So, let’s quickly recap what we have covered thus far. We have spent the first couple of weeks in this series laying a foundation that will, prayerfully, lead us into more of the manifestation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
In part one of this series, we looked at the fact that they are called “gifts” for a reason—and that is because they are not earned or to be worked for. Yes, they are gifts of God’s grace in our lives—meaning, they don’t come as a result of works, but by His grace. Therefore, we learned that if the Holy Spirit lives within us, then all of the gifts He provides are already inside of us as well. Amen. So, we need to stop trying to get something that God has already given us. That’s right: we already have the gifts! They are already in us! We have “charisma!”
Then last week, in part two of this series, we learned what our responsibility is, if we already have the gifts inside of us. We looked at the Great Commission where the Lord told us to— “Go, therefore, … into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature!” We saw from this that it is not a question of if we should go somewhere and minister to someone; it’s a matter of how we should do it. In other words, since we have all been commissioned to go everywhere and minister to everybody, the question is not whether or not we are to do this. We need to be ready and willing at all times to do this.
So, as it pertains to the gifts of the Spirit, we need to always be ready and willing to let the gifts flow out of us. And we do this by putting ourselves in the position for the Holy Spirit to use us through practicing on people and simply being aware of what He is showing us when we are around others—first in our “Jerusalem,” then in our “Judea’s & Samaria’s,” and all the way to the ends of the earth. Practice makes perfect, church! So, you are going to have to step out in faith on these things—trusting that the Holy Spirit will use you and I when we put ourselves in position to be used. It is a truth that “we are experiencing as much of God right now that we want to." This is true because we will move to make happen what we REALLY want. If we want it, we have to get out there and start doing it. God says, “I will bless the WORK of your hands.” If we aren't working at something, God has nothing to bless.
MORE GENERAL INSTRUCTIONS ON SPIRITUAL GIFTS
So, let’s begin this week, by looking back over at First Corinthians chapter 12: We saw in verse one, that the apostle Paul expresses his desire for us not to be ignorant in these spiritual things. Then, in verse two, he describes our former state when we were Gentiles and were driven by the wrong spirits. So, in verse three, he goes on to say, “Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.”
Now when Paul says here— “Therefore I make known to you…” what he was saying is, “So, because I do not want you to be ignorant concerning spiritual things, this is what you need to know.” And then he goes to say that no one speaking by the Holy Spirit will call Jesus accursed, nor will anyone say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Ghost.
Now in both of these completely contrary examples, the apostle Paul was not saying that someone cannot call Jesus “accursed” by mistake. Nor was he saying that it is absolutely impossible for one to simply utter the phrase “Jesus is Lord” unless they are saying it by the Holy Spirit. No, the fact is—we could pull someone off the street and pay them $100 to stand here and say, “Jesus is Lord” and they could do it. What Paul was referring to is if someone is claiming to be speaking by inspiration of the Spirit of God—either claiming to be prophesying or giving an interpretation of tongues—they will always glorify Jesus and never will defame Him or His work on the Cross.
And, church, that is one of the tell-tell signs that validate these manifestations of the Spirit of God in our lives—it is that the Holy Spirit’s ministry is to always glorify Jesus (see John 15:26). So, if you ever hear any kind of utterance that takes any glory away from Jesus—referring to Him and His work on the Cross as common or even takes any glory away from His place as the Second Person of the Trinity and being the way, the truth, and the life—then you can be assured that that was not the Spirit of God. Saints, the Holy Spirit always points to Jesus—His Lordship and His finished work!
Now, of course, many Spirit-inspired utterances do not make reference to Jesus one way or another, so how do you judge these supernatural signs that are given to the Body? By obeying First Thessalonians 5:21— “Test all things; hold fast what is good.” You test all things! The Scripture teaches us to judge all prophecies—to judge them, first of all, by “Do they glorify the deity and authority of our Lord and do they glorify the finished work of our Savior?” Then, if they pass that test, you hold fast to that which “seems good”—meaning holding fast to the things which bear witness to your heart and you have peace with. Is that fire burning within you? Is the Spirit bearing witness inside of you? Does it seem good? If it does—hold fast to it! Don’t let go of the Word of Lord and it shall surely come to pass!
Now notice that in the following 3 verses, the 3 members of the Godhead are referred to—each having their own personal role in regards to the manifestation of the gifts:
Verses 4-6 say, “There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.”
First, you have the “same Spirit” working in the distribution and manifestation of the diversities of gifts. This means that the Holy Spirit’s role is to distribute and manifest the different modes of gifts. This is why they are called the gifts of the Spirit. (We will move into this next time)
Second, you have the “same Lord”— Lord, always being a reference to God the Son, Jesus Christ (who is the same as the Spirit of the Godhead Three in One) working in the distribution of the different ministries of the body. These are the fivefold ministry offices as well as the other office gifts such as administrations, helps, giving, etc.
Thirdly, you have the “same God”— God always being a reference to the Father, Yahweh and Jehovah—who is working behind the scenes in all of it empowering, energizing, and effecting all the things being done. For the increase comes from God (First Corinthians 3:6).
Let’s look at the operation of all three members of the Godhead in more detail, beginning with God the Father:
Again, Paul says, “And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.” Although there are different gifts given to us by the Holy Spirit and different ministries given to us by the Lord Jesus, God is the One who is at work in and through all of these gifts and ministries! He works in them all! He works through them all! And He works above them all! (see Ephesians 4:6) This means that He is the power, grace, and energy working behind all of these gifts and ministries! He works all [the gifts of the Spirit] in all [the ministries of the Lord]. He is the engine that empowers and energizes all of these things. We must never forget this because understanding that God is our source for everything and in Him is the grace for everything good and profitable that we are able to do for the Lord, is the key to being strong in that grace. He upholds all things by the Word of His power! He is our all in all—holding everything together in our lives just as He holds everything together in the universe! Do you know what keeps that shirt your wearing together? Do you know what keeps your flesh on your bones? Do you know what keeps that chair your sitting in together? The answer is God, God, God—the Godhead Three in One!
But this verse literally says that there are differences of the ways God works in these things—meaning that there are different ways that God works these different gifts and ministries. This is so important to understand as well because countless Christians look at certain ministers, and when they feel called to the same ministry, they try and emulate what that other minister does or how they minister. Don’t ever do that. You are unique and an individual. You are different. So even if you have the same ministry as someone, that doesn’t mean you are going to operate in it like they do. For instance, I have the same gifting as my friend and mentor, Andrew Wommack, has—to be a teacher in the Body of Christ. But that doesn’t mean that I am going to teach like him. I don’t prepare like he does and I don’t carry myself like he does. We are different. And that’s alright! It doesn’t mean one is better than the other and it doesn’t mean someone needs to become more like the other. There are different ways in which God works through us but it’s the same God doing the work. Say, you have the gift of leadership. Well, there are different ways to lead. God might work through you to lead with a different personality and with different methods than He works through someone else. But the bottom line is God works these gifts and ministries through different individuals in different ways. There is no cookie cutter ministry or gift out there. Amen? Therefore, there are different activities—or different ways that various gifts of the Body act and operate—but God is working in and through them.
And do you recall that this was an issue in the Corinthian Church? They were divided—one saying they were of Apollos (the pastor there), and others saying they were of Paul (their apostle). And I can guarantee you that they were doing what so many still do today: they were incorrectly viewing their gifting and anointing as the way God works. This is wrong. God flows through our personalities and the things that make us unique. He doesn’t have just one way of using us.
Next, Paul says that there are diversities of “ministries” (i.e. administrations), but the same Lord. Now, we learned already that “Lord” is a reference to the Master, Jesus Christ. So, we see here that God the Son is at work in the distribution of the different ministries in the body. Now when we hear of this word “ministry” we think of pastoring, evangelism, teachers, etc. but did you know that we all have a “ministry”? We all have been called into the ministry! Paul referred to all who have been made new creations in Christ as “ministers of reconciliation.” It is much easier to swallow this when you consider the literal definition of “minister” or “ministries.” It just literally means to serve. Every one of us are called to serve in some degree or another. Those we consider to be “ministers” are simply called to serve others through spending time in the Word and then offering it to the people. For example, the pastors are simply called to tend to their flocks—serving them with their time and gifts. So, we are all called and gifted with a specific ministry in the Body of Christ to serve others with. While some have been given the ministry of being an apostle, prophet, or teacher, others have been given the ministry of helps or administrations (see First Corinthians 12:28). These are two of those overlooked and disesteemed gifts to the body (which Paul just referenced in 1 Corinthians 12:13-27) but they are just as vital as any other ministry. For example, I, being called into the fivefold ministry as a pastor and teacher, cannot do everything I am called to do unless I have the ministries of helps and administrations joining together with me. A pastor cannot do everything! He cannot run the sound, the equipment, usher, greet, sweep, mop, etc. all by himself. He needs the ministry of helps. Moses needed those two to help hold up his arms—which is a perfect picture of the ministry of helps. He didn’t have the ability to hold up his arms on his own. He needed help! Likewise, everyone with a “pulpit ministry” needs help. But they also need the ministry of administration as well. These are those who are gifted to give guidance and direction and assistance behind the scenes. There are also those who have the gift of wise decision-making. They know how to administer the finances of a ministry. They are leaders—not necessarily with the vocal gift. And there are other gifts (or ministries) as well such as the ministry of exhortation, giving, leadership, and mercy (see Romans 12). Many different worship leaders have the ministry of exhortation and leadership. We put them in the ministry of “worship leader” but the Bible actually does not use this title. What they oftentimes have is the ministry of exhortation and leadership. Missionaries are a good example of this as well. We don’t see a reference to “missionary” in the Bible but since an apostle literally is a “sent one” that means that some missionaries that are sent out to start, establish, and build up churches could be “apostles.” However, some missionaries have the gift of mercy—which is a heartfelt desire to go and meet the natural as well as spiritual needs of a people on foreign soil. But the ministry of exhortation, for instance, is oftentimes sitting in the pews. We have those who have this gift because of their knack for pinpointing someone to encourage and they speak words to lift up and edify people. There are those who have the gift of giving—that is, they first of all have a mind for making money and God has given them this ability because they are called unto the “gospel of entrepreneurship” to help finance other ministries to do what they do. For instance, I have friends who have a strong desire for God to pour wealth into them so that they can pour it out into God’s church. My wife has a wonderful gift of mercy and can go and sit with someone who is hurting and listen to them all day long. So, these are ministries just as much as an evangelist is a minister.
But the bottom line is, the Lord has given us all these different ministries we have in the body and none of them are any less significant than the others. Ephesians 4:7-12 describes when Jesus administered these different ministries—after He was raised up from the dead and He was ascending to heaven. It says that when He ascended on high, He gave gifts unto men. And verse 11 says that it was “He, Himself” (meaning, Jesus Himself) who gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers.”
You see, Jesus is the One who gave you your ministry and it doesn’t matter whether you can put your finger on what it is or not—just follow the desires of your heart to serve and combine that together with your area of expertise, and you will find your ministry. But if you want to know what it is, just go and ask Him what He gave you! And then, don’t go and look for a title—just look for an opportunity to serve! Selah!
And, last but definitely not least, Paul said in verse 4—“There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.” And these gifts of the Spirit are what we are going to begin to cover over our next few weeks. We are going to be talking about the nine gifts of the Spirit which can easily be broken down into 3 groups of 3: The vocal gifts—prophecy, tongues, and interpretation of tongues. The revelation gifts—word of knowledge, word of wisdom, and discerning of spirits. And the power gifts—working of miracles, gifts of healings, and special faith.
QUENCHING THE HOLY SPIRIT
As for this week’s message, I want us to talk about one more very significant key to seeing these gifts of the Holy Spirit active and operational in our lives:
Now I assume that we all want to see more of the gifts of the Spirit manifested in both our own individual lives and in our corporate gatherings, correct? Well, did you know that this is exactly how we will see more of a manifestation of them? No, it will not be through us jumping through this hoop or that one. The gifts of the Spirit come to the soul that desires them.
We see this principle throughout God’s Word: Jesus said in the Beatitudes that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness shall be filled (Matthew 5:6). The prophet Jeremiah taught us that when we seek Him with all our heart, we will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13). So, since this is a principle found throughout the Scriptures, then we can assume that it works this way with the things of the Spirit. Yes, to those who seek the Holy Spirit and His gifts with all their heart, they will find Him and them. This is how things work in the kingdom of God, and therefore, how they also work with spiritual gifts.
Now most of us are familiar with the phrase “do not quench the Spirit.” It comes from that same portion of Scripture that we just looked at in First Thessalonians chapter 5. And in the middle of some quick, points of instruction for a local church, Paul says in verses 16-22, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.”
