3 Steps to Receiving the Holy Spirit: Acts 8:4-8

God Running is a place for anyone who wants to (or even anyone who wants to want to) love Jesus more deeply, follow Jesus more closely, and love people the way Jesus wants us to.

In our last post from the book of Acts we saw how the blood of Christians turned out to be the seed of the church’s growth. And we discussed how, sometimes, what we view as bad in our lives might be what God views as necessary. (If you’re interested you can learn more here: “The Blood of Christians…”: Acts 8:4.) Today we’ll look at the way Jesus and his followers preached the word upon a great foundation of love, and we’ll learn the three steps you and I need to take in order to receive the Holy Spirit (which will greatly help us to lay our own foundation of love).

Acts 8:4-8

Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip, when they heard him and saw the signs that he did. For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who had them, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was much joy in that city.

Acts 8:4-8

The Way of Jesus: God’s Pattern

“Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word.” Preaching the word is a good thing, there’s no question about that. But I think what’s sometimes missed is the foundation we see laid by Jesus and Peter and Stephen and here again we see the same foundation laid by Philip (and later we’ll see the same pattern lived out by Paul and others). It’s such a strong pattern it would seem God wants us to take note of it and to repeat this same pattern. I would even say:

This is God’s pattern.

And He wants us to follow it.

So there’s this thing we learned in leadership training in the fire department and a quote from Theodore Roosevelt you probably heard before communicates it well. The quote is this: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” It’s impossible to study leadership without coming across this concept.

But too often I see from others (and from myself as well I’m sorry to say) a sharing of God’s word and God’s truth with no foundation of love to support it. The truth is shared without this foundation. God’s pattern is ignored. God’s pattern isn’t followed. Instead a desire to share God’s word and God’s truth (which is a good thing) is let loose outside of God’s timing and God’s pattern, and it falls flat. It doesn’t resonate. And even worse, it can have the opposite effect of what’s intended and repel people and move them in a direction away from Jesus.

Jesus, Peter, Stephen, Philip, Paul, they all share truth on this foundation of love. They’re all in rhythm with God’s way.

Healing paralyzed people and healing lame people and delivering people from demons and feeding people and signs: these either came first or at least accompanied the preaching of the word.

“But Kurt,” you say. “I can’t miraculously heal people or perform any of these other signs and wonders we see from Jesus and these disciples you’re sharing about. So what am I to do?”

It’s Worse Than You Think

That’s a great question. And first, let me say, for most of us, it’s even worse than that!

I know with certainty for me, and I’m almost positive that for most of us, not only are we unable to do miraculous signs, we can’t even perform simple acts of love for others much of time. We’re overwhelmed with the responsibilities of life, or we’re preoccupied with the headlines we read, or we’re distracted by the entertainment we consume, or we’re just way too tired, or we’re too sure the person or group we’re dealing with is an exception to Jesus’ command for us to love others.

We just don’t have it in us to lay that foundation of love the way God wants us to. So, we skip that part, because, we say, it’s just too hard. And we go ahead and share truth without that foundation.

Of course loving others is a commandment. There are commandments Jesus gives us concerning love. They’re commandments, not suggestions. Jesus said it plainly,

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” (John 13:34)

And when the Pharisees asked Jesus which is the great commandment, Jesus said,

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:34-40)

These are commandments.

These are commandments without qualifiers.

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself — unless he’s a democrat and votes prochoice.” No, of course that’s not at all what Jesus said.

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself — unless he voted for Trump and is addicted to Fox News.” No, of course Jesus didn’t say that.

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself — unless he’s an antivaxxer.” Nowhere has Jesus said such a thing.

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself — unless he supports vaccine mandates.” No, of course Jesus didn’t say that either.

Jesus didn’t include any qualifying statements about loving our neighbors. As you already know he said quite the opposite. He instructed us to love even our enemies. (Matthew 5:43-48)

If It’s That Bad, Then What Am I To Do?

Jesus gave us commandments, so we have no choice but to do what he commands us to do even when we don’t feel like it. And that’s very hard, I know. Believe me — I know.

