Category Archives: Holy Spirit

Study 4 – 1 Corinthians 2:4-16

Words, Spirit and the Mind of Christ

Discussion Question

What would you say are the benefits of being a Christian?

Background

Paul opened his letter to the Corinthians with praise to God because they lack no spiritual gift from Him. They were called into His kingdom by grace and are therefore holy people. The first issue raised, however, is the issue of division in the church which Paul is addressing with them. They are not behaving like the holy people of God, united in mind and thought, but like people of this world. They judge their preachers on the basis of eloquence and persuasion but Paul explains to them that the cross of Christ is all the power that they need. We do not believe the gospel because of beautiful language, but because of the extraordinary God who has revealed the truth to us. Paul is not speaking about human wisdom that they should have confidence in but the truth about God – namely Jesus Christ and him crucified.

We reflected on how the message of the cross is the wisdom of God and also the power of God. The gospel is somehow described as the Spirit’s power.

Read 1 Corinthians 2:4-16

4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.

6 We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 However, as it is written:

“What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”— the things God has prepared for those who love him—

10 these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.

The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. 14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. 15 The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, 16 for,

“Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?”

But we have the mind of Christ.

What did you see?

Structure

  • The Spirit’s power at work in the gospel (4-5)
  • God has revealed his age old mystery to us by his Spirit (6-10a)
  • Who can know the mind of God but God himself?! (10b-12)
  • Who can understand the mind of God but those who have been given the Spirit (13-16)

In this section, Paul says one simple thing in four different ways: the gospel is brought to us and taught to us by the Spirit of God and no human can claim to have discovered it by their own intelligence. It’s as if he’s saying: no person is a mind reader and if you want to know the mind of God then you need the Spirit of God. If you know the mind of God, it’s because you have been given the Spirit of God.

The Spirit’s power at work in the gospel (4-5)

“My message and my preaching…a demonstration of the Spirit’s power…” Paul lands his previous section on the point that the message of God, (the message of the cross, the testimony about God), originates with God and not man. To further make this point, he shows how it is even delivered to us by God himself. So, when Paul preaches, he is not making up words of wisdom on his own but he is recounting the message of the cross of Christ. I do wonder what people mean when they say “that guy can really preach!” It’s likely that it points to a charismatic and persuasive word of intelligence rather than an exclamation that they heard the word of God through that guy.

“…the Spirit’s power…” Colossians 1:3-9 helps to understand what Paul means here. In that passage, Paul praises God because he can see the results of the gospel working out in the lives of the Colossian church. They received the message of the cross taught properly and they truly understood the grace of God and so understood the hope of eternity. What flowed from that was a life of faith and love. Paul attributes all of that to the work of the Spirit because that is the power of the gospel!

“…so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.” No single church, preacher or theological movement ought to take central stage to your faith. When we grow in maturity and when we turn to God in faith, that is the work of God. A healthy church, a faithful preacher, a godly Growth Group are all means of grace but not the authority or master of it. The flip side of this coin is that you must listen for the wisdom of God in your life. This, as Paul has argued, comes from hearing the true gospel and truly understanding the cross of Christ. Flee from gurus and run to the power of the cross.

Now, it’s good to just pause and recognise that there is plenty of wisdom and value in what humans say. It’s good to have doctors and financial advisors and counselors of all sorts but none of them will lead you to salvation and the cure of sin. Self-help books can contain plenty of useful things; psychologists and psychology books are very useful for helping us move forward in our maturity but they will only give us scaffolding for the immediate. Our faith must stand on the power of God.

God has revealed his age old mystery to us by his Spirit (6-10a)

“We do, however, speak a message…” Just because the gospel is the revelation of God from God, it is also something that we hear because people speak it! Hebrews 1:1 says that in the past, God spoke to the human race in many and various ways, but now, he has spoken to us by his Son. We preach Jesus Christ and the cross of Christ and this is the message that we speak.

“…a message of wisdom among the mature…” This word, mature, is about reaching the goal we were meant or designed for. It’s like declaring that those who are not growing in Christ have a stunted growth! Check out these references for a similar use of the word mature: Eph 4:13; Php 3:15; Col 4:12; Heb 5:14; 6:1; Jas 1:4. The mature are those who are hearing the gospel of God and responding in faith.

