In Titus 3:3-7, Paul tells us “For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. 4 But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, 5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
If you look at verse three here, you get a very good and accurate description of our life before Christ. Before we come to Jesus, we are fools, we are deceived (and deceivers), we are enslaved to lusts and pleasures and we spend most of our life in thoughts of malice, envy and hate. If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll see that the natural, sinful state of man relates to these attributes perfectly. No matter how ‘good’ a person may seem, in his private moments (at the very least) he has thoughts that are based in these negative character attributes.
No matter how educated and intelligent someone may be, they are also foolish. If you look around at the world you see that we are lead by educated fools, as it relates not only to living a Christian life but in general as well. It is very possible to be very highly educated but have no common sense. Highly educated people can make foolish decisions that the uneducated man with good sense would never make. We see it every day. When I went to college I was on full scholarship, the only thing I had to buy was books for four years. But in the first two weeks at university I got together with three other guys that thought it would be a great idea to open a bar in one of the dorm rooms to make extra spending money. After spending all we had to buy liquor, we were busted on the first night. I’m totally convinced that the only reason we weren’t expelled was because we were all on full scholarship – we were too valuable to the school to receive the punishment we deserved. I’d like to think that anyway. So, here we were supposedly intelligent people, who made a horribly foolish decision. I spent the major part of my college career convinced that I was being scrutinized intensely – so I became the model student after that.
So, “For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures” My one example pretty much covers all of those in one story doesn’t it? We were disobedient by the deception that we could somehow beat the system due to being driven by the enslaving lust for more money to spend on what we wanted. You see how this works? A seemingly intelligent person can make extremely foolish decisions and act on those decisions, driven by totally destructive motivations – all in the name of fun, in this case; all in the name of national security in others; all in the name of financial gain in others; all in the name of “doing the right thing” in others. Without Christ in our lives, we are doomed to repeat the pattern.
We deceive ourselves every single day, did you know that? Without even being totally cognizant of it, every single day we deceive ourselves. It’s called rationalizing. There’s a line from the movie “The Big Chill” that goes, “I don't know anyone who could get through the day without two or three juicy rationalizations.” And it’s true. We can deceive ourselves so easily into making excuses about doing something because it suits our wants and needs. What is the driving force behind that? That’s pride! Pride is the root of all self deception! We want what we want – and we want it now! We live in the generation of “I” It’s all about “me”. How does that affect “me”?!? How can “I” get ahead?!? How can I get what “I” want? And the old standby in business, “what’s in it for me?”
When we start down this path, rationalization moves from the sub-conscience into the conscience. Rationalization moves from a ‘fringe benefit’ and becomes a necessity! It becomes a matter of survival! When it’s all about self-preservation we deceive ourselves consciously. This is the real danger – somewhere along the line we start believing our own lies to ourselves. This is the nature of sinful man. This is how Satan comes in and affects our very thinking, our innermost, intimate workings of self. We become deceived about our own abilities, deceived about our own cleverness and deceived about life itself! This kind of behavior soon leads to aberrant behavior as a means of escape. Drinking, gambling, doing drugs, chasing women as a means of escaping ourselves and our own disgusting lives. We become, as Paul says here, “slaves of various lusts and pleasures”
Lust, in any form, brings slavery. Lust compels us and drives us to do many things that we know are harmful – unspeakable things. We become compelled to feed the escape mechanism just the same as we feed the drive that makes us do things that causes us to need the ‘escape’ in the first place. It becomes a vicious circle. And we rationalize all of it as ‘that’s the way it is’. Lust makes us ruthless. We use other people as means to satisfying our own pleasure – this is where malice enters in. We must feed the lust that drives us at any cost! All the time we are destroying ourselves and the people around us.
This is what addiction is all about, whether it be alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling, you name it. Addiction compels us to do things that we wouldn’t even think of without the addiction in our lives – and it destroys us and those we love and who love us. I knew a woman once who was addicted to shopping. Did you know that shopping can be an addiction? Well, I didn’t before this. I was dating her step-daughter at the time and became friends with her husband. This woman suffered from depression and every time she’d get depressed she’d go shopping, and she’d charge everything on credit cards. Nobody in the family knew anything about her addiction until it was too late. She committed suicide. Afterward, in helping the husband go through credit card bills that she had hidden, we discovered over $50,000 in unpaid charges, charges that he now became liable for – not that that was important at the time. He just wanted his wife back. There was no suicide note, no warning of anything out of the ordinary, no indication that she was even depressed. In fact, a month before we had all enjoyed an incredible Christmas dinner together, that she had prepared. We surmised that she had killed herself because she knew that the net was closing in. She knew that it was only a matter of time until her husband discovered the debt that she had accumulated through her addiction. In the end, he didn’t even care about that at all. It could have been rectified if she had come to him and told him what she had done, but her addiction had deceived her to the point of no return in her mind. You see, the ability to change was not in her because she had become enslaved to her lusts and addictions.
