So, we are on a teaching series right now where we are learning about what it means to be the Lord’s witnesses. And like I’ve made the point of, this is a much bigger part of our calling in Christ than most Christians believe.
You see, we live in a day where believers are focused on discovering their identity and understand what Jesus has done for them. And while knowing these things is critical, it is also important to understand what is expected of us after we’ve received His love & grace—and that is, we are called to be witnesses for Him.
So, church, we need to recognize how big of a part that our witness plays in our life here on the earth. It’s the reason the Lord physically left us here even though we’ve been raised up together with Him. It’s our purpose!
So, we started off talking about the power to be a witness. In other words, we have looked at the promised Holy Spirit and seen the role He plays in making us effective witnesses for Christ. And we discovered that in order for us to be lights to the world, we have to have power to do so. And this power is that second work of grace that is available to us when the Holy Spirit comes upon us and we are filled with Him.
Over the past two weeks, we’ve been looking at the word “witness” and we’ve learned that the Greek word used is martys, which is where we get our word “martyr” from.
So, when we think of the term “martyr”, we think of a person who gives their life for the Gospel—meaning, they are put to death because of their faith and/or the sharing of it. But the fact is, in the original sense of the word, a “martyr” was not just one who died for their faith; it is one who lived for their faith! Might we say that a witness—a martys—is one who is “dying to testify of Jesus Christ”?
Well, the fact is, we did die to become a witness because everyone who has called on the name of the Lord and been born again “died” to themselves and had their old man crucified in Him. Therefore, we have been born & created as His witnesses.
But our point was that a martys (mar-tose) is someone who is so committed to the cause of Christ that they are not only willing to die for what they believe but they will live their lives committed to bearing witness of what they believe.
So, are you a “martyr”? Am I a “martyr”? Are we someone who is willing to both live & die for our faith and are living our lives to testify of Him and make Him known? This is what I believe the mentality of the early church was and ought to be the same mind that is in us. Amen?
Now last week, we looked at Revelation 12:11 and learned how overcoming the devil in those he has blinded is done—by three things: 1. The blood of the Lamb 2. The word of our testimony 3. Not loving our lives to the death.
If you missed that one or any of the others for that matter, go back and listen to what the Lord has been teaching us about being His witnesses.
But again, our emphasis has been that of Acts 1:8—that we have received power to be Christ’s witnesses because of the Holy Spirit and therefore are called to testify of Him!
WHERE DO I START THEN?
So, the question many of us might have is – “Where do I start?” I mean, the immensity of the call can be so overwhelming because there are so many people out there who need Christ. Therefore, it can be intimidating to consider what the Lord expects out of us as His witnesses.
Well, I believe Jesus gave us a very practical directive to fulfilling His great commission of being Christ’s witnesses in Acts 1:8. In this verse, He said that His disciples would be His witnesses— “in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
So, I want you to notice that the places the Lord called them to be His witnesses in was progressive: He started in Jerusalem, which (as you are about to see) was the city where they were currently at. Judea and Samaria were the regions surrounding their city. And to the ends of the earth obviously included everywhere beyond the previous two. So, let’s look at all three of these in detail…
First of all, notice that the first place that Jesus mentioned for His Jewish disciples to begin was the city where they were currently at—Jerusalem:
You see, we know this is where they would be because in Luke 24:49, Jesus told them to tarry in Jerusalem until they were endued with power from on high. Therefore, when Jesus said in this verse that they would receive this power when the Holy Spirit would come upon them, He was referring to them being witnesses in the place they were doing the “tarrying”—thus, they would be in Jerusalem.
So let me say that it’s rather obvious that each one of us are not called to begin in the city of Jerusalem like Jesus’ disciples were; no, we are called to begin in our own “Jerusalem”—which is in the place where we are at. Therefore, geographically speaking, our “Jerusalem” could describe our neighborhood, our county, or our city—depending on how far reaching you want to make it.
You see, we are to find the places and opportunities around us in the “city” in which we live and take advantage of them. Yes, we need to actively be looking for the opportunities contained in our center of influence and comfort zone as much as we can! The possibilities are limitless. The key is just possessing a sense of urgency and an acute awareness of the opportunities around us!
Now I don’t believe we need to only look at this geographically either. Our “Jerusalem” can also describe certain people in our lives like our family, friends, co-workers, etc. So, in essence, our “Jerusalem” would be those close to us and where we are at. That’s where we are first called to be His witnesses.
What this teaches me is that one of the places that we need to put our focus on is our own household and in the household of God.
Have you ever noticed that from the Lord Jesus to the apostle Paul, they always went to the Jews first. Yes, when Paul went into a new city, he would go to the synagogue first. Jesus Himself was not called to the Gentiles but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. This is why Paul said in Romans 1:16 that this salvation is to the Jew first and then to the Greek. Yes, this describes those born Jewish, but it can also be applied to those who call themselves Christians and are churched.
We need never forget that—that the Lord has called us to be His witnesses within these church walls by loving one another. And this certainly applies to when we get together with other believers of other churches & denominations, which we are currently doing through Hope for the Heart of Georgia.
This should be a practical lesson for us that when it comes to fulfilling the great commission we do not need to get bogged down by the immensity of the call and try to figure out where does the Lord want me to go. As Jesus said, we just need to begin where we are at! We need to first find the opportunities contained in our “Jerusalem” and be witnesses to those who are around us.
Then notice what Jesus told them next: He told them that they would go into all of Judea and Samaria. This was the surrounding country and region around the city that they lived in.
Now the fact that Jesus mentions Judea first is significant in the fact that Judea was one of the few regions of Israel and it was where the city of Jerusalem was located. So geographically speaking, our “Judea” might be the state we reside in. So whatever we consider our “Jerusalem” to be, our “Judea” is the much more expansive part of it—like if we look at our “Jerusalem” as our immediate family, then our “Judea” would be our more far reaching family members like our uncles, aunts, cousins, etc. If we consider our “Jerusalem” our friends who are close to us, then our “Judea” would be those who are just outside of our inner circle of friends. Do you get the point? Our “Judea” are those who are around us, which I’ll describe here in a moment …
But our “Samaria” is different than our “Judea” in more ways than one.
You see, to the Jews, Samaria was not their preferred place of evangelism. There was a lot of religious prejudice there, so the Jews & Samaritans did not care much for each other.
So our “Samaria” is obvious: Geographically, it would be the places that are outside of our comfort zone. Like, for instance, to the southerner who was born & raised in Georgia, “Samaria” might be the northerner that talks a little differently and culturally, might be a little out of their comfort zone. But symbolically, the “Samaritan” might simply be the person who is different than you religiously, culturally, racially, sexually…the list can go on and on.
The bottom line is, Jesus was telling His disciples that they are not just called to be witnesses to those who are like them both physically and spiritually, but to those they don’t necessarily like, those who are different than them, etc.
Church, this is the Lord’s heart—that we possess His perfect love that goes beyond just loving our friends & family to loving the stranger & our enemies.
Therefore, when we have done what we could do in our “Jerusalem”, we are to move on to “Judea and Samaria” which is symbolic of the places surrounding our circle of influence. This would obviously be the opportunities we are surrounded with and see in the “marketplace” or the place just simply outside of our comfort zone like Samaria was to the Jew.
You see, we all want to stay in our “Jerusalem’s” (i.e. the places where we are comfortable and that we are familiar with), but God has called us to eventually move out of our comfort zone and into a ministry that might stretch us. That would certainly be in the grocery store, the movie theatre, the airport, etc. So be aware of those “Samaria’s” that the Holy Spirit might desire to manifest Himself through you unto.
