Monday, July 30, 2007

Spiritual Gifts - Call Me Thomas

Having experienced Christianity in a number of denominations and cultures, there are more then a few bad teachings regarding spiritual gifts floating around out there. They come in three types.

1) NONE - The gifts do not exist since the apostles died. Any supernatural activity in the church, is of the Devil.

2) EXTREMELY RARE - They are not something that you have, or can even predictably enjoy as part of your faith, they are something that God sends when he darn well pleases.... and that is not very often. Or they exist, but we don't know how to use them.

3) WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOU IF YOU DON'T HAVE THEM? - The "Everybody has them all" and your faith is so low you can't operate in them... or worse yet, you are not even saved!

All three positions, in my view, are biblically off. There is just too much information about spiritual gifts in the Bible for this issue to end up in one of the above named "catch alls". If we look at all this scriptural information as historical, then Jesus and the church become the same, historical.

If Jesus is alive, then He ought to show up once in a while; or send a representative, don't you think? I know, blessed is poor Thomas that had to see when the rest of us can't. For crying out loud he saw Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead! Wouldn't you be convinced?

I don't think that who Jesus was, was in question with ol' Doubting Thomas. The question was, how poor pathetic Thomas would live and work with His church after the resurrection! After all, this had never been done before, and it has never happened since! Thomas had no frame of reference for working with a dead but living God. That is the struggle of Christianity... engaging with a supernatural God. It takes faith, stepping out, being humbled, love, hope and a personal relationship with Jesus.

How do we reconcile the scriptures, relate to an invisible God, and participate in the supernatural ministry of the church while doing all the regular religious stuff... and how are they connected anyway?

One question at a time. First, the Bible is very clear on spiritual gifts and there use in the body of Christ. Paul, likened them to the parts of a human body, each working together for the good of the whole. Read Romans 12, Ephesian 4 and 1 Corinthians chapters 12, 13 and 14. In my opinion that is a hell of lot of ink for something that doesn't exist. Therefore; I am going to assume that they do exist.

How do we get these gifts from God? Well Paul believed that he could impart them; probably by the laying on of hands, and prayer. Romans 1:11 For I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established... some scholars think these are intellectual gifts... why don't we just make "natural" that which is supernatural! Just call me Thomas!

Paul also said, "Romans 11:29 for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable." If you read the context, I think he is referring to ones that you receive when you are born again by faith. It appears to me, that we are either born again with spiritual gifts and/or they are imparted. I subscribe to both revelations.

If these gifts are so readily available, why don't we see more of them in action? That is a question that needs to be asked by everyone in the church, especially leaders. There are a number of facets to this answer. First, the baptism of the Holy Spirit and how that happens is in question. I believe that the fastest growing denomination in the world is A of G. Why? They understand the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. There are some other Charismatic and independent denominations that get it too. HERE is the basic doctrine if you need to look it up.

While you are asking questions, here are a few more: Do you want them? Do you covet the gifts? 1 Corinthians 14:1 Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy.

Another facet to the "why" question is training. I find that most "spirit filled" believers can't find a scriptural example of each of the 12 gifts defined in 1 Corinthians Chapter 12. Amazing, even pastors don't always know exactly what they believe. Add to that signs and wonders such as gold teeth and olive oil flowing from people's hands, and we don't seem to understand the ways God may be at work.

For those of you who edgy about gold teeth, the smell of frankincense or lilies and other signs and wonders in the church, try this verse. John 20:30 Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. For cryin' out loud, He healed a blind man with spit and mud!

I also believe there is sovereign element to spiritual gifting. I don't believe it is specifically character that God uses as a prerequisite to gifting His people. There have been hundreds of anointed Christians that were of poor character and vice versa. It also is about timing and release.

Some of the most gifted people I know, have a hard time working with a pastor that doesn't understand their particular gift, so it goes unused. Sad. Reread Ephesians chapter four, it is pretty obvious what the team is supposed to look like, what type of people should be on it, and what they are supposed to do as part of it.