This scripture talks about malice and envy. I don’t know of any other place where there is more maliciousness and envy in more operation than in the workplace, especially in business, where people are so eager to promote their own self-interests and ego to get ahead. On the surface, there is teamwork, but behind the scenes there is backbiting, competition, jealousy, envy and greed at work. All these attributes lead to a hateful atmosphere that is almost tangible in some cases – and what’s more upper management promotes this atmosphere in many cases. In many cases, in sales anyway, the fear of not making quota can lead to despicable behavior. There’s an old Vince Lombardi quote that is one of my favorite’s of his, that says “Fatigue makes cowards of us all” How true that is. This idea plays to the scripture in Matthew 24:13 of “the one who endures to the end will be saved” We can easily substitute the word ‘fatigue’ with the word ‘desperation’. Desperation makes cowards of us all. Desperation drives us to do the most despicable things in order to survive. I’ve seen first-hand the destructive results that desperation can lead one to and it’s not pretty. Careers and lives are ruined by acting out of desperation.
I’m a prodigal and when I first came back to the Lord, I entered a period of intense repentance that lasted seven days and nights. I went back to the point of when I went off the rail and repented for every single thing I could remember over the 40 years that I was away from God. Nobody told me I had to do this, it was natural. I had a drive to purge myself of my old existence while stepping into the new me. For seven days and nights I couldn’t eat or sleep. I went from reliving all the junk in my life to being forgiven. I’d ask for forgiveness for something and have to relive that moment in my mind and in my heart. Then the Lord would forgive me and I’d be lifted up, like I was in the palm of his hand. It was like a roller coaster ride for seven days – valleys of repenting for horrible sins against God and mountains of forgiveness, being lifted up by God himself. I can tell you that this scripture certainly applied to me and my life. I was incredibly foolish and disobedient, deceiving myself into slavery of addictions to sex and ‘the lifestyle’ of a rock star – even though I wasn’t one, I was just a lowly studio guy, but that’s how I envisioned myself, and I played the part well.
By contrast with life BC, or before Christ, life after Christ is a totally different scenario. In verse four in this passage, Paul starts with the word, “But” and “but” is an incredibly powerful word, it is a bridging word. It acts as a bridge between two concepts. It can be used as an excuse for something as in “yeh, but”. There are far too many ‘yeh but’s’ that I’ve heard in ministry. We can counsel someone and think they’ve got it, and then we hear those dreaded words, “Yeh but…” And it changes everything. Here Paul starts speaking of the changes that take place when we experience the saving power of Jesus Christ – the bridge between the old and the new.
Verse four: “But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, 5 He saved us…” You see, there is a bridge between the old and the new, unsaved to saved, and everything changes. You don’t have to be enslaved! You can be set free! And it doesn’t matter how long you’ve lived in that old skin, 20 years, 30 years, 40 years, it doesn’t matter - Jesus changes everything! He saves us by His kindness and love! Do you know that most unsaved people don’t think of God as being kind and loving? Most people think of God as being mean and judgmental. Most think of God as some irritable, crotchety old man who does nothing but condemn us for our behavior. They don’t see God as love and kindness, arms open wide, ready to forgive us for our transgressions against Him. It is our job to get the word out! It is our job to show them the real God, a God of love and mercy! This is what the Gospel of Jesus Christ is about, acting in the love of the Father! If we condemn, all we do is fortify the lost’s incorrect perception of God! We must demonstrate the love of God in our own lives by loving the lost!
