“Make love your aim, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts”1 Corinthians 14:1
Anointed to love and serve in the power of Jesus Christ
Paul the Apostle tells us that we, who belong to Jesus Christ, have been “sealed” or “anointed” with the Holy Spirit.
Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.2 Corinthians 1:21,22 NIV
We have been anointed to love and serve the living God – the Savior who liberated us from the slavery of sin, death, and Satan. The word “Christ” comes from the Greek word that means “the anointed one.” Kings and prophets were anointed in the Old Testament to signify that God had conferred his power and authority for service upon them. Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit to fulfill the mission his Father sent him to accomplish.
We are called Christians, which means “those who belong to the Anointed One.” God has anointed us with the same Holy Spirit who came upon Jesus when he was baptized by John in the Jordan River. We have been anointed for the King’s service, to live for his pleasure and glory. This is the noblest of callings – to serve the living God and to offer our lives to him as a living sacrifice of praise.
I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.Romans 12:1
A living sacrifice is a continual offering, something we do every day. Living for God is a daily choice of submitting to his will by obeying his commandments – by living according to his word. Sacrifice and consecration go together. To consecrate something to God is to offer it to him as a free gift of praise and worship. When we consecrate our lives to God we give our lives over to him as a free-will offering. It is the knowledge of God’s love for us that compels us to love him in return and to offer our lives in consecration to him. God has poured his love into our hearts and has set us free to love and serve him in return. Consecration is based on our love for God and the redemption we have received from him. He has purchased us from slavery and made us a people who now belong to him.
For the love of Christ controls us, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, that those who live might live no longer for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.2 Corinthians 5:14,15
We do not belong to ourselves anymore since God has purchased us with a great price – the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. He has ransomed us from the slavery of sin and Satan. We are the freest of men and women on the face of the earth. We are truly free now to serve the living God, not under compulsion as slaves who have no will of their own, but as free men and women who choose to follow him. Once we were slaves to sin and Satan. Now we are the liberated sons and daughters of our heavenly Father. The freedom, which Jesus has obtained for us, now makes it possible to offer our lives to him as his disciples and servants.
“You will do even greater works”
Jesus told his disciples that they would do the same works – including the signs and wonders which he had done – and even greater works!
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it, that the Father may be glorified in the Son; if you ask anything in my name, I will do it”.John 14:12-14
While Jesus was physically present to his disciples in Galilee and Jerusalem, he was subject to the physical limitations of time, space, and circumstances. Now as the Risen Savior who is glorified and seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven, the Lord Jesus makes his presence and power known through the gift and working of the Holy Spirit who dwells in the hearts and lives of disciples throughout the world.
That is why Jesus continues to commission his followers throughout every age to “make disciples of all nations” (John 17:18, Matthew 28:19). The end of Mark’s Gospel recounts Jesus’ great commission and promise to confirm the proclamation of his word with signs and wonders:
And he said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation… And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it. Amen.Mark 16:15,17-20
Age of skepticism and unbelief
We live in an age of skepticism and unbelief that rejects the supernatural and reduces the notion of God to mere myth and delusion. This post-enlightenment thinking is also fueled by the “ruler of this age” whom Scriptures calls Satan, the “father of lies,” and the “deceiver” who blinds people from the truth and knowledge of Jesus Christ.
The Lord Jesus has not left us powerless against the spirit of this age. He has heard the prayers of many for a new Pentecost and spring-time of renewal for the Christian church. We are witnessing today a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit for the work of evangelism and mission.
The Lord Jesus wants to give all of his disciples spiritual gifts of power and the guidance of the Holy Spirit to make the work of evangelism more effective and fruitful in the face of increasing opposition, persecution, apathy, and indifference. Without his gifts and direction, what can we hope to accomplish by our own strength? Nothing. “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” That is why we need the spiritual gifts and power of God more than ever before.
Courageous witness and bold testimony
The Lord Jesus wants to give us courage and boldness to be his word – a living and active word that speaks through the witness and example of our lives, as well as the testimony of our personal encounter with the Risen Lord Jesus. The Lord Jesus promises to be with us as we speak and share our testimony with others. And the Lord will guide us to those he wants us to share the good news with. He promises to anoint us and give us the words to speak as we yield to the Holy Spirit.
Every Christian believer is called to be an evangelist and missionary for the kingdom of God. No one can exempt themselves from this call.
