Monthly Archives: November 2017

Rejected

Isaiah 53:3

He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem (NIV).

Most people can understand the bitter pain of rejection. It is often experienced in childhood on various levels. We might have felt rejection in being the last person picked for kickball or because we wore glasses at a young age. Teen years might have brought the rejection of being “shot down” or never asked regarding dates, being excluded from the “in” social groups. Young adulthood might have brought rejections by colleges and employers, or even the rejection of a broken engagement. Adults experience a multitude of rejections, until finally, older adults sit alone in nursing homes, rejected by most everyone. If you feel rejected, you may weep.

Our verse, however, points us not to what bitterness we might feel from rejection, but to one who came into this world to be rejected, in order that his people might be accepted. The bitter cup of rejection he accepted for our benefit. Take a few minutes to ponder the depths of rejection that Jesus the Messiah felt to bring us salvation and joy. The baby in the manger became the despised man and held in low esteem on the cross. If you sense somewhat of the rejection he received, you may weep.

I wish that his rejection had ended, and that all people everywhere might accept him, bowing before the Lord Christ in repentance and faith. But most of the world prefers to reject him continually, despising both him and his offer of saving grace. Father in heaven, pour out your Holy Spirit, that people might see the glory of your dearly loved Son and turn to him!

While we pray that fervently, we must face the ways that we his people still reject him. This is ugly, but we must understand this ugliness, in order to turn from it.

  • The Lord Jesus is rejected in the theological systems people build. Our knowledge of God and the story of his glory ought to be built on and formed by the Lord and his work. Yet too often, the church’s viewpoints have been crafted around things like covenants, dispensations, rituals and rules, and church structures. I am glad for a few recent books about seeing Christ in the whole Bible, but most fall woefully short in presenting the Bible in line with the Lord of glory.
  • The Lord Jesus is rejected in the way we worship. Someone will object, “But we sing about Jesus in our songs and say, ‘in Jesus name’ when we close our prayers.” Yes, I know that, and I also know that most cannot explain what ‘in Jesus name’ means. Worse still, Christ is our high priest and mediator (1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 8:1; 9:11; etc.), but we do not consciously worship the living God through him. When was the last time that your church was called to worship God through Jesus Christ our mediator? Jesus is the latest forgotten member of the Trinity.
  • The Lord Jesus is rejected in our goals and purposes, both individually and corporately. I’m not talking about church mission statements, which are crafted by people who know they ought to say such things like, “Our mission is to make followers of Jesus Christ.” I’m speaking of the attitude of the local congregation. Too often, a church caters to the whims of church shoppers that want their perceived needs satisfied. We ought to say and to mean, “We gather to make you think like Christ, have his attitudes, and make choices that express his glory and goodness.” Philippians 2:1-11 might be preached and admired, but it is rarely performed.
  • The Lord Jesus is rejected in our love. Listen to what Jesus himself said to the church at Ephesus long ago. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first (Revelation 2:4 NIV). It is one thing to sing, “O come, let us adore him.” It is another to adore him with the choices you make. Will we choose to love Jesus today in our hearts and way of life? He desires our love, and he wants us to share his love with others. Let us return to him today.

Grace and peace, David

Seven Principles for the Understanding and Exercise of Spiritual Gifts

While much can and should be said about spiritual gifts, here are a few relevant observations or principles that I believe should guide our understanding and exercise of the charismata.

(1) Every single spiritual gift, whether it be mercy, serving, giving, speaking in tongues, or prophecy, is a “manifestation of the Spirit” given “for the common good” (1 Cor. 12:7). Therefore, every gift is by definition supernatural, since every gift is the enabling presence of the Spirit operating through us. As Paul says, although there are varieties of gifts, services, and activities, it is the “same Spirit” who “empowers them all in everyone” (1 Cor. 12:4-6). So, teaching is as supernatural as tongues; service is as supernatural as word of knowledge, and so on.

(2) In light of the first point, we must acknowledge that a “gift” or “charism” of the Spirit is an impartation to enable and equip us to serve others. Nowhere in Scripture are gifts portrayed as personality traits or characteristics. A person who is gregarious and extroverted can receive the gift of mercy. A person who is quiet and introverted can receive the gift of teaching. A person who lacks self-confidence and is by nature somewhat hesitant to speak can receive the gift of evangelism. A person who has little faith and never expects to hear from God can be the recipient of a word of knowledge. This isn’t to say there is never any overlap between a person’s unique personality and the gift God bestows to them, but we must never identify any particular gift with any particular personality trait.