The spirit is energized, so to speak, by a persons devotion to Jesus, Bible study, worship, prayer, and their ability to love others. These things affect the use of the spiritual gifts. The spiritual climate we live in, and the principalities we live under, all influence the gifts and there workings in the natural realm.

Another common question is this, "Why doesn't everyone function in all of them?" A good question with a simple answer. We are part of a body, therefore; we rely on others with gifting and they rely on us. We each need to function in our gift, working with others functioning in theirs. That is simply how the body is designed to work.

It is rare to find someone that is a great at more then one thing. Most great ball players are not great musicians. Most great organizers are not always great at details. It is the same in the spiritual gifting realm. Those who prophesy, aren't always great at healing. Those that preach, aren't always good at helping others. That is why we need a a body; a team.

Now that you see that this is possible, how do you proceed? I think that it is good to be with others that believe similarly. I also think that you should seek it out like gold. Go to conferences and churches where you hear of these things happening. Then read your Bible and do your best to judge for yourself as the Bereans did. Be careful not to fit God in to your particular worship style or denominational paradigm. You don't know everything about God and you never will.

Here is an example stereotyping in the church. I once met a man that went to a very charismatic meeting during, what was called the Toronto Blessing (I never went). I asked him what he saw there expecting to hear of salivations and healings as I had from countless others. "Well, they didn't have any pews or chairs; everyone was standing during the teaching and I noticed that no one was carrying a Bible. I just don't find that Christian," he said. "No Bibles at church."

I met another man that went to Pensacola during the "Brownsville Revival" (I never went to FL, but I did see the team in Providence, RI.) and I asked him what he saw there? He said he didn't really know how to explain it. He spent so much time on the floor after an altar call, the he said he didn't have words to describe it without tears. I asked him why he was on the floor and he replied, "because the presence of God was so great, that I couldn't stand up or get up!" In the end, he simply said, "I know I was a Christian when I got there, but now I am soooo in love with Jesus, I can't speak of it all." I believe there was a gifted preacher and ministry team there as representatives of God.

If you ask me, the gifts work where there is a need and Christians love. Reread 1 Corinthians 12 and 13.


eaglegirl said...

Now, not to flatter you David, but I can't believe there were no comments on this blog.
Maybe it was in the 'early days' of your blogging.
This is awesome and I am thrilled that you posted part of it as a comment in a blog from the church I have been attending for 9 years.
Maybe another type of bad teaching can be added. Where "Well, We Kind of Believe"= when it fits in where and when a church wants it to.
Like singing and praying 'Come Holy Spirit Come', (but only quietly please) What if He decided to come in as a mighty rushing wind blowing everyone's hair around ?
We shouldn't ask Him to come with conditions. Someday, in a place like that He just might surprise everyone and knock their socks off.

Irene said...

We finally got to go to Brownsville when the revival was really starting to slow down. The preaching and teaching were wonderful and the crowds were much less. My entire desire to go originated from seeing the intensity and “God awareness” that I saw on countless others who had gone. I wanted that so much and my desire was to bring it back to my own church.
We finally had the opportunity to go but it wasn’t what I anticipated. The Lord spoke to me quite clearly while I was there and said “Irene I am the same God in New Hampshire as I am in Brownsville and I will gladly do what I’ve done here anywhere. The difference here has been in the heart of the people. When the bride is willing to sacrifice whatever is required and she will not relent to cry out for me in absolute desperation, I will answer.”

Marg said...

I think we're mostly on the same page here except for your statement concerning the context of Romans 11:29.

Romans 11 is all about the nation of Israel. The "call" in verses 28-29 is the choosing and calling of the nation of Israel to be a nation of prophets and priests, especially set apart as God's own possession. This call is irrevocable. (And we now have a part of this calling.)

I can't see that Romans 11 speaks about spiritual ministry gifts in the church.

[BTW the Toronto blessing, etc, didn't seem to work well in Australia. It brought mostly confusion and division. :( ]

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