Reasons people don't receive the Holy Ghost
The baptism of the Holy Ghost with the initial outward evidence of speaking in tongues (a language not known naturally to the speaker) is still available today (Mk 16:17, Jn 7:37-39, Acts 2:4 & 16-18, Acts 2:39, Acts 10:43-48, Acts 19:6). It has never stopped happening since the day of Pentecost in Acts 2 and it will not until the second coming of Christ (1Cor 13:8-12). It was not just for the twelve apostles or the early Christians. It is distinctly different from spiritual gifts as described in 1Corinthians 12-14. It is not of the devil, and it is not a “bonus” gift after salvation. It is part of the conversion process (Jn 3:3-8). It is a gift or promise from God, but some people have difficulty receiving this part of the new birth. Here are some reasons that may be the case.
We need faith to receive anything from God. (Heb 11:1-6). Faith is simply the confidence God will keep His word. We need to ask in faith (Mt 7:7, Mt 21:22, Jn 16:24, Jam 4:2-3, 1Jn 3:22). Tongues are a sign that will follow believers (Mk 16:17). Many are familiar with the passage where Jesus encouraged us to believe God for good things because He is our heavenly Father (Mt 7:7-11). The parallel passage in Luke says, “how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him (Lk 11:13)?”. Jesus went to Jerusalem during the feast of tabernacles, stood in the midst of the crowd, and declared that whoever believes in Him as the scripture says will receive the Holy Ghost (Jn 7:37-39). Paul asked the Galatians, “Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith (Gal 3:2-5)?” This shows us that we cannot earn this promise. We can only receive it by faith as a gift.
Another thing we need to receive the Holy Ghost is repentance. Repentance in essence is simply acknowledging our sin, asking God to forgive us, and making a decision to turn from a sinful lifestyle to follow the Lord. God gives us repentance (Acts 5:31, Acts 11:18, Rom 2:4, 2Tim 2:25, 2Pet 3:9). He initiates this decision in our hearts, and we respond. This is not optional (Lk 13:3-5). It is part of the process of salvation in our response to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus (Acts 2:38, Rom 6:1-4, 1Cor 15:1-4, Col 2:8-12). We repent, get baptized in the name of Jesus, and receive the Holy Ghost. One must die to be resurrected. So we must repent to receive the Holy Ghost. Repentance and receiving the Holy Ghost are directly connected (Lk 24:47-49, Acts 2:38). The Holy Ghost is not a person in the Godhead and is not a feeling. It is the one Spirit of God (Jn 4:24, Eph 4:4). It is God’s nature and His presence. The main point of receiving the Holy Ghost is to make us holy in a lifelong transforming process. What’s the point of receiving the Holy Ghost without a commitment to turn from sin to God?
Another part of the salvation process is water baptism by immersion in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins (Mk 16:16, Jn 3:3-5, Acts 2:38, Rom 6:4, Col 2:12, 1Pet 3:21). You can receive the Holy Ghost before you are baptized in water, but you should follow up and do it if that happens (Acts 10:43-48). Some people are hindered from receiving the Holy Ghost not because they have not been baptized yet, but because they are reluctant to because of the commitment it represents. Sometime when people make this commitment in an act of obedience, they receive the Holy Ghost immediately.
