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HOLY SPIRIT

I Told God No

By Laura Bagby
CBN.com Producer

CBN.comI remember the day vividly. I was arguing with the Lord as I was driving down a winding, country road late at night to my favorite beach. When I reached my destination, I turned the car off and said aloud to God, "I don't want anything to hinder my relationship with You, Lord, and this search for the Baptism in the Holy Spirit has caused a rift. My pursuit has led me nowhere, so I don't want it, especially if I start thinking I am better than everyone else because I have this gift. I simply don't want it."

There, I finally spoke my mind. It was the dramatic conclusion to a long pursuit for more of the Holy Spirit.

Since I had become a Christian as a young child, I had known about the Holy Spirit. I knew that I had the Holy Spirit living inside of me, as all Christians do upon salvation. I knew that the Holy Spirit was there to counsel me and teach me about God. Although I was raised in a traditional Presbyterian church that sang mostly solemn hymns and was often suspicious of emotional demonstrations of praise, my parents were both Spirit-filled Christians who spoke in tongues. I didn't grow up thinking that speaking in tongues was wrong or weird. I knew that the gift was in the Bible, and I knew that it was given to people today like it had been given to the New Testament church in Acts. I just wasn't sure it was something that I needed for my Christian walk.

At least not until I came to Virginia.

I attended several charismatic church services my first two years of graduate school because that was where the young people gravitated. Typically during worship, people next to me would raise their hands and mumble phrases that weren't in English. I wasn't used to this spontaneous activity. Some Sundays I felt so completely overwhelmed that I wanted to bolt out of the door. However, I was curious, and so I kept going to these Spirit-filled services. I noticed that those who spoke in tongues could pray and prophesy with power and authority. I sensed there was more to be had with this God stuff, and I was beginning to think that I might just want it.

At one church service, the preacher asked if anyone wanted to receive the Holy Spirit to come up to the altar. I nervously left my seat and went up to join the others, unsure of what might happen next. The minister prayed and asked the crowd to begin uttering a couple of syllables in faith. I obediently uttered a sound or two and waited, feeling foolish. I tried again, but it felt so unnatural to me. I could hear the others around me speaking in other languages and laughing and crying. I was crying too, but not because the Holy Spirit had entered my soul in a fresh way; I was crying because I hadn't received it, and I couldn't understand why God wasn't answering my prayer.

For years after this initial experience, I would go up to the altar or follow the pastor to the back of the sanctuary for prayer and get the same results: nothing. Either there is something desperately wrong with me, or people are faking it, I thought. I made up my mind that if others around me were faking it to be accepted by the church, that was their business. I, however, would stay true, even if it meant leaving without the Holy Spirit once again.

Despite my resolve, I couldn't help feeling abandoned by the Lord and even rejected by Christians who couldn't understand my situation. One well-meaning, but misinformed Christian was so concerned at my plight that she asked me, "Is there sin in your life?" I promptly replied, "No," somewhat annoyed. Then she asked in a grave tone, "Are you sure you are a Christian?" I was indignant. I grit my teeth and said curtly, "Yes, I am a Christian. That is not the reason." I thought to myself as I left that night, That kind of response could cause a struggling Christian to completely forsake Jesus Christ. Why would anyone say such things?

So here I was, in the car, shaking, nose running, red-faced, and a policeman was knocking on my window. Instead of being sympathetic, he gruffly asked me to leave the premises. I turned the car on and cried harder. Thanks a lot, Lord, I thought.

Although I had told God no, I couldn't stop thinking about this gift of the Holy Spirit and the angry words I had said to the Lord that night in the car. I didn't know how to resolve something that days before I thought I had resolved -- and with great conviction. The only thing I knew to do was to talk to my pastor one-on-one about it.

I scheduled a meeting a month in advance and prayed that God would give me the words to say to my pastor. As the day approached, I wasn't getting any answer from the Lord. Great, I am going to walk in, my pastor is going to ask me what he can do for me, and I won't have an answer. I thought about canceling the appointment, but I felt compelled to go regardless.

The day of the appointment, I woke up with joy that lasted throughout the day. I had peace although I still didn't know what to say. I walked into my pastor's office and began pouring my heart out to him. I expected a look of disapproval or a quick fix-it comment. Instead, my pastor told me about how he received the Holy Spirit alone in his bedroom. He had tried going to the altar as I had and walked away empty and frustrated just as I had. I couldn't believe my pastor -- the most spiritual person I knew -- hadn't received the Holy Spirit the traditional way. Hearing his testimony brought relief. When he prayed for me to receive the Holy Spirit, breaking the Spirit of Fear over me, I wasn't on edge. Peace and faith filled my heart and the words came out of my lips in a tumble.

I thought I would feel strange, but I didn't. It wasn't weird at all. Actually, it was an incredible blessing that the God of the universe answered my heart's cry rather than the words of my lips. God knows our hearts. He knows what we truly desire and what we truly need. He is a gracious God. I found that out that day.

Why am I telling you this? Not to prove that I am better than you now that I have this gift, because that would be considering myself more highly than I ought, and the Bible says I shouldn't do that. Not to judge you because you aren't sure where you stand on this issue, because I know that if I judge you, then I will be judged by God.

No, I am telling you this because I want you to know that you are not a second-class Christian simply because you don't have this Baptism. God loves you just as much as He loves me. God answers your prayers just as He answers mine when we ask in faith, believing in Him.

But there is more out there. Do not let fear hinder you. I empathize with those of you who have been hurt by the Christian community, but as one who has been on both sides of this issue, I beseech you to forgive them. Forgive those who have spoken or thought ill of you because of this.

Look only to God. He is the one with an open hand. Every good gift is from the Lord. He is patient and will come to your aid as soon as you are ready. Because you have free will, God respectfully backs off when you feel threatened. But know that He will teach you and prepare you for more of Him if you ask Him to.

God knows how best to minister to you. For me, it was in the quiet of a pastor's office. For some it might be the altar at church. For others it might be in the quiet of your bedroom or prayer closet. It matters not where you are, only that you are willing to receive all that God wants to give you. He is gentle and wise. He will not mock you.

Don't give up on the Lord. Make yourself available to Him, be honest with Him, put your trust in Him, and watch what miracles He will do in your life.


Comments? Send me an e-mail. Although I may not be able to answer all responses, I will respond to as many as possible.

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