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Posts Tagged ‘discernment’

I am a gifted man.  Does that sound arrogant?  I promise you that it’s not.  Actually I’m just repeating what the Bible says about all of those who are in Christ.  If you are a “Believer”, you could (and actually should) say the same of yourself.  Even if you’ve never recognized a spiritual gift within you, I can assure you that you’ve got them. 

The Apostle Paul said that we should eagerly pursue “spiritual gifts”, and he goes on to explain that these gifts are to allow each of us to fulfill our unique role within the Body of Christ.  This means that our motivation in desiring this giftedness should not be to glorify ourselves, but to serve.  Therefore it is important that we go beyond pursuing, identifying, and deploying our spiritual gifts, to also find the context in which the Lord is calling us to use what He’s given us.

Not many years ago, I would have denied possessing any special gifts, but as I’ve pursued a deeper and more personal relationship with the Lord, I’ve come to realize that He has actually given me many wonderful gifts.  While some might view that as a prideful statement, I would submit that the quality of a gift is a direct reflection of the Giver, and that it does not necessarily reflect anything about receiver (other than the fact that they are the object of the Givers affection).  I know that I’ve not done anything that warrants the good things that God has given me; it is simply a manifestation of His generosity toward me. 

While some might claim that God has been more generous with some than others, I doubt that is true.  I believe that there are many people who never realize what their gifts are, and thus never walk in the fulfillment of them.  I also believe that we judge some gifts as more valuable than others, but that in God’s view, they are all vital to the fulfillment of His purpose.  Because God is no respecter of persons, I believe that He’s given all of His children good gifts.  In light of that, it seems that the only grateful response is to use whatever He has given us to glorify His name, and to serve His people.

The danger in recognizing our spiritual gifts is that we can begin to see them as God’s stamp of approval.  As we become skilled at moving within our area of gifting, we can mistake that ability as Gods reward to us for faithful service, instead of His purely unmerited favor.  The Bible says that the spiritual gifts are “without repentance”, meaning that even if they’re not used for His glory, He doesn’t take them back. 

This also means that giftedness and holiness are not necessarily connected, or proportional.  It seems to me that we in the church are overly impressed by giftedness and largely uninterested in holiness; yet scripture tells us that “without holiness, no one will see the Lord”.  I once heard a minister say that the church doesn’t suffer from a lack of giftedness; it just suffers from a lack of money.  I’d submit that what the church truly lacks is holiness (and the genuine fruit it produces), and that without it, money and giftedness will only hasten our downfall.

In my own walk, I can see that the realization of my spiritual gifts has not made my heart any more pure.  The flesh continues to war with the Spirit for control of my soul.  God may give me the ability to discern something in the spiritual realm (which is simply a manifestation of giftedness), but the power is not in the discernment, it is in what I choose to do with it, which is greatly affected by what is in my heart. 

If I have bitterness, envy or strife with someone, I may use that discernment to gossip, or cause factions.  If I am insecure, I may use this discernment to try to puff myself up, or to promote my own agenda…, but if my heart is sold out to the purposes of God, I will ask Him what to do with this discernment, and seek to advance His purposes through it. 

The Lord reminded me of the story where Ham found his father (Noah) drunk, and naked in his tent, and of how Ham’s brothers walked into the tent backwards, so as to cover their father, and bring no shame upon him.  I felt like the Lord said that Ham wasn’t cursed for discerning the error of Noah’s ways, or even for telling his brothers about it, but because his heart did not seek to honor his father, or protect his family. 

I was convicted by that example, because I know that I have often been “accurate” in my discernment (i.e. giftedness), but have responded in ways that have not been protective of the Body of Christ or glorifying to the Lord (i.e. holiness).  Giftedness was never meant to be a substitute for holiness, or to be applied separately.

It is not my intent to in any way discourage the seeking and fulfillment of spiritual gifts.  As a matter of fact, I believe that the scripture mandates it, and that it is an essential element for us to reach our destiny as children of God.  I don’t believe that the church has even begun to scratch the surface of what Christ has attained for us, and that the great storehouses of heaven remain jammed with unopened gifts.  But I also believe that these gifts will only be effective to the degree that our hearts are submitted to the Lord, and that above all things that must be our priority. 

Spiritual gifts are like tools for the work of the Kingdom; and as with any tool, their effectiveness will largely depend on whose hands they are in.  We must place our tools in the hand of the Master Builder, because unless the Lord builds the house, we labor in vain.  As a man who is aware that he has been given gifts, I pray that God would give me a heart that always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres.

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Part of the fruit of “The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil” is the inherent belief that we know what is best for us, and ultimately what will make us happy.  Reflexively, we view situations through the lens of our own experience, and then lean heavily on our own understanding.  We may try to evoke some scriptural justification for our assessments, but it is the Spirit of God that offers us the balance. 

For instance, we can watch the evening news, and in our frustration, we can decide that what we really need is boldness, and then start praying for a “spirit of boldness” to be released; when the Spirit of Lord is actually trying to get us to take our eyes off the circumstance (i.e. temporal), and get us to engage in the actual spiritual battle (2Cor. 4:18).  Without the temperance of the Spirit, our fervor tends to drive us toward destruction.

No doubt, it was zeal for God that compelled James & John to want to call fire down from heaven (Luke 9:54), and Peter to swing the sword in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matt 26:51), and Saul to persecute Jesus’ followers (Acts 8:3).  But all were eventually admonished for doing what seemed right in their own eyes.   Indeed, boldness without discernment is a dangerous thing.

In much the same way, knowledge can be a two edged sword.  It is only when knowledge encounters humility that it has the potential to become wisdom.  Without the moderation of the Spirit, knowledge can simply puff a man up (1Cor 8:1), and God resists the proud (James 4:6).

Our carnal mind likes to classify things as either “good” or “bad”, but context is essential.  Paul tells us to eagerly seek spiritual gifts (1Cor.12:31), but then warns that without love, those gifts become worthless (1Cor. 13:1-3).  Scripture cautions that we are justified by faith and not by works (Gal. 2:16), but then declares that faith without works is dead (James 2:17).  We learn that there is power in the name of Jesus (Mark 16:17), but find that doing things in Jesus’ name is of no eternal value, unless we actually know Him (Matt. 7:23). 

To our finite way of thinking, things like justice and grace are diametrically opposed, and yet they are both perfectly reflected in the person of God.  The balance of these (and many other) issues can only be found in Him.  Ultimately, this is what allows us to be in the world, but not of the world (John 17:15-18).  Only He has the words of life (John 6:68), and apart from Him, we can do “nothing” (John 15:5).

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It was James & John’s zeal for the Lord that caused them to suggest calling down fire from heaven (Luke 9:54).

It was Peter’s passion for Jesus that caused him to swing the sword in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matt 26:51).

It was Saul’s fervor for the things of God that caused him to persecute the followers of Jesus (Acts 8:3).

But in each instance, these faithful men found themselves out of step with God’s will.

Indeed, there is a way that seems right to a man, but it ultimately leads to death (Prov. 14:12).

In these perilous times, boldness is not the critical issue.

We need to be praying for discernment.

We desperately need to hear what the Spirit is saying to the church (Rev. 2).

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