Baptizing with the Holy Spirit and fire
Pastor Vyacheslav Goncharenko
At the beginning of June I as well as some other ministers from our church were in Kiev at the great evangelist Reinhard Bonnke’s conference. A wonderful and marvelous time it was. I have a desire to pass over to you the fire we got at the conference.
Reinhard Bonnke has been in missionary ministry around Africa, Asia and other parts of the world for over 30 years. Since the beginning of the 2nd millennium thanks to his ministry over 45 million people have responded to God’s call to repent of their sins. Imagine the scope of pastoral service in those regions! And the many leaders that are needed there!
Reinhard Bonnke heard the call to serve God when he was ten. The Lord told him He would send him to preach in Africa. Having grown up and having finished his studies Reinhard left for Africa. For many years his sermons were attended by no more than 50 people. One night Reinhard begged the Lord to tell him what the matter was. “Didn’t you tell me about my calling?” he pleaded. And the Lord gave him a dream at night. It repeated 4 nights on end. In the dream he could see the map of Africa washed in the blood of Christ and he heard a voice saying, “Africa must be saved!” Gradually more and more people would come to the service. Afterwards millions were saved by the Lord. It is amazing to what degree God is making use of this person.
Reinhard Bonnke is the founder and head of the world missionary organization “Christ for all Nations”. He is the author of many books published up to the total quantity of more than 185 million copies. He runs TV programmes and courses on evangelism.
Reinhard Bonnke’s ministry deeply resounds in my heart. I believe that events similar to those happening there are in store of our church. God is great and almighty. He can shake our Belarusian land so that everyone will bow down before the Lord Jesus Christ. Sometimes we look at our hardened relatives, our neighbours, the people we have many times preached the Gospel to and we lose all hope. But let us not give up! God has His own time for everything. There is time when He puts our faith to the test. He tries us out. There will be time when we will reap if we don’t give up and God will give us strength. Today Reinhard Bonnke is seventy. I really wanted my children to see that person and visit his service so I and my wife decided to take our daughters with us to the conference. We had VIP seats and we seated our daughters at the very back of the hall. Before the beginning of the service I told them: “Receive everything you see”. Receiving God’s fire marked the culmination. A few days after returning home I received some distribution materials on Reinhard Bonnke’s ministry by e-mail. In it was a photograph depicting that glorious moment when thousands of people in the hall were, with their hands up, receiving the fire of God. At the forefront of the photograph were my children! That’s what God had done! That photo became the photo of the year in our family. Glory to Him!
Reinhard Bonnke said, “I pray to God that each of you would have such a microphone as I do now; that each of you would have a ministry field and that each of you would gather crowds of those eager to hear the Gospel.” I was wondering whether people from my church had taken it into their hearts and mixed it with their faith. The Holy Spirit does everything through faith, you see. Reinhard Bonnke’s conference reminded me of my dream: to see the church and then the whole of Belarus baptized with the Holy Spirit and fire. Baptizing with the Holy Spirit and fire. This is precisely what I am going to speak about today: the baptism with the Holy Spirit and fire.
In the book of Matthew, chapter 3, we read the prophesy of John the Baptist about Jesus Christ: “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance. But he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” (Math 3:11-12). The ministry of John the Baptist preceded that of Jesus Christ. John was called to prepare the way for the Lord. He baptized people in the Jordan River. To the question: “Are you a prophet? Are you the Christ?” he would answer, “I am the voice. I preach the baptism of repentance: before you see the Savior, you must repent and be cleansed.” That was a message to Israel, the God’s people, who were expecting the Messiah. The words “He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and fire” meant firstly that the Messiah was coming and secondly His ministry would baptize people with the Holy Spirit and fire.
As Jesus was being baptized in the water, the Holy Spirit came down on Him and then led him into the wilderness where He was tempted. Having overcome all the temptations Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit. This is how His ministry, accompanied by signs and wonders, began. He was followed by crowds of people.
When that was happening, John the Baptist had already been cast into prison. He heard the rumors about Jesus.
“Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, and said unto him, art thou he that should come, or do we look for another? Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me”.
A question arises: why John who had heard the voice of the Heavenly Father testify of the Son and seen the Holy Spirit descend on Jesus like a dove, had doubts: was He the One or should they look for another? I think the reason is John hadn’t witnessed the fulfillment of his own prophesy: “He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire”. It hadn’t happened yet. There were miracles: the sick got healed, the dead were raised up, the poor preached the gospel, the lepers were cleansed, the deaf could hear, the lame walked, the blind received their sight. But no one had been baptized with the Holy Spirit and fire. That happened after Jesus had fulfilled His mission on earth: had suffered on the cross, risen from the dead and been taken up in glory. On the fiftieth day after His death the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles and tongues of fire came to rest on each of them.
