Manifestations of the Spirit or Antics of the Flesh?

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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, there becomes focus and 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?

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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. Pleasure for the one who is bestowed with the gift is not one. They 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 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

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

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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

Unholy laughter

There is nothing holy or biblical about "Holy laughter."
There is nothing holy or biblical about "Holy laughter."

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 Bible instructs us in the proper, orderly manner in which to conduct the gifts and is the only authority.
The Bible instructs us in the proper, orderly manner in which to conduct the gifts and is the only authority. | Source

The gifts of the Spirit are listed in the Bible

Now tthere 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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Comments 23 comments

Dave Mathews profile image

Dave Mathews 4 years ago from NORTH YORK,ONTARIO,CANADA

lambservant: Eloquently put! A vital message for us all. Thank you.


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 4 years ago from Upstate New York

I wonder often at the "speaking in tongues", and some of the wilder behavior that you mentioned, whether that is really a gift of the Lord or auto-self-hypnosis. It doesn't seem Godly to me.


Troy C. profile image

Troy C. 4 years ago from Norfolk, VA

I wonder at the things people do sometimes but as long as they accept Jesus as there personal savior ;there is hope.


Angela Blair profile image

Angela Blair 4 years ago from Central Texas

Well written Hub -- I've visited in churches that were somewhat removed from my way of worship. I think we each have a spiritual direction that is our very own and comes from within -- a gift unto itself. Best/Sis


junko profile image

junko 4 years ago

Thanks , I like your style. I believe that when a person has Spiritual Gifts Of the Creator, he or she no longer look up and out For God, they look within themselves. The God in mankind is stronger and wiser than the evil within man. No doubt we were made in the spiritual image not the physical.


lifegate profile image

lifegate 4 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

I like the quote you used from Paul, "my friends, this should never be." That is the perfect summation. I believe the way we worship is indicative of the view of God we hold. Is He holy and reverent, or is He a pig? Just a thought. Thanks for sharing!


wba108@yahoo.com profile image

wba108@yahoo.com 4 years ago from upstate, NY

Things should be done decently and in order but whose order God or man's? You could go into a nursery and hear a lot of noise and commotion and say its out of order but remember there's perfect order in a graveyard but no life.


lambservant profile image

lambservant 4 years ago from Pacific Northwest Author

Thanks for stopping by wba. I'm not sure that comparing operating the gifts of the Spirit to a nursery or a graveyard are valid. Nurseries are full of babies crying because their wet and hungry. They are helpless and unable to make decisions, care for themselves, or understand most of their world. The comparison doesn't apply. Graveyards are full of dead people. iHow can one compare that to a church full of living people who have their senses and the ability to obey God's Word.

I believe the three instances I wrote about were not God's order. God's order is order, not chaos. God's gifts are not oinking, and knocking over pews. The things I spoke about don't glorify God or edify man (at least not me) cuz I can't hear through all the commotion, I can't discern who is doing what, and the message cannot be understood. I stand by the Word of God, not man's.


wba108@yahoo.com profile image

wba108@yahoo.com 4 years ago from upstate, NY

I agree that the word of God is the perfect standard to go by but to say because something is not specifically written in the bible, is not of God, I believe is a misuse of the scriptures. The principles of the scriptures are to cover the way things are done, everything not specifically forbidden should be considered permissible if it doesn't go contrary to the principles of scripture. the bible in John 21:25 says,

"And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written."

In other words Jesus did many things that aren't recorded in the scriptures. The scriptures are a guide not a roadmap. Its the Holy Spirit that leads us into all truth. John 16:13 says this,

"However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come."

If the bible teaches us every detail on the christian life, why does it say the Spirit will guide you into all truth?


lambservant profile image

lambservant 4 years ago from Pacific Northwest Author

I have added a couple of videos. After you view them, I would like your feedback. I chose one from one side of the issue, and one from the other side just to be fair. I would love to continue this conversation.


wba108@yahoo.com profile image

wba108@yahoo.com 4 years ago from upstate, NY

The unscrubbed history of past revivals have many examples of similar occurances to holy laughter or spiritual drunkeness.During the Great Awakening, Elizabeth Edwards, the wife of Jonathon Edwards was unable to walk for weeks due to a state of spiritual drunkeness.

