Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you.
Proverbs 4:25 NIV
Many cannot see God’s plan for their lives because they are always looking backwards, thinking about the past. The past deals with what has been done, right or wrong. It lies in the unchangeable realm of memories.
You can’t make progress in God’s plan if you are memory-centered, whether those memories are positive or negative.
Becoming memory-centered can be triggered by some event in your life, something that reminds you of an unfortunate incident or some mistake you’ve made in the past. “I wouldn’t be in this situation today if I had only finished college when I was young… if only my spouse hadn’t divorced me… if only I had stopped drinking sooner…”
Progress towards fulfilling God’s plan for your life slows to a halt when you take your eyes off what lies ahead and you stop to relive painful memories. Unforgiveness can stunt your growth. Hurts and resentments can keep you focused on yesterday, building and reinforcing the prison they hold you in.
Even fond memories may keep us from moving forward in God’s plan for our lives. When we focus on the good old days, or the way things used to be, we have still taken our eyes off the path before us. This type of nostalgia is often prompted by a disappointment with present circumstances, or fear of the future.
Paul said, “I am still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead” (Php 3:13 NLT). Are you focusing all your energies on forgetting the past and looking forward to what God has for you?
You can’t be Kingdom-centered if you are memory-centered. Jesus said, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God” (Lk 9:62 NIV). You can’t plow a straight row unless you keep your eyes locked ahead of you. No matter how fondly you remember it, you will never reap another harvest from cornstalks that have already grown, ripened and been picked.
Sure, it’s easier to look back on what’s already been constructed—even if it was regrettably built incorrectly. What’s been done is more real, more tangible, more concrete than blueprints on the table.
Someone once asked the great architect Frank Lloyd Wright at the age of 83 what he thought his greatest architectural masterpiece was. Mr. Wright replied, “My next one.”
You can’t change the past, only your future. God’s plan for you always lies in the future, and it begins today. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jer 29:11 NIV).
If you can correct the mistakes of the past, do so quickly to the best of your ability. If you’re harboring bitterness and resentment, let them go. Draw on Christ’s power to forgive. Then forget the past—good or bad—and “press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called you heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Php 3:14 NIV). God is waiting for you there.
Jesus said, “Know what is in front of your face, and what is hidden from you will be disclosed to you. For there is nothing hidden that will not be revealed. [And there is nothing buried that will not be raised.]”
Gospel of Thomas, verse 5 (Patterson and Meyer translation)
We are living in unprecedented times. Here in the U.S., a violent insurrection rocked the nation’s capital on January 6 during a protest where Trump supporters included Evangelicals and other religious fanatics waving “Jesus Saves” and “Jesus 2020” banners.
Although not everyone at the mall participated in the riot, a mass of people seeking to overturn Trump’s election defeat caused chaos on the Hill and forced their way into the Capitol building, proceeding to invade offices, deface and steal things, fight with police, and smear feces throughout the building.
Some do not, but others do. And these are, frighteningly, our lawmakers.
The Big Lie
Timothy Snyder (@TimothyDSnyder), Levin Professor of History at Yale, and author of On Tyranny(2017), posted a ten-tweet thread that explains the process I believe Hitler used to commit his atrocities less than a century ago:
The claim that Trump won the election is a Big Lie.
A Big Lie changes reality. To believe it, people must disbelieve their senses, distrust their fellow citizens, and live in a world of faith.
A Big Lie demands conspiracy thinking, since all who doubt it are seen as traitors.
A Big Lie undoes a society, since it divides citizens into believers and unbelievers.
A Big Lie destroys democracy, since people who are convinced that nothing is true but the utterances of their leader ignore voting and its results.
A Big Lie must bring violence, as it has.
A Big Lie can never be told just by one person. Trump is the originator of this Big Lie, but it could never have flourished without his allies on Capitol Hill.
Political futures now depend on this Big Lie. Senators Hawley and Cruz are running for president on the basis of this Big Lie.
There is a cure for the Big Lie. Our elected representatives should tell the truth, without dissimulation, about the results of the 2020 election.
