, and there it remained.
It was actually very easy to keep it there because the next 15 years of my walk with Christ didn’t really have much to do with the Holy Spirit. Yes, the church and Christian school influences in my life talked about the triune God - the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost - but there wasn’t much emphasis on the Holy Spirit part of the trio. I heard often that God was the all-powerful Creator. And that Jesus was the Savior of the world - God who took on flesh and humanly hung on the cross for my sins. But the Holy Spirit part? What was this? Aside from worship songs “inviting” the Spirit in, no one really seemed to mention Him, let alone truly welcome Him in.
walking in the Holy Spirit...
In His kindness, God led me to a new church home where I discovered who the Holy Spirit was and what my experience at the youth conference really meant. As I sit here determined to share with you about the living Spirit who has transformed my life and changed the way I think about my Christian faith, I am at a loss for words. I am no theologian, and I know this topic could be controversial or make others feel uncomfortable (that is made clear by my 15 years of experiences with Christian institutions not discussing it). I feel inadequate and ill-equipped to speak on such a topic. But this I do know: Walking with the Holy Spirit is a sweetness like I’ve never experienced.
And I want all of my sisters to walk in that same sweetness.
mighty rushing wind...
As we talk about the Holy Spirit, there are two main points I want to make that are rooted in biblical truth. The first point is that the living Holy Spirit is for all repentant sinners. Romans 8 tells us that the same Spirit that rose Jesus Christ from the dead dwells within those who are in Christ Jesus - once we were spiritually dead but now He has made us alive! As saved daughters of the King, we have been granted access to His power. Through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, we are equipped to walk in authority, standing firm against the scheme's of the enemy (Luke 10:19). Furthermore, the Holy Spirit enables us to hear and discern the voice of God, nurturing a deep communion with Him (John 10:27). Moreover, the Holy Spirit empowers us to step into our individual spiritual giftings (1 Corinthians 12:8-11), those strategically suited to help us accomplish all that He has called us to do as the workmanship for His honor and glory (Ephesians 2:10).
As saved sinners, we walk with the Holy Spirit daily. But the Bible also mentions the concept of being baptized with the Holy Spirit. In the Book of Acts, the author Luke tells us of the promise of the Holy Spirit. Acts 1:5 says, “for John baptized you with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” In the following chapter, the Holy Spirit manifests Himself like a “mighty rushing wind” (Acts 2:2) that filled the house they were in and they were then filled with the Holy Spirit (v. 4).
For years I read these scriptures and wondered what in the world they meant. Because no one was talking about them, I thought they must have just been something that happened in “Bible times” and not something that was applicable to us as believers today. You know, a cool story like how Jesus performed miracles and walked on water. Stories that were ultimately shared to teach us a lesson to have “faith” and to be good believers - whatever that meant.
But things started happening in my life that made me realize that miracles still happen. They aren’t just feel-good stories. As the Lord revealed this to me, He reminded me that He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8) and I started to look at the Bible differently, and ultimately, the Holy Trinity differently.
I won’t try to unpack all the theology of what it means or looks like to be baptized by the Holy Spirit, primarily because I think it is personal and unique for each believer. Jesus died for YOUR sins and the Holy Spirit wants to fill YOU with His power, and because that is personal, my experience with baptism of the Holy Spirit may look different than yours. But I am confident that just as the Holy Spirit indwells all believers, the baptism of the Holy Spirit is for all Christ followers so that the power of Christ can be alive and empowered within us to continue on with the ministry of spreading the gospel (aka, living out the spiritual gifts mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12).
I mentioned an event that happened at 15 and how I so clearly knew it was an encounter with the Holy Spirit. While I can remember that event so vividly despite stuffing it away and not trying to understand it, the Holy Spirit uses that event to remind me of how real He is. I believe that baptism of the Holy Spirit isn’t a one time encounter, but rather a continuous expression of our faith in Him. That each time we pray we can invite the Holy Spirit to fill us, so that we can hear the voice of God, so that He can remind us of the truth found in scriptures, and so that we can be a witness to the lost around us.
Since discovering that I could walk in the Holy Spirit my faith has strengthened. I’ve started to look at God the Father as a loving Master, not one to be made happy, but the Creator who loves me deeper than anyone else could ever even attempt to. I now worship my Savior Jesus with a heart so purely filled with gratitude that sometimes all I can do is cry. Discovering the Holy Spirit instilled in me a hunger for the Word of God as I realized He talks to me using scripture. Walking within the Spirit has spurred in me the urgency to share the gospel with others because I now know how real God really is.
Christianity isn’t about reading the Bible to check it off our to-do lists or following the Ten Commandments as legalistic obligations. It goes beyond attending church on Sundays or serving at a homeless shelter. It’s not about repeating a prayer of repentance, and taking communion because that’s how we should perform as Christians. All of these things are holy actions when carried out with sincerity and genuineness - good and noble fruit that is produced from a heart that is devoted to living a life that truly glorifies God. These things become our everyday lifestyle when we honor God, worship Jesus, and walk in the Holy Spirit. Ultimately, Christianity is about living a life that glorifies God. It’s about not taking for granted the price that was paid by Jesus on the cross. It’s about being filled with new wine (Acts 2:13).
For more teaching on the Holy Spirit, I recommend listening to John Piper’s thoughts on the baptism of the Holy Spirit and reading Pastor Bob Kauflin’s take on ushering in the Holy Spirit, both of which can be found on the Desiring God website:
Alison is the Founder of By Design Journal. She and her husband reside in Southern Michigan where they are raising their four children - Emma, Levi, Kate and Lola. Alison enjoys basking in the sun, allowing the sun to wash over her. She enjoys getting lost in the pages of a good book, finds delight nestled at the depths of a comforting soup bowl, and cherishes those unfiltered moments of genuine worship.
Photos by Carly Kristin Photography. Headshot provided by Alison Stoner