Pentecost Sunday tomorrow!
Many churches, both Pentecostal and mainstream, will be remembering, even celebrating that Acts 2 Pentecost when Jesus’ promise of being ‘equipped with power from on high’ (Luke 24:49 Mge) by the Holy Spirit was fulfilled.
The all-powerful third person in the Trinity fell in an incredible way at Pentecost, releasing the original church in spontaneous praise and worship glossolalia (tongues speaking) and immediate evangelism.
Sadly, some people still foolishly believe this free gift and the 1 Corinthians 12: 4-11 nine supernatural gifts of the Spirit ceased (Theology calls this ‘cessationism’).
Personally we’ve experienced – in our day – all these gifts in our own lives and ministry, and in the lives of others.
And, having read historical records of the Spirit in supernatural action over the centuries through ‘ordinary’ Christians as well as ordained clergy, and other testimonies, we rejoice with all Bible-centred Christians who believe in what’s been termed ‘continuationism.’
Of interest, decades ago one of Australia’s Pentecostal pioneers, Tommy Evans, congratulated us saying, ‘I like you two…you delight to celebrate the importance of Pentecost: a lot of Pentecostal churches don’t know how or even when it falls each year!’
Actually, when wanting to know when Pentecost would fall in any church calendar year, we would contact a mainstream Anglican church: they always knew, even if Pentecostal churches didn’t!
Linking postings this month have several writers focusing on major aspects of the Spirit’s work in the world, our lives and the church …
- Teaching – Dr Jim McClure shares the heart of Pentecost from the biblical viewpoint
- Features (1) – Mark Ellis recounts that the first Pentecost harvest still continues
- Reachout – Erica Grace enlightens us on meaningful church missionary support
- Features (2) – Brian Bell challenges Christians on aspects of living in the Spirit
- TheBuzz – Falling Plates delivers a very creative four-minute salvation presentation
- Features (3) – Maureen McQuillan recalls a converted Muslim’s baptism/supernatural experiences.
Jesus, the founder of the church, through the Holy Spirit ensured that Christians would not be without power. We can and must avail ourselves of the nine 1 Corinthians 12 spiritual gifts to help us build his church.
‘Manifestation’ is phanerosis – a demonstration. Now we delight to run meaningful teaching seminars on experiencing these gifts, how to flow in them, and knowing the giver in a personal way, but here we would emphasise only one – a very important one – called, in verse 10, discerning of spirits.
‘Discerning’ is diakrisis and lends itself to a legal distinguishing of what’s going on in the very real spirit world. So many times we’ve heard preachers call this ‘discernment’ – as if it only means knowing the difference between wood and plastic or similar! That’s diakins – distinguishing between objects/things!
Our word comes from diakrino – to separate thoroughly, to distinguish and conclude by making a difference. So think of this gift’s usage as vital to the church – especially today when a lot of rubbish has been allowed to infiltrate hallowed ground!
We personally – and others too – continue to receive reports from discerning church attenders, and leaders, who are wondering what’s going on and are feeling uneasy due to concern about certain church happenings (Note: not in every church, praise God!) …
- Unscriptural worship lyrics
- Worldly strobe lighting/smoke machines
- Questionable interpretations of tongues
- Latest so-called ‘movings’ with the Spirit (such as ‘dead saints’ grave-hugging’)
- Weird prophecies and experiences
- Excessive money demands to fulfil ‘visions’ and build kingdoms
- Strange doctrines
- Latest ‘truths’
- ‘Strange fire’
- Careless living standards among some Christians.
The NIrV expresses verse 10 this way: ‘the ability to tell the spirits apart.’ NLT reads: ‘the ability to discern whether a message is from the Spirit of God or from another spirit.’ Greek scholar J B Phillips translates it this way, ‘the ability to discriminate in spiritual matters.’
And so in this posting, we touch on this important, but often misunderstood and neglected, gift that protected the early church birthed at Pentecost.