Politicians who do not tell the simple truth perpetuate the Big Lie, further an alternative reality, support conspiracy theories, weaken democracy, and foment violence far worse than that of January 6, 2021.
Having been led through this process over the past four years, Trump’s supporters, including Christians, have been not only misled but brainwashed—by one who claims to share their beliefs but whose actions betray that he doesn’t.
How hard it is to get people to believe or even consider views that counter their own. They’ve been conditioned against examining facts, making it nigh impossible to penetrate their shell of misinformation. Trump has groomed too many of this nation’s citizens to accept, believe, support, and defend lies and falsehood—even to the point of violence.
This delusion will persist for years to come. And it may lead to more violence on Inauguration Day.
God sends a powerful delusion
The Apostle Paul wrote about the Big Lie:
The coming of the lawless onewill be in accordance with how Satan works. He will use all sorts of displays of powerthrough signs and wonders that serve the lie, and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason GOD sends them a POWERFUL DELUSION so that they will BELIEVE THE LIEand so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness. –2 Thessalonians 2:9-12 NIV
Long ago, Jeremiah spoke for the Lord, saying, “The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and MY PEOPLE love it this way. But what will you do in the end?” (Jer. 5:31 NIV)
Yet, Trump not only lost the election but has now become the first president to be impeached twice.
21 You may say to yourselves, “How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the Lord?” 22 If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously, so do not be alarmed. –Deuteronomy 18:21-22 NIV
Come January 21, will we cease to hear from Trump? Not by a long shot.
Despite his being de-platformed on Twitter and Facebook and other social media sites, Trump is not one to keep quiet. And his loyal followers, including Christians, will continue to believe what he says.
Idol worship causes blindness
In a recent Facebook post, progressive Christian author, pastor, and activist, Brandan Robertson says:
Evangelicals created the “Left Behind” series, which states that in the end times the antichrist will rise up and deceive masses of Christians, claim to be the Messiah, and ultimately lead the world towards destruction.
And here we are. It very much seems like those novels were at least marginally right. The problem is… they can’t see that they are the deceived ones though it is so obvious to everyone else.
As Jesus said: “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.” John 9:39
Two verses later, Jesus told the Pharisees, who claimed they were seeing clearly, “‘If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you CLAIM you can see, your guilt remains” (John 9:41 NIV).
What has caused this impenetrable blindness?
This is exemplified by Miriam Adelson, Israeli-American physician and wife of the recently deceased Sheldon Adelson, billionaire donor to Republicans, who said she wanted a “Book of Trump” added to the Bible (July 10, 2019, USA Today).
Paul warned about the results of idolatry and its consequences:
18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness… 22 Although they claimedto be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images… 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator… –Romans 1:18,22–23,25 NIV
How are those who see through the lies and resist misinformation to deal with those who are given over to deception? If God has sent them a powerful delusion, is there any use in praying for them? His will is already done.
Separatism is biblical
In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul discusses the matters of schism and separatism. In chapter 3 he upbraids the flock for their immature preferences for certain Christian leaders, a carnal division that he condemned.
1 Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly—mere infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. 3 You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? 4 For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere men? –1 Corinthians 3:1–4 NIV
Worldliness is saying, “I follow Trump.” Or any other political or religious leader for that matter.
Over this issue, Paul urged the Corinthians to come to maturity and agreement (see 1:10–12). Yet later, concerning propriety in observing the Lord’s supper, Paul admitted that division was necessary for true believers to separate themselves from those who followed a wrong practice:
18 …I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisionsamong you, and to some extent I believe it. 19 No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have GOD’S APPROVAL. –1 Corinthians 11:17–19 NIV
Today’s English Version phrases verse 19: “No doubt there must be divisions among you so that the ones who are in the right may be clearly seen.”
Paul did not praise them for dividing but acknowledged there was a valid reason for it. Separation is sometimes necessary for those who would follow God and live their life with integrity, free from deception. (From my book Outside the Camp.)