But,

Jesus didn’t leave us as orphans. (John 14:18)

“If you love me, keep my commands,” Jesus said. And then he said this: “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever–the Spirit of truth.” (John 14:15-17)

Jesus knows it’s hard. God knows it’s super challenging to love the way Jesus commands us to love. So he wants to give us the advocate to help us. And the advocate who will help us is the Holy Spirit. Jesus even tells us it’s to our advantage that he left planet earth, because by doing so he can send to us the Holy Spirit to help us love the way he commands us to love. (John 16:7)

I received a text the other day from Jay, one of the guys in my Saturday morning prayer group. It was a question. And the question was this:

“Do you love vacuuming the house?”

Such a weird random question. The reason Jay asked isn’t relevant to what we’re discussing here but what is relevant is that one of the ways Kathy feels loved is when I perform acts of service for her. When I help her around the house or walk our dog Muggles, Kathy feels loved.

But the thing is, I don’t love to vacuum.

And I don’t love to walk Muggles or help in the kitchen or fix the garage door or repair sheetrock or clean the bathrooms. I don’t love to do much of anything around the house.

Of course I have to do these things anyway because I’m commanded to love Kathy the way Jesus loves me. But it’s hard.

It’s hard, unless . . .

How Jesus Can Make It Easy for You, and for Me

There have been times, when it’s been a pleasure for me to do these things that make Kathy feel loved. There have been times when it’s been an absolute joy for me to love my neighbor or family member or friend.

The times when Jesus’ love has flowed out of me almost without effort. The times when Jesus’ love has gushed from me almost as though I couldn’t stop it if I wanted to. The times when serving people is fulfilling and fun and I experience Christ’s joy. Those times are the times I’ve been filled with the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit: We see Him filling Jesus’ disciples all through the book of Acts.

Peter and John and Stephen and Philip and Paul, these disciples of Jesus who followed God’s pattern by laying down a great foundation of love, they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. It was the Holy Spirit who made it so Jesus’ love gushed out of these men.

Maybe someday God, if it pleases Him to do so, will bless me by giving me the power to heal somebody. It happens. (See previous post Are Healing Miracles Real? Acts 5:14-16) But even if He chooses not to, I’ll take every drop of the Holy Spirit He will give me. As Jesus said, it’s to my advantage. Because even small acts of love become easy and amazing when I’m filled with the Holy Spirit.

3 Steps to Receiving the Holy Spirit

I heard a man say this yesterday:

We “. . . need to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit. Jesus says the Holy Spirit will tell you what to do. That means we need to have a living relationship with the Holy Spirit. We really need to love the Holy Spirit. We need to pray, ‘Come Holy Spirit.’ We need to have as much of the Holy Spirit as possible.”

Ralph Martin

I couldn’t agree more with those words. “We need to have as much of the Holy Spirit as possible.” So I’ve studied what many Christian leaders believe about the Holy Spirit and there’s a wide variety of opinions but I’ll try to stick to what is pretty common to everyone I’ve looked at.

There seems to be in scripture two experiences with the Holy Spirit. First, all believers receive Him, all believers receive the Holy Spirit when they first give their lives to Jesus. Second, there’s the filling of the Holy Spirit Jesus followers experience throughout their Christian lives. And some times we’re filled with more of the Holy Spirit than at other times. We see this in the book of Acts. There are times when Peter, Stephen, Philip, and Paul seem to be especially filled with the Holy Spirit in a special time of healing and/or other miraculous works.

So if you’ve read this far, I’m guessing you already gave your life to Jesus and have already had that first experience with the Holy Spirit, the one where you receive Jesus and the Holy Spirit in that moment when you surrendered yourself to Christ.

So the 3 steps are about a believer receiving the Holy Spirit in that second way which is a Jesus follower’s ongoing experience with the filling of the Holy Spirit.

How to Be Filled with the Holy Spirit

1) Obey: I only saw this recently — I probably missed it because I didn’t want to see it, because I often want to go my own way — but God makes it clear that He gives His Holy Spirit to those who obey Him. God makes it plain in Acts 5:32. Peter said, “We are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.”