(3) Building on the previous point, let’s take the gift of prophecy as an example. Paul says that anyone is a candidate to prophesy (1 Cor. 14:1, 5, 24, 29-32). A prophet, therefore, is someone who consistently receives spontaneous revelatory words from God that are shared with others for their “upbuilding and encouragement and consolation” (1 Cor. 14:3). But nowhere does the NT say that “prophet” is a particular set of personality traits. Given that any and all have the potential to prophesy, how could it be?

In other words, a prophet is never portrayed in Scripture as someone who always displays a certain demeanor or interacts with others in a particular way or responds to arguments with a unique emotional energy. A prophet is someone who consistently receives spontaneous revelatory words (pictures, dreams, impressions) from the Lord and speaks them to the edification and encouragement of others.

My guess is that quite often a person with certain personality and relational characteristics is identified as a “prophet” or a person with the gift of “mercy” when in point of fact the Spirit has never imparted that particular gift to them. They are who and what they are, in terms of their personality and character and relational development because they are being progressively transformed by the Spirit to be more like Jesus, but not because they happen to have a particular spiritual gift that someone perceives to be linked with that sort of behavior or relational style.

(4) Spiritual gifts are concrete manifestations of the Spirit through us. They are not who we are, therefore, but rather what we do in the power of the Spirit for the good of others. We should be careful always to differentiate between our particular gift(s), on the one hand, and who we are as God’s children in Christ Jesus, on the other.

In other words, there is an important difference between, on the one hand, our character and personality and how we are being sanctified daily to become more and more conformed to the image of Christ, and what gift the Spirit imparts to us for building up fellow believers, on the other. Simply because a person is extroverted or introverted, self-confident or timid, loves crowds or prefers solitude, is organized or disorganized, does not necessarily mean he/she will have any particular spiritual gift that always corresponds to that particular feature of their personality or relational style. Will the two sometimes overlap? Sure. But we must never insist on a one-to-one correspondence such that because “Sally” or “Steve” display certain personality traits that they are therefore to be classified as a “mercy” or as a “prophet” or as a “teacher”.

(5) The danger in drawing too close a relationship with what our spiritual gift is and who we are as individual believers is that when our gift wanes or grows dormant or isn’t received well by others we would suffer shame and experience self-doubt and have fears regarding our worth as the children of the most high God. Our identity as sons and daughters of God, our identity as believers “in Christ,” must never be tied to a particular “charism” or gift that the Spirit has chosen to impart to us and through us for the good of others.

(6) Again, building on the previous point, we must keep in mind that some spiritual gifts, because of their more overt manifestation of the supernatural presence of the Spirit, are occasional or circumstantial in nature. For instance, the spiritual gifts of prophecy, faith, word of knowledge, word of wisdom, healings, faith, working of miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, and perhaps interpretation of tongues, are not so much residential, in the sense that they reside permanently within us and can be used at our will, whenever we please, but are sovereignly given at a particular point in time, on a particular occasion, to address a particular circumstance. Once exercised on that occasion and for that purpose, the gift may no longer be operative (depending, of course, on God’s will for each of us).

Gifts such teaching, tongues, evangelism, mercy, service, and administration, on the other hand, are more permanent and residential: they are always with us and we who have such gifts can exercise them at any time, according to our own will.

(7) No one Christian will ever have every spiritual gift. No one Christian will ever have all the gifts of Romans 12, or the gifts of 1 Corinthians 12, or those of Ephesians 4. This is clear from Paul’s rhetorical questions in 1 Corinthians 12:27-31, each of which calls for an answer of No. Neither is it the case that one should think he/she will have at least one gift from the list in Romans 12 or at least one gift from the list in 1 Corinthians 12 or at least one gift from the list in Ephesians 4.

That does not mean we shouldn’t “desire” or “seek” or “pray” for more spiritual gifts than we currently have. Paul is clear in 1 Corinthians 14:1 that we should always desire and seek for spiritual gifts, even as the one who speaks in tongues “should pray that he may interpret” (1 Cor. 14:13).