The Holy Spirit’s Activities

Some time ago I came across a post with a question something like, “Do you believe in the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit or do you believe He is inactive today?” I can’t remember exactly how it was worded, but I do remember it was presented as an either/or proposition: either you believe in what we call the “sign gifts” – speaking in tongues, miraculous healings, etc. – or you believe the Holy Spirit has been basically sitting on the sidelines since the first century.

But that’s an unfair proposition. The Bible presents a number of activities or ministries of the Holy Spirit.

He helps believers.

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth” (John 14:16-17a, ESV. KJV says “Comforter”).

“Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” John 16:7.

He assures believers of their relationship with God.

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “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 fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. Romans 8:15-17.

By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 1 John 4:13.

He helps us in prayer.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. Romans 8:26-27.

He helps us to hope.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.  Romans 15:13.

He pours God’s love into our hearts.

And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:5.

He teaches us.

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. John 14:26 (KJV says Comforter rather than Helper).

He guides us.

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. John 16:13.

He glorifies Christ.

He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. John 16:14.

He convicts.

Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. John 16:7-11.

He is involved in our salvation.

Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” John 3:5-6.

For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:3-5.

You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12:2-3.

He baptizes us into the body of Christ.

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12:12-13.

He gifts us for service.

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. 1 Corinthians 12:4-11.

He dwells within us.

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”  Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. John 7:37-39.

And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. 2 Corinthians 1:21-22.

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. Romans 8:9-11.

He seals us.

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, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:13-14.

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Ephesians 4:30.

He fills us.

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit. Ephesians 5:18.

He produces fruit in us.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23.

And this isn’t even an exhaustive study! Some of these things take place once at salvation, some are continuing ministries until we get to heaven (I probably should have separated them into those categories, but this has already gotten much more involved than I planned. Perhaps I’ll come back and do that another time. I’ve come across several things I need to study more just in this brief study.)

My purpose here is not to go into which ministries or gifts of the Holy Spirit are still active today. The great majority of these are still active. The ones that are disputed (tongues, interpretations, healings, miracles. God does still heal and work miracles; the question is whether He uses healers or miracle-workers to do so) have been better handled by others elsewhere, and there is not time and space to deal with them right now anyway. I personally know dear people who love God with all their hearts on both sides of the issue.

My point, rather, is to call attention to all the other things the Holy Spirit does. He is quite active in our day. Why do we get so fixated on those few gifts? Are we just as happy to have the Holy Spirit guide us, teach us, work in us love and gentleness and self-control, glorify Christ in and through us? Or do we prefer the “flashier,” seemingly more exciting and unusual gifts?

Whatever you believe about the “sign gifts” of the Holy Spirit, don’t neglect to study and appreciate all of these other things He does in God’s children.

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Literary Musing Monday, Wise Woman, Woman to Woman Word-filled Wednesday, Faith on Fire)

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But That’s Not My Spiritual Gift!

IMG_1761Some years ago it was all the rage to do spiritual gift tests. Spiritual gifts are those particular abilities that the Holy Spirit gives people when they are saved by which He wants to work through them to edify the body of Christ. You can find lists of them in Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, 28-30; Ephesians 4:11; 1 Peter 4:9-11. They have been taught about in almost every church we have been a part of, and in two churches we actually did the test during a church service, with one of them having a subsequent series about them.

The idea was to help people identify their spiritual gifts so they’d know how they best fit into the ministry of the church and not waste their time frustrated and ineffective in an area where they’re not gifted. And that can be helpful. When I first started going to church regularly as a teenager and then was recruited for various ministries, it seemed like a young woman was just naturally gifted for working with children, right? I was usually asked to assist and then later to teach in the nursery, Sunday School, children’s church, Awanas, etc. I could do it, I learned from it, I hope God used me in it, but it wasn’t until I was asked to take on a more administrative role that I felt I had found my niche and just sank into it with a delight and joy I hadn’t previously found in ministry. As other opportunities have opened up over the years I’ve had a similar response in a few different areas.