What stirred the mob to invade the Capitol with murder on their minds?
However, the final book of the Bible assures us that there will be “a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb” (Rev. 7:9 NIV). Bowing before the Throne will be those of all genders and orientations.
What must we realize about liars and those who are willfully deceived?
1 The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. 2 Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. –1 Timothy 4:1-2 NIV
Their consciences are seared—they have become impervious—and they’ve been given over to fictions like QAnon and a host of other conspiracy theories championed by the Right-wing media and disseminated from pulpits. Another gospel is a false gospel (Gal. 1:6).
16 What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” 17 Therefore, “Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.” –2 Corinthians 6:16-17 NIV
We must not pursue unity with those who side with a dangerous leader that promotes White supremacy through demagoguery, lies, and the incitement of violent insurrection. They have idolized the lawless one, believed his deceits instead of loving the truth, swallowed a powerful delusion sent by none other than God, claimed to be wise but suppressed the truth, and loved to have it so.
Some of these people are neighbors, coworkers, friends, relatives, and members of our own households. We may not be able to shun them completely, but we can distance ourselves from their rhetoric. There is no use engaging or arguing with anyone who has “renounced the use of reason” (Thomas Paine).
We must “come out from them and be separate.” We must stand up for the truth in non-combative ways and lead by example in our thinking, speech, and actions. Then we will remain clean and walk with God.
“16 There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: 17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, 18 a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, 19 a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.” —Proverbs 6:16-19 NIV
“Eloquent lips are unsuited to a godless fool—how much worse lying lips to a ruler!” —Prov. 17:7 NIV
“A lying tongue hates those it hurts…” —Prov. 26:28 NIV
“Let their lying lips be silenced, for with pride and contempt they speak arrogantly against the righteous.” —Ps. 31:18 NIV
“Save me, Lord, from lying lips and from deceitful tongues.” —Ps. 120:2 NIV
“Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment.” —Prov. 12:19 NIV
“The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy.” —Prov. 12:22 NIV
“‘How can you say, “We are wise, for we have the law of the Lord,” when actually the lying pen of the scribes has handled it falsely?”’” —Jer. 8:8 NIV
“How long will this continue in the hearts of these lying prophets, who prophesy the delusions of their own minds?” —Jer. 23:26 NIV
“‘“Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: Because of your false words and lying visions, I am against you, declares the Sovereign Lord.”’” —Ezek. 13:8 NIV
“By lying to my people, who listen to lies, you have killed those who should not have died and have spared those who should not live.” —Ezek. 13:19b NIV
“You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” —John 8:44 NIV
“‘But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.’” —Rev. 21:8 NIV
Let all things be done decently and in order. –1 Corinthians 14:40 KJV
We are concerned that our church services be conducted “decently and in order.” But we can be so concerned about what we think is proper that we quench the Spirit.
Yes, we want decency and order, but above all, “let all things be DONE!”
1 Thessalonians 5:20 forbids us from despising manifestations of Holy Spirit.
In the parable of the talents, Jesus presses the point that we’re to use the gifts of grace He’s given us to build His kingdom until He returns. Those who obey in faith will be rewarded.
But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. –Hebrews 5:14 NIV
Concerning operating in the gifts of Holy Spirit, spiritually mature saints will learn to distinguish good from evil, what’s of God and what’s not—not by standing back and refusing to participate. Instead, they will train THEMSELVES through constant USE and PRACTICE.
“As John Wimber put it, spiritual gifts are tools. They are not toys. You need to practice using them, and you will not be an expert on your first try.” (James W. Goll, Releasing Spiritual Gifts Today, p. 20.)
Therefore, we must earnestly desire to be used in the gifts of the Spirit, step out in faith to manifest them, and consistently practice them to edify the Body of Christ. This is how we prepare ourselves and the Church for Christ’s return.
In Matthew 25:14–30, Jesus tells a parable about a master who entrusted sums of money to three servants to put to work while he was gone away. One who was given five talents earned five more. Another given two earned two more. The servant given one buried it in the ground.