All true revivals have an offense about them, God often does this to separate the casual seekers from those who are truly hungry for God. Every revival also has some excesses and some manifestations of the flesh present at times. Leaders have to be very in tune to the spirit to know how to deal with these situations because by the process of trying to tidy a revival up, you can grieve the spirit of God. God doesn't want the hand of man in what He's doing.

I used to get David Wilkerson's newsletter and I believed him to be a powerful phophetic voice, if fact in 1996 he prophecied 911 with great accuracy. Unfortunately as is the case with many who experienced powerful moves of God in their own lifetimes, I feel he rejected what God was doing in the revivals in toronto, Brownsville and in many other places.

It says in the scriptures, that the natural man cannot accept the things of the spirit because their foolishness to them. This is true, most believes are led by natural reasoning and have not learned to appropriate the mind of Christ when in comes to judging when something is of God or not.


lambservant profile image

lambservant 4 years ago from Pacific Northwest Author

True revival is about hearts being changed and drawn to a new relationship with God, like salvation and a renewal in your devotion to Christ. There is a wave of repentance and a return back to God. I find it interesting that these people talk about being drunk in the Spirit. The Bible clearly talks about not being intoxicated. You might argue "well yes, but He was talking about liquor." The point is that being drunk is a sin. It has no benefit and causes bad behavior and stupidness. How Did Elizabeth Edward glorify God by being so drunk she couldn't do a thing.? She could have used that time making disciples. The Holy Spirit of the Bible is not a drunken buffoon, and when people act like this they are in essence claiming that this is a manifestation of Him, it represents Him, and he wants us to act stupid and drunk. The Holy Spirit was sent to us to empower us to do the work of the Kingdom drawing people to a right relationship with Christ. If I am drunken and doubled over in hysterics and barking and oinking, I will not see God I will see my own flesh seeking attention. I will not tell someone Jesus died for their sin and rose again from the dead. The Bible says to be sober-minded. While folks are laying all over the floor laughing and being stupid, there are lost souls not hearing the message of the gospel, and going to hell. If you like to act like this, have at it, but don't do it under the banner of God's Spirit. It is grievous sin, and an insult to the name of the Lord.


wba108@yahoo.com profile image

wba108@yahoo.com 4 years ago from upstate, NY

Ok thanks for answering my comments, we'll have to agree to disagree.

God Bless


lambservant profile image

lambservant 4 years ago from Pacific Northwest Author

Thanks wba. Sorry if I became a little strong. It is everyone's right to believe as they choose. And I am thankful to be able to have the these discussions. In spite of our differences we can both learn something. Blessings.


lifegate profile image

lifegate 4 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

LS, Thank your for your stand. Oh, and by the way, I don't see anything you need to apologize for.


lambservant profile image

lambservant 4 years ago from Pacific Northwest Author

I guess your right. Thanks LS. I glad someone can stand with me and with God on this issue. Blessings


David J Shedlock profile image

David J Shedlock 4 years ago from Newton, Iowa

I have to agree with what you are saying, lambservant:

http://caffeinatedthoughts.com/2011/04/be-not-drun...


lambservant profile image

lambservant 4 years ago from Pacific Northwest Author

Like your article David. Such an offense this kind of behavior in the name of the Lord. I am reading your book and am on cpt 5. Very interesting. Answering questions I've had.