So if I want the Holy Spirit I must try to be as obedient to God as I can. And it’s a spiral of sorts I think. There’s a synergy there between obedience and receiving the Holy Spirit. Because the more of His Holy Spirit I receive, the easier it is to obey.

Also, maybe the most important command of Jesus to obey is to abide in him, just as intimately as we can. (See previous post 10 Ways You Can Be With Jesus)

2) Ask: Jesus said, “What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:11-13)

So, apparently, Jesus wants us to ask our Father for His Holy Spirit. He is generous and He wants to give us gifts He knows are good for us.

3) Ask Again — and Again — and Again: And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

This is exactly how we see the disciples pray right after Jesus told them to wait for the Holy Spirit in a certain city, the city of Jerusalem. With one accord they were devoting themselves to prayer. So if we want to receive the Holy Spirit, we have to ask persistently, continually, regularly, and often. I would say we have to ask for the Holy Spirit daily, at a minimum. (Acts 1:4-5, 14)

So God makes it simple for us. We only need to do three things to receive His Holy Spirit: 1) Obey, 2) Ask, and 3) Ask persistently, the way the widow asked.

It’s simple and with time, it can even become, if not easy, at least easier than when we first begin.

And the thing is, although obeying and asking over and over again for a lifetime may not be the easiest things to do, but if we’re willing to do them, then loving like Jesus just flows.

This is one of those times when we’re choosing which hard we want. Do we want to do the hard work of obeying and petitioning God to give us His Holy Spirit and then have Jesus’ love flow from us with little effort, or, do we want to live a life without obedience and without petitioning God and have it be hard to love God and the people around us?

For me, I’d rather do the hard work on the front end. I’d rather do my best to obey and petition God for His Holy Spirit so the love of Jesus can gush out from me like rivers of living water.

“Father, as Your Son Jesus says, You are generous and full of grace and love and You want us to have Your Holy Spirit. So please have mercy on me and on the person reading this right now. Help us to surrender our will to You and to obey You and fill us with Your Holy Spirit the way You did Jesus and Peter and John and Stephen and Philip and Paul. Fill us with Your Holy Spirit and make us those who experience the love of Jesus gushing out of us like rivers of living water.

“We ask this of You in the name of Your Son Jesus

“Amen.”

“Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive . . .

John 7:38-39

Love Like Jesus by Kurt Bennett, now available on Amazon!

Love Like Jesus: How Jesus Loved People (and how you can love like Jesus)

Love Like Jesus begins with the story of how after a life of regular church attendance and Bible study, Bennett was challenged by a pastor to study Jesus. That led to an obsessive seven year deep dive. After pouring over Jesus’ every interaction with another human being, he realized he was doing a much better job of studying Jesus’ words than he was following Jesus’ words and example. The honest and fearless revelations of Bennett’s own moral failures affirm he wrote this book for himself as much as for others.

Love Like Jesus examines a variety of stories, examples, and research, including:

  • Specific examples of how Jesus communicated God’s love to others.
  • How Jesus demonstrated all five of Gary Chapman’s love languages (and how you can too).
  • The story of how Billy Graham extended Christ’s extraordinary love and grace toward a man who misrepresented Jesus to millions.
  • How to respond to critics the way Jesus did.
  • How to love unlovable people the way Jesus did.
  • How to survive a life of loving like Jesus (or how not to become a Christian doormat).
  • How Jesus didn’t love everyone the same (and why you shouldn’t either).
  • How Jesus guarded his heart by taking care of himself–he even napped–and why you should do the same.
  • How Jesus loved his betrayer Judas, even to the very end.

With genuine unfiltered honesty, Love Like Jesus, shows you how to live a life according to God’s definition of success: A life of loving God well, and loving the people around you well too.

A life of loving like Jesus.

(Kindlehardcover, and paperback now available on Amazon.)

One Comment on “3 Steps to Receiving the Holy Spirit: Acts 8:4-8

  1. Pingback: John’s Transformation: Acts 8:9-17 | God Running

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