And, last but not least, He included all of the earth so that they were not confused about His intention to preach the gospel to every creature all around the world. So, this is a process to expand until we have covered the whole earth! Jesus has plans for His kingdom to spread like leaven until it fills the whole earth and this is only going to occur as you and I first claim our “Jerusalem’s” and then our “Judea’s and Samaria’s.”
Now going “to the end of the earth” is obviously not for everyone—for the Lord is not going to call all of us to go to the far reaches of the earth to share the gospel. Now some of us might be called to go outside of this nation to be His witnesses, but I would venture to say that most of us will not physically go beyond our “Judea / Samaria.” But here is what is awesome …
In this world we live in today where with just one click of a button you can communicate with people all around the world, we have an awesome opportunity to share the gospel and be a light from our own home!
Jesus taught us in Matthew 24:14 that this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world and then the end will come. And I believe the technology that we possess today is a big way that this is capable of happening.
So I see this as another way that we can be witnesses! We can utilize the technology that we’ve been blessed with today to share the Word with people! We can use email, social media platforms, YouTube, etc. to spread the Gospel and share what God has done in our lives!
Of course, we know the devil has used these things for his purposes, but I believe God gave us the technology we have today to promote His agenda. So even though the devil has perverted it, using it for his purposes, that doesn’t mean that God doesn’t want us using it for cause of Christ. So, here’s the lesson in this: Let’s use it for His glory! Let’s take the tools God’s given us to be His witness to the ends of the earth!
I can’t tell you how many times I have posted a Scripture or an exhortation online on something like Facebook and get responses thanking me saying, “That was just for me today!” or “I needed to hear that.” Personally, I have a lisp when I refer to Facebook—To me, it’s faithbook! Lol.
I also use things like Facebook & YouTube to promote videos & teachings. I have over 10,000 people watching these things weekly. And that’s not just because I’m a pastor/minister. It’s simply because I’m utilizing the tools God has given to me, and figuring out the best ways to use them.
What I’m saying is that there are a lot of ways to witness and testify of the glory & goodness of God to people that I might never see face to face. So we need to use those vehicles to be His witnesses to the ends of the earth.
The bottom line, church, is that we love people. If we love our neighbor as ourselves, we will be a great witness in our own Jerusalem, in our Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Having God’s love in our hearts for others is the key, accompanied by having the right perspective on eternity.
So I would like to end today by sharing with you what I consider to be a parable that perfectly illustrates what it means to be a witness in all of these places in our lives—the Parable of the Good Samaritan.
THE PARABLE OF THE GOOD SAMARITAN
This parable is one that Jesus taught to answer the question of who our neighbor is:
You see, the Lord said that one of the greatest commandments is to love our neighbor as we do ourselves. Well, the real question then that comes up is “Who is my neighbor?” If you recall, this was a question that a lawyer asked Jesus, seeking to justify himself.
You see, what this religious dude was trying to do was determine where the line was. What I mean by that is he wanted specific requirements to having eternal life, so that he could do the bare minimum to “pass the class.” But Jesus did not let people do this—because it’s not just about following a bunch of rules and fulfilling certain criteria; it was about actually having it in our heart to love everyone—which ranged from those we like to those who are our enemies.
So Jesus gave this man a parable to answer his foolish question—what we call the Parable of the Good Samaritan.
Jesus began this parable in Luke 10:30 by saying, “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.”
So this “certain man” was obviously a Jew because he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho. Now let me quickly make the point that if our “neighbor” that we are called to witness to was strictly in Jerusalem, then it would be easy for someone to just pass on by this hurting man because, after all, he technically wasn’t in Jerusalem, right?
So this Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho and something terrible happened—He “fell among thieves.” These thieves stripped him of his clothing, physically wounded him, and then left him there half dead. (All of these things pointing towards a far worse condition which we will get to in a moment).
Then, in verses 31-22, we are told— “Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side.”
So both of these religious Jews—a priest and a Levite—saw the man yet passed by on the other side.
Now why would they both have chosen to go around the man by passing by on the other side of the road? It’s because people know instinctively that if they passed by close to the man, that they should be the one to help this man. It’s kind of like how we might see something that might solicit compassion on television, and we change the channel real quick before it tugs on our heart strings. Well, these religious guys did not want to cross that line even though they saw that there was someone in need on the road.
But then Jesus said in verses 33-35, “But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.”
So Jesus used a Samaritan—a religiously and socially unacceptable person in the Jewish way of thinking—to represent to His Jewish audience the one who truly loved their neighbor. He did this to show that your “neighbor” is not just your friends and affiliates; your neighbor is also someone totally different from you. Therefore, Jesus’ point was that your neighbor is anyone you come across on your way regardless of the color of their skin, what side of the tracks they live on, their religious beliefs, etc. In other words, your “neighbor” is whoever you come into contact with and whoever is close to you at the time—not necessarily geographically, but also those whom you are aware of.
So, in verses 36-37, we see the culmination of Jesus’ point from the parable: He starts off by asking— “So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” Then we see the lawyer answering him – “He who showed mercy on him.” So Jesus answered and said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
Now here is another important point that I believe we need to see in this Parable of the Good Samaritan: It also paints a beautiful picture of our Savior Jesus Christ and His redemptive work …
Notice in verse 30 that this certain man (a type of mankind) fell among “thieves.” Satan is called the thief in John 10:10. Then notice the three things that the “thief” did to him:
The stripping him of his clothing can symbolize several things: It can refer to stripping mankind of his robe of righteousness and garments of salvation which he lost when he transgressed in the garden. It can also refer to the same instance when he was stripped of his authority over the earth. And, last but not least, his “clothing” can refer to his prosperity thereby leaving him in poverty (one third of the curse of the law).
The “wounding” of this man describes his physical affliction. This symbolizes our physical afflictions consisting of all of our sicknesses, diseases, pains and infirmities.
Then with the last effect of the thieves, we see that they departed him, leaving him half dead. You see, this is always what Satan and sin will do to you: They will entice you, and then when they are through destroying your life, they will forsake you. But notice that they left this man “half-dead.” This symbolizes the state that man was left in after his transgression—half dead—that is, left alive physically, but dead spiritually.
You see, these three things – being stripped of his clothing, being wounded, and being left half-dead – can symbolize the three-fold curse of the law—poverty, sickness, and death. Our run-in with sin left us cursed, but our rescue by our “good neighbor” left us blessed.
Yes, this “Good Samaritan” is a type of our Lord and Savior as He too likewise “journeyed” and came where the man was. This symbolizes Jesus journeying from heaven to earth, where we are (vs.33). When He saw us, He was moved with compassion. Then, in verses 34-35, we see what Jesus did for us …
Number one, He bandaged our spiritual and natural wounds! How? By pouring on oil and wine! The oil represents the indwelling of the Holy Spirit upon salvation. The wine represents the infilling of the Holy Spirit after salvation. He then put us on his animal which describes us taking His yoke upon ourselves which is easy and light. Then in verse 35, after doing so much to take care of us, He departed but promised He would come again!
Church, Jesus perfectly illustrated how to love our neighbor as ourselves by what He did for us. And church, this is how we need to view & treat those first in our “Jerusalem,” then in our “Judea and Samaria,” and also everyone all around the world. We need to recognize that we are called to be witnesses to those we pass in the grocery store, those we sit next to at our jobs, those who live in our neighborhood, etc. etc. etc. The majority of these people are that certain man who fell among thieves. They are stripped of the garments of salvation and the robe of righteousness! They are wounded, damaged, sick, and infirmed! They are half-dead—being alive physically but dead spiritually!
