Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Overcoming Adversaries; Psalm 129, II Corinthians 4:8-18

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Wednesday, July 11, 2018

"Praising My Savior All the Day Long"; Psalm 119:161-168

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Monday, June 25, 2018

Hope for the Hopeless; Psalm 142, I Sam. 22:1-2, I Sam. 24:1-7

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Monday, June 11, 2018

Light for the Path; Psalm 119:105-112

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Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Loving God's Law; Psalm 119:97-104, II Timothy 3:14-4:5

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Monday, May 28, 2018

The Gifts of the Holy Spirit, Part II; I Corinthians 12:1-11

Last week we looked at the Holy Spirit’s work and gifts within us. Those gifts were justification, sanctification, kinship with God and other people, and empowerment for service and witness. The Holy Spirit’s work within us for empowerment and witness is teaching and applying God’s Word to our lives, interceding for us in prayer and guiding our prayers, giving us the words to speak at the right time and boldness to declare the gospel. All of this and more the Spirit does in us at all times that we are not quenching the work of the Spirit, for the Holy Spirit dwells permanently in us. The Bible also talks about the Holy Spirit’s gifts and works upon us. These are also gifts of empowerment for witness and service, but the big difference between the Spirit’s gifts upon us versus those within us is that they are not the same for all of us. This is what we see in our Scripture passage this morning. In I Corinthians 12, Paul talks about different gifts of the Spirit, and points out that not all of us have the same spiritual gifts of grace but that each of the gifts are needed for the functioning of the Body of Christ. We are encouraged to seek these gifts and to use them, but we are not to be envious nor dismissive of those who gifts are different from ours. Every person who has been born again has a spiritual gift. If you do not know what yours is, ask the Holy Spirit and the other members of the Body of Christ to help you discern it. You may already be using it unaware, or you may be quenching the work of the Spirit. These gifts are not the same thing as the innate abilities God gave you from birth, or the acquired skills you have learned over the years. Spiritual gifts may seem innate or acquired, but they are something that only the Spirit can do so that God gets the glory. In other words, if you didn’t have the Spirit, you wouldn’t have the gift or ability. And the purpose of the gift is not for your own benefit, but to build up the Body of Christ. Other gifts of the Spirit are episodic. These are gifts of empowerment that the Spirit gives to accomplish something very specific. It may occur in your life once and never again, or off and on over the years. When these gifts are used, there is no doubt to you or others around you that this can only be the work of God. There is a doctrine called cessationism that says that certain of these gifts are not valid today. This doctrine comes from a verse in the following chapter—I Corinthians 13:8b “But whether prophecies, they will fail, whether tongues, they will cease, whether knowledge, it will vanish away.” I grew up with this doctrine and came to reject it in my early twenties for multiple reasons. One problem with this doctrine is those who adhere to it, forget the next verses: “For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when that which is complete (or perfect) has come, then that which is in part will be done away.” When did that occur? I don’t believe it has. I think these things will come to an end when Christ returns, and until then, these gifts are still needed. Even a lot of cessationists recognize that the two witnesses in Revelation will be prophets. It does not make sense that gifts would cease and then return. In addition, Paul goes on in chapter 14 to talk about the proper use of prophecy and tongues in worship. He ends that chapter with some Presbyterians’ favorite verse, “Let all things be done decently and in order.” And yes, tongues and prophecy can be used decently and in order. While these gifts aren’t necessarily constant, neither are some of the other gifts. They are given as needed, but it seems that they are needed frequently. Let’s look at these gifts. Verse 8 lists the word of wisdom and the word of knowledge. The word of wisdom is speaking some spiritual insight and having those right words to say at the right time. An example would be Peter’s confession of Christ, when Jesus asked, “Who do you say that I am?”, and Peter answered, “You are the Chirst, the Son of the Living God.” Jesus told Peter that he didn’t come up with this on his own but that it was the Father in heaven who revealed it to him. Jesus spoke words of wisdom when the Pharisees, Scribes, and lawyers tried to trick Him with their questions. They thought they were asking either/or questions, but Jesus always came up with something they couldn’t refute—a third way or a question, which perplexed them or exposed their motives. The word of knowledge is knowing something about a person, place, circumstance, etc. that you could not know unless God revealed it. Satan likes to imitate words of knowledge sometimes through giving people psychic powers. Now a lot of psychics are fakes—they use leading questions or have someone in the background finding out information about people through the internet, etc. making it look as if they know things about a person, but other times, it is demonic power. If someone is trying to cash in on something that is supposed to be a gift of the Spirit, it is demonic. We see this in the book of Acts 8 with Simon the Magus. His power was fake, but he recognized that the power the disciples had was real. He tried to buy the power of the Holy Spirit. Peter told Simon that he needed to repent and pray and Simon asks Peter to intercede on his behalf. In Acts 16, there is a slave girl who really is a fortune teller, but her powers are demonic. Paul casts the demon out of the girl, and she is no longer able to tell fortunes. Her owners are angry because they can no longer use her to make money and so they lie about Paul and Silas resulting in them being beaten and thrown in jail. An example