"The Lord is inviting you. He's calling on you now. He wants you to come forward and be baptized. Why don't you accept him?" the preacher pleaded as the
choir sang melodiously in the background.
Should I go forward and be baptized at this time? I was sitting toward the back of the congregation during my first visit to this particular church. The sanctuary was full, with around 150 people present.
The pastor had preached boldly as he repeatedly warned the congregation of the consequences of sin. At the end of the sermon, a lively instrumental band began to play. When the preacher sang along with the band, exhorting the listeners toward greater righteousness, most of the congregation began to stand up.
The preacher then made his plea for the unsaved to step forward and have their sins washed away in baptism. The choir modulated to a higher key to increase
On most Sunday mornings I attended a Christian church service prior to engaging in my ministry at the Venice Beach boardwalk. I usually attended a different denomination each week in order to educate myself regarding their various worship styles and beliefs. In my morning meditation I sometimes received specific instructions telling me to attend a certain congregation.
On this particular morning, I was directed to go to the Peace Apostolic Christian Church, located in the Los Angeles suburb of Inglewood. Not expecting anything special to happen to me at this church, I was destined for a big surprise.
I had originally been invited to this church by Dan, one of its members. Dan and I met one evening the previous week during witnessing work for the Lord in a local shopping mall. At the end of our interesting conversation, Dan invited me to his church.
Invitation to Repent of My Sins.
The preacher continued his rousing baptismal invitation. "Jesus is speaking to your heart right now," he declared. "He is beckoning you to commit yourself to him."
I wondered whether I should step forward and be baptized. I recalled Muriel stating that at some point in the future she would conduct a baptismal service for the members of the New Lighted Way. I rationalized that it would be best to wait until I met up with Muriel again and was personally baptized by her.
"There is someone else here who has not publicly confessed his faith," the minister exhorted. "The Lord is calling on you to wash your sins away. Come forward and accept his forgiveness." The choir sang even more intensely.
"Perhaps I should do it now," I said to myself. "No, not yet; this isn't the right
place," I countered.
Deciding to meditate on the matter, I closed my eyes and tuned inward. Immediately I had a flash vision of a being like Jesus Christ standing in front of me. He was dressed in a long white robe and held out his arms. "Come unto me," he beckoned.
I heard my mind confirm, "The time is now. Get baptized!"
My stomach turned queasy. The palms of my hands began to perspire.
But without further hesitation, I jumped to my feet and walked nervously to the front.
The entire congregation cheered and shouted. "Hallelujah!" "Praise the Lord!"
As I was led into a changing room, my guts sank into a nervous quiver. A deacon handed me a white baptismal robe. My initial anxiety seemed to melt away as I put on the garment. In its place, excitement blossomed at the prospect of being baptized.
The deacon led me to the baptistry at the very front of the sanctuary. Stepping down a ladder, I eased into the icy water.
"Will Baron, do you repent of your sins and accept the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal saviour?" the pastor asked.
"I do," I replied, nodding my head.
It was not easy for me to listen to the words of the preacher standing next to me in the water. Ever since I had left the changing room, the inner voice of Jesus had been talking to me with power.
"There is a change of plan," the voice announced. "Do not go to Venice Beach this afternoon. Instead, witness to the people at Carson Mall."
The pastor raised his arm in the air.
"I baptize you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins."
"You have to do my work," Jesus scolded.
I felt myself being pulled backward. Cascading water flushed over my head.
The voice of Jesus was relentless. "By being baptized, you are now totally committing yourself to do my work," it emphasized sternly. "There is to be no more hesitating, complaining, or procrastinating."
I stumbled up the ladder out of the baptismal tank.
"Go forth and minister with greater zeal," Jesus commanded.
As I walked from the baptistry, members of the church staff approached me.
"Praise the Lord, Brother Will," they congratulated as they shook my hand. "Hal-
lelujah!" "Praise the Lord."
Jesus continued his strict instructions: "You are now to spend all of your spare time working for me," he commanded. "Go down to the mall and witness to those poor lost souls. Tell them about my soon return and the glorious kingdom I will set up on this planet."
In dripping attire, I was escorted back to the changing room. After toweling and putting on my clothes, I left the room and began walking down the corridor. An elderly, heavyset woman approached me.
"Now that you have been baptized, would you like to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit?" she asked in a gentle voice.
I sensed that she must be some kind of church elder. "Holy Spirit?" I responded, with a questioning frown.
"Yes. Now that you have been baptized of water, you can be baptized of the Holy Ghost, if you ask for it," she declared. "But you must want to receive it."
"You mean I can receive the Holy Spirit right now? Here?" I inquired doubtfully.
"Yes, this is what the Bible promises. Everyone at Peace Apostolic who has been baptized and who then asks for the gift of the Holy Ghost has received the baptism of the Holy Ghost, as evidenced by the speaking in tongues.
After a pause to catch her breath, the woman repeated her question. "Do you
want to receive the Holy Ghost?"
I focused inward to listen to my higher self. "Do it," I clearly heard.
"Yes, I'd like to receive the Holy Ghost," I told the woman.