Every day we pass someone in this condition, and the Lord has called us to love our neighbor by being His witnesses to everyone we come in contact with.
Jesus has said, “Go therefore!” Go into your Jerusalem! Go into your Judea and Samaria! Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature and be His witness! Amen!
So, for the first four weeks of this series, we have spent our time looking at the power to be a witness. In other words, we have looked at the promised Holy Spirit and seen the role He plays in making us effective witnesses for Christ.
We saw how being filled and baptized with the Holy Spirit is the first step to becoming witnesses because in order for us to be lights to the world, we have to have power to do so. And this power is that second work of grace that is available to us when the Holy Spirit comes upon us.
We then started looking at the various ministries that the Holy Spirit is meant to provide in us that make us better witnesses—ministries such as being the Convicter, Counselor, Intercessor, Strengthener, etc. We went through these different workings of the Holy Spirit and learned how there is a lot more that the Holy Spirit is willing to do in and through us that not only helps us in our own personal walks but helps in being a light to others.
Then over the past couple of weeks, we have looked at how the Holy Spirit also produces certain things in us that also contribute to our witness. In fact, these are two groups of nine things—the fruit of the Spirit & the gifts of the Spirit.
First of all, we talked about how the most important way the Holy Spirit helps us be Christ’s witnesses is by the fruit He produces in our lives. Yes, the love, joy, peace, etc. that we have manifested in our lives speak to and validate our faith to the world around us. Jesus taught us that we will know the nature of wolves by their fruit. Well, if that’s the case with those who are not Christians, then it will also be that way with us who are. Yes, the world will know us by our fruit. That’s right—these nine fruit being produced in our lives will cause people to look at these here branches and say, “Yup, that’s a Christian tree! And I want to eat the fruit of what this Christian tree is saying!”
Then last week, we looked at the role the gifts of the Spirit play in our witness. And we saw how the Holy Spirit desires to manifest these gifts in and through us when we are ministering to people, as a help to us and a sign to them.
We saw that the Greek word for “gifts” is where we get our English word “charisma” from. So, the gifts of the Spirit are the “charisma” of God, and we sure know that we could use some charisma to be more attractive to unbelievers, amen? And this charisma of the Spirit are these nine gifts He manifests in our lives.
So, we looked at all nine of them and saw how the vocal gifts (different kinds of tongues, the interpretation of tongues, and prophecy), the revelation gifts (word of knowledge, word of wisdom, and discerning of spirits), and the power gifts (gifts of healings, working of miracles, and special faith) all can be used in our witness to the world.
But like it is with the fruit of the Spirit, these gifts have to be cultivated. These things the Holy Spirit is there to produce in our lives don’t come automatically. No, they must be planted & watered. The ground must be cultivated and tended. And we learned various ways that this occurs.
DYING TO BE A WITNESS
So now that we have spent ample time talking about this power we have to be witnesses, let’s transition to specifically talking about the witnesses that He has made us.
Again, Jesus said in Acts 1:8, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
This word “witnesses” here comes from the Greek word martys, which is where we get our word “martyr” from.
Now when we think of the term “martyr”, we think of a person who gives their life for the Gospel—meaning, they are put to death because of their faith and/or the sharing of it. But the fact is, in the original sense of the word, a “martyr” was not just one who died for their faith; it is one who lived for their faith! Might we say that a witness—a martys—is one who is “dying to testify of Jesus Christ”?
Well, the fact is, we did die to become a witness because everyone who has called on the name of the Lord and been born again “died” to themselves and had their old man crucified in Him. Therefore, we have been born & created as His witnesses.
In fact, specifically what we have been called to do is be the Lord’s ministers—His ministers of reconciliation. This is the purpose of our witness. But my point is that this is who we have been made; not just what we ought to be. This is why Jesus said that when the Holy Spirit comes upon us, we will be witnesses.
If you recall, in Luke 24:44-49, we see how Jesus said something similar: These verses read— “Then He said to them, ‘These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.’ And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. Then He said to them, ‘Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things. Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.”
So, notice in verse 48 that Jesus said that they were witnesses of these things. What things? Of how the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day as well as all of the other things that would come as a result of His death, burial, and resurrection.
But notice that upon experiencing these things, Jesus said that they “are witnesses.” Not “will be witnesses” but that they currently were witnesses. Now this does not mean that those who walked with Him on this earth are the only witnesses of Christ. No, any of us who experience Him, have our lives changed by Him, etc. are His witnesses too.
So being a witness is not something we become. It is something we are once we come to know the truth.
I just have run into a lot of Christians who believe that they are not good witnesses of Christ because they don’t always represent Him well and because they associate what they do with who they are. No, the fact is, you are a witness regardless of your behavior or actions.
And this is important to understand because when we see the importance of how we live our lives, this ought to change the way we live them.
You see, people watch us. When they know you are a professing Christian, they are watching to see if we are practicing what we profess. This is why so many Christians are accused of being hypocrites – because people are looking for any sign of hypocrisy.
This might not always be entirely fair, but it is what it is. Therefore, we ought to be very careful how we conduct ourselves before the world because we are witnessing to something whether we know it or not.
But my point is that a martys (mar-tose) is someone who is so committed to the cause of Christ that they are not only willing to die for what they believe but they will live their lives committed to bearing witness of what they believe.
You see, I think this is something that we all need to look at in ourselves and determine—Do we really see ourselves as a witness? Are we so committed to the cause of Christ that we are living our lives with this purpose—to show Him to the world around us. This would range from our families, coworkers, etc., to even the strangers we run into in the marketplace.
So, are you a “martyr”? Am I a “martyr”? Are we someone who is willing to both live & die for our faith and are living our lives to testify of Him and make Him known? This is what I believe the mentality of the early church was and ought to be the same mind that is in us. Amen?
WHAT IS A WITNESS?
This leads me into my following point: When we hear this term “witness,” what do we think of? In today’s society, we generally use it to describe a person who is a “witness” in a court of law—meaning, they are someone who has been summoned to court to testify of something or provide evidence in a trial. These “witnesses” usually possess knowledge or proof that is relevant to the facts of a suit, and they convey their relevant knowledge as lay testimony or as expert testimony—depending on their experience and expertise.
So, a witness is, first of all, “called or summoned” to testify: Isn’t that the way we should see ourselves as witnesses of Christ? It’s not something that you & I should see as an option. No, it is required of us, and is not optional. As the apostle Paul told us, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ …” (Second Corinthians 5:10). And I know that this is more referring to us being the ones on trial at the end of this age, but I bring this up because our witness is going to be a major part of what we will be judged by on the judgment seat of Christ.
So, we need to first of all know that we have been “summoned to court” and are called to be witnesses for Him. Secondly, we need to understand that it is our job to testify of something specific—something that we know, have seen, have experienced, etc.
So, when it comes to us, our job is to share what we know kind of like an expert witness where they come in with expertise in an area to help prove a case like a doctor, scientist, or something like that. What is it that you know? Well, I know God is good. I know His love is real. I know He has been faithful to me. Well, if that’s what I know, then that’s what I need to bear witness to.
You know, a witness does not come to court to just share anything they want. They are asked specific questions and are expected to just state the facts. Likewise, we need to understand that when it comes to our witness, we need to share simply what a witness is called to share.
I’ve seen far too many Christians get over into trying to argue with unbelievers and try and prove their case. That is, in my opinion, leaving the witness stand and trying to be the Advocate. Church, this goes with everything, but specifically when it comes to witnessing, we need to let God do His job and just do ours.