“…but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing.” To not mature, it is to not pursuing Christ. The air and flavour of this world is not to pursue Christ and they will not mature in the way that the New Testament describes it. If anyone is offended by this definition of maturity, it must be remembered that Paul is talking about hearing the wisdom of God and that maturity is describing the intention for which God designed the human race! It follows, therefore, that if we seek to mature ourselves apart from the way that God has designed us then we can call it maturity but it is not! It would be like a plant trying to convince you that it would mature far better if it were taken out of the pot and placed on the sandy beach in the sun.

“…God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.” God had a plan from the beginning but it was kept secret until the proper time. The word mystery does not refer to something mysterious or mystical, but to something that is a secret. Clues have been handed from God to this earth via the prophets but when Jesus Christ was revealed, God’s great plan was also made known. Ephesians 1:9-10; Romans 16:25. God is patient with his plans. His view of history and human destiny is both authoritative and complete. Our view is so micro and self absorbed. His plans are to include us in glory. This is part of the maturity that God speaks of. Our lives are not to be in pursuit of joy but in pursuit of maturity found only in Christ which is for our own glory.

“None of the rulers of this age…” 1 Cor 1:20; and 1:6 give us the context of what this age refers to. It is humanity this side of heaven. Paul can talk of the people at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion and the people in his time as the same age that you and I live in right now. It is the age where many are perishing but those who God has called, who believe in the cross of Christ as the wisdom of God who are being saved.

“None… understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” It’s ironic that we needed to be blind to the plans of God (the mystery) for us to put Jesus to death. If we had seen the plan clearly, we would treat Jesus as God and not crucify him. But then, that would indicate that we could reach holiness and wisdom without the cross.

“What no eye has seen…heard…conceived…God has prepared for those who love him.” Paul alludes to Isaiah 64:4 and reuses the message there to apply it to the post-cross age. Although he doesn’t directly quote from Isaiah, the message is the same. We are not talking about human philosophy when we talk about God and his message of the cross. We are talking about the real and living God who made everything. The revelation of God has not evolved over time through the subconsciousness of the human race. Paul couldn’t get any clearer about this. No person could have made up this stuff! But God has been plotting away since the beginning of time to bring us salvation through the death of Christ and the promise of eternal glory.

PS – I have heard verse 9 used as a kind of whisper about heaven to come. That is, no-one has seen it or can possibly imagine what heaven will be like – but God knows and it will be beautiful. What spoils this narrow interpretation is the way that Verse 10 begins…

“These are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.” God is not talking about a secret that is still a secret. He is talking about the mystery of how he is going to make his church holy, righteous and wise. All is done in Christ.

 

Who can know the mind of God but God himself?! (10b-12)

“The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.” Verse 11 makes it clear that this is the Spirit of God AKA the Holy Spirit. Nobody can know the deep things of God apart from God himself. The Holy Spirit is therefore God.

“For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them?” Who do you really know apart from yourself. Now you might say that you don’t know yourself very well and would love someone to figure you out and let you know! True. But, look at or think about your closest and dearest friend(s). How much do you know them? You never know their thoughts until they speak them or write them! Nobody can ever know me truly like I know me. I will continue to value other people’s insights into my psyche – but my thoughts are my thoughts. My pains are my pains. My emotions are my emotions. Don’t get me started on the things that come to our minds when we are asleep! How to begin to explain what your mind conjured up as a believable story during the night. And then when we speak our mind, is it often only a fraction of what went on inside our brain?

“In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.” Again, we cannot begin to guess what God is thinking. But what if he revealed to us his thoughts and plans by his Spirit?

“What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us.” We have been given access to the plans and thoughts of God. Notice how Paul explains that the message of the cross is a window into the mind of God. No person has conceived this. The Spirit has revealed that Jesus death on the cross was our substitutionary atonement.

 

Who can understand the mind of God but those who have been given the Spirit (13-16)

“This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.” You could take this sentence out of context in order to show that God gives Spirit words that no person could have invented or understood and therefore show that speaking in tongues of angels is promoted here. But let’s not take it out of context hey? Paul has been talking about audible and understandable words which make up the message of the gospel but that reveal the secret plans of God from eternity. In other words, Paul is saying that this gospel message is not made up but has been give to us by God. The message of 2:4-2:16 is quite repetitive. What’s being challenged by Paul is human wisdom, not human language.