The word conversion means to change – and if we are the same after ‘salvation’ as we were before salvation, then we haven’t experienced true salvation! We may have experienced something emotional that touched our hearts but if our hearts weren’t overtly changed then there is something wrong with what we label as salvation. As an unsaved person, I could never understand why people that called themselves Christian didn’t act like it! I’ll tell you this, if the lost can’t see Jesus in you, they don’t want what you have! When the love of Christ comes into our hearts we can’t help but be changed from the inside out! It is an uncontrollable metamorphosis that takes place and we begin to shine with the love and joy of knowing Jesus Christ! If you are condemning the lost, it is you that are keeping them away from God! Listen to this please: Judgment is not our business. There is only one judge and it’s not me or you. Show the love, that’s our job.
Going on, Paul says “not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
Salvation is God’s all inclusive provision for man, made available only through Jesus Christ. That’s good huh? Well, I didn’t write it, God did. This provision includes forgiveness of sins, it includes eternal life, it includes healing of diseases, it includes being set free from the bondage of religion, it includes release from demonic oppression, it includes financial provision, it includes the strength to walk in a godly fashion, it includes being filled with the Spirit of God in order to experience the fullness of God, it includes every good that He has planned for you and it includes the assurance of eternal life in the presence of almighty God! Salvation is the realization of the all-encompassing benefits and blessings of God made available to us only through belief in Jesus Christ! The key is that we have to choose to enter into the provision.
Grammatically speaking, the word ‘saved’ is used in four tenses in scripture. In Ephesians 2:8 the past tense, “by grace you have been saved”; in verse five here it is used in the present perfect tense of “He has saved us” ; 1 Corinthians 1:18 in the present progressive tense “the preaching of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” and in Romans 5:9 it is used in the future tense when it says “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.”
· In the past tense, as in “by grace you have been saved”, it speaks of something that has already happened, it is settled and that’s that.
· The present perfect tense of “He has saved us” speaks of a specific event that happened in the historic past.
· The present progressive tense of “who are being saved” describes something that is ongoing and continuous.
· The future tense “we shall be saved “ speaks of something that will happen in the future.
We must relate to all four tenses of salvation in scripture – we’ve been saved, He saved us, we’re being saved and we shall be saved!
One of the simplest illustrations of salvation is what happened with Noah. Noah’s ark was the total provision of God for salvation. There was no other way and it was total provision that included the forgiveness of sins and for Noah’s safety and for that of his family. It included food and nourishment. Everything he needed for survival was in the ark. The ark was a gift from God, designed by God and it even came with an instruction manual! God’s gift of salvation in your life is complete provision, perfect and will never need improvement…and it also comes with a manual – the Bible! And just like God’s salvation, the ark was useless until Noah chose to step into it! Jesus is your ark! And when you step into Jesus you receive total and complete provision that will last your entire life and on into eternity! Jesus is your salvation today! Right now! To be saved you must step out of your own condition and into the total provision of God through His son Jesus Christ!
In 1 Corinthians 1:18, when Noah and his family stepped into the ark and the waters rose, the ark was continually saving them, continually. From peril to peril they were protected. What are you going to step into for safety when your storm comes and the water is rising and everything looks bleak and disastrous? Step into Jesus! He will save you and be your complete salvation! Jesus will continually preserve, protect and provide for you! He is your ark of salvation!
The past tense and present perfect tense is God’s concrete provision, complete, said and done – the ark of provision - God’s promise of salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The present progressive tense requires you to step out in faith and enter into God’s ongoing and continual provision by accepting Jesus Christ as savior and the future tense, which requires that you remain in the ark, is inheriting eternity in the Kingdom of God, worshiping at His feet along with the angels, the apostles and the entire body of saints!
In Titus 3:3-7, Paul speaks about that moment when we step into the ark of provision; reflecting back on who we once were and the process of being regenerated, renewed by the Holy Spirit, through Jesus Christ and assuming our position as heirs to the Kingdom of God!