Now I don’t know if the apostle Paul was running out of ink here or if time was of the essence, but he seemed to break away from his traditional writing style to give these shorter, bullet points of how to live the Christian life. And in the midst of these instructions, he told the Church of Thessalonica in verse 19 to not quench the Holy Spirit. But I want you to notice the theme both before verse 19 and after it:
Verses 16-18 contain God’s will for us in Christ Jesus—to always rejoice, pray and give thanks (Notice the reoccurring theme of “always, without ceasing, and in everything”). Church, what prefaces a life that doesn’t quench the Spirit is a consistent, unwavering and unceasing praise & prayer life! If we want to both stay full of the Holy Spirit and have Him flow through us like constant rivers of living water, then letting thanksgiving, praise & worship being continually in our mouth and having an unceasing prayer life is required.
However, in the verses that follow verse 19 (verses 20-22), Paul seemed to stay on the point of testing prophecies (one of the nine gifts of the Spirit)—holding fast to the good and throwing out the evil.
So how does verse 19— “Do not quench the Spirit”— fit into all of this. Well, I believe it ties into verses 20-22 regarding testing prophecies.
Now how many of you have heard messages on quenching the Spirit? And in these messages, have you heard that it is our sin that quenches the Spirit? Well, I am here to tell you that our sin, shortcomings, and faults are absolutely, positively not what quenches the Spirit in our lives! For if problems in the Lord’s church are what quenches the Spirit, then what about the church of Corinth? Paul said that this church was full of divisions, strife, and carnality! They had one of their members who was having an affair with his mother in law! They even used the Lord’s Supper as an occasion for the flesh! Let me tell you—this church was full of sin, yet they had so many manifestations of the Spirit in their gatherings that the apostle Paul had to tell them to do all things decently and in order! So evidently sin was and is not what quenches the manifestations of the Spirit in our churches, meetings, and our own lives or He would have certainly been quenched in the Church of Corinth.
Now the apostle Paul also speaks of “grieving” the Holy Spirit in Ephesians 4:30 and, in context, makes reference to various sins such as lying, stealing, anger, bitterness, wrath, unforgiveness etc. So, yes, there are things we do that grieve Him (i.e. break His heart, violate His confidence, etc.) and this is also echoed in James 4:5 when he says that the Holy Spirit yearns jealously over us, but these need to be understood as the Holy Spirit having an intimate relationship with us and how it hurts him when we are unfaithful to Him. However, there is a difference between grieving Him and quenching Him or else the one who wrote both of these books of the Bible would have not needed to use different terms. Amen?
So, what did Paul mean when he exhorted New Testament believers to not quench the Spirit? Well, to find the answer to this question, we must first define the word “quench”: The word “quench” means to dampen a flame or to pour water on a fire of some sort. The Greek word sbennymi literally means to “extinguish, or snuff out.” In fact, in Mark chapter 9 Jesus uses this same word several times in reference to the fire that is not quenched. In other words, a fire is what is being quenched.
This is important to understand because time and time again in the Scriptures the Holy Spirit is typified as fire. (We saw this as we studied the types of the Holy Spirit, right?)
Didn’t John the Baptist, in referring to Jesus, say that He would baptize us in the Holy Spirit and in fire (see Matthew 3:11)? When the Holy Spirit invaded the upper room in Acts chapter 2, didn’t the Holy Spirit appear to them as tongues of fire over their heads? Yes, friends, the Holy Spirit is compared to fire time and time again in the Scriptures.
But what do you never see the Holy Spirit likened to? Ice! You never see the Holy Spirit referred to as giving anyone chills! And why? It is because He stays on fire—meaning He is a zealous God, full of fervency and passion! He wants to burn bright in our gatherings—manifesting Himself in different ways to bring passion, zeal, and excitement in His people!
I can assure you, my friends, if your meetings are dry and cold, then the Holy Spirit is not being manifested in those meetings! Why? Because He is likened to fire and water, the exact opposite of the atmosphere of many churches—cold and dry! When He is present, there is life, excitement, and a refreshing that is experienced!
Even in the Old Testament, when the hand of the Lord came upon them (symbolic of the Holy Spirit), things happened! They shouted! They danced! They defeated troops! They leaped over walls! They outran king’s chariots! Hallelujah!
But someone will invariably say, “Well Trey, I don’t agree with all of that wild-fire!” Well, I think we should have order and do everything decently too, but not at the risk of having no manifestations of the Spirit of God! As Brother Kenneth E. Hagin used to say, “I’d rather have a little wild-fire than no fire at all!”—to which I give a hearty AMEN!
But my point is that the Holy Spirit is likened to fire repeatedly in the Scriptures, so when Paul says to not quench the Spirit, he is referring to pouring water on or snuffing out the flame of the Holy Spirit.
HOW DO WE QUENCH THE HOLY SPIRIT?
So, how do we do this? I mean, we want to learn how this is done so we won’t do it, amen? Well, just look at the following verses where the apostle of faith continues on with the same thought. Again, in these verses, Paul is calling the church to test all prophecies given and to hold fast to the good ones and abstaining from the evil. However, he says something in verse 20 that I believe gives us a clue to what quenching the Spirit entails: “Do not despise prophecies.”
Friends, by the context here, the way that God’s people dampen that flame of the Holy Spirit is when they choose to despise any of the gifts of the Spirit such as prophecy! In other words, God’s church quenches the Holy Spirit when they despise the manifestations of the Holy Spirit (i.e. they put the fire out). You could even flip this statement around and say that when we quench the gifts of the Spirit—by putting no value on them, etc.—we are despising the Holy Spirit Himself. Now that brings this to a new light, doesn’t it?
It 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!
Likewise, many churches and believers out there think they can just pick and choose what manifestations of the Spirit they want. They think that they can say, “Well, Holy Spirit we want you here, but you leave that tongues stuff and those healings on the front porch.” Well, it just does not work that way! You receive His manifestations or you reject Him!
Now thank God the Holy Spirit is not easily offended or vindictive! He is not, as so many in the church today believe, quick to fly away if anyone makes a false move. No, that is not His nature! And you better hope not, because we are out of luck then. Because the arrogant person who thinks that way doesn’t have all their ducks in row like they think they do. Therefore, they wouldn’t be entertaining the Holy Spirit either if He was as touchy and easily offended as they think He is.
No, the Holy Spirit will manifest in our lives and churches to the degree that we invite Him to. He is not looking for reasons to not manifest Himself; He is looking for every way to manifest Himself! And if that means, He is invited to work only during the altar call for salvation, He is happy to oblige. But those churches are not receiving the myriad of benefits that He has to offer, I can assure you!
So, how do we do this? How do we stir up that fire of the Spirit in us as Paul exhorted Timothy to do in Second Timothy 1:6? Well, it stands to reason that if we quench the Holy Spirit when we despise His gifts and manifestations, then don’t you think we can do the opposite and see that fire burn brighter? Yes, if despising the manifestations of the Holy Spirit results in quenching the Holy Spirit, then honoring the manifestations of the Holy Spirit will result in fanning the flame of the Holy Spirit. Amen?
Let’s look over at First Samuel 2:30 and see this principle further described: Now the context of this verse is when the man of God spoke to Eli concerning his sons whom he had failed to rebuke when he was privy of their sinful acts. And in verse 30 the Lord said to Eli, “I said indeed that your house and the house of your father would walk before Me forever. But now the Lord says: ‘Far be it from Me; for those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me shall be lightly esteemed.” My brothers and sisters, this is a powerful verse!
Notice, first of all, how the Lord said to this man that those who honor Him, He will honor. In other words, what the Lord was saying was that when God’s people choose to honor Him, honor will be returned unto them (like in this case when the opposite occurred—Eli choosing to keep his sons in their position knowing that they were dishonoring the people of God and their sacrifices and therefore was honoring his sons more than the Lord).
Now honor is a lost art in today’s society. We live in a world where honoring others like our spouses, parents, employers, and other authority figures is not held in as high regard as it once was. But that does not mean that God has changed. Honor is still very high on His priority list—an undying virtue that should still be present in our lives. And as we see in this verse, this “honor” is to first be directed at the Lord.
So, what does it mean to “honor?” The word “honor” means to place value on something or someone. It means to esteem, respect, and to have high regard for that person or thing. So, when it comes to honoring the Lord, it means that we value and esteem Him above anything or anyone else. Which is exactly what Eli did not do:
This man obviously valued his boys more than he did his God. And many people, if they were honest, would have to say they do the same. But this is not okay with God. He expects to be honored by us more than anything or anyone else.
But now notice the second half of this statement by the Lord to Eli because it teaches us something very important. He went on to say, “those who despise Me shall be lightly esteemed.”
Now let me take a commercial here for a minute and say that when we think of despising something, we usually think of being consciously and even aggressively against it. In other words, we think of “despising” something as hating it, but I want you to open your mind up to another way of looking at this word. From God’s perspective, He does not look at despising Him as only being actively against Him; He looks at it as simply lightly esteeming Him. Let me explain:
You see, if in First Samuel 2:30 the Lord said that those who honor Him, He will honor—meaning that what one does positively towards Him, He will return it in like manner—then doesn’t it stand to reason that when the next statement says that those who despise Him shall be lightly esteemed that those are also synonymous verbs? In other words, shouldn’t we also conclude that despising something is to lightly esteem it? It would violate the laws of Scriptural interpretation to think otherwise.
So, in God’s eyes, could “despising” something really be as casual as “lightly esteeming” it? Sure! In fact, we see in Genesis 25:34 that Esau despised his birthright. Again, that doesn’t mean that he hated his birthright and wanted no part of it. No, what really occurred was he lightly esteemed his birthright, which caused him to choose a bowl of soup over his birthright. In other words, he simply esteemed at that moment a physical meal more than he did his spiritual inheritance. Again, he did not hate his birthright; he simply did not value it to the degree that he should have—as more precious than that measly meal!
Now let’s look at this from the perspective of First Thessalonians 5:19-20: So, when one “despises prophecies” this does not just refer to those who hate the manifestations of the Spirit and are actively against the gifts of the Spirit; this can also refer to those who just simply lightly esteem the gifts and manifestations of the Holy Spirit. Wow! Now that just added a lot more of the church to the pool, didn’t it?
Saints, I can assure you that the reason that the Holy Spirit is quenched in the many different churches, gatherings, and Christian homes is because these believers are lightly esteeming the way that He manifests! 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. Church, I can assure you that when we get as hungry for the gifts as we do for our next meal, we will be filled with them!
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 First Corinthians 12:31 & 14:1)! In fact, the terms used in these two verses describe to burn with zeal, to be heated or to boil with desire. Notice all of the terms there that are associated with fire. So, it is obvious that in order to experience more of the fire, we are going to have to be on fire ourselves.
So, “earnestly desiring” the gifts of the Spirit apparently makes a difference—for why would he tell us to desire them if in the desire was not found more of the manifestation of them?
Church, this is the key to seeing more of the gifts of the Spirit manifested in our churches, gatherings, meeting, and in our everyday life also. Yes, this desire for the gifts is like the gasoline that will cause the fire of the Holy Spirit to burn brighter in our lives! So, it is simply in getting hungry for the gifts like Esau was hungry for that food! To earnestly desire them like we hunger for our next meal! To seek them as for 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!). And then let’s get off of our hands and start putting our hands on people!
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!
So, we began a new series on the gifts that the Holy Spirit last week, and church, I cannot express just how important this subject is to our church and the impact we are to have on this community. You see, the fact is, one manifestation of the power of God will have a greater impact than 10,000 words. This is why we need to recognize this power.
Now this does not mean that the manifestations of spiritual gifts are going to make people believe. Signs & wonders will never create faith. What they do, though, is they open people’s hearts up to the Gospel, and then the faith has the opportunity to come. In other words, signs and wonders are the “dinner bell” to get people to listen to the Gospel.
But the fact is, the Lord desires to move our body into a supernatural operation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and this will not happen simply because God decides to give us these gifts; we will experience them when we decide to experience them. That’s right! He moves when we invite Him to move because He has put the ball in our court and said, “This is what is yours. I have made it available to you. Choose this life. Choose these blessings. YOU come to waters of life and drink freely.” Amen?
So, it is up to us. How much of Him do we want? Do we desire to see Him turn our community right-side up? If so, then we need to press in to seeing more of a manifestation of the Holy Spirit in our own individual lives and, as a result, in our church body too.
So, let’s go back over to First Corinthians chapter 12 and look at what is widely recognized as the authority on the subject of the gifts of the Holy Spirit:
Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant: You know that you were Gentiles, carried away to these dumb idols, however you were led. Therefore, I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit. There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.
Now again, 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.
Then we saw how the apostle Paul goes on to refer to this Corinthian Church as “brethren” which should cause a collective “exhale” of relief from all of us, because this church had some serious problems! So, for Paul to refer to them as “brethren” at this point, I’m sure, was quite reassuring for this church and for all of us in the church today—because we can be full of weaknesses, yet our faith in the Greater One makes us free from the condemnation of those failures. Amen!
Then we saw how Paul expresses his desire that we not be ignorant about these spiritual things. Now it is interesting to me that the very thing Paul told us not to be ignorant of is the very thing that the body of Christ is probably most ignorant of. So here, the Holy Spirit is saying to you and I— “I do not want you to be ignorant concerning these spiritual gifts!” Why did He say this? It is because the Holy Spirit knew that this very subject will be one where we will be seriously tempted to be ignorant. And, oh, how this has certainly become common place in the church today!!
