The Haunted Mansion. Be it Anaheim, Orlando, Tokyo, Paris or a version of it in Hong Kong, there's an incredible draw to this classic Disney attraction that brings humans via those big black doombuggies into this foreboding attraction. What is it about the unknown, the ethereal, mysterious, that draws us to it?
The truth is we are created to be eternal beings, and we are fully designed by God to be sensitive to His Spirit. Even more so, we have the opportunity to harness his power when we make Him our God, our Savior, the One to Worship. Through Jesus Christ, we have access to the very same power that raised him from the dead! Imagine that. The very same power. The bigger question is "Why did God make His power available to me?" and "What's its purpose?"
It all begins with the character of God.
Who is He? He is loving, good, powerful, generous, forgiving, righteous, and holy. There is none like him. Even a quick reading through the Biblical book of songs, the Psalms, reveals a god who bends down from earth to love us and care for us. A god who pays the price we should have paid for all the things we've done wrong and all the ways we have fallen short of His standards. That means me, and that means you.
This is why as believers in Jesus, we have access to what is commonly referred to as "The Armor of God", described in Paul's book to the church in Ephesus, Ephesians 6:10-17:
“ Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, and against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with your belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. “
Take your stand against the devil’s schemes. Think of the armor of God as mostly defensive weapons in the war on evil. Then, what do we have for offensive weapons? What weapons do we have at our disposal that advance God's kingdom proclaiming freedom to people that are captive to the enemy? We need spiritual weapons to fight a spiritual battle. This is why dependance on human logic and methods do not work in the war against our souls. We must rely on God and on the tools He gives us.
In His great love and because of His immense goodness, Our Father does not leave us empty handed. Just as in the world, we are given weapons to defeat the enemy. What Wise General would send armies to battle without them? And any good experienced soldier would tell you that you need both to win in battle. These weapons are referred to as Gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Even within Christianity, some dismiss what God has graciously supplied His children because of misunderstanding. Some people and some pastors avoid the discussion of spiritual gifts because they are controversial. But I say, the Gospel message itself (Jesus is the only way to God) is controversial! Besides, when have true believers in Jesus ever been told by God to do the easy thing?
This battle is no video game!
3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. 4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying (speaking the word of God as it is brought to mind- the written Word as well as a vocal word as the prophets did- never a contradiction to Scripture), then prophesy in accordance with your faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
1 Corinthians 12:7-11, 27-31
7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith (NOT THE SAME AS SAVING FAITH) by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.
“27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.” (on into the "Love Chapter", I Corinthians 13.)
11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
(This last list involves roles in the church. Just as each army has specified leaders and specialists, so does the church.)
There are also the gifts briefly described. I Corinthians 7:7 lists the gifts of Marriage and celibacy. I Peter 4:11 gives us a more general description: "One who speaks, one who serves". That's fairly open ended.
All these gifts are to be used for God's glory until our life on earth is over. In other words, His gifts are given to the believers for His work until the day Jesus returns to earth for final judgment.
Evil is real, and the Devil, Satan, is often shown as a dragon.
1- God Gives the Gifts as He Chooses
The Holy Spirit gives the gifts as He chooses (I Corinthians 12:11)
Jesus gives gifts (Ephesians 4:11). Even “natural gifts” are given by the Lord and they are no less “spiritual”. (Matthew 7:11- God the Father gives good things to his children.) Not all gifts can be used “at will” (Healing for example)
2- Everyone Does Not Have All the Gifts
“27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.” (I Corinthians 12:27-31)
3- Spiritual Gifts Do Not Equal Spiritual Maturity
The church in Corinth was one of the most immature, but also one in which the gifts were very active. (I Corinthians 3:2)
4- The Gifts are Given to Build Up the Church
I Corinthians 14:12 “ So it is with you. Since you are eager for gifts of the Spirit, try to excel in those that build up the church.”
1 Corinthians 12:7 “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.”
Ephesians 4:11-15 “11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”
Not only does every believer need to make access of both the defensive and offensive weapons, a church without the Gifts of the Holy Spirit in operation is limited in its effectiveness because it is dependent on the strength and strategies of men. All too often, a church like this will assume a defensive posture in the community. When the gifts are in use, it keeps the church from becoming a group of spectators where only the worship team and teaching pastor or the “professionals” get to use their gifts!
So, how do we discover which Spiritual Gifts God has given us?
Every believer in Jesus receives at least one gift. Often more.
I Peter 4:10: “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”
Ask yourself what types of faith related activities are you naturally drawn to? Examples:
Lead a Sunday School class? Could be the gift of Teaching.
Love to share your faith? Could be the gift of Evangelism.