It’s been said of these nine gifts, eight are to help fulfil the great commission, to build the church and kingdom in supernatural ways – and this particular one is to protect it!
Christians, especially church leaders, need to be aware of this inbuilt church protection and practise it! It’s a gateway to the spirit world, the ability to judge in a judicial sense right from wrong, true and false, what’s of the Holy Spirit and Satan and what’s of the human spirit.’
Scripture warns against false –
- Prophecies (2 Cor.11:13)
- Prophets (1John 4:1)
- Teachers (2 Peter 2: 2:1)
- Brethren (Galatians 2:4)
- Deceivers (2 John 7)
- Seducers (2 Timothy 3:13)
- Seducing spirits (1Timothy 4:1)
- Anti-Christ spirit (1 John 4:3; 2 John 7)
- Doctrine of devils (1Timothy 4:1).
In 9 Spiritual Gifts Examined, J L Forsythe wrote, ‘We are dealing with a gift which enables the possessor to have an accurate penetration into the realms of spirits and to distinguish between what is, and is not of God.’
L Thomas Holdcroft comforts concerned believers in his The Holy Spirit: ‘By means of this gift. Human natural senses are supplemented by appropriate divine powers, so that humans are able to relate in understanding in the spirit world.’
It needs to be noted that this is not a gift to read minds! Nor to judge criticise or find faults – no gift is needed for this!
Rather this gift is the analytical classification of the discerning of spirits! As scripture and ministerial experience make plain, the spirit world is very real and Satan’s dark forces constantly work against Christ’s kingdom, sometimes even masquerading as angels of light (2 Corinthians 11:14).
Therefore it is an ideal advantage for those troubled in spirit – such as the young person who shared some concerns about his church (that he loves so much!): ‘Well, I’ve got that off my chest; not sure whether I feel any better though. This is either from the Spirit, or the ravings of a brain addled by a bug picked up.’
We quickly assured him that the Holy Spirit within was simply warning him to be on guard and Jesus’ directions, ‘Stay alert, be in prayer, so you don’t enter the danger zone without even knowing it. Don’t be naive. Part of you is eager, ready for anything in God; but another part is as lazy as an old dog sleeping by the fire’ (Mark 14:38 Mge).
Actually we can all use this gift to discern the truth in respect of a particular event, doctrine or ministry. Last December we’d predicted that ‘2016 would be a year of sorting out in the church itself – for those willing to listen and, being alerted, make wise decisions accordingly.’
Without fudging this blog with countless scriptures telling how Jesus, Peter, Paul or John used this gift – or biblically explaining the difference between spirits, angelic, demonic, human, the Holy Spirit – let’s simply define its purpose. Its fivefold usage is to…
- Confirm the Holy Spirit’s presence
- Challenge or confirm prophecy, teachings, ‘truth’
- Expose satanic practices, deceits and agents
- Help bring release to demonised people
- Safeguard the church.
One scripture says it all – ‘My dear friends, don’t believe everything you hear. Carefully weigh and examine what people tell you…Here’s how you test for the genuine Spirit of God… (1 John 4:1-2ff Mge).
Without going into ‘How to…’ details, let’s just highlight that young man’s inner concern above. From a …
- Sound personal relationship with the Holy Spirit
- Knowledge of scripture
- Meaningful prayer life
- Openness to that ‘still small’ voice
- Willingness to trust the Lord’s guidance
…comes a certain awareness, a knowing within one’s heart that you ‘know that you know that you know’ something is amiss.
Time! We keep hearing about time… time to book for next year’s conference, pay some bill, retire, book a holiday, buy a new car, grab a sale, end time – and so on.
But surely it’s the best time to acquaint ourselves afresh with what the Bible really says about a certain spiritual things! Remember Paul’s 1 Corinthians 12:31 suggestion: ‘You should earnestly desire the most helpful gifts.’ Worshiping God in tongues is edifying, but we need to participate in wise diakrisis discerning !
Surly it’s time for participating 2016 Bereans who ‘listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth‘ (Acts 17:11).
(All scripture emphases ours)