of the Holy Spirit giving a word of knowledge is when Paul predicts the shipwreck in Acts 27, but assures the crew that no one will drown, but they need to do what he says. In verse 9 we have the gifts of faith and healings. All of us have been given the gift of faith by the Holy Spirit. That is the gift of justification, which we talked about last week, and the ongoing faith of sanctification. But this gift is different. This faith is absolute confidence in God’s power or mercy in a specific circumstance. It the faith that the Centurion had that Jesus could heal from a distance. It is the faith the Syro-Phonecian woman had that Jesus would heal her daughter. It is the faith the woman had when she touched the hem of Jesus’s garment that she would be healed from her issue of blood. It is the faith that the widow had when she gave all she had in the offering that God would continue to provide for her needs. It is the faith Abraham had when he left Haran to go to a place he’d never known or heard of trusting the leading of God. Gifts of healing is broad because there are many types of healings. There is spiritual healing, including deliverance from demons and other spiritual oppression. There are physical healings. There are inner healings from the harmful effects of sin, be it our own or someone else’s sin imposed upon us. There is relational healing that helps people to restore broken relationships. Some people seem to have a particular healing gift which they develop in the Holy Spirit and come to be known by it. Others are used by God as agents of healing in a particular circumstance and may or may not be used again. Verse 10 names the gifts of working of miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, tongues (languages), and interpretation of tongues (languages). Miracles are the ability to do things that draw people’s attention to the power of God. In the Old Testament, we see Moses, Elijah, and Elisha performing miracles that resulted in the saving of lives. Paul writes in his letters that he and his companions performed signs and miracles, though he does not talk about specifics. IN the book of Acts, we see Philip being translated to a new place after he shares the gospel with the Ethiopian eunuch. God still works through people today to protect and provide for others as well as to do things which draw attention to God’s glory and power. For example, a person’s ability to lift something she wouldn’t normally be able to lift in order to save someone from being crushed. Prophecy is speaking for God and may or may not have to do with revealing future events. It is foremost the ability to see and declare what’s happening from God’s viewpoint. Paul writes in I Corinthians 14 that this is the most edifying gift for the church and that the believers should seek it. In the Old Testament, Elisha has the ability to see things from God’s point of view. In II Kings 6, it looks like the Syrians are going to succeed in attacking Israel, but Elisha knows better. He prays that his servant’s eyes would be open, and the servant is able to see the angel army with horses and chariots of fire surrounding their camp. The ability to see and declare what’s REALLY going on was given to the apostles and many in the New Testament and is still happening today. Certainly, there are a lot of false prophets as well, which is why the next gift is vitally important for the wellness of the Body of Christ. The next gift is discerning the spirits. This is the ability to determine whether what is happening is really the work of the Holy Spirit, a conjuring of a person’s mind or will, or a deception by evil spirits. There are some basic tests for discerning the spirits—Does what is being said or done exalt the Lord Jesus Christ?, Is it attested to in Scripture?, Is it confirmed by other believers?, Does it bear fruit? (the love, joy, peace, etc). People with the gift of discernment can see through fakery and deception quickly and identify it for others. The two final gifts, speaking in languages and interpretation go together. Paul says in I Corinthians 14 that the gift of tongues should not be used in worship unless there is someone to interpret. Tongues is probably both the most abused and neglected gift of the Spirit. Some churches say that you are not a true believer if you don’t speak in tongues. This is contrary to Scripture. Some churches practice tongues without interpretation in a kind of free-for-all atmosphere. This is a misuse of the gift. Some say in order to receive the gift, you have to “practice” first by repeating nonsense syllables. While we can grow in and practice the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we only acquire the gifts by the Spirit’s design, not by practicing in this way. Other churches are so afraid of, put off by the misuse of, or doubt the reality of the gift of tongues that they never make room for the Spirit to be manifest in this way and quench the work of the Holy Spirit. Do tongues always need an interpreter? Some people pray in tongues when they are by themselves. Again, if it’s truly the Holy Spirit, it’s not something you can conjure at will or on your own. Romans 8 does say the Spirit intercedes for us with groans too deep for words. This is sometimes manifest in tongues. Paul goes into more detail in I Corinthians 14, which we don’t have time to look at today. There is so much more we can learn about the gifts of the Holy Spirit. But I will end with an observation that healthy, growing churches are churches that move in the power of the Holy Spirit. Remember that the purpose of these gifts of the Holy Spirit are to equip us for witness and for service in the kingdom of God. Too often, we limit what the church does by what we think we can handle, what we think we have the volunteer power for, what we think we can afford, what we think we have the energy to do, rather than asking God what God wants us to do and trusting that God will indeed equip those whom God calls with all the necessary gifts to accomplish God’s work. We quench the work of the Spirit among us and within us, looking at things externally rather than by seeing and hearing from God’s point of view. If we want to be effective witnesses and servants of God, then we need to submit to the Spirit’s leading and control.

Monday, May 21, 2018

The Gifts of the Holy Spirit, Part 1: Acts 2:1-21

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