I think that might actually be the better way to discern one’s spiritual giftings: trying different ministries to see which one “fits.” The tests can help to a degree, but sometimes they’re more like personality tests; sometimes their definitions can differ from one another and/or from my understanding of what a particular gift entails. Sometimes the particular ministry I am in hasn’t really fit in any category I’ve seen on a test.

Another fault with the tests and perhaps too much of a focus on what *my* gifts are is the “That’s not my job” syndrome. I don’t have the gift of evangelism, so I don’t have to do that, right? No, we’re all supposed to be a witness for Christ in some way within our sphere of influence, though there are some who are especially gifted in that way. It’s the same with giving, showing mercy, extending hospitality, helping others, and many of the other spiritual gifts.

And then sometimes God drops us into a situation that we don’t feel gifted for at all: in fact, we feel totally inadequate. Moses, Gideon, Jeremiah, Jonah, and others didn’t greet God’s call on their lives the the attitude, “Sounds great! That’s just the kind of opportunity I was looking for!”

That’s where I am with caregiving. Someone I knew said of their daughter, who was training to be a nurse, that she was a “natural caregiver.” Another friend who is a nurse spoke of loving to use the talents God had given her to minister to people in that way – another natural caregiver. That’s not me. I want people to be cared for, particularly my mother-in-law. But I have never been good with or felt inclined to the hands-on type of caregiving she is in need of now, except with my own children.

Yet here we are. Do I tell God, “There must be some mistake here. Not only am I not gifted for this, but it’s keeping me from what I feel I am gifted for.” Probably not a good idea.

I was convicted by this sentence as well as other truths in the True Woman blog post “Serving in Church: When Your Spiritual Gift Isn’t Changing Diapers“: “This doesn’t mean my gifts aren’t important. What it means is that “sometimes the need for a servant is greater than my need to use a specific gift.” And from another article on the same web site, What About Your Desire to Do Something Great For God?: “When the desire to do for God supersedes the desire to obey God, it reveals that God is no longer the source of joy. A heart delighted in God desires to obey Him. A heart delighted in self desires to see what self can accomplish. A person delighted in God doesn’t care so much how God uses her, but rather that she is useful to God, the object of her delight. A person delighted in self cares deeply about how God uses her, because seeing the self she loves underused causes grief.”

Though we need to rely on God’s help, grace, and strength even for those areas where we feel He has gifted us, there’s nothing like being totally out of our element to make us lean on Him and plea for His enabling like never before. And though the main point of caregiving isn’t about me, but rather about showing love and ministering to my mother-in-law, perhaps one reason He has allowed this opportunity is to teach me lessons about my own selfishness as well as serving and loving others in the way they most need it, not in the way I am “comfortable” showing it.

Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. Matthew 20:28

(Sharing with Inspire me Monday, Testimony Tuesday, Woman to Woman Word Filled Wednesday, Thought-provoking Thursday)

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Laudable Linkage

Here are some great reads discovered in the last couple of weeks:

America, I Still Believe in You (But, Only Because I Believe in Him)

Serving in Church: When Your Spiritual Gift Isn’t Changing Diapers. “Sometimes the need for a servant is greater than my need to use a specific gift.”

What About Your Desire to Do Something Great For God? “When the desire to do for God supersedes the desire to obey God, it reveals that God is no longer the source of joy. A heart delighted in God desires to obey Him. A heart delighted in self desires to see what self can accomplish. A person delighted in God doesn’t care so much how God uses her, but rather that she is useful to God, the object of her delight. A person delighted in self cares deeply about how God uses her, because seeing the self she loves underused causes grief.”

Elizabeth Prentiss: Joyfully Embracing Motherhood and Suffering. Elizabeth is the author of the hymn “More Love to Thee” and the book Stepping Heavenward.

Brexit and the Coming of the Last Days.

