By J. T. Pugh
In the previous chapter we have given thought to making the proper contact with God, preparatory to being filled with the Holy Ghost. We discovered that this contact should be a very trustful, warm, and sincere reaching out, as to a dear friend we know to be right before us. As in this particular trustful and appreciative frame of mind we continue to talk to God, we are made spiritually aware that God has responded and drawn close to us.
The distinctive Spirit of God makes itself known in a very apparent way. It is as real in its feeling as the warmth of a heater on a cold day, the cooling fan when one is too warm, or the caress of sunshine in early spring. There is no mistake. The seeker, by way of tears or the welling up of the fountains of gratitude, will know he has come into the actual presence of God.
Now, supposing the seeker has made this initial contact with the Spirit, we should consider making the transition from the flesh to the Spirit.
Jesus said, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” The implication is that these are two separate and distinct conditions. Between the dimension of the flesh and the dimension of the Spirit there is a great gulf. There is an absolute transition in spirit from one dimension to the other when one is filled with the Holy Ghost. This passage between flesh and Spirit is the point that many are interested in. “How does one receive the Holy Ghost?” is the question we often hear asked. Many are interested in a quick, one-two-three step plan that will get the matter over quickly.
In these days, when much is being said about receiving the tongue-speaking experience, people in various churches and walks of life have become interested in this phenomenon. Is their interest based only on a curiosity in its novelty? For many of them I suspect this. I would repeat what I have already pointed out, that the Holy Ghost is not an abstract, passionless experience. Though it is powerful, it is also personal. No experience can long remain fresh and meaningful unless it has its roots in an appreciation of the experience’s background. This is why we have gone over the ground of redemption, and what it means to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, as carefully as we have.
Now, as we have already noted, the flesh and the Spirit are two distinct and separate points. It is apparent that if one is to pass over to the realm of the Spirit, he must leave the realm of the flesh. What do we mean by the realm of the flesh? Of course we do not leave our bodies. What then do we mean? It is the realm of earthly, worldly, concepts and reasoning. The judgment of the world on various matters is not the judgment of God at all. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways…” “…For that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.”
The realm of the flesh is a realm of human pride that exalts itself to offer its own reasoning in the face of God. To forsake the realm of the flesh is to totally abdicate all rights, and in every way accept the will and the leading of God, no matter how ridiculous it may seem. To leave the realm of the flesh is to forsake the accepted norms and standards of human behavior when they seem contrary to what the Spirit, which now becomes your guide, wills for you to do. In this wonderful transition, the seeker, as it were, leaves himself behind, including all he has known and been taught. After this great baptism, which he approaches in this transition, is complete, though he still lives in his same body, it is “no longer he that lives but Christ that lives in him,” so that the life he now lives in the flesh he lives by the faith of the Son of God. Something tremendous takes place when one is filled with the baptism of the Holy Ghost.
In this transitional process from the state of the flesh to the state of the Spirit, the seeker turns his back upon himself, his knowledge, his opinions, and trustfully accepts the promises of God to be absolutely true. He accepts the strong impression that is made upon his emotional feelings at the moment to be the very presence of God. He has already made contact with the Spirit of God, as we have described. This contact has been on the basis of love, trust, and honest sincerity. In attitude he becomes, as Jesus taught us we should, “as a little child.” Jesus said that being born of the Spirit was as the wind, that “blow-eth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth…” So, as the seeker turns his back upon himself, and, in spirit, begins to walk away from himself, he turns his face toward God. He feels the strong tender impression of the Holy Ghost moving upon him, awakening strong yearnings and longings that have to do with the better side of life. Fountains of appreciation, unselfishness and love began to break forth in the seeker’s heart. This is often accompanied by tears, by trembling lips, by raising the voice, by change of voice tones, and often by the lifting of the hands as a child would reach for the strong arms of its parents.
I am describing a spiritual transition. I am speaking of the beginning of a spiritual transformation. Only the things of the Spirit can affect the spirit. The Holy Ghost being Spirit works upon the spirit of man. Once man contacts it, as I have described, and continues to pursue this contact, yielding himself to its leading, it will draw him out and away from the flesh and into the realm of the Spirit. There he becomes so overwhelmed by this mighty introduction to God that it is equivalent to being totally submerged in water itself, though much more drastic, for this is a drastic rebirth of the entire spiritual faculities of the inner man. This experience takes hold of the very seat of feeling and all emotion-cleansing, changing, and remaking. It is described by the prophet as the taking out of a heart of stone, and replanting one of flesh, and writing laws upon it; and a changing of attitudes, so that, from henceforth, the recipient desires to walk in God’s ways and to keep His precepts. What could be more drastic than a heart transplant?
