March 18, 2015

Back to Basics

A little boy once told his mother that Jesus promised to give her another quilt. When pressed, he insisted that “in John 14:16 Jesus said God will send us another comforter.”

There’s an important analogy between a quilt, also called a comforter, and the Holy Spirit, our Comforter. The former provides warmth and comfort for refreshing rest while we’re being deluged with days of pelting snow. The latter is the Comforter, who gives refreshing rest in Jesus, to be at peace at all times. There are other significant differences between the two. For while each person has to purchase their own quilt that is restricted to covering a bed, the Holy Spirit freely covers believers with a variety of gifts that edify the church (1 Cor. 12).

When believers are hungry to know the Lord more intimately and examine the gifts of the Holy Spirit for revival, the Holy Spirit immediately puts a proverbial shovel and broom in their hands, because the first step in any spiritual renewal is demolition, the tearing down of strongholds with the dynamite of prayer! We cannot make headway in seeking and finding a deeper relationship with God that leads to more effective service for others without demolishing the accumulated junk in our spiritual lives. We have to shovel out every filthy, ignored, or excused habit, followed by a clean sweep of all the sinful debris left behind.

Only then can we recognize the power of spiritual gifts and talents to transform lives and change the world. Several decades ago great debates about and books on the distinction between natural talents and spiritual gifts appeared. There should be no such difference, because every talent—like spiritual gifts—comes only by the grace of God and the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit.

We must understand the permanence of spiritual gifts. The New Testament nowhere indicates that gifts are given, then withdrawn. However, ample evidence exists that some gifts will recede and others will come to the forefront, while still others—unnamed in biblical lists—will manifest themselves according to the hour of earth’s history and the needs of the church before Jesus comes (see 1 Cor. 13:8-10).

Spiritual gifts are given to serve God and others. They are not given to build our ego or increase our already-inflated views of ourselves. What counts most in heaven is our relationship with Christ. For decades we’ve mistakenly placed the emphasis on discovering our spiritual gifts rather than on using them. We’ve held seminars and workshops, conducted questionnaires and surveys. But God’s concern is not our scores, but that we use the many gifts He has generously endowed His beloved church, such as those nine listed in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10.

The first group is “gifts of special insights,” including wisdom, knowledge, and discerning of spirits. Wisdom, an attribute appropriated by God to believers, has more to do with character and conduct (Prov. 1:2-6). Knowledge comes from a fear of the Lord (verse 7) and intellectual enlightenment, or accumulation of facts. Together they mature into the gift of distinguishing or discerning between divine and counterfeit spirits.

The second group consists of “gifts of utterance,” various languages with interpretation, considered inferior by Paul, and prophecy (the third in this group), which is numbered among the greater gifts of the Spirit (1 Cor. 14:1-5).

The third group is “gifts of action,” such as faith, a special endowment from above to do exceptional exploits for God, beyond that which all believers are given. The gift of healing is marked by the possession of, and obedience to, divine knowledge, to heal those whom God has so ordained. The effecting of miracles is described in Greek as “mighty, effectual works of power,” but they are not the magic signs and wonders portrayed on television. Although it may involve some fantastic acts that defy the laws of nature, the real purpose of this gift is redemption, the greatest of all miracles.

Let’s continue to pray for this Comforter.