We saw that the word “ignorant” used here comes from the Greek word agnoia which is where we get our word “agnostic” from. On a side note—when you hear someone say they are agnostic, what you just heard is them professing their ignorance. The sad thing is that the majority of the church are “agnostics” concerning spiritual things. That’s right! We saw that you have your “believers” who whole-heartedly believe that the gifts of the Spirit are for us today, who hunger for them, and who see them manifested in their life from time to time. Unfortunately, this is the minority. Then you also have the “atheists” concerning spiritual gifts who vehemently believe that they have passed away, that they are not in operation today, and that anyone who claims to experience them is demonically inspired. There are certainly more of the former than the latter. But the vast majority of the church (just like the whole population of the planet) are “agnostics” concerning spiritual things—meaning, they are just flat out ignorant of how the gifts work, what they look like, and have certainly never seen them in operation in their church body. But not us! I said, not us! We are going to believe in the gifts! We are going to grow in our knowledge of the gifts! We are going to become wise concerning their usage and operation! Praise, God!
Which again brings us to the purpose of teaching on this subject: to instill faith in our hearts for these various gifts of the Spirit and empower us to manifest the gifts in our lives while also learning what exactly these gifts are and how they work.
But the main point we made last week regarding these gifts of the Spirit is that they are indeed that—they are gifts. And the reason I emphasized this is because far too many believers do not see the gifts this way, but rather see them as a “wage.” What do I mean by that? I mean that most Spirit-filled believers think that you and I have to “work” for the gifts of the Spirit; that we have to do something to see them manifest in our lives. But that is simply not true. The gifts of the Spirit are free gifts! They do not have to be earned, worked for or paid for! They are gifts, not wages!
We saw that the word “gifts” Paul used to describe these manifestations of the Holy Spirit later in this chapter comes from the Greek word charisma. 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. And, you know, when it comes to “charisma,” this is not something that people usually claim to have themselves. Rather, others are usually the ones to ascribe it to them. In other words, the person who possesses “charisma” does not usually go around saying, “I’ve got charisma!” No, it is recognized more by others around them. Likewise, with the “charismas” of the Spirit, most people don’t believe that they already got ‘em! They see other big-wigs and super-dupers in full-time ministry as possessing “charisma,” but they do not see themselves as having the goods.
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!
Now this week, let’s begin by looking at verse 2 of Second Corinthians chapter 14 and see what Paul went on to say to them about spiritual things:
LED VERSUS CARRIED AWAY
Paul says in First Corinthians 12:2— “You know that you were Gentiles, carried away to these dumb idols, however you were led.”
Now when the apostle Paul says, “You know that you were Gentiles” he was literally saying, “You do remember that you were unbelievers—without God in this world, right?” You see, I don’t think many Christians are mindful of this. I don’t think a lot of us realize that we are no longer idol worshippers. Why? Because many still live like the world does.
Saints, it’s high time we realize that we were Gentiles, and now we are the chosen people of God. Once we awaken to righteousness and who we are in Christ, it will change our behavior and what we experience. Well, that is neither here nor there. Notice what Paul goes on to say: he goes on to describe the characteristics of the Gentiles—that they are “carried away to these dumb idols…”
The phrase “carried away” literally describes “being led away.” However, this was not some gentle, soft leading; this describes more of a harsh & oppressive leading. We see this word used to describe Jesus being “carried away” or drug out of one place to another when he was being led away to Caiaphas and also to Pilate. So, this is not describing those unforceful, gentle nudges that the Holy Spirit gives us when He leads us. This is an oppressive & forced “carrying away” that is indicative of demonic spirits and not the Holy Spirit. Yes, this is exactly what evil spirits will do; they will carry us away; and not gently guide you. The Spirit of God is a perfect gentleman! He will never drag you or force you to do anything. He will gently lead you or impress you to do something, but He will never make you do anything.
First Corinthians 14:32 says that the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. This means that God will never—even in manifestations of the Spirit—make you get carried away to where you cannot control yourself. Evil spirits oppress and carry people away; the manifestation of the Holy Spirit brings freedom (for where the Spirit of the Lord there is freedom)—freedom to be inspired.
Has the Holy Spirit ever made you do anything to where you had no choice? Absolutely not. But ignorance regarding this simple truth has kept many of God’s children from one of God’s greatest gifts to us—tongues! Some who have actually received their prayer language, only believe you can speak in tongues when the Holy Ghost comes upon them and makes them. These are missing out on one of the advantages of tongues which is to pray in tongues whenever they want, however much they want. Then others, who believe that tongues will come out of their own, have been robbed of their prayer language altogether because of this misconception of how tongues come forth. Friends, if you have asked to receive the Holy Spirit, tongues are not going to be forced upon you anymore than the Holy Spirit forces anything else upon you. You have to speak! You have to open your mouth and begin to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gives you the utterance (i.e. the words/syllables)! And the better news is, you can do this anytime you want! We will get more into this in the coming weeks.
Then Paul goes on to say what the Gentiles were carried away to— “to these dumb idols.” Now he was not calling idols “stupid” like this might sound (even though these false gods and the worship thereof is indeed “dumb”). No, this word “dumb” describes the inability to speak. So, Paul was specifically referencing all of the pagan idols of their day (and ours as well) that do not speak back to those worshipping them. Oh yes, people are praying and praying and praying to these graven images, but they will not and cannot speak back to them.
So, what is the apostle Paul’s point here? It is that while the Pagan Gentiles are worshipping idols that do not speak, we serve the unseen, invisible God who does indeed speak!
Friends, this is the difference between us and all the other religions of the world: We serve a living God who still speaks today! He longs to manifest Himself to you and speak many wonderful mysteries to you! But not only that, He also desires to speak through you—speaking to His people through prophecies, tongues, etc. He is alive, church! He is the true and living God! He is just as alive today as He was in the Book of Acts—desiring to speak and manifest Himself through His church! Just as it was with the blood of Abel, he being dead, his blood that was poured on the earth still speaks; Jesus who is a type of Abel is still speaking today because although He was slain by His brethren, He is alive forevermore! And He still is speaking today—now through His Spirit who was also poured out on the earth! Hallelujah!
Of course, we know many in the church today do not believe this. They do not believe that God still speaks to His people like He did in the Bible. But that is just not true! God still speaks to and through His church today! And He desires to do this in each of our lives. Amen!
Finally, Paul goes on to say at the end of verse 2— “however you were led.”
You see, this might be shocking for some people to hear, but before we became new creations in Christ, we were “led” by evil spirits. Ephesians 2:2-3 tells us this when it says, “in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.” These verses teach us that before we came to Christ, we were controlled, led around, and carried away by the kingdom of darkness—some certainly more than others, but all of us in varying degrees. But the exact opposite is supposed to be true for us now that we are in Christ. Now we are to be “led” by the Holy Spirit. As Romans 8:14 says, “For those who are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God.” This means that every born-again, child of God, can and should be led by the Holy Spirit just as every unbeliever has been and is led by another spirit. Amen!
Let me give you what I believe to be an accurate picture of what you and I have now—the polar opposite of Ephesians 2:2-3: “In which you now are to walk according to the course of God’s kingdom, according to the King of all kings (Jesus), the spirit of Christ who now works in the sons of obedience, among whom also we all are to conduct ourselves by walking in the Spirit, fulfilling the desires of the Spirit and the mind of Christ, and are now by nature children of righteousness, just as everyone else in the Body of Christ.” Glory to God! That is how we are led, church! I’ll have me some of that! How about you?
So, yes, according to the First Corinthians 12:2, we do serve a God who still speaks to and through His people today! Yes, we do have His Spirit who has been promised to lead us! So, no longer are we to worship & serve a god who doesn’t speak. We have the Holy Spirit and can now expect to hear from God and be led by the Holy Spirit! Amen?
Now this “being led” leads me to the point I believe the Holy Ghost wants to make today:
THE HOLY GUIDE
You see, I have grown up in the circles where the importance of being led by the Holy Spirit and hearing from God has been greatly emphasized. And while certainly being led by the Spirit and doing what God tells us to do are two of the most important things we can learn, there is a tendency that comes from embracing these truths that must be avoided. Let me explain:
Oftentimes when someone gets the revelation of the importance of only doing what God leads or tells them to do, there is a fear that creeps in of “missing God.” What I mean is that when they begin to see that God has a perfect will for them and that He wants to lead them along His path for their life, many do not move forward until they know that they have heard from God. Generally, this happens because they fear getting out of His will and doing something that will derail His plan for their life. Therefore, the reason for this is usually not noble, but is motivated by the fear of missing His plan for their lives. But what we need to understand is that, even if we make a mistake, God is more than able to get us back on the path He has for our lives:
A very close friend of ours once had this concern about “missing God.” She had a decision before her and was seeking God for His direction but did not want to do anything that would derail her from His plan and purpose for her life. So, as she expressed her concern to Him, He said to her, “If you miss Me, I know where to find you.” In other words, the Lord was settling that concern by letting her know that it is not the end of the world if she made the wrong decision because God, who alone is wise, is able to work all things together for our good and turn any mistake into a miracle.
My friends, waiting on God’s direction to do the very things He’s already told us to do has never been His plan for His children! While He has always desired to lead us and tell us what to do and where to go, His intention is not for us to sit still—waiting for Him to tell us what, when, where, etc. His intention is for us to act on the direction that He has already revealed to us through His Word. He has already told us to do many things in the Bible, and as we walk in the light of what He has already revealed, He will guide us along the way. So, I believe a wise prayer is not to just ask the Lord what it is He wants you to do, but for Him to remind you if there is anything He has already told you to do that you’re not doing. As a matter of fact, the word “guide” is a much better description of how God has purposed to lead us.
You see, Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would “guide” us into all truth (see John 16:14), which implies that we must already be moving. But did you know that you cannot guide anything that is not already moving? For example, in order for a rudder to guide a boat, the boat must first be moving. You can turn a rudder as far as it will turn, but if the boat never leaves the dock, it will remain pointed in the same direction. Likewise, God expects us to be moving so that His Holy Spirit can then guide us into all truth.
But this is what we must understand: The Holy Spirit’s job is to guide us, not to drag us. In other words, His ministry is to help us stay on God’s path, not to tell us every little step to take.
You see, there is a reason that God is likened to a shepherd in the Scriptures and not a cowboy. A cowboy drives his cattle. In other words, he makes them do what he desires. A shepherd does not operate like this. A shepherd has a much milder and gentler approach. He leads his sheep and they follow Him, and if they start to veer off the path, He gently guides them back on the path with His rod and staff.
This is a perfect illustration of the ministry of the Holy Spirit! He is a Leader! He is a Guider! But He will not make us do anything. He is a perfect Gentleman, just as is all of the Blessed Trinity. He never wants to usurp our own free will but is ready and willing, when invited, to guide us into His perfect destiny for our lives! Thank you, Lord, for the Holy Spirit!
Somebody might be thinking— “Trey, I am not sure about this. I do not think we should “move” until we hear from God first.” Well, I completely agree! But the truth is that we have already heard from God on what I am referring to. How? The Bible is God’s Word to us! So, if He has already told us to do it in the Scriptures, then we have already heard from God and do not need to wait on Him to give us further direction.
For example, let’s look over at Mark chapter 16:
Now in the beginning of Mark chapter 16, we have the account of Jesus’ resurrection and how this was revealed to His disciples. However, there was much unbelief in His disciples when others communicated to them what they had seen and heard.
So, in verse 14 we see Jesus appearing to His disciples and notice what He said to them: “Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen.”
Did you know that you cannot be a Christian if you don’t believe in miracles, signs, and wonders? That’s because our faith is based upon the greatest sign of all—the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Christianity is all about miracles, church! But some will say that these signs passed away with the apostles or are no longer needed. We can’t just choose which parts of the Bible we want to believe and what parts we can throw out. No, these signs are not passed away any more than our calling to go preach the gospel into all the world has passed away. The only reason people do not believe in these things is because either:
In Jesus’ great commission to His disciples, He told them to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” Do you know what this verse should eliminate? It should eliminate the questions: “Lord, should I go to this person?” and “God, do you want me to go there?” Why? Because Jesus did not say, “Go into the parts of the world I tell you to”, nor did He say, “Go preach the gospel to the people I lead you to.” No! He told all of His disciples, for all of time, to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature! Therefore, we already have heard from God!
Now, of course, we individually cannot go everywhere in the world and tell every human being the good news. That is not the point. But what Jesus meant was that we all, collectively, should be fulfilling this great commission by each of us doing our part. This is where we need to be led by the Spirit and where we need to hear from God—not to whether we should be a part of this great commission, but to where our part is.
And this is my point: If we are sitting on our hands for extended periods of time waiting on God to tell us what to do, we are missing it. We should not be doing nothing and waiting on God to tell us what to do. We should be going out seeking to fulfill this command of Christ, while being sensitive to how the Holy Spirit might be guiding us to do it.