No name 17 months ago

You know what's funny?? All that I can tell from reading is that when you went to churches you were being judgmental of the atmosphere and how it was performed that's number one. Number 2 sweetheart the Jews expected a king as a Messiah how did he come? Not as a king to there opinion and there image of how he should have come. Number 3 would you expect our Lord Jesus Christ had to perform a miracle with mud and his spit? No!! I wouldn't expect that but you know what he did it! Because God is the one who makes things in his mysterious ways, don't use the scripture stating that "things should be done in order" amen they should I agree that people have to be controlled when it comes to, the sprit touching you but it doesn't mean they weren't touched by God. If you are classifying them as crazy am one of those I shout in tounges I scream I dance in the spirit I run I laugh I tremble I cry, what's funny is that many people are the same in terms or judging and criticizing those manifestations of the Spirit, but you know what who cares? People thought Jesus was a blasphemer, so anyone can go ahead and think people who feel the Spirit of God in those ways are crazy because I feel God those same ways! Let's not judge we aren't called to judge others it shouldn't matter your denomination and way the denomination is, if you haven't experimented God that way just stay shut be quiet cause if you are claiming it's not God in those people and it is God you fell into a blasphemy and if I recall the bible says blasphemy's against the spirit of God are not forgiven. I thought the same way you did when it came to laughing in the spirit until one day I was in my room and I was crying and speaking in tounges after I started to tremble and kept crying I felt a burning fire in me that soon turned out to go from my waist up and out through my mouth and all that came out through my mouth was laughter! :D so afterwards I realized what had happened, cause while all of that was happening I was conscious, and I thanked the Lord that I got to experience something new with his Spirit. Let him work in you and stop being judgmental and watch how the Lord shows you things that you don't even know. One more thing there is no problem in getting together and all feeling the presence of our God in many ways, cause if anything that shows how God works differently in people. Hebrews 10:25

Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

God Bless you :)


lambservant profile image

lambservant 17 months ago from Pacific Northwest Author

Thank you no name.


Humbled-T-Wade 16 months ago

Absolutely spot on! I too am transitioning into a new church where there are the characteristics of decency and in order as Paul wrote for us to follow. Many people in the new age church get confused between human emotion and the Holy Spirit at work amongst them. I remember attending church and the pastor walking and simply falling over and claiming it was the Spirit. Another instance was whenever a guest pastor came and preached a revival, and preached an incredible message. Post service he laid hands on people and pushed them with a credible amount of force in the stomach as a signal to "fall out" or "slain in the Spirit". This contradicts what Paul wrote of as a characteristics of the church. Sad to see people swinging so far away from what Paul wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Good Hub! I am going to follow and would appreciate a follow back, as I believe we could grow from each others teachings!


lambservant profile image

lambservant 16 months ago from Pacific Northwest Author

Humbled, thank you so much for your testimony, and praise the Lord he has given you discernment.


Tamararivella profile image

Tamararivella 3 months ago

Lambservant; all I can say is that once you receive the gifts of tongue you will understand that it's just as Jeremiah described; “like fire shut up in the bones!

Once a woman I'd not seen before at our church sat beside me; she had a huge Cheshire Cat smile the entire service and from time to time would cover her mouth to hold in a girlish giggle. I tried not to stare. Eventually she nudged me and said "I received the gift of tongues yesterday. Does everyone here have it? Do they feel this way inside? How can they be so quiet and still; I have so much joy!"

As Paul writes: "This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are Folly to him; and he cannot know them because they are spiritually discerned" 1Cor 2:14

Should we insist that every Christian speak in tongues to prove they are saved? Of course not; but it would solve a major roadblocks and issues within the church; that is the ongoings of good works by our fleshly determination, which can lead to projects and programs that are not ordained by God because they come from people who may not even be Christians; that is; have the Spirit of Christ, and therefore cannot even hear from God let alone be led.

So while not having the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues (which Paul thought it important enough to ask the church in Ephesus; then baptized them in the Holy Spirit until they spoke in tongues) does not mean you are not saved; Speaking in tongues is evidence that you are indeed a Christian and can hear from God and discern His Word. But the saddest thing of all is someone who goes through the motions month after month year after year thinking they are saved because of all the good works they force themselves to do yet they have no ‘inner conversion’; they remain unchanged. No fruit. They have no love that overflows for their enemies, neighbors or even their families or their selves.

No Joy that gives them peace and rest. No wisdom or desire to get wisdom and no thirst for God’s Word.

No conversion.

Either way one cannot ‘force’ one to receive the Holy Spirit with the evidence of tongues; because like a gentleman He only comes when one invites Him in. Many hear tongues and fear; and He of course would never possess a person against their will. As long as we fear, reject or deny the need we will never receive the gift. Once I understood that He could pray for me better than I could myself; I desired to be filled.

I wrote a Hub on my experience and how I received the Gift of Tongues; thank you for not blaspheming the Holy Spirit; God bless you my sister as we all continue to seek God’s best!

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