Manifestations of the Spirit or Antics of the Flesh?
Uhealthy focus, misuse and abuse of the gifts of the Spirit
The Bible tells us to "Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts..." (1 Cor. 14:1). The word "desire" means to be zealous for." So, Paul commands us to zealously desire spiritual gifts. He devotes a lot of time and attention to the gifts of the Spirit, as we will see. Every Christian is to zealously desire the spiritual gifts so that they might glorify God and edify (build up) the Body of Christ. It is unfortunate that so many misuse and abuse the spiritual gifts by using them in a way that contradicts Scripture, taking it out of context or completely twisting it to mean what they want. When the use of certain spiritual gifts (tongues, prophecy, words of knowledge, etc) takes precedence in a church service over the preaching of the word, prayer and worship, it becomes an opportunity for the flesh; soon the service turns into an "everyone get on the band wagon" rather than worshiping the Lord. It merely calls attention to people looking for attention, and to be seen as more spiritual than others. Some do it for the enjoyment of an ecstatic experience. Soon there is an unhealthy preoccupation with seeking the experience in lieu of focus on the word of God.
In addition to all this, many add other experiences that are not even in the Bible, and again, they focus on these actions rather than the worship and preaching of the word. This creates an environment of chaos and fleshly antics. Let's look at God's word and answer the following questions:
- What are the gifts and their purpose?
- How are they manifested?
- What should be the condition of our hearts as we allow them to operate in our lives?
What are the gifts of the Spirit and what is their purpose?
The gifts of the Spirit are special abilities given to each Christian (member of the Body of Christ) to be used to edify the church and glorify God. The gifts are not natural talents. Natural talents are given by God to be used to bless others. Some natural talents might be various arts, leadership skills, sports, etc. Just as spiritual gifts, God bestows the talents and intends for people to use them not only for their own enjoyment, but to bless and help others. Natural talents are usually something one is born with, perhaps by genetic makeup or because of environmental factors (e.g. family interests or family dynamics).
Spiritual gifts are given to each individual person who becomes a believer and is filled with the Holy Spirit. 1 Cor. 12:11 explains, "All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as He wills." There is a distinct purpose for the gifts. They gifts are specifically given to bless and help others and bring glory to God.
Peter tells us in 1 Peter 4:10-11 that the gifts are given to the believer to serve one another and to glorify God.
Paul tells us in 1 Cor. 12:7 they are for the profit of all. In chapter 14 he tells them the gifts are for the edification (building up) of the church.
The gifts of the Spirit are not the natural abilities of individuals. They are distributed by God for His purposes. It is the gift and the giver of the gift that is special, not the recipient of the gift lest one become proud. He gives them to us by His grace (1 Peter 4:10).
God wants us to be good stewards of the gifts of His grace and He gives us the strength to use them. Therefore we are to use them responsibly and in a way the blesses others and God (1 Peter 4:10-11).
What the Bible says about using the spiritual gifts
The apostle Paul was clear in assessing what is most important when operating the spiritual gifts, and for what reason the spiritual gifts are given.Take note:
- They are for the strengthening of the Body of Christ (1Cor. 12:7, 1Cor. 14:12).
- We are to desire the most helpful gifts (1Cor. 12:31).
- Spiritual maturity in understanding and operating them (1Cor. 14:20).
- Using self-control (Gal. 5:22, 23).
What Paul was emphasizing in these verses is that the gifts of the Spirit are for the blessing and strengthening of others, not for our own edification. Notice the words love, strengthening, helpful, and maturity. Without these important qualities the spiritual gifts do not glorify God, help others, and are completely useless.
"Love should be our highest goal," says Paul. We love God and seek to glorify Him by using these gifts to edify the Body. If the Body is not edified while using these gifts, if people are getting all the attention and glory, something is wrong. Love and the desire to glorify God are absent and the Holy Spirit is grieved.
Hysteria is not spritiual
- Be Not Drunk with Wine OR Drunk with the Spirit | Caffeinated Thoughts
A compelling, biblical, and sensible counter to the drunk in the spirit practice. Be sure to see the video at the bottom.
Example # 1 Disorderly conduct
I believe in the use of spiritual gifts, have often been able to edify others, and have been edified through others. Sadly, I have been in meetings where chaos and bizarre behavior were present, therefore sending the wrong message to those in the meetings - especially impressionable new believers. Let me share the first of three instances that most profoundly affected me:
One day my friend who was most responsible for leading me to Christ took me to a pentecostal church. There was shouting prophesy, shouting tongues, shouting words of knowledge...all at once. Music was blaring and people were jumping around and laughing. It was like being in church service of the drunk and disorderly. I had no idea what was going on and it scared me half to death. I had a great urge to run away. My friend, a mature, pentecostal for many years, apologized for the chaos and misuse of the gifts of the Spirit. I did not even realize that is what was going on. It was completely different from the Calvary Chapel meetings I went to where everything was orderly and where there was great reverence, where only God was glorified, and only the Body was edified there. Not so in the church I visited that morning. Despite my bad experience there that morning I was ready to make a commitment to Christ and did so when I got home.