We need forgiveness. We need to forgive others so that we can be forgiven (Mt 6:12-
15, Mt 18:21-35, Heb 12:12-15). We need others to forgive us so we can be cleared and unhindered to receive what God has for us (Mt 5:24-26). We need to trust in the forgiveness of God and not condemn ourselves and count ourselves out of His blessings (Acts 13:46). There is a difference between conviction and condemnation (Jn 3:19, Jn 5:24, Rom 5:16, Rom 8:1). Conviction is specific and moves us to repentance. Condemnation is general. It does not point out anything in particular to correct. It speaks hopelessness and not faith. Peter and Judas were both chosen by Jesus on the same day (Lk 6:13-16). They were both with Him for the 3.5 years of His ministry before He died. He warned both of them at the last supper they were going to fail Him later that night. Judas “repented himself” after his betrayal, admitted what he did, and even tried to return the money (Mt 27:3-10). However, he went out and hanged himself. After the rooster crowed the second time, Jesus looked right at Peter and he went out and wept bitterly (Lk 22:61-62). Yet despite his failure, he stayed among the disciples and was restored by Jesus (Mk 16:7, Jn 21). He led the early church (Acts 1-12), preached on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2) and in Jerusalem (Acts 3-6) and Samaria (Acts 8). He led the beginning of the Gentile outreach (Acts 10), and he wrote two books of the Bible (1Pet and 2Pet). That is the difference between conviction and condemnation. There is also a difference between self-esteem and finding our sense of value in God. When God honors us, that is far better than when we honor ourselves (1Sam 2:30, 1Ki 3:13, 1Chr 29:12, Ps 8:5, Ps 91:15, Prov 4:8, Jn 5:41 & 44, Jn 8:54, Jn 12:26, Rom 2:29, 1Cor 4:5, 2Cor 10:18, 2Pet 1:27). Jesus said your soul is worth more than the whole world (Mt 16:26). How much is that? While it is impossible to calculate a precise number, one very conservative attempt says at least $550 quadrillion.
We need to stop “trying” to get the Holy Ghost and just receive this gift. When it is your birthday and someone gives you a gift, you don’t have to “get” it, you just receive it. The giver has already thought about you and planned to give you something. They picked out the gift and payed the price for it. All you have to do is receive it. God wants us to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:38). Jesus already died so we can. We can’t deserve or earn it (2Cor 9:14-15). It is by grace. As the old saying goes, "We don't get good to get God. We get God to get good." We can’t figure out or learn how to speak with tongues. It is as the Spirit gives the utterance (Acts 2:4). The carnal mind cannot receive the things of the Spirit (Rom 8, 1Cor 1-2). We don’t understand it (1Cor 14:2 & 14). God is not putting undue pressure on us to do it. It is His working. We just need to focus on seeking Him and His gift and He will take care of what we cannot do by ourselves. That’s the whole point of tongues – a sign that God is giving us something supernatural. Start in your native tongue and let God take you there. You can’t speak in tongues with your mouth closed, but you can’t do it in your earthly ability.
We need to avoid comparing ourselves with others (2Cor 10:12). Each individual has their own unique experience. God works with our personality. Some people have a more emotional or demonstrative experience while others have a more subdued one. The only commonality is tongues.
We need to ensure we do not let the past be a hindrance. Sometimes people get discouraged by past attempts to receive the Holy Ghost that did not result in tongues. Every encounter with God has meaning and brings us closer to the fulness of what He wants to do. We should not let instructions from past “helpers” to confuse us. Perhaps a misguided person did not count your experience because it did not meet their expectations and told you that you did not receive the Holy Ghost when you did. Perhaps they meant well but were more of a distraction or confusing than a help. There are even a few that think they can “impart” the gift or teach how to speak with tongues and have you try to repeat after them. Those are not scriptural things (Acts 8:18-24). Only God can give this gift and we speak in unknown tongues as He gives the utterance. Yesterday is not the day of salvation. Today is (2Cor 6:2).
Sometimes we build up false expectations in our minds of what it will be like, and when it does not conform to that, we think we did not get it. We receive the Holy Ghost by faith, not feeling. Emotion is fine but it is not the basis of faith. Naaman was the general of the Syrian army but he had leprosy (2Ki 5). He heard about the Israelite prophet Elisha and went to him to be healed. He had imagined how Elisha was going to perform the miracle, and when Elisha instructed him to go wash in the Jordan River, he was going to go home angry without a miracle. Someone talked some sense into him and he did what the prophet said although it made no sense to him. He was instantly healed. We just need to place our faith in God and do what He says, and He will take care of the results. If strange words are coming to us to speak and the situation “feels weird”, we just need to press through and not shut it down because of that. God will honor His word and not do something unscriptural or unrighteous to us.