So the seeker, in faith, feeling the strong welling up of hope and love within him, responding to this tender presence that has come to him as he honestly and faithfully made the initial approach that I have described, turns his face toward the realm of the Spirit, as one lifts his face to a cool and pleasant wind. In a psychic sense, he suspends himself, as it were, loosing himself from all he is and has been, and floating upward into this wonderful flow of love which Jesus described as the wind. Do I mean that it seems that you feel the Spirit as wind blowing upon you? Some have witnessed that their experience was such. I merely take this as a symbol to illustrate this wonderful process. Jesus used it, so I feel that I am on safe ground.
What I am describing here is not an unusual thing at all, in the light of the Scripture. The Bible repeatedly speaks of an absolute cessation from self. In fact, it is so marked and absolute that this transition is compared to dying to self. No one can become more non-existent than that.
We have also seen that it is described as the birth process-the emergence from the womb of one state into the radiance and spiritual activity of another. And who is it that would not like to somehow become as a moth, and, upon going to bed one night, weave for yourself a cocoon of forgetfulness and emerge from it as the beautiful butterfly, altogether changed and different. Am I saying something too good to be true? In the Spirit, absolutely not. This is exactly the experience Jesus described to Nicodemus when he spoke to him about being born again. Though a man cannot enter the second time into his mother’s womb and change his body, there is a tremendous spiritual experience which Jesus said comes “as the wind.”
As we have already considered, it is that tremendous moment that something revolutionary takes place with the seeker, that is far greater than forgiveness or even pardon. The man simply is no longer guilty. In some strange way on God’s books he never did lie, curse, or commit any sin. He is justified. This is the righteousness of God by faith.
What a wonderful thing the Holy Ghost is! The words of the poet describe the longing of many people.
I wish there were some wonderful place
Called the land of “beginning again,”
Where all our mistakes,
With all their heartaches,
Could be dropped like a shabby old coat at the door,
And never be put on again.
Well, here is that place in this wonderful spiritual rejuvenation, described by Jesus as being born again, and illustrated in the New Testament as the baptism of the Holy Ghost.
The transference from the realm of the flesh to the realm of the Spirit is a process, just as a birth is a process. For some the process may be slow. It does not need to be. It is not the plan of God that it be. It can be in a moment, as was described in Acts, chapter two, “And suddenly there came. . .”; and in Acts 10, “And while Peter yet spake these words the Holy Ghost fell….” I cannot help but believe that it is God’s will for everyone to receive the Holy Ghost quickly and easily. Since it is a gift, how can we help but believe this? But “According to your faith be it unto you.”
Whether a person arrives in the realm of the Spirit quickly, or his journey toward this spiritual ultimate is more halting and slow, the evidence of full and complete Holy Ghost baptism is always the same. “These signs shall follow them that believe… they shall speak with new tongues.” “And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost and began to speak with other tongues. . . .” God has chosen this manifestation as a witness that the recipient has reached a degree of yielding to the will and action of the Spirit, that his entire body has been brought under subjection.
A man once told me that he knew he had received the Holy Ghost, but that he did not know just when it took place. This is not compatible with the descriptions of the Holy Ghost baptism given in the Bible. John the Baptist told his followers that, “I . . .baptize you with water . , but He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost. .. .” All present could readily see the difference between those standing on Jordan’s banks who had just been baptized and those who had not. The matted hair, the water dripping from limb and robe, offered ample evidence that these people had been submerged, plunged under, dipped into the water. They were thoroughly soaked. John, in essence, said, “Just as I have soaked you, covered you, plunged you into the water, so will Jesus soak you, fill you, cover you with the Spirit.” In more than one place in Acts people are described as being filled with the Holy Ghost. The baptism of the Holy Ghost is an emotional, exciting, joyous event that involves the entire person.