Every Christian is challenged, here and now, to be actively engaged in evangelization; indeed, anyone who has truly experienced God’s saving love does not need much time or lengthy training to go out and proclaim that love. Every Christian is a missionary to the extent that he or she has encountered the love of God in Christ Jesus: we no longer say that we are “disciples” and “missionaries”, but rather that we are always “missionary disciples”. If we are not convinced, let us look at those first disciples, who, immediately after encountering the gaze of Jesus, went forth to proclaim him joyfully: “We have found the Messiah!”Pope Francis
We can follow the example of past disciples and evangelists, such as Philip in the Acts of the Apostles who was led by the Spirit to speak to the people of Samaria and to the Ethiopian eunuch on the road to Gaza, as well as the example of evangelists throughout the ages, such as Francis of Assisi, who was “on fire with the love of God” and love for the many souls he wished to save through proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Spirit-filled / charismatic gifts for everyone
The Lord Jesus wants all of his followers to be spiritually strong and well equipped for the work of evangelism and mission. That is why the gifts and workings of the Spirit are essential. We don’t serve in our own strength but in God’s strength. That is why the charismatic gifts are for everyone – whether young or old, male or female, trained or untrained. Another New Testament word for charismatic gift is spiritual gift – given by the Holy Spirit to empower each of us to do the works which Jesus did. There is no discrimination in the distribution and use of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. They are freely given, freely received, and freely exercised by all who are receptive and willing to yield to and cooperate with the Holy Spirit.
Blocks to exercising spiritual gifts
Paul the Apostle tells us that we must “earnestly desire the spiritual gifts.” What might hold us back or block the spiritual gifts from working effectively in and through us? Pride, ignorance, fear, doubt, and unbelief are key blocks.
Unbelief and scepticism make us resistant to the supernatural gifts and working of the Holy Spirit. Jesus on different occasions rebuked his disciples for their “lack of faith and hardness of heart” (Mark 16:14, Mark 8:17, Matthew 13:15). Like the hardening of the arteries which block the flow of blood and oxygen, “hardening of the heart” can block the flow of supernatural power and inspiration of the Holy Spirit within us if we allow unbelief and scepticism to take hold of our mind and heart.
Pride says, “I will choose the gifts I feel comfortable with, the gifts that will make me stand out and be admired by others.” “And, besides, I don’t want to look foolish and try something I might not like or succeed at.”
Ignorance says, “I don’t know how to use spiritual gifts or how to yield to the Holy Spirit?” “I better wait until I am one hundred percent sure I know what I am doing if I start asking for spiritual gifts”
Doubt says, “I’m not worthy. I’m not the right person, or the best person, or the qualified person to exercise spiritual gifts.” “I don’t have enough faith to expect that the Holy Spirit will give me real anointing and spiritual power to exercise charismatic gifts.”
Fear says, “I will fail or make a mistake, or sink out of fright like Peter did when he started to walk on water towards Jesus.”
Antidote: “Make love your aim”
The best antidote is love – the kind of love that sets us free to surrender fully to God and to do whatever he tells us to do for his glory and his kingdom. God’s love has been “poured into our hearts through the Spirit which has been given to us” (Romans 5:5). His love sets us free – to love and serve others not only with our natural strengths and abilities, but with the charisms and spiritual power which comes from the Holy Spirit who works in and through each one of us.
Spiritual word gifts for everyone
There are a great diversity of spiritual gifts given for the work of building up the body of Christ and for mission. Paul the Apostle urges us to “desire the spiritual gifts – especially the prophetic gifts for speaking under the anointing of the Holy Spirit. I believe that the charismatic word gifts are available for everyone who is willing to yield to the Holy Spirit and be led by the Spirit. The charismatic word gifts include: the gift of tongues and interpretation, prophecy, and prophetic words of knowledge and leadings of the Spirit that direct and empower us in bringing the good news of God’s love, mercy, and salvation to others.
The gift of tongues: A charismatic gift of prayer and praise inspired by the Holy Spirit who enables us to pray in another language we have not learned and do not naturally understand. Paul describes two types of languages we can experience: “tongues of men and of angels” (1 Corinthians 13:1).
