Posted tagged ‘Holy Spirit’

Tozer on Masterful Psychologists

March 5, 2012

A.W. Tozer:

Much of church activity and fellowship also falls back upon the practice of psychology. Many church leaders are masterful psychologists. They know how to handle people and get the crowds to come. Their operation qualifies as an amazingly “successful” church. Part of the success of that church depends on people with business talents and part of it depends on people with natural gifts as salespersons and politicians.

A Christian congregation can survive and often appear to prosper in the community by the exercise of human talent and without any touch from the Holy Spirit. But it is simply religious activity, and the dear people will not know anything better until the great and terrible day when our self-employed talents are burned with fire and only what was wrought by the Holy Spirit will stand.

 – Tozer, Tragedy in the Church: The Missing Gifts, 22-23

When we assess spiritual leadership, let us not be guilty of evaluating psychologists, salespersons, politicians, and talented businessmen rather than shepherds of the flock, servants of Christ, and stewards of the gospel.

Spiritual Gifts and the Promise of Christ

February 15, 2012

Repetition and redundancy can be a good thing, especially when we recognize the importance of remembering.

With all the controversies and debates about spiritual gifts, we need the discipline of remembering, and remembering in particular what Paul repeated over and over again their overarching purpose, namely to edify and build the church.  Look at these excerpts from 1 Corinthians 14, a chapter dedicated to the proper use of spiritual gifts:

“the one who prophesies speak to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation” (v. 3)

“the one who prophesies builds up the church” (v. 4)

“the one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up” (v. 5)

“so with yourselves since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church” (v. 12)

“you may be giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not being built up” (v. 17)

“I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue” (v. 19)

“let all things be done for building up” (v. 26)

“you can call prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged” (v. 31)

What’s the obvious common concern of Paul?  It is that believers might excel in the exercise of their spiritual gifts for building up the church.  He could not be more redundant in this chapter (eight times referring to building up or encouraging others).

And this is not the only place Paul talks about believers building the church.  Consider Ephesians 4.

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry for building up the body of Christ. . . . from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every join with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. – Ephesians 4:11-12, 16

Who builds up the church? All of the saints when they are working full-time in ministry. How do they build up the church? When each member of the body is equipped to grow and work properly. How do they work properly? When they are exercising their spiritual gifts for the common good, the unity of the church, and the mutual care for one another (see 1 Cor. 12).

Now, can you think of any other prominent place in the Bible where “build” is used?  Ah yes, the great promise of Jesus Christ, upon the confession of Peter that He is the Messiah.  Jesus said:

“I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” – Matthew 16:18

The great encouragement we have as believers is that Jesus is the one who is going to do all this.  Jesus is going to build His church.  His promise is as sure as the grave is empty.  But as we believe this promise, how is Jesus going to do this?

I argue that the materials Jesus uses to build His church are the spirit-gifted, spirit-empowered, spirit-filled members of His body.  Don’t disconnect the promise of Matt. 16:18 from the purpose of spiritual gifts in 1 Cor. 14.  When all the spiritual gifts are present and working properly, Christ is present, and He is presently building His church through His people in the power of His Spirit!

We might be tempted to plant and build churches in the power of the flesh, with human ingenuity and fanciful machinations, but the Scriptural blueprint is simple.  Jesus builds by His Spirit through His people for His glory.

Therefore, I conclude:

1.  A church committed to planting and building churches must make equipping saints who are working properly in their spiritual gifting.  We cannot accept substitutes building materials.  The house will crumble if it is not built on Christ and by Christ.

2. Christ is the head of the church, and His promise to build the church should flow through all the members of the body.  A member working effectually to build the church is evidence that they are rightly connected to the head, to Christ.  On the contrary, members not building the church through their gifts leave to question whether the promise of Christ has any tangible difference in their lives now.

3. Pastors, if we believe the promise of Christ and the purpose of the gifts, we must view ourselves as equippers, not merely ministers.  Paul says it is the saints who do the work of ministry.  It is we who do the equipping.  You are in real danger in thinking that the building of the church depends upon you if the practical outworking of the church lies squarely in your hands.  The building of the church lies squarely in Jesus‘ hands, in His feet, in all of His members supernaturally gifted by His Spirit.  Your leadership is important to the body, but that importance will be seen in how well others’ gifts flourish and are found fruitful, not merely the members appreciating the fruitfulness of your gifts.

