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Posts Tagged ‘Spiritual gift’

 

The True Marks of the Spiritual Man or Woman

 

Going back over my archives, I was reminded of an article from Milk & Honey: the Marks of a Spiritual Man by Bob Gesner. I remembered posting it (with permission) while planning t to interact with it.

Essentially the article highlights seven marks of a spiritual man: (1) hunger for God’s word; (2) dependency through prayer; (3) humility and obedience; (4) compassion for the lost; (5) longsuffering and forgiveness; (6) love towards the unlovely; (7) endurance and faithfulness. These seven marks are supported by various passages and are predicated on looking a certain way.

A hunger for God’s word is evidenced by daily devotions on God’s word. Putting away desires of the natural man evidences a spirit of humility and obedience. An overwhelming concern for the lost (like being moved in the spirit or weeping like Christ) is evidence.

Now, it’s great to encourage someone to read the Word and meditate on it—the Bible itself illustrates this in say Psalm 119, for instance. Unfortunately, I think the list winds up giving us a bunch of requirements that we all fall short of and, ultimately, can cause lost hope if we don’t cheat our way to attaining it. I find myself in agreement with the article where it says “most of us must conclude that there is much to be done in our spiritual life” but then don’t feel like I should be aiming to do anything. After all, I can’t.

 Gesner agrees when he states that the spiritual man is quietly growing and maturing in Christ with no attempts to self-improvement.

And there’s now dissonance within me.

I look at myself and find that I don’t see this whole quiet growing in maturity. I find myself struggling. Sweating. Fighting. Gritting my teeth. Not because Christ’s bond isn’t easy (it is) but rather because I know myself. I totally identify with Romans 7 (Article one and two).

And then, when I see a list of rules like this, I find myself knowing (wrongly) that I can be spiritual just by doing these things. I’ll read my Bible every day and think about it, and I’m finally a better Christian than you. I neglect everything around me to give out tracts or something and I find myself a better Christian than you.

I am then “Spiritual”.

An all too common abuse of the Spiritual. I can almost hear the most obnoxious group in Corinth, the ones who thought themselves as The Most Spiritual, puffing up their chests and saying “We’re not of Paul or Peter: we are of Christ!” and Paul immediately snapping when they speak up. Martin Luther is so right: The Law is for the proud and the Gospel for the brokenhearted.

Which is why I love 1 Corinthians 12-14.

English Bibles open the section saying something like “concerning spiritual gifts”. But that’s not what Paul says.

Obviously the question they were asking in Corinth was about the spiritual gifts, lest Paul wouldn’t spend the rest of the three chapters talking about them. But Corinth didn’t have a problem with having Spiritual Gifts. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1 that they do not lack any of them.

But that couldn’t have been the extent of the question in light of the sharp divisions in the assembly and Paul’s constant complaint about those who thought themselves spiritual and even not being able to speak to them as spiritual at all (1 Cor 3:1).

Don Carson points out that it would seem to be a double-edged question: one group, say the Spiritual Group, asking “Are spiritual gifts the mark of the Spiritual?” and another group asking a similar question as a complaint.  So when Paul answers “regarding The Spiritual” it happily covers a nice range: from the gifts to those who are The Spiritual.

Which has direct bearing on these sorts of lists.

I see my confession of “Christ is Lord” in the first few verses and happily note that I didn’t do that alone: God’s Spirit made it possible. No struggling in the A.M to read the Bible. No rejection of everything natural with unwavering focus on the invisible: God worked.

I see that my abilities (be they weak or not) are on a spectrum which is all God given. And by here I don’t mean a gradating spectrum where some people’s gifts are more and more useless; rather I mean that God himself is giving gifts for specific purposes to individuals for the sake of the body. Sure there should be an aiming at doing better and more effective things, but that’s not the best.

The best, says Paul, is love. God’s grace lavished in us in love now reflected in us loving. He paints what it looks like and then quickly bolsters us by pointing out that we’re not there yet and won’t be there until when that is Perfect finally comes.

Love always remains.

That tells me something. This whole hunting for actions that The Spiritual Do is of a secondary importance. Paul spoke in tongues, which in Corinth was surely a Mark of the Spiritual, but he didn’t give two figs about it. He would rather speak five intelligible words for the edification of all than speak 10,000 words as a mark of a Spiritual.