“The person without the Spirit does not accept…cannot understand…because they are discerned only through the Spirit.” Recall that in 1 Corinthians 1:2 the church was described as called. And in 1:26-31 we were reminded that God chose who he would reveal his will to and include in his church. Understanding the gospel with acceptance is a work of the Holy Spirit. That’s why Jesus described to Nichodemus (John 3) that the Spirit can’t be seen but His work is plain to see. And in Colossians 1:3-9, Paul can tell that the Spirit of God has been at work because they have responded to the gospel. That is why the gospel is described as the power of the Spirit (1 Cor 2:5).

“The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments…” This is a verse to keep in your pocket for good theological discussion! When we come to understand the gospel, we can say that it is we who considered the words, weighed up the evidence and the options and made a judgment call on what to do next BUT only a person with the Spirit can make such a judgment call because only they can consider it as wisdom from God.

“Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” The rhetorical answer is no one, correct? Paul has already concluded that nobody can know the mind of God except God himself. Well…

“But we have the mind of Christ.” Boom! The gift of the Holy Spirit is such an important one that gives us the knowledge of God. Without the gift of the Spirit, we would be blind and stupid fools. Unable to discern the mind of God. But with the Spirit in us, we have the mind of Christ. That is, we are able to be wise and grow in wisdom. The fruit of this is character. The Spirit brings us the gospel of grace, allows us to understand it and conclude that this is right. The Spirit of God then transforms our minds to know the mind of God more and more. And the Spirit of God enables us to discern between right and wrong. This is called maturing in Christ.

What did we learn?

The Spirit of God is like a conduit to the mind of God. He opens our eyes to behold the beauty in the cross and the wisdom in the gospel. No human can possibly conceive the things that God has known and thought for all time. But the Spirit of God is God’s gift to those who love him – indeed the means to loving him. A preacher’s words are no mere words since they uncover, discuss, persuade and exhort the people of God to know the mind of God.

Now what?

Topic A: Turn sermons and daily bible readings into an act of worship. This passage is reminding us about the great privilege we are given when we receive the Spirit of God. We ought to regard the bible and times spent listening to Spirit-filled preachers as moments of the wisdom of God being revealed to us. How often have you skipped reading the bible this week? Are you conscious that you are skipping time spent listening to God?

Topic B: Being thankful for the Holy Spirit. Proof of the Spirit dwelling in you is that you truly understand the grace of God and are growing in maturity. Those who have the Spirit of God living in them have the mind of Christ, are holy and chosen by God to be his people. You are a child of God with God’s commitment to grow you. The Spirit of God is teaching you.

Topic C: Conscious of the foreign nature of this world/age. If it is only those who have the Spirit who can know the mind of God, then everybody else does not and cannot know the mind of God. Yet the majority of people, especially the rulers of this age, do not know God’s mind and will regard the gospel, the church and the cross as foolish. It is important to be aware of this chasm we are living amongst. When interacting with the people of this world, be aware that many do not have the mind of Christ. Knowing this does not make us superior. Knowing this gives us an alert mind to the dangers of thought we live with.

Study 5 – Luke 12:1-34

The Fear of God

Context

Jesus was challenged in Chapter 11 as being in league with the devil. He responded over many verses to highlight how terribly wrong his accusers were and that, in fact, his actions proved his innocence. However, their actions reveal where their hearts are and that they have not entered the kingdom of God. His accusers were not only outside of the kingdom but they were also blocking the entry for others.

The Pharisees and teachers of the law hardened their hearts more as they increased their opposition to Jesus, trying to catch him out. How will Jesus respond to the opposition? When given an audience of thousands, what would Jesus say? That’s what we’ll find in this weeks reading!

Read

Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, saying: “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. 2 There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 3 What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.

4 “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. 5 But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. 6 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. 7 Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

8 “I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God. 9 But whoever disowns me before others will be disowned before the angels of God. 10 And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.

11 “When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.”

13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”

14 Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” 15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”

16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’

18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” ’

20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’

21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

22 Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. 24 Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! 25 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? 26 Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?

27 “Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 28 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! 29 And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. 30 For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Observation

Another large section to study. Choosing to focus on a smaller piece this week would work. Either the first half of verses 1 to 12 or the second half of 13-32, or even focus on 13 to 21!