In verse five, Paul speaks to the fact that we can do absolutely nothing to “earn” salvation. How arrogant can we be to think that there is anything we could possibly do to impress the creator of the universe. We don’t get to salvation by ‘doing good’ or ‘being nice’ or “oh she’s so kind’. It doesn’t matter how good, nice or kind you are – without accepting God’s gift of Jesus Christ into your life you will not even see the gates of heaven. We are saved by God’s gift of mercy. You know what mercy is? Mercy is not getting what we deserve. Grace is getting what we don’t deserve. I know those are clichés but it’s true. God has given us the gift of not getting the damnation of hell that we deserve by accepting His grace in the form of His son Jesus. When we accept His grace, mercy comes automatically. If we don’t accept His grace, there is no mercy. But He gives us the choice. It’s called free will. God gives us the right to choose our own fate for eternity. You see, we all live forever. The choice we make regarding God’s grace determines where we will spend eternity. Once we accept God’s Grace and Mercy, we are renewed. We are actually regenerated into a new creation. This is accomplished by God’s helper, the Holy Spirit. Did you ever notice that before the Holy Spirit came, the disciples were not quite functioning properly? Even with Jesus with them they were quibbling over stupid stuff, like who amongst them was the greatest, etc. When the Holy Spirit came all of a sudden they got their act together and their individual ministries exploded. Jesus knew this in advance. This is why He commanded them to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit to come upon them. In Acts 1:8 He says “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you” Ever since Jesus left earth, it is the Holy Spirit that convicts and leads us to salvation. He then introduces us to Jesus and then acts on us to regenerate us; re-create and renew us into new creations in Christ. The Holy Spirit is God’s Michelangelo. He molds us and sculpts us into something pleasing to His son.
So, there is absolutely nothing that we can do to earn salvation, other than accepting Christ as our personal Savior. A huge mistake that people make is trying to make themselves better before coming to Jesus. They may think, “God would never accept me the way I am, I’m so rotten” WRONG! Like the old Billy Joel song, God loves you just the way you are! Give up trying to improve yourself to impress God, you can’t! Just give it all to Jesus and let Him transform you! A funny thing happens when we try and make ourselves better – we actually get worse. When we try to improve our selves it’s like the devil slams it into high gear and comes against us even stronger than before. He does this because he knows that we can’t do it ourselves! The devil knows that the only way we can be saved is by way of the Holy Spirit, through the redemptive power of Jesus Christ! Paul makes the statement in Ephesians 2:8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God”. There is no other way and to repeat, I can’t emphasize it enough: there is nothing we can do to earn grace! You don’t have to cut your hair, wear certain clothes or quit dancing like some false religions instruct – and make no mistakes, they are actually cults. They’re not Christianity. God loves it when we dance for Him – remember David with the ark? Just give your life to Jesus and He will change you from the inside out! When we yield to Jesus He will work in us to create the person that He wants us to be! But you have to yield to Him!
Continuing on with verse five, “by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit” Here Paul introduces the Holy Spirit. It is actually the Holy Spirit that works in our lives and makes the changes in us. Every Godly function in our lives is performed by the Holy Spirit. Notice in this one line of scripture that there are three actions mentioned that are performed by the Holy Spirit:
These are three absolutely necessary actions of God needed in order for us to be changed.
· Washing speaks of the cleansing nature of the blood of Jesus. Before we come to Jesus, we are filthy with sin. We are unclean mentally, morally and spiritually. This is why we must give these things to God up front and not try to rectify them ourselves. There is nothing that we can do by ourselves to eradicate these elements from our lives. The washing comes by the Holy Spirit through the blood of Jesus, the blood that Jesus shed on the cross is what cleanses us. Our sins are washed clean in His blood.
· Regeneration means being ‘born again’. When we come to Jesus we are not only washed clean of our sin, we are regenerated, or reborn, by the conversion power of the Holy Spirit. This regeneration is so crucial that Jesus said in John 3:5-6 that “unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” In other words, when we were born in the flesh as infants, that was the birth in water as it refers to the mother’s water breaking etc. When we are saved, the Holy Spirit regenerates us as new creations; this is the birth in the Spirit. We have a natural birth in the flesh, but in order to enter the Kingdom of God we must experience a Spiritual birth! Scripture says in James 1:18 “In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.” When you receive the word of God, by faith, into your heart and the Holy Spirit takes action on it, then a Spiritual birth takes place, a new life for a new personality that is birthed inside you – and the old is swept away. This experience is so profound and immediate in our lives that, when we reflect on our own salvation, we know exactly the moment that it happened. There is no doubt, there is no question about it, we are reborn, a new creation!