Do you remember when I made the point that Jesus said that the Holy Spirit has come to convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment? Therefore, He is the Convicter, not us. We are the witnesses that need to stick to the witness stand and let the Holy Spirit do His job of the convicting. This is oftentimes us having a Messiah complex and being Holy Ghost Jr. That’s not how we get God results.
Church, we have to realize that we are not the Savior and let God be God. Most don’t realize they are doing this, but so many of us like to be so much in control of things that we try and make things happen. That’s where we get in trouble.
The Bible teaches us that it’s the humble that get more grace (James 4:6)—and if we want to get grace for leading people to Christ, we have to learn to take our hands off the wheel sometimes and learn to take a back seat, letting the Holy Spirit do His job.
So no, this trying to outwit the atheists and pushing the gospel on the agnostics doesn’t usually have the best results, and that’s because we are doing it in our own power & might. But what does the Bible say again? It’s not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord (Zechariah 4:6). This is how people are going to come to Him—not through our programs, methods, arguments, etc.
You see, I believe the best way to get through to an unbeliever is by our testimony, because people cannot argue with a testimony. They might be able to argue Scripture. They might be able to argue science. They can argue a lot of things but one thing they cannot nullify is our testimony of how the Lord changed our lives. They either have to call us liars or acknowledge that there is some power that gave us a new life!
THE WITNESS THAT OVERCOMES
What does Revelation 12:11 say? “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.”
So, first of all, the apostle John said that we overcome the devil …
Did you know that overcoming is a big part of the faith? We have Scripture after Scripture in the New Testament that talks about us overcoming satan, the world, etc. And we need to see ourselves this way, saints! We are not “under-goers”; we are “over-comers.” In other words, we are not going under, we are coming over!
I’ll tell you, church, there is something to be said for having a heart, an attitude, and a mentality that sees ourselves as overcomers! That pervasive loser’s mentality of how bad it is, how bad I am, etc. is what I would call “stinkin’ thinkin’.” We need to have the mentality that we are victors, more than conquerors, and always triumphant! Amen?
Well, guess what else this overcoming satan includes? It includes the impact we can have on the lost—that is, the devil’s deception, the blinding of this world’s eyes, etc.
You know, the Bible teaches us that this world lies under the power of the devil.
Second Corinthians 4:4 talks about how the devil has blinded unbelievers. It says, “whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.”
But it wasn’t just them; this was our condition as well!
Ephesians 2:1-4 teaches us how we all once were under the sway of satan, being dead in our trespasses and sins, just living our lives according to the course of this world and being driven by the prince of the power of the air. This spirit that is leading & driving the lost is working in & through our flesh.
So, my point is that when it comes to us being a witness to the unbeliever, there is a certain sense of needing to overcome the power of the devil in them that needs to occur.
And church, here me on this … One of the reasons it is important to understand this is because some live under the delusion that if we can just have a good enough argument, build a strong enough case, or have the best programs in place that we can convince unbelievers of the truth.
And while I certainly believe it’s important that we have all these I’s dotted and all these T’s crossed, it’s more important that we don’t just wage this warfare carnally—for as the apostle Paul said in Second Corinthians 10:3-5, the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but they are mighty through God for the pulling down of strongholds, casting down imaginations, and bringing into captivity every high thing to the obedience of Christ.
You see, all of those things are the strongholds, imaginations, high things that satan as erected in people’s hearts & minds. So, they are not going to come down by us just doing the natural/carnal things right; it will require spiritual weapons of warfare—these things that are mighty through God! Amen?
And I believe that the weapons of our warfare for pulling down the strongholds and opening the eyes of others are found in the rest of Revelation 12:11. John goes on to say the devil was overcome by the blood of the Lamb, the word of our testimony, and that we do not love our lives to the death.
So, the first thing we see that overcomes that blindness in unbelievers is the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ!
I see the blood of the Lamb as the evidence that we point to as witnesses! So, from the witness stand, we are saying this thing right here is the power of God unto salvation! This is how everything was made possible! If it wasn’t for the blood of Jesus, none of us would be able to be free from the power of sin. And this is why we will for all eternity celebrate the Lamb and His shed blood, throwing our crowns at His feet, saying, “You are worthy, O Lord, to receive all the glory, all the honor, and all the praise! For it is by Your blood that everything good has been made possible!” Amen!
But what seems to be happening in most of the church? We are turning away from what God gave us as evidence and are trying to win people to Christ through the other “seeker sensitive” formulas.
Church, there are some things that we must never move on from, and one of those things is the blood of Jesus. You see, this world is trying to get us to erase things that they deem offensive, such as terms like the blood of Jesus, repentance from sin, etc. But these cornerstones to our faith are the power of the gospel. We don’t need to talk less about the blood of Jesus; we need to talk more about the power of His blood! We don’t need to skirt the subject of sin; we need to call evil, “evil” and good, “good.” There are some things that the spirit of this world is trying to take away from us to disarm the gospel, but I am not ashamed of the true gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation to everyone who believes! Glory to God!
So, we need to always celebrate the blood and we need to continue pleading the blood! For His blood speaks better things than that of Abel’s—wherein it cried out for justice, Jesus’ blood cries out justification! Amen!
But notice what comes next—it’s the word of our testimony! So now that the evidence & “power” of the case has been provided, the word of our testimony comes into play—and this is one of the big things that “overcomes” the devil’s sway and power over someone’s life—because as we’ve seen, this is what provides the opportunity for a conviction.
But notice that it’s not just our testimony itself that enables us to overcome; it’s the “word” of our testimony: This word is logos which describes that it’s not just us having a testimony but us sharing that testimony. In other words, our words hold power and by us putting a voice to what God has done for us in our lives, we break the power of satan.
I mean, if we will be held accountable for every idle word we speak as Jesus taught us, that means that all of our words are being recorded and are significant. Therefore, when we share the things that God has done in our lives, there is something powerful that takes place! Yes, the simple utterance of what God has done for us can break the strongest of strongholds, penetrate the hardest of hearts, and shed light on the darkest darkness. That’s the power of putting a voice to our testimony!
Finally, the part of Revelation 12:11 that most people tend to leave off is the last part— “and they did not love their lives to the death.”
You see, it’s not just the power of the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony that overcomes the devil; no, it is also us not loving our own lives so much. Specifically, what these were celebrated for was that they did love their lives “to the death”—meaning, they were willing to die for their faith (and many of them did).
So, the key we are seeing here is that the power to overcome is found in not loving ourselves and not fearing others. Did you know that these are probably two of the top things that keep people from sharing their faith with others?
Yes, loving our own lives will keep one from being the kind of witness the Lord expects us to be because we don’t want to be rejected, we want people to like us, we don’t like conflict, we care about how we look, etc., etc., etc. These are all things that are symptomatic of loving our own lives in an unhealthy way.
The fearing others & death is similar to loving our lives: Many believers don’t share their testimony because they are afraid of messing up, embarrassing themselves, losing friends, people talking about them, etc.
So, I believe a big part of us being effective witnesses for Christ and overcoming the devil is found in us loving others souls more than we do our own life and not allowing the fear of man to have place in us. Amen?
This is really one of the reasons why some people are terrified of public speaking and things like that. It’s because we care too much about what other people think about us. What if we had more love for the one we were sharing with than we did for ourselves? What if our concern was genuinely for their soul more than it was for what they are thinking about us?