Structure

  • 1-12 Be clear on who to fear
    • 1-3 – Don’t be deceived by the size of your support.
    • 4-5 – Don’t be deceived by the threat you can see.
    • 6-12 – The small and unseen things matter.
  • 13-34 – Be clear where your treasure is
    • 13-21 – Boofheads build bigger barns
    • 22-34 – Reset your heart to eternal treasure

1-12 Be clear on who to fear

1-3 – Don’t be deceived by the size of your support.

“…when a crowd of many thousands had gathered…” The description from Luke must not be overlooked. Imagine gaining a following of thousands! In this day of YouTube ‘likes’ a number of thousands is impressive. Jesus had his subscribers! But what he says next could only come from a kingdom-minded person. He doesn’t puff up and address his peeps like a saviour of the world! He reacts like the real saviour of the world and warns his close disciples not to be deceived by what they see now.

“Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” This huge fan-filled crowd will be easily swayed by the lies and double standards of the Pharisees. Like yeast spreading through a whole batch of dough, this crowd will easily be turned. And they do turn against Jesus to cry out ‘crucify him!’ The size of a church or group is not necessarily the reality of its strength. Jesus will go on to teach his disciples where to put their trust and hold fast to the One who is not a hypocrite. But we must ask ourselves where we stand? Are we truly living for Christ or are we swaying with the influence of the crowd? As our nation and the western world moves rapidly away from Christ, will you move with it? Is popularity and safety more important than serving the living God and keeping your soul?

“There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.” Jesus is most likely referring to judgment day when the hypocrisy that the Pharisees possess will be exposed. Both the righteous and the hypocrite will have their deeds shouted from the rooftop. The “plotting” (11:54) of the Pharisees will be exposed one day. It is striking that Jesus comments on this while staring at a crowd of thousands. The disciples are about to enter the heated town of Jerusalem where the small but fierce hatred of the Pharisees will grow through the whole town against Jesus and his disciples.

4-5 – Don’t be deceived by the threat you can see.

“I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.” Jesus is quite emphatic in these two verses that there is a thing worse than death. Notice the word ‘fear’ used three times. There is no escaping the enormity of Jesus’ words here. Forget those with knives or harsh words or prison cells. God has the authority to throw people into hell. How lightly we treat the choices of our day and how often we err toward avoiding confrontations and offending others.

“Hell” Jesus used this word more than anybody else in the whole bible. Matthew especially picks up Jesus’ commentary on hell (Matt 5:22-30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15; 33). The word is gehenna and refers to a historic valley (AKA Ben Hinnom) near Jerusalem where evil sacrifices took place during wicked times in Israel (Jeremiah 7:31; 2 Chronicles 28:3; 33:6; 2 Kings 23:10). An evil place which Jesus uses to refer to what can happen to a person after death. In Luke 16, Jesus depicts it as a place of torment. While some scholars attempt to show that God’s judgment comes in the form of annihilation, using images from the bible to make their point, the point is that there are a number of images that the bible uses to describe judgment. As Jesus has said three times in this verse, it is a place to be feared worse than death!

But the God who has the authority to cast into hell is also described as the God who cares…

6-12 – The small and unseen things matter.

“Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” After warning us three times to fear God, Jesus assures us now not to be afraid. As quickly as the wicked will be cast into hell, the righteous who do not fall into the prey of the Pharisees are highly valued by God. Something as worthless as a sparrow is worth something to God and the disciples of Christ are worth so much more than them. When you are on the right side of God, there is nothing to fear. Jesus goes on to define what that means…

“…whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God.” This is a beautiful contrast between declaring Jesus as Lord before other humans who really ought to fear God and the declaration that Jesus will make of that person before the entire throneroom of the Almighty. We are not to whisper in the ear in the inner rooms but we are to wear our love of Jesus with honour – even if the knife is toward us.

“…everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven…” There is forgiveness available for those who have spoken against Jesus (the Son of Man was Jesus’ self-title which brings together beautifully the image of a human child and the promised coming of God – see Daniel 7). The implication is that if somebody repents, then there is forgiveness but…

“…anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.” See Matthew 12:31-32. It is the Holy Spirit who provokes a person to eternal life and seals them for eternity. Those who oppose the work of God in their life will fall under this description. There is no magic word that will place you in this predicament, rather, the ongoing rejection of God. You can be religious and yet deny the Spirit in you. Jesus spoke of demons being cast out only to return stronger because they found the ‘house’ empty (Luke 11:24-26). If people see the work of the Spirit and declare that it is evil, this could be what Jesus is talking about. This record has followed on from the accusation of Jesus casting out demons in the name of Beelzebul.