So mess up. Grit your teeth. Struggle with the jealousies in you. If you’re anything like me, you’re a screwed up and messy person. But look to the freeing hope found in God’s Gospel that interrupted our lives with extravagant grace and love. Reflect that love to others, even when you feel unlovely, and you’ll find that you are walking in the very steps of the Most Spiritual, Christ Jesus.

Because the Marks of the Spiritual Man aren’t Bible Reading or weeping when Christ or Paul might have. The Marks of the Spiritual Man look like the God-Man, who was once pinned to a tree, coming back in a physical and marked up body to encourage his brothers saying “We’re family. I’ve conquered. You are conquerors with me. I’ll come back for you.”

It’s love revealed in action, no matter how ugly our marks.

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The Holy Spirit in the Church

Submitted by William MacDonald on Mon, 02/07/2005 – 06:00

PRACTICAL GUIDANCE

The assembly should seek His guidance in all its affairs’ whether in choosing a location for its public testimony, arranging the types of meetings to be held, discerning the human instruments to be used in ministering the Word of God, disbursement of funds, or carrying on godly discipline.

THE HOLY SPIRIT IS SOVEREIGN

The local church should ever recognize the sovereignty of the Spirit. By this we mean that He can do as He pleases, and that He will not always choose to do things in exactly the same way, though He will never act contrary to the Word. Some of the symbols of the Spirit used in the scriptures – fire, oil, water, wind speak of fluidity, of unpredictable behavior. Thus, wise Christians will be sufficiently elastic to allow Him this divine prerogative.

It was so in the early church, but soon people became uneasy with meetings that were “free and social, with the minimum of form.” Thus controls were added and formalism and ritualism took over. The Holy Spirit was quenched, and the church lost its power.

QUENCHING THE SPIRIT

This shift from the freedom of the Spirit to human control has been described by James Denney eloquently. Though Mr. Denney writes at some length, the reader will find his article will richly repay study Commenting on the verse, “Quench not the Spirit,” (I Thess 5:19) he says: ‘When the Holy Spirit descended on the Church at Pentecost, there appeared unto them tongues parting asunder, like as of fire; and it sat upon each one of them’; and their lips were opened to declare the mighty works of God. A man who has received this great gift is described as fervent, literally, boiling, with the Spirit. The new birth in those early days was a new birth; it kindled in the soul thoughts and feelings to which it had hitherto been strange; it brought with it the consciousness of new powers; a new vision of God; a new love of holiness; a new insight into the Holy Scriptures, and into the meaning of man’s life; often a new power of ardent, passionate speech. In the First Epistle to the Corinthians Paul describes a primitive Christian congregation. There was not one silent among them. When they came together every one had a psalm, a revelation, a prophecy, an interpretation. The manifestation of the Spirit had been given to each one to profit withal; and on all hands the spiritual fire was ready to flame forth. Conversion to the Christian faith, the acceptance of the apostolic Gospel, was not a thing which made little difference to men: it convulsed their whole nature to its depth; they were never the same again; they were new creatures, with a new life in them, all fervor and flame

“A state so unlike nature, in the ordinary sense of the term, was sure to have its inconveniences. The Christian, even when he had received the gift of the Holy Ghost, was still a man; and as likely as not a man who had to struggle against vanity, folly, ambition, and selfishness of all kinds. His enthusiasm might even seem, in the first instance, to aggravate, instead of removing, his natural faults. It might drive him to speak-for in a primitive church anybody who pleased might speak – when it would have been better for him to be silent. It might lead him to break out in prayer or praise or exhortation, in a style which made the wise sigh. And for those reasons the wise, and such as thought themselves wise, would be apt to discourage the exercise of spiritual gifts altogether. ‘Contain yourself,, they would say to the man whose heart burned within him, and who was restless till the flame could leap out; ‘contain yourself; exercise a little self-control; it is unworthy of a rational being to be carried away in this fashion.’

“No doubt situations like this were common in the church at Thessalonica. They are produced inevitably by difference of age and of temperament. The old and the phlegmatic are a natural, and, doubtless, a providential, counterweight to the young and sanguine. But the wisdom which comes of experience and of temperament has its disadvantages as compared with fervor of spirit. It is cold and unenthusiastic; it cannot propagate itself; it cannot set fire to anything and spread. And because it is under this incapacity of kindling the souls of men into enthusiasm, it is forbidden to pour cold water on enthusiasm when it breaks forth in words of fire. That is the meaning of ‘Quench not the Spirit.’ The commandment presupposes that the Spirit can be quenched. Cold looks, contemptuous words, silence, studied disregard, go a long way to quench it. So does unsympathetic criticism.

