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SPIRITUAL GIFTS - THE CHURCH'S TOOL BOX

 

INTRODUCTION:

 

As evangelical believers, we have long since believed and taught the importance of THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT as set out in passages like Galatians 5/22,23. This emphasis has been absolutely right because these character qualities are, in fact, what the Holy Spirit wants to re-produce in our lives as He makes us more like our Master, Jesus Christ.  

 

Yet we have not been as committed (in belief or practice) to the Spirit's ministry when it comes to THE GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT. This is strange because the same Spirit who wants to form in us the character of Jesus (fruit) also wants to accomplish through us the ministry of Jesus (gifts) as He equips us to continue the work of Jesus in our world through His new Body, the Church.  

 

The reason why that imbalance between the FRUIT and the GIFTS of the Spirit exists in our lives is not hard to find because there are few more controversial issues in the Church today than this subject of the "gifts of the Spirit". The caution, fear, ignorance and resistance that is so evident is very understandable when we consider the extremes and abuses that have often accompanied both the teaching and practice on this theme.  

 

Extravagant claims and counter-claims have often polarized the people of God in a way that must grieve the Holy Spirit and that has certainly hindered the Church's effectiveness in ministry. We need to understand that the FRUIT and GIFTS of the Spirit do not present us with an "either/or" situation; the Holy Spirit wants to mature BOTH within our lives as individuals and as a Church.  

 

I believe that the extremes (at both ends of the theological spectrum) which have gathered around this subject are the result of another brilliant strategy on the part of the arch enemy of the Kingdom of God. Satan has effectively deceived us into arguing about (or ignoring) the Spirit's gifts so that we do not use them to build up the Body of Christ. In this way, we remain less effective in our warfare as we seek to invade and destroy his dark kingdom and liberate men and women from his tyranny.  

 

I believe that the Holy Spirit imparts His gifts or "enablings" to the Church so that we can minister in His power and ability, fulfilling God's work in God's way with God's results. Yet, like the Corinthian believers (I Cor.12/1), we are largely ignorant of these gifts - their nature, function and purpose. In our ignorance, we can easily respond to the issue of spiritual gifts in ways that are both well-meaning and sincere but Spirit-grieving and destructive.  

 

Further, to ignore this subject because it is controversial is to condone ignorance and to invite the enemy of truth to fill it with his own brand of misinformation and deception.   The tension that surrounds the subject of the Spirit's Gifts ought not to deflect us from searching the Scriptures and responding to the Word of God and what it teaches us concerning the Spirit's gifts that are available for ministry today.

 

I offer this study series with the invitation to prayerfully explore with me this dimension of Christian life and ministry.   A major reason for undertaking such a series as this is to bring a new awareness of the enormous resources that God has given us as we seek to fulfill His purposes in our world. Received with gratitude and exercised with love and maturity, these divine enablings or abilities can bring a new level of spiritual effectiveness as we minister in God's Kingdom.

 

Because of the emotive nature of this subject I would make one further appeal: please monitor your attitude right the way through the series. Issues in and of themselves are never responsible for creating tension and division. Attitudes are the cause of such negative responses. In each of the four major passages on spiritual gifts in the New Testament, reference to LOVE is always close by.

 

Let the starting point for this series be the following exercise. Take time to check the following passages referring to spiritual gifts and see if you can find the 'love reference' in close proximity - It might be in the chapter given or one either side

 

Romans 12/3-8   The reference to love is found in ___________________________

1 Corinthians 12/1-11  The reference to love is found in ______________________

Ephesians 4/11-13  The reference to love is found in _________________________

1 Peter 4/10,11  The reference to love is found in ___________________________

 

LOVE is the indispensable environment for the operation of the Spirit's Gifts. You may have already adopted a position - positive or negative - about this theme. I urge you to submit your position to the authority of Scripture. Please don't let your experience (good or bad) have greater authority than the Word of God. The determining question must always be, "What is the Holy Spirit teaching us through His Word".  

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