Church, I believe if Christ’s love is shed abroad in our hearts and we allow that love for the lost to spring forth, our effectiveness for the kingdom of God will reach the ceiling! And then, if we remove any & all the fear of man, death, etc. from our hearts, then it will go through the roof!
So, a great way to pray would be something like— “Lord, help me to love the lost like you do. Take the love of my own life out of me and put in me a love for others.” Also, “Father, help me to have zero fear of man in my heart. I desire only the fear of You in my heart so that nothing keeps me from sharing your love with others. I want to have a heart that’s willing to die for you.”
Which bring us full circle back to the basic meaning of the word “witnesses” …
We saw how this word “witnesses” comes from the word where we get our English term “martyr” from. So, in essence, a witness is someone who does not love their lives to the death. In other words, they are willing to do anything to testify of Christ, whether that means they are rejected or even might be put to death for their faith.
Church, I believe this is a mentality that we must adopt if we are going to be His witnesses: We cannot fear man, rejection, or persecution. We cannot love our own lives so much. No, we must love the Lord and our neighbor so much that we are not worried about what they might think or how they might reject us.
So, I think a good lesson to take from this today is that the Lord would have us to die to be His witnesses—that is, that He wants us to die to ourselves, our passions, wants, dreams. And He desires for us to let people know what we know, what we’ve seen, and what we’ve heard. We share with them the truth of the gospel and our testimony of how it has changed us, and let the Holy Spirit do the work in them.
This is how we overcome the devil’s deception in people, church. It’s not through a bunch of smoke & mirrors, formulas & programs, or arguments & debates; the way we see people come to Christ is the simple sharing of the truth of gospel—things like the blood of Jesus, the necessity of repentance, the love of God, etc. It includes the sharing of our testimony—which is what God has done in us, what we’ve experienced, etc. Finally, it is enveloped in the genuine love of others more than our own life while having no fear of man. These three things work together for the Holy Spirit to do what He does best—drawing sinners to repentance. Amen.
So, for the past few weeks, we have been on a new series of teachings on how to be witnesses for the Lord.
We have started out talking about the power to be witnesses because as Jesus taught us in Acts 1:8, before we can be His witnesses in our own proverbial Jerusalem, Judea & Samaria, and to the ends of the earth, we have to receive the promise of power in the person of the Holy Spirit.
You see, I can have a lamp, but if I don’t have any power, the lamp does me no good because it needs to be plugged into a source of power that enables it to do what it was designed to do. Likewise, in order for our light to shine to this dark & perverse generation, we have to be plugged into the power of God—and this is the Holy Spirit.
We then learned how having the Holy Spirit empowering us to be a quality witness for Jesus works together with the various ministries He provides, such as His calling to convict, counsel, comfort, strengthen, intercede, etc. We went through these different things and learned how there is a lot more that the Holy Spirit is willing to do in and through us that not only helps us in our own personal walks but helps in being a light to others.
Now last week, we began looking at arguably the most important way that the Holy Spirit helps us to be Christ’s witnesses—through His fruit & His gifts.
You see, the New Testament reveals to us that there are two sets of nine things that the Holy Spirit performs in and through our lives, and these play a big role in our ability to effectively be Christ’s witnesses.
First of all, we talked about how the most important way the Holy Spirit helps us be Christ’s witnesses is by the fruit He produces in our lives. That’s why it is called the fruit of the Spirit. This means that these nine fruits are what the Holy Spirit is meant to produce in our lives, which are a big part of our witness. Therefore, the love, joy, peace, etc. that we have manifested in our lives speak to and validate our faith to the world around us.
Didn’t Jesus teach us that we will know the nature of wolves by their fruit? Well, if that’s the case with those who are not Christians, then it will also be that way with us who are. Yes, the world will know us by our fruit.
You see, Jesus taught us that the world will know that we are His disciples by our love for one another (See John 13:35)? Well, that’s fruit #1, isn’t it? And what Jesus was saying here is that the world isn’t going to necessarily know we are Christians because we have a t-shirt or a bumper sticker; it’s by how we love!
But we also saw that love isn’t the only fruit that testifies of Him. No, the rest of the fruit also witness of God’s goodness.
Speaking of goodness, what does the Bible teach us leads men to repentance? It is the goodness of God (See Romans 2:4). So how do you figure this works? Is God personally showing forth His goodness from heaven so that unbelievers are repenting hand over fist? No, that’s not how it works. Although He is good, and he makes the rain to fall on both the just and the unjust, it’s the fruit of His goodness in the lives of His children that will draw men to repentance. Amen?
Yes, these nine fruit being produced in our lives will cause people to look at these here branches and say, “Yup, that’s a Christian tree! And that’s the tree I want to eat from!”
So we looked then at how this fruit of the Spirit is produced in our lives, so if you missed that, I’d highly recommend going back and listening to that message because, nothing makes us better witnesses than us being fruitful Christians. Amen?
Now although producing the fruit of the Spirit in our lives is the best witness we can have, there is something else that the Holy Spirit is there to produce in us that also helps us witness for Christ, and that is His gifts!
Yes, I trust that most of you have heard of these things, but the vast majority of the church of the Lord Jesus Christ has little to no revelation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Thus the exhortation given by Paul in First Corinthians 12:1 to not be ignorant of them has come to pass in the Body of Christ, because it’s a small percentage of us that have a good knowledge & understanding of the Spirit’s gifts. But I am here to tell you today that these gifts described to us in First Corinthians chapter 12 are still a very real part of the church today! On top of that, they are a big part of our witness!
Now, first of all, I want to point out something about the phrase “spiritual gifts” in First Corinthians 12:1—and that is, how the word “gifts” is in italics. That means that it was added by the translators and was not in the original Greek manuscript. However, in this case, I believe it was added correctly because spiritual gifts is the obvious context of this chapter. But I believe there is an important truth that can be seen from this point:
Since the Greek word for “gifts” (Greek charisma) was not used by Paul here, the more literal translation would be— “spirituals” (it is plural in the Greek). Therefore, a good translation would be— “spiritual things.”
Now there is an important principle to understand in this because, although the gifts of the Spirit are dealt with in the following verses, Paul was instructing this church (and the universal Church as a whole) of spiritual things and their proper order and importance in the Church. So, if we desire to be “spiritual,” then these things mentioned in First Corinthians chapter 12 should be a part of our life as well. In other words, the spiritual gifts that the Holy Spirit bestows on us are simply things that go into a life of true spirituality. Therefore, one cannot say— “Well, I am walking in the Spirit, led by the Spirit, and living a truly spiritual life,”—and there be a total absence of the gifts of the Spirit manifested in their life. No, these charismatic gifts are to be a normal part of a Christian’s everyday walk! Amen.
My purpose for bringing this out is because of the “denominational” mentality in most of the modern-day Church where there are certain groups of Christians and then there are the “charismatic Christians.” No, sweetheart, all Christians of all churches can and should operate in the “charisma” of the Holy Spirit.
Now I am not saying this mass of Christians who do not operate in the gifts or even believe that the gifts of the Spirit are for us today are not going to heaven. Heck, it might get them there quicker! What I am saying, however, is operating in the gifts of the Spirit is available to every born-again Christian and if we want to truly be a spiritual man or woman of God, then the gifts are to be a regular part of that spiritual walk.
But some avoid this subject like the plague because they see “spiritual things” as “spooky things.” In other words, some think that if you are spiritual then you are weird and peculiar. No, even though the Bible teaches that we are His own “peculiar” people, the expression does not mean that we are weird, strange, or odd. You can be absolutely “spiritual” and have the same personality you had, and good character to boot.
