When I think about the preaching and practical observances of my own past, is it any wonder I grew up with such a foggy conception of the Holy Spirit? Conversion was limited pretty much to “gettin’ saved,” and that meant being snatched from the pit. Water baptism, despite my Baptist background, centered more on controversy—dunking versus sprinkling; and, though necessary, it was an act of obedience to a symbol which was difficult to relate to modern life. I laughed recently when a young friend explained the circumstances of his water baptism. “The pastor just said, ‘We don’t really understand this, but we do it anyway, because our Lord told us we should.”
Hands were never laid upon me for the gift of the Holy Spirit. This elementary doctrine, as stated in Hebrews 6:2, was reserved only for those entering professional ministry. Moreover, I was never told that upon making my declaration of belief in Christ I could expect the Spirit to indwell me with Christ’s very Presence. The whole subject of the Holy Spirit was shrouded by confusion.
The historical record of the church on this issue hasn’t been consistent. Often the reception of grace was reduced to formula. The confirmation service before a child takes his first communion is directly related to the apostolic laying on of hands for the filling of the Holy Spirit of the New Testament church. And many 15th-century reformers, reacting to man made formulas, threw out important babies with dirty bathwater in their occasional overstatement of protest. This doctrine of the Spirit, which was supposed to occur in harmony with one’s verbal confession of Christ and in relation to the entering of baptismal waters, has been mired throughout the centuries in controversial muck. Fortunately, God is not limited by our ignorance and has chosen in His grace to work in His children’s lives through a variety of ways.
My own home is an illustration of this. David, my husband, did experience the mulling of the Spirit at conversion. At the age of thirteen, he was hungry for a deep experience of salvation. He testifies to locking himself in the bathroom with His Bible so he would not be disturbed while searching the Scriptures.
One night, he finally, from the depths of his young soul, cried out to be saved, and knew assuredly that instant gratification which comes to some, that Christ had heard and answered his prayers. He was bathed in peace—a release of guilt and an assurance. I believe he was given the measure of the Spirit in accord with his hungry heart. That evening he was set aside unto the Lord, and, when I first met him, the most outstanding characteristic about David was that he was first and foremost a man of God.
Even though I became a Christian at an early age, I knew next to nothing of the work of the Holy Spirit, even on a basic intellectual level. Later, after we had begun Circle Church and were examining the Scriptures, I began to grow. I could remember vague references from my past to this third Person of the Trinity, but nothing which had changed my life.
After we discovered the work of the Spirit on the pages of His Book, I began to look and listen for His voice and work in my life. I think I fell into the category described by A. W. Tozer: “Every Christian has the Holy Spirit, but the Holy Spirit doesn’t have every Christian.” As yet I had not discovered the need to yield myself so totally, that the Spirit could “have” me.
For decades, Karen Mains and her husband, David, have served God through religious communications—radio, television, and print publication. The are the co-authors of the Kingdom Tales Trilogy: Tales of the Kingdom, Tales of the Resistance, and Tales of the Restoration. To find many valuable resources for pastors and churches at the Mainstay Ministries main website, please click here.
Karen has long had an interest in Christian hospitality and is the author of the best-selling book, Open Heart, Open Home.
An award-winning author of several other books, Karen continues to write content for her Christian blog, “Thoughts-by-Karen-Mains.” In so doing, she desires to touch the lives of Christian women and men and help them find ways to walk closer with the Lord Jesus Christ. In addition, through silent retreats, spiritual teaching, women’s retreats, Christian vacation opportunities, and other ministry activities, Karen helps each Christian woman and man receive vital spiritual food.
Through her Hungry Souls ministry, Karen serves as a spiritual coach to many Christian women and men, and teaches a mentor-writing class. And, through the Global Bag Project, she is working to develop a network of African women who sew exquisite cloth reusable shopping bags. This micro-finance women opportunity helps provide a much-needed sustainable income for struggling African families. For more information on this critically important project, please click here.
In addition, pastors will find special resources to help them create effective, life-transforming Sunday sermons by visiting David Mains’ website by clicking here.