I have a background in art. If someone asked me to ‘prove it’ should I pull out documents that show the courses I’ve taken? Or should I show them the work in my portfolio? I’m thinking of that old saying, “The proof of the pudding is in the eating!”
I’m thinking of a friend who insists that the greatest evidence of being filled with the Holy Spirit is speaking in tongues. In her mind, if that happens all is well. She points to the New Testament account of what happened to Jesus’ disciples after He returned to heaven . . .
“When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:1–4)
Most Christians understand this was a one-time event to fulfill the promise Jesus made in John 14:16: “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever.”
That the Holy Spirit came was made evident by the wind, tongues of file, and the ability to speak in languages they did not know. Because it was Pentecost, the city was filled with people who spoke those languages so this evidence not only convinced the new Christians that the Spirit had arrived, it also enabled many people to hear the Gospel in their own language.
Today, missionaries must do language study for being filled with the Spirit soon gave way to an even more spectacular evidence — He changes the lives of God’s people. This is an internal change that becomes visible to others. That is, the Spirit enters our spirit and gives us His life. Obviously change happens, sometimes quickly. The life of the Spirit moves from the deepest part of us to affect our thoughts, emotions and will. Our body begins to take orders from a new Master.
However, the flesh or old nature fights change. Depending on qualities like humility and obedience, this can be a short battle or a longer one. When the Spirit takes charge of the whole person, that person is Spirit-filled.
“For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” (Galatians 5:17–26)
Speaking in tongues happens in cults. It also happens in professing Christians whose lives are fleshy as described above. While Spirit-filled believers also speak in tongues, a far more convincing evidence of the Holy Spirit is His fruit and that the fleshy life being put to death. Pride and other nasties are abandoned and the life of Christ becomes evident as proof that the Holy Spirit is there and given priority.
Tozer says, “I do not believe in a repetition of Pentecost, but I do believe in a perpetuation of Pentecost—and there is a vast difference between the two; Pentecost did not come and go, but Pentecost came and stayed.” The abiding element was not wind, fire and tongues but the Holy Spirit Himself, the Comforter Jesus promised.
Jesus, You sent the Spirit to fill Your people and abide in us. He shows the reality of You as He gives new life, the grace and strength to live godly lives and do Your will. That came, that stayed. You have called me to live in that fullness, with intensity and purity that is the evidence that You are in me. Only You can make happen that amazing kind of life. Speaking in tongues is an intimacy of communicating with You, but as the Scriptures say, it is of little value in telling the world the Good News without an interpreter, whereas love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control need no interpreter only a yielded life.