The Holy Spirit is not as a farm animal
Example # 2 Barnyard antics
One of the worst meetings I ever went to was a home Bible study a friend invited me to. The Bible study was good. No warning bells and I benefited both in learning and sharing. Then I heard the words, "Let's pray!" Everyone stood up and immediately tongues, prophecies, and so-called holy laughter filled the room all at once. Understand, I don't have an issue with tongues or prophecy, or words of knowledge. They are biblical. But not all at once. It got out of hand right away when one of the girls, laughing hysterically, fell to the ground on her hands and knees and promptly began to oink like a pig. The laughing and noise making of the others immediately followed. I headed for the door in anger and disgust. My heart was grieved and offended that these spiritually immature and decieved ladies would behave like animals in the name of the Holy Spirit of God.
How do people behave who are filled with Spirit? Like drunkards? Hardly. They become singers of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs."— David Shedlock
Example # 3 Pew tipping
The third episode happened when I attended a "Spirit filled" Saturday night meeting at a nearby church. When we got there the music began and went on for an hour and a half, each song lasting about 30 minutes, mostly without words, except tongues and words of knowledge. Okay, I thought. Not the way I thought it should be, but really not an offense. Then once again I heard the words, "Let's pray!"
The same kind of chaos as the other two times began. The leader of the meeting was praying, but we could not hear him once the "holy" laughter began. One whole pew of college aged students began laughing raucously. It got so out of hand that they knocked the pew backwards. I was elbowed hard in the ribs and my feet were under the back of the pew. The pastor then commented on how wonderfully the Spirit was working and tried to convince any in the audience that might be skeptical that "holy" laughter was in the Bible, quoting a Scripture where God tells us to laugh. Totally out of context I'd say. It was a flagrant misuse of Scripture.
Paul said the gifts of the Spirit should be operated in an orderly fashion (1Cor. 14:40). Where was the order? Where was the love in these three meetings? Who was edified? Who was glorified? Who was strengthened? What did all these antics and chaos say about the Holy Spirit? As Paul often said, "My friends, this should never be." The Holy Spirit is not a freak or a buffoon, and worship should not be a three ring circus. The Holy Spirit is holy, sound, and reverent.
The antics of the flesh
Wilkerson weeps in grief
Truths and myths about the Holy Spirit
Myth: The Holy Spirit is an ethereal, cosmic, random force.
Truth: The Holy Spirit is God the Holy Spirit. The Trinity has been a difficult concept to explain. Many theologians have variations, some differ. One theologian explained the Trinity this way, "Just as each of us has an invisible soul, a visible body and an active spirit in one person, so God has within him the Trinity of the invisible "Father", the visible "Son" and the active Spirit and life coming forth from them."
Myth: The Holy Spirit plays a lesser role than Jesus and the Father.
Truth: The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are equal and are one. How can one member of the Trinity be less or do less. Not less, each has a different role.
Myth: The Holy Spirit wasn't present until the New Testament.
Truth: The Holy Spirit was present with the Father and the Son at creation. There are many instances where the Bible tells us the Holy Spirit came upon or spoke through prophets and others. Throughout the entire Old and New Testaments the Holy Spirit was working in and through the lives of people.
Myth: The only way to know you have been baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit is to speak in tongues.
Truth: This idea comes from the book of Acts where on many occasions we read, "and they were filled with the Holy Spirit," followed by the speaking of tongues. But we also read that when the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles they spoke the word with boldness. We see in Acts 2 and 4 where Peter, being filled with the Holy Spirit, preached boldly at risk of persecution. At the end of chapter 4 it says after the disciples had prayed they were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the Word with boldness. In Acts 13, Paul, being filled with the Holy Spirit confronted and cast out a demon. What we see here is that the Holy Spirit is enduing the saints with power to do things they could not do in their own power or strength in order to carry out the will of God and glorify Him.
In Ephesians 5:18 Paul tells the church to be filled with the Spirit. The context of the entire passage reveals that by being filled with the Holy Spirit, Christians will have the power to live godly, spiritual lives and not carnal ones. The Holy Spirit equips and enables us to live godly lives.
Sometimes believers start following signs and wonders instead of signs and wonders following believers. Sometimes people become so obsessed with finding the 'new thing' that the Holy Spirit is doing that we forget about what is true."— Greg Laurie, Pastor and Evangelist
The gifts of the Spirit are listed in the Bible
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 fthe interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills (1 Cor 12: 4-11).
And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues (1 Cor. 12:28). Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness (Rom 12:6-8).
Love is the answer
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing (1Cor 13.1-3).
© 2012 Lori Colbo
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