Friday, 20 October 2017

FAN INTO FLAME THE GIFT OF GOD

Don’t let your spiritual gift lie dormant. Stir it up!



Look at John—he’s so gifted in preaching. Wow, Jane really shines when she leads in worship.

We often admire the preacher and worship team but we tend to downplay the role of the ushers and technical team in charge of the sound system. True, the former are in the limelight, but all have a part to play in a Sunday morning service.

Spiritual gifts—as opposed to our natural talents—are special abilities that God bestows upon believers. We cannot choose them; it is the Holy Spirit who distributes these gifts to whoever He wills (1 Corinthians 12:11).

The exercise of spiritual gifts need not necessarily be spectacular or awe-inspiring. Gifted believers can also serve God in quiet ways.

The apostle Peter exhorts believers to employ our gifts to benefit others—as “good stewards of God’s varied grace.” Thus, we can serve God through hospitality in a small group or preach with fire over the pulpit to hundreds or even thousands. In both instances, lives are impacted and God is glorified (1 Peter 4:9-11).

Now, who are deemed good stewards? The answer is found in the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30). This story reminds believers to utilise whatever spiritual gifts or talents God has given us. The men with two and five talents, who made a 100% return on investment for the master, were praised and given fresh responsibilities. Each received the same commendation: “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25: 21,23). However, the one-talent man who buried his talent was condemned: “You wicked and lazy servant!” (Matthew 25:26).

Faithful stewards assume responsibility in nurturing their God-given spiritual gifts so that its full potential is realised. Just because we have been endowed with spiritual gifts, it does not mean they will automatically flourish.


                                                                     
The apostle Paul reminded young Timothy to stir up his spiritual gift—“fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands” (2 Timothy 1:6).

                                                                     
He encouraged Timothy, reminding him that God had given him not a spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7). It is God who empowers believers so that we become “competent as ministers of a new covenant” (2 Corinthians 3:6).

Fulfillment of God's destiny for our lives rests not on divine sovereignty alone; we have to work out our calling in obedience (Philippians 2:12-13). Jeremiah was appointed a prophet while he was still in his mother’s womb (Jeremiah 1:5). Yet, he had to persevere in his calling as he faced stubborn resistance while proclaiming God’s message.

Unity in diversity

Just as the various parts of our body have different functions, believers play diverse roles in the church, which is the body of Christ. Those who go out and win others (apostles, evangelists) as opposed to those who stay on and strengthen others (pastors, teachers) play crucial but varied roles.

As each believer is like a part of a body, no one can say he has no need of the other member. “The eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of you, nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you” (1 Corinthians 12:21).

The purpose of the five-fold ministry gifts (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers) is to equip the saints for ministry and build up the church till it attains maturity—that it might be united amid its diversity (Ephesians 4:11-13).

There are different types of spiritual gifts, but they all come from the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord (1 Corinthians 12:4-5).

Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? (1 Corinthians 12: 29). Paul’s rhetorical questions show us that each believer is unique.

Self-esteem

Before setting aflame our spiritual gifts, we need to have a right estimate of ourselves—neither too low nor too high.  Spiritual gifts won’t flourish if we have low self-esteem or pride. While we may not cherish lofty notions of ourselves, we need healthy self-esteem before we can exercise our spiritual gifts. We are not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each of us a measure of faith (Romans 12:3).  http://bit.ly/2xVitaU

Every Christian has been endowed with at least one spiritual gift. Therefore, it is false humility to think we are incapable of serving God and others.

Discovering our gifts

How do we determine our spiritual gifts? Firstly, as we pray and seek God, the Holy Spirit will reveal to us our spiritual gift(s) for He is the One who leads us into all truth. Secondly, other believers will reveal to us area(s) where we have special anointing, be it evangelism, teaching, counseling or worship. Thirdly, as we stir up the gift, we will receive further confirmation in our spirit and from others of our special calling. Finally, well-structured tests can help us identify our gifts. By answering 100 questions or more, our inclinations and talents are exposed. Though not foolproof, this tool can be used in conjunction with the foregoing in discovering our spiritual gifts. http://bit.ly/2tHLOzb

Need for caution

Though the Corinthian church excelled in spiritual gifts, Paul addressed its members as carnal, not spiritual, believers. In fact, he called them babes in Christ.

While spiritual gifts are important in helping the church attain maturity, we should not go overboard and value gifts more than character. Certainly, character is more important than charismahttp://bit.ly/1NmfjeI

Speaking in tongues, a spiritual gift, is not to be prohibited (1 Corinthians 14:39). Yet we must not overemphasise this spectacular gift that we neglect prophecy—proclaiming God’s word so that all can understand and benefit. The former edifies the one who speaks in tongues but the latter edifies a community of believers (1 Corinthians 14:3-5).