She led me into what appeared to be the church committee room, where I took a seat at a large polished wooden table. Telling me she would return shortly, the woman walked out of the room.
My mind drifted back to when I first met Dan in the mall a few days before. At the time, I was doing my mall witnessing activity in the evening after work. When I first approached Dan, he was sitting alone on a bench. I initially asked him if he were a Christian.
"Oh yes, I am a Christian. I am a born-again believer, and I have received the baptism of the Holy Spirit."
"Baptism of the Holy Spirit? What is that?" I asked in surprise. "Do you mind if I talk to you about it?"
"No, I don't mind at all. I will be glad to tell you about it. Sit down," he invited.
"My name is Dan," he said, introducing himself. He proceeded to tell me how he accepted the Lord and how he later received the baptism the Holy Spirit. He carefully explained that receiving the gift of tongues was not the same thing as receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit. He stressed that the gift of tongues was only an outward manifestation of the gifts of the Spirit.
"Speaking in tongues is not the thing to desire," Dan emphasized. "The thing to desire is the baptism of the Holy Spirit."
Finding the topic interesting, I bombarded him with questions.
"You know, Will, when you have been baptized by the Holy Spirit, unusual things can happen as the spirit works through you. For example, it is not by accident that we have met one another. The Holy Spirit brought us together."
"Oh yes, I can appreciate that," I responded.
Dan continued, "Five minutes ago I was walking out of this mall, right out of that exit." He pointed to a nearby exit. "All of a sudden an inner voice told me to turn around and sit on one of the benches."
I thought, Inner voice, hmm, that's interesting.
"I couldn't understand why I should go back and sit down," Dan commented. "But I could sense the Spirit prompting me. So I came over to sit on this very bench. Just a few seconds after I sat down, you walked up to me."
I was fascinated. I hadn't realized that regular Christians received instructions from inner voices just as I did.
"It was the Holy Spirit," Dan affirmed. "He was telling me to sit on this bench, because the Holy Spirit wanted us to meet. We did not meet by chance; it was by divine intention. The Holy Spirit works in mysterious ways."
Deeply intrigued by Dan's claim to have been baptized by the Holy Spirit, I asked, "Dan, tell me. How can I receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit?"
He looked me straight in the eye and said seriously, "You need to attend a church that has the Holy Spirit and believes in the baptism of the Holy Spirit. You won't receive the gift of the Holy Spirit while among people who don't believe in it."
Dan invited me to his church and left me with directions on how to get there.
My attention suddenly returned to the committee room at Peace Apostolic. The church elder had reentered the room, accompanied by a younger woman, who proceeded to sit down at the opposite side of the table. Apparently, this younger woman had just been baptized, and the two of us appeared to be the candidates for
receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The church elder seated herself at the head of the table and handed each of us a King James Version Bible. Picking up her own Bible, she started to leaf through
I thought to myself, I have had so many mystical experiences as a devoted New Age Christian that I am sure God will consider me a suitable candidate to receive the special gift of his Holy Spirit.
The church elder began to speak.
"The Bible tells us that if we repent and are baptized, we will receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. This is promised in Acts chapter two, verses thirty-eight and thirty-nine."
She looked down at her Bible, adjusted the positioning of her round-lensed spectacles, and read the two verses aloud. "Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call" (KJV).
She looked up at the young woman and me. "The Bible promises the gift of the Holy Ghost to those who repent and have been baptized. You have repented and are baptized. Shortly you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Everyone at Peace Apostolic who has been baptized and who wants the gift of the Holy Ghost has received it. We have never had anyone who has not received the gift."
With that kind of guarantee, I started to anticipate something marvelous happening.
The elderly lady continued to explain, "The Bible tells us clearly that the evidence of receiving the Holy Ghost is the ability to speak in tongues." She then read Acts 2:4 and Acts 10:44-46.
My thoughts wandered back to the conversation with Dan in the mall. I recalled his telling me that few Christians had received the baptism of the Holy Spirit and that the gift was important.
The church elder quoted a couple more texts related to the Holy Ghost and the speaking of tongues before asking us whether we believed what we had just read. When we replied Yes, she stood up and asked us to follow her into the sanctuary. It was deserted except for a small group of young women standing near the front, who were identified as assisting ministers.
The two of us were asked to kneel at the altar rail. The young women surrounded us.
"In order to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost," the elder instructed, "you have to thank Jesus for saving you. Say out loud, 'Thank you, Jesus.' Keep saying it until the Holy Ghost comes upon you.
Closing my eyes, I folded my hands and quietly said, "Thank you, Jesus, for saving me."
"Louder. And keep saying it," the elder encouraged.
"Thank you, Jesus, for saving me. Thank you, Jesus, for saving me," I repeated.
"Don't stop," interjected one of the young assisting ministers. "Keep repeating,
"Thank-you-Jesus. Thank-you-Jesus," I cried out.
I stalled to catch my breath.
"Don't stop!" another minister shouted. "Keep saying it. Aren't you glad Jesus has saved you? Keep thanking him for it."
I continued to repeat "Thank-you-Jesus" several times over.