In fact, the Book of Acts gives us a great example of this: After Jesus’ disciples got this directive from God, they began moving—preaching everywhere they went and to every person they came in contact with. It was amazing! If you just were to study the maps of where these disciples went, you will find that they just followed the roads they had and stopped in all of the cities along the way. And in one particular passage, we have a great example of really how the Lord has planned to lead and guide us:
In Acts 16:6-10 we are told, “Now when they (Paul and Silas) had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them. So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us. Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them.”
Now I hope that you see the significance of this passage of Scripture. Notice in verse 6 that they “had gone”—which denotes that they were already moving, but were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. This describes the ministry of the Holy Spirit to guide us. They were sensitive to the Spirit’s direction as they were already acting on the command of Christ. Then what did they do? Did they just sit at the border of Asia and wait for further directions? No! Verse 7 says that when they had come to Mysia, they tried to go to Bithynia, but were again not given permission by the Holy Spirit to go into the area that they intended. So surely they did not try and go anywhere else until they heard from God, right? Wrong! Verse 8 says that they passed Mysia and came down to Troas where the Apostle Paul received the vision of the Macedonian man pleading with them to come to them. But did you know that this is where many miss it? Most of us would have pitched camp in Mysia because it seems like we are running into a brick wall. And guess what would have happened? We would have “myssed” it in the process. Church, even if we are trying to move forward in doing something for God and we see that we missed it, don’t camp in Mysia. Rather, do what Paul and Silas did and “pass by Mysia” and go on to the next one!
So, my point is that the great apostle Paul who certainly knew about hearing from God and being led by the Holy Spirit was not sitting in his prayer closet waiting for God to tell him where to go preach the gospel. The Lord had already specifically commissioned him to preach the gospel to the Gentiles, so he was just acting on the Word that he had and was going into whatever gentile region that seemed best to him while certainly being sensitive to the “red lights” the Holy Spirit gave him.
But as evidenced, not only in this passage of Scripture but all throughout the rest of the Book of Acts, the Holy Spirit guided them as they went. They had taken the Great Commission of the Lord Jesus seriously and were actively going into all of the world and preaching the gospel to every creature and making disciples. They had this word from God and they ran with it! Of course, there were times when the Holy Spirit had to stop them from going into certain areas and/or redirect them, but this is the pattern of how God directs us. He wants us acting on what He has already said and what is written in His Word and then He will redirect us as needed.
But as I have already made the point of, the mistake so many people make is that they are waiting for God to tell them what to do and they are doing nothing in the meantime. They believe God is the “God of the Red Light.” What I mean is that they believe that they need to ask the Lord for His direction and then they sit there, as if at a red light, waiting for the light to turn green before they start moving. Let me assure you, this is not God’s plan for us when it comes to sharing the gospel with others. He wants us to act on the Great Commission and then expect Him to give us more specific direction as we are moving.
As I have said time and time again: In order to receive God’s specific direction for your life, you first need to follow His general direction for all of our lives. What I mean by this is that God has already told us to do many things which are contained in His Word. So, before we seek more specific direction from God through His Spirit, we need to act on the general will of God found in the Scriptures.
WHERE DO I START THEN?
So, the question many of us have is “Where do I start?” Let’s look over at Acts 1:8 where Jesus gives us a very practical directive to fulfilling His great commission. 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. I want you to notice that this is progressive: Jerusalem is the city where they were currently at. Judea and Samaria was the region surrounding their city. And to the end of the earth obviously includes everywhere beyond the previous two.
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:
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. As Jesus said, we just need to begin where we are at! We need to find the opportunities contained in our “Jerusalem.” So, in regards to the letting the Holy Spirit use us in the gifts, I see this as our comfort zone and the culture in which we are familiar. Where might this be? In our church gatherings, Sunday school classes and Bible Studies, of course! 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 we can! The possibilities are limitless. The key is just possessing a sense of urgency and an acute awareness of the opportunities around us in the Centre of the church!
Then notice what Jesus told them next: He told them that they would go into all of Judea and Samaria. As I previously stated, this was the surrounding country and region around the city that they lived. So 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 to.
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.”
Church, the Holy Spirit has a BIG vision for you! He wants to use you in a much greater way than you can imagine to be a vessel that He can manifest through!
But what I believe is the Lord’s main point for us this week is that we are not just to sit on our hands and wait for a green light from Him! He has already given us the green light through the mouth of Jesus! Jesus has already 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! Amen!
Then notice what Jesus went on to say in Mark 16:16: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.”
Now notice what Jesus was saying here: He was saying that although we are to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature, not everyone is going to receive the good news. Likewise, not everyone we pray for or speak prophetically into their life will receive it. Therefore, if we attempt to minister to someone and they do not accept it and it falls flat, that does not necessarily mean that we missed it. Let me ask you this: If we share the gospel with someone and they reject it, does that mean we were not led by the Spirit to share it with them? Absolutely not! So how come we believe that if we pray for someone to be healed and they don’t receive, that it must not have been God’s will for us to pray for them? No, the receiving is not our job! However, the stepping out part is our commission. We leave the results up to God and the person being prayed for. Our job is to simply be obedient to “GO.”
In other words, our job is put ourselves in the position to be used by God every chance we get. And we do this by praying for every sick person and speaking into every person’s life that we have the opportunity to in every place we go— (and here is the key) while not getting discouraged if we do not see any results or manifestations of the Spirit the first 100 times.
But I want you to understand something else here that we see in this verse: The Lord once showed me that not only is it true that those who do not believe will be condemned, but also those who are condemned will not believe.
You see, this is another major reason why so many of God’s children do not flow in the signs and gifts that are supposed to follow them that believe—condemnation! Church, this is one of the most used weapons by the devil on the body of Christ. The reason is because it is his most effective weapon that he uses against us. A condemned Christian is already an ineffective Christian. One definition of condemnation is to “deem unfit for use” (in reference to a building) and that is what the devil’s goal is when condemning us.
You see, he is not as concerned with making you sin as he is with the after-effects of your sin. The devil is out to steal your faith and if he can get you to compromise in any area then your faith will be less effective. Satan is afraid of the anointing. That is why he is constantly trying to get us to compromise in our lives. It’s because he knows that if he can cause us to quit reading our Bible, quit praying daily, or to allow sins into our lives that he can steal the anointing that is on our lives. And it is that anointing that can break the yokes and destroy the bonds in a split second which he has spent years to erect.
In First Peter 5:8 Satan is called the “adversary.” This word was used in the first century to describe a prosecuting attorney. This shows us his work of attempting to condemn us. He is also called in the Book of Revelation the “accuser of the brethren.” He will constantly make accusations against us in an attempt to get us to agree with him and accept the guilt of our mistakes. The biggest mistake we can make as saints of God is to plead guilty when those accusations are brought against us. If we do that then I don’t care who your lawyer is—you will be condemned! But the reality is that Jesus Christ is our advocate (i.e. our defense attorney) and if He be for us who can be against us (Romans 8:31)! Not only that, but the Judge is our Father. So, with that scenario, how could we lose a case? The answer is what we have already learned—to admit to the guilt.
So, what is the solution to this condemnation? Well, it is not to simply to attempt to avoid, resist, and dispel the condemnation. No, the best way to eliminate the lie is with the truth. It is the law of displacement. The more effective way to get rid of any lie is to replace it with the truth, because when the truth abides within you, the lie cannot stay. Take for instance darkness: The right way to getting rid of darkness is not to shovel out the darkness; it is to turn the light on—because when light enters, darkness must flee.
Now what is the opposite of condemnation? It is righteousness and justification! You see, condemnation is a legal judiciary word. It is generally used in a court of law to bring justice to the guiltiest of defendants. We condemn them to death or life in prison, etc. Well, justification and righteousness are done when what is right and just is accomplished.
So, my point is—condemnation must be dispelled in order to operate in the gifts of the Spirit. We must know and understand that we have been qualified and gifted already, and now simply use the gifts of the Spirit within us!
THE KEY TO MULTIPLYING YOUR GIFTS
Which leads me to my final point: Let’s look at another parable of Jesus which further teaches this principle I am attempting to share with you today. In Matthew 25:14-30, we have the Parable of the Talents, and in this parable, we see how the Lord entrusted to each of His servants a certain amount of talents.
Now have you ever noticed that the two in this parable that were entrusted with multiple talents were the ones who ended up multiplying their talents? Yes, it was the one who was entrusted with one talent that never multiplied his, but rather buried it in fear of his master.
Now do you suppose that the Master might have had a little intuition as to who would be the good stewards of what they were entrusted with and who would not? I guarantee you that He did. He saw their hearts. He knew who was wise and who was foolish. He knew who was most likely to produce more with what they had. So, he gave to each according to their own ability (see Matthew 25:15). What does this mean— “according to their own ability”? It means that the master saw and understood what they were all three capable of. So, he distributed to each one very intentionally and specifically. This means that when God sees your faithfulness and He counts you worthy to be a carrier of the keys of the kingdom, He will entrust you with more. You see, God is not stupid. He is the wisest investor in history! And when He finds someone whom He knows will be good stewards with His gospel and His power, He will show Himself strong through them. He counted Paul worthy! He took this man who was giving 110% for the work of Satan and said, “I can use this man! All He needs is a little change in perspective and philosophy and that 110% he is giving to satan, He will give it to Me.”
Now understand me: I am not talking about our salvation and God’s love for us. That is the same towards us all and has zero to do with our works. What I am referring to is our hearts and how we are used by Him. We must be faithful with our gifts and then we will begin to see an increase in those gifts. Holy Spirit gives us the tools, but we have to open up the toolbox and use them. The more we lean on Him, recognizing that it's only by His grace that something good will come of this, the more we receive.
But as I have personally experienced myself and witnessed in others, the main reason that we do not feel confident to step out in faith and let God flow through us is because we fear missing God—which goes back to the condemnation thing. In other words, the primary reason we do not go out on a limb is because we are scared that it might not be God’s will, plan, or timing. In other words, we want to be sure its God. But this is not how it works! You have to step out in faith first and then you will come to that place of seeing and understanding. But what so many Christians want is they want to know, see, and understand everything before they step out. Just as it is in the natural, in the kingdom of God you are going to have to go out on a limb in order to get the best fruit!
But why do we fear missing God like this? It is partly because we fear failure. We are scared of falling flat on our face. But, thank God, Peter did not think like this. He stepped out of the boat, not fearing that He would sink. And that is the mentality that we need to adopt—not being afraid of falling flat on our face! Sure, we might fail. Sure, we might miss it sometimes if we live our lives like this. But what do you suppose God would rather you miss it in? Do you think He would rather you miss it in not praying for people or do you think He would rather you miss it in praying for people? I guarantee you He would rather you try to walk and fall down than never attempting to walk at all. This is simply a fact of life for any young child: They fall down several times before they truly learn to walk. Do we frown upon them when they fall? No, we understand that in order for them to learn to walk, they might have to fall a few times. Likewise, in order for us to learn to walk with God and walk in the miraculous, we might have to fall on our face a few times! And that is ok because this is how we learn to soar!
You know, it has been said that the way a mother eagle teaches her young to fly is by pushing her chicks out of the nest. It is during their fall that they learn to fly. Now this is a frightening thing, but what does it require? Faith! It requires faith on behalf of their mother to push them out of their comfort zone and risk them never learning to fly during their quick plummet to the earth. But we need to understand that God is a God of faith too, and He believes in us! He believes that we can mount up with wings as the eagle and learn to soar with Him! Now the awesome thing about our God is that He does not want to push us out of our nests. He lets us choose to make that leap ourselves, just as He did not push Peter out of the boat, but let him make that leap of faith of his own initiative. God, likewise, will wait for us to jump out of that comfort zone—our proverbial “nest”—and learn to operate in the gifts and talents that He has given us stewardship over.
But there is another reason why so many of God’s children fear stepping out in faith to pray for someone or speak into their life: It is because not only do they fear failure, but because they fear God! And no I am not talking about that healthy, reverential fear of God, but the being afraid of displeasing Him.
Do you remember in the Parable of the Talents why the one who had only been entrusted with one talent buried his talent? It was because he “feared” his master (see verse 25). In other words, he had an incorrect view of him. In verse 24, he said that he “knew he was a hard man, reaping where he had not sown, and gathering where he had not scattered seed.” Friends, this is exactly why so many fail to grow in the operation of the gifts of the Spirit and in the gifts pertaining to their calling. It is because they have an incorrect view of God. They think He will be “hard” on them if they fail or do something wrong. This incorrect view of God keeps His children from growing.
For example, many people fear speaking out by faith the utterance given to them by the Holy Spirit. And this is why they don’t speak in tongues when baptized in the Holy Spirit. One thing I have told those who maybe only received one syllable from the Holy Spirit is— “Be faithful with that one word! Speak it out and let the Holy Spirit see your willingness to be faithful in little and He will make you rule over more syllables.” One might say, “Yeah, but what if it’s not the Holy Spirit and it’s just me?” God is not going to be angry with you if you are trying and fail. It is like a parent whose child has not learned to speak yet. When the child is trying to tell daddy & mommy that he loves them, but can’t say it perfectly. Doesn’t that still bless the parents? Sure, it does! I believe our Heavenly Father is no different! He is blessed when His children are trying to obey Him! Amen?