Actually, in First Peter 2:9, the word translated “peculiar” literally just meant a people who have been purchased, obtained, and possessed by God. So, no, it does not mean that we are strange; it just means that we have been peculiarly obtained as God’s own purchased possession. The Lord was the One who was peculiar—choosing a peculiar group of people for His own prized possession.
So, now we have no Scriptural precedence for believing a spiritual Christian is an odd or spooky Christian! To be “spiritual” is to simply be different—but not different in personality; different in fruit! We are different in that we can lay down and get a good night’s rest in a den of lions through the peace that passes all understanding and that we can sing at midnight in prison through joy unspeakable and full of glory. We are different in that our circumstances do not mold us, but we are the same no matter what life throws at us and we change our circumstances by God’s Word. This is what it means to be spiritual. It is the opposite of being carnal, which is to be led by our senses and moved by our feelings and circumstances. To be spiritual is to be full of the Spirit and to let His fruit manifest in our lives.
You see, some believe that if we are too spiritual that we won’t be good witnesses because we won’t be relatable to the world. But I don’t believe that—I believe that if we walk in the Spirit, producing His fruit & His gifts, then we will be better witnesses. Sure, there will be those who will ridicule and slander us for these manifestations of the Holy Spirit, but that doesn’t mean we are doing something wrong. In fact, it probably means we are doing something right!
Church, the world needs us to be different! They need to see true spirituality by seeing the power & life of God in us! This is what will draw people to Him.
YOU GOT CHARISMA!
Along these lines, did you know that the Greek word that Paul used for these “gifts” in these verses is the word where we get our English word “charisma” from. So the gifts of the Spirit are the “charisma” of God.
Now when we use the word “charisma” in our modern-day language, we use it to describe someone who has flare and a gift to influence and attract people’s admiration. It is often tied to people in positions of leadership—specifically because their magnetism is what launched them into that position.
Well, the truth is, if you have the Holy Spirit, then you have “charisma!” Yes, if the Holy Ghost resides in your heart, then all of the gifts that He gives are in you too! Amen? So, guess what that means? It means that you are gifted! It means that you’ve got flare! Yes, you’ve got charisma! All of which should make you attractive to the world.
But one of the ways the Holy Spirit gives us charisma before the world is through these gifts He provides. And church, these gifts are available to all those who will earnestly desire them! Yes, we can all see ourselves used in these nine gifts as we seek after and press into them in our lives.
Church, the truth is, if you have the Holy Spirit, then you have “charisma!” Yes, if the Holy Ghost resides in your heart, then all of the gifts that He gives are in you too! Amen? So, guess what that means? It means that you are gifted! It means that you’ve got flare! Yes, you’ve got charisma! Amen!
So, what we did then was we looked at the various times that this Greek word charisma is used in the New Testament and saw that the common usage is that we’ve already got it! Therefore, the point that the Lord was making last week is that we do not need to have the mentality that we are trying to get these gifts of the Holy Spirit. No, we’ve already got them—for if we already have the Holy Spirit, then we have the gifts that He gives. Amen?
Church, this is when I believe the gifts will begin to flow like rivers of living waters—when we tear down the dam of unbelief, complacency, and indifference. Let us believe God when He says that we have charisma and walk in that favor today! Amen!
THREE GROUPS OF THREE
So let’s quickly look at these 9 gifts of the Spirit and see how they can be used in being witnesses:
Now these nine gifts of the Spirit can conveniently be broken down into three groups of three:
THE VOCAL GIFTS
Let’s start with the three vocal gifts …
These first two—the different kinds of tongues & the interpretation of the tongues—work together in a lot of ways: We see how tongues can be us speaking in another known language for the purpose of ministering to people who speak that language. In fact, this was how the church got started in Acts chapter two—because when they were all filled with the Holy Spirit in the upper room, the people outside heard them speaking in their own native languages, which was obviously a testimony to them to listen to what Peter had to say.
But as Paul said, there are different kinds of tongues—and another kind of tongue is not the tongues of men, but the tongues of angels. In other words, the Holy Spirit gifts us with a heavenly prayer language that speaks directly to God and edifies us in the process. And do you figure if we get “edified” that will make us a better witness? I guarantee you it will. Yes, building ourselves up on our most holy faith will charge us up to be a better witness than we ever could have been in ourselves. For one, it will get us on the same frequency with the Holy Spirit, which will help the flow in witnessing to others.
Now the gift of the interpretation of tongues works together with the gift of tongues in that it allows us to supernaturally know what those other tongues were communicating. This can be helpful in witnessing because it can provide us with insight that will assist in sharing with others.
Now this next vocal gift—the gift of prophecy—certainly helps in being a good witness …
My definition for “prophecy” is that it’s a supernatural utterance given to us in a known language (which corresponds to tongues which are a supernatural utterance given to us in an unknown language).
And what is this supernatural utterance meant to do? Well, Paul said prophecy was meant to provide edification, exhortation, and comfort to people (First Corinthians 14:3). So, can’t you see how this would be helpful in regards to our witness? Yes, having this gift in operation when speaking into people’s lives is tremendously helpful in building them up, encouraging them, and bringing the comfort of the Holy Spirit into their lives—and it does this by supernaturally giving us the words to speak and by showing us pictures that we convey to them that “read their mail.”
So these vocal gifts can and should be used in our witnessing to others by using our mouths to share the goodness & love of God with others. But what about those revelation gifts—the word of knowledge, the word of wisdom, and discerning of spirits?
THE REVELATION GIFTS
Well, it’s important to understand how these three gifts of the Spirit help us to know something, which comes in handy when you have someone in front of you that you might know nothing about.
You see, when we are witnessing to someone, there are obviously going to be times where we have no idea of who that person is, what they have gone through in the past, or what they are currently going through. Well, thank God for the Holy Ghost and these three revelation gifts that He gives us—for they will give us information we need to be able to minister to them more effectively.
Now the terminology is important here: You will hear believers saying that they have the “gift of knowledge” or the “gift of wisdom.” But these gifts are not just called knowledge and wisdom; they are called the word of knowledge and the word of wisdom.
So, these gifts of the Spirit of the word of knowledge and the word of wisdom are not just natural wisdom or knowledge that one can accumulate. No, they are a word of knowledge or a word of wisdom that are given supernaturally by the Holy Spirit.
So, what does this mean? Well, first of all, we need to understand that they are both a reference to the knowledge and wisdom of God: now we know that God is omniscient. This means that He knows everything. He is all-knowing. We also know that God possesses all wisdom as well. True wisdom comes from God. The Scriptures say specifically that God alone is wise. So, when Paul says that the Spirit will give us the gifts of a word of knowledge or a word of wisdom, this means that He will give us, of the complete knowledge and total wisdom that He possesses, a word of that knowledge and a word of that wisdom. Amen.
A great example of this is with the word of knowledge: The Greek word used for “knowledge” here is the word gnosis. This word describes a complete or thorough understanding of a subject.
We see this word used in Ephesians 3:19 in reference to Paul’s prayer for this church to know the love of Christ. He prayed in the first half of this verse that we would know the love of Christ which passes knowledge.
This seems like an impossible statement, does it not? How can you know something that passes knowledge? Well, the key to understanding this is in understanding the difference between the Greek words for “know” and “knowledge.” The word “know” comes from the Greek word ginosko which literally describes an experiential knowledge. Ginosko was more of a broad, general knowledge than the word that was used for “knowledge” here. Can you guess what the Greek word Paul used for “knowledge” here is? You guessed it! It is the same word gnosis as he used in the word of “knowledge.”