"Louder!" bellowed another assistant. "Shout at the top of your voice. Tell Jesus how thankful you are. Come on, keep saying it, 'Thank-you-Jesus.' 'Thank-you-Jesus.'"
The other candidate and I continued to repeat the phrases we were instructed
The young assistants began to act like cheerleaders, shouting encouragement
and exhorting us to keep repeating "Thank-you-Jesus."
Suddenly the crash of something falling interrupted us. My eyes glanced open.
In the excitement, one of the assisting ministers had accidentally fallen back against
the pulpit, almost knocking it over. In the commotion, the large wooden cross in
front of the pulpit was knocked off and crashed down upon the floor.
Quickly closing my eyes, I resumed thanking Jesus for my deliverance from damnation. The cheerleaders continued their exhortations as the sanctuary echoed with the din of our plea.
After what seemed like ages, my voice became hoarse with fatigue. How can this be a "gift" from God if I must work so hard for it? I wondered.
Immediately I countered this negative thought with a positive one: While I am here, I should do everything I can to obey the instructions; I should give it everything I've got.
"Thank you, Jesus," I immediately shouted in earnest, repeating it several times.
I recalled the statement made by the church elder that every candidate at Peace Apostolic had received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. I clung to the belief that if I kept doing as I was told, I would eventually receive the gift.
After several more minutes of chanting, I had difficulty speaking, as if my jaw were ready to go into some kind of spasm.
The elder and assistants became excited and implored, "Let the words come. Don't resist; just let them out."
I tried to speak, "Thank you, Jesus," but couldn't. My lips were quivering in an involuntary spasm.
The candidate next to me emitted a shrieking, babbling sound, a bit like Swiss yodeling.
"Keep going. Don't stop," an assistant blurted as I momentarily lost concentration listening to the other candidate.
Disciplining myself to continue until I received the gift, I noticed that the quivering of my throat soon changed into an utterance in a language I couldn't identify. Soon it became easy for me to speak out in this peculiar tongue. I felt as if I were channeling, just the way I used to do in the Lighted Way channeling groups - but this time I was channeling in an unknown language. I did not know what the words meant; the tongue sounded something like I imagined Russian to sound.
I was relieved when it was over, for I felt exhausted.
The sanctuary was silent. I opened my eyes. The assisting ministers were picking up the wooden cross and securing it back in place in front of the pulpit.
The elder was quietly kneeling beside me. I asked her whether she understood the language of the Holy Spirit.
"No," she calmly replied. Then she asked me gently, "What are you going to do now?"
Without hesitation, I boldly replied, "I am going to do the Lord's work. What else is there to do?"
I was referring to the mall witnessing task that the voice of Jesus had commanded me to carry out that afternoon. I got up and left.
As I write this book, I can't help but compare the experience at Peace Apostolic with a later baptism I received. This water-immersion ceremony occurred a few months after the real Holy Spirit had rescued me from the bondage of Satan and his evil web of deceit. On this latter occasion, I was baptized into a relationship with the authentic Jesus Christ, God and Son of the Father Most High.
As I entered the water, no voices hounded me to do their work. I spent the entire day filled with the simple joy of peace in the Lord. I was experiencing salvation by grace - salvation by faith in what Jesus had done for me.
Commentary on Satan and Gifts of the Spirit.
When I spoke in tongues at Peace Apostolic Church, it was obvious that the manifestation could not have been the work of the Holy Spirit because I was a disciple of Satan. It also seems to me that the methodology used by the Peace Apostolic Church to precipitate the "gift" of the Holy Spirit is also non-scriptural. The repetitive shouting of "Thank you, Jesus" is contrary to the admonition of Jesus in Matthew 6:7: "When you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words."
You may be wondering whether Satan has the power to counterfeit the gifts of the Holy Spirit - such as healing and speaking in tongues - in our day.
Jesus stated that "false prophets will appear and perform signs and miracles to deceive the elect" (Mark 13:22).
Think back to the days of the prophet Elijah. During the reign of King Ahab, God's prophet challenged 450 prophets of Baal to a contest on Mount Carmel to prove who was the true God, Baal or the Lord. Each contestant built a stone altar with wood and a sacrificial bull placed on it. The prophets were then to take turns calling upon their God to bring fire down from heaven to ignite their offering. The God who answered with fire would be declared the true God.
The Baal prophets pleaded from morning till evening. They even lacerated themselves with swords to make blood flow. But Baal did not respond.
Elijah then had four large containers of water poured on his offering. This was repeated twice. After his call to God, fire came down and consumed not only the offering, but also the altar stones and all the water.
Apparently in the Old Testament times, Satanic power was restricted and could not match the power of God to bring fire down from heaven.
Contrast this situation with the prophecies of Revelation concerning the end times and the era of the Antichrist, symbolized by the beast out of the earth.
John describes the beast:
He performed great and miraculous signs, even causing fire to come
down from heaven to earth in full view of men. Because of the signs
..... he deceived the in habitants of the earth (Revelation 13:13, 14).
The Bible seems to reveal that in the last days, Satan will be allowed to duplicate powers that were once the special prerogative of the Holy Spirit.
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