· The third action mentioned in Titus 3:5 is Renewing. Everything about us, our personality, our behavior, our language, our demeanor, our very self is changed and made new! We become more ‘spiritual beings’ more so than physical ones. We think differently. We don’t look at people the same. 2 Corinthians 5:16-17 says “Therefore, from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer. 17 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” Do you know that there is not one description of Jesus in the Bible? We have absolutely no idea of what He looked like; how much He weighed or how tal He was, what color His eyes were – nothing. About the only thing that we can ascertain is that His hair was short, not long like depicted in paintings or movies. Shorter hair was the traditional style then and something that has been translated poorly to say the least. How do we know this much? 1 Corinthians 11:14 says “Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him,” and Ezekiel 44:20 says, speaking of Priests, “They shall not shave their heads or let their locks grow long; they shall surely trim the hair of their heads.” Shaving the head or growing long hair was a sign of mourning in the Jewish tradition. So, about the only thing that we do know about the appearance of Jesus is that He maybe had mid-length hair. We also know from scripture that He had a beard, which had sections ripped out when He was being beaten by the Pharisees and scourged by the Romans. That’s it! Since there is no such thing as coincidence, I believe the reason for this is that the physical is not important to the followers of Christ. It was and is His Spirit that attracts us to Him. The Holy Spirit directs us to the eternal, unchanging Son of God, not the physical Jesus of 2,000 years ago.
When Jesus left earth He gave to us the Holy Spirit to be our friend, our helper and our teacher. The Holy Spirit is so important that Jesus told His disciples, in John 16:7, that it was actually to their advantage that He go to the Father so that they could have the Holy Spirit come to them. He said that as long as He was here the Holy Spirit wouldn’t come. So He had to go. Jesus had taught the disciples all that He could and now it was time for them to graduate into power that only the Holy Spirit can bring. Jesus knew that by the Holy Spirit they would come to know Him more intimately than with Him sitting in the room with them. Jesus knew that the disciples had an incomplete picture of who He was until the Holy Spirit came. And when the Holy Spirit came on Pentecost, they had an immediate revelation of who He really was. This revelation was so great and impactful that, to this day, Pentecost is known as the birth of the Christian church.
This is what Paul meant in 2 Corinthians 5:16-17, that we don’t need to know each other as in the days of our flesh – that who we were before Christ is not important and has nothing to do with who we are after Christ! We could have been a drug addict, a prostitute, a murderer but once we come to Jesus and are regenerated and renewed by the Holy Spirit, all that goes away! We no longer know Billy Bob as a drug addict, we know him for what he is in Christ – a brother, a disciple, a Priest in a royal priesthood!
The moment we enter into the saving ark of Jesus Christ we are made new! Have you ever wondered how all the different animals that were in the ark got along? I believe that the moment they entered the ark, they experienced a change in nature! The bear lived in harmony with the wolf and the wildcat; the lion lived in harmony with the elephant and buffalo and the scorpion lived in harmony with the snakes and lizards. This exactly what happens to us when we enter into Jesus, our nature changes. We become malleable and He molds us into a new creation that can live in harmony with people and things that we wouldn’t have dreamed of putting up with before.
NOTE: These three actions taken by the Holy Spirit, and the resulting changes that take place, are tell-tale signs of true salvation. If there is no new creation, then there is no evidence of being in Christ. You may go to church every Sunday and even witness about Jesus but if you aren’t completely different in nature after your salvation experience than you were before, then you haven’t totally yielded to Christ – you’re being hypocritical and you need to repent, ask for forgiveness and give everything up to Him. God doesn’t just patch up the old, he doesn’t just knock some of the dust off, He makes a completely new creation out of you! Jesus doesn’t want church members, He wants new creations that will follow Him! When Jesus said to Matthew (Levi, the tax collector) “Follow me”, the original Greek used there is ‘akoloutheo’, which means ‘walk the same road’. God wants people willing to walk the same road as His son! This is what discipleship and Christianity is all about! The word Christian literally means ‘follower of Christ’. It doesn’t mean ‘church-goer’. How can we call ourselves Christian and not be willing to walk the same road as Jesus?!?! People throw around the word very easily, “I’m a Christian” Sometimes I want to stop and ask them “Really? What does that mean to you?”