So let the repetition and redundancy of Paul sink in.  Everything we do should be for building up the church, and with that universal aim, we rejoice in an indefatigable promise.  Jesus will build His church.  Jesus is building His church.  May the gifts He’s supplied reveal His greatness and redound to His glory.

Spiritual Gifts and the Glory of God

February 13, 2012

Last night, I taught on the nature and purposes of spiritual gifts.  One particular point I tried to elaborate was this: a church passionate about the glory of God will be passionate about the spiritual gifts being exercised in the body.  And here is the reason why.

1.  Christ is glorified in the church (Eph. 3:20)
2.  The Holy Spirit purposes to glorify Jesus (John 16:14)
3.  The Holy Spirit accomplishes this purpose through the gifts He supplies to the church
4.  The sovereign administration (1 Cor. 12:11, 18) and measure (Rom. 12:3) of the spiritual gifts are so that “in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 4:11)

We are dependent upon the Holy Spirit to do in us what we naturally do not have the ability to do.  And God so wires our gifts that we cannot boast in them or in ourselves.  Rather, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord” (1 Cor. 1:26-31).  We should consider our gifting the same way we do our calling, for this is God’s design.  We only can boast in the giver of the gift, and the glory is not making us look great but through us the Holy Spirit putting Jesus on display.

A church where the spiritual gifts are missing, ignored, or downplayed cannot be serious about the glory of God. The glory of Christ is seen in the grittiness of believers exercising their God-given abilities for the edification of the church. In God’s kindness, He has equipped every believer with supernatural ability to glorify Jesus, not by our strength, but “by the strength that God supplies” (1 Pet. 4:10), or according to Paul, “with all his energy that he powerfully works within me” (Col. 1:29).

Every Christian should have a consuming passion to live for the glory of God.  But practically, what does that look like?  How do we live that out in the church?  We should so live and serve in way that “in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.” And I believe the we go about doing that is by being good stewards of His grace in the free and regular exercise of His gifts.

Simply put, the glory of Christ is seen through the exercising of the gifts of His Spirit in the ministry of the church.

Structuring the Church for Maximum Edification

February 6, 2012

Along with the resurgence of Reformed theology and gospel centrality, I believe there is a resurgence of biblical ecclesiology taking place as well. I’m grateful for the influences of organizations like IX Marks, and even more churchmen and practitioners who are bringing reformation to local churches according to the Word of God.

One of the practical benefits of examining our ecclesiology is being more deliberate and intentional in what we do as a body of believers. What is the nature of the church? How should a preacher handle a text? What should covenantal membership entail? These are questions reflecting a pursuit of a healthy, robust ecclesiology.

Being intentional not only means that we consider the practices or marks of a healthy church, but we also need to examine structures and systems to best accomplish the purposes as well as honor the marks of a healthy church.  In this post, I want to consider the need for structure for maximum edification.  Let me explain.

When Paul addressed the church in Corinth, there apparently was confusion and selfishness when it came to the exercise of spiritual gifts.  Some were given special recognition while others were devalued. The improper exercise led to further division instead of unity. Some were used for self-promotion instead of building up the church.  So what Paul does is lay out five overarching principles for the church to understand and implement:

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Sappy Assurance from the Spirit

February 2, 2012

I don’t know of any contemporary author who lays open the heart of God to us like the Puritans. I know they get a bad wrap from some circles today, but perhaps no other literature has affected me more outside Scripture than the writings of the Puritans. To give you a taste of what I’m talking about, let me provide you a brief excerpt from the man who succeeded Richard Sibbes at Holy Trinity Church, Thomas Goodwin.

In his book, The Heart of Christ in Heaven Toward Sinners on Earth (first published 1651), Goodwin writes about the heart of Christ being communicated to us through the comforting work of the Spirit indwelling us.  Of the Spirit, Goodwin writes, “he is the greatest token and pledge of Christ’s love that ever was” (18).  Consider the following words from the pen of Goodwin on the heart of Christ opened to us through His Spirit.