“”When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities…” Jesus is speaking to his disciples in the presence of a crowd of thousands. You can hear him preparing his disciples not to get used to this fan-based attention. It won’t last because many in this world reject the Lord and his call to repentance.

“…for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.” Continuing the theme of not fearing man and being confident in the One you have given your life to. The Holy Spirit himself will not leave the disciples behind. This is not a promise that we will always know the perfect thing to say at any occasion. It is the promise that when the time comes to defend the name of Jesus and publicly acknowledge him before others, the Spirit will lead them.

13-34 – Be clear where your treasure is

13-21 – Boofheads build bigger barns

“Someone in the crowd said…” The statement from the crowd shows how little the crowd were understanding of Jesus’ comments to the disciples. Perhaps the person overheard Jesus talk about being on trial before the authorities and blurted out what was dearest to his heart.

“Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” The man’s immediate need is where the wealth of his father is going.

“Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” We know that Jesus is Lord of all but Jesus’ question is about why this is his concern right now. He goes on to express how little this should concern us also.

“Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed…” After being warned to watch out for the spreading hypocrisy of the Pharisees, which is birthed from popularity, Jesus now warns us against material greed. This is just as damaging to the soul. Jesus’ description that follows demonstrates replacing God with money and possessions. Greed is idolatry (Colossians 3:5).

“This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.” The parable that Jesus tells is quite straightforward. A man took measures to look after his investments and financial growth only to lose it in an instant and be left with nothing. He had the world as his heaven and neglected heaven itself. Being poor toward God is to have little to no interest in God. Jesus expands on this teaching in the next section which concludes with the words: “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” We will pursue the things that we love the most. Earthly treasure will steal our hearts away from God.

22-34 – Reset your heart to eternal treasure

This section matches quite closely to the passage in Matthew 6:19-34.

“Therefore I tell you…” What Jesus says is a conclusion or application from the illustration that he just ended. Here is the point of the application and the outworking of what you must do in response.

“…do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear.” Jesus clarifies exactly what he wants us not to worry about. Some have said that this passage and the Matthew passage command us never to worry, but this is a misunderstanding of what worry is. He’s not talking about anxiety disorders nor the natural habit of stress and worry. He is telling us to put the universe into perspective and stop placing food and clothing at the top as if this is what life is about. He is also not talking about being trendy or not. He’s talking about the essentials of food and something to wear. It is hard to imagine this kind of worry BUT even in a rich society, how we will maintain our standard of living can consume our minds.

Step back and look at how basic Jesus’ command is. He’s not promising wealth or high living. Yet this is what many of us do have. Our struggle will not be about worry over the basics but worry over not having more than we currently have. We could learn to say no to things. Would it be so bad if we went through life with no ensuite? Or if we had simpler holidays?

“…they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them.” Jesus pulls in the illustration of the barn builder and compares him with the simplicity of God’s creation. Everything is created to live. Yet we fight and stress and persevere to have abundant possessions. It’s worth meditating on how many barns we possess. How many bank accounts? Superannuation. Work and life insurances. Health insurances? Shares? I am not suggesting that these are wrong or unwise to have. Being able to take care of yourself and others is a burden the NT speaks of elsewhere (1 Tim 5:8; Titus 3:14; 1 Tim 6:17; Col 4:1). But note the emphasis is on where we believe things are coming from and giving thanks for God’s provision. Jesus goes further to the point to talk about why we should not worry about the size of the next paycheque.

“Who by worrying can add a single hour to your life?” The point here is that our days are numbered. We could build the biggest barn ever and we would still have to leave it for someone else to enjoy. We cannot stretch our life to eternity. We will face death and we need to face up to that fact.

“…you of little faith!” He does not say ‘no faith’ but ‘little faith’. Here is the point. How far are we willing to stretch our faith? This is a faith issue. Do we trust God or not? Do we trust him only for our salvation but the rest of this life is up to us? Or is he not the God who created the heavens and the earth? He is either God. Or he is not.

“…for the pagan world runs after all such things…” Jesus gets more pointed. When you stress and flurry over what you have, you are living like the unbelievers.

“… your Father knows that you need them.” Enough said? Remember the Lord’s prayer in chapter 11? Our Father, give us today our daily bread? This is the prayer of faith.