The master returned and rewarded the faithful servants but scolded the lazy servant.
The context of this passage is the return of Christ. Jesus has gone away, but entrusted to us His Holy Spirit and His gifts. What will we do with them? Will we—of our own desire and sense of responsibility and stewardship—use them to build His kingdom? Or will we bury them deep within our earthen vessel?
Those who took the risk and, in faith, developed what they had, not only increased their abilities, but were rewarded with more by the Master.
But the one who neglected his gift and did not “lively and intensely set himself on fire” (2 Tim. 1:6) to use what he’d been given, was called “wicked and lazy.” What he was given was taken away from him and given to someone who would actually do something with it.
Romans 11:29 says “God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable” (NIV). Potentially, we always have the ability to move in the gifts. But if we don’t seek, develop, practice, and use them, we will lose the practical ability to manifest them when the Spirit moves on us.
God is serious about us taking the responsibility to use the gifts He’s given to us through Holy Spirit. We must “use ’em or lose ’em.” If we really want to please God, then we must learn how to move in the Spirit and manifest the gifts. It’s OUR responsibility.
Next time, we’ll conclude our study with a final exhortation.
Some believers have waited years for God to move on them to manifest a spiritual gift. But God says it’s our responsibility to first desire and believe and step out in faith to manifest the Spirit.
Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you. –1 Timothy 4:14 NKJV
Paul reminded Timothy that a spiritual gift had been imparted to him when some elders had laid their hands on him and prophesied. The prophetic message revealed God’s intent to impart a particular spiritual gift to Timothy, and it was transferred by the power of Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands.
In Romans 1:11, Paul wrote, “I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong.”
Spiritual gifts may be imparted by the laying on of hands at the direction of Holy Spirit. The word impart means “to share or give over.” Impartation must be directed by God.
Paul reminded Timothy, then, not to be careless of, make light of, neglect, be negligent to use, or disregard this spiritual gift. It was Timothy’s responsibility to use his gifts.
We can have gifts that are lying dormant and unused if we neglect to do what it takes to use them.
Therefore I remind YOU to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. –2 Timothy 1:6 NKJV
Again, Paul reminded Timothy, “YOU must stir yourself up to use your spiritual gifts.” It was not God’s responsibility to rekindle his zeal for manifesting the Holy Spirit, it was Timothy’s.
Stir is the word anazopureo, meaning “to rekindle or stir up.” It comes from a combination of three words: one meaning “intensely,” one meaning “a live thing such as an animal or beast,” and another, meaning “fiery, fire, or lightning.” This is not a calm word!
Paul was insisting that Timothy “lively and intensely set yourself on fire to use your spiritual gifts!” I get the image of kids vigorously scrubbing their feet across the carpet to build up an electrical charge so they can really shock someone.
God said, “YOU do it!” We’re responsible to step out in faith, accept some risk, and use what God has given us.
How do you stir yourself up?
Paul wrote, “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant” (1 Cor. 12:1 NKJV). You must not only understand spiritual gifts, but you must also be convinced it’s God’s will for you to move in them. This should be clear by now.
Besides tongues for personal edification, God may impart to you any of the nine gifts of the Spirit from 1 Corinthians 12:7–10. (God could give you any of them at any time to use in a ministry setting.)
We must also realize that we’re not perfect. We will make mistakes. But God doesn’t condemn us for trying to learn.
However, God will not accept us burying our gifts because we’re afraid we might make a mistake. So we remain humble, and give grace to others who make mistakes with the gifts.
And since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let each exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith. –Romans 12:6 NASB
Remember: gifts are given by God’s grace. We didn’t earn them. Whatever gifts we have, we are commanded to exercise them, to use them. How? By faith. The more we use them, the better we’ll get, and our faith will grow to use them even more.
You can also stir up the gifts by speaking in tongues. LOUDLY!
20 But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit.
21 Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. –Jude 20–21 NIV
You build your faith by praying in tongues. Note in verse 21 that praying in the Spirit is also a way to keep yourself “in God’s love.” How are we to use the gifts? In love (see 1 Cor. 13).