“And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”
John’s prophesy about baptizing with the Holy Spirit and fire fulfilled after Jesus Christ returned to Heaven. That baptizing changed the personality of every apostle and completely transformed their ministry. Till the moment Jesus Christ appeared before them they had been disturbed and fearful. They had been praying in their chamber waiting to receive what had been promised. Nobody spoke publicly about Christ. But after the Holy Spirit descended on them they began to boldly preach the Gospel out in the streets. Peter started proclaiming the Word of God to those who he had hitherto been afraid to admit the fact of being the Christ’s disciple to. The message anointed by the Holy Spirit flowed freely from his mouth. They listened to him and asked, “What do we do?” – “Repent of your sins.” Three thousand people got saved that day. Apostles’ preaching was accompanied by signs and wonders like that of Christ’s.
Baptizing with the Holy Spirit and fire transforms one’s life completely. This truth provides an answer to every question and a way out from any problem. If a person doesn’t take that baptism, he becomes like an automobile incapable of movement or like a monument. Would you like to have a driving force inside to be able to do something for the Lord – or to remain a cold, lifeless monument? That depends on whether you are baptized with the Holy Spirit and fire. If you get baptized with the Holy Spirit and fire, you’ll never be a monument. God’s fire will never keep you the same. It will work within you: it will burn inside you; it will become the engine, the motivating stimulus of your life. It will lead you after the Holy Spirit.
I am not talking about salvation now. John said, “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance.” We are all baptized unto repentance. We have all repented of our sins and received Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. And now we don’t worry about that. We were saved by grace and our salvation is in the Lord’s hands. What I am talking about is whether we will fulfill our calling. Will New Life church carry out its mission: to get half a million people saved in Minsk? Will our relatives get saved; will Belarus experience a revival? That depends on whether each of us will receive God’s fire into our lives. If we do, those things will come to pass.
It is God’s will that we would receive His fire into our lives and would burn for Him. His will is that we wouldn’t stay in a warm, smoldering state but would be ablaze inside. God wants to set us on fire to such a degree that no one would remain just sitting at the back and waiting. His will is that we would allow God’s fire to become our driving force which would urge us to follow Him and help us do His work on earth.
Everyone has a fire inside burning for something. There is a lot of secular fire, plenty secular interests. You can observe somebody’s eyes light up when they speak about something that interests them. Everybody has something that inspires him/her; something that makes one carried away. I believe our hearts should burn with the Holy Spirit, with God’s fire. We can live in this fire and feel its heat. Sometimes we feel that fire to be dying down: worldly vanity, wrong deeds and sin do not let it burn. This kind of state is abnormal for a Christian. A norm for a believer is to feel God’s fire in his heart. When you are thus inflamed, you will enjoy another kind of life and all will be different. Maybe you are complaining about your life? But you’ll never complain about the life ablaze with God’s fire!
There is no doubt that a burning fire attracts attention. Not long ago a fire broke out in an old barrack not far from our house. Loud crackling was heard and black smoke fumes could be seen. I told my wife I would go and have a look. I came there and saw hundreds of people who just like I did, had come to see the fire. Motorists had parked their cars all over the place so that trolleybuses couldn’t get passed as their rods couldn’t reach the power cables. There was a traffic jam several kilometres long. Police cars were hooting trying to disperse the crowd but in vain. People were photographing the fire with their mobile phones and talking to each other while the mighty flame was raging. I realized: the revival will be here and thousands and millions of people will come when they see not the fumes but a blazing flame!
Once somebody asked the preacher John Wesley, “What is the reason for the revival in your life?” (Millions of people would come to listen to his sermons.) He answered, “Once God set me on His fire. I am burning and others come to see me burn.” We need to start burning. Don’t be afraid to be burning in God’s fire for you will not burn. God’s fire will not burn you to ashes. It will only burn up the sin and the chaff. It will melt you and all the dross will rise to the surface. You will shine like gold that’s been run through a furnace of fire. In that fire you will discover a totally different potential.
Even today the ministry of Jesus consists of baptizing with the Holy Spirit and fire. The word ‘to baptize’ means to dip, to submerge. This word has been used in the manufacture of fabrics and meant drowning a fabric into a solution or a dye. Afterwards the fabric became the same colour as the liquid. Alongside with that the fabric would change its properties: after it has been dipped into the solution it looked and smelled differently.