But, no, God is not hard on us, and looking to come down on us if we make a poor investment with the talents He has entrusted us with? No, God is not sitting up in heaven with a scowl on his face waiting for us to mess up so that He can pour out his wrath and fury on us! No! Just like with any of us who know how to give good gifts to our children, our Heavenly Father is blessed with our good intentions! He is pleased when we, as His children, make the effort to multiply the gifts He has given to us! What actually displeases Him is when we do not try—making the effort to walk in the gifts He has given to us. That is what God does not want to see.
So I encourage you, begin to put into practice this truth by practicing praying for people and laying your hands on the sick. For as you are faithful in your stewardship of the gifts He has put on the inside of you, you will be made ruler over much! It is simply a principle of the kingdom that as you are faithful to put yourself in position for God to flow through you that He will multiply those talents! Amen!
Church, this very thing I am teaching you today is what unlocked me operating in spiritual gifts much more than I had been. Yes, I experienced such an increase in being used in the gifts of the Spirit such as prophecy, word of knowledge, and word of wisdom through this new way of thinking—that God has already told me to “Go!” and that I need not be condemned if I fail to get results. So, it was not because I was praying more, was any more “holy” or anything else that I was doing different. So, as I thought about it, what was the difference? And the conclusion I came to was that I have simply been practicing!
For several years now, I have been laying my hands on people and speaking healing over their bodies every chance I have gotten. I have not shunned to pray for people and speak words of encouragement and love into their lives. Simply put, I have been boldly putting myself in a position to be used of God and not sitting back and waiting for God to use me in these things. I have been acting on the Word for a few years now by praying for people every chance I got—not being timid and shy and waiting for God to “lead” me to do these things.
And this is a problem so many of God’s children have: They are waiting on God when, in fact, God is waiting on them! God has already told us to go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation! God has already told us to lay hands on the sick and they will recover! God has already told us to do all of these things, yet the majority of the church is sitting on their hands waiting for a sign from God to begin doing these things. Well, here is your sign—God has already spoken because it is already written!
You see, God is a God of the green light, not the red light! What do I mean by that? I mean, He is not a God who wants us sitting at that proverbial red light, waiting on Him to turn the light green for us. No, He wants us moving on the green light already given to us in His Word while being open to the red lights that the Holy Spirit might give us in certain situations. This is a big difference in mentalities.
I mean, if Jesus healed them all, then that ought to tell us that God certainly is not going to be leading us to not pray for the majority of sick people that come across our path. No, it should actually be a rare thing that the Spirit not lead us to pray for someone who is sick and ailing! The Spirit and the Word agree! So, if one is consistently being “led” to not pray for someone who is sick, then I question what they are being “led” by—because it is not God’s Spirit.
This is a wake-up call, church! The Lord is calling His church to no longer miss our “God moments.” No longer are we to pass by those that are lame like the man at the gate called beautiful, and are denying them their moment to receive God’s will for their life. And at the same time, we are denying God’s moment to be glorified! My brothers and sisters, we need to get off our hands and start putting those hands on people!
Church, God is always moving! The Holy Spirit is always willing! He always wants to heal and manifest Himself in us and through us! God is always sitting on “GO” for He said, “Go, Therefore!”
So, as we have been camping on the Holy Spirit for this calendar year, today, we will begin a new series on the gifts that the Holy Spirit has given us. And church, this is a tremendously important subject as it pertains to our church and the impact we will have on this community.
As we heard Marcus say last weekend, one manifestation of the power of God will have a greater impact than 10,000 words, and we need to recognize this power. Now this does not mean that the manifestations of spiritual gifts are going to make people believe. Signs & wonders will never create faith. What they do though, is they open people’s hearts up to the Gospel and then the faith comes.
So, the Lord desires to move our body into a supernatural operation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and this will not happen simply because God decides to give us these gifts; we will experience them when we decide to experience them.
Now I know that this statement might go against many of our belief systems, but it’s true! God does not move in an individual or in a congregation simply because He makes His mind up to move. No, He moves when we invite Him to move; not because we hold any power over Him. That is obvious. But He moves when we open the door for Him to do so because He has put the ball in our court and said, “This is what is yours. I have made it available to you. Choose this life. Choose these blessings. YOU come to waters of life and drink freely.” Amen?
So, it is up to us. How much of Him do we want? Do we desire to see Him turn our community right-side up? If so, then we need to press in to seeing more of a manifestation of the Holy Spirit in our own individual lives and, as a result, in our church body too.
So, let’s now go over to First Corinthians chapter 12 and look at what is widely recognized as the authority on the subject of the gifts of the Holy Spirit:
Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant: You know that you were Gentiles, carried away to these dumb idols, however you were led. Therefore, I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit. There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.
Now, first of all, I want to point out something about the phrase “spiritual gifts”—and that is, 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” (Grk. 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.
The fact is, many Christians willfully remain ignorant of spiritual gifts because they do not want to be different. Hey, we are different—whether we want to be or not! If we are a born-again, Spirit-filled Christian, then we are as different as night and day—which is a more literal statement than we realize because we once were lost in darkness and have been made the light of the world! Glory!
IGNORANCE IS NOT BLISS
The apostle Paul goes on to address these Corinthians as “brethren” which should cause a collective “exhale” of relief from all of us, because this church had some serious problems! For one, Paul called them “carnal” due to all of the strife and divisions which were present in their church (see First Corinthians 1:10-17 & 3:1-4). The Corinthians had even tolerated some serious sexual sin in their church body (see chapter 5). Not to mention, they were taking each other to court, defiling their own bodies, etc. (see chapter 6). Paul even had to address basic, marital/relationship issues (see chapter 7). And I could go on and on, but the fact remains that the church of Corinth—while abounding in spiritual gifts—had some serious issues.
So, for Paul to refer to them as “brethren” at this point, I’m sure, was quite reassuring for this church and for all of us in the church today—because we can be full of weaknesses, yet our faith in the Greater One makes us free from the condemnation of those failures. Amen!
So then, Paul goes on to say in First Corinthians 12:1— “I do not want you to be ignorant.”
Now it is interesting to me that the very thing Paul told us not to be ignorant of is the very thing that the body of Christ is probably most ignorant of. Mind you, these words were not just instructions given by the Apostle Paul; all Scripture is given by inspiration of God. Therefore, Paul was being moved by the Holy Spirit to say this. So, when you look at Scriptures that give similar instruction, look at them like the Lord is speaking directly to you. And here, the Holy Spirit is saying to you and I— “I do not want you to be ignorant concerning spiritual gifts!” Why did He say this? It is because the Holy Spirit knew that this very subject will be one where will be a seriously tempted to be ignorant. And, oh, how this has certainly become common place!
The word “ignorant” used here comes from the Greek word agnoia which is where we get our word “agnostic” from. On a side note—when you hear someone say they are agnostic, what you just heard is them profess their ignorance. The sad thing is that the majority of the church are “agnostics” concerning spiritual things.
For example, you have your “believers” who whole-heartedly believe that the gifts of the Spirit are for us today, who hunger for them, and who see them manifested in their life from time to time. Unfortunately, this is the minority. Then you also have the “atheists” concerning spiritual gifts who vehemently believe that they have passed away, that they are not in operation today, and that anyone who claims to experience them is demonically inspired. There are certainly more of the former than the latter. But the vast majority of the church (just like the whole population of the planet) are “agnostics” concerning spiritual things—meaning, they are just flat out ignorant of how the gifts work, what they look like, and have certainly never seen them in operation in their church body. But not us! I said, not us! We are going to believe in the gifts! We are going to grow in our knowledge of the gifts! We are going to become wise concerning their usage and operation! Praise, God!
Which brings us to the purpose of teaching on this subject: to instill faith in our hearts for these various gifts of the Spirit and empower us to manifest the gifts in our lives while also learning what exactly these gifts are and how they work. So, buckle your proverbial seatbelt and let’s take a ride down “Charisma Court” and become truly “spiritual.”
GIFTS, NOT WAGES
Now the first thing we need to understand about these gifts of the Spirit is that they are indeed that—they are gifts.
The reason I am instilling such an important point is because far too many believers do not see the gifts this way, but rather see them as a “wage.” What do I mean by that? I mean that most Spirit-filled believers think that you and I have to “work” for the gifts of the Spirit; that we have to do something to see them manifest in our lives. But that is simply not true. The gifts of the Spirit are free gifts! They do not have to be earned, worked or paid for! They are gifts, not wages! Amen?
For instance, the first time that Paul used the word “gift” to describe these manifestations of the Holy Spirit was in verse 4 of this same chapter. And the Greek word that he used was charisma.
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.
And, you know, when it comes to “charisma,” this is not something that people usually claim to have themselves. Rather, others are usually the ones to ascribe it to them. In other words, the person who possesses “charisma” does not usually go around saying, “I’ve got charisma!” No, it is recognized more by others around them.
Likewise, with the “charismas” of the Spirit, most people don’t believe that they already got ‘em! They see other big-wigs and super-dupers in full-time ministry as possessing “charisma,” but they do not see themselves as having the goods.
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!
Do you have Scripture for that, pastor? You bet your bottom dollar, I do. Hallelujah!
I looked up the various times that this Greek word charisma is used in the New Testament and guess what the common usage is? That we’ve already got it! Let me give you some examples:
First of all, if you back up to the beginning of this very letter, you’ll see the heart of God concerning the matter: First Corinthians 1:4-7 says, “I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus, that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge, even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
So, Paul starts off this letter thanking God for the grace of God that was given to them by Christ Jesus. Now the grace he is referring to here is obviously the gracious gifts of the Holy Spirit. And notice that he doesn’t say, “I pray to God always concerning you that God would some day give you grace by Christ Jesus.” No, he is saying they’ve already got said grace! Amen?
Paul continues that they were enriched in everything by Him—not hoped to be enriched in everything someday, but they already had been given everything and were enriched in this! In what? In all utterance and all knowledge! What does this mean? Well, “utterance” describes “speech,” which is an obvious reference to the vocal gifts of tongues, prophecy, etc. (gifts that he would have to correct them on regarding their usage later in this letter). The term “knowledge” is a likely reference to the revelation gifts of the word of knowledge, word of wisdom, and discerning of spirits. But my point is that this church was already enriched in all of these spiritual gifts.
Now was this just true for the Church of Corinth or is this a reality for all of God’s Church today? It is for all of us today just like it was for them 2,000 years ago because God does not include these things just for the benefit of one select group! No, He is no respecter of persons! Amen?
Let’s look at some other New Testament verses:
Later on, in First Corinthians 7:7, Paul begins to explain the principles of marriage saying that a man has his wife and the wife has her husband. In verse 7, he says, “But each one had his own gift from God…” The word that is used here for “gift” is again the word charisma. So, Paul also calls our spouses our gifts from God, which beautifully illustrates the point I am making.
You see, if you are a man and you are married, you’ve already got a wife! It would be considered immoral for you to go around trying to find a wife when you already have your “gift” from God, right? Likewise, since we are married to the Lord and have His Spirit living in us, we need not go around trying to get something we’ve already got! Amen?
So, it is not a matter of you and I doing more to qualify ourselves to be used in the gifts of the Spirit. No, it is simply a matter of believing that the Lord has already put these gifts on the inside of us, and earnestly desiring and seeking to see them manifested in and through you!
First Peter 4:10 says, “As each one had received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” Notice that each one of us have received a gift—not just some of us, not just the select elect! Everyone has received “charisma” from God. Therefore, our responsibility is to minister those gifts to one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. And notice the parallel yet again of the gifts God gives us to the grace of God.
We understand well that we cannot earn the grace of God, right? So, why would we think we can earn the gifts of the Spirit, which are considered manifestations of His grace? We can’t! They are God’s grace to us, and we are simple stewarding that grace! They are in our possession and we are responsible for handling them in the correct fashion.
So, if we don’t earn them—not receiving them by our actions—then can we lose them through our works? Nope! For Romans 11:29 says, “For the gifts (Grk. charisma) and the calling of God are irrevocable.” This means that any “charisma” of God (including the gifts of the Spirit) is unable to be changed or reversed. Another way of saying this is to say—God’s not an Indian giver! Once He gives it, He doesn’t take it away.
This is something the Lord has certainly established me in. Like many of our tendencies, I believed in the past that God used me based on my performance. So, while I knew I had a gift, I still understood that the gift was not completely free.
I remember a time early in my walk with the Lord, when I was busy teaching Bible studies at my local church, and I had made some mistakes at this particular stage. In the midst of having to teach these people, I felt as condemned as a man could be. If I had been given the opportunity, I would have handed that Bible study over to someone else! But I didn’t. I had to go teach it.