“Him I (Jesus) shall send on purpose to be in my room, and to execute my place to you, my bride, spouse, and he shall tell you, if you will listen to him, and not grieve him, nothing but stories of my love.

[ . . .] All his speech in your hearts will be to advance me, and to greaten my worth an love unto you, and it will be his delight to do it.  And he can come from heaven in an instant where he will, and bring you fresh tidings of my mind, and tell you the thoughts I last had of you, even at the very minute when I am thinking of them, what they are at the very time wherein he tells you them.

[. . .] He dwelleth in Christ’s heart, and also ours, and lifts up from one hand to the other what Christ’s thoughts are to us, and what our prayers and faith are to Christ. So that you shall have my heart as surely and as speedily as if I were with you; and he will continually be breaking your hearts, either way with my love to you, or yours to me, or both; and if either, you may be sure of my love thereby.

[ . . .] He will tell you, where I am in heaven, that there is as true conjunction between me and you, and as true a dearness of affection in me towards you, as is between my Father and me, and that it is as impossible to break this knot, and to take off my heart from you, as my Father’s from me, or mine from the Father” (18-20).

I know this sounds a little sappy, but that’s the point. I believe Goodwin knows something of the succor of Christ’s love that I have not tasted, and instead of getting embarrassed by his writings, I should be overwhelmed by Christ’s love and embarrassed of how little I have truly known and experienced it.

Goodwin is right to elaborate on the communicative nature of the Spirit’s comforting work, so as to daily assure us of Christ’s love and our status as no longer orphans but adopted sons and daughters of the greatest lover the world has ever known.  I want to be known as the greatest recipient of the greatest love the world has ever known.  And Goodwin is, especially for that aspiration, a worthy guide.

What No Ear Has Heard

October 3, 2011

The video below has gone viral, with over four million hits on YouTube.  You can read all about it here.  Sarah Churman, deaf for her entire life, hears her own voice for the fist time in 29 years after being given a hearing implant. I could not help after watching this video but think about the following verse:

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those whom love Him” (1 Cor. 2:9).

These things, Paul goes on to say, have been revealed to us through the Spirit.   As amazing as it is to hear your own voice with your own ears (and it is truly amazing), just think of how much more amazing it is to have your ears opened to hear not your voice, but the voice of God!  And should such amazement not bring us to tears of joy and thrill our hearts all the more?

As we have been informed in Proverbs, “The hearing ear and the seeing eye, the Lord has made them both” (Prov. 20:12), and that applies both physically and spiritually.  Praise the Spirit of Him who has revealed to us what no ear as heard!

“In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted, but you have given me an open ear.” – Psalm 40:6

The Spirit of Christ Is a Missionary Spirit

December 7, 2010

Octavius Winslow, perhaps the best devotional writer you’ll ever read, communicates truth that provoke and stir up affections for Jesus in such encouraging ways.  This is a recent example from his Morning Thoughts:

The Spirit of Christ is an active, benevolent Spirit. It bore the Savior, when He was in the flesh, from country to country, from city to city, from house to house, preaching His own gospel to lost man. “He went about doing good.” If we have the Spirit of Christ, we shall be prompted to a like Christian love and activity on behalf of those who possess not the gospel, or who, possessing it, slight and reject the mercy. The Spirit of Christ is essentially a missionary Spirit. It commenced its labor of love at Jerusalem, and from that its center, worked its way with augmenting sympathy and widening sphere until it embraced the world as the field of its labor. Ah! that we manifest so little of this Spirit, ought to lead us to deep searchings of heart, and stir us up to earnest prayer: “Lord, make me more earnest for the salvation of souls, for the advancement of Your kingdom. Grant me this evidence of being Your—the possession of Your Spirit, constraining me to a more simple and unreserved consecration of my talents, my substance, my rank, my influence, my time, myself, to the establishment of Your truth, the advancement of Your cause, and thus to the wider diffusion of Your glory in the earth.”

Read the whole thing.