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One of God’s greatest gifts is the Holy Spirit, and it provides a lifeline to God by which He gives many of His other wonderful gifts. The Holy Spirit gives a Christian spiritual power and understanding and makes it possible for us to become more like God and eventually inherit eternal life. So it is important to know how to receive the Holy Spirit, how to stir it up and how to be assured that we have it.
Jesus Christ told His disciples that they would receive the Holy Spirit after His death. On the Day of Pentecost, the beginning of the Church of God was announced with powerful miracles, and Peter preached an inspired sermon describing how we can receive the Holy Spirit:
“Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’” (Acts 2:38).
Other passages show that the Spirit is usually given to the repentant believer after baptism when a minister lays his hands on the person and asks God to give the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:14-17).
Repentance, belief, baptism and the laying on of hands are the steps God asks us to follow before He gives His Holy Spirit, so if a person has not followed these steps, he or she does not have the Holy Spirit in him or her yet.
In David’s impassioned prayer of repentance, he pleaded with God, “Do not take Your Holy Spirit from me” (Psalm 51:11). He knew that if he didn’t keep repenting and seeking God, he was in danger of an unpardonable sin, for God will not forgive us if we do not repent.
To avoid these dangers, a Christian must do the opposite. Instead of grieving the Spirit, we should pray daily for God’s Spirit, follow the leading of the Spirit and sow (grow in) spiritual things (Ephesians 1:17-18; Galatians 5:16; Galatians 6:7-8).
Instead of putting out the fire of the Spirit, Paul encourages us to “stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:6-7).
The Bible lists many things the Holy Spirit enables us to do. Paul wrote that God’s Spirit opens up our spiritual understanding of things that seem like foolishness to those without spiritual discernment (1 Corinthians 2:10-14). Through regular prayer and study of the Bible, the Spirit helps us grow in understanding of God’s plan and our part in it. It writes God’s laws on our hearts and minds, helping us internalize God’s way of life and think like He does (Hebrews 8:10). It enables us to transform or change our minds (Romans 12:2).
Jesus said the Spirit will provide us with help and guidance (John 14:16, John 14:26; John 16:13). One of the most important evidences is that “the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit” (Romans 5:5). Godly love is described in more detail in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. Though we all fall short, a Christian should see this fruit growing in his or her life.
Paul lists other important fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.” Christians will examine themselves to see how much this fruit is growing, and will regularly ask God to provide His gracious Spirit to help them grow more.
Some mistakenly think that what is called “speaking in tongues” proves whether you have the Holy Spirit. For the truth of the matter, see “What Is Speaking in Tongues?”
It is God’s plan for us to repent, be baptized, receive His Spirit and then be transformed in mind to become more and more like Him. By praying for, yielding to and stirring up the Spirit, we will see the spiritual growth that assures us God’s Spirit is working in us.