To yield without conviction is no compliment to the understanding of either.” [Jane Austen]
And when he comes, he will convict the world [John 16:8]
The Bible says in Mathew 4:9 “All these things I will give you”. Sounds great, I want that! But in context this actually reads: “... the devil said to Him, all these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.” Oops. Not such a great line after all.
Phil 4:13 says “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Wow ... I want that ... then I can do all things, nothing can hold me back, I will be on top of it all! But the context is on facing troubles and trials and not worrying about it because God will sustain me. Hmmm ... not sure I want that!
So CONTEXT is critical. We're so attracted by the supernatural, to power, the unusual, the exotic ... we need to really, really understand the context of the gifts of the Spirit.
Jesus introduces the idea that he will send the Spirit in John 14. Here he tells us WHO the Spirit is:
- a helper / comforter / advocate, to be with you forever
- the Spirit of truth
- one who dwells in you
- will bring things to remembrance ... a rememberer!
Our role? To choose to accept his presence!
Then Jesus returns to the subject in John 16, where he tells us WHAT the spirit will do
- he will convict the world
- guide you into all the truth
- he will glorify Jesus
Our role? To buy into his agenda to convict, guide into truth, and glorify Jesus.
So lets think about the gifts of the Spirit in this context. The gifts are part of the Spirit's nature as a helper, comforter, teacher, reminder. The gifts are to enable his purpose to convict the world, guide into truth, and glorify Jesus.
Our role: to make space in our lives for his presence and to work with him on his agenda.
You know how people put bricks in their toilet's cistern to save water? The bricks reduce the volume of available water for each flush. It makes the toilet less effective, but sort of works. However, if there are too many bricks, the result can be a stinky residue of brown goo because there's not enough water for a good flush. Jesus says he will send the Spirit: we need to say OK and take out the bricks in our life to make more room for him, and then he can flush things clean.
What does it mean to remove the brick ... it starts with desire for the Spirits agenda. Do I want to see the world convicted? Do I want to see them find the truth? Do I want to see Jesus glorified? Do I really WANT (as in, do I feel a yearning)? They're easy words to say, but do I have a desire behind that, or am I simply saying it?
If there's no desire, what does that say about how I feel about Jesus? I desire my sports team to win and can't stop talking about it. I desire a relationship with someone and can't stop talking about them? I desire that new mobile phone and fixate on it. I desire ... I desire ... I desire so much. But how little of my heartfelt desire is around the the Spirit's agenda. Our churches can be a sad, sad place for many who go through the motions in their minds while their hearts play adultery with other agendas.
Paul commands us to "Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy." He's saying, desire the gifts because you have a desire to see the Spirit's agenda unfold. Desire prophecy most of all because you want to speak God's truth into the reality that surrounds you, to see the world convicted by the truth, and to see Jesus glorified.
This is the foundation we ignore in our rush for the drama of spiritual gifts. The gifts should be a consequence of the relationship with the Spirit to drive our desires, and serve the Spirit's agenda.