“Everyone knows that a fire smokes most when it is newly kindled; but the way to get rid of the smoke is not to pour cold water on the fire, but to let it burn itself clear. If you are wise enough you may facilitate this by rearranging the materials, or securing a better draught; but the wisest thing most people can do when the fire has got hold is to let it alone; and that is also the wise course for most when they meet with a disciple whose zeal burns like fire. Very likely the smoke hurts their eyes; but the smoke will soon pass by; and it may well be tolerated in the meantime for the sake of heat.

For this apostolic precept takes for granted that fervor of spirit, a Christian enthusiasm for what is good, is the best thing in the world. It may be untaught and inexperienced; it may have all its mistakes to make; it may be wonderfully blind to the limitations which the stern necessities of life put upon the generous hopes of man: but it is of God; it is expansive; it is contagious; it is worth more as a spiritual force than all the wisdom in the world.

“I have hinted at ways in which the Spirit is quenched, it is sad to reflect that from one point of view the history of the church is a long series of rebellions of the Spirit. ‘Where the Spirit of the Lord is,’ the Apostle tells us elsewhere, ‘there is liberty.’ But liberty in a society has its dangers; It is, to a certain extent, at war with order; and the guardians of order are not apt to be too considerate of it. Hence it came to pass that at a very early period, and in the interests of good order, the freedom of the Spirit was summarily suppressed in the church. ‘The gift of ruling,’ it has been said, ‘like Aaron’s rod, seemed to swallow up the other gifts.’ The rulers of the church became a class entirely apart from its ordinary members, and all exercise of spiritual gifts for the building up of the church was confined to them. Nay, the monstrous idea was originated, and taught as a dogma, that they alone were the depositaries, or, as it is sometimes said, the custodians, of the grace and truth of the gospel; only through them could men come into contact with the Holy Ghost. In plain English, the Spirit was quenched when Christians met for worship. One great extinguisher was placed over the flame that burned in the hearts of the brethren; it was not allowed to show itself; it must not disturb, by its eruption in praise or prayer or fiery exhortation, the decency and order of divine service.

I say that was the condition to which Christian worship was reduced at a very early period; and it is unhappily the condition in which, for the most part, it subsists at this moment. Do you think we are gainers by it? I do not believe it. It has always come from time to time to be intolerable. The Montanists of the second century, the heretical sects of the middle ages, the Independents and Quakers of the English Commonwealth, the lay preachers of Wesleyanism, the Salvationists, the Plymouthists, and the Evangelistic associations of our own day, all these are in various degrees the protest of the Spirit, and its right and necessary protest, against the authority which would quench it, and by quenching it impoverish the church.”

The assembly, then, should never fetter the Holy Spirit, either with unscriptural rules, stereotyped program, rituals, or liturgies. How grieved He must often be by rigid understandings that a meeting must end at a certain time, that a service must always follow a certain routine, that ministry at certain stages of a worship meeting IS quite unacceptable! Such regulations can only lead to a loss of spiritual power.

IF THE SPIRIT HAD HIS WAY TODAY

We might well pause to ask ourselves what it would be like in our local churches if the Holy Spirit were really depended on to be the Divine Leader. C. H. Mackintosh gives a vivid description of such a situation, and we reproduce it here:

“We have but little conception of what an assembly would be were each one distinctly led by the Holy Ghost, and gathered only to Jesus. We should not then have to complain of dull, heavy, unprofitable, trying meetings. We should have no fear of an unhallowed intrusion of mere nature and its restless doings—no making of prayer—no talking for talking’s sake—no hymnbook seized to fill a gap. Each one would know his place in the Lord’s immediate presence—each gifted vessel would be filled, fitted, and used by the Master’s hand—each eye would be directed to Jesus—each heart occupied with Him. If a chapter were read it would be the very voice of God. If a word were spoken, it would tell with power upon the heart. if prayer were offered, it would lead the soul into the very presence of God. If a hymn were sung, it would lift the spirit up to God, and be like sweeping the strings of the heavenly harp. We should feel ourselves in the very sanctuary of God and enjoy a foretaste of that time when we shall worship in the courts above and go no more out.

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