Gift of interpretation of tongues: A gift that enables us and others to understand the message that God wants to reveal when we pray or speak out words in tongues – these words are often a prayer or word of encouragement or exhortation. I believe that we can expect God to reveal the message he wants us to receive as we pray in tongues alone or with others and when we are inspired to speak out a prophetic word in tongues. If we listen with expectant faith, the Lord will enable us to understand the message he wishes to convey through the gift of tongues. The interpretation of tongues can come to our mind as a sense from the Lord of something he wants to say or pray through us – such as a word of praise and adoration, or a word of exhortation to turn to the Lord or repent, or a word of encouragement. The interpretation often comes as a gentle soft voice or word that we may not even consciously sense as a revelation of God at the moment. When we pray in tongues we often sense the presence of God and a sense of what he is impressing on us at that particular moment.
Gift of prophecy: Inspired words of prophetic revelation directed to individuals or group of people. Most prophecy are inspired words of revelation that encourage, build up, and direct people to turn to God in worship, praise, repentance, and seeking after God for his help and direction.
Gift of prophetic words of knowledge for evangelism and ministry: Word gifts of knowledge are inspired leadings of the Spirit directed to an individual or group of people to whom God wants to reveal his presence, power, and word at a particular moment. (See example of Philip in Acts 8:26-40)
Yielding to the Holy Spirit
If we desire to receive the gifts of the Spirit, then we must learn to yield to the Spirit. Jesus instructed his disciples:
And I tell you, Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”Luke 11:9–13
The first step to yielding to the Holy Spirit is asking with expectant faith. What do we ask for? We ask with expectant faith for a full outpouring of the Holy Spirit in our lives – for a full release of the gifts and power of the Spirit within us. We ask for the Holy Spirit to give us the gift of tongues and the gift of interpretation of tongues. We ask for the Holy Spirit to give us the gift of prophecy so we can speak his word to others as he leads us to speak to them. We ask for prophetic direction in being led by the Spirit to speak with certain individuals the Spirit wants us to speak with. And we ask for the Spirit to give us the words and message he wishes us to speak to others – especially in evangelising and sharing our testimony with others.
Yielding to the gift of tongues
Paul the Apostle writes, “I would like every one of you to speak in tongues” (1 Corinthians 14:4). Learning how to yield to the gift of tongues is very beneficial for us. It is first and foremost a gift of prayer – a prayer that allows the Holy Spirit to pray in and through us. Paul writes,
Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. And he who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.Romans 8:26–27
The Acts of the Apostles explains how the first disciples of Jesus received the gift of tongues on Pentecost:
“And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance”.Acts 2:4
Notice in this passage from Acts that “all were filled, not some.” Each of the 120 disciples did something – they each spoke out in a language they did not previously know. As they began to speak out the Holy Spirit formed their speech into a new tongue or language they did not know. When we pray and ask the Holy Spirit to give us the gift of tongues it is important that we first stop speaking out in our own language. We then speak out whatever sounds, sylables, and words the Holy Spirit begins to give us. As we cooperate with the Holy Spirit, the new words in another language will flow from our lips as we allow the Spirit to speak through and within us for the glory of God.
Learning to exercise spiritual gifts
Speaking out and praying in tongues is a cooperative work of the Holy Spirit and the individual who yields to the gift of the Spirit by speaking out with the new tongue the Spirit gives. Learning how to yield to the gift of tongues is an excellent way for learning how to yield to the other charismatic gifts of the Spirit. We ask with expectant faith. We yield ourselves to the leading of the Holy Spirit. We step out in faith by acting and speaking out as the Spirit leads us.
Do you want to grow in yielding to the Holy Spirit and to the gifts the Spirit wishes to give you? Pray with other Christians who have experience and wisdom in exercising the gifts of the Spirit. Learn from those who are wise in discerning the spiritual gifts and who have experience in helping others grow in using the gifts of the Spirit. The Life in the Spirit Seminars is an excellent and proven way to learn how to yield to the Holy Spirit and gifts of the Spirit.
[Three books: Life in the Spirit and Life in the Spirit Seminar for Children by Jerry Munk, and Life in the Spirit Team Manual are available from Amazon.com]
Questions for discussion and prayer in small groups:
- Do I want the Lord to use me in whatever service and gifts he wishes to equip me with?
- Are there any instances or ways in which I resist the promptings, inspirations, and gifts of the Spirit?
- How can I better yield and cooperate with the work of the Spirit in and through me?
- Am I willing to step out, take risks, in learning how to grow in exercising the gifts of the Spirit?
- What obstacles might be holding me back from desiring and exercising the gifts?
- Pray over one another for discernment of the spiritual gifts and for a greater release of the power of the Holy Spirit.
Top image credit: quote and background designed by freelance artist for Living Bulwark.