“But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.” The gospel is not just “pie in the sky when you die.” It is also “steak on your plate while you wait”. For some it may be beef and reef with a pinot noir, and for others the bread that is just right for the day. Whatever the menu, the priority is to be God’s kingdom. Fear the one who can cast you to hell. Fear not because he give freely his Holy Spirit to all who ask.

“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” For someone who is so familiar with Matthew chapter 6, this little phrase which is not included by Matthew is a brilliant shining star in the familiar story. I love hearing Jesus call us his little flock! He is the good Shepherd and we are his little flock. Cared for. Nurtured. Protected. Guided. Fed. Clothed. Loved. Saved. Given the keys to the kingdom! So don’t be afraid.

“…a treasure in heaven…” Jesus concludes with this coda: retrain your heart to pursue the future. The kingdom is ours so why get obsessed with today’s trinkets? Do you desire a swimming pool but can’t afford it? A bigger house but it will take all your time and devotion to get it? Give your heart to God and let him be your delight forever.

Meaning

Fear is a the topic of this passage. Know for sure what is worth fearing and what is just vanishing anxieties. The draw of popularity may pull you to hypocrisy but devotion to God will keep you straight. Fear for your life may threaten you but don’t let it dominate the real fear of hell. But take heart and know that God is not just on about salvation but is ready to give you the kingdom of heaven along with the Holy Spirit. The keys are yours if you will be proud to be a friend of Jesus. He will not hold back his adoration of you if you do not hold back your devotion to Him.

Application

Topic A: Fear of men. It is common to want to please people and crave the commendation of others. It can manifest itself by being an overachiever because you fear someone criticising you or you crave as many praises as you can get. It can manifest in needing to say ‘yes’ to everybody. It can manifest too in one’s inability to talk about Jesus even when it feels like this could lead to the end of a friendship. Jesus said not to fear those who can kill the body (or hurt our feelings) but fear the one who has our eternity in his hands. A real part of maturing as a Christian is to stop trying to please others but to please God.

Topic B: Greed as idolatry. How do you manage your bank accounts, your income, your investments and your expenses? If you could draw a pie chart showing how much of your money is directed toward you (and you family) and how much is given away, what would the pie chart reveal? What would happen if you gave more away? Is there anything in your expenses that you could stop spending on yourself? God is generous himself and gives us good things as well as essential things. But examine how you could use your bank account to express your faith in God.

Topic C: Stress and anxiety. This is a stressful world and our day is perhaps more stressful than others. Counseling to talk about ongoing anxiety is a great idea. Mental health and medical help are all real things but so is prayer and being real with God. For general stress and worry, consider where your heart is at and who it is you are trying to please? Find someone to talk to about your frustrations with life and listen to their advice on what you should do next. Our ‘little faith’ in God can be real for salvation but may need some help for us to mature as faithful sons of our loving Father. If you are overloaded with anxiety, it is always a good idea to ask for help with it.

The Spirit and Gifts

Next Level Blessings?

Context

When the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Rome, he desired to give them some spiritual gift when and if he visited them in order to make them strong (Romans 1:11). In 1 Corinthians chapters 12 to 14 he speaks about gifts of the Spirit. In our study, we will try and bring some clarity to what these gifts were and what we ought to desire from God. Are Christians promised to receive more through the Spirit if they seek it? What is the difference between being gifted (talented) and having a Spiritual gift? We will not exhaust this topic but our aim will be to find truth from God’s word so that we may share his desires and vision for Christians and the church.

Observation

Romans 1:11-12 is the only occurrence of the phrase “spiritual gift” in the bible! And clearly it means mutual encouragement in the faith. Many translate 1 Corinthians 1:7 with “spiritual gifts” and yet the word “spiritual” is not in the original Greek but placed there for context.

Paul wants to visit the church in Rome to share his faith with them and hear about their faith and he calls that a spiritual gift. The word gift is to be aligned with the word grace and spiritual is from out of this world. Not a bad way to describe mutual edification.

1 Corinthians 1:4-9 – ‘lack no spiritual gift’ is actually a mistranslation since it only refers to ‘gift’ – probably refers to the knowledge and speech of verse 5 but stems from the grace given in verse 4. Aside from the word ‘spiritual’ asserted into this paragraph, Paul is thanking God for gifting the church with speech (‘logos’ which means words) and knowledge which confirm the gospel of Christ. The gift is about words of faith.