So, when Paul prayed that these saints would know the love of Christ which passes knowledge, he was praying that they would experience the love of Christ that could never be fully comprehended. In other words, He wanted them to taste in their minds just a bite of the love of God that they could never fill themselves up on. In essence, we could say that Paul was praying for them to have a word of knowledge concerning the love of Christ because he was saying, “Hey guys, you’ll never be able to completely exhaust the knowledge of God’s love, but I’m praying that you’ll get a word of the knowledge of His love!” In other words, he was praying that they would get a word of that knowledge. He was praying that they would taste and see that the Lord is love and He is good.
And that is exactly what the word of knowledge and the word of wisdom are. They are simply “words” that are given to us in specific and strategic moments that originate from the complete knowledge and understanding of the all-knowing and the alone wise Creator of all things.
And, no, I am not referring to “word” as in He only gives us one actual word, but “word” as in He gives us a communicated thought or a statement.
The Greek word used for “word” in both of these gifts is the Greek word logos which describes “a transmission of thought, a word of explanation, an utterance, a divine revelation; a statement, instruction, or oracle. It is a divine promise, a divine doctrine, or a divine declaration.”
So, when we see this word logos being used, we need to understand that it is more than just one actual word. It is the transmission of a thought from the mind of God. For example, the Bible is referred to as the living and powerful Logos of God (Hebrews 4:12). Well, the Bible is not all of that which God knows. It is not all the history of the human race. You know, there was likely a lot left out between Genesis 1:1 & 1:2. There were over 2,400 years of human history in those 50 chapters of Genesis. The Bible is also not all the truth and wisdom that there is in the world. It does not hold all the answers to every problem that anyone will ever have. But do you know what the Bible is? It is all of the knowledge and wisdom that we need concerning salvation and concerning knowing who God is and what His will is. In essence, the Bible is a “word of knowledge” and a “word of wisdom.” It is the Living Logos!
So, to summarize, we can conclude that these gifts of the Spirit called “the word of knowledge” and “the word of wisdom” are simply small fragments of God’s vast knowledge and wisdom that are communicated to us as the Spirit wills and for the edification of the body of Christ.
Now the word of knowledge is a fact from the past or present, while the word of wisdom is direction for the present or future. In other words, the word of knowledge is a supernaturally revealed piece of information that either has happened or is happening and the word of wisdom is the direction or guidance that is supernaturally revealed to us for what is happening or what will happen down the road.
Well, don’t you see how these two gifts can come in handy when witnessing with others?
Say the Holy Spirit shows me how a person was abused as a child and I share that with them, I can guarantee you that this person will be a little more open to what else I have to tell them. And then, I end up telling them how I know this and that the One who let me know loves them very much and has healing available for them. Then He gives me a word of wisdom of what this person needs to do to get that healing. Wow! Now that’s witnessing made fun, church—and it’s available to us!
Now notice that the other revelation gift is not called “the gift of discernment.” You will hear this phrase thrown around many Christian circles, but it is important to realize that the Bible makes no mention of a “gift of discernment.” Sure, there is a certain degree of spiritual discernment that every believer has the ability to walk in, where the Holy Spirit shows us things, but my point is that there is no mention in the Scriptures regarding a gift of the Spirit called “the gift of discernment.”
What many refer to as a gift of discernment that they possess is really just a knack for criticism and fault finding. They like to spiritualize their vice by saying, in their arrogance, that it is a gift that God gave them. No, friends, no one has a gift of discernment, but some do operate in the gift of the discerning of spirits.
So, what is this gift of the Spirit? Well, notice the terminology used in the New King James version: Paul called it “the discerning of spirits.” Most other translations say that this gift is the supernatural ability to “distinguish between spirits.” Therefore, the discerning of spirits is the supernatural gift of the Holy Spirit which enables us to have insight into the spirit realm and distinguish between the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of God.
You see, the word “discerning” comes from the Greek word diakrisis which means to “distinguish, differentiate, or pass judgment.” But, like we said, it is not a gift that gives one the ability to pass judgment on people. No, it is the ability to be able to correctly judge something behind the curtain of the spiritual realm, which could certainly be a spirit motivating and inspiring a person.
Church, we need to understand that the spiritual realm is more real than this physical realm that we live in and can make contact with our five physical senses. In fact, God created the natural world through the spiritual world. So, we should be able to accept this truth that the spirit world is more real than the natural, because the spirit world is the parenting force.
But my point is that the spirit world is very real and, in this world, there are angels in abundance and demons on every corner. Someone might say, “Pastor, you are not one of those who see a demon behind every bush, are you?” No, I’m not—I see five or six demons behind every bush. In fact, if our eyes were to be opened to see clearly into the spirit realm, our jaw would likely hit the floor. We would see the most giant and majestic angels encamped around us, but we would also see the most ugly and vile demons as well.
This is the real world out there, saints—and God has given us the ability through this gift of the Spirit to perceive these spirits in specific situations.
You see, this gift is important in order to set people free. We need this gift in order to identify the cause of many spiritual, emotional, and physical problems that people we are witnessing to experience so that we can get them delivered.
For instance, this gift is extremely useful in the area of deliverance and healing. Sometimes in these situations, it is extremely important that we are able to discern a specific spirit that is causing their afflictions so that we can speak to the specific mountain that is keeping them in bondage. I am convinced that the reason that some stay sick or stay afflicted is because the one doing the ministering has not correctly identified the root cause and are praying amiss and are taking authority over the wrong things. Friends, we need this gift in order to distinguish what we are specifically taking authority over so that we can have better results when we pray.
You see, sometimes the person might be experiencing panic attacks or extreme anxiety because there is a spirit of fear that has attached itself to them. Sometimes a person might be in bondage to a certain lust of the flesh because they are bound by a spirit of lust. This is why it is so important to be able to discern the activity of a spirit in a person’s life. It is because in both of these situations the world and the church have their own ideas as to what the person is dealing with. For instance, with the anxiety, the world will just immediately label the person with some mental medical condition and try to band-aid the problem with medicine. Well, there might be a medical condition involved because people can certainly be sick mentally and emotionally like they are sick physically but sometimes people’s condition is a result of demonic activity. Likewise, in the church, if a person is dealing with a bondage to any lust of the flesh, we immediately say the problem is their flesh. But we need to understand that sometimes a spirit can be involved. Sometimes the problem can be an unclean spirit that is causing the unclean lusts.
So we need this gift of the discerning of spirits to be able to truly help those we are witnessing to, saints!
THE POWER GIFTS
Now we’ve already seen how the promised Holy Spirit is the promise of power. And this final category of gifts certainly falls under this idea of “power”—for these gifts are “the working of miracles, the gifts of healings, and the gift of faith.”
Let’s look at the “gifts of healings” first: Notice that this gift is not called the “gift of healing” but rather “gifts of healings.” In other words, the word “gifts” is plural and the word “healings” is plural. So, what does this tell us? It tells us the same thing that the gift of “diversities of tongues” told us—that there are different kinds of gifts of healings.
You see, Paul could have called this gift—the gift (singular) of healings—and that would mean that there is a gift that imparts different kinds of healings. And that is partly true. Paul could have also called this gift—the gifts of healing (singular)—and that would have meant that there are different kinds of gifts that bring healing to people. And that would have also been part of the truth of what this gift of the Spirit is.
But the apostle Paul said that this gift of the Spirit is “the gift(s) of healing(s)” (i.e. multiple gifts of different kinds of healings). In other words, this means that Paul is describing different kinds of gifts of different kinds of healings.