Notice that in 2 Corinthians 5:16-17 it says, “IF anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation” That ‘IF’ separates the men from the boys. You’re either in or you’re not. In Matthew 12:30 Jesus said “He who is not with Me is against Me” There is no grey area with Jesus, it’s black or white. You’re either in or you’re out. Have you ever heard someone say “If I had it all to do over again…” Well in Jesus you can J You can start over without any guilt for your past life and no condemnation. Romans 8:1 tells that “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
The first century church never made an alter call. They put out one call: Be Baptized. When the witnesses on the day of Pentecost asked what they should do to be saved, the answer was clear and precise: repent, be baptized and receive the Holy Spirit. That program has never changed and never will. If we follow the first century model, every time someone comes to Christ they should immediately be lead to a pool or lake or some body of water to be baptized. Water baptism was the dividing line between the old life and the new, the lost and the saved. When Noah and his family entered the ark it was still on land, still a part of the old. When the waters rose and they were saved, it was the water that separated them from the old life and the new. Water baptism is scriptural and necessary for every Christian. It sets us apart to God.
Receiving the Holy Spirit
In Titus 3:6-7 it continues “whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
Here we have the second baptism, in fire. John the Baptist foretold this second baptism and it is found in all four Gospels (Matt 3:11; Mark 1:7-8; Luke 3:16 and John 1:26-27, 33), that is how important it is. It is emphasized because of its necessity to every Christian. JTB called it the Baptism in the Holy Spirit and Fire. The Baptism of the Holy Spirit IS the baptism in Christ! If you study scripture at all you will see that the sealing of salvation was a three-fold process:
1) Confessing Jesus as Savior and believe in His resurrection (Romans 10:8-9)
2) Water baptism
3) Baptism in the Holy Spirit
On resurrection day, Jesus presented Himself to the disciples, proved to them that He was risen and alive and then breathed on them and said to them in John 20:22 “Receive the Holy Spirit”. Something dramatic happened at this point. They became regenerated. The first time they believed that Jesus was risen from the dead was when He stood in their presence, show them His wounds and breathed the Holy Spirit on them. I believe it wasn’t until Jesus breathed the Spirit on them that every one of them had full awareness of who He was. Even with this experience, Jesus commanded them in Acts 1:4 not to start their ministries until they received the full baptism in the Holy Spirit. When Jesus breathed on them was not the baptism, it was just a sampling – like Whitman’s chocolates, just a taste. The baptism happened 50 days later on Pentecost. When you look at the events, Jesus was no longer on earth when the disciples received the baptism in the Holy Spirit – but He poured out the Spirit on them from Heaven. So, according to scripture, there are two occasions when we experience the Holy Spirit:
1) At salvation: we receive the in-breathed Holy Spirit that enables us to grasp who Christ is and His resurrection. This is the point when regeneration happens.
2) The actual baptism in the Holy Spirit, when Christ pours it on us.
If you imagine what happens at each of these points; the first is like a sprinkling and the second is standing under a waterfall! The important thing is this, neither is a substitute for the other. They must take place in that order. You cannot be baptized in the Spirit until you have been regenerated.
When you make the change, your story of how you’ve changed becomes one of the greatest weapons in your Christian arsenal against Satan. People can argue about doctrine. They can argue about specific practices and methodologies, but they cannot argue about your personal testimony. This is why it says, in Revelation 12:11 that we “overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony!” This statement speaks directly of Titus 3:3-7 doesn’t it? We are washed clean by the blood of Jesus and by being regenerated and renewed, the story of the difference between our past life and this one becomes our testimony. Nothing cuts through and brings the light of the truth to bear like the power of your testimony.
When I made my prodigal return, I had been at a new job for two weeks. In those two weeks I had already earned a nickname that I was totally unaware of at the time. I was known as ‘the cursing guy in the corner’. I had a filthy mouth, disgusting, and I didn’t care who heard me ranting. I was rude and obnoxious. The night I made my return happened to be my birthday. And I was sitting in the balcony of a large auditorium in an aisle seat – like it was reserved for me, it was the only seat left when I got there. In the moment I experienced Jesus break through to my heart I looked up through tears and there He was standing in the aisle, arms open wide. This was the second time He had visited me, the first being just a couple of months before I started to go off the rail, but at that time there was no communication, just Jesus standing there with His arms open. When I came back that night He spoke to me. He said, “I’ve been waiting right here for you”. The next day I went into work totally changed. This is the regeneration that takes place in rebirth – it happens immediately. I went from one person to the other, even to people in another wing of the building who I never even saw before and apologized for my behavior and my language. You see, meeting Jesus will humble you. He will cause you to go out of the way to make things right, to repent and to show His love and mercy to others.
May the blood of Jesus wash, regenerate and renew you completely and continuously.