So, the only places where ‘spiritual gifts’ are mentioned both refer to gospel words for building up and strengthening in the faith. The next place to look is where gifts are clearly associated with coming from the Spirit and it covers three chapters written to a church being rebuked for many things.

1 Corinthians 12-14 speak of gifts that are given by the Spirit. Paul makes a couple of points clear:

(1) if it is a gift of the Spirit of God then it will affirm that Jesus is Lord (1Cor12:3). And the gifts will not promote any other Spirit or other God or other Lord (1Cor12:4-6)

(2) That the gifts of the Spirit are for the benefit of the church and not for self (1Cor12:7).

(3) Though there are many gifts, there is one Spirit and one body – not many parts but one body. Unity is key. No matter what gift you have and exercise, the whole body is needed. (1Cor12:8-31 esp verses 11, 14, 20, 26)

(4) that the greatest gift is love! (2Cor12:31-13:13 esp verses 12:31, 13:13)

(5) That it is far better to speak recognisable sounds than unrecognisable ones (1Cor14:1-19 esp verse 19).

(6) gifts do not take over a person but the person is in control (14:12).

(7) What is required in the body is order and peace and understanding so that all may be built up and enquirers be able to repent because of the gospel (1Cor14:20-39 esp verses 28, 39)

Here are the four places in the New Testament which clearly list gifts (charismata). This is taken from a work by Ronald Y.K. Fung and republished in ‘Spirit of the Living God: Part One’ edited by B.G. Webb.

The numbers to the left of the gifts are aimed at numbering and categorising the gifts into 17 areas. The aim in presenting this is not to show the extent of the gifts since lists in the bible are not aimed at being exhaustive but rather to show where the emphasis lies. The order of each column is as appears in each text.

1 Corinthians 12:8-10 1 Corinthians 12:28-30 Romans 12:6-8 Ephesians 4:11
3b word of wisdom

3c word of knowledge

10 faith

5 gifts of healing

4 workings of miracles

2 prophecy

11 discerning of spirits

8 various kinds of tongues

9 interpretation of tongues

1 apostles

2 prophets

3a teachers

4 workers of miracles

5 gifts of healing

6 helpers

7 administrators

8 various kinds of tongues

9 interpreters

2 prophecy

12 service

3a he who teaches

13 he who exhorts

14 he who contributes

15 he who gives aid

16 he who shows mercy

1 apostles

2 prophets

17 evangelists

3a [7b] pastors and teachers

 

Four criteria to hold against claims to spiritual gifts as concluded in Chambers, Neil, ‘Spiritual Gifts’ from ‘Spirit of the Living God: Part One’ ed B.G. Webb, Lancer Books, 1991, p141.

  1. Is this person a Christian, as testified to by his or her testimony to Christ as Lord? (1 Corinthians 12:3)
  2. For what purpose is this activity practiced? Is it for congregational edification? (1 Corinthians 12:7)
  3. What, in our circumstances, is best for the edification of the congregation? One could imagine a situation where, although the person was a Christian whose intent was to edify, the expression of his or her gift may at that time not facilitate the edification of the congregation. (1 Corinthians 14:26-28)
  4. How is this gift practised? Is it exercised in love? (1 Corinthians 13:8-13)

Meaning

When it comes to gifts of the Spirit, we must not jump to fanciful conclusions about them but we must always look at the context of the New Testament writings about them. Firstly, they are called gifts because they are manifestations of God’s grace. Secondly, they are for building up the church. Thirdly, they proclaim Jesus as Lord and are to serve him. Fourthly, they work together as individual parts for the benefit of the whole. Fifthly, there is reason and self-control involved in the gifts – not nonsense, chaos nor out-of-control. Sixthly, any gift must be exercised in faith, humility and obedience. Lastly, love trumps.

Application

  • What talents do you have which could be exercised for the building up of others in the faith? Discuss what you think your gifts may be and encourage others with what you have observed as their gifts. How might you exercise those gifts for the building up of the body of Christ?
  • How would you respond to someone who claims to have a spiritual gift? What if the gift was healing, prophecy or tongues? Use what we’ve read in the New Testament to shape your response.

Prayer of the Week

Lord God, we thank you for your Spirit and your generosity toward us. Help your church to grow in love and obedience to your word. Awaken our desire to serve one another in order to bring glory to you and build one another up in love. Amen.