How could God use me that evening? I felt so unworthy! But here is a good point to interject here. Was I ever worthy (when it comes to things of the flesh)? Was I ever qualified in the natural? Heavens, no! I might have been holier at other times than at this time, but again, God does not grade on a curve. So, what if I was even the best sinner at other times. The fact is, I was still a sinner. I was still making other mistakes; whether or not they were the more glaring and obvious ones. And, saints, this is all of us. None of us, even in our best state, are qualified. As my father-in-the-faith likes to say, “God has never had anyone working for Him yet that was qualified!”
So, the whole time I was preparing and heading to this Bible study, I was crying out to God to please use me! I said, “Oh God, don’t let these people suffer for my failures! Please use me! Please use me!”
Well, that evening I can tell you, was the most I had ever experienced the anointing of God up to that point in my life! Glory to God! He certainly used me—in a grand and glorious way! Thank you, Jesus!
The next morning, I was praying and thanking God profusely! I was telling God, “Lord, thank you for using me! Thank you for using me!” And really what I saying was, “Thank you Lord for using me for me!” In other words, “Thank you Lord for not letting me have egg on my face and for showing up in spite of myself.” I heard the Lord speak in my heart very distinctly as I kept repeating, “Thank you Lord for using me.” The Lord spoke the following words to my heart: “Trey, I don’t use you for you; I use you for My people.”
Then after I heard that, He began downloading certain Scriptures into my heart showing me how He uses His people in spite of their own weaknesses, failures and carnality. One of those primary examples He showed me is what we have been looking at: the Church of Corinth, the church that was enriched in the gifts of the Holy Spirit! Amen!
Saints, this is the church who had so many of the gifts of the Spirit going on at the same time so that Paul had to actually tell them to do things decently and in order (First Corinthians 14:40)!
Was this because they were so holy and had no sin? Heavens, no! In one place, Paul called them babies! And why? Because there were factions among them—strife, envy and divisions (First Corinthians 3:1-3). This church was even abusing the Lord’s Supper—using it as an opportunity for the flesh to just pig out and disdain the poor around them. In fact, there was even a man in the church who was having an affair with his mother in law, and this church was tolerating it! Wow!
So, no, this church was far from perfect and had all kinds of problems. Yet God was still using them in a mighty way! And why? Because they received the manifestation of God’s Spirit by grace through faith.
So, yes, there is hope for you and I! God has given us these gifts of the Holy Spirit, and there’s nothing we can do about it!
Finally, let’s look at one more instance where this Greek word charisma is used, and in so doing, learn how to release the gifts within us:
In Second Timothy 1:6, the apostle Paul exhorts Timothy with— “Therefore, I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.” Again, the gift of God is already in there; put in us by the anointing of the Holy Ghost. However, as good stewards of these gifts, we are called to “stir up” the gift! One might describe this as “unwrapping” the gift that we’ve been given!
Therefore, I believe we can see a principle here: When it comes to any of God’s gifts that are in you, specifically in this case, the gifts of the Spirit, you and I “stir up” those gifts through our faith that’s in us! We can do this by praying in the Spirit and simply pressing into what we have within us!
The final point I believe that the Lord is making today 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?
Well, someone will say, “Yeah, but how can we say we have something if we don’t see it?” Good question, but wrong perspective. We are called to walk by faith, not by sight—simply believing what God says is ours no matter if we are walking in the reality of it or not. So, I submit to you that we need see the gifts of the Spirit as God’s gifts to us—not things He might give us in the future, but gifts that He’s already given. Then, understanding that the Holy Spirit is just looking for an opening to let these gifts flow in our lives, we invite Him to do so in us.
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!
So, today, we are concluding our shorter series on the Holy Spirit entitled “The Leading of the Holy Spirit.” (If you desire to hear more on this subject, I did a much longer and more extensive teaching on How to Hear from God and Be Led by Holy Spirit at the church in 2015. So, you can either go to our website @ www.highpointmacon.com and listen to it or I will be happy to send you the notes).
However, in this particular teaching on being led by the Spirit, we are looking at a type and shadow of the Holy Spirit that was used in the Old Testament to illustrate how the Holy Spirit leads us—the Cloud that led the children of Israel in the wilderness.
We began by understanding that even though the cloud is what led them in their journey through the wilderness, there was still the need to listen to Moses. Yes, even though the children of Israel were being led by a spiritual thing, this did not mean that they did not need “Moses.” He was an extremely important part of Israel’s direction and guidance in the wilderness. So, we saw that Moses was a type of the Word of God—being the one who both received God’s Word for Israel and delivered it to them. He was also the one who delivered to them God’s law—His commandments, statutes, precepts, etc. So, the lesson we learned is this: Just as the cloud gave Israel direction of where to go and when to go there, they also needed God’s mouthpiece to keep them within the parameters of God’s will for their lives. And the fact is, because they had such a hard time receiving God’s directions through Moses, they were unable to possess their Promised Land. This teaches me that while the Holy Spirit dwells within us to lead and guide us, we do not need to make the mistake of putting Moses outside of our proverbial camp and only being “Spirit-led.” Why? Because the Spirit of God never will operate contrary to the Word of God. They always agree! In fact, in regards to hearing from God and being led by the Holy Spirit, I made the point that just as the Holy Spirit helps us to understand what God’s Word is saying, God’s Word is how we can more accurately discern the leading of the Holy Spirit on the inside of us.
Then, last week, we delved deeper into this supernatural phenomenon where God gave the children of Israel a cloud to follow by day and a pillar of fire to give them light by night, but we learned that even though the children of Israel were being led externally through a supernatural method, this is not the primary way that God leads His children today. No, if we are being led by the Holy Spirit then our direction is not coming from without; it comes from within! Therefore, no longer is the Lord primarily directing by the clouds in the heavens; today, the cloud is inside of us, leading us from within. Amen!
We saw how this is very important to understand because if we are waiting on the Lord to lead & guide us in external ways, we might be waiting a while. Why? Because they are few and far between. However, if we learn to look within, and discern the leading of the cloud within us, we can consistently hear from the Holy Spirit and be led on a daily basis by Him.
So, yes, the Holy Spirit serves the purpose to us today of “leading” us in the way in the day and giving us “light” in the night. And we saw how this is certainly echoed throughout the New Testament where we constantly see verses that teach us how the son and daughter of God are to be led by the Spirit of God.
One passage of Scripture that we camped on last week was Romans 8:14-17 says, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.”
And we first learned from this that the key qualifier to being Spirit-led is having a personal relationship with our Heavenly Father—for the context of these verses paints this picture. But we looked at verse 14 and saw how another major key to being Spirit-led is having faith that we are led by the Spirit. You see, when this verse says that “as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” then that means that if we are a child of God, we are Spirit-led. Amen? So, if this is true then what words should never come out of our mouth? “I have such a hard time being led by the Spirit … I wish I was led by the Spirit like so and so … etc.” We looked at John chapter 10 and saw that Jesus also told us that if we are His sheep, then we both hear & know His voice—and as we do, we follow Him. Therefore, we do well to believe what Jesus said and not what our experiences might have taught us. So, my point was, we need to get into agreement with God and start believing and expecting to be led by the Spirit of God.
We then looked at Romans 8:16 and saw one of the primary ways that the Holy Spirit leads us today—by the cloud within us (i.e. the inward witness). We saw that this inward, co-witness is in us to testify that we are God’s children. Therefore, if that is how the Holy Spirit shows us something so significant, then shouldn’t we expect Him to show us other things in the same way? In other words, won’t He lead us by simply bearing witness in our hearts? So, the same way that we know we are saved—we just know—is the same way we will know what job to take, who to marry, etc. It is an inward witness that convinces us of these things.
So, we concluded last week by looking at a few ways that this inward witness manifests within us:
We saw that it can be described as a “knowing” (see First John 2:20). So, if you are like, “Ehhh, I don’t know about that” or “Ehhh, I’m not sure why, but there is something not right about that.” Those “Ehhh’s” are oftentimes how the Holy Spirit is co-witnessing with our spirit to not do a certain thing. So, learn to obey those checks in your spirit promptly because oftentimes they are the Holy Spirit leading you not to do something. Again, how many times have we all known we were supposed to do something or knew we were not supposed to do something, and we went against that “unction” and regretted it later? We have all done that. But this is where we need to learn to heed that “knowing” (i.e. those promptings and impressions).
We also saw that the inward witness can be described as the desires of our heart. So, we looked at Psalm 37:4 and saw that God gives us the desires of our heart when we delight ourselves in Him. And we learned that there is another way to interpret this verse: It can be saying that as we delight ourselves in the Lord, we can trust that the desires that are in our heart are given to us by God. In other words, those desires that we have are God-given desires and are, therefore, His plan and direction for our lives. So, the point I made was that as we are genuinely seeking first the kingdom of God—abiding in and delighting ourselves in our Lord—He will give us newly inspired desires that are in line with His will for our lives. Therefore, we can trust those desires as being from Him and follow them as being God’s direction.
Finally, we saw that another way that the inward witness manifests is in peace: We looked at Colossians 3:15 where Paul says, “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts…” It says in the Amplified Bible— “And let the peace (soul harmony which comes) from Christ rule (act as an umpire continually) in your hearts [deciding and settling with finality all questions that arise in your minds, in that peaceful state] …” So, as evidenced by the Amplified Bible’s translation, the word “rule” that Paul used here literally describes a referee or umpire that is officiating something. Paul was saying that we are to let the fruit of peace be the umpire of our hearts, which means that it should call the shots in all of the decisions of our life. In other words, if there is not any peace in a decision we are going to make, then God is not in it. The Holy Spirit will let us know whether it is “safe” to proceed, or you are “out” of God’s will. In fact, we also saw that, along with peace, all of the fruit of the Spirit are indicators of our spirit and the Holy Spirit bearing witness together on something.
So, all of these things—that knowing, those godly desires, and the fruit of the Spirit—are good indicators that the Spirit of God is directing us. So again, believe God’s Word which says you are led by the Spirit and pursue that good relationship of God. Then you can trust that as you are moving forward, doing what He has already told us to do in His Word, that He will guide you in every decision you make, and you will stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. Amen!
And again, church, this is the key to walking in all of the promises of God—learning to discern the leading of the Holy Spirit. Yes, following the Holy Cloud within us will keep us right in the middle of God’s perfect protection for our lives!
HE’S GOT US COVERED!
In fact, this was another benefit to the cloud that led them by day and the fire that gave them this light: they also served as protection from the harmful elements and other things. Psalms 105:39 says, “He spread a cloud for a covering; and fire to give light in the night.”
You see, the children of Israel were walking through a desert—specifically the wilderness of Saudi Arabia. And many of us know that in a desert, the day is very hot and the night is very cold. So, God gave them a pillar of cloud by day not only to lead them but to protect them from the scorching hot sun and a pillar of fire by night not only to give them light but to give them warmth. Not to mention, that light was particularly useful in the evenings in the desert because how many of you know, there are some dangerous critters creeping around in deserts?
So, this means the Lord had them “covered” both by day and by night. Likewise, the Holy Spirit covers us during the daytime and He is a pillar of fire in the nighttime. And the truth is, we all have these day and night times in our Christian walk. The day times are when the light is present, when things are more comfortable, and when there are not the intense run-ins with the kingdom of darkness. These are the good times. The night times, however, are when darkness is much more present, when we cannot see as clearly, and when it seems like we are being attacked on every side.
But the Holy Spirit has us “covered” at all times! For example, we can see how the Holy Spirit helped the children of Israel before they crossed the Red Sea: In Exodus 14:19-20, we are told— "And the Angel of God, who went before the camp of Israel, moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud went from before them and stood behind them. So it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel. Thus, it was a cloud and darkness to the one, and it gave light by night to the other, so that the one did not come near the other all that night.”
This is exactly what the Holy Spirit is willing to do for us when we are caught between a rock and a hard place (i.e. between the Red Sea and Pharaoh’s army): He will stand in the gap for us by perhaps ministering to the one who is pursuing us and turning their hearts away from us. Yes, the Holy Spirit will defend us, if we let Him. As long as we are where He is leading us, we can expect the Holy Spirit’s protection.
But herein lies a good point: What if one the sheep of Israel decided to depart from that cloud by day or fire by night? Yes, what if they left the fold and decided to do their own thing? Would it have been God’s fault if they got burned or snake-bit? Absolutely not! So, why do so many in the church today say that God led them into their particular trial and tribulation? Could it be that we left His covering?
And I don’t bring this up to make us think about all the things that have happened in our past, but rather to cause us to realize that following the Lord’s direction is a key element to avoiding the harmful elements of this world. Amen? We must be Spirit-led, church!
This is why that great Psalm of protection—Psalm 91—begins with the condition: “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91:1).
Notice that we are the ones making the decision to dwell in the secret place and to abide under the shadow of the Almighty. It is when we stop dwelling and abiding there that we are opening ourselves up to not being protected from the enemy. Therefore, it is imperative that we stay under His shadow.