Assisted Suicide: A Quadriplegic’s Perspective.

A Well-Ordered Life and Scruffy Hospitality might seem like opposite viewpoints. But I think the key is balance. We don’t need to wait for a “Pinterest-perfect” house or party to have people over, but some degree of order makes life go more smoothly. Personalities are probably inclined more one way or the other.

How Schools Can Help Notice and Serve the Quiet Kids.

Finally, my oldest son posted this on Facebook. I don’t know who made it, but it’s good advice when watching and passing on news.

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Tension and Balance

This is a repost from May of last year. The topic has been on my mind again this week, so I thought I’d share these thoughts again. __________________________________________________________

A news item on this radio this morning about opposing viewpoints sparked a memory.

Some years ago, in  different town and church from where we are now, my husband had spoken to the pastor privately about what we sensed as a subtle shift. It wasn’t a major problem at that point, but if it continued it would lead to a major drift from the church’s position as it was when we had first come. The pastor graciously heard him, and at some point made the comment that the church needed the more conservative members to keep it from going too far and the more adventurous members to keep it from being stuck in the status quo.

I hadn’t thought about that before, but the idea came up again in a series at the same church on spiritual gifts. Everything I had ever read or any little “test” I had taken before all concentrated on you and finding out what your gifts are, but this particular study went further and studied the issue from various angles. One angle was the potential clash between people with various gifts.

There is a certain tension between opposing viewpoints: those who want change vs. those who want sameness; those whose natural stance is “Let’s do it now!” vs. those who who say, “Let’s think about it first.” This tension between opposing viewpoints, personalities, and gifts can exist in government, families, churches, clubs, any organization of more than one person.

But it’s not all bad. It keeps us in balance. It helps us consider other sides of issues, other consequences to actions. It helps expose our own weaknesses.

Years ago when a very big, important issue came up for a church vote, and everyone voted “yes” with no discussion, the pastor was concerned that people hadn’t really taken time to consider the issue. He would preferred to have the discussion out then rather than later on after action had been taken. He wanted unity, yes, but not “yes men” who do whatever the leadership thinks without thinking on their own. That can backfire: a dear pastor friend was voted out for “running the church into debt” when of course he had not done so singlehandedly. His church had voted every step of the way to all the projects being voted on, yet when crunch time came they blamed the leader. Most good leaders would much rather have the discussions, questions, doubts, etc., out on the table and have an opportunity to work them out ahead of time and then approach the action with unity, than to have everyone seem to be in unity at first and then fragment afterward.

In the area of spiritual gifts, those with the gift of mercy might be moved with compassion and immediately want to help in a certain situation while others with the gift of discernment want to hold back and check into the situation a little more thoroughly first. They keep each other in balance. That’s one of many reasons a church is made up of people with varying gifts working together as a whole. If a church’s members all had the gift of mercy, it would likely go bankrupt soon as it ran out of funds. If a church’s members all had the gift of evangelism, it would have a lot of new members but not much depth if there were none gifted to teach. Yet those different giftings and emphases can cause tension between them.

I’m thinking that the tension between two opposing forces might be the essence of balance. Think of a plane flying: there is the pull of gravity to keep it from flying off into space, but the tension of speed, wind, and air currents to enable it to fly. There is tension in a sewing machine to enable the threads from top and bottom to secure the fabric between: a tension set too tight or too loose causes problems. There is a certain tension in gears and machinery.

Within Christendom, we’re called to love those with an opposing viewpoints (I’m talking here about Christians with the same bedrock doctrinal truths who might differ in other ways, not taking a soft stance on false doctrine, though of course we’re to love folks in that situation, too, yet  love God’s truth enough to defend it), to remember they belong to the same God and the same family we do and to remember that we need each other and that God made us each with all our differences. We can, or should be able to, air differences of opinion without the heat and hatefulness the world displays. When the tension is set the right way, we keep each other in balance.