Note also this verse has to do with expecting the Lord’s return. Jesus gave the Holy Spirit and His gifts to build up the Church to prepare it for His return.
Next time, we’ll learn that gifts are ours to use or lose.
A pious pastor once told me, “Seek the Giver, not the gifts.” There’s truth in that, but what does the Bible say?
But earnestly desire the best gifts. … –1 Corinthians 12:31a NKJV
What are the “best gifts”? Those that build up the Church—individually and corporately.
Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy. –1 Corinthians 14:1 NIV
Therefore, my brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak in tongues. –1 Corinthians 14:39 NASB
Why is prophecy so important? Because it’s immediately understood. Paul said, “in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.”
Paul was not criticizing messages in tongues, rather messages in tongues with no interpretation.
What good is the manifestation of a spiritual gift if no one understands what God is saying? Because prophecy is immediately understood since it’s in your native language, it will edify. Tongues with interpretation is the equivalent of prophecy.
In all these verses, the King James versions says, “covet earnestly.” That word covet in Greek is zeloo, meaning “to have warmth of feeling for, covet earnestly, desire, envy, be jealous over, be zealous for.”
God’s Word commands us to be zealous and envious to move in the gifts of the Spirit. Jesus said,
“Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.” –Mark 11:24 KJV
Jesus said that whatever we desire, crave for, beg for… to not only ask God for it, but to believe and trust Him to the point that you can reach right out and take it. Then, He said, you’ll have it—it will come to pass.
That’s what we’re to do about spiritual gifts. We have what we need—the Holy Spirit—but we must covet the ability to step out and use that which He’s freely
Next installment, we’ll learn how to stir ourselves up.
3 Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.
4 There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.
5 There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord.
6 And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. –1 Corinthians 12:3–6 NKJV
What are we to look for when we consider spiritual gifts? Verse 3 tells us we’re to expect the exaltation of Jesus Christ as Lord.
In verses 4–6, each member of the Trinity is mentioned:
Lord Jesus Christ
God the Father
There are three categories of gifts:
Some gifts are credited to Holy Spirit.
Some ministries are attributed to Jesus.
Some operations are credited to the Father.
There are three lists of gifts in the Bible—each attributed to one person of the Trinity.
Gifts of the Father
3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.
4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function,
5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith;
7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach;
8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. –Romans 12:3–8 NIV
These are the natural gifts—the motivational or working gifts.
God as Creator has graced every human made in God’s image with a capacity to serve humankind. These gifts are given to everyone, whether Christians or not, although they are sanctified through union with Christ. You could also consider them natural personality types:
Serving others practically
Leading, organizing, administration
Mercy and compassion
Gifts of Christ Jesus
7 But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift.
8 Therefore it is said,
“When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive;
he gave gifts to his people.” …
11 The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers,
12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,
13 until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. –Ephesians 4:7–8,11–13 NRSV
Christ Jesus gave gifts to the Church in the form of ministries:
Establish new territory for Christ
Hear and see what God is doing and where He’s leading
Reach out to the lost to present Christ crucified
Care for the sheep of God’s pasture
Ground us in the Scriptures and doctrine of God
We have these ministry gifts until the Church attains unity and maturity. Since we have not attained the full stature of Christ, we still need all of these ministers.
These are gifts of Christ—the Head building the Body.
Fivefold ministers equip the saints for the work of the ministry. They have a training capacity, a call to reproduce themselves and their ministries in believers.
In this series, we will focus on using these manifestations of the Holy Spirit in corporate worship meetings.
Three Types of Gifts
Churches can be built on the Father’s natural gifts, but these organizations will be primarily social institutions.
We need Jesus’ ministry gifts to turn the institution into a body.
We need to be filled with Holy Spirit and manifest the Spirit’s gifts to build up that Body to maturity.
The Father’s gifts are irrevocable—they are intrinsic to who you are.