Now the shadow of the Almighty describes his protective covering. We know from the Scriptures that God has no shadow of turning and in Him is no darkness at all. So, the picture we see painted here is not of a literal shadow but of a covering provided by His presence above us like the cloud. Notice that the Psalmist says that we shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. Therefore, I feel a great analogy that can be used here is of an umbrella: As we dwell in the secret place of the Most-High, we shall abide under His protective umbrella—which shields us from the elements brought on by this world and the enemy. (It also denotes the proximity in which we are to Him because to be in someone’s shadow means you are close to them.)
But here is the point I want you to get today: As you dwell in the secret place, you are, by default, abiding under His shadow. In other words, when we decide to live (because to dwell means to live) in His secret place, we are choosing to abide under His protective umbrella.
And, friends, this shows us again that it is in our control. Yes, it is our decision where we choose to dwell; it is not up to God.
You see, I can stand beside you with an umbrella covering you from the rain, but if you decide to move away from me and do your own thing, it doesn’t matter how much I plead with you, you are going to get wet if you do not stay close to me and heed my instructions. Well, this is the choice God has always given His people—to abide under His shadow or do what seems right to us (which always leads to death.)
You see, it’s like getting too close to water. If we hang around water, we are bound to get wet. Well, it is the same with God: the closer we get to Him, the more wet we get! And this goes for His protection as well. We are to abide under His shadow—meaning we are to get close to Him by following Him wherever He leads us! Now you have to be walking close to someone to let their shadow be on you, right? Well, this describes proximity. It describes being close to Him and abiding in Him.
You see, if we remain, stay, and live close to Him, we are in position to have His provision and protection—not because He doesn’t want to perform His good word to us if we are not doing something for Him—but because we must remain close to Him for Him to be able to do what He always wanted to do.
You see, abiding under His shadow is important! But far too many Christians are doing their own thing and have gotten out from under His umbrella of protection.
So, since being Spirit-led is so vital to our lives, let me give you a few good, practical tips on how you and I can more accurately be led by the Holy Spirit and not miss it:
THE CLOUD OF WITNESSES
Hebrews 12:1 says, “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”
Now while the word “cloud” here can describe a literal cloud in the sky, the picture that is being painted here is of the “cloud seats” (as they were called back then) in the Roman coliseum, etc. We would call these seats today “upper deck seats.” So, the context here describes the cloud of witnesses that the writer(s) of Hebrews just finished describing in chapter eleven filling the grandstands of heaven, rooting us on as we now run our race of faith here on the earth as they did.
So, what we can take away from this is, we have multiple witnesses that can help give us direction regarding the bigger, weightier decisions that we have to make in our lives.
You see, there will be times in our lives when we will be faced with difficult decisions. These decisions will be hard because there will be a lot of risk involved. For example, the opportunity to change jobs, relocate, or to marry; these are big decisions that we do not want to miss God on.
So how do we make sure we are not missing it when making big decisions? Let’s look at Deuteronomy 19:15: It says, “One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any iniquity or any sin that he commits: by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established.” As Matthew 18:16 & Second Corinthians 13:1 both put it— “…every word shall be established.”
Now I understand that Moses was referring to a specific situation when he originated this often-used verse, but as evidenced by Jesus’ and Paul’s use of this saying, it has a myriad of meanings. And I believe that one particular meaning is that it is also referring to “every word from God.” So, I would quote this verse as saying, “in the mouth of two or three witnesses, every word from God shall be established.” In other words, we have a way to establish (i.e. make firm and solidify) everything that God speaks to us. And what way is this? In the mouth of two or three witnesses!
You see, not only do we have the inward witness, but we also have multiple witnesses that God will use to verify and establish the direction that He wants us to go! Sure, we have the inward witnesses of peace, our desires, what seems good to us, and what we know in our hearts, but there are other witnesses that God has given us so that we can make sure that we are not being led astray by what we think is God.
But let me make this point before we go any further: None of these principles that I am about to share with you will ever replace faith. In other words, faith will always be required when stepping out to follow the Lord.
These other witnesses that we can use to help verify and confirm the things we believe God has led us to do will never replace the fact that we are going to have to believe God. But what they will do is help keep us from making many of the catastrophic mistakes that we hear other Christians make.
For example, many of us have heard of believers who have received a “word from the Lord” and have stepped out on that word and absolutely ruined their lives. For example, a woman receives a prophecy that she is to move across the country because God has something big in store for her there, and then after she spends some time there, everything in her life just falls apart. Another example is of a guy that believes God has spoken to him to marry another young woman. He tells her that God has told him that they were supposed to get married, and then after much discouragement from their elders, they get married and miserably end in divorce shortly thereafter. These are just a couple of the examples that we desperately want to avoid.
So how do we avoid making these same bad choices that others originally thought were from God? It is through obtaining multiple witnesses. It is through not making any rash decisions when we think we have heard from God—especially on the risky decisions.
So, what are the different witnesses that we have available to us to protect us from making these big mistakes? I have divided them into three categories:
Let’s look at some examples of all three of these witnesses:
Of course, I put God number one on my list of witnesses because He is by far the most important part of our decision-making process. The “God-witness” would include His Word (i.e. the Bible), a manifestation of the Holy Spirit, or any other God-inspired experience.
As we have previously stated, if what we believe God is leading us to do contradicts what the Bible clearly condemns, then we can throw that idea out the window. For example, if someone believed God told them that they were supposed to be with someone else’s husband and they were committing adultery with that man, then it is rather obvious that they did not hear from God, because the Bible clearly is against adultery. So, the Word of God is a witness that keeps us from making major mistakes.
Other “God witnesses” we have would be to hear God’s audible voice telling us what we need to do or, more subtly, the Holy Spirit speaking clearly on the inside of us giving us direction.
But did you know that just having this one witness—the God witness—is not necessarily enough when making major, life-altering decisions? No, not because God can miss it, but because our interpretation of these so-called God-experiences can be flawed. For example, the devil is very proficient in twisting the Scriptures and making them say things that are not true. He does this by taking verses out of context and seasoning them with condemnation, fear, unbelief, etc. He also can mimic God through supernatural experiences such as voices, so-called angelic visitations, etc. because he likes to masquerade as an angel of light—making us think that it is God when it is really just him.
So, although these God witnesses are good and should be held in high esteem when making major decisions, they need not be the final say in the matter.
You know, God is not going to be upset with you if you ask for confirmation during different experiences. He has no problem with you wanting to make sure what you have heard or experienced is of Him or not. He actually likes it and will grant your request. For instance, if you feel God shows you something in the Word or if you feel God speaks something to your heart, ask Him to confirm His Word by giving you two or three Scriptures that back up what you have just seen. He will do it (if it was Him to start with)! For in the mouth of two or three witnesses every Word will be established!
Now let’s look at what I call the second witness—Yourself:
As we spent last week discussing, there is an inward witness that we have within ourselves that is manifested in many different ways. And this witness that we have in ourselves helps us to be established in the direction we receive from God.
You see, if we face these bigger decisions that we believe the Lord has put before us (i.e. things that have a lot of risk involved if we miss God), we would be wise to have not just the God witness, but also to have the witness within ourselves. Why? Because, as I just made the point of, we might receive some kind of supernatural experience that seems like God but if it does not bear witness with our spirit then we need to be cautious. In other words, we can receive a word from God but we also need to have that witness within ourselves in order to confirm what we experienced. God set it up this way! He put that new spirit within us to confirm whether the things that we hear or experience are God inspired or not. This is the second witness!
But, on the other hand, if we feel like the Lord is initially leading us in a certain direction through this second witness and this is a risky decision, we can and should seek another witness such as the first witness we discussed—God. We can do this by asking the Lord to confirm what we are feeling in our heart to do and He might just give us a Scripture or two to confirm this. He might have the Holy Spirit speak gently to our heart what He wants us to do. Whichever way He decides to honor your wise request, it will give you more of a solid foundation to stand on as you step out in faith.
But not only will God confirm these inward witnesses through the God witness but He might send the third and final witness to you—Other people. Let me explain:
If you have a desire to do something that you feel might be from God or if you just know in your heart that you are supposed to do something, and then you ask the Lord to confirm whether this is his plan for you or not, He might not use that first witness. He might use other people as that confirmation.
He might move upon someone to come to you and say something like, “Thus saith the Lord, you are supposed to do this or that!” or He might do it more subtly by sending someone across your path to just make a passing comment that you know to be a confirmation of what you already know in your heart. Either way, God will oftentimes use people whether they know they are being used (i.e. a prophecy) or whether they do not know they are being used (i.e. just a suggestion or comment).
But there are other ways to receive this third and final witness such as seeking godly counsel. For instance, if we receive either or both of the first two witnesses, we can go to someone who we believe hears from God, someone we respect, and someone we know will be honest and forthright with us. This is an important part of the third witness that God oftentimes uses to correct us when we are getting off of His path for us. Therefore, we would do good to not only listen to the godly counsel that we are offered, but also to seek out this counsel when faced with a big decision. As the proverb says, in the multitude of counselors there is wisdom.
But there is another important person that God will use to help direct you and confirm His guidance for you—your spouse! Yes, God has put your spouse in your life to help you in this major decision-making process. He has put you two together to make these big decisions together and will oftentimes use them to correct you when you are making a poor decision.
Now this does not give spouses out there the right to go playing “Holy Ghost Jr.” correcting and contradicting the things your spouse has on their heart to do, but it is a viable source of wisdom for us who are married. Yes, we have God which is by far the most important part of being led but we also can have a godly spouse which brings confirmation too. As Ecclesiastes 4:12 says, “…a threefold cord is not easily broken.”
So, we have three witnesses that we can use to let every word be established: We have the “God Witness.” We have the “Inward Witness.” And we have the “Other People Witness.” All three can and should be used when making these big and risky decisions.
Again, none of these things will ever substitute for faith. It will always take faith to follow the Lord even if you have all three witnesses on a particular situation. But having two or three of these witnesses most certainly will cause us to have more assurance and security that we are following God’s plan.
You see, a word used in wise financial investing is “diversification.” This word means “to spread your money around.” In regard to investing the experts say that we should spread our investments around and not put all of our eggs in one basket because in doing so, we limit the risk of a financial disaster.
This is just an illustration of what I am talking to you about this week: It is a wise thing to not just invest all of your trust in just one witness because we are always capable of missing it. It would be wise on these bigger decisions to “diversify” and seek two or three witnesses. For in the mouth of two or three witnesses, every word will be established!
So, learning to follow the various cloud of witnesses that we have around is a good idea—particularly when it comes to the big and riskier decisions that need to be made in our lives. But there are some other “witnesses” that we need to avoid like the plague. And that’s what I want to end this teaching with today:
NOT FOLLOWING THE CROWD
One of the most difficult things that we face when it comes to being led by the Holy Spirit is the temptation to follow other people & things rather than Him.
Let’s go back over to Hebrews chapter 12 and look at the undisputed greatest example that we have of living a life of being led by the Holy Spirit, our Lord Jesus Christ! He is our greatest example of everything that goes into being led by the Holy Spirit as opposed to being led by other things!
Hebrews 12:2 goes on to say, “looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of (our) faith…” Now in context, this verse is telling us who the greatest example of running the race of faith was and is, and therefore, who we should set our sights on becoming like. It’s Jesus! In other words, as good as all of those other witnesses listed in Hebrews chapter 11 were and are, Jesus is the ultimate example of someone who walked by faith and was led by the Spirit.
Now a common misconception that people have about Jesus is that, since He is the Second Person of the Godhead, that He actually walked and operated on this earth as God. In other words, people believe He did the things He did and lived the way He did because He was God. This is a grave misconception! No, Jesus did not live in on this earth with any unfair advantage. Philippians 2:5-7 says that He emptied Himself of His Godhead privileges and fully became a man, and Hebrews 4:15 says that He did this so that He could sympathize with us in our weaknesses. Therefore, it is because of this that He was able to be tempted in all points as we are, yet without sin.
So, He is our example! He lived His life as a “born again” man (not that He ever needed to be born again, but was born with the sinless, uncorrupted nature that we receive when we are born again) who was also filled with the Holy Spirit. This is why we do not see the miracles occurring in His ministry until He was baptized in the Holy Spirit. It was because, as He testified of Himself, “the Son can do nothing of Himself except that which He sees the Father doing.” (John 5:19) He willingly made Himself of no reputation and lived the same life of faith that we do so that He could be that perfect sacrifice and substitution for us.
So, with all of that said, Jesus is the perfect example of someone who started out walking by faith and who ended His race walking by faith (i.e. the author and finisher of faith). Therefore, we should look unto Him in order to see how He lived and what He taught—everything that went into His life of hearing from God and being led by the Spirit because there was never anyone who did this any better.
Well, in order to learn how Jesus was so successful in being led by the Spirit, we need to look at what He was not led by:
Fear was not something that our Lord Jesus was led by. We see time and time again how He entered into certain circumstances and cities where He would have had every reason to fear, but Jesus was never led by fear, panic, anxiety, and worry. He was always led by faith!