James described the tongue as being an unruly member, full of deadly poison, which no man could tame. So when God takes the tongue, which no man is able to tame, and uses it to form and speak a language which the recipient himself does not even know, it is a sure sign that this particular person has been completely filled, or baptized with the Spirit. The speaking with tongues was considered ample evidence in the Bible that the candidate had been filled with the Holy Ghost-“For they heard them speak with tongues” (Acts 10). Speaking with tongues is an evidence of complete trustful yieldedness, on the part of the seeker, to the will of the Spirit. Language is often a mark of identity. For this reason, the multitude at Pentecost could not understand why all who spoke were from Galilee, yet they used at least seventeen languages of other countries. Even the various accents identify us with certain localities.
With this there comes a certain pride of which we are often unaware. For a person to surrender his language, entirely by faith, indicates that he has surrendered other things as well. He has let go of the last shred of his personal identity with the former life he once knew. So it is with a person in the process of being filled with the Holy Ghost. Learning to talk was among some of the first things he mastered in life, and now he has so regressed in his reach for simplicity and honesty that he is urged by the Spirit to surrender that also.
Some seekers believe that the Holy Ghost comes like a thunderbolt, completely overwhelming the seeker, and, under this irresistible power, his language is forcibly taken from him and another is dramatically set in motion through his tongue and mouth. The nature of the Holy Ghost would not allow it to thus exercise itself upon an individual. The Son of Man could be spoken against, but the Holy Ghost, in its soft, tender, persuasive role, was not to be spoken against.
The Bible tells us that the Holy Ghost can be “quenched,” or put out of our lives and presence, as one would quench a candle or blow it out. We are told that the Holy Ghost can be “grieved.” Its approach as I have described is one of tender love, mutuality and trust. On the basis of its own characteristics, it fills us. Though it comes to knock, to plead, to encourage, and call, it will never push itself or overwhelm our will. It will never take our own language from us. We are to give up our language with faith, just as we gave up our sins and our habits. While the Holy Ghost helped us to give up these things, it cannot be said that the Holy Ghost took them away against our wills. While the Holy Ghost urged us to come to church, it did not compel us. The Spirit never compels. Even after one receives the Holy Ghost baptism, “the spirit of the prophets are subject to the prophets.” It is only with the consent of our wills that the Holy Ghost operates in our lives. This being so, a person seeking the fullness of the Spirit should be sensitive to the leading of the Spirit, and willingly and trustfully follow its slightest indication.
The complete filling of the Spirit and the complete yielding up of ourselves to the Spirit comes almost at the same time in the baptismal process. Notice on the day of Pentecost the one hundred twenty were first filled with the Spirit and then began to speak in other languages. Of course, the interval of time between the two was almost imperceptible. All who are completely filled with the Spirit always speak with other tongues. When we carry on a conversation, we speak according to what we have a conscious mental perception of. The learning process has stored facts in our brain as well as the ability to speak a certain language. Without thought as to the mechanics of speech, mental impulses trigger off through the tongue, vocal cords, and lips words which we choose to say. All of this is made possible because of stored knowledge in the brain. But when one receives the Holy Ghost there is a mental block. The utterance does not come from the brain, because it has never been stored there.
It was said of the one hundred twenty at Pentecost, “And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave them the utterance.” They were first filled, and then that Spirit which filled them, knowing every language under heaven, as well as all other things, chose the language it willed them to speak. The utterances came from the Spirit which filled them, and not from knowledge in the brain. The language rose up out of their innermost being without the aid of the thought process. They were in a state of mental suspension. Their breathing apparatus worked, their vocal cords sounded, their lips and tongues moved with the consent of their wills.
I am sure that all of them could have chosen not to have spoken, had they so desired. But for that moment they suspended their own personality and, spiritually speaking, floated upward in an act of complete submission to this great and strange flow of power. The Holy Ghost did not furnish the sound for each word. The sound for each word came from the vocal cords, as it had in all instances when each of the individuals had spoken his own language prior to this infilling. The Holy Ghost only furnished the impulse which articulated the words which came from their mouths. Thus each individual was filled with the Spirit only at the absolute consent of his will.
The above article, “The Method of Transition from Flesh to the Spirit” was written by J. T. Pugh. The article was excerpted from Pugh’s book, How To Receive The Holy Ghost.
The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.