Jesus’ gifts are also irrevocable, but they are given to only a few. These individuals can grow in them and add more as they prove faithful. Paul was a prophet or teacher in Acts 13:1, but later in his letters he said he was “called to be an apostle.”
The Holy Spirit’s gifts are manifestations distributed to anyone when the Spirit wills. The Spirit can give or withhold them. Yet, if you are faithful in exercising a gift that the Holy Spirit manifests through you, you can develop a gift into a ministry.
Next issue, we’ll learn about God’s command concerning spiritual gifts.
If you’re born anew and baptized in Holy Spirit, you have what you need to move in the gifts.
But ministering spiritual gifts is not optional. God commands us to “earnestly desire” spiritual gifts and to stir ourselves up to use them. That’s what this series is about.
Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts… –1 Corinthians 14:1 NIV
You can be equipped
1 While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples
2 and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” …
6 When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. –Acts 19:1–2,6 NIV
As soon as the Ephesians received the Holy Spirit, they could speak in tongues for personal edification and prophesy. They demonstrated vocal evidence.
You also have received this ability, whether or not you have released it or know how to release it.
2 To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with ALL those EVERYWHERE who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours: …
5 For in [Christ] you have been enriched in every way—in all your speaking and in all your knowledge— …
7 Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. –1 Corinthians 1:2,5,7 NIV
The Corinthian believers lacked no spiritual gifts. This goes for you too—”all those everywhere.”
If you’ve been saved and baptized in Holy Spirit, you have what you need to move in the gifts.
Next time, we’ll look at all the divine gifts in their biblical context.
For God does speak—now one way, now another—though no one perceives it. –Job 33:14 NIV
God is always speaking, but we must learn to perceive, recognize, and listen to His voice.
This process is illustrated in the life of the young prophet Samuel.
1 The boy Samuel ministered before the LORD under Eli. In those days the word of the LORD was rare; there were not many visions.
2 One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place.
3 The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the LORD, where the ark of God was.
4 Then the LORD called Samuel. Samuel answered, “Here I am.”
5 And he ran to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” But Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.” So he went and lay down.
6 Again the LORD called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” “My son,” Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.”
7 Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD: The word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him.
8 The LORD called Samuel a third time, and Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” Then Eli realized that the LORD was calling the boy.
9 So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.’ ” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.
10 The LORD came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” –1 Samuel 3:1–10 NIV
The voice Samuel heard, he at first did not recognize. It takes faith to recognize and acknowledge that the Lord is speaking. It takes practice to build confidence in hearing the Lord’s voice.
God does indeed speak, so when we ask Him to communicate with us, we must believe and then practice hearing His voice.
Hebrews 11:6 says, “without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (NIV). If you earnestly seek the Lord to hear His voice, He promises to reward you.
If we would have the Lord to speak to us, submission is key. Pray for a clean heart and ears to hear. Samuel said, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” Then, you must really listen with expectation.
What does God’s voice “sound” like?
What will you hear? An audible voice?
Most likely, it will not be audible. Rather, it will be God’s “still, small voice.”
11 Then [God] said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the LORD.” And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake;
12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. –1 Kings 19:11–12 NKJV
We may miss hearing God’s voice because we’re expecting something dramatic. While God can speak in dramatic ways, He usually speaks in a quiet whisper. To hear that whisper, we must still our hearts and minds to selectively listen to Him.
How will He speak? Where will His voice originate? Not in our ears, for it’s usually not audible.
Remember that God speaks through the Son, who speaks through the Holy Spirit. Where does the Holy Spirit live now?
Do you not know that you are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells IN you? –1 Corinthians 3:16 NASB
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is IN you … –1 Corinthians 6:19 NASB
You will hear God’s still, small voice in your heart (spirit), because that’s where the Holy Spirit dwells. That inner voice is very similar to your own thoughts.
Can you recite a Scripture or sing a song inaudibly, inside your head? That’s what the voice of the Lord sounds like. It sounds like the voice of your own thoughts.
Tune in next time to learn how we know it’s God speaking and what we should do with what we hear.