The exercise of spiritual gifts is attended by freedom and spontaneity. However, Paul also stressed the need for order and self-control. Let all things be done decently and in order (1 Corinthians 14:40). The spirits of prophets are subject to prophets; for God is not a God of confusion but of peace (1 Corinthians 14:32-33). http://bit.ly/1OVMVAY


                                                                     
Undue emphasis on spiritual power, signs and wonders, has its dangers. We are not to rejoice that evil spirits are subject to us but that our names are recorded in heaven (Luke 10:20).    http://bit.ly/1MQpv1W

Christ warned believers—including those with awe-inspiring spiritual gifts—not to be complacent. Not every professing believer who calls upon Christ, Lord Lord, will make it to heaven. Even those who prophesy in God’s name, drive out demons and perform many miracles may be excluded from heaven if they do not do God’s will (Matthew 7: 21-23).

Balance

Believers need to seek, stir up and serve others through our spiritual gifts. As we rekindle and celebrate our gifts, we must not get carried away by charisma at the expense of character and a Christ-centred relationship.


RELATED POSTS

CELEBRATING OUR UNIQUENESS
We need to recognise our distinctive gifts and calling, and cease comparing ourselves with others. God has a unique plan for the life of every believer. Just as each snowflake is distinct from the rest, we are to be original—not try to be a duplicate of other people.

FAITHFUL TO OUR CALLING
Knowing that God keeps us faithful till the end is not enough. We have to seek to understand His will for our lives and then live it out. In these end times when evil abounds, it is all the more important that we live intentionally and purposefully.

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SELF-ESTEEM AND PRIDE?
Many fail to recognise the difference between self-esteem, which is positive, and pride, which is negative.
http://bit.ly/2xVitaU

CHARISMA VS CHARACTER
Charisma and character are important qualities in an outstanding leader. Which is more important?
http://bit.ly/1NmfjeI

TESTING THE SUPERNATURAL
May God grant us the discernment to know that NOT all supernatural experiences or manifestations are of the Holy Spirit – even though it may be happening in church. Just as not all that glitters is gold, not everything supernatural is of the Holy Spirit.   

SHOULD WE RUN AFTER SIGNS AND WONDERS?
Is there a rationale for pursuing signs and wonders?

WHAT TRULY MATTERS IN THE END
What do you think is the true measure of a believer? Does it rest solely on how much anointing or power he or she has? Or how many spectacular feats he or she can perform?

SHOULD WE EMPHASISE EXPERIENCE, DOWNPLAY DOCTRINE
Are we so mesmerised by the miraculous and sensational that we are willing to depart from sound doctrine and whatever we hold dear in our faith?
http://bit.ly/1J0LRfq


EXTERNAL LINKS

SPIRITUAL GIFT TEST
A questionnaire to uncover our spiritual gifts and inclinations

CHOOSING POWER & ANOINTING OVER INTIMACY & CHARACTER
“I see more of a hunger in the prophetic movement to obtain power than to walk in intimacy. I see more of a desire to live under the anointing than to demonstrate Christlike character. I see more of an appetite to publicly prophesy over thousands than to privately pray to the Father in heaven. I see more of an obsession to chase after someone else’s prophetic mantle than to giving our time to discovering our own unique divine design given by the Father alone. I see more of an urge to chase gold dust, feathers and angels than to encounter the person of Jesus Christ.”
http://beholdthemanministries.com/a-generation-of-simon-the-sorcerers-is-rising-posted-on-charisma-magazine-32215/

Friday, 8 September 2017

CHRIST’S REPETITIVE END TIME WARNINGS

Early warnings of typhoons and hurricanes, if heeded, may prevent unnecessary loss of lives. Similarly, warnings in scripture are positive if heeded; they are meant for the spiritual well-being and eternal security of believers.


                                                                        
When scripture repeats something, it means that it is highly significant. It has to be repeated lest we forget or adopt a laissez faire attitude towards it. It is so important that believers must take heed.

What did Christ repeatedly warn concerning the end times?

DECEPTION

                                                                     
Be aware, be warned. It’s already here. We should wise up by preparing ourselves against deception. Jesus warned that deception will be a prominent feature during the end times (Olivet Discourse, Matthew 24).

Believers have to be wise—in fact, extremely vigilant and discerning—if they want to stand up against deception in these last days.

Of the various end time characteristics—deception, persecution and turbulent times—mentioned by Jesus in the Olivet Discourse, deception seems to be the most prominent. Even supposedly mature leaders can be deceived. If they can be deceived, don’t you think the flock will fare even worse?

In fact, in Matthew 24, Jesus warned believers to be wary of deception not once but four times:
  • Take heed that no one deceives you (vs. 4).
  • For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many (vs. 5).
  • Many false prophets will rise up and deceive many (vs.11).
  • For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect (vs. 24).
Similarly, the other writers of the Synoptic Gospels also warned against deception:
  • “Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray” (Mark 13:6).
  • “And he said, See that you are not led astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is at hand!’ Do not go after them” (Luke 21:8).
Christ's strong warnings against deception are reflected in the teachings of the apostles Paul, Peter and John. They all took a firm stand against destructive heresies (2 Corinthians 11:3; 2 Peter 2:1; 1 John 4:1).
  • “But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3).
  • “False prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves” (2 Peter 2:1).
  • “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).

BE FAITHFUL


                                                                        
Christ compared a believer to a steward placed in charge of a master’s household. If the steward was faithful, he would be richly rewarded upon the master's return.

“Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions” (Matthew 24: 45-47).

Like how the master dealt with the steward, He will hold us accountable if we do not fulfil the task He has given us. If God’s servants are complacent and irresponsible, they will be punished when the Master (Christ) comes back unexpectedly. 

“But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place, there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 24: 48-51).

A similar warning is found in the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25: 14-30). The moral of the teaching here is that believers ought to wisely utilise our time, talents and resources to advance God’s kingdom. The one-talent man, who buried his talent, was condemned and sent to the outer darkness, a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth.

This danger of careless complacency is emphasised in the Parable of the Ten Virgins where the foolish virgins were excluded from heaven as they did not have sufficient oil in their lamps (Matthew 25: 1-13).

The importance of good works is highlighted in the final judgment (Matthew 25: 31-46) when Christ will separate  ***   the sheep (genuine believers) from the goats. The sheep are those whose lives are evidenced by good works—done “as unto Christ”. 

Even if we fail to appreciate Christ’s warning in the first account (steward must be responsible for his master’s household), the message will soon be apparent to us as Christ repeated it in the Parable of the Ten Virgins, Parable of the Talents and the final judgment when the sheep will be separated from the goats.

Liberal teaching tells us that believers saved by grace merely need to rest in Christ’s imputed righteousness; God will always see us as righteous, He will not point out our faults or convict us of sin. But the truth is …

                                                                         
The message is loud and clear: Don’t be complacent, be faithful to utilise our God-given time, talents and resources, and do not neglect good works, which are the evidence of genuine faith.



                                                                       
ENDURE TILL THE END

                                                                      
In the Olivet Discourse, Jesus warned true believers that they have to endure end time persecution, deception and lawlessness in order that they might be saved.

“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved."
(Matthew 24:9-13)


                                                                      
Christ’s end times warning to endure—and persevere in the faith—is repeated elsewhere in the Gospels:
  • “Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 10: 21-22).
  • “And you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved (Mark 13:13).
  • “You will be hated by all for my name's sake. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives” (Luke 21:17-19).
  • “If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned” (John 15:6).
Notice that Johnthe writer who is distinct from the writers of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke)recorded in Revelation so many instances about the need to overcome before believers can inherit eternal life.
  • “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God” (Revelation 2:7).
  • “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death” (Revelation 2:11).
  • “The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels” (Revelation 3:5).
What the foregoing implies is that believers who overcome will get to inherit eternal life; those who fail to overcome will have their names blotted out from the book of life. Sounds harsh? But it is the truth. 
                                                               
                                                                              
In conclusion, Christ warned many times that believers have to:
  • Be alert and vigilant against deception
  • Be faithful; prove it by the way we live
  • Endure to the end that we might be saved
Christ’s end time warnings are so important that they have to be repeated. Let’s take heed for the sake of our spiritual welfare and eternal security.

Christ categorically stated that heaven and earth will pass away but His words will not pass away. If we ignore Christ’s repetitive end time warnings, we do so at our own peril.

 ***    Separation of good and evil

Notice that Christ repeatedly warned that there will be a separation of good and evil. He used farming and fishing metaphors, which were familiar to the listeners in that era, to get His point across: 
  • In the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares (Matthew 13: 24-30, 36-43), the tares will be gathered and burnt whereas the wheat will be preserved.
  • In the Parable of Dragnet (Matthew 13:47-52), the kingdom of heaven is like a net full of fish. When the net is full, men will select the good fish and discard the bad ones.

RELATED POSTS

A DIFFERENT JESUS, A DIFFERENT SPIRIT, A DIFFERENT GOSPEL
These three areas of deception are just as alive today as they were in the Corinthian church long ago.

EFFORTLESS ENTITLEMENT
 Just believe and every spiritual blessing is yours. Be happy because you have already bought an instant ticket to heaven. Repentance is merely a change of way of thinking. No need to emphasise obedience as it will nullify God’s grace. Don’t worry about working out your faith, self-denial, endurance or overcoming because nothing you do or fail to do will cause you to lose favour in God’s sight. After all, future sins are automatically forgiven. And once you are saved, it means you are always secure. You merely need to rest on the imputed righteousness of Christ; God will always see you as pure.

WATCHFUL AND READY
An end time reflection on being prepared for Christ’s return
What will earth be like when Christ returns? Why did Jesus mention Noah and Lot when referring to the end times? Notice that not many were saved in the days of Noah and Lot. Only eight persons got saved in Noah’s ark and only three escaped the destruction of Sodom. The majority perished because they lived as if God did not exist or willfully lived in sin.
http://bit.ly/2cMEKhr

COMPLACENCY VS WATCHFULNESS
Knowing God’s ability to keep us safe for eternity is not enough.
We need to emphasise personal responsibility as well.

LOSS OF REWARDS VS LOSS OF SALVATION
Some believers may lose their eternal rewards BUT eventually they are saved. In the Parable of the Ten Virgins, did the foolish virgins merely lose their rewards or much more?

IS THE WAY TO HEAVEN EASY?
Two different views—easy and difficult ways to heaven
http://bit.ly/1UH6Vf4