(But we are all called to share our faith)
Do you quickly envision systems to make a job easier? It could be the gift of Administration. Even gifts that seem "natural" or can be taught are given by God- and they are no less spiritual.
You may love to pray for the sick (but we’re all called to pray)? This could be the gift of Healing. Often it shows itself as the need arises, but there are instances where God seems to use a particular person with this gift constantly. Usually gifts are used in an ongoing basis, but there are times gifts are given situationally.
See Peter in Acts 9 (He raises Tabitha from the dead.) Or it could be you. I've seen this happen when people serve inlaces out of their comfort zone.
Here's an important question: Where you have felt used from God in the past? Ask others what they see in you. Prayerfully consider what is said. Other ideas include:
Asking God for wisdom (James 1:5-6) This is always a good thing!
Prayer- If you notice something is wrong in the church, God has revealed it to you for the purpose of praying. BUT He could also be revealing it so that you step in and serve, thereby having a chance to develop a new gift.
Be obedient- If the Lord leads you to serve in a particular capacity, He will equip you to do so! Practice! – Under most circumstances, the gifts are not given to us fully developed.
Don't make the mistake of not serving because it isn't your gift or interest. The issue is obedience- and often God will bless others as well as reveal new gifts and new purposes in our lives when we choose to do as He asks. Boy, is that my story!
There's a big difference between gifts and roles. An Example: You may have the gift of pastoring, but that doesn’t mean you will have the role within the church. Maybe your gift will be used in caring for the youth or elderly in your church. The goal is that God is brought glory, His story of love is told, and people are served. The goal is not the gift. The goal is love in action. Words and deeds working together.
How do we receive the Gifts of the Holy Spirit? We must first go back to the character of God.
HE IS GOOD- Will you accept what He gives as a good gift?
He will distribute the gifts He knows you need to do the work He has called you to.
HE IS LOVING- He knows what you need before you even ask (Matthew 6:8).
Will you be faithful to use what He has already given you? (Parable of the Talents)
1 Timothy 4:14: Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you. (Here referencing Timothy's pastoral gift- not saying he did not have others.)
We must use our gifts in the way they were designed to be used.
First, in an orderly manner (I Corinthians 14:40) “ But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way. “ And with grace and humility- with thankfulness that God would use you.
(Romans 12:3-5) “3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”
We are all called to “Test the spirits”. (I John 4:1). We are reminded to “Be patient and Kind” (I Corinthians 13). When you are practicing the gifts and when you are “practiced on”.
Most importantly, we are called to use them In His Love! This is far more important than I can effectively communicate here. But read I Corinthians 13 to see what God intends.
Paul tell us “8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
We must also use them in obedience to His Voice. A perfectly used gift used out of time is not perfectly used. It's effective and even can be harmful. We must be sensitive to God's leading. Jesus says “ My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.
Lastly, we must use the gifts given us as God directs for the benefit of the body, His church.
I Peter 4:10 “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”
In conclusion, we are designed to be drawn to the Spiritual- God Himself. We often settle for imitation or evil versions of what Gd provides appropriately, but we can have so much more if we lean into Him, and if we trust Him with our lives. Not only does our Good and Loving God give us work to do, He empowers us to do it. But even better, he goes before us, preparing the way:
The Holy Spirit (John 16:8)
o Will convict the world of sin
o Convict it of righteousness
All this is setting the stage in their hearts to prepare them to receive the message of the Gospel! Go forth confidently brothers and sisters!
Here are additional Bible references for your study time:
Moses – “Would that all the LORD’s people were prophets, that the LORD would put his spirit upon them.” Numbers 11:29
Joel 2:28-29 – “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit.”
John the Baptist – Someone will come after him to baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.
(Matthew 3:11, Mark 1:8, Luke 3:16, John 1:33)
Jesus - “And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay.”
(Matthew 10:7-8, to the Twelve until His Ascension)
“4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” 6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
(Acts 1:4-8, right before His Ascension)
Paul – “Does God give you his spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law or because you believe what you heard?”
(Galatians 3:5, discussing observance of the law vs. faith, legalism vs. freedom)
Paul – “You are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the returning of our LORD Jesus Christ.” (I Corinthians 1:7)
Paul – “8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (I COR 13)
• Paul is talking about when Jesus returns to the earth. If he were talking about Jesus’ coming as a baby, he would be saying Jesus was not perfect.
• Has prophecy passed? Paul just said he was prophesying. (vs. 9)
• Has knowledge passed?
The Holy Spirit is a Down Payment
“20 For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. 21 And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, 22 and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” (2 Corinthians 1:20-22)
“He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.”
(2 Corinthians 5:5)
“13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:13-14)