Many believers are led by these things today. They make decisions based on the fear of what might happen or the unknown. As the famous acronym for “fear” says, “fear” stands for “False, Expectations, Appearing, Real.” When we yield to fear, we are not yielding to God. Yielding to God is to yield to faith.
Obviously, Jesus was not led by money either. Judas was, but Jesus wasn’t!
Many take jobs and move to other cities based solely on a pay-raise. They make investments based solely on prices and on what the so-called experts suggest. We should never take a job or make an investment solely based on the money involved. That is an easy way to miss God!
Sure, God wants us to have an abundance, but He most certainly does not want our possessions to have us. As Jesus said in Matthew 6, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”
You see, when we are led by money—making decisions based solely on the financial benefit—we are serving money and making it our master. This is obviously a serious matter.
Therefore, when we have a decision to make, let’s seek the Lord for His direction instead of just following the $$$.
Thank God, that Jesus was not led by His feelings because if He was, we would never have had the opportunity to receive His salvation. Why is this? Because He never would have gone to the cross! Believe you me, Jesus did not “feel” like going to the cross! As a matter of fact, He felt like taking Plan B (if there even was a Plan B)! But, thank God, He said, “Nevertheless, not my will, but your will be done!” In other words, you could translate this, “Not my feelings, but what you desire be done!”
You see, so many people are led around by what they feel. They will eat when they “feel” like eating. They will get out of bed when they “feel” like getting out of bed. They will give someone a piece of their mind when they “feel” like it. They will give their tithe and offerings when they “feel” like giving. They will dance before the Lord when they “feel” like it. They will stop going to church when they “feel” like nobody loves them there anymore. That is exactly how you miss God—by being led by your feelings!
This ties in with being “feeling-led.” Jesus had plenty of opportunities to be led by His emotions.
In one particular time, news was brought to Jesus that his friend Lazarus whom He loved was sick. Now if this would have been most Christians in Jesus’ shoes here, they would have immediately gone to heal their friend. But not Jesus! He stayed where He was another three days! And why did He do this? Well, I personally believe it was because this was a wile of the devil.
You see, Jesus just came from this area and the Jews sought to stone Him there. So I believe the enemy was trying to set Jesus up to return out of an emotion so that he could have Him stoned by those same Jews. But thank God for the Holy Spirit who led Him to stay where He was for a few more days and then, after Lazarus died from that sickness, released Him to return there. You see, I can see those religious leaders who wanted to kill him just waiting around Lazarus’ home for those three days, waiting for Jesus to return so they could stone Him. But then, when Lazarus died, they left figuring Jesus was not coming after all. And this was when Jesus came in and pulled off the biggest miracle of His ministry! Hallelujah! Thank God for the leadings of the Holy Spirit!
But emotions are what most believers are led by. They get hyped up about something and as soon as the emotions wear off, they seem to just not feel “led” to do it anymore.
Emotions are fleeting and fickle! Just as sure as you got excited about something you can bet the bank that you will not feel that way forever. Therefore, we need to learn to know if we are being led to do something instead of just making an emotional decision; and then if we are convinced that it’s God leading us, we need to stick with it till He tells us to move on and not when our emotions have worn off.
This is a big one! Most Christians lean to their own understanding and intellect on every decision they make. They think everything has to make sense but we need to understand that God will lead us to do many things that make no sense at all. We are to lean on the Holy Spirit and not our understanding.
Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not to your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”
Notice the first phrase in these verses— “Trust in the Lord.” Throughout the Word of God, we are told to “trust” Him. You see, being led by Him is one of the greatest ways to trust Him because we have to step out in faith on the witness that He gives us in our spirit.
Then notice that Solomon says, “with all your heart.” He did not say, “with all your head.”
The next phrase is very interesting. It says, “and lean not to your own understanding.” The word “lean” denotes putting all your weight on something or relying on something else for support. You see, God gave us a brain to use but here, He is simply telling us not to put our total confidence in our own understanding. We are to use our head but we are to put our ultimate trust in His understanding and not our own.
When he says, “In all your ways” this denotes not in just what we consider the important “ways” but in all our ways. This includes our trips to the grocery store, drives out of town, vacation plans, etc.
By using the terminology “Acknowledge Him” we can see that the Holy Spirit desires to be acknowledged in every decision we make and every direction we take. The word “acknowledge” here was used in Genesis when Adam “knew” his wife Eve. So, this word describes a closeness and an intimacy. This is what the Spirit of God desires to have with us.
And last but not least, we have the promise of when we trust in Him and acknowledge Him in all of our ways. It says, “And He shall direct your paths”—not He “might” direct your paths, but He “shall” direct our paths when we trust Him and acknowledge Him. The word “direct” means “to make smooth or straight.” You see, if we are led by the Spirit of God 100% of the time, we would never get food poisoning, we would never make a bad investment, we would never get ripped off, etc. When we learn how to develop that close relationship with the Holy Spirit and are aware of Him in all of our ways, He will make our paths smooth and straight as opposed to hard and difficult.
Jesus was definitely not led by opportunities either. There were times where His followers wanted to make Him king. He even had opportunities to defend Himself when He was falsely accused. But it is very obvious that these kinds of opportunities were not God’s will. They were just circumstances, and circumstances (whether good or bad) are not to dictate our direction. This is an easy way to miss God!
So many believers live their lives following whatever their circumstances dictate. If things are going bad, they quit moving in that direction. If things are going well, they continue moving in that direction. Our circumstances are not always an indicator of whether we are in God’s will or not.
Some Christians will go to events and accept invitations based solely on the opportunity. The devil can inspire very well-meaning Christians to ask you to do things just so he can cause you to stumble. Opportunities are not always God!
Now back to my original question: What was Jesus led by? In other words, if Jesus was not led by fear, emotions, feelings, opportunities, or His own understanding, what was He led by?
Of course, we know that He was led by the Spirit, but there was one specific way that the Holy Spirit led Him that I want us to wrap this teaching up by looking at?
One of the most important lessons we can learn from His life was in three words, that He was “moved with compassion.”
This is such a powerful phrase and most people often overlook this, but our Lord performed many different miracles and good works after He was “moved” with compassion. In other words, whenever He was moved with this compassion (i.e. deep love) the gifts of the Spirit followed and He did great things. Another way of saying this is that He was “led by love.”
In First John 4:19 we are told that “God is love.” This little powerful phrase holds such a wonderful revelation! God does not just have love; God is love! He is the embodiment of agape—unconditional and unfailing love! If you’ve seen pure love, you’ve seen God clearly! If you’ve experienced unconditional love, you’ve experienced a piece of God! Now here is my point: If you’ve felt love, you’ve felt God!
You see, the problem that many Christians face is that when a thought or idea comes into their heart, they do not feel like they know if it is God. In other words, they have a thought to go pray for someone, but they do not know if it is God leading them to do that or if it was just them thinking this up on their own.
Well, let me give you one major indicator if it’s God or not: If its love; It’s God! If it is not pure, genuine love then you better think twice about it. You see, since God is love, then it stands that when we have compassion just well up in our hearts for someone or for something that it is God “moving” us with “compassion.” And you can bet that if we follow that compassion that there is a miracle on the other side of obedience!
The apostle Paul said in First Corinthians 12:31, “But earnestly desire the best gifts, and yet I show you a more excellent way.” A way to what? A way to desire the best gifts! The greatest way to be used in the gifts of the Spirit is to flow in love. The best way to flow in God in general is to flow in love since God is love! Where love is there God will be also!
You see, we need to understand that the vast majority of people (even good, well-meaning church people) are not led by the Spirit. And the devil is going to make sure you are faced with people who are going to tell you that you are going the wrong direction when you are following the cloud. Yes, people that you might love and trust will try and talk you out of following the leading of the Holy Spirit. You can bank on that!
Now that does not automatically mean that we are right and they are wrong. It can be that we are the ones who are missing it and they are the wise counsel that we need to keep us from making a mistake. However, if we know that we have heard from God and we are convinced that the Holy Spirit is leading us to do something, then we must obey God and not man. So, it comes down to discerning whether what we are feeling led to do is the Lord or whether it is just us.
But let me end by giving you one more tip that is also vitally important:
GUIDED BY THE GREEN LIGHT
However, what we need to understand that God does not want us to sit around and wait on Him to spell out everything He wants us to do. I know this to be true from personal experience and through the examples of others. I have seen many well-meaning and sincere Christians who have sat for years, waiting on God to tell them where to go and what to do and are still waiting today.
You see, the common denominator with all of these manifestations of the inward witness? They all require action and movement on our part!
This is verified in John 16:13 when Jesus told us that the Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth. Well, you cannot guide something that is not already moving, can you? Saints, you can sit on a boat and try to turn the rudder to the left and to the right but if the boat is sitting idle, it’s not going to turn. But if you take that same boat and get it moving a bit and then turn that same rudder ever so slightly, you will begin to turn the boat. But, with this example, all you are essentially doing is guiding the boat.
So, for the Holy Spirit to “guide” you, then the assumption is that you are already moving. Moving where? Moving in the direction that is already laid out to you in God’s Word! For example, this principle is well-illustrated throughout the Book of Acts where the Holy Spirit guided them as they went.
You see, they had taken the Great Commission of the Lord Jesus seriously and were actively going into all the world and preaching the gospel to every creature—thus making disciples. They had this word from God and they ran with it! Of course, there were times when the Holy Spirit had to stop them from going into certain areas and/or redirect them. But this is the pattern which God desires us to follow as well: He wants us to act on what He has already said and what is written in His Word and then He will redirect us or change our course as needed.
But, like I said, the mistake so many people make is that they are waiting for God to tell them what to do and doing nothing in the meantime. You could say they believe God is the “God of the Red Light.” What I mean is that they believe that they need to ask the Lord for His direction and then they sit there waiting for the light to turn green before they start moving.
Friends, again, this is not God’s plan for us. He wants us to act on the principles and admonitions found in His Word and then expect Him to give us more specific direction as we are moving. Here is a good truth: In order to get God’s specific direction, you first need to be doing His general direction (i.e. His Word).
Now, on the other hand, there are Christians who have no clue that God actually wants to lead and direct them. They just do whatever they want expecting things to work together for their good. That, of course, is the other ditch that we want to avoid as well because we cannot expect the fruit of the wrong decisions we make to be the will of God for our lives. God has a good, acceptable, and perfect will, and it is up to us to understand what His will is (Ephesians 5:17).
So, here is my point today: God wants you to first act on His Word—the More Sure Word of prophecy! Make sure you are following His will for the church in general—going into all the world and preaching the gospel to every creature. Speak words of edification, exhortation and comfort into your neighbor and, by all means, heal the sick, cast out demons, and bring His kingdom with you wherever you go. And if the Lord tells you to slow down, turn this way, or gives you clear direction in how to accomplish this, by all means, obey what seems good in your heart.
Know that He will keep you on the path He has for you and He will guide you into all truth. But again, in order to be guided, you have to be moving.
He is the God of the green light, saints! So, go therefore! Walk on the path God has for you and if He prompts you to turn to the left or the right, know that He is directing your path and ordering your steps. Just enjoy right relationship with God—abide in Him and let His Words abide in you—and then trust that He puts His desires in our heart. Then just do what seems right and good in your heart. Amen!
For example, how many of you know that when your children come to a certain age, you do not want them asking you if they should do this or do that. No, you want your children to grow up and start making wise decisions for themselves.
In fact, this is a lesson that pertains to the subject we are currently studying on Wednesday nights: In Second Corinthians 9:7 says, “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.”
So, in this situation, Paul did not exhort them to pray about it or seek God’s direction on it. No, he just said, “Give as we purpose in our heart.” In other words, do what you have on your heart to do. You see, we already have God’s Word concerning giving. You don’t need the Lord to tell you to do that because He already did. But what we do now, while seeking to fulfill the admonitions and principles in the Scriptures, is follow our hearts. Why? Because it is through the witness that you get in your heart that God is going to lead you in what to do.
Now I am not saying that we should never seek the Lord’s will regarding decisions we are to make and paths we are to take, but my point is, we need to also avoid over-spiritualizing everything and just simply follow the impressions the Spirit drops in our heart.
So, my point is—if you are a child of God, filled with the Holy Spirit and are delighting yourself in God, you can trust the desires of your heart. Begin to move and act on those desires—trusting the Lord that even if you make a bad decision, the Lord will still accomplish His purpose for your life. Sure, acknowledge the Lord in all your ways by asking Him what He would have you to do but then don’t just sit there and wait forever for Him to write it on the wall. Trust that He put those desires in your heart and then do those things that you purpose in your heart to do.
And when it comes to the bigger decisions, follow the cloud of witnesses that you have around you. Utilize the God-witness, the witness in yourself, and the witness of wise counsel around you. But be careful not to follow the crowd; only follow the cloud—that is, the Lord’s direction given to you.
Church, the cloud is within you! Follow those leadings, promptings and impressions! He will never lead you astray, but always into your Promised Land. Amen and amen!