“Now concerning spiritual gifts brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant.” 1 Cor. 12:1
I am one of those guys who grew up in the charismatic movement.
Some of you reading this are not even aware of the phenomenon that swept the Christian world beginning about 50 years ago, affecting all denominations and nations. Others may call it the fringe of Christianity. You know, those “speaking in tongues weirdos.” And some of you will read this with intense judgment to see if I am truly representing your particular version of the work of the Holy Spirit.
But I challenge you to read on.
I hope you will be open-minded enough to see that God reaches your heart and life, and as well as the hearts and lives of those around you, in ways that do not necessarily fit your version of Christianity. These ways are found extensively in scripture, specifically in the early church of the New Testament.
For me, it all started when I was 14-years-old. Certainly, I was hungry for God to reveal Himself to me in greater measure than I was experiencing. I grew up in a good Baptist church. But when the pastor taught on the book of Acts, he literally skipped the second chapter, so he would not have to deal with the “strange irrelevant early church experience” no longer applicable to the more civilized religion of our day.
As a youth from the 60s, I was ready to challenge the status quo. My pastor’s hesitancy only caused my curiosity to soar. What was he so afraid of? Didn’t Baptists believe in the whole Bible?
Then my mother dragged us to a meeting of Christian businessmen at a hotel conference room in Raleigh, NC. After all, sometimes you have to get outside of the church building to discover all that God has for you. A Baptist pastor named Jamie Buckingham was sharing how he had been given the “left foot of fellowship,” due to being “filled” with the Holy Spirit. He shared that experiencing the powerful flow of gifts from heaven was changing people’s lives. Of course, he based this right out of the book of Acts, chapter two.
From that night on, my entire existence shifted. Everything changed: from the level of my faith in God, to the direction of my interests, calling, and purpose in life. The Bible came alive. Prayer had more power. And I could not contain myself with this driving desire to tell others about Jesus. Over the years, I have seen the miraculous power of God through the Holy Spirit not only change people’s lives, but give gifts that greatly enhance the ministry of heaven to and through His people.
Granted, after many years of this “renewal movement of the Holy Spirit” - just like with all movements, there were those who used it for their own personal gain, manipulated innocent people, and claimed some of the glory of God for themselves.
But don’t let the dirty bathwater overshadow the purity of the clean baby left in the tub.
First of all, know that the Holy Spirit of God convicts us of sin and converts us from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. He leads us into an intimate relationship with God, the Father, through Jesus, His Son.
This same Spirit then also fills us with the presence of God and enables us to live in a different realm, a different plane or playing field. We are of a different kingdom, and therefore in need of the power to live effectively in that kingdom.
What you may think is abnormal in one realm of living may be quite normal in this alternate supernatural realm.
So when the Holy Spirit fills us, we receive gifts from God that He activates in a timely manner to be used for effective ministry in the lives of others. You see, our natural thinking is a roadblock to the fullness of God’s complete work in our lives. He bypasses the human realm and takes a more direct approach to meet our needs and change the world.
The part that is so hard for us is that these gifts are given to and through the frailty of humans. When a person says, “I believe I have a word from God for you”, we want to run and hide. “Who does he think he is?” “How does he/she know this is from God?” “What if they’re wrong?”
All of those questions are valid. I don’t have time to fully answer or teach on this here. But suffice it to say there is always a need for an atmosphere of accountability, judgment, and confirmation. No one’s gift is the final answer. The real deal is what God reveals to you, now or later; this revelation confirms the gift that was given. If it is God, then it will become relevant, useful, and real.
It is also true that your faith is involved. So don’t reject what you experience just because you don’t understand it.
Let’s get our focus off of the instrument being used and open our eyes to what God is trying to accomplish here. One lady was told by a total stranger - with no knowledge of the incident - that her runaway son was coming home. She was encouraged not to condemn him, but to love him. He did come home... that very afternoon. Another man was told God would use him to invent something that would change the world: “So gain the confidence. Don’t give up.” That year the man, a military scientist, invented something that gave the US great advantage in military strategy. The one with the word of knowledge knew nothing about this man, as they’d never met before. I know several women with issues of infertility that were told by unknowing people that their wombs would open up and bear fruit, and - they did.
To help your unbelief, I’m only giving you the examples of people that I was directly involved with personally.
Ultimately, God is micromanaging His body to have greater impact in the world. He’s forcing the issue through supernatural means, in order to turn the ship in the right direction. As a result, we will more accurately minister to others and lead the world to Christ in a more powerful and effective way.
Don’t let the immaturity of someone new to these things scare you off. And don’t let the shallow nature of your human mind keep you from going a little deeper to discover the treasure chest of God’s gifts for you.
One last thing… Don’t let pride get in the way. Not 1) the pride that causes you to offend your brother with a know-it-all attitude concerning your gift, and not 2) the pride that says, “I don’t need these crutches called gifts to be a good Christian.”
A little humility is in order here. And a little faith that God really does want to fulfill His destiny in your life. This is not really about the gift or the instrument through which the gift is given. No, this is about the Giver of the gift and the purpose for which He has given it to be accomplished - in your life and mine.