Two thousand years ago John stood in the river of Jordan and baptized all those who’d come in the water. Today Jesus dips all those who desire into the fire and their hearts and their lives get changed! God’s fire will change the look of your life drastically: your prayer, your testimony, your mood will change. That fire will put everything in its place. It will make you such as God wants you to be.
“And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: and on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: and I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke.”
It says here that after the baptism with the Holy Spirit and fire there will follow great events. When God’s fire has melted our lives, it will consume us completely. Reinhard Bonnke said that fire will drip off the person consumed by it: “You are all in the flame, you are all fire.”
The prophet Jeremiah proclaimed calamities which would befall the people for their disobedience and backsliding. Every time when he was moved by the Holy Spirit and spoke about this, he was not accepted; he was rejected, beaten and insulted. So the prophet decided, “…I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name.” (Jeremiah 20:9) Later he would prophesy again as he felt a mighty fire within: “But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay.” (Jeremiah 20:9) It is normal for a believer to feel a powerful fire in his heart, a fierce flame in his spirit.
I once reflected on why people cannot preach, why they do not serve the Lord and I realized: they need a fire they wouldn’t be able to hold because they would become weary trying to hold it. God’s fire wants to break through your life. It desires to rebuke people’s sins and burn every chaff and impurity. Remember what is written about Jesus Christ: “His eyes were as a flame of fire” (Revelation 1:14) When you see fire, it attracts you. As you are looking at the flame, it beckons you. You are ready to look at it for ages. There is power in God’s fire and it will burn all the evil. Our calling is to be filled up with God, be baptized with the Holy Spirit and fire. Our ministry will be transformed when we have been immersed in that fire.
…I remember the 90-ies when our church gathered in the House of Culture on Ponomarernko Street. I saw God baptize people with the Holy Spirit and fire. Everyone would come to the prayer before the service. The prayer lasted for an hour. The hall seated 350-400 people and everybody knew they wouldn’t get to the service unless they came for the prayer. People were thirsty for God. And when people are thirsty, He will pour down His fire on them. It is wrong to start musing on whether non-believers will understand us. In this life people are walking on a razor’s edge. Today they are alive and tomorrow they may be dead. They need salvation. We are here not to please them or pander to their wishes. The church is there not to be liked by everyone. In some churches they ask, “How do you like it here? What would you like the church to look like?” And the person answers, “Oh, I’d like it this or that way.” – “OK, we will adjust to your liking. Only please just come and visit us.” That is not a church. The real church is filled with the Holy Spirit and fire. Such a church might seem unusual or strange to the newcomers but those people will never forget the way they felt there as they will be touched by God’s fire and will feel their guilt as well as the need for a Savior. That will change their lives for good. In such a church no evil spirit that has lived inside a man will be able to remain. We must become such a church. New Life church must be a place of fire, the fire fanned by God. We must turn into fire flames: our mouths, our lives, our hearts must be like flames so that the whole of the society would catch fire. If we don’t burn with God’s fire, then the flame of this world will burn within us. That is abominable to God. That kind of church will get nothing accomplished.
Brothers and sisters, I would like us to call unto God today and receive God’s fire and begin to burn. Let us with neither fear nor doubt, like children, believe that God will start making signs and wonders in our lives just like it happened with the Apostles. Because there is nothing impossible for the Lord. He is the same today, tomorrow and forever. Satan shall not deceive you and you’ll be able to fulfill your calling on earth. New Life church will bring half a million people to Jesus Christ in this city!
Jesus is coming soon and the church should be ready. The bride should be prepared. Wonderful is the bride when her eyes are lit up, when she is in God’s fire, when she is anointed with the Holy Spirit! Your life is beautiful when you are in the anointment of the Holy Spirit. All the rest is not worth looking at. Wonderful is the person who is filled with God’s fire and lives a life filled with God, a life which flows like a fiery river out of his heart. Others are mere monuments. I want to prophetically declare today: God will rekindle many people with His fire and their hearts and their lives will change for ever!
Ask God in prayer to set you on fire and baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. If necessary, admit that once you burned but now you’re extinguished and just smoldering. We mustn’t conceal anything; everything should be open before God. Even if you are smoldering then see what is said about Jesus: the smoking flax shall he not quench (Isa 42:3). He will never quench the last spark inside of you. He will blow at your embers and till a fire flares up; till power comes down into your life and into your spirit. Ask God sincerely, “Lord, I am like a smoking candlewick or smoking flax. But today I ask you to set me on fire. Immerse my life into the fiery river of the Holy Spirit. Let my life change completely.”