You see, the same principle exists with this gift as it did with tongues. While there are the tongues that every Spirit-filled believer can operate in, there are also other kinds of tongues that only certain parts of the Body can operate in. Likewise, there are different gifts of healings that are given. There is the gift given to all believers where we simply lay hands on the sick and see them recover and then there are the other gifts of healings where people are healed in other ways supernaturally.
So, let me explain what this means: It means that just as there are different kinds of tongues that the Holy Spirit gives us—some for one purpose and others for another purpose—there are different kinds of gifts of healings that are used for various purposes. For example, some people may have more success with healing cases of bad backs, where another may have a stronger anointing to heal cancer cases. In other words, the Lord will sometimes specialize on the kinds of healings He will want to do through an individual believer.
So we need this gift operating through us in our witness because how many of you know that we don’t need to just be coming with words when sharing the gospel with people; we need to bring healing to them in order to ring the dinner bell!
What about the “working of miracles”? The “working of miracles” is a supernatural intervention by God in the everyday, ordinary course of nature. In other words, this gift of the Spirit is God, through the Holy Spirit, interrupting the natural laws governing this earth. For example, a miracle would be things we see in the Bible like the parting of the Red Sea, the sun standing still, the floating ax head, (good) earthquakes that open prison doors and unlock chains.
Now it should be noted here the terminology: Paul called this gift— “the working of miracles.”
Actually, this word used to translate “working” is the same word used in First Corinthians 12:6 when Paul said that there are diversities of “activities” but the same God who works all in all. As we have already seen, this means that there are different ways that God works through the various gifts and ministries given to the body. In fact, these are the only two times this Greek word energema is used in the New Testament.
So, what does this teach us about this gift of the Spirit? It teaches us that what comes before the miracle is an activity or a working. What do I mean by that? I mean that there is an action or a work of faith that always precedes the miracle.
This is why I believe that the gift of faith usually works hand in hand with the working of miracles. Why? Because there is usually a supernatural, special faith that is deposited in the heart of someone before they step out and see the miracle.
You see, there has to be some sort of cooperation between us and God for the miracle to occur. He will tell us to do certain things that just don’t make sense in order to position us for a miracle. But if we don’t “just do it” then we won’t “just see it.” It is that simple.
In fact, if you look at the instances of most miracles recorded in the Bible, you will find that there were some pretty strange directions given that led to the miracles like “Go dip in the Jordan seven times! Throw a stick in the water! Stretch out your rod! Strike the rock! Speak to the rock!” On and on and on, you see God giving specific directions and when those directions were followed—leprosy was cleansed, axe heads floated, plagues came upon God’s enemies, and water came out of the rock.
There was a cooperation, and then, there was a demonstration! And why? It is because God requires faith! Faith always precedes miracles! There is to be a working on our part—not just “works” but the “works of faith” (First Thessalonians 1:3)—and when there are those corresponding actions of faith that are based on what God has said, then we see miracles. Amen!
And this leads us to this final power gift of the Holy Spirit: the gifts of the Spirit simply called “faith.” Now many see this gift of the Spirit called, in the King James Version, faith, and say, “See, not all have faith. It is a gift of the Spirit.” Well, that is not completely true.
The gift of faith that Paul is speaking of here is not the normal measure of faith that every believer possesses (See Second Peter 1:1). This is faith that far transcends where our faith is at. This faith can remove the largest of mountains, create planets, and give life to anything that needs it—and this is God’s faith!
You see, sometimes it will take higher levels of faith to receive a major miracle from the Lord, and where our faith levels will not be high enough or good enough to be able to do this, this is where the direct faith of the Holy Spirit Himself will then move up in us and pick up the slack with our own imperfect faith levels so God can then manifest the miracle that He will be looking to do through us.
And this is what this gift of faith is—It is a temporary impartation of His faith. Amen! In other words, it is the gift of faith by God taking a little amount of His faith and giving it to you for a specific situation.
This is why I do not like to just call this gift of the Spirit—faith. I like to call it special faith—that is, faith that is different than our own faith which we have received. It is a temporary borrowing of God’s wonder working faith (see the Amplified Bible’s translation of First Corinthians 12:9) so that we can operate at a higher level than we are at at that time. Hallelujah!
This too might be called upon when we are ministering one on one with someone because, for instance, the person has a need in their life that transcends where our faith is at. In other words, we have a hard time believing for that. Well, the Holy Spirit can grant us this “special faith” for those times so that we boldly declare to them— “By the time you get home, that situation will have changed!” Well, what do you think that gift of faith will do for their faith? I can guarantee you they will be more of a believer than they were when you first started talking to them. Amen?
EARNESTLY DESIRING THE GIFTS
And church, this is the point of all nine of these gifts. It’s so that our witness can be even more effective—for we do not want to come just in the wisdom of words, but also in the demonstration of the Holy Spirit and of power when we are sharing our faith.
Sure, it’s the Word that produces faith in people, but it’s the fruit & the gifts that make what we say more credible. So we need these nine gifts of the Spirit to operate in our lives to ring the dinner bell (so to speak).
So how do we begin to see more of this manifestation of the Holy Spirit in our lives? Well, I believe the answer to this is found in the Scriptures …
You see, we are told in various ways in the Scriptures that if we seek, we will find; if we knock, it will be opened, and if we ask, it will be given to us. Yes, we are promised that when we hunger & thirst for righteous things with all of our heart, we will be filled.
So I believe the main reason we don’t experience the full manifestation of the gifts of the Spirit is because we don’t honor those gifts.
Saints, I can assure you that the reason that the Holy Spirit is quenched in many different churches, gatherings, and Christian homes is because these believers are lightly esteeming His manifestations! In other words, they are not placing value upon and honoring Him—particularly the ways in which He manifests in our midst!
We need to honor Him—not just in respecting Him, but in actively and aggressively seeking Him! We need to be more like Jacob where He was hungry for the blessing and birthright and less like Esau where he was hungry for the things of the world.
This is why the apostle Paul exhorted the church of Corinth twice in First Corinthians to “earnestly desire the best gifts” and to “desire” that they may prophecy. (See 1 Corinthians 12:31 & 14:1)!
Does “earnestly desiring” the gifts of the Spirit make a difference? Apparently, it does! For why would he tell us to desire it if in the desire was not found more of the manifestation of it?
This is the key to seeing more of the gifts of the Spirit manifested in our churches, gatherings, meetings, and in our everyday life also … It is simply in getting hungry for the gifts! To earnestly desire them like we hunger for our next meal! To seek them as precious jewels! For when we seek for the things of the Spirit with our whole heart, we will find them!
Let’s get hungry for the Holy Spirit! Let’s not let a day go by where we do not say, “Welcome Holy Spirit!”- and not just welcoming Him, but welcoming the wife and kids as well (i.e. His gifts and His fruit!)
You see, what many Christians do is they are only open to some of the Holy Spirit. Sure, they want the Holy Spirit to bring the sinner to repentance in & through their lives, but they don’t want nothing to do with those gifts or fruit.
This would be like me, Shannon, and Levi knocking on your front door and you saying, “Trey, you can come in, but I don’t want her or that boy of yours in my house.” Friend, if you were to despise the presence of my wife and son, then you just despised me! And you certainly will not experience my presence in your home!
Holy Spirit, you are welcome in my life and ministry! And, by all means, bring the whole kit and caboodle with you! Bring the whole family! I am hungry to not just experience communion with you but also to experience communion with the gifts and with the fruit! I want it all! Amen!