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Are You Born of Water or the Spirit?

Have you breathed the breath of God, or are you still living in water baptism?

Water baptism is a powerful symbol, but the baptism of the Holy Spirit is a transformation. One could argue that water baptism is transformational too, but not to the same degree as the baptism of the Holy Spirit. However, baptism by water is often a prelude to the baptism of the Spirit. Why do we need both?

When your mother conceived you, you were born into water. When your mother brought you to the point of delivery, you passed through the water, and, for the first time in your life, you breathed air. The transfer from water to air is a fundamental change in reality. You will never again function as you did when you lived in water. A new reality of oxygen and breath has taken over your world; in fact, you have entered a new world. This new reality is the effect of the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

The profession of faith in Jesus leads us to a baptism in water, which is a rebirthing symbolic act. The baptized Christian is now born into the family of the Christ. The state of the baptized believer is much like the conceived child in the womb. You are a miracle, a growing life, and a child of God. But another necessary transformation is nine months off on the horizon. If this second transformation doesn't take place, the child will die.

When God created man in the womb of the garden, God breathed on him, and "man became a living being." When Jesus rose for the dead, He "breathed" on His disciples and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit." With the breath of the Holy Spirit, the Church became a living being. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is like the conversion of a child in the womb to an oxygen-breathing, independent human being. I use the word "independent" liberally here because no creature is independent in reality. The term "creature" is pre-loaded with dependence on a Creator. A baby is still dependent on his mother for years after his birth, but his birth still inaugurates a new measure of independence that was not earned but given through a work of grace.

By God's grace, you and I need to become grown-up, independent forces for the kingdom of God. We must be born of water and the Spirit. If we are still living in water baptism, we have not yet become what God intends us to be. We must become transformed into beings filled with the breath of God.

The world is full of dependent Christians who live in the developmental water stage, knowing only "the baptism of John," if you will. It's time to be delivered into the world of breath, responsibility, and growth. It is not safe to remain in the mother's womb too long. It's time to come out and breathe the breath of God. But how?

Many people attempt to explain, describe, and define the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Some say that "speaking in tongues" is the tell-tale sign of the baptism of the Spirit. Others, who haven't experienced such a gift, rightly take offense at a definition that excludes them with no comprehensive means for remedy. I think that this type of experiential definition is unhelpful. I believe that the best description of the baptism in the Holy Spirit is: unconditional surrender.

When Christ owns a person, they become fundamentally changed forever. Christianity is no longer a theory or mental assent for this surrendered believer but an experienced reality. Christianity is not something they agree with, but something they are. Of course, none of us is one hundred percent surrendered. We all are tested in faith in many ways over our lifetime. We must not content ourselves with progress but constantly seek to fill our lungs with the breath of God, the renewing of the Holy Spirit. That is why we fellowship, worship, and pray. But the initial conscience, surrender of all that we hold dear to Christ, is what I would call "the baptism of the Holy Spirit," when we move from only being nurtured to becoming a force for good. This experience is both a choice of will and a change initiated by the Holy Spirit. Nothing can withhold the Holy Spirit from those who honestly seek Him. The new birth is not defined by any sensational gift but by a permanently changed life.

Some people receive baptism in water and the Spirit at once (See Acts 10:44-48). Other people's faith and surrender develop in a more gradual slant. The point is not to try to identify who is in and who is out. The goal is for each of us to breathe more deeply the breath of God morning by morning. The goal is to inhabit the praise and presence of God. You don't have to